Touring The U.s., 1215 Magna Carta Adds Phila. Visit

Posted: June 06, 1987

A 1215 version of Magna Carta begins its tour of the 13 original states in the tiny town of Georgetown, Del., tomorrow.

Three months down the line, there will be a final and, until recently, unexpected stop: Philadelphia.

On Sept. 15, 16 and 17, the touring Magna Carta is expected to be in Philadelphia to mark the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787.

Word of the Philadelphia visit came as a surprise yesterday to a prime coordinator of a Magna Carta exhibit already in Philadelphia.

"They haven't talked to me," said Judge Edward R. Becker of the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. But, he added, "it will be great to have it here."

Becker is co-trustee of the Magna Carta Foundation of Philadelphia, which is overseeing an eight-month exhibit of a 1297 version of the document at Old City Hall, the building just east of Independence Hall where the U.S. Supreme Court met from 1791 to 1800.

The Magna Carta Foundation helped bring Princess Alexandra of Britain, the attorneys general of the United States and Britain, and other dignitaries to Philadelphia to mark the opening of its exhibit May 1.

The touring Magna Carta was not to visit Philadelphia, sponsors of the tour said in March, so as not to compete with the Philadelphia exhibit.

But retired U.S. Chief Justice Warren E. Burger recently persuaded Willard G. Rouse 3d, chairman of We the People 200, the Philadelphia celebration agency, to bring the touring 1215 Magna Carta into town.

"The chief justice had talked to Mr. Rouse and said he'd like to get it in there and Mr. Rouse invited him to bring it in," Fred Biebel, chairman of the Roads to Liberty tour, said in an interview from Washington yesterday.

The invitation came after Rouse visited Washington on May 15 to appear before the Commission on the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution, Biebel said. Biebel, a former Connecticut state legislator, is chairman of the tour and a member of the federal bicentennial commission that Burger chairs.

A spokesman for Burger said he was at a filming session yesterday and unavailable for comment. Rouse did not return three phone calls seeking comment.

The original decision to bypass Philadelphia was made by the Commonwealth

Commission on the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution in Harrisburg.

Mitch Akers, staff director of the commonwealth commission, said in March that the decision was made because the exhibit of the 1297 document would be ''longstanding" while the touring display was "for people who won't have the opportunity to visit Philadelphia."

The 1215 Magna Carta is touring inside a tractor-trailer carrying copies of several other historic documents.

Copies of some - such as the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation - are already at the "Miracle at Philadelphia" exhibit at the Second Bank of the United States, a National Park Service historic site on Chestnut Street near Fifth Street.

The trailer contains other artifacts including copies of the Mayflower Compact, the Northwest Ordinance papers and the Emancipation Proclamation.

The tour began March 11 with a ceremony at the White House and has already wended its way through the six states of the Northwest Territory as well as Alabama, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana and Texas, a tour spokeswoman said.

After its Delaware visit in Georgetown tomorrow and Monday, the Roads to Liberty tour moves to Dover on Tuesday and Wednesday and to Wilmington on Thursday and Friday.

It will open its New Jersey tour in Cape May on June 14 and will be in Trenton on June 15 and 16, Atlantic City on June 17, Newark on June 18 and Stanhope Waterloo Village on June 19.

It will open its Pennsylvania tour in Harrisburg on June 21 and 22. Later that week, it will visit Altoona, Erie, Pittsburgh and Scranton.

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