It seems like everybody – except me – is going to Philadelphia this year!
Our News guy, Alex, spent last week there, and one of our long-time listeners just went for a few days. Of all the places that I want to go see, Philadelphia is right up there. I actually did see it one day, from a distance as I was driving through Delaware on my way to a funeral, but that’s as close as I ever got.
It’s my own fault, really. I was stationed on the East Coast for four years. I could have taken a weekend or even a week off and gone to see it. But long before I was a history and Constitution wonk, I was just a Sailor. Living in Virginia Beach as a single guy on shore duty. Don’t get me wrong, it was great. But man what a wasted opportunity!
On the last episode of P+C, we talked about a case from 1797 which actually never made it to the Supreme Court, and how that case led to the doctrine that the President is solely responsible for the conduct Foreign Affairs. We live with that doctrine today, as even recent Presidents have cited John Marshall’s speech in Congress defending President Adams’ actions in the matter as justification for basically ever foreign incursion that an Administration can dream up. I am not convinced that the Framers meant for this to happen, but the fact is that they were still in charge when the doctrine was set.
All that is amazing to me, and hopefully, that came across in the episode.
After the show, I ordered a book (used) from Amazon, “American Sanctuary,” by Professor Roger Ekirch, which deals with this story and how it not only led to the doctrine but really to the development of a national identity for Americans. All I can say is, “Holy crap!”
Look, nothing happens in a vacuum, I get that. But it’s amazing how many people are just trying to do their jobs the best way they know how where they are, who end up changing history. The Captain of the Hermione should never have been in that post in the first place. That he was, was simply a matter of a British Admiral who took a liking to the Twenty-four-year-old Frigate Captain and put in in a place that he thought would be harmless and protect him from facing a Courts Martial by the British Admiralty, more than 4000 miles away in London. In fact, Captain Pigot was supposed to take his ship home to England, pretty much everybody knowing that he needed a break.