A French Immigrant in New York

Frederic Auguste Bartholdi (1834-1904), Statue of Liberty New York, 1886 Photo: Wikipedia.

The most American of Americans, Liberty, was herself an immigrant from France. Parisians, watching the statue’s construction in the city in the 1880’s, proclaimed it was the eighth marvel of the world, even bigger than the colossus of Rhodus. The statue was an initiative of a group of French intellectuals, protesting what they saw as political repression in ‘old Europe’ and France in particular. They decided to honor the ideals of freedom, liberty and tolerance with a symbolic gift to the United States.

The civil was over, slavery abolished and the trias politica on her way to the centennial. After all, it was the era of monumental building in Europe and the United States should follow in her footsteps. At a time when American artists went to ‘old Europe’ and Paris in particular, Europeans regarded the United States as heaven of political, religious, economic and constitutional freedom. Millions of Europeans immigrated to the new nation and Liberty was the first American they met. Set at top of its pedestal in 1886, after a transport by sea, it was the tallest structure in New York and the tallest statue in the world.

The French sculptor Auguste Bartholdi (1834-1904) expressed it very clearly “Colossal statuary does not consist simply in making an enormous statue. It ought to produce an emotion in the breast of the spectator, not because of its volume, but because its size is in keeping with the idea that it interprets, and with the place which it ought to occupy”. The greatness of the country is not only expressed by this statue but also by its deeds. The permission to build an Islamic center close to Ground Zero shows that Liberty has found a good home.  Source: www.nps.gov/stli