USS Constitution

Charlestown
MA

Portrait by Artist to Come

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Launched in 1798, the beautifully preserved USS Constitution is the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world. Known as Old Ironsides, because during the War of 1812, when she fought the British Frigate HMS Guerriere cannonballs bounced off her sides — as if she were made of iron. One of six frigates recommended by Secretary of War Henry Knox and approved by Congress in 1794, USS Constitution was put to sea, after two false starts, four years later. The durability of Constitution is attributed to a three-layer sandwich of wood. The ship’s copper fastenings were constructed by Paul Revere. Open to the public for guided tours. Part of the Freedom Trail™.

The French years provided Franklin’s detractors precisely what they needed: proof that the ur-American was un-American. Franklin was the Founding Father who had come the furthest, which makes him today the most compelling; he was also the Founding Father who traveled the farthest, which in his own century made him the most suspect. Few other homes in Philadelphia sported both Réaumur and Fahrenheit thermometers. The story goes that when Franklin proposed that Congress open its meetings with a prayer, Alexander Hamilton quipped that that body had no need of foreign aid. The story may be apocryphal but the sentiment was real. The expatriate patriot, Franklin was associated in many minds with the dependent chapter of American independence, one better expunged from the record.

Stacy Schiff
A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America (2005)