The Sons of liberty
(q. v.) erected tall flag-staffs, with the Phrygian “cap of Liberty” on the top, as rallying-places in the open air. They were first erected in cities; afterwards they were set up in the rural districts wherein republicanism prevailed.
On the King
's birthday, in New York (June 4, 1766), there were great rejoicings on account of the repeal of the Stamp act
(q. v.). Governor Sir Henry Moore
presided at a public dinner at the “King
's arms” (near the foot of Broadway
). On the same day the Sons of Liberty feasted at their headquarters at Montagne's (on Broadway, near Murray Street), and, by permission of the governor, erected a mast (which afterwards
they called a liberty pole) between the site of the City Hall and Broadway
, in front of Warren Street, on which were inscribed the words, “To his most gracious Majesty George Ill.
, Mr. Pitt
, and Liberty.”
British soldiers were then in the city.
The doings of the Sons of Liberty so annoyed the officers of the crown that thirty-six days after the liberty pole was erected with so much harmony, it was cut down by the insolent troops (Aug. 16, 1766). The people reerected it the next evening in the face of the armed mercenaries.
A little more than a month afterwards the soldiers again prostrated it, and again the people upraised it, and from its top they flung the British
banner to the breeze.
The next spring the people met at the “mast” to celebrate the anniversary of the repeal (March 18), and inaugurated it by erecting a “liberty pole,” which the soldiery cut down that night.
The people again erected it, bound with hoops of iron, and placed a guard there, when soldiers came with loaded muskets, fired two random shots into the headquarters of the Sons of Liberty (Montagne's), and attempted to drive the people away.
Fearful retaliation would have followed but for the repression of aggressive acts by the soldiers, by order of the governor.
On the King
's birthday, 1767, the soldiers made an unsuccessful attempt to prostrate the liberty pole; but at midnight, June 16, 1770, armed men came from the barracks, hewed it down, sawed it to pieces, and piled it in front of Montagne's. The perpetrators were discovered, the bells of St. George's Chapel, in Beekman Street, were rung, and early the next morning 3,000 people stood around the stump of the pole.
There they passed strong resolutions of a determination to maintain their liberties at all hazards.
For three days intense excitement continued, and in frequent affrays with the citizens the soldiers were worsted.
A severe conflict occurred on Golden Hill
(Cliff Street, between Fulton Street and Maiden Lane), when several of the soldiers were disarmed.
Quiet was soon restored.
The people erected another pole upon ground purchased on Broadway, near Warren Street, and this fifth liberty pole remained untouched as a rallying-place for the Whigs until the British
took possession of the city in 1776, when the notorious Provost-Marshal Cunningham
(who, it is said, had been whipped at its foot) had it hewn down.