Édouard de Laboulaye

A photograph of Edouard de Laboulaye from the Galerie Contemporaine collection.
A photograph of Edouard de Laboulaye from the Galerie Contemporaine collection.

National Park Service, Statue of Liberty NM

Known as the "Father of the Statue of Liberty," Édouard de Laboulaye first proposed the idea of a monument for the United States. Born on January 18, 1811 in Paris, France, de Laboulaye was a prominent and important political thinker in his time, a leading expert on the U.S. Constitution, and an abolitionist and supporter of President Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War. Édouard de Laboulaye believed whole-heartedly in the "common law of free peoples," an ideal in which every person was born with an inalienable, sacred right to freedom, and spent much of his political career pushing for the return of democracy to France.

In 1865, de Laboulaye proposed creating a monument for the United States. The recent Union victory in the Civil War, which reaffirmed the United States' ideals of freedom and democracy, served as a platform for de Laboulaye to argue that honoring the United States would strengthen the cause for democracy in France. As the president of the French Anti-Slavery Society, de Laboulaye believed that the passage of the 13th Amendment (abolishing slavery in the U.S., 1865) was a milestone and it proved that justice and liberty for all was possible. Ten years later, with the help of friend and sculptor Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi, de Laboulaye turned his proposal into a reality. In September 1875, he announced the project and the formation of the Franco-American Union as its fundraising arm. With the announcement, the statue was given a name, Liberty Enlightening the World. The French people would finance the statue; the American people would be expected to pay for the pedestal.

De Laboulaye's love for democracy and freedom was channeled into the iconographic Statue of Liberty in hopes that the Statue would commemorate the alliance between France and the U.S. and ultimately inspire the French people to call for democracy. To de Laboulaye, the United States' government was not so much a story of triumph against odds but rather the "natural end-product of two centuries of work and freedom". He wanted France to learn from the United States' struggles, defeats, and triumphs.


Last updated: May 19, 2019

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