The USS Constitution, named by President George Washington and nearly as old as our venerable founding document itself, is still going strong. Old Ironsides, as the ship has been lovingly known ever since British cannonballs harmlessly bounced off her sides in the War of 1812, set sail once more out of Boston harbor, for just the second time in the last 131 years, to celebrate the 200-year old victory that gave her her nickname:
Some 285 people were on board the ship, which sailed under her own power for 17 minutes, traveling a distance of 1,100 yards.
Tugs were then reattached to Constitution’s sides and she returned to her pier by early afternoon. The ship, which doubles as a museum, receives more than half a million visitors each year.
The Constitution is the oldest commissioned warship in the world still afloat. And although the United States is often called a young country, the American Republic is actually one of the oldest surviving governments in a world that often lunges from one revolution to the next. Here’s to many happy returns—for both Constitutions.
We don’t often think of it, but if you look around the world, how many countries have the same government they did back in 1787. France was still a monarchy and fated to go through five republics, two empires and a restoration. China was an empire ruled by the foreign Manchus. Germany and Italy didn’t exist as countries. The only country with a constitution older than ours, that I can think of, might be Great Britain’s unwritten constitution. Even then, I think the British form of government has changed more than ours has over the last century. Japan has the world’s oldest royal family, but the politics of Japan under the Tokugawa Shogunate were significantly different than they were in the twentieth and twenty-first century.
It is actually rather amazing that the United States is still ruled under the same basic form of government since we were only thirteen states on the Atlantic seaboard. Some might think that it is past time for a new constitution, but I don’t think we could ever be lucky enough to find people of the caliber of George Washington or James Madison, or any of the other founding fathers in this day and age. Lesser sons of great sires are we.
- USS Constitution to sail under own power for second time in over a century – CBS News (xbradtc.wordpress.com)
- The U.S.S. Constitution Sets Sail (newsfeed.time.com)
- ‘Old Ironsides’, USS Constitution, gets a U.S. Postal Service stamp (newsday.com)