Show Prep 071806: The Lady Liberty Lie
Source: American park network
Could America have won her independence without the help of the French? Hard to imagine today, isn't it? Yet France's help was wildly important to the nascent democracy called America.
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.A 100 years after the end of the war, America's democracy was well established when two Frenchmen met for dinner. The conversation they held would provide the impetus to one of the most recognizable icons ever built, and destroy America's ability to control her immigration policies.
Edouard Rene Lefebvre de Laboulaye threw a dinner party to which Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi had been invited. Napoleon III reigned over France with an iron fist, the Frenchmen looked toward America with longing eyes, wishing for the liberty on display in the young country.
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."Their talk that night was wide ranging, but they decided that some sort of memorial, to commemorate America's centennial would be a fitting tribute.
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?"This daring idea illuminated Bartholdi, years later he would say of this casual conversation...
Laboulaye's idea "interested me so deeply that it remained fixed in my memory.""Liberty Illuminating the world."
Lady Liberty was conceived in Egypt. Bartholdi hoped to talk the Pasha into paying for a massive statue to built at the head of the Suez canal. He was turned down.
In 1870, with the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war, Bartholdi's career shifted into the military. He became major in the French army and was stationed in his hometown of Colmar, in Alsace. Alsace was annexed by the Germans and everybody there became German citizens.
the reality of the word "liberty" took on a new, personal meaning for Bartholdi.
This is when his old friend Laboulaye suggested Bartholdi travel to America.
In recalling his conversation with Laboulaye several years later, Bartholdi wrote: " 'Go to see that country,' said he [Laboulaye] to me. 'Propose to our friends over there to make with us a monument, a common work, in remembrance of the ancient friendship of France and the United States. If … you find a plan that will excite public enthusiasm, we are convinced that it will be successful on both continents, and we will do a work that will have far-reaching moral effect.' "So Bartholdi went to America, not just to sculpt, but to sell the idea of 'Liberty Illuminating the world."
Bartholdi responded, "I will try to glorify the Republic and Liberty over there, in the hope that someday I will find it again here."
His trip across America, like his trip to Egypt, filled him with amazement. He was stunned by the vastness of the prairies, the soaring spectacle of the Rockies, and the awesome sight of the Pacific Coast redwood forests. On his way home to France he wrote, "Everything in America is big.… Here, even the peas are big."
He returned home to France, and bided his time until in 1874 Bartholdi and Laboulaye decided it was time for the lady to arise. They began a Franco-American alliance and split the funding and work. France would make the statue, America the base.
So, what does any of this have to do with immigration? Well, nothing really, in fact the Great Lady herself has nothing to do with immigration, other than proximity.
"A Light unto nations"
You may have heard the Statue Of Liberty referred to as the 'Mother of Exiles." That was never it's intent.
"Liberty Enlightening the World," the French called her, not Liberty Inviting the world. The French were expressing their thanks that the good example of the American Revolution had led to French Revolution.
Some Americans sardonically wondered why France, which had a shortage of Liberty, should be exporting it to the U.S., which had plenty.
The idea expressed by the Statue of Liberty is of the export of liberty, not the import of anything. The sheer proximity the great statue to Ellis island seemed to combine the themes, but that was not it's intent.
This whole thing is very strange. Imagine a hypothetical foreign country with immigration problems explaining its policy this way: "We used to have sensible immigration laws, but someone built this damn statue." You'd think they were mad.But what about Emma Lazarus's famous poem you might ask? What about it? It was written as part of a fundraising drive along with boxing matches, lotteries and subscription drives. The plaque inside the statue was not placed there until 1903, after Emma's death, the plaque was placed by a friend.
It turns out that the tablet was the gift of Georgina Schuyler, a New York philanthropist who was a friend of Emma Lazarus', but who didn't even know about the sonnet until she found it in a bookshop years after Emma Lazarus' death.The Lady of Liberty has been hijacked. Instead a message of personal responsibility directed at those who aren't living up to the ideals, she has come to symbolize guilt and identity politics, and how sad is that.
Georgina Schuyler was descended from the Dutch founders of New York, and was a direct descendant of Alexander Hamilton. She didn't consecrate this tablet to the concept of unrestricted immigration but rather "in loving memory of Emma Lazarus."
The Statue of Liberty didn't become an official national monument until 1924. Bedloe's Island (renamed Liberty Island in 1956), is Federal territory, "the former site of a quarantine station and harbor fortifications."
(Immigration skeptics note: Both quarantine stations and harbor fortifications are designed to protect America from the world, rather than promiscuously admit it.)
But where did the sentimental poppycock tying the Statue of Liberty with unrestricted immigration come from? Young children who couldn't tell you what happened in 1776 or when the War of 1812 happened, hear The New Colossus read so often in civics class that there's some danger of them memorizing it, in violation of every tenet of progressive educational theory.
It certainly never occurs to any of them to ask themselves: "This is the statue of Liberty. Does unrestricted immigration into a democratic country increase human liberty, or does it decrease it? Suppose the new people don't like liberty?"
This connection was pushed by people like Louis Adamic, an immigration enthusiast who flourished in the Thirties and Forties.
Adamic, who was born in Blato, Slovenia in 1899, passed through Ellis Island in 1913. He was an itinerant laborer for years, and his travels through America gave him a mixed impression of his adopted country, some good and some bad.
He was an early multiculturalist. The Statue of Liberty Encyclopedia says
He frequently expressed a hope that America would learn to tolerate and even value the infinite variety of its people. In 1934, he boldly launched a publicity campaign to elevate the social position of immigrants and ethnic minorities. Realizing that legitimizing symbol might strengthen his cause, he enlisted the potent imagery of the Statue of Liberty and inspiring words of Emma Lazarus's eloquent sonnet, The New Colossus. Throughout the 1930's and early 1940's Adamic and others recited it in radio broadcasts, making its words known to millions of listeners.
In 1954, Adamic was found dead of a gunshot wound to the head; buildings on his property were on fire. Though local police ruled his death a suicide, his wife suspected murder by his political enemies: "Tension in the Yugoslav immigrant exile community was high due to powerful factions." (Titoist versus Monarchist.)
The association of Lady Liberty with the ideal of unrestricted immigration is thus fairly recent, although most people don't know this.
Liberty Illuminating the world -- Not inviting the world!
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And the patriotic song of the day