U.S.S 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™.

[Of those opposed to slavery,] George Washington belonged, with Mason and Jefferson, in the hardest category — disapproving owners. Theirs was the most difficult position to maintain, psychologically and rhetorically. It would not be maintained over the next sixty years, as southern antislavery rhetoric withered. Practically and politically, disapproving owners were in the hardest position from which to achieve their goals. How do you weaken an institution in which you and all your neighbors are enmeshed? Washington did enough, finally, to free his own slaves, which was more than many owners in his position did. Jefferson never freed all his, nor did any of the other slave-owning presidents.

Richard Brookhiser
Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington (1996)