[Top: A Bartholdi statue concept not intended to live in N.Y. Harbor.]
Sometimes writers (and speakers, and thinkers…) go to odd lengths to make a point. Sometimes they actually get around to revealing (or discovering) what their point was intended to be.
The Daily Beast is not in a position to do either of the latter – figure ‘it’ out, then reveal it, not necessarily in that order – regarding a recent article by Michael Daly (who usually shares a point with his intended audience) headlined “The Statue of Liberty Was Born A Muslim.”
The source of his ‘evidence’, such as it is, is not revealed – though there actually is some. But none of it is on the Wikipedia site outlining the history of French sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, Liberty’s creator, or that of the statue itself. Daly says Bartholdi intended this statue (rather than a totally different one, as Wikipedia says) to represent “a Muslim peasant woman [who was, as a statue] to have stood at the approach to the Suez Canal, a lantern in her upraised hand serving as both a lighthouse and a symbol of progress.”
However, Bartholdi “proved unable to sell the idea to khedive of Egypt, Ishma’il Pasha,” Daly said. (A khedive was, in Egypt in the early 19th century, a ‘viceroy’, a self-proclaimed ruler.)
Interestingly, no less a source that The Voice of America posted an article in October of last year saying, “That’s right, the world’s most recognized symbol of freedom and the American dream, was originally intended for Egypt, which ultimately rejected if for being too old fashioned.”
That decision, Dora Mekouar’s article went on, “came as a disappointment to Lady Liberty’s creator . . . who’d envisioned the Suez Canal as the ideal venue for his mammoth harbor structure.”
She said, “He was inspired by the Sphinx and the pyramids and the idea you could create something massive that could almost be eternal,” quoting Elizabeth Mitchell, who brings Bartholdi’s quest to life in her book Liberty’s Torch: The Great Adventure to Build the Statue of Liberty. (Grove Atlantic, its ‘independent literary publisher’, says on the book’s web site that it was due to be released in paperback – supposedly after a hard-cover run – in July, 2015.)
Meanwhile, history.com’s entry on the statue sticks closer to the better-known (than Mitchell’s) story, relating that, “Around 1865, as the American Civil War drew to a close, the French historian Edouard de Laboulaye proposed that France create a statue to give to the United States in celebration of that nation’s success in building a viable democracy. The sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, known for large-scale sculptures, earned the commission; the goal was to design the sculpture in time for the centennial of the Declaration of Independence [which is, in fact, celebrated on the tablet in the statue’s left hand, where Bartholdi inscribed “July IV, MDCCLXXVI, thus association the date of the country’s Declaration of Independence with the concept of liberty].”
Unfortunately, raising funds for the statue (in France) and the pedestal upon which it would sit (in America) proved difficult, so it wasn’t until October 28, 1886, that U.S. President Grover Cleveland presided over the official dedication ceremony.
It appears that The Daily Beast’s Daly was, in the wake of the Paris bombings by Islamic terrorists, attempting to help smooth some waters and establish in readers’ minds the idea that long have been favorable ties between France and the U.S. – and they should now grow stronger, rather than weaker, as we work together as nations (and people) to bring terrorists to justice and strive, in all the ways we can, for a more just, more fair, world.
A noble mission muddled, a bit, by a bold, more than likely somewhat inaccurate, opening concept.