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When the Liberty Bell Rang

It was on July 8, 1776, that the Liberty Bell first rang out from the tower of the Pennsylvania State House which is now known as Independence Hall. The 2,000-pound copper and tin bell was calling all citizens to come to the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence. Just four days previously this historic document had been adopted by Continental Congress delegates.

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On the 50th anniversary of Pennsylvania’s original constitution in 1751, the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly requested the construction of the bell. When the bell got a crack during a test it was recast twice and then hung from the steeple of the State House in June 1753. The bell was used to call together the Pennsylvania Assembly and to summon people for special events and announcements. The bell was also rung on such occasions as King George III’s ascension to the British throne in 1761 and to summon the people together in 1765 in order to discuss Parliament’s controversial Stamp Act.

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Then in 1775 when the American Revolution started in April the bell was rung announcing the battles of Concord and Lexington. However, its most famous tolling was and still remains on July 8, 1776, for the very first reading of the Declaration of Independence. In 1777 when the British marched on Philadelphia the bell was removed and taken to Allentown to keep it safe from being melted down by the British to make cannons. It was returned to Philadelphia after the British were defeated in 1781, at this time the city was the nation’s capital. The bell also tolled annually in order to celebrate George Washington’s birthday on February 22 and on Independence Day on July 4. The name Liberty Bell was first mentioned in an 1839 poem that was printed in an abolitionist pamphlet. There have been other poems written about the Liberty Bell too.

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The Liberty Bell is well-known for having a fracture however it is not certain how the bell got it. One suggestion is that the bell received the break while it tolled during the funeral of the Chief Justice of the U.S., John Marshall in 1835 and then the crack expanded in 1846 as the bell tolled on George Washington’s birthday. Afterward, the Liberty Bell was considered to be unsuitable for ringing but was still tapped to commemorate certain important events. When Allied forces invaded France on June 6, 1944, the dull ringing of the bell was broadcast over the radio all across America.The Liberty Bell was moved to its new home in 1976 in a new pavilion located some 100 yards from Independence Hall to prepare for America’s bicentennial celebrations. It is still there today and over 1 million people visit it every year. However, the question now is whether people still remember the symbolism of the bell and what it stands for. Perhaps if the people of the U.S. reunite once more and the flag can again wave over a proud nation the Liberty Bell may ring again.  

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