THE FAMOUS OLD LIBERTY POLE IN CITY HALL PARK
This being the outward and visible sign of inward hostility to autocracy, the Liberty Pole met with much disfavor by the authorities. In a few days this pole was cut down by soldiers attached to the 28th Regiment, then stationed here in the local barracks. The next day, while the citizens were preparing to erect another pole, they were attacked by the soldiers and several of the Sons of Liberty were severely hurt. A second pole was erected, but it suffered the fate of the first. Within two days a third arose and this time it was allowed to stand, as public opinion was again assuming a dangerous aspect.
A year later when the citizens gathered to celebrate the anniversary of the repeal of the Stamp Act, the meeting aroused the anger of the authorities, and the soldiers again leveled the pole to the ground. And another pole—this time more substantial and bound with iron rings—rose in its place. It stood for three years. On January 13, 1770, an attempt to destroy this pole led to very serious consequences. The soldiers were driven off but returned with reinforcements and attacked a party of Liberty Boys in front of their Headquarters opposite the Commons.
They were ordered back to their barracks, but renewed the fight two days later. This encounter suddenly assumed alarming proportions and the conflict lasted two days, in which several lives were lost. Thus was spilled the first blood of the Revolution, and it occurred two months before the Boston massacre. New York rarely speaks of it as an event of the first importance, yet such it really was.
This pole, too, ultimately met the fate of its predecessors. Matters had now reached such a stage that something had to be done. In order to furnish no further excuse for interference by the authorities, it was decided to erect the pole on private ground just outside the limits of the Common, but for all practical purposes still on public land. The pole was outside the "Fields," but the crowd stood on the Common.
By reference to the various Broadsides printed herewith by courtesy of the New York Historical Society, you will be able to see just how the people resented this interference with the Liberty Pole and how they finally bought their own plot of ground and erected a new pole on private property.
The last pole was a substantial structure and stood till after the Revolution. It was a huge mast, 44 feet high, with a topmast 22 feet additional, and sunk twelve feet in the ground. It was encased for two-thirds of its length in iron bands and hoops firmly riveted together. It was surmounted by a gilt vane bearing the words—"Liberty and Prosperity," but with no reference to the King, or loyalty, as in the first instance. The temper of the people had radically changed.
An attempt to destroy this pole a few weeks later precipitated another situation that threatened to rival in seriousness the affair in which lives had already been lost, and brought the authorities to a realization of con-sequences which they were illy prepared to face. British officers drove the soldiers back to their barracks and a guard was placed about the pole. The soldiers involved were sent South to Pensacola and the pole remained unmolested until 1776, when the British took possession of the city. It was then immediately destroyed. Before this happened, however, Washington had the pleasure of reading the Declaration of Independence to the assembled citizens, almost at the base of the Liberty Pole. A bronze tablet on the City Hall commemorates this event.
From this brief chronology we see how closely the Liberty Pole is identified with the stirring events that led up to the destruction of Autocracy in the new world (also under a German King, though on an English throne). It has been suggested that the old post office be removed and the historic Liberty Pole re-erected on its site as a memorial to our heroes in the great World War.
What a magnificent tribute it would be to our splendid boys, if we were able to erect to their memories this simple monument that means so much. It stands for all our dear country stands for. It is the Soul of America and the symbol of our great Republic. It is the Gettysburg Speech visualized! Nor is it within the power of marble or bronze to create a structure that would approach it in spiritual beauty and meaning.
It seems only yesterday that we saw them marching to camp, mothers, wives and sweethearts clinging to their arms. And when they sailed away, three months later, that inspiring toast, written by one of their number from old Kentucky, Morrow Mayo, comes to mind:
"Here's to the Blue of the windswept North When we meet on -the Fields of France May the spirit of Grant be with you all
As the Sons of the North advance!
Here's to the Gray of the sunkissed South When we meet on the Fields of France May the spirit of Lee be with you all As the Sons of the South advance!
And here's to the Blue and the Gray as one When we meet on the Fields of France, May the spirit of God be with us all
As the Sons of the Flag advance!" *
On the base of the monument let there be inscribed these words:
IN LOVING MEMORY OF THE
LIBERTY BOYS OF 1918
WHO DIED THAT THE WORK OF THE LIBERTY BOYS
OP 1776 MIGHT NOT PERISH FROM THE EARTH
THIS MONUMENT IS ERECTED AND THE PARK RESTORED
TO ITS ORIGINAL COLONIAL CONDITION BY THE GRATEFUL
PEOPLE OF THB CITY OF NEW YORK
Will the citizens of New York arise to this glorious opportunity? The old City Hall Park restored to its ancient grandeur! An obsolete and out of date building removed, light, air and generous space taking its place in a congested section!
This movement is now under way. Any citizen can help with his approval and his moral support. Talk about it to your neighbors. Bring it up in your schools, your clubs, your societies and your churches. If you are a member of a patriotic society bring it to the attention of your officers. Agitate! agitate! agitate ! The Federal Government, heretofore deaf to all entreaties to remove the Post Office, will heed the demand of all the people for so obvious and so appropriate a monument to its heroic dead !
Every week we should have some good speaker preaching the Gospel of Sound, Patriotic, Americanism at the foot of the Liberty Pole. We need some rallying place—some fountain head of inspiration to counteract the mischievous talk of the Bolshevist.
The New York Historical Society and the Sons of the Revolution have assumed charge of this movement to erect the Pole and eliminate the Post Office and reports of their progress will be seen in the daily press from time to time.
Go To Next Page