By Andrea F. Siegel, The Baltimore Sun
9:46 PM EST, November 21, 2012
A fledgling organization dedicated to the Continental Congress is bringing three days of lectures along with historic documents and short films to Annapolis, as it seeks to find a permanent home in the city.
Among the items of historic note in the traveling exhibit will be a Treaty of Paris proclamation that formally ended the American Revolution; it was ratified and signed in Annapolis on Jan. 14, 1784. The Continental Congress Festival will mark the document's first return to Annapolis, said Mark Croatti, the Continental Congress Society's director.
"Since people seem to think the Articles of Confederation were a general failure, we want to show what was achieved," said Croatti, who has taught history and politics at the Naval Academy and American University, among other colleges.
What the small society hopes will be its first festival in Annapolis is set to open Monday at the Governor Calvert House in the city's Historic District. Organizers said they chose Annapolis because the years the traveling government was in Annapolis mark a "peacetime bridge" between the American Revolution and the creation of the Constitution.
Croatti said he hopes the festival will kick off discussions, not only as a look back at the Articles of Confederation, but also in the context of current politics.
"For example, should we allow the states to have oversight over federal spending and war powers? People would find those interesting," Croatti said.
"Why not look at this document and see if anything that's in there is apropos for today?"
He said there's no political agenda to the festival; rather, it is meant to inform people who know little or nothing about the Continental Congress, about the issues the nation's founders wrestled with during those years and about how the current government evolved.
"There was another kind of government once, and people should not be hesitant to think about it, " he said.
The festival, which is free, will include book signings, lectures on subjects ranging from the Colonial diet to drafts of the Constitution, a traveling exhibit of privately owned historical documents — some of them rare — events for children and walking tours.
The Continental Congress met from 1774 to 1789. It had little means to enforce resolutions or raise money from the states. It faced a series of problems, financial and otherwise. In 1787, a convention in Philadelphia produced the Constitution — and a stronger federal government.
Key events took place in Annapolis. Among them, Gen. George Washington resigned his commission before the Continental Congress in 1783, as the government met in a room of the State House. The government ratified the Treaty of Paris there. And in 1786, delegates from five states meeting in Annapolis called for the 1787 convention in Philadelphia.
"I've always boasted that we don't toot our horn enough. We were front and center in a critical time in American history, from what our nation eventually became," said former Annapolis Mayor Ellen O. Moyer, who is on the society's board and hopes to see the organization settle in the city.
Members of a Masonic lodge in downtown Annapolis near the waterfront are considering giving Croatti's group a temporary home.
"There's interest in it," said Dirk Wiker of Arnold, the chief officer of the lodge.
The lodge is looking into allowing the society to use two rooms for up to three months for displays and sales of small items, he said, but it has yet to work through the details.
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