Based on a True Story, the Revolutionary War, the Statue of Liberty and the Fourth of July

“Based on a true story.”  That is code for a condensed version of the story, trimmed down to be told in a short period of time and carefully edited to create a compelling story of near mythical proportion. Coming this fourth of July, amidst the parades, barbecues and fireworks, are you celebrating a holiday “based on a true story,” presented as a triumph of 13 scrappy colonies with a population of 2.5 million people taking on a Great Britain, a nation of 13 million and winning?

But the war wasn’t just between the US and Britain. Near the start of war, France secretly started shipments of arms, ammunition, uniforms, boots and money to the United States. Soon after, the Spanish Empire and the Dutch Republic started to send assistance. Spain’s Prime Minister, José Moñino y Redondo, Count of Floridablanca, wrote in March 1777,

the fate of the colonies interests us very much, and we shall do for them everything that circumstances permit”.

The French provided 90% of the gunpowder used in the America Revolutionary war; ensuring victory. The history is robust and complex; the rivals of Great Britain united against imperial supremacy.

A century later, Edouard de Laboulaye, French abolitionist proposed a monument to commemorate the end of the US Civil war and the abolishment of slavery. Edouard de Laboulaye, an anti-savers advocate, admired the ideas of the US Constitution, themes suppressed by French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. Alas, the US funders of the pedestal demanded changes to the design. There should be no reminders of slavery. The piles, a headpiece worn by emancipated slaves in Rome was to be removed. The statue could not hold chains and shackles.

In place of the shackles and chains is a tablet, engraved in Roman numerals with the date of July 4, 1776. This fourth of July, celebrate as you may, but consider the footnotes of history. The end of the revolutionary war on September 3, 1783, was with help from France, Spain and the Dutch Republic. The Statue of Liberty dedicated on October 28, 1886, was a gift to honor the freeing of slaves and lives lost during the civil war. While changes to the statue may have the appearance celebrating American  Independence, the chains at the bottom of the state are a footnote to the intent; based on a true story.

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