Posted: November 17th, 2021

Together in this course we have examined, as our course description


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Week 8 Opener: U.S.S. Constitution & U.S.S. Missouri

Please respond to the discussion using 200 words or more.

150px-USS_Constitution_Crest.png & 153px-USS_Missouri_COA.png

Together in this course we have examined, as our course description would have it: “provisions and principles of the federal government of the United States, the Constitutions of the United States and of the State of Missouri, in their interwoven historical and modern contexts.” In other words, we have looked at the unique constitutional relationships between two “ships of state,” so to speak: the United States, and Missouri.

Consider how two surviving, historic naval ships might be said to respectively evoke these ships of state. Below is a clickable view of the oldest still-commissioned warship in the United States Navy, U.S.S. Constitution, eponymous of the U.S.A. and of its federal Constitution. Take a moment to virtually step into that picture with your mouse, and to walk around a bit on the deck of ConstitutionU.S.S. Constitution was launched in 1797, and is more than two hundred years old. (Links to an external site.) Over those years, as it has been repeatedly restored, much of its original physical material has been replaced, albeit with care taken to preserve its essence as U.S.S. Constitution. Might this ship not be seen as a metaphor: both the for the endurance of the United States and its Constitution, as well as for the latter document’s alteration by amendment, as our nation has sailed on into its third century?

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Now, step virtually onto the below-embedded deck of U.S.S. Missouri namesake of the state of Missouri that was added to the national union in 1820, and has its own constitution, currently the fourth Missouri Constitution that was crafted during World War II, when U.S.S. Missouri was fighting on behalf of the whole United States in the Pacific war against Imperial Japan. As it was, the Japanese surrender ending that war was signed on the deck of U.S.S. Missouri , on 2 September 1945 (Links to an external site.),at a historic moment when a “simple man from Missouri,” Harry S.Truman, was the thirty-third President of the United States of America.

Thinking of Constitution, and Missouri as metaphors of nation and state puts us in good literary company. In the nineteenth century, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow conceived of the union of the American states in naval terms, urging:

…Sail on, O Ship of State!

Sail on, O Union, strong and great!

Decades later, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt–who picked Missourian Harry Truman as his Vice President, and whose death elevated Truman into the presidency shortly before Japan’s surrender on the deck of Missouri–wrote by heart those words from Longfellow in a letter to Winston S. Churchill, the embattled Prime Minister of England who was fighting to stave off Hitler. Churchill was deeply moved by Roosevelt’s evocation of Longfellow. He read the American president’s quotation to the people of Britain in an emotional radio address (Links to an external site.), and he asked: “What is the answer that I shall give” to President Roosevelt’s charge to keep the union of free peoples sailing amid the dangerous stormy seas of history? “Give us the tools,” Churchill thundered back in reply, “and we will finish the job!”

In this course, you have acquired essential tools, by which to understand, and, as citizens, to help to sail in coordinated formation, two ships of state: the United States and Missouri. Going forward, how might you personally use these implements of understanding in the urgent, always unfinished, work of preserving and perfecting the “union strong and great” of the United States and of your home state?

USS Missouri.jpg

Above: 1942 U.S. Navy recruiting poster playing off of enthusiasm for U.S.S. Missouri (Missouri State Historical Society (Links to an external site.))


Above: replica gun used in the 1906 U.S.S. Constitution restoration, sold to support a later restoration of the ship, and now permanently displayed in Lexington, Missouri (Links to an external site.) in the center of College Park (photo by Charley Clarissa (Links to an external site.)).

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