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In Philadelphia, facing Independence Hall, the federal government has constructed a range of buildings designed to help the public understand and appreciate the famous document which was drafted there in the summer of 1787. It's an impressive array, reflecting power and affluence more than architectural elegance.
Out and About with Word and Image of Vermont
The Constitution and Its Birthplace
Not many years ago, a citizen could simply stroll up to the buildings where the Constitutional Convention met, and walk in easily to see the rooms where the founders met to to set the government of the nation onto a more solid foundation than was -- presumably -- provided by the Articles of Confederation. Simplicity, however, is no longer in vogue in this age of massive display and security.
There are now many instructional exhibits, fashioned, I'm sure, by Constitutional experts. But whether a visitor today comes away with a more accurate grasp of what happened there than his predecessor of thirty years ago did is uncertain. The entire layout now reflects attention away from the classical Georgian architecture that graced the city two hundred and twenty years ago. And there is, in truth, a serious relationship between that style and the form of government adopted there.
Many aspects of the current political structure seem bent on relegating constitutional government of checks and balances, based on a skeptical view of the rhetoric of power, to mere historical quaintness. In the new scheme, the Constitution becomes more a venerable relic than a functioning proposition about how to regulate and use power. The display of the origin of that relic serves the new notion more than the old. People are supposed to come away from it in awe. The education they get from it, however, is questionable.