When I was walking around old Philadelphia on Saturday morning, I was surprised to find that the original buildings for both the First Bank of the United States and the Second Bank of the United States were still around. I was aware of many other historical buildings in the city, but I had never heard that these structures still existed, and in fact I’m not sure I knew they were originally in Philadelphia, although it makes sense at least for the First bank, because it was created when Philadelphia served as the nation’s capitol while the District of Columbia was being built from 1790 to 1800. There is a plaque in an empty field to the right of this building (your right, not the building’s right) indicating that the first Office of the Secretary of the Treasury stood there. It’s a shame that it no longer stands. Alexander Hamilton is probably my favorite Founding Father, and I would have loved to see where he worked as the nations first Treasury Secretary, but it was still a treat to be able to photograph this building.
In terms of historical import, the First Bank is probably most notable for being the focus of the earliest debates over the scope of the Federal government’s power under the Constitution. As such, today I think that lawyers are the most likely people to be familiar with the Bank’s history, having inevitably studied it in law school. That debate continues to this day, and one of the reasons I chose to lead with this as my first image from Philadelphia is a coincidental tie-in to current events. A Supreme Court decision on the authority of Congress to impose a mandate to purchase health insurance is due today. In fact, unless you read this almost immediately after I post, the decision could be out.
Yes, this is the much anticipated decision on the constitutionality of [pick your preferred name, the PPACA, the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare]. The invaluable resource Scotusblog reports that although today is the last day on which the Court is scheduled to issue opinions, it is very likely to add one or two more days to its schedule, either Wednesday and/or Thursday. So while the decision might get pushed back from today, it will almost certainly come this week.
As I realize that nobody comes here to read my opinion on public policy or Con Law, I won’t go on about the issues, but there is a direct thread between the controversy over the First Bank and the controversy over the health care law today. Whether that means I think they are both constitutional, neither constitutional, or one is but the other is not, is beyond the scope of this blog, but the connection meant that I could not resist making this the subject of my blog today.
On a more mundane note, I wish the folks in charge of placing light posts had not put this one directly across the street from this building, but none of my alternative compositional options to photograph the bank while eliminating the post appealed to me.
UPDATE: I realize that absolutely nobody comes here for Supreme Court updates, but since I raised the topic I thought I would note that the Supreme Court did not announce the health care decision today and did in fact schedule an extra day to announce opinions this term, which will be this Thursday.