The Bell That Proclaims Freedom

For all those who gave their lives so that we may live in freedom. Thank you!

“We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” United States Declaration of Independence

Look at that big bell.

Now, look closer… oh no, it’s cracked!

What happened?

Did you know this bell is quite special?

That’s right, it is the Liberty Bell – the most famous bell in the United States of America!

Will the bell sound pretty when it rings?

Do the words on the bell cause us all to sing?

Let’s go back through history and see, what the liberty bell means for you and me

See that man with the long hair and short nose? That’s William Penn. Notice his last name helps spell Pennsylvania. The state was named after his father.

William Penn founded the city of Philadelphia, which means “City of Brotherly Love.”
William Penn was a Quaker. He loved God. He believed in freedom for all people. Another word for freedom is liberty.

In the year 1701, William Penn wrote the “Charter of Privileges,” which provided religious freedom for everyone living in Pennsylvania.

“I dare not deny others what I crave for myself – liberty for the exercise of my religion,” Penn said.

Thanks to William Penn and his laws, people of different races and religions in his state lived together in peace. Everyone wants to live in peace!

Let’s move forward fifty years to the year 1751.

To celebrate William Penn’s “Charter of Privileges,” the men governing Pennsylvania ordered the making of a bell – one with a great voice.

That’s right, it would be the Liberty Bell!

What better way to pay tribute to Penn than with a bell proclaiming liberty?

The governing men wanted the bell to be unique. So they chose the following words to be “well-shaped in large letters” around its crown:


And beneath the inscription:


Those first words are from the tenth verse, twenty fifth chapter, in the book of Leviticus in the King James Bible.

The sounds of liberty – FREEDOM – would ring!

Whitechapel Foundry in London, England, cast the bell.

After it arrived by ship the next year, something went horribly wrong!

As it hung in the State House Yard for testing, all eyes and ears focused on the bell. How pretty would it sound? How loud would it ring? What would liberty sound like?

The moment came. The rope was pulled. The bell rocked.

The large, heavy clapper swung toward the metal side. A musical note proclaiming freedom would soon be heard!

The clapper struck the bell of liberty.


Eyes winced. On the first stroke, the bell CR-A-CK-ED at the brim!

The bell couldn’t be fixed, so it needed to be remade.

Fire engulfed the bell in a blazing furnace. The bell-shaped hull melted into a pool of liquid metal. A dash more of copper was added by two local ironworkers – John Pass and Charles Stow – who volunteered to form the bell. The brawny founders were ingenious workmen, but they had never cast a bell before. No one in the American colonies had ever cast a bell before!

The craftsmen inscribed the same words of liberty around the bell’s crown. And they added their own names and the year 1753 to it.

The bell was raised in the State House Yard. It weighed 2,080 pounds.

The rope was pulled. The bell rocked.

The hearts of the citizens of Philadelphia raced with anticipation.

The large, heavy clapper swung toward the metal side. A musical note proclaiming freedom would soon be heard!

The clapper struck the bell of liberty.


The bell did not crack. But, oh no! No one seemed to like the sound of the bell.

Sounds of laughter echoed with each jangling tone of the bell.

The people teased Mr. Stow and Mr. Pass about the unpleasant sound.

The teasing bothered them – so much so that they once again broke the bell apart and melted it down. This time, they added a dash of tin. And they recast it.

Three months went by and testing day arrived.

The bell was raised once again in the State House Yard.

The rope was pulled. The bell rocked.
The large, heavy clapper swung toward the metal side. A musical note proclaiming freedom would soon be heard!

The clapper struck the bell of liberty.


The bell did not crack. The sound was improved, but some people didn’t like the tone of this bell any better.

“Let’s get another new bell from London!” the people declared. And the order went out to Whitechapel Foundry.

Others praised Pass and Stow for creating the greatest bell cast in the American colonies.
The new bell arrived, and to the surprise of all, the citizens agreed it sounded no better than the Liberty Bell. So they installed it in the clock tower in town where it would ring out the hours.

The Pass and Stow Liberty Bell was hung majestically in the State House steeple. Its call would tell all about special meetings and occasions. The State House bell would proclaim some of the most important events in America’s history!

The Liberty Bell tolled for the meeting of the Assembly that sent Benjamin Franklin to England to address colonial complaints.

It tolled to bring the people together to discuss the Sugar Act in 1764 and Stamp Act in 1765. Tax laws enacted by the King of England that the colonies felt were unfair.

But the bell still sounded terrible to some residents who complained that the sound of the bell “could be fatal to the sick.”

Even so, the bell continued to ring and proclaim liberty to the inhabitants of Philadelphia.

See those men. They are the members of the First Continental Congress. The tall man in the center is George Washington. That’s right, he was General of the Colonial Army, and would later become the first President of the United States. The bell tolled when the First Continental Congress first met in Philadelphia in 1774.

When the colonists fought the British redcoats at the battle of Lexington and Concord in 1775, the Liberty Bell pealed its ring. The Revolutionary War had officially begun!

The most resonant and important tolling of the Liberty Bell occurred on July 8, 1776. The bell summoned the citizens for the reading of the Declaration of Independence! On this day, the Liberty Bell would fulfill its purpose as it proclaimed liberty to all the land! The colonists proclaimed their freedom from the King of England. The bell sounded again after that reading of the Declaration of Independence to cheers from the crowd!

But a long and difficult war lay ahead as the British fought to keep their control over the colonies.

Oh no! Who’s that marching toward the city of Philadelphia?

It’s the British army!

Fear arose in the hearts of the Philadelphians — the British soldiers might seize all the town’s bells, including the Liberty Bell, and melt them to make cannons or bullets for their muskets.

Imagine, the Liberty Bell becoming hundreds of bullets aimed at the colonists and at taking away their liberty! This could not happen!

So on September 18, 1777, all the bells in the city were carefully loaded into a caravan of 700 wagons. Two hundred cavalrymen stood guard. Their destination – Allentown!

The bells were nestled safely out of sight in the basement of Zion Reformed Church.
In June 1778, the British soldiers left Philadelphia and the bells returned to the city after nine months in hiding. Whew!

True liberty has a sister – her name is peace!

On April 16, 1783, the Liberty Bell rang again to proclaim liberty and peace as the Revolutionary War ended. Hooray! America was now truly independent. Ah, liberty!

Sad occasions called for the Liberty Bell to ring as well.

It rang at the deaths of George Washington and Benjamin Franklin.

The bell that celebrated the oaths of Thomas Jefferson, our third President, and John Adams, our second President, also tolled at their departure from this life. Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence. Adams was one of its proud signers. Both had heard the bell’s great voice on many momentous occasions. Both died on July, 4 1826.

But what of that zigzag crack on the great bell?

How did it come to be? Please tell!

The old bell of Independence Hall met its cracked fate on February 23, 1846, when it rang to celebrate Washington’s birthday.

The bell rang and cracked at noon making it now completely out of tune.

A hairline fracture was already there, which some thought had been sufficiently repaired. But its one last toll would go down in lore for it silenced the bell forever more.

Today, this great bell, created to celebrate religious freedom, stands proudly across the street from Independence Hall, sparking the imaginations of the more than one million people who visit it every year.

The old bell hangs from its original crossbeam – a single piece of black walnut, with a yoke underneath. The historic zigzag crack runs up its side. Its surface is rough and uneven. Its lip is battered and chipped — true symbolism of the price of liberty.

Our Liberty Bell is a known symbol of freedom throughout the world.

Without even making a sound, the Liberty Bell has the power to inspire reverence and affection. It causes the hearts of all who gaze upon it to sing songs of freedom.

Like America, it still stands to fulfill its great purpose.

Let freedom ring!


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