The Statue of Liberty in New York is Symbol of Friendship
Nothing says America like the Statue of Liberty. There she is, standing guard, holding her light tothe world. It was the first thing the multitude of immigrants saw when they made the voyage acrossthe ocean in pursuit of the American Dream. Lady Liberty was there to guide them in and welcomethem to their new country. It is appropriate the National Park includes both the torch bearing ladyand the long closed Ellis Island Immigration Station. Yet, the original concept of the statue is notabout the American Dream, but rather friendship between nations.
The British Colonize the Eastern Coast of America
The history of the iconic statue starts a hundred years before the thing was even an idea. It reallystarted when a group called the Pilgrims sailed from England and beached themselves on PlymouthRock. The Pilgrims set up camp and began to colonize the New World, much to the chagrin of theNative Americans. Each of the thirteen colonies developed their own system of self-government;however, they were still part of British rule. The thirteen colonies were comprised of Delaware,Pennsylvania, Georgia, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts Bay,Maryland, North & South Carolina and Providence Plantations. Originally, the thirteen colonies weresimply part of the numerous colonies of British America.
Though Benjamin Franklin tried to join the colonies as one union of colonies, he was unsuccessful.Trouble began brewing when the British Empire instituted the Stamp Act of 1765 which was a directtax imposed on the colonies. The Act required the colonies to print materials on paper productsproduced in London that carried an embossed revenue stamp. This applies to such printed materialsas legal documents, newspapers and magazines.
British Parliament determined the Seven Year War with France (fought from 1756-1763 and knownas the French and Indian War in America) had been quite expensive for Britain, almost doublingtheir national debt. In addition, Britain decided to maintain ten thousand soldiers in the Americancolonies. Part of their reasoning was keeping 1,500 well-connected to Parliament officers working;and also reasoning it was politically advantageous to keep a large peacetime garrison and since thelocals were adverse to maintaining the army at home, the troops needed to be deployed out ofcountry. Because the soldiers were stationed in America, Parliament reasoned the colonies werein part responsible for maintaining their care and expense. The taxes collected were to offset theexpense of the soldiers.
The colonists did not have a representative in Parliament and therefore believed this taxation wasagainst their rights as Englishmen. In essence, it was taxation without representation and thecolonists protested vigorously. Protests and demonstrations sometimes turned violent. Exporters tothe colonies didnt agree with the Act either, as the economics of the colonies directly impactedtheirs. It didnt take long for the intimidated stamp tax distributors to resign their commissions, thusthe tax was never really collected with any kind of efficiency.
With pressure from the British exporters, Parliament repelled the Stamp Act in 1766. However, theydecided to pass the Declaratory Act to assert their power over the colonies. This act statedParliament had the same authority in America as it did in Britain and any laws they passed werebinding on the American colonies. Subsequently they passed numerous new taxes and regulationswhich of course were opposed by the colonists. The colonists were already paying taxes to Britainthrough their own elected governments. As far as they were concerned, this was double taxation.
Colonists Declare Independence from British Rule
As the colonists continued to protest the new taxes imposed, Parliament continued to press forwardin attempts to control what they considered out of control colonists. The tipping point came whencolonists protested the tea tax and boycotted tea imports. The infamous Boston Tea Party (1793) wasin response to the boycott over the tea tax; Parliament responded with new laws in 1774 curtailingthe authority of Massachusetts to self-govern. Once Massachusetts was stripped of its historic rightsand rights to self-govern; the thirteen colonies went ballistic. The colonists called these new lawsThe Intolerable Act. While Parliament had hoped by punishing Massachusetts, the other colonieswould step in line; it only created a more hostile attitude towards British rule and the colonists wereon course to declare independence.
In response to the Intolerable Act, the colonists formed what is known as the Provincial Congresseswhich were bodies of elected representatives. Later in the year, all of the colonies except Georgiasent representatives to Philadelphia to the First Continental Congress. Georgia added theirrepresentatives for the Second Continental Congress. In spring of 1775 all of the royal officials fromBritain had been expelled from the thirteen colonies. The Continental Congress became the de factonational government of the colonies and it created an army to fight the British and named GeorgeWashington as its commander. The Continental Congress made treaties, declared independence andrecommended the colonies write constitutions to become states.
Supporters of the Thirteen Colonies
At the time of the Revolutionary War, Britain had sevenother colonies on North Americas Atlantic coast:Newfoundland, Ruperts Land, Prince Edward Island,Nova Scotia, the Province of Quebec and East and WestFlorida. None of these colonies were supportive of thethirteen colonies' stance for various reasons. In theBritish West Indies it was a different story. The electedassemblies of Barbados, Jamaica and Grenada formallydeclared they support the American colonies. Othercolonies of the West Indies remained loyal to Britain.
Bermuda and the Bahamas were increasingly supportive of the Americans because of the foodshortages there caused by the British blockades of American ports. Throughout the war, the twocolonies were considered passive allies. Although not directly engaging in the war or directlysupporting the colonists, they offered no resistance when the American Navy seized gunpowder inthe Bahamas.
French Support of the Revolutionary War
By now you may be wondering what this had to do with the Statue of Liberty. Here is where it getsinteresting. The French were by far the most supportive of the American cause. They had lost theirpart of Canada to the British during the Seven Year War and were still stinging from the defeat.When the American colonies declared their independence, France saw this as an opportunity to
reduce the British Empire; so they were supportive of the colonies from the get-go.
Having little resources of their own, the colonists turned to France. Benjamin Franklin was sent toFrance to rally support and he was met with great enthusiasm from the aristocracy down to thelowest of the general population. Initially, the aid France supplied was covert; French agents sentmilitary aid such as gunpowder shipped through legitimate companies. In less than a year, therebels had been given over five million livres worth of supplies by the French.
French volunteers entered the war; the most famous, Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette(known simply as Lafayette), became Washingtons aid and a combat general. French portsaccommodated American ships and France continued to support the Rebel cause with economic aid,technical assistance and even granting some of their military strategists vacations to give them timeto assist the Americans.
The American Rebels wanted France to engage fully in the war and even attempted to gain thesupport of Spain as well. Spain could see no benefit in supporting the rebels and worried therebellion would influence the colonists in Spanish control. They didnt enter the war until 1779.Though the public opinion in France was open war, King Louis and his advisors were reluctant. Eventhough the Americans made the argument an alliance between America, Spain and France wouldcrush the British, Spain declined and Frances foreign minister, Charles Gravier, the Count deVergennes, was worried the French Navy was not yet ready. On July 23, 1777. The Count decided itwas time to either throw full support to the Rebels or abandon them altogether. Luckily for theAmericans, he chose the former and it was ratified by the King.
On February 6, 1778 France formally recognized The United States and signed the Treaty of Alliance(defensive alliance between France and the U.S which promised military support in case of attack byBritish forces indefinitely into the future). Britain responded by declaring war on France on March17, 1778. France and Britain immediately confronted each other with their naval forces.
The French assistance in the war was predominately naval. With the help of their fleet, major battleswere won in New York and Virginia, subsequently ending the war. Finally, in September 1783, thewar formally ended and the Treaty of Paris was signed (Britain signed separate treaties with France,Spain and the Dutch Republic). France spent 1.3 billion livres to directly support the Americansduring the war and additional monies fighting the British off American soil.
100 Years Later
About the time the American Civil War was ending, the concept of a statue was proposed by
French historian Edouard de Laboulaye. His idea was to have France create a statue it would give tothe United States as part of the celebration of the nations success in attaining independence andforming a working democracy. Sculptor Fredric Auguste Bartholdi was commissioned to design thestatue in time for the centennial of the Declaration of Independence in 1876. The project was tobe a joint effort; the United States would build the pedestal for the statue and France would designand build the statue. It was to be a symbol of friendship between the two nations.
In both France and the United States the first challenge was to raise funds for the project. Franceraised the necessary monies through public fees, entertainment venues and a lottery. WhileFrance was already starting their work on the statue, the United States was still raising funds for thepedestal. Benefits, contests and exhibitions brought in most of the funds for the pedestal withnewspaperman, Joseph Pultizer raised the last of the necessary monies through his paper, the
Statue of Liberty Deconstructed
With the funds finally ra
ised, Bartholdi stared work on the statue started in 1875. He titled the work Statue of LibertyEnlightening the World. The design had a woman holding a torch raised in her right hand and atablet in her left. On the tablet was engraved July 4, 1776, the date of the Declaration ofIndependence. To make the skin of the statue, Bartholdi used copper sheets. For the skeleton of thestatue, he asked the designer of the Eiffel Tower, Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel for assistance. Eiffeland Eugene-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc built the skeleton with steel and iron pylon which allowed thecopper skin to move independently.
Meanwhile, in New York, American architect Richard Morris Hunt designed the pedestal and in1885 construction started inside the courtyard of Fort Wood. Fort Wood was located on
Bedloes Island in the Upper New York Bay, just off the southern tip of Manhattan. The pedestal wascompleted in April, 1886, about nine months after the funds were collected.
Bartholdi and his helpers completed the statue in July 1884 and shipped 350 pieces packed in over200 crates aboard the French frigate Isere to the United States. It took four months to reassemblethe pieces onto the pedestal.Including the pedestal the structure rose to 305 feet (93 meters). OnOctober 28, 1886 the Statue of Liberty was dedicated by President Grover Cleveland. It was tenyears later than de Laboulaye proposed date, but the symbolism was established as he suggested.
Operation of Lady Liberty
Initially the statue was put under the care of the United States Lighthouse Board. After 1901,operation was moved to the War Department. On October 15, 1924, Fort Wood was declared aNational Monument which included the statue. In 1933, the National Monument was placed underthe care of the National Park Service. In 1937 the Monument was enlarged to include all ofBedloes Island and in 1956 the island was changed to Liberty Island. In 1965, Ellis Island becamepart of the Statue of Liberty National Monument. In 1984, the United Nations designated the statueas a World Heritage Site.
The green hue of the Lady was caused by oxidation of the copper skin due to rain, sun and wind. Shewas restored in 1984 and was ready for her centennial celebration in 1986. The park was closedagain after the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001. Though the island was
reopened after 100 days, the statue was not opened again until August 2004. Since July 2009, togain access to the crown or the top of the pedestal, visitors must make reservations. In 2012 thepark was closed once again due to Hurricane Sandy. Thought Lady Liberty came through the stormunscathed, the island itself and supporting buildings suffered extensive damage.
Generally the park is open year-round, only closing on Christmas Day. Peak tourists months are fromApril through September and holiday weekends. Wait times for the ferry may be as long as 90minutes during these months. Visitors must be prepared for security screening. Before boarding theferry, visitors are screened much like at an airport. Also, before entering the monument visitorsare screened for a second time. The only ferry allowed to dock at the island is Statue Cruises. ThePark Service recommends making reservations prior to the day of the visit.
The Statue of Liberty continues to be a popular tourist attraction for New York and the United Sates.She means so many things to so many people. A light to the world and a symbol of friendship, shehas endured all the force of nature has thrown her way.
The copyright of the article The Statue of Liberty in New York is Symbol of Friendship is owned byCheryl Weldon and permission to republish in print or online must be granted by the author inwriting.
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