THE STATUE OF LIBERTY:
MEANING OF THE STATUE OF LIBERTY
The statue of Liberty is national monument given to the United States by France in recognition of the friendship established during the American Revolution. Being among the best-known monuments in the world, it attracts between three to four million people each year. The Statue of Liberty has been a tourist destination and played many other roles in its 124-year history. Representing a woman holding aloft a torch, it stands at the entrance to New York harbor on a 12-acre land known as Bedloe’s or Liberty Island. The Statue of Liberty symbolizes freedom throughout the world, democracy as well as international friendship. As a result, many immigrants’ hearts warmed up as they beheld the symbolic woman welcoming them to the land of numerous opportunities. As such, the poet Emma Lazarus composed the poem "The New Colossus."
The idea of the statue was born at the home of Edouard de Laboulaye while at dinner with prominent friends, near Versailles, France, in the summer of 1865. Edouard, a professor of Constitutional Law and History at College de France in Paris, understood and interpreted the American government very explicitly. While reviewing a book by Agenor, Count Gasparin, an abolitionist on the grounds of Christian ethics, De Laboulaye wrote: “Until a new sort of politics was lately found for us, it was accepted on both sides of the ocean as a virtual article of faith that America and France are sisters. . . . We claim that France never fights for an interest, only for an idea. I accept this proud device and ask: If we aid the South, what idea shall we be defending?” The discussion resulted in the idea of building the Statue of Liberty that now stands in New York Harbor. Even after some French people doubted at the discussion that France could even count on the United States in time of French emergency, he reiterated that the bond between France and the US was a lasting one.
The creators of the Statue of Liberty celebrated a universal idea of liberty and freedom particularly because the meaning became associated with the end of American slavery after the civil war and democratic political institutions were evolving under constitutional government. Edouard as a strong supporter of the Union cause and the head of the French antislavery society was among those saddened by the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. The French considered Lincoln as a living symbol of freedom. The monument carried a deeper meaning to the emancipation of slavery in the United States especially to the African Americans. During the Statue’s dedication, evidence from African-American press at the time suggests that they might have seen it as representing triumph over slavery and the distance they still need to travel to obtain political freedom in America.
The sculptor, Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, present at Edouard’s residence, projected to complete the sculpture by 1876 in order to commemorate the centennial of the American Declaration of Independence. Edouard suggested that Bartholdi go to America to study the situation and discuss with friends the possibility that they could work together on a monument to commemorate the long friendship between the two countries. Inspired by Edouard, Bartholdi left for the United States bearing letters from eminent men who discussed the project at Versailles. As soon as he saw the New York harbor, the idea of the proposed monument he had conceived during the ocean voyage actually crystallized. By the time he landed, he was convinced that he had found the idea for which his friends had hoped. Bartholdi’s idea of the international memorial was accepted and in November 1875, the Franco-American Union was formed with Edouard as president. Its commission was to plan, raise funds, and execute the plan to its completion.
The Statue project unfolded in the 1870s and 1880s in the middle of a severe economic depression and labor unrest in...
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