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Pictorial Field-Book of the Revolution

From: Benson J. Lossing's Pictorial Field-Book of the Revolution. (Philadelphia: George W. Childs, 1852)

I ascended to the steeple, where hangs in silent grandeur, the "Liberty Bell." It is four feet in diameter at the lip and three inches thick at the heaviest part. Its tone is destroyed by a crack, which extends from the lip to the crown, passing directly through the names of the persons who cast it. An attempt was made to restore the tone by sawing the crack wider but without success; the melody of the "glory-breathed tone" that thrilled the hearts of the people on the birthday of the nation could not be re-awakened. The history of the bell is interesting. In 1752, a bell for the State House was imported from England. On the first trial-ringing, after its arrival, it was cracked. It was e-cast by Pass and Stow of Philadelphia in 1753, under the direction of Isaac Norris, Esq., the then Speaker of the Colonial Assembly. And that is the bell, "the greatest in English America" which now hangs in the Old State House Steeple and claims our reverence. Upon fillets around its crown, cast there 23 years before the Continental Congress met in the State House, are the words of Holy Writ, "Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof."

How prophetic! Beneath that very bell the representatives of the thirteen colonies "proclaimed liberty." Ay, and when the debates were ended, and the result was announced, on the 4th of July, 1776, the iron tongue of that very bell first "proclaimed liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof," by ringing the joyful annunciation for more than two hours, its glorious melody floating clear and musical as the voice of an angel above the discordant chorus of booming cannon, the roll of drums, and the mingled acclamations of the people.

It was two o’clock in the afternoon when the final decision was announced by Secretary Thompson to the assembled Congress in Independence Hall. It was a moment of solemn interest; and when the Secretary sat down, a deep silence pervaded that august assembly. Thousands of anxious citizens had gathered in the streets of Philadelphia; for it was known that the final decision was to be made that day. From the hour when Congress convened in the morning, the old bell-man had been in the steeple. He placed a boy at the door below, to give him notice when the announcement should be made. As hour succeeded hour the gray-beard shook his head and said, "They will never do it! They will never do it!" Suddenly a loud shout came up from below, and there stood the blue-eyed boy, clapping his hands and shouting, "Ring! Ring!" Grasping the iron tongue of the old bell against which we are now leaning, backward and forward he hurled it a hundred times, its loud voice proclaiming "Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof." The excited multitude in the streets responded with loud acclamations, and with cannon-peals, bonfires, and illuminations, the patriots held a glorious carnival that night in the quiet city of Penn. homepage

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