History Lesson: The Statue of Liberty


I stood on top of the World Trade Center buildings when I was 12. It was incredible and it's very sad that I won't be able to bring my son up there some day. I lived close to Boston and my school had arranged a field trip to New York. We went to the U.N., and to Central Park and to the Twin Towers. All in one day.

The whole trip was quite an experience for me, but maybe I was just a bit young since I don't remember much about the U.N. building at all. It just seemed sort of boring. You don't forget being outside on top of the one biggest buildings ever built though. It was incredible, I rememember quite clearly. I remember being disappointed after I paid for one of the telescopes and checked out the Statue of Liberty - which seems close on a map but is really quite small from way up there. I was disappointed because it was under renovation for it's 100 year anniversary, so all I really saw was a bunch of scaffolding. Too bad... I've yet to return to the harbor and see it closer, though I need to.

In case your history is bad (which if you're an American, it probably is), The Statute of Liberty was given to the United States by France in 1886 to honor the friendship between the two countries and more specifically it was a reminder of France's role in the revolutionary war a little over 100 years earlier. From the American Park Network's page on the Statue:

America probably could not have won its freedom from the British during the American Revolution without the help of the French. France provided arms, ships, money, and men to the American colonies. Some Frenchmen - most notably the Marquis de Lafayette, a close friend of George Washington - even became high-ranking officers in the American army. It was an alliance of respect and friendship the French would not forget.

Almost 100 years later, in 1865, according to Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, a successful 31-year-old sculptor, several French intellectuals opposed to the oppressive regime of Napoleon III were at a small dinner party discussing their admiration for America's success in establishing a democratic government and abolishing slavery at the end of the Civil War. The dinner was hosted by Edouard Rene Lefebvre de Laboulaye. Laboulaye was a scholar, jurist, abolitionist and a leader of the "liberals," the political group dedicated to establishing a French republican government modeled on America's constitution.

During the evening, talk turned to the close historic ties and love of liberty the two nations shared. Laboulaye noted there was "a genuine flow of sympathy" between the two nations, and called France and America "the two sisters."

As he continued speaking, reflecting on the centennial of American independence only 11 years in the future, Laboulaye commented, "Wouldn't it be wonderful if people in France gave the United States a great monument as a lasting memorial to independence and thereby showed that the French government was also dedicated to the idea of human liberty?"

Laboulaye's casual question struck a responsive chord in Bartholdi. Years later, recalling the dinner, Bartholdi wrote that Laboulaye's idea "interested me so deeply that it remained fixed in my memory."

So was sown the seed of inspiration that would become the Statue of Liberty.

I'm not one to normally defend the French or France, but I'm so embarrassed by what I've seen lately in the news and on blogs that I just wanted to give my American compatriots a history lesson which they so desperately need. When you see the Statue of Liberty in the harbor, or on TV and think of the liberties and freedoms she represents, remember that it is France that gave you those liberties, for without their help we would never have been able to win against the British. Our ancestors in the U.S. were farmers and merchants fighting against one of the world's great super powers for independence, and the ancestors of those in France right now came to our aid when we needed it. More on Franco-American relations from the History channel.


After Congress declared independence in July 1776 its agents in Paris recruited officers for the Continental Army, notably the Marquis de Lafayette who served with distinction as a major general. Despite a lingering distrust of France, the agents also requested an alliance. After readying their fleet and being impressed by the American victory at Saratoga in October 1777, the French in the following February concluded treaties of commerce and alliance that bound them to fight Britain until American independence was assured.

Later a fleet and an army commanded by the Comte de Rochambeau arrived in the United States. At the crucial victory of Yorktown in October 1781 French forces outnumbered Americans. ... In all, the French contribution to American independence was decisive.

For all those cries from my countrymen of France not remembering history and not being grateful, it is they who are the forgetful ones. We saved France during WWII and they have been continually grateful despite our ramming it down their throat for 60 years. But the fact is the score is even. We simply returned the favor in 1944 they gave us 140 years earlier.

Being against the war isn't the same as being anti-American. I'm a proud American and I'm against the war and the precedents it makes. Don't let the warmongers make you think otherwise. I truly and honestly think that 220+ years later, the United States needs another revolution against another yet "King George." Like John said:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. ...


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