Self-Guided Argument-Writing Field Trip

There are many ways for school groups to tour the historic area of Philadelphia. You'll find sites to enhance your curriculum - whether it's history or science - and stories to engage learners of all ages. Planning is key to a successful experience. Consult the building hours on the park's website, and download the park's FREE mobile app, "NPS Independence," to help with trip planning and on-site logistics.

We know you have many questions when planning a field trip: "Where is the bus drop-off area?" "Will my group have a tour guide?" To learn the answers to these questions and more, read Things to Know Before You Come. Learn about guided educational programs, Independence Hall tickets and more on our Reservations and Fees page.

Get it to go - download the Argument-Writing Walking Tour as a pdf for easy printing.

Independence Hall

Enter through security screening at 5th and Chestnut Streets
By tour only, tickets required March – December, no tickets required in January – February

The Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were both debated and signed inside this building. The legacy of the nation's founding documents - universal principles of freedom and democracy - has influenced lawmakers around the world in their own arguments for independence and universal rights.

Examples of claims put forth by some individuals in this building
Note: Keep in mind that disagreements over these claims often led to compromises

Second Continental Congress – directed the war effort, signed the Declaration of Independence
  • The colonies have a right to be independent from Great Britain.
Constitutional Convention – created the U.S. Constitution, a new framework of government with three branches of government, debated issued like the slave trade, and the balance of power between the states and the federal government, and between large and small states
  • Enslaved people are property
  • Enslaved people should count as people in the census
Charles Willson Peale’s Philadelphia Museum (2nd floor from 1802-1827) – this natural and cultural history museum provided a space for learning
  • People should have access to information and the opportunity to learn, regardless of their economic status
  • A successful republic depends on an educated citizenry

Great Essentials Exhibit in the West Wing of Independence Hall

Enter through security screening at 5th and Chestnut Streets
No tickets required

This gallery contains some of our nation’s most celebrated documents – original printed copies of the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the U.S. Constitution. Also on display is the Syng inkstand, believed to be the one used by the signers in the cause of independence.

Examples of claims reflected in the Declaration of Independence
  • Government gets its power from the people, and the people can take it away
  • Free and independent nations exist to ensure the welfare of their people.
Example of claim reflected in the U.S. Constitution
  • Power must be separated, balanced and shared by national, state, and local governments.

Independence Square

Enter through security screening at 5th and Chestnut Street
No tickets required
Note: only the secure area of Independence Hall is accessible for people with mobility impairments

Independence Square has been a gathering place – sometimes in protest and sometimes in celebration – since the 18th century. On July 8, 1776, a large crowd assembled to hear the public reading of the Declaration of Independence. Since that time, protesters have used the space to link their own causes with the ideals of the Declaration of Independence. Frederick Douglass addressed an anti-slavery gathering here in 1844. Susan B. Anthony disrupted the July 4th celebration in 1876, distributing her “Women’s Declaration of Rights.”

Examples of claims argued on this landscape:
  • Women should have the right to vote
  • Slavery must be abolished

Congress Hall

Enter through security at 5th and Chestnut Streets
April - October, tours every 20 minutes
March, November, and December – tours every 30 minutes
January – February, self-guided
No tickets required

Congress Hall was home to the U.S. Congress from 1790-1800, when Philadelphia served as the temporary capital of the United States. Issues of national consequence – the economy, defense, taxation, slavery, foreign relations – led to political disputes and the birth of the two party system. With John Adams’ inauguration here as the second President, American citizens and guests from around the world witnessed the nation’s first peaceful transfer of executive power.

Examples of claims argued in this building:
  • The United States needs a federal bank to collect taxes, administer public finances, and serve as a source of loans to the Treasury Department
  • The First Bank bill is unconstitutional since the U.S. Constitution does not explicitly state that the federal government can create a national bank
  • The Congress has the right to establish a bank if it’s “necessary and proper”
  • The United States needs a navy to enforce maritime laws
  • The U.S. should stay neutral in the conflicts between Britain and France

Example of having an argument (as opposed to making an argument)
On February 15, 1798, Representative Roger Griswold of Connecticut and Representative Matthew Lyon of Vermont exchanged blows on the floor of the House of Representatives, fighting with a walking stick and fire tongs. This violence came after a tense two week period between the men. The dispute started on January 30, 1798, when Lyon verbally insulted Griswold. Griswold responded with a character attack, calling Lyon a coward. Lyon then spit in Griswold’s face. A resolution to expel Lyon for his behavior failed to garner the necessary 2/3 majority, leading to Griswold’s decision to initiate the attack on February 15.

President’s House Site

6th and Market Streets
Outdoor exhibit, open 7am to 10pm, no tickets required

George Washington and John Adams both lived at this site while serving as President of the United States. Cabinet meetings took place here, and the presidents signed bills into law. Washington’s household included numerous indentured and enslaved servants. Adams never owned slaves and employed a small staff. The house was demolished in 1832, but exhibits now examine the paradox between slavery and freedom in this house, and in the nation.

Examples of claims presented through the exhibits:
  • Society must remember the enslaved people that Washington owned
  • Public spaces should be used to make room for stories of those who voices are forgotten in history

Liberty Bell Center

6th Street, just south of Market Street
Security screening at entrance, no tickets required

The Liberty Bell bears a timeless message: “PROCLAIM LIBERTY THROUGHOUT ALL THE LAND UNTO ALL THE INHABITANTS THEREOF”. This ordinary State House bell has been transformed into an extraordinary international symbol, inspiring abolitionists, women’s suffrage advocates, and civil rights leaders.

Examples of claims presented through the exhibits:

Abolition – The bell’s inscription provided a rallying cry for abolitionists working to end slavery. The Anti-Slavery Record, an abolitionist publication, first referred to the bell as the Liberty Bell in 1835, but that name was not widely adopted until years later
  • Symbols like the Liberty Bell are powerful tools in the fight against oppression
Women’s Suffrage – Pennsylvania suffragists commissioned a replica of the Liberty Bell. Their “Justice Bell” traveled across Pennsylvania in 1915 to encourage support for women’s voting rights legislation. It then sat chained in silence until the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920.
  • Symbols and images can be just as powerful as words

Franklin Court Printing Office

In Franklin Court, enter the courtyard from Market Street between 3rd and 4th Street
Hours vary, last printing demonstration 30 minutes prior to closing
No tickets required

See first-hand how an 18th century printing office operated and discover the pivotal role that the printed word played in the American Revolution and the founding of the nation. Adjacent to the printing office is the newspaper office of Benjamin Franklin’s grandson, Benjamin Franklin Bache. From 1790 to 1800, Philadelphia served as the nation’s capital and Bache’s newspaper became the voice of opposition against the perceived (and sometimes real) pro-British sympathies of the Washington and Adams administrations. The Aurora helped shape the character of two-party politics in America.

Examples of claims represented in the stories here:
  • Freedom of the press is essential to a democracy
  • The written word can convince people to take action

Last updated: May 5, 2017

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

143 S. 3rd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106


(215) 965-2305

Contact Us