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Yesterday’s post about White House senior adviser Stephen Miller and CNN’s Jim Acosta is recommended reading prior to today’s post.

The Statue of Liberty

Increasingly today, the Statue of Liberty is viewed as the Statue of Immigration.

The history of the statue began in the 19th century as a gift from France to the United States.

(Image credit: Wikipedia)

A post from 2010 at Freadom Nation (not a typo) explains:

France was thanking us for being the first nation ever to make the rulers of their country aware that freedom and liberty was possible. This is ultimately what led to the French Revolution.

Wikipedia has more (emphases mine):

The project is traced to a mid-1865 conversation between Édouard René de Laboulaye, a staunch abolitionist and Frédéric Bartholdi, a sculptor. In after-dinner conversation at his home near Versailles, Laboulaye, an ardent supporter of the Union in the American Civil War, is supposed to have said: “If a monument should rise in the United States, as a memorial to their independence, I should think it only natural if it were built by united effort—a common work of both our nations.”[7] The National Park Service, in a 2000 report, however, deemed this a legend traced to an 1885 fundraising pamphlet, and that the statue was most likely conceived in 1870.[8] In another essay on their website, the Park Service suggested that Laboulaye was minded to honor the Union victory and its consequences, “With the abolition of slavery and the Union’s victory in the Civil War in 1865, Laboulaye’s wishes of freedom and democracy were turning into a reality in the United States. In order to honor these achievements, Laboulaye proposed that a gift be built for the United States on behalf of France. Laboulaye hoped that by calling attention to the recent achievements of the United States, the French people would be inspired to call for their own democracy in the face of a repressive monarchy.”[9]

At that time, Napoleon III was in power there.

Dr Esther Schor, a professor of English at Princeton, told the New York Times in 2011:

“Conceived by the French statesman Édouard René de Laboulaye, the statue was to propound the values of the French Revolution, in a sort of end-run around the repressive Second Empire of Napoleon III,” Professor Schor said.

Wikipedia says that Laboulaye conceived the idea but did not imagine it would become a reality. However, Bartholdi thought about creating such a statue while he was busy with other major sculpting projects. He could not do much about it soon afterwards, either, as he went on to serve in the Franco-Prussian War.

By the end of the war, Napoleon III had been captured and deposed. France went on to become a republic. Laboulaye and Bartholdi met again to discuss a statue in the United States. Laboulaye wrote letters of introduction that Bartholdi could take with him when he sailed for America in June 1871.

Bartholdi was impressed that ocean vessels all had to pass by Bedloe’s Island — now Liberty Island — when entering New York Harbor. He discovered that the federal government, not the State of New York, owned the island for defence purposes. If the statue were placed there, he thought, it would be on land that belonged to the American people.

He met with influential New Yorkers. He met with President Ulysses S Grant, who was willing to have the statue placed on Bedloe’s Island.

Bartholdi toured America coast-to-coast and met with Americans who seemed to approve of the project.

However, as Professor Schor pointed out to the New York Times:

Americans were so unmoved and uninterested that it was hard to raise money simply to build a pedestal to support it.

Bertholdi returned to France to work on grand statues for his native country. When he could, he devoted time to his proposed American statue. Traditionally, nations are referred to as being feminine. Bertholdi and Laboulaye looked at the historical female symbols for America. At that time — and continuing into the 20th century — Libertas, the feminine representation of Liberty, was on US coinage and on some important American structures, such as the Capitol Building in Washington, DC.

The concept of liberty was also very important to the French, from revolutionary times a century before. Therefore, Lady Liberty seemed the best choice.

Wikipedia tells us:

Bartholdi made alterations in the design as the project evolved. Bartholdi considered having Liberty hold a broken chain, but decided this would be too divisive in the days after the Civil War. The erected statue does rise over a broken chain, half-hidden by her robes and difficult to see from the ground.[23] Bartholdi was initially uncertain of what to place in Liberty’s left hand; he settled on a tabula ansata,[30] used to evoke the concept of law.[31] Though Bartholdi greatly admired the United States Constitution, he chose to inscribe “JULY IV MDCCLXXVI” on the tablet, thus associating the date of the country’s Declaration of Independence with the concept of liberty.[30]

In 1875, France was economically and politically stable once more. The French were enthusiastic about the statue, and people of all ages and all walks of society contributed to its creation.

The deal was that France would pay for the creation and shipping of the statue and the US would pay for its pedestal.

In 1876, Philadelphia hosted the Centennial International Exhibition — the first World’s Fair in the United States — so Bartholdi decided to return to drum up support and fundraise for his statue. He called it Liberty Enlightening the World.

In May of that year, Bartholdi set sail with a painting of the statue to display in nearby New York to show what he had designed so far.

The actual creation was not ready to shipped at that time. The arm holding the torch arrived in Philadelphia in August, too late to be included in the exhibition’s catalogue. Nonetheless, it generated interest from those who saw it.

Bartholdi’s friends in New York were the most enthusiastic about the project. After the exhibition closed in Philadelphia, the arm with the torch was on display in New York’s Madison Square Garden for several years before being sent back to be assembled with the final product. The New Yorkers also did the most fundraising.

In 1877, on his final day in office, President Grant signed a joint resolution for his successor, Rutherford B Hayes, to accept the statue upon its arrival. Hayes selected Bedloe’s Island as the site where the statue would stand.

Meanwhile, work on the statue continued in France. Gustave Eiffel of tower fame began working with Bartholdi in 1880. I won’t go into the structural science Eiffel and his men used to construct the torso, which was complex, particularly because of the interior staircases.

In 1881, the American architect Richard Morris Hunt began designing a pedestal for the statue.

In 1882, the fundraising effort for the pedestal began in earnest. Progress was slow, and it was not until 1885, that the requisite sum for the pedestal had been raised.

In June 1885, the statue — separated into crates by section — arrived in New York.

In April 1886, the pedestal was completed and assembly could begin.

In October 1886, President Grover Cleveland — a former governor of New York — presided over the dedication of the newly erected statue.

Note the year: 1886.

The New Colossus

In 1882, the American committee approached poet Emma Lazarus, asking for a donation of a work that they might auction to fundraise for the statue. Although she initially declined, she reflected on the Jewish people she was working with who had escaped pogroms in Europe. She came up with a sonnet called The New Colossus, which she wrote in 1883:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Although Lazarus’s father and his family emigrated from Germany, her mother’s side — the Nathans — had been in the US since colonial times. It is coincidental, yet entirely fitting, that her sonnet is so connected with the Statue of Liberty.

Lazarus died in November 1887, a little over a year since the statue had been erected on Bedloe’s Island.

Her sonnet was not inscribed on the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal until 1903.

The New York Times points out:

The poem went unmentioned in her obituary in The New York Times, but it appeared in a brief article in 1903 when the plaque was dedicated.

Therefore, it would be a mistake to conflate the Statue of Liberty (freedom, 1886) with The New Colossus (immigration) as the two did not become connected until 17 years later in 1903.

Conclusion

Going back to the White House press briefing of August 2, CNN’s Jim Acosta implied that The New Colossus was a sort of Founding Fathers’ document: fake news alert.

Recall that America declared independence on July 4, 1776, which makes such an assertion …

From reading the comments at Freadom Nation and the New York Times, there is much distortion about the Statue of Liberty with The New Colossus on the pedestal.

Nuance is everything.

The Statue of Liberty represents freedom for all who live in the United States. Whilst it is a welcome concept to those freeing oppression, it does not represent uncontrolled immigration. To put it in context, Acosta was debating the Trump administration’s Green Card reform with Stephen Miller.

It’s contentious. It would be better if parents and teachers discussed the historic landscape in Europe during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

People have been fleeing religious or economic persecution since the founding of the United States. That started in Europe. Now it is in other parts of the world.

Even with some controls, immigration will continue in the US. New talent is always needed. The only difference is that the emphasis might turn now to entrepreneurial or other skills rather than manual or unskilled labour.

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