Lloyd Waters: Dining with Adams, Franklin and Jefferson

July 01, 2012|By LLOYD WATERS

Do you believe in ghosts? Me neither.

But then again, I often wonder about kindred spirits.

It was about a month ago, during a visit to Philadelphia, that I had the opportunity to visit Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell and other important landmarks of early American History.

It was almost like the Founding Fathers were still walking those very same streets in search of a new freedom.

Perhaps the most special place of interest to me was a stop at the City Tavern at the intersection of Second and Walnut streets.

The City Tavern first opened for business in December 1773. In 1774, Paul Revere rode into town and arrived at this tavern to announce that the English Parliament had closed the port of Boston.

Members of the first Continental Congress routinely gathered at the tavern for meals, a stout ale and participation in many debates about the birth of this new nation.

Adams, Franklin, Jefferson and other patriots routinely dined and debated there.

Since this trio served on the same committee to review the development of the Declaration of Independence, I can almost hear some of their conversations about the separation of powers, states’ rights and the role that government should play in the future of those 13 colonies.

As my wife and I sat at a window seat next to Second Street, the voices of those men seem to come alive.

Franklin and Adams could be heard encouraging Jefferson to take pen to paper and compose the Declaration of Independence. Review of this document’s draft might have occurred at that very corner table just across the way, I thought.

Upon approval of the finished document, words of praise were probably extended to Jefferson for his eloquent presentation of the ideals that were to separate America’s freedoms from England and the rest of the world.

Jefferson’s words would define “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” for every American.

Jefferson was a man who also favored more states’ rights while Washington, Adams and others sought to establish more power and controls in the new federal government.

As these discussions continued to permeate the dining rooms of the City Tavern during the early years of our country, I wonder how Franklin, Adams and Jefferson might view our nation some 236 years later if they were alive.

Jefferson disagreed with Hamilton’s proposed bank of the United States and believed that “each generation should pay back its debt within 19 years.” He did not support long-term debt for future generations.

I wonder what his opinion might be today with our current debt of some $16 trillion. 

Jefferson also believed that “public virtue” would sustain the new democracy. If public virtue no longer existed, what would Jefferson tend to think about our future?

Franklin was perhaps my favorite. His wit, writings, scientific achievements and contributions to mankind were numerous. That little dash that separates his years of birth and death represents 84 years of travels, stories and service that define the American spirit.

Franklin was the individual who recommended George Washington to lead the fight for independence.

As the trio lifted their glasses in the City Tavern during the first July Fourth celebration of 1777, the celebration of the day would take precedence over the worries of the future.

In November 1800, just before his presidential election loss to Thomas Jefferson, Adams had just moved into the White House. As he penned a letter to his wife, Abigail, from his new residence, he offered this closing line:

“Before I end my letter, I pray Heaven to bestow the best of Blessings on this House and all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise Men ever rule under this roof.”

As I dined on the tavern’s roasted duckling, I tipped my glass to that table at the far end of the dining room. I’m almost sure Adams, Franklin and Jefferson were there.

Lloyd “Pete” Waters is a Sharpsburg resident who writes columns for The Herald-Mail.

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