Philadelphia Reflections

The musings of a physician who has served the community for over six decades

367 Topics

A discussion about downtown area in Philadelphia and connections from today with its historical past.

West of Broad
A collection of articles about the area west of Broad Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Delaware (State of)
DelawareOriginally the "lower counties" of Pennsylvania, and thus one of three Quaker colonies founded by William Penn, Delaware has developed its own set of traditions and history.

Religious Philadelphia
William Penn wanted a colony with religious freedom. A considerable number, if not the majority, of American religious denominations were founded in this city. The main misconception about religious Philadelphia is that it is Quaker-dominated. But the broader misconception is that it is not Quaker-dominated.

Particular Sights to See:Center City
Taxi drivers tell tourists that Center City is a "shining city on a hill". During the Industrial Era, the city almost urbanized out to the county line, and then retreated. Right now, the urban center is surrounded by a semi-deserted ring of former factories.

Philadelphia's Middle Urban Ring
Philadelphia grew rapidly for seventy years after the Civil War, then gradually lost population. Skyscrapers drain population upwards, suburbs beckon outwards. The result: a ring around center city, mixed prosperous and dilapidated. Future in doubt.

Tourist Walk in Olde Philadelphia
Colonial Philadelphia can be seen in a hard day's walk, if you stick to the center of town.

Historical Motor Excursion North of Philadelphia
The narrow waist of New Jersey was the upper border of William Penn's vast land holdings, and the outer edge of Quaker influence. In 1776-77, Lord Howe made this strip the main highway of his attempt to subjugate the Colonies.

Land Tour Around Delaware Bay
Start in Philadelphia, take two days to tour around Delaware Bay. Down the New Jersey side to Cape May, ferry over to Lewes, tour up to Dover and New Castle, visit Winterthur, Longwood Gardens, Brandywine Battlefield and art museum, then back to Philadelphia. Try it!

Tourist Trips Around Philadelphia and the Quaker Colonies
The states of Pennsylvania, Delaware, and southern New Jersey all belonged to William Penn the Quaker. He was the largest private landholder in American history. Using explicit directions, comprehensive touring of the Quaker Colonies takes seven full days. Local residents would need a couple dozen one-day trips to get up to speed.

Touring Philadelphia's Western Regions
Philadelpia County had two hundred farms in 1950, but is now thickly settled in all directions. Western regions along the Schuylkill are still spread out somewhat; with many historic estates.

Up the King's High Way
New Jersey has a narrow waistline, with New York harbor at one end, and Delaware Bay on the other. Traffic and history travelled the Kings Highway along this path between New York and Philadelphia.

Arch Street: from Sixth to Second
When the large meeting house at Fourth and Arch was built, many Quakers moved their houses to the area. At that time, "North of Market" implied the Quaker region of town.

Up Market Street
to Sixth and Walnut

Independence HallMillions of eye patients have been asked to read the passage from Franklin's autobiography, "I walked up Market Street, etc." which is commonly printed on eye-test cards. Here's your chance to do it.

Sixth and Walnut
over to Broad and Sansom

In 1751, the Pennsylvania Hospital at 8th and Spruce was 'way out in the country. Now it is in the center of a city, but the area still remains dominated by medical institutions.

Montgomery and Bucks Counties
The Philadelphia metropolitan region has five Pennsylvania counties, four New Jersey counties, one northern county in the state of Delaware. Here are the four Pennsylvania suburban ones.

Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Benjamin Franklin Parkway

Northern Overland Escape Path of the Philadelphia Tories 1 of 1 (16)
Grievances provoking the American Revolutionary War left many Philadelphians unprovoked. Loyalists often fled to Canada, especially Kingston, Ontario. Decades later the flow of dissidents reversed, Canadian anti-royalists taking refuge south of the border.

City Hall to Chestnut Hill
There are lots of ways to go from City Hall to Chestnut Hill, including the train from Suburban Station, or from 11th and Market. This tour imagines your driving your car out the Ben Franklin Parkway to Kelly Drive, and then up the Wissahickon.

Philadelphia Reflections is a history of the area around Philadelphia, PA ... William Penn's Quaker Colonies
    plus medicine, economics and politics ... nearly 4,000 articles in all

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Let's Give the Supreme Court Some Help


Supreme Court, 2017

all the current wrangling about abortion, it continues to be implicit that the U. S. Supreme Court has a problem, which the Court needs to settle. But in fact, the Court didn't create the whole problem. The Court doesn't need to solve all of it.

First of all, privacy. That word doesn't appear in the Constitution, but surely no one is opposed to making privacy a right. Even

James Madison

James Madison wasn't opposed to the idea so much as he wanted to avoid cluttering the Bill of Rights with unnecessary detail. Unfortunately, circumstances have now changed enough to make it useful to be explicit about a strictly defined right to privacy. Since no one is truly opposed, what harm would there be in passing a bill in both the House and the Senate, and then having the required number of states ratify it? Once both sides got over the suspicion that somebody was trying to put something over on them, it should be possible to design simple clear language that creates and defines the right to privacy -- and avoids the temptation for somebody to insert some sly wording that does in fact put something over on somebody else. At the very least, creating a written right to privacy by following the prescribed path for amendment should dispel the idea that the abortion issue is part of an elaborate effort to undermine the Constitution.

By itself, this hypothetical amendment would seem like a rebuke to

Justice Blackmun

Justice Blackmun and the rest of the Supreme Court. It needs something else added in order to look like a compromise, which it is. So, what's proposed further is a declared presumption that state laws written before 1890 which forbid the performance of abortion were written with the intent of protecting the health of the mother.

That seems to be historical fact. There was a forty-year window of time between the invention of anesthesia, which made abortion easy to do, and Lister's invention of aseptic technique,


which make abortion safe. The anti-abortion crusade, led by the American Medical Association, took place during that window of time. The AMA was alarmed by the medical disasters it was witnessing and urged legal measures to curtail it. When the safety issue was resolved by Pasteur and his followers, the AMA greatly softened its position. It is now surely true that more mothers are protected by abortion than harmed by it. If the courts have a role in untangling this mess, it is to recognize that the original intent of the anti-abortion laws has become lost by ignoring the changed scientific situation.

Well, where would this leave us? It should get privacy out of the issue, by making it clear that the right to privacy in the new amendment is not to be stretched to legitimize

just anything that people want to keep private. Murder, for example, is something everyone might well wish to hide but could hardly be legitimized by a right to privacy. Nor is defecation, which everyone wishes to keep private, to be prohibited just for that reason. Abortion could be constitutionally established as something people have a right to keep private, but abortion -- other than to protect the health of the mother -- is not legitimized or de-legitimized by saying so.

Does teasing out the sophistries then settle the question of abortion? No, but it would reduce the problem to its essence. By the process of teasing away the irrelevance, abortion then becomes a process which is safe, easy to do, and legitimate whenever it protects the health of the mother. Whether to prohibit it when it lacks those features would be a decision for the individual state governments, so long as the threat of public exposure is not used as an enforcement weapon, as every reader of Hawthorne knows it has been.

Perhaps we can even imagine the day when stripped of emotional demons, abortion can be viewed as a rather cumbersome contraceptive method, currently resorted to far more frequently than is sensible.

Unwritten Lessons For the European Union

Peace Treaty of Westphalia 1648

Europeans, long accustomed to providing Americans with cultural models, sometimes have a little trouble acknowledging the emerging European Union is based on the American design of 1787 Philadelphia. So perhaps it is tactless to emphasize they might encounter some of the same problems. The success of our design is a good reason to imitate it, and may, in fact, be a chief reason to boast about it. But look at it another way. Since we are uncertain why many provisions work so well, we are reluctant to change them; but the proud Europeans cannot be expected to adopt them for a vague reason like that. The main point is to maintain the right degree of vigilance and flexibility, a difficult measurement to make or to transfer to different circumstances. Our Constitution is more right than wrong, so it was intentionally made hard to change. Technically the Constitution has been amended twenty-seven times. Omitting the Bill of Rights, minor technical changes leave us with only five substantial amendments in two centuries, mostly enlargements of the voting franchise. But notice on top of a small base, we have built a legal structure of 100,000 pages of Federal statutes, almost a million pages of regulations, and at least double that number of state laws. Our legal system has many flaws, but smaller ones are easier to change. The great danger for Europeans lies in taking a similarly huge body of multi-nation statutes, then attempting to cram them into a constitution which by definition has been made hard to change. James Madison was not in a position to see this point. Looking for it in The Federalist Papers is futile because they were written to persuade New York to ratify the Constitution, and contain a moderate amount of slant. Add to all that a recognition that the U.S. Supreme Court makes a hundred little amendments every year. It follows it would be bold indeed to list a handful of examples of what the Europeans should avoid at all costs, or omit at their peril. One point seems undeniable, consolidating a number of former colonies is easier than consolidating sovereign nations. Nations start with more sovereignty, so they individually have more power to lose in a consolidation.

{top quote}
The success of our design is a good reason to imitate it, and may in fact be the chief reason to boast of it. {bottom quote}

The people in power in the individual nations of Europe, and the political factions which elected them don't really want to give up power to a central government in Strasbourg and Brussels. They wouldn't be human if they did. Much the same reluctance inspired our thirteen colonies in the Eighteenth Century, and we circumvented it by excluding state officials from the ratifying conventions. Imagine telling that to the Prime Minister of Great Britain. Having multiple sovereignties breeds jealousies, particularly when the issue is governance. Our ratifying process was rancorous, and echoes of it still reverberate. If transitions are too rapid, even from a bad system to a good one, changes can prove disruptive. For ousted incumbents, all transitions are too rapid. The Europeans additionally have a big problem we didn't have, of multiple languages, so harmony will be slower to arrive -- try to imagine a common market in the Tower of Babel. By lacking multiple languages to rally around, we stumbled into a two-party system, which is actually a big improvement over more-or-less proportional representation by multiple parties. Without having any foresight on the issue, we established a system in which "deals" are made internally and voluntarily, between the extremists within each of the two major parties before the November elections, because by then the central issue has become whether the party might not win with a particular candidate standing on a particular platform. The policy positions of the nominees of both major parties draw closer together, and we don't get a revolution when one of them does win, even by a single hanging chad or questionable mortgage. Unfortunately, the candidates are usually so close to the haphazard process of pre-election compromise that they often consider it less binding than the public does. But by major contrast, in an overtly multi-party system a coalition is formed after the election is over, so the "deals" between splinter parties must also be made after the election is over; voters are completely cut out of the most important decision-making. Splinter parties are an easy recourse for nations with many minorities and are to be avoided at all costs. If a unified nation really cannot be constructed without such recourse, perhaps they would be better off with a King. Since political parties were not mentioned in the American Constitution, this advantage of a two-party system has never been widely debated.

Our experience teaches one more important principle, unwritten in the Constitution. The outstanding message of the American experience from 1787 to 1850, especially the twenty year period after Washington's presidency (and quite unforeseen by the Founding Fathers), is that no party in power can see any merit to the rights of the minority until it has itself spent some time out of power. Nor can any party of complainers and reformers see any merit in prudent caution until it has itself spend some time wielding power. Let's suggest a rule to the Europeans: every political faction is untrustworthy until it has spent two terms in office, and then two terms out of office. It would appear it takes even longer for political parties to mature than it does for governments. We achieved this hat trick by starting out with an Electoral College that didn't work very well, most particularly in the tied election of 1800. Once the Electoral College served its purpose of effecting compromise at the Constitutional Convention, we have largely ignored it as a result of the 1800 fiasco. Perhaps another approach is to change it in stages, considering the Articles of Confederation as a preliminary step to enacting a Constitution, as it were. Unfortunately, most European nations can point to several constitutions in their past, without significant progress toward continental unity. It even seems likely the main problem is not in the Constitution at all, but in wider differences between components at the outset. And a long history of struggles in the past, which we forgot when we crossed the ocean because so few wanted to repeat the stormy voyage.

Maybe even that assessment is too generous to our own history; after all, in 1860 we had our Civil War. You'd certainly hate to think it was essential to have one of those until you reflect that Europe really has had four or five major wars during the past two hundred years. Could it actually be true that a peaceful union leads to further peace? George Washington denounced standing armies, while Dwight Eisenhower warned of the military-industrial complex. Perhaps both of them were warning that war-like behavior leads more quickly to war, by eliminating preliminary steps.


The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787 Farrand's Records
Chart of the Thirteen Original Colonies American History
U.S. Constitution Legal Encyclopedia

Signers and Non-Signers of the Constitution

{Signers of The Constitution}
Signers of The Constitution

John Dickinson was active in designing both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, but he signed neither one. His position on the Declaration was that England had behaved in an offensive way; but the situation was getting better and it was still possible to patch things up, even with a British fleet in New York harbor displaying hostile intent. His later position on the Constitution is less clear. Dickinson asked George Read to sign his name because he was sick. Whether this was a real illness or a diplomatic illness is not readily known.

Three active delegates made no bones about their opposition to the final product: Edmond Randolph and George Mason of Virginia were not mollified by private assurances that a Bill of Rights was necessary but could be added later. They refused to sign a constitution that did not currently include this most passionate of their demands. There is little doubt of their sincerity, but any politician today would recognize they also needed to protect their flank from Patrick Henry who stayed at home denouncing the whole enterprise. Henry was a powerful speaker, representing the Scotch-Irish Virginia Piedmont area. In Scotland, Ireland, and America, that group had been abused by English kings three times and wanted iron-clad protection against backsliding to English rule or English government models. It's quite possible that Virginia's George Wythe and James McClurg left the convention early in order to avoid the local political consequences of signing the document, or the equally uncomfortable stance of opposing George Washington. The sentiments of Virginia can be surmised when of the seven delegates sent by Virginia, only John Blair joined the two instigators, George Washington and James Madison in announcing their approval. A majority of the Virginia delegation was thus held back on ratification until only one last vote was needed for enactment. Without George Washington, there can be little doubt the whole effort would have failed. Indeed, a case could be made that the location of the District of Columbia and the election of Virginians as four of the first five presidents also has the appearance of trying to persuade the six hundred pound Virginia gorilla to play nice.

Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts similarly refused to sign any constitution which did not include a Bill of Rights. However, Gerry undermined his stance on principle by inventing the technique of packing his opposition into one voting district (by shifting its borders) so his own party could win narrow majorities in several other districts. This sleazy manipulation of loopholes in the system has become known as Gerrymandering and raises a question perhaps unfairly, of where Gerry actually stood on every other issue in the Constitutional Convention. By contrast, it is impossible to imagine George Washington doing such a thing, and quite possible to imagine he would never again speak to someone who did.

In addition to the three delegates who stayed to the end but refused to sign, an additional four left early to demonstrate their protest: John Lansing and Robert Yates of New York; and Luther Martin and John Mercer of Maryland.

We are left less clear about the opinions of seven more who simply left the convention early (Oliver Ellsworth of Connecticut, William Houston and William Pierce of Georgia, Caleb Strong of Massachusetts, William Houston of New Jersey, and William Davie and Alexander Martin of North Carolina.) The same uncertainty extends to the eighteen delegates who were invited to attend but either refused or regretted their inability to attend: (Erastus Wolcott of Connecticut, Nathaniel Pendleton and George Walton of Georgia, Charles Carroll, Gabriel Duvall, Robert Hanson Harrison, Thomas Sim Lee, and Thomas Stone of Maryland, Francis Dana of Massachusetts, John Pickering and Benjamin West of New Hampshire, Abraham Clark and John Neilson of New Jersey, Richard Caswell and Willie Jones of North Carolina, Henry Laurens of South Carolina, and Patrick Henry, Richard Henry Lee, and Thomas Nelson of Virginia). These men were originally selected because of their local eminence, so some of them may have been unable to spend several months in a City that took days to reach on horseback. On the other hand, we certainly know where Patrick Henry stood, and a large number of other abstentions from certain states suggests more than personal inconvenience was involved. After all, Rhode Island refused even to nominate anyone to the Delegation. In this last case, a political issue was highlighted. The Articles of Confederation which were being replaced not only required unanimous consent to change them, but they affirmed the Articles to be permanent. Under ordinary contract law, that would be dispositive. But George Washington was hell-bent on replacing the Articles of Confederation, so what they said would then no longer matter.

There remains a need for someone, perhaps in a doctoral thesis, to examine the voluminous correspondence and recollections of the large group of non-signers to assess the true nature of their failure to attend or sign. There was plenty of room for honest disagreement, personal business back at home, illness, or feelings of inadequacy. On the other hand, plenty of other subsequent politicians have exhibited an unwillingness to offend anyone, a hope to seek advantage from both sides, or a habitual tendency of waiting to see who would win before stating an opinion. Politics would be better without such personal inadequacies, but politics would not be politics without them. In fairness to their quandaries, the voting on the Constitution was by states, requiring nine to adopt it. If the vote of their state was a foregone conclusion, some delegates probably had a right to go home and let it happen in their absence. In the case of Alexander Hamilton, here stood the sole New York delegate in attendance at the final signing. Since he had been agitating for this sort of reform for seven years before Madison and Washington convinced each other, it seems possible that others withdrew to let him have the limelight. There is little doubt the single remaining responsibility of the signers was to go home and "deliver" their state for ratification, and Hamilton went at that with a vengeance. Although the moment of final signing appears on portraits and in sculpture, it was only the beginning of the battle for adoption, not the final victory. Indeed the Constitution as we now perceive it did not take more or less final form until the early government shaped its operation in actual practice. Most of that shaping process also took place in Philadelphia, during the first ten years while the seat of government was still located there. In particular, many if not most of the elected members of the First Congress had been members of the Constitutional Convention, returning to Philadelphia to finish the job by writing the Bill of Rights.

{George Washington}
George Washington
{George Reed}
George Reed
{Gunning Bedford Jr.}
Gunning Bedford Jr.
{Richard Bassett}
Richard Bassett
{Daniel Carroll}
Daniel Carroll
{Charles Cotesworth} Charles C. Pinckney
{Charles Pinckney}
Charles Pinckney
{Abraham Baldwin}
Abraham Baldwin
{John Langdon}
John Langdon
{Nicholas Gilman}
Nicholas Gilman
{Nathaniel Gorham}
Nathaniel Gorham
{Rufus King}
Rufus King
{Rodger Sherman}
Rodger Sherman
{Alexander Hamilton}
Alexander Hamilton
{David Brearly}
David Brearly
{Jonathan Dayton}
Jonathan Dayton
{Benjamin Franklin}
Benjamin Franklin
{Thomas Mifflin}
Thomas Mifflin
{Robert Morris}
Robert Morris
{George Clymer}
George Clymer
{Thomas Fitzsimons}
Thomas Fitzsimons
{Gourvernor Morris}
Governor Morris
{William Houstoun}
William Houston
{Caleb Strong}
Caleb Strong
{William Davie}
William Davie
{Alexander Martin}
Alexander Martin
{George Walton}
George Walton
{Charles Carroll}
Charles Carroll
{Gabriel Duvall}
Gabriel Duvall
{Thomas Stone}
Thomas Stone
{Francis Dana}
Francis Dana
{Benjamin West}
Benjamin West
{Abraham Clark}
Abraham Clark
{Ricahrd Caswell}
Richard Caswell
{Willie Jones}
Willie Jones
{Henry Laurens}
Henry Laurens
{Patrick Henry}
Patrick Henry
{Thomas Nelson}
Thomas Nelson

Constitutions: So What's So Good About Ours; Why Do Europe's Fail?

First of all, let's compare Philadelphia's Constitutional beginnings with Boston's. Philadelphia had a Constitution which grew out of the Revolution, which was forced upon us by Admiral Howe's punishing attack by a huge British fleet. Philadelphia was dominantly a Quaker pacifist city. Annoyed by British mercantilism it may have been, but it was far from completely hostile to the mother country. Boston, by contrast, could have been described as starting the war. It had the Boston tea party, the Boston massacre, and the hidden gunpowder before the British tried to restore order. Boston and Philadelphia both had grievances, but nobody challenges the statement that the colonists (and the smugglers) started the war which led to the Constitution, just as French revolutionaries attacked the French aristocracy, first. Boston and Paris started their wars, Philadelphia was attacked. Furthermore, Philadelphia was pacifist Quaker, and gave up political power rather than resist. Boston quickly gave up "Taxation without representation" in order to fight for Independence with allies; Philadelphia was still filled with Tory sympathizers after the war was over.

But although Philadelphia agonized about Independence, they took it seriously once they adopted the goal. Even decades later, they endured a Civil war for the Union, while Boston sent us Abolitionists to stir up trouble for the South. On a smaller scale, during the War of 1812 it was New England that hoped to invade Canada, while Philadelphia was harboring the French and building French buildings. Our Constitution has endured for over two centuries with only minor amendments. By contrast, the European Republics seems about to fail after uniting many small states into one big one. We have much the same heredity. Whatever needs to be changed, by Europeans, before someone gets blown up?

The first thing to acknowledge is that America's Constitution may be the unusual one, having survived longest. Other Constitutions backslid after a few years. No doubt we wanted success more; we worked harder at it. At first, we were very suspicious of any unification of nations at all, as eloquently proclaimed by Patrick Henry, the Lees and Mason. But John Dickinson also wasn't sure it was a good idea at first either, Ben Franklin was a dedicated Englishman right up to the edge of the Revolution, and the Penman of the Constitution, Gouverneur Morris, disavowed his own product during the War of 1812. James Madison the Virginia scholar of constitutions based his premise on the intrinsic evil of everyone, in the phrase. "If all men were angels, there would be no need of Constitutions." The idea behind having a Revolution was Patrick Henry's declaration, "Give me Liberty or give me death." He distrusted all centralized rule and rulers. Not only was George III corrupt, but most men in power soon became that way. All governments were evil, and the evidence seemed abundant. George Washington devised the best reply he could find. Over and over, he repeated his sorrowful experience, "If you are strong, people leave you alone." Unify, or die. Since Washington had led a revolution against Kings overcoming almost hopeless odds, he was offered anything he wanted and refused to take it. It was hard to believe he wasn't sincere. Furthermore, he was a rich slave-holder. He knew he must lead because no one else had the credentials to be trusted by both North and South. The largest colony was Virginia, which gallantly fought the war but almost drew back from the Constitution. Perhaps all this hesitancy and reluctance was the secret of our success. Perhaps we expected little to come of it unless we were vigilant. So we were vigilant. Our Constitution holds together because it is a permanent balance between those who want to go ahead and those who like what they have, and we can always change either one before they do much damage, but we can keep them long enough to gain a little.

Robert Morris was as rich as they come, too, so he could be trusted by movers and shakers. He knew his countrymen, back from the days when they almost killed him in the Battle of Wilson's House on Third Street, near the Quaker Meeting at Fourth and Arch, no less. He knew you didn't win wars without gunpowder, so the way to remain strong was to find a way to force, trick or bribe the component states to pay their taxes. At the Constitutional Convention, he talked more than anyone, said hardly anything once he got a workable system, and then almost didn't sign it until he was convinced it would work. Even after the document was ratified, Ben Franklin who had risen from poverty three separate times to be one of the richest men in town, who had been both the author of the most significant features of the Constitutional product and the author of its most significant compromises, has been revealed as a doubter even after giving it his best, commenting to Mrs Powell that it was, "A republic, if you can keep it." He had proposed a Union at the Albany Conference in 1745, but after forty-four years he still wasn't sure it would work. Without these four men and their friends, it probably wouldn't have. And then there was John Dickinson, Governor of Pennsylvania and Delaware simultaneously, who pulled James Madison aside in Independence Hall, and said, "Do you want a nation, or don't you?" when it came time to compromise on giving two senators apiece to both the small and large states. And don't forget Patrick Henry, whose role in the Bill of Rights was vital. This was a compromise; you need cooperation on both sides to achieve an enduring compromise. Neither side must be allowed to achieve a total victory, lest your Constitution be short-lived like the others. From the beginning, our Constitution was as weak as anyone could make it -- and still survive. The Founding Fathers were idealists who had almost lost a war. There was only one thing worse than winning a war, and that was to lose one.

Albany Conference 1754

State and Federal Powers: Historical Review

John Dickinson of Delaware

It was expedient to leave certain phrases in the Constitution intentionally vague, but the overall design is clear enough. Just as twenty-eight sovereign European nations now struggle to form a European Union, thirteen formerly sovereign American colonies once struggled to unify for the stronger defense at a reduced cost. Intentionally or not, that created a new and unique culture, reliant on the constant shifting of power among friendly rivals. Everybody was a recent frontiersman, trusting, but suspicious. It still takes newcomers a while to get used to it.

So the primary reason for uniting thirteen colonies was for a stronger defense. As even the three Quaker colonies of New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware could see, if you are strong, others will leave you alone. In time, the unification of many inconsequential behaviors created a common culture of important ones; and in time that common culture strengthened defense. At first, it seemingly made little practical difference locally whether construction standards, legal standards, language and education standards and the like were unified or not. Except, that in the aggregate, it forged a common culture.

The practice of Medicine was certainly one of those occupations where it mattered very little whether we were a unified nation. Unification of medical care offered a few benefits, but mostly it didn't matter much, right up to 1920 or so. Even then I would offer the opinion, that unification of the several states (with consequent Free Trade) only made a big difference to health insurance, and still made little difference to the rest of medical care. In fact, there are still about fifteen states with too little population density to provide comfortable actuarial soundness for health insurance, as can readily be observed in the political behavior of their U.S. Senators. Although the number of low-population states gets smaller as the population grows, there are even so perhaps only ten big states where multiple health insurance companies can effectively compete within a single state border. Quite naturally the big-state insurers expect one day to eat up the small ones. By contrast, the nation as a whole, the gigantic population entity which Obamacare seeks to address, has far too many people spread out over far too large an area, to be confident we could unify them into one single program. Dividing the country into six or seven regions would be a much safer bet. That's the real message of the failure of the Computerized Insurance Exchanges -- far too much volume. And the coming failure of the Computerized Medical Record -- with too much complexity. With unlimited money, it can be done, because diseases are disappearing and computers are improving. But why struggle so hard?

It is at least fifteen years too early, and mostly serves the interest of insurance companies, if they can survive the experience. At the same time, we are at least fifteen years away from growing the smallest states to the point where we could decentralize. It's really a situation very similar to the one John Dickinson identified, James Madison briefly acknowledged, and where Benjamin Franklin improvised a solution. In their case, it was a bicameral legislature. In the case of medical care, it could be an administrative division of revenue from the expenditure. It could be the cure of a half-dozen chronic diseases. It could be six regional Obamacare. But creating one big national insurance company during a severe financial recession is something we will be lucky to survive.

Returning to the Constitutional Convention, an additional feature was added to the tentative 1787 document to respond to protests from small component states. They objected that whatever the big-state motives might be, small states would always be dominated by populous ones with more congressmen if a unicameral Legislature is made up of congressmen elected by the population. Pennsylvania had recently had a bad experience with a unicameral legislature. So a compromise bicameral legislature (with differing electoral composition in the two houses) was added to protect small-state freedoms from big domineering neighbors. Even after the Constitution was agreed to and signed, the states in ratifying it still insisted on a Bill of Rights, especially the Tenth Amendment, elevating certain citizen prerogatives above any form of political infringement, by any kind of a majority. These particular points were "rights"; individuals were even to be insulated from their own local state government. The larger the power of government, the less they trusted it.

John Dickinson of Delaware, the smallest state, soon made the essential point abundantly clear to a startled James Madison, when he pulled him aside in a corridor of Independence Hall, and uttered words to the effect of, "Do you want a Union, or don't you?", speaking on behalf of a coalition of small states. It was probably galling to Dickinson that Madison had never really considered the matter, and went about the Constitutional Convention airing the opinion that, of course, the big states would run things. Dickinson, who had been Governor of two states at once, had observed the effect of this attitude and wasn't going to have more of it.

{William Bingham class=}

Benjamin Franklin, who for over 40 years had been working on a plan for a union of thirteen colonies (since 1745, long ago producing the first American political cartoon for the Albany Conference), devised the compromise. It was essentially a bicameral legislature -- with undiminished relative power in the Senate for small states. In this backroom negotiation, it was pretty clear Franklin held the support of two powerful but mostly silent big-state delegates, Robert Morris and George Washington. These were the three men of whom it could be said, the Revolution would never have been won without each of them. In 1787 they were still the dominant figures in diplomacy, finance, and the military. All three were deeply committed to a workable Union, each for somewhat different reasons. Now that a workable Union was finally within sight, parochial squabbles about states rights were not going to be allowed to destroy their dream of unity.

And so it comes about, they gave us a Federal government with a few enumerated powers, ruling a collection of state governments with regional power over everything else. And since big-state/small-state squabbles are unending, almost any other solution to some problem repeatedly, seemed preferable to disturbing what holds it all together. On the other hand, the Industrial Revolution was beginning at about the same time, and people who recognized the power of larger markets almost immediately set about attacking state-dominated arrangements, systematically weakening them for a century, and redoubling the attack during the Progressive era at the end of the 19th Century. Attacks on what seemed like an abuse of state power, the power to retain slavery, and later the power to perpetuate white racism, were claimed to justify this attrition of states rights. The ghost of the Civil War hung over all these arguments, restraining those who pushed them too far.

However, the driving force was industrialization, with enlarged businesses pushing back against the confinement of single-state regulation within a market that was larger than that. This restlessness with confining boundaries was in turn driven by railroads and the telegraph, improving communication and enlarging markets, which offered new opportunities to dominate state governments, and when necessary the political power weakens them. One by one, industries found ways to escape state regulation, although the insurance industry was the most resistant, whereas local tradesmen like physicians found it more congenial to side with state and local governments. The 1929 crash and the Franklin Roosevelt New Deal greatly accelerated this dichotomy, as did the two World Wars and the Progressive movement from Teddy Roosevelt to Woodrow Wilson. The Founding Fathers were said to have got what they wanted, which was a continuous tension between two forces, supporting both large and small governments; with neither of them completely winning the battle.

Insurance Monopoly

The medical profession further evolved from a small town trade into a prosperous profession during the 20th century, but the practice of medicine remained comfortably local. Even junior faculty members who move between medical schools quickly come to realize their national attitudes are somewhat out of touch with local realities. For doctors, state licensure and state regulation remained quite adequate, and state-regulated health insurance companies paid generously. State-limited health insurance companies had a somewhat less comfortable time of it, but the ferocity of state-limited insurance lobbying, as exemplified by the McCarran Ferguson Act, perpetuated it. The medical profession watched uneasily as the growth of employer-paid insurance extended the power of large employers over health insurance companies beyond state boundaries, and thus in turn over what had been medical profession's kingdom, the hospitals. And the medical profession also had to watch increasing congeniality with big government extend through businesses, unions and universities, fueled by overhead allowances of federal research grants and finally in 1965, federal health insurance programs. Nobody likes his regulator, but national organizations inevitably prefer a single regulator to fifty different ones. Furthermore, everybody could see that health care suddenly had lots of money, and naturally, everybody wanted some.

{top quote}
There is nothing naturally inter-state about medical care -- except health insurance. {bottom quote}
It was all very well to pretend that health care was out-growing local-state regulation, but those on the inside could uneasily watch the federal/state competition for control, with the federal government repeatedly stacking the deck more in its own favor. Aside from federal program interventions, there is still nothing naturally inter-state about medical care -- except health insurance. Doctors, hospitals, and patients all tend to remain local, but insurance can easily cross state lines if regulation permits. Even in insurance, small states have difficulty maintaining actuarial stability, driving health insurance toward one-state monopolies. With a few big-state exceptions, even most health insurance companies prefer single-state monopoly status to federal regulation because it facilitates marketing. To praise the virtues of insurance competition is fine, but if sharing the local market means struggling for adequate risk reserves, nationwide regulation will inevitably lead to domination by a few big-state insurance companies. Small-state insurers would enjoy access to a national market; but blocked from it, they need to retain a local monopoly to survive. Fleeting thought might be given to Constitutional Amendment, but there are probably always going to be enough states which consider themselves small, to block the two-thirds requirement for Amendment. Imposing nationwide uniformity by force would possibly improve standards, but uniformity is increasing rather than decreasing, so the argument is not a strong one.

To be fair about it, there was not a strong case for state regulation, either. It could have been argued that uniformity and reduced administrative costs favored central regulation over-dispersed control, because of improved efficiency; and few would have argued about it. Until the ACA insurance exchanges crashed of their own weight around the ears of hapless creators, that is, unable to do what Amazon seems to do every day, and raising quite a few embarrassing recollections. Recollections of the mess the Sherman Antitrust Act inflicted on local medical charity in Maricopa County, Arizona. Recollections of the "Spruce Goose" airplane that Howard Hughes made so big it couldn't fly. Recollections of the gigantic traffic jam strangling the District of Columbia every weekend. And, reminders that 2500 pages of legislation remain to be converted into 20,000 pages of regulations which it would take a lifetime to understand. Suddenly, let's face it, retaining state regulation of health care, or not rocking the boat, gets a lot better press. It might even work better than the national kind, especially in an environment where no one expected a perfect solution, and just about everyone had heard of the Curse of Bigness. When we first discovered that use of health insurance added 10% to the cost of health care, it had seemed like an easy place to extract 2% of the Gross Domestic Product for better things, just by streamlining administration. But after the health exchange fiasco, some people begin to wonder if 10% is just what it costs to use insurance to pay for healthcare. If that is the case, perhaps we should look at other ways of paying our bills, not just a different regulator. Nobody would pay 10% just to have his bills paid, if he understood what he was doing.

109 Volumes

Philadephia: America's Capital, 1774-1800
The Continental Congress met in Philadelphia from 1774 to 1788. Next, the new republic had its capital here from 1790 to 1800. Thoroughly Quaker Philadelphia was in the center of the founding twenty-five years when, and where, the enduring political institutions of America emerged.

Sociology: Philadelphia and the Quaker Colonies
The early Philadelphia had many faces, its people were varied and interesting; its history turbulent and of lasting importance.

Nineteenth Century Philadelphia 1801-1928 (III)
At the beginning of our country Philadelphia was the central city in America.

Philadelphia: Decline and Fall (1900-2060)
The world's richest industrial city in 1900, was defeated and dejected by 1950. Why? Digby Baltzell blamed it on the Quakers. Others blame the Erie Canal, and Andrew Jackson, or maybe Martin van Buren. Some say the city-county consolidation of 1858. Others blame the unions. We rather favor the decline of family business and the rise of the modern corporation in its place.