Independence Hall: United States Birthplace

Name: Independence Hall (United States of America).
Location: in the northeast of the United States, in the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

All contemporary democracies are based on the principle that all people are born equal and possess inalienable rights that the governors must respect.

The Independence Hall with its Two Lateral Wings

The ideas from the Enlightenment Age also rooted outside the Old Continent. The American Revolution preceded by some years the French Revolution, the latter one being highly influenced by the former. The United States of America became this way the first modern democracy in the world. Their founding documents -the Independence Declaration and the Constitution- served as an influential source for innumerable Magna Carta and human rights declarations promulgated in the following years. Both documents were written and signed in the same city, Philadelphia, in the Hall that since then is proudly called Independence Hall.

The First Stone

In 1732, the future American People didn't have any thoughts about independence or anything close. On the contrary, the 13 Colonies that spread throughout the Eastern Coast were so different to each other in their origins, thinking, and even religious beliefs, which nobody would have ever thought of being united together in a same company. But they all have something in common: all of them had developed, forced by the disengagement with the metropolis, different forms of self-government which later on would allow them to cope successfully with independence. Every colony had an assembly, elected by voting and by the Parliament's powers. In this same year, the respectable lawyer Andrew Hamilton decided to give the Assembly of Pennsylvania (one of the 13 Colonies) a building called the State House where meetings and political debates often took place. It's important to highlight that before this, these kinds of meetings were carried out in private buildings or taverns. The original plans, drawn by the same Hamilton and by construction master Edmund Wooley, corresponded to what is today the central part of the building: a simple two-floored red brick construction, with a basement and an attic, crowned by an octagonal dome. In the first floor, we can find the Assembly Room, later events would give this room a significant historic meaning. Later on, once the construction started, the initial project was completed with 2 lateral wings, aimed to be offices.

The death of Hamilton in 1741, added to the economic difficulties of the Assembly, delayed the ending of the building until 1749. One year later, construction managers decided to include in the south facade a bell tower where they would introduce a bronze bell with an inscription: "Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants [...]" The Liberty Bell as it is called, which can be seen nowadays in a small room near the Independence Hall, became the most notorious element in the building.

War Times

At the end of 1763, the war between England and France ended with the abandonment of Canada by the French, and George III decided for the first time to focus in his colonies and, even worse, to try filling up the reserves of the British Empire by imposing more and more taxes to their citizens, as these were quite empty after the war. But the American People had learned to govern themselves without external help and they were not determined to tolerate delayed interferences, especially if they affect their promising economy. At the beginning, they limited to oppose, but drop by drop, few voices started to ask for total break. In 1774 and 1775, Philadelphia became the headquarters of multiple continental congresses where representatives of all colonies were meeting to discuss ways of cooperation between the 13 Colonies. The walls, until then calm, from the Assembly Room started to hear vibrant speeches which convinced everyone present that independence was something to be done. A young Virginian called George Washington got out of the room as commander in chief of a newly created army. Five of the congressmen, among those were Benjamin Franklin and future presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, were charged with the task of redacting a declaration of Independence. The text, mostly written by Jefferson, became the first political document that collected the Enlightenment Principles of equality and popular sovereignty, as well as the first declaration of human rights. The document was passed by the Congress, not without reluctances, on July 4, 1776. The signs of the 56 congressmen were stamped in the document, knowing that if they loose, they would be hanged. Fortunately, they would emerge victorious from the war.

However, the war at the beginning was quite uncertain. Philadelphia was taken in 1777 by the British, who used the State House as a hospital, prison and barrack. The city was taken away from the English the next year though, and the Congress was installed again in the Assembly Room, where the Confederation Amendments were passed, first timid attempt to join together the different colonies under a common government, idea which would become a reality a few years later, in the Constitution.

We The People

The Independence Declaration had changed the colonies into states. Then, the Constitution changed them to United States. And it was not a simple task. During the summer of 1787, Representatives from 12 states met in Philadelphia to redact the Constitution that would substitute the Confederation Amendments. The chosen place was, once more, the Assembly Room. Among the members of this Constitutional Convention were several signers of the Independence Declaration. The Convention was chaired by George Washington, whose enormous prestige helped to persuade the American People to approve this initiative, as many Americans didn't trust it at the beginning, since it implied limiting the powers of the states in favor of a strong central government. Along the numerous debates in that summer, the centralist idea was getting more and more support, finally reflected in the Constitution that nowadays continues to be active and whose first popular words: "We, The People of the United States of America [...]" reinforced once more the principle of popular sovereignty.

The approval by the different states of the new Constitution was a long and hard process, and until 1789, no elections took place. The new Congress, chaired by George Washington as first president, was first installed in New York City and later on in Philadelphia, in a new building that was the Congress location until the inauguration of Washington D.C in 1800. A year before, the Pennsylvania Government also abandoned Philadelphia, translating to Lancaster. The State House became the Old State House and finally, it got the name of Independence Hall. Throughout the years, the building was used as an exhibition hall, a court of justice and an office of different organizations. It suffered several modifications and restorations, lost and later got back its lateral wings, and finally everyone agreed that the place should be preserved as best as possible, as it was at the end of the 18th century. The last restorations, especially in the Assembly Room, have been aiming to adequate the building for its definitive function, as living memory of a People who, without a doubt, has not forgotten its origins. This statement is confirmed by the large numbers of people who visit the historic monument every year.

Source: Wikipedia

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