An Excursion to Annapolis

While visiting our friends in Maryland we also made an excursion to Annapolis, a small city of 40,000 on the Chesapeake Bay. Annapolis is the state capital and quite old by American standards, having been founded in 1649.

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Maryland’s state Capitol.

Because I am a state capitol nerd, the first thing we did was visit the state capitol. My dream, and I admit it’s a strange one, is to visit all 50 state capitol buildings. This was my 14th. Prior to this I had seen the capitols in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Louisiana, and Texas. So I still have a ways to go.

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The Maryland State Capitol has been in continuous use since 1779, making it the oldest in the United States. Coming up the back of the building we found this statue of Roger Taney, a Marylander who was Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court from 1836 to 1864. I understand the appeal of a local boy made good, but I found it odd that his was the only statue on the Capitol grounds.

Taney is best known for the Dred Scott decision (1857). In the majority opinion, Taney wrote that black people, whether free or slave, could not be citizens of the United States because of their innate inferiority, and therefore that they “had no rights which the white man was bound to respect …” Anti-slavery US Senator Charles Sumner said of that decision, “Judicial baseness reached its lowest point on that occasion.”

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Less disturbingly, the Capitol grounds also had an old cannon dating back to the 17th Century. It spent the majority of its career at the bottom of the nearby Severn River, where it did nobody any harm.

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The Maryland State Seal.

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Inside the Capitol, we saw the Legislative Chambers, including the Senate chamber above.

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Most American State Capitols have domes that are more or less smaller versions of the US Capitol. Maryland’s capitol dome is a bit more like a big cupola. Here’s a view from the rotunda on the first floor.

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This building is where George Washington resigned his military commission at the conclusion of the American Revolution, and where the Continental Congress met to ratify the peace treaty with Great Britain.

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Also in the Capitol we found this rather peculiar plaque from the Maryland Civil War Centennial Commission. Maryland played an ambiguous role in that conflict. A slave state, it was officially neutral.

Nevertheless, Northern troops moving through Baltimore were attacked by mobs at the outset of the war. Eventually Baltimore was placed under martial law. To head off the danger of secession, federal officers arrested the Mayor and other leading citizens.

In any case, I find it remarkable that the Commission found it necessary to assure us that they “… did not attempt to decide who was right and who was wrong, or to make decisions on other controversial issues.” Keep in mind this plaque was commissioned during the height of the civil rights movement. Should it really have been controversial then or now whether it was wrong to engage in armed rebellion in order to maintain the institution of slavery?

But, of course, it was and is controversial. When we argue about the past, we are merely engaged in a thinly disguised argument about the present.

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Anyhow, after leaving the Capitol we walked down Main Street to the waterfront. The street was full of upscale shops in historic buildings.

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We bought some very good sandwiches (I had pastrami, Judy had crab cake) and ate lunch outside by the water.

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Then we wandered around the historic district.

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Many of the houses dated back to the 18th Century and were painted in pastel colors.

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Eventually we got back to the car, and Carol drove south until we got to the Chesapeake Bridge.

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We drove across the bridge to the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Finding a restaurant with a view of the water, we watched the light fade as we nursed our drinks.

There was a lot we hadn’t seen in Annapolis – the US Naval Academy and some well-regarded museums, for example. Nevertheless, it was a good day. Perhaps we’ll get there again.

40 Comments on “An Excursion to Annapolis

  1. Oops, pressed send prematurely. I was also going to say that I find it astounding that echoes from the civil war still seem to permeate through to modern America (in places). But let’s not get political! Annapolis looks like a pretty town, especially as it has a waterfront.

    • It is a pretty town. As for the Civil War, to a certain extent it is still going on, though thankfully without guns (at least most of the time).

  2. I’ve always wanted to visit Annapolis, so your sneak-peek is appreciated. And ending with drinks by the water with friends sounds perfect (even if it is 5 a.m. right now).

  3. How interesting that Maryland continues to honor Roger Taney with a statue (and the only statue) at the capitol building. It reminds me of Charleston’s godlike statue of John C. Calhoun–an unapologetic supporter of slavery and the belief in white superiority. Passive aggressive statuary, perhaps?

  4. You have an interesting wish to see all the state capitols. One learns a lot by doing this. Annapolis is a pretty place. I always thought of it as being a larger city.

    • You can learn a lot by visiting state capitols. The ones in Texas and Louisiana (where you can still see the holes in the wall left over from the assassination of Huey Long) were especially instructive.

  5. I love the colors of the waterfront, and that last photo of the bridge really is the scene of a day well spent!
    It would be nice to think that wars are waged for such noble causes as freeing the enslaved, but I have my doubts.

    • Your doubts are well-founded. Lincoln ran on a platform not of abolition, but of merely stopping the expansion of slavery into the territories . For the North the war started out as a fight to save the Union, and there was strong opposition to the abolition of slavery, let alone racial equality. Gradually, as a pragmatic matter, the North shifted its focus to slavery. While the North had a very mixed record on slavery, though, there is no question that the South was fighting to preserve the peculiar institution.

  6. If you make it to North Carolina, please included Charlotte on your travels. Would love to welcome you personally.

  7. Roger Taney seems an odd person to erect a monument to. I wonder what the scrap value of bronze is these days?
    I like seeing the narrowness of the streets and the houses on them. You can see their age without knowing what year they were built.

  8. Thanks for the tour of Annapolis and a snapshot of history there….. I hope you get to the other capital cities because I’d like to read about them too. Paul and I both enjoyed this post in part because we live in Canberra the capital city of Australia…and how young our settlement seems in comparison! We enjoyed our trip to Washington a few years ago.

  9. Lovely photos of the capitol building! I’ve always wanted to visit Maryland–I’ve only stepped foot a couple of times, but not enough time to sight-see much. Thanks for the tour1

  10. Seeing them all is a capitol idea. Enjoyed your tour of Annapolis and am looking forward to your visit to Olympia so that I can drag you to every nursery and garden in Washington (the other one.)

  11. In grade school, I wrote to each state requesting information. It was exciting to have the mailbox fill with brochures from each of them, but not nearly as exciting as your personal visits.

  12. You’ve captured it all beautifully. Annapolis is just so beautiful in the summer too. Another lovely place not far from home.

  13. Great pictures! And if you ever visit Maine’s capital—Augusta—then please keep in mind that the little house in the big woods is only ten miles away. Given that you come when the weather is good, you (and Judy!) could come for a barbecue and some of Clif’s legendary grilled bread 😉

  14. I love historic cities and I wish I had visited more but not many in my family enjoy history. I love that you are visiting the state capitols….a wonderful challenge and such a learning experience.

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