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April 2001


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Bill Carr <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
A LISTSERV list for discussions pertaining to New York State history." <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 19 Apr 2001 17:43:57 -0400
text/plain (111 lines)
Apparently, the original Liberty Pole in NYC was a "mast", likely similar to
a flag pole. The following is from Benson Lossing's Pictorial Field Book of
the Revolution, Vol. II, Chapter XXII:

"On Tuesday, the sixth of May [1766.], the joyful intelligence of the repeal
of the Stamp Act reached New York. The city was filled with delight. Bells
rung a merry peal, cannons roared, and placards every where appeared,
calling a meeting of the citizens at Howard's the next day to celebrate the
event. Hundreds assembled, and marching in procession to "the fields," they
fired a royal salute of twenty-one guns upon the spot where the City Hall
now stands. An immense table was spread at Howard's, where the Sons of
Liberty feasted, and drank twenty-eight "loyal and constitutional toasts."
The city was illuminated in the evening, and bonfires blazed at every
corner. Another celebration was had on the king's birth-day [June 4, 1766.],
under the auspices of Governor Moore. The governor, council, military
officers, and the clergy, dined at the King's Arms (now Atlantic -Garden),
where General Gage resided, and great rejoicings were had by the people in
"the fields." The Sons of Liberty feasted at Montagne's, and with the
sanction of the governor, they erected a mast (afterward called Liberty
Pole) a little northeast of the present City Hall, in front of Warren
Street. It was inscribed, "To his most gracious Majesty, George the Third,
Mr. Pitt, and Liberty." The loyalty of the people, and their idolatry of
Pitt, were boundless, and at a meeting at the Coffee House [June 23.],
corner of Dock (now Pearl) and Wall Streets, a petition was numerously
signed, praying the Assembly to erect a statue to the great commoner. The
Assembly complied, and on the same day voted an equestrian statue in honor
of the king. These were erected in 1770, but within six years that of the
king was destroyed by the Republicans, and Pitt's was mutilated by the
Royalists soon afterwards.

"Even while the people were singing alleluiahs, there were some in New York,
who, like Christopher Gadsden of Charleston, were sagacious enough to
perceive the tendency of Pitt's Declaratory Act, which accompanied the
Repeal Bill, and were bold enough to warn the people, even in the midst of
the loyal excitement. The liberal press of England immediately denounced it,
and Pitt's plea of expediency could hardly save him from the anathemas of
the Americans, when they gravely considered the matter. However, the Sons of
Liberty regarded the repeal of the Stamp Act as a secession of the ministry
from their authoritative position, and believing that a full redress of
grievances complained of would follow, they dissolved their association, but
agreed to meet each year on the anniversary of the repeal, to celebrate the

"Before the echoes of repeal rejoicings had died away, the low mutterings of
another storm were heard. When intelligence of the Stamp Act riots reached
England, Parliament passed the Mutiny Act, which provided for the quartering
of troops in America, at the partial expense of the colonists themselves. In
June, Governor Moore informed the people of New York that he hourly expected
the arrival of a re-enforcement for the garrison, and that he desired the
Assembly to make immediate provisions for them, according to the demands of
the Mutiny Act. The Sons of Liberty were aroused, and at a meeting at
Montagne's, they solemnly resolved to resist this new measure of oppression
to the uttermost. The troops came; angry feelings were soon excited between
them and the people, and thirty-six days after the Liberty Pole was erected
with so much harmony and loyalty it was cut down by the insolent soldiery
[Aug. 16, 1766.]. The people re-erected it the next evening, in the face of
the armed mercenaries; not, however, without a fracas, in which blood was
shed. A little more than a month afterward [Sept. 23.], the soldiers again
prostrated the Liberty Pole, and again the people upreared it, and from its
top they flung the British banner to the breeze [Sept. 25.]. The autumn and
winter passed without serious trouble in the city, but when the people met
to celebrate the anniversary of the repeal [March 18, 1767.], and with great
rejoicings inaugurated the "mast" as a "Liberty Pole," the soldiers again
interfered, and that night the cherished emblem of freedom was prostrated
for the third time. The people again erected it, bound it with iron, and
placed a guard there. The soldiers came with loaded muskets [March 22.],
fired two random shots into Montagne's house, where the Sons of Liberty were
assembled, and attempted to drive the people from "the fields." Fearful
retaliation would have followed this atrocious act, had not the governor
interfered and ordered the soldiers to refrain from further aggressive
movements. On the king's birth-day [June 4.], they made another unsuccessful
attempt to destroy the Liberty Pole, but it stood in proud defiance until
1770, when armed men came from the barracks at midnight [Jan. 16, 1770.],
prostrated it, sawed it in pieces, and then piled it up in front of Montagne
's. The perpetrators were discovered, the bell of St. George's Chapel, in
Beckman Street, was rung, and early the next morning three thousand people
stood around the stump of the pole, and, by resolutions, declared their
rights, and their determination to maintain them. For three days the most
intense excitement prevailed. In frequent affrays with the citizens, the
soldiers were generally worsted; and in a severe conflict on Golden Hill
(Cliff Street, between Fulton Street and Maiden Lane), near Burling Slip,
several of the soldiers were disarmed. Quiet was at length restored; the
people erected another Liberty Pole [March 24.] upon private ground
purchased for the purpose, upon Broadway, near Warren Street, and a few days
afterward the soldiers departed for Boston. This fifth Liberty Pole remained
untouched as a rallying-place for the Whigs until 1776, when it was hewn
down by Cunningham, the notorious provost marshal, who, it is said, had been
whipped at its foot."

Bill Carr
Town of Malta
Saratoga County

----- Original Message -----
From: <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Wednesday, April 18, 2001 8:19 PM
Subject: Liberty Pole

> I've read that the colonist in NYC put up "Liberty Poles".  What is a
> Pole?  Is it a flag pole?  What's different about a liberty pole from any
> other pole?  Your help is appreciated.
> Looking for people from Parkchester in the Bronx.
> Ask 'em to contact me on line.