The gift of liberty
Like all long-lasting relationships, France and the USA have had their ups and downs over the years. If there’s any doubt as to the deep rooted friendship between these great nations, however, one only need to look at the hugely sybolic gift by the people of France to the people of the USA which graces the entrance to New York Harbour – the gateway from the old world to the new. Its artist and sculptor, Fredrick Bartholdi called it “La Liberté éclairant le monde” – Liberty enlightening the World. Today, most of us know his work as simply The Statue of Liberty.
The roots of the strong links between the two nations go back to the very earliest days of American independence. France, as bitter enemies and rivals of the British, were natural military, economic and political allies of the fledgeling American republic. Bartholdi’s design, first proposed in 1865 was intended to commemorate almost a century of friendship and to symbolise the values of freedom and liberty which unite France and the USA.
The funding and completion of the statue was truly a joint project, with the US responsible for the plinth and dias upon which Liberty stands, while the statue itself would be a gift from the people of France.
The statue was finally dedicated by President Cleveland in 1886, just over 20 years since the idea first took form. Liberty has since become more than a mere statue. She is recognised across the world as a powerfully emblematic symbol of the USA, the idealism which created it and the values for which it still stands. The massive neoclassical statue of a robed woman breaking free of the chains of subserviance, clasping the torch of enlightenment in her right hand and the Declaration of Independence in her left remains a hugely symbolic and an enduring icon of friendship and understanding between these two great republics of the old world and the new.