It may or may not have been appropriate that the first thing I looked for on my Halloween visit to Philly was Benjamin Franklin’s grave. I wasn’t about to pay the $2 entrance fee into the Christ Church cemetery — there are several things that should never require money, and visiting a church and visiting a cemetery are two of the most prominent — so I observed from between the iron bars that apparently had been inserted into the brick wall for just this purpose. I’m not sure if it was the weather, the date, or the actual sites, but as I wandered, many of them seemed a bit depressing.
Take the Liberty Bell, for example. Inscribed with the words “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof,” from Leviticus 25:10, the bell cracked the first time it was ever rung in Philadelphia, and had to be recast. Symbolic, perhaps, given that “liberty for all” was certainly not a reality in 1752 when the bell was commissioned, and, for this reason, the bell and its message were metaphorically adopted by the abolitionist movement.
Independence Hall was full of empty chairs and shadows. It was odd, too, to see the drafts of documents, with their crossed-out passages and notes in the margins. The founding fathers abandoned some of the more politically charged damnations against the King of England in the Declaration of Independence, including the remarks regarding his support of slavery.