On this day in 1797, the USS Constitution, aka “Old Ironsides,” is launched from a Boston shipyard.
First, of course, it was President George Washington who signed the Naval Act of 1794 which authorized construction of the ship. Obviously, he named it after our founding document. Paul Revere provided its copper.
Naturally, President John Adams was on hand for the aforementioned launch ceremony in Boston.
The old frigate earned the nickname “Old Ironsides” during the War of 1812 for its amazing ability to avoid damage despite having defeated five British warships.
Then, its final engagement was the capture of a slave ship in 1853.
In an interesting, perhaps providential parallel, the USS Constitution is the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world, while the U.S. constitution is the oldest single governing document in the world.
Certainly, George Washington and John Adams acknowledged the role divine providence plays in our nation:
At his Inaugural Address on April 30, 1789 George Washington said:
“No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand which conducts the affairs of men more than the People of the United States.”
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Also, at his inaugural address in Philadelphia in March the year the USS Constitution was launched, John Adams said:
“And may that Being who is supreme over all, the Patron of Order, the Fountain of Justice, and the Protector in all ages of the world of virtuous liberty, continue His blessing upon this nation and its Government and give it all possible success and duration consistent with the ends of His providence.”
Clearly, Divine protection will be necessary to keep both Constitutions afloat.
Finally, here is the final stanza of the aptly-titled poem “Old Ironsides” by Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. from 1830, which helped the ship stay commissioned:
Oh, better that her shattered hulk
Should sink beneath the wave;
Her thunders shook the mighty deep,
And there should be her grave;
Nail to the mast her holy flag,
Set every threadbare sail,
And give her to the god of storms,
The lightning and the gale!