As broadcast legend Walter Cronkite would say: “You are there.” Perhaps, you aren’t or weren’t there, but were any of your ancestors?
In 1787, delegates from seven of the newly created states traveled to Philadelphia to begin deliberation for revising the Articles of Confederation. The result was historic – The Constitution of the United States.
Were any of my known ancestors living in the area in 1787? My four times great-grandfather, Adam Goul (1761-1845), had arrived in Pennsylvania around 1773 and in the first census of the United States, 1790, he was living in a small area called Kingsessing in Philadelphia. It is quite possible that he witnessed some of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention out and about in the Philadelphia area during the four months they were hashing out our government structure. Adam may have spoken with some of the men there and saw General George Washington from a distance. My newly found Lewis ancestors were living in Delaware county, Pennsylvania putting them right next door to Philadelphia. Perhaps at some point, one of them came across one or more delegates.
What would have been the feeling of the residents of Philadelphia besides being war weary from the Revolutionary War? Were they aware something so important was taking place just down the street? What were the newspapers reporting? And given what our country has seen at many political conventions, were there protesters outside the building that would come to be known as Independence Hall? And just what would today’s media sound like if all the technology of today was around back then?
I’ve had the opportunity to visit Philadelphia twice – once when I was a child and another the summer before my senior year of high school. At each visit, I stood in Independence Hall gazing at the area where both the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution were signed. That whole city is full of history and through my ancestors, a bit of mystery as I wonder if Adam realized that he was in the middle of the most important events in our country’s narrative.
Top Image: Wikimedia commons – public domain.
Two bottom images: Original and digital images in possession of Wendy Littrell, address for private use.