The Statue of Liberty—A Promise Fulfilled?
“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!”
(The New Colossus, sonnet by Emma Lazarus, dedicated to the Statue of Liberty)
SHE was conceived and born in France, but at the age of two she settled in the United States. Now she is over a hundred years old and has just had a multimillion-dollar face-lift. Who is she? The Statue of Liberty, one of the most famous statues in the world.
At 151 feet (46 m) high, she is also one of the largest statues in the world. With the pedestal included, she rises to a height of 305 feet (93 m), staring with sightless eyes across New York Bay. She has been a welcoming symbol for millions of immigrants over the past hundred years. But why should the Statue of Liberty interest you? Because what it symbolizes—liberty, or freedom—affects everyone today. As late in history as 1986, freedom does not exist in every country, and in many others it is being eroded.
But what was the original motive for the creation of the statue? And why is 1986 a special year for her? Is her “golden door” of opportunity still as open and as golden as it used to be?
A Dinner That Made a Difference
Back in 1865 a group of French scholars and statesmen were sharing dinner in Glatigny, France, at the invitation of Professor Édouard de Laboulaye, president of the French antislavery society. They were admirers of the United States Constitution and its political development. The host suggested sending a gift to the American people as a way of paying homage to the United States and its one hundred years of independence from Britain, achieved in 1776.
The motives of those liberal Frenchmen living under an emperor were not totally altruistic. As Charles Mercer states in his book Statue of Liberty: “Their idea represented propaganda to win the support of both French and Americans to their own political goal: the founding of the Third Republic [in France].”
A Sculptor With Big Ideas
One of those who backed the idea was the sculptor Auguste Bartholdi. According to the magazine France, he “had already developed a taste for the colossal during a trip to the Middle East, where he had been deeply impressed by the pyramids.” He conceived the idea of a woman in robes, holding a flaming torch in her right hand.
The project got bogged down in delays because at that time it was not politically convenient in imperial France to commemorate the virtues of the rising North American republic. However, with the fall of Emperor Napoleon III in 1871, the idea of a gift to the United States was revitalized. In July of that year, Bartholdi made a trip to the United States and discovered what he considered to be the ideal spot for the future statue—a little island in New York Bay called Bedloe’s Island (known as Liberty Island since 1956).
But Bartholdi’s vision of the land of liberty did not match the reality. Charles Mercer comments: “While all American blacks recently had been declared free, almost all were the slaves of desperate poverty, little or no employment, practically no education. Women [in general] did not even have the right to vote.”
Full of enthusiasm, Bartholdi pushed ahead with his plans for an imposing statue. As they crystallized, it became evident that he had incorporated Freemasonry symbols into his design—the torch, the book in her left hand, and the seven-pointed diadem around her head are some examples. This perhaps was not so surprising since he was a Freemason.*
Born in France, Raised in the United States
To bring Bartholdi’s plans to fruition, another outstanding Frenchman was brought into the team—Gustave Eiffel, who later became famous for his Eiffel Tower in Paris. He designed the iron framework that would serve as a support for the hundred tons of copper skin and robes of Lady Liberty.
By 1884 the statue of Liberty Enlightening the World, as it was originally called, had risen to its full height above the Paris workshops where it was built. On July 4 of that year, it was officially presented to the American ambassador in Paris.
But now it had to be transported to its new homeland—like millions of others, Lady Liberty was to be an immigrant. The statue was dismantled and packed into 200 crates and shipped to New York. On October 28, 1886, the Statue of Liberty was inaugurated on Bedloe’s Island.
New Bodywork and a Face-Lift
By 1984 nearly a hundred years of battering by winds, rain, and storms had left its mark on the statue. As a result, it was closed down for visits by the public so that repairs could be carried out in time for a reopening to coincide with the Independence Day celebrations on July 4, 1986.
For two years New York’s welcoming lady was shrouded in scaffolding while expert workmen from France and the United States gave her an overhaul and a face-lift. All the internal iron support ribs have been replaced with 1,700 stainless steel bars. French artisans have painstakingly applied 15 ounces (425 g) of 24-karat gold leaf to the new torch. This has meant covering an area of about 20 square yards (17 sq m), using tweezers and applying the gold leaf to only a couple of square inches (13 sq cm) at a time!
Other improvements have also been carried out to give better access to the two million visitors who come from all over the world every year. The statue now has the tallest hydraulic elevator in North America, reaching a height of 100 feet (30 m) to take visitors in a glass-walled car to the top of the pedestal. From there they climb a spiral staircase to the head of the statue.
The seven spikes of the crown, representing the seven seas and continents, have been restored and strengthened. According to The New York Times, one of these nine-foot long (2.7 m) spikes had to be repositioned because the spike punctured the skin of the upraised right arm when the statue moved in the wind!
1986 Centennial Celebrations
Why is Lady Liberty’s 100th anniversary of world interest? Lee A. Iacocca, chairman of The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc., stated: “The ideals of liberty represented by the statue have a universal meaning and this will be an event heard and seen around the world.” He explained that the plans for “Liberty Weekend ’86” (July 3-6) include a series of celebrations that will bring heads of state to New York.
The celebrations will include a huge international naval flotilla and the participation of many sailing ships. The navies of at least 117 countries have been invited to join in the spectacle of an International Naval Review. In addition, 141 nations have been invited to send their tall-masted sailing ships.
The centenary will also be celebrated with music and fireworks. The fireworks display, which will take place from 30 barges in the harbor, will fill the night sky.
As a reminder of Lady Liberty’s message of welcome to the world, 5,000 new U.S. citizens will be inducted on nearby Ellis Island by the Chief Justice of the United States. Simultaneously, another 20,000 will take their oaths in other major cities across the nation, with all the events linked by satellite.
Yet, these very ceremonies raise some interesting questions. For how much longer can Lady Liberty keep her “golden door” wide open to immigrants? Can she still afford to invite the world’s ‘poor, huddled masses’?
Liberty’s Message and the Reality
Since 1886, according to U.S.News & World Report, “nearly 40 million immigrants have passed through ‘the golden door’ and eventually become Americans.” Most have been successful in establishing themselves in this dynamic nation. From a purely material viewpoint, some would appear to have achieved everything by becoming millionaires. But there is another side to the coin.
Along with the legal immigrants, there are now millions of illegal aliens. Why are these masses streaming to the United States? As John Crewdson wrote in his book The Tarnished Door: “Whether or not it relishes such a role, the United States, with its strong democratic traditions and unrivaled affluence, is destined to become an increasingly attractive sanctuary for those fleeing political or economic oppression.”
These aliens come mainly from Mexico and from Central and South America. But in many cases they move from one form of poverty to another. Many live in vermin-infested housing that most native Americans would not tolerate. They take the lowest paid and most menial jobs. Then why do they continue to swarm across the U.S. borders and stay under those conditions?
In her book Immigration, writer Lydia Anderson answers that question: “Illegals—like other immigrants—come because . . . America still has it better than the world they left. There is a great gap between the economy of the United States and that of Third World countries, Mexico, and South America. . . . Immigrants can often make in a day here what it takes a week or more to earn at home—if jobs are available at all.”
A U.S. Border Patrol officer stated bluntly: “They’re starving to death down there. They have everything to gain [by coming to the United States] and nothing to lose. You have a rich country alongside a poor country, you’re going to have an illegal alien problem.” (The Tarnished Door) In other words, in spite of the poverty in the United States, conditions are better than where they came from.
Immigration by Auction
In 1986 a refurbished Lady Liberty shines forth, still inviting the tired, the poor, and the homeless to find refuge on her shores—but with a difference. Today there are strong voices raised against the U.S. immigration policy. For some the policy is too liberal, and for others it is too strict. While some Catholic and Protestant clergy offer sanctuary to illegal aliens, other voices are demanding stricter controls. Thus Liberty’s message of welcome is becoming somewhat garbled and indistinct.
For example, Julian L. Simon, of the Heritage Foundation (a conservative Washington, D.C., think tank), recently put forward a radical suggestion in a New York Times article: “Auction the Right to Be an Immigrant.” He advocates that immigration should be open to the highest bidders within the world quota for a year. Buyers, says Simon, would also be allowed to “enter now and pay later together with income tax. Failure to pay might result in deportation.” He claims that this system would be highly advantageous to the United States since “it would identify people who have an especially large capacity to produce goods of high economic value.”
What kind of people would his idea draw? Julian Simon writes: “The ambitious, for whom America is a large, rich market in which to make a lot of money.” His scheme would call for greater sanctions against any illegals. This policy could hardly harmonize with the words of Emma Lazarus: “Give me your tired, your poor, . . . the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.” On the contrary, the message there is, ‘Give me your ambitious and skilled, and keep your poor and oppressed.’
The Source of True Freedom
What are the root causes of this massive immigration problem? John Crewdson answers: “The press of poverty and population around the world or the stark inevitability of famine, political oppression, and civil war.” These problems have been with us for centuries, and no political system has been able to come up with a permanent solution. Therefore the question is, From whence can we expect true freedom—freedom from poverty, from oppression, from sickness and death?
No country or political philosophy has the complete answer to mankind’s needs. Why not? Because the same principle applies to them that Peter applied to apostate Christians: “While they are promising them freedom, they themselves are existing as slaves of corruption.” (2 Peter 2:19) “The father of the lie,” Satan, has the present world system under his command. Political rulership, under the invisible control of Satan, is riddled with corruption. Freedom, ethics, and morality are sacrificed on the altar of political expediency and selfish gain.—John 8:44; 1 John 5:19.
In contrast, Jesus Christ stated 1,900 years ago: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Those words apply with equal force today. But to what truth did Jesus refer? His answer to Pontius Pilate gives us a clue, namely: “You yourself are saying that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone that is on the side of the truth listens to my voice.”—John 8:32; 18:37.
That truth is related to God’s promised government by Christ. In a vision, the prophet Daniel saw the Messiah, the “son of man,” brought before God. And the Bible says: “To him [the Messiah] there were given rulership and dignity and kingdom, that the peoples, national groups and languages should all serve even him. His rulership is an indefinitely lasting rulership that will not pass away.”—Daniel 7:13, 14.
There is where true liberty and freedom is to be found—in Jesus Christ and in his God-appointed Kingdom rule! Soon his righteous rulership will bring an end to all oppression, sickness, and death here on earth. Surely, that kind of liberty and freedom is worth getting to know.—Matthew 6:9, 10; Revelation 21:3, 4.
Freemason: A member of “an international secret fraternity.”—The American Heritage Dictionary.
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The Statue of Liberty and the skyscrapers of Manhattan
New York Convention & Visitors Bureau
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New York Convention & Visitors Bureau