by Ken Sehested
There are four great ironies behind the “Liberty Bell,” associated with the founding convictions of the United States of America and inscribed with the phrase “Proclaim Liberty throughout the land and unto the inhabitants thereof.” The reference, from Leviticus 25:10, is a text that stipulates profound social renewal as part of God’s covenant with the Hebrew people, requiring the forgiveness of debt, reclamation of ancestral lands and the release of slaves every 50 years.
In the first instance, the colonial Pennsylvania Assembly ordered the bell in 1751 to commemorate the 50-year anniversary of William Penn's 1701 Charter of Privileges, Pennsylvania's original Constitution, which contains Penn's far-reaching ideas on religious freedom, his liberal stance on Native American rights, and his inclusion of citizens in enacting laws.
The second great irony was the bell’s tolling announcing the opening of the first Continental Congress in 1774 was preface to the nation-building policies that enshrined slavery as a legal form of commerce, beginning a long history of political ideals being trumped by the lure of commercial gain. Read more ›