On today’s date, July 8 in 1776, the Liberty Bell was rung in celebration of the Declaration of Independence. Of course as readers of this Blog are aware, the Declaration was actually passed on July 2, but it wasn’t ready to be signed until July 4. And no announcement was made about it until copies of it came back from the printers on July 8. At that time the contents of the Declaration were ready for reading to the public, and it was on this day that thee Liberty Bell tolled for the newly proclaimed United States of America. Although no contemporary accounts mention it specifically, bells were rung all over the city, and most historians agree that Liberty was one of them. But it was not especially famous at the time, and wasn’t even called the “Liberty Bell” until some years later.
The Liberty Bell Was Cast in 1751
The Bell’s construction was ordered originally to commemorate the 50’th Anniversary of the constitution of the then colony of Pennsylvania. Isaac Norris, speaker of the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly, sent orders to Robert Charles, Pennsylvania’s agent in London to acquire “good Bell of about two thousands pound weight”. Norris also added the following directions:
“Let the bell be cast by the best workmen & examined carefully before it is Shipped with the following words well shaped around it vizt. By Order of the Assembly of the Povince of Pensylvania for the State house in the City of Philada 1752 and Underneath Proclaim Liberty thro’ all the Land to all the Inhabitants thereof.-Levit. XXV. 10.”
So with this biblical quote going onto it to “Proclaim Liberty thro’ all the Land” as Moses did in the Old Testament, the Bell was cast and brought to Philly and hung in the steeple of the Statehouse (above) in June of 1753. And from that perch it did honorable service for years being rung to call the people together for important events and proclamations such as King George’s accession to the throne in 1761, and also to announce discussion off the very unpopular Stamp Act. In April 1775 it tolled to the news of the fighting at Lexington and Concord.
The Liberty Bell is Moved, Named, and Cracked
As the war shifted and the British moved on Philadelphia in the autumn of 1777 the bell was in danger off being captured by the Brits and melted down to be made into a cannon. So the bell was moved to Allentown where it was hidden for the duration of the war, being returned in 1781. It continued in use for ceremonial occasions for many years. In 1839 William Lloyd Garrison, the famed abolitionist printed a pamphlet which included a poem called “The Liberty Bell” in which it was noted that in spite of its inscription, the bell did not proclaim liberty to all the inhabitants off the land. And the application stuck. There are differing accounts on how the bell acquired its famous crack. One account holds that it was cracked in 1835 while being rung for the funeral of Chief Justice
John Marshall. Another account holds that the bell was damaged beyond repair in 1846 while beig rung in honor of George Washington’s birthday. Whatever the cause, the Liberty Bell continues to be kept in Philadelphia to this day (above); an enduring symbol of our nation’s freedom.