ORIGIN OF THE IDEA
In 1865, a little group of French men-of-letters, artists and politicians met at the home of Edouard Rene de Laboulaye near Versailles, France. Of all Frenchmen, only Lafayette had exceeded Laboulaye in his love for the United States, and it was said that the mantle of that hero descended upon his shoulders. Better than any of his countrymen, Laboulaye recognized the bond of a common love for liberty that existed between the people of France and the United States.
Although a subject of Napoleon III, this outspoken republican had in 1850 printed a discourse on the American Constitution and "the utility of studying it," had written a learned "Political History of the United States," a paper on the youth of Benjamin Franklin, and a novel, "Paris in America," in which a character says: "The folly of love and the madness of ambition are sometimes curable, but no one was ever cured of a mania for liberty." In the same book, liberty is described as the "daughter of the Gospel -- sister of justice and pity -- mother of equality, abundance, and peace."
It was decided that the French should give to the Americans some great token that would be a symbol of eternal friendship. This was to be a gift from a people to a people, not from a government to a government.
MONEY FOR THE STATUE
Contributions came in from ordinary citizens, deputies, cabinet officers, and the popular old President of the Republic, Marie Edme Patrice Maurice MacMahon, a hero of the Crimean War, Marshal of France, who in 1870 had been wounded, overwhelmed and captured at Sedan. The City of Paris gave $2000. No contribution was asked or received from the French Government. The fund was not large enough to finish the whole work in time for the Philadelphia Exposition in 1876; but the right forearm, hand and torch were there for the more than nine million visitors to see. After the fair, this exhibit was displayed, on the Fifth Avenue side of Madison Square, New York City, until in 1884 it was sent back to Paris.