Anders Hagstrom, DCNF
The French intended the Statue of Liberty to symbolize America’s openness to immigration, Democrat Sen. Tim Kaine claimed. But did they?
As it turns out, no. The statue’s French creators intended for the colossus to celebrate independence and enlightenment. It was only later it came to symbolize the promise of immigration. In 1865, French political thinker and abolitionist Édouard René de Laboulaye suggested the people of France build a monument for the U.S. as a gift following the end of the Civil War. He wanted it to celebrate independence and recognize the connection between France and the U.S.
“This monument to independence will be executed in common by the two nations, joined together in this fraternal work as they once were to achieve independence,” he wrote.
Laboulaye hoped the monument would inspire the French people to learn from the U.S. system and call for democracy in France.
As I listen to French President Macron address Congress, I’m struck that it’s the same day that the Supreme Court will hear the Muslim travel ban case. The French people recognized the U.S. as a nation of immigrants when they gifted us the Statue of Liberty.
— Tim Kaine (@timkaine) April 25, 2018
French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, who designed the colossus, shared Laboulaye’s desire to memorialize the principles of liberty. He originallydevised a lighthouse in the shape of a robed woman with a torch intended for the Suez Canal, called “Egypt (or Progress) Brings Light to Asia,” but plans for the lighthouse fell through. In 1870, Bartholdi began to reshape that design into the Statue of “Liberty Enlightening the World.”
The statue became a symbol of immigration due in large part to American poet Emma Lazarus’ sonnet, “The New Colossus,” which is mounted on the base of the statue. Inspired by the plight of the immigrant, Lazarus dubbed Lady Liberty the “Mother of Exiles.” “Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” the poem reads.
Kaine misconstrued the meaning to make it seem French President Emmanuel Macron was opposed to President Donald Trump on immigration while the Supreme Court was considering his travel ban.
While it would’ve been convenient for Kaine if the French had wanted the U.S. to take in every migrant — no questions asked — but that’s just not the case. In reality, the French intended for the statue to encourage American independence and enlightenment.
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