By Ada Brownell
Excerpted from her book, God in American History
An express rider on a galloping horse brought the news of the American Revolutionary War’s Battle of Lexington in Philadelphia on April 24, 1775.
The rope of the huge bell in the State House was yanked and the dongggggg,
donggggg, dongggg, dongggg, dongggg entered every shop, crossed the greening fields to farmers behind horses and a plow, inside to kitchens where women were baking bread and feeding children.
Each person dropped his work and ran into town where the bell was still ringing when they arrived in the Yard below the State House. Eight thousand of them came.
In those days, there were no television news programs. Although there were newspapers, it was hours before news in print could get to the people. The bell told them something important was happening at that moment.
There in the State House Yard that day, all 8,000 people called by the bell pledged themselves to defend their lives, their property and their liberty against all attempts by the British to take them away.
Although cracked the first time it was rung -- broken by a stroke of its own tongue, or clapper -- and recast, and still cracked and repaired, the Liberty Bell has a great history.
The bell called people to talk about taxes imposed on them by the British. It called out the good news when the Stamp Act, a form of taxes, was repealed. But more taxes came, such as a tax on imported tea. The people wanted freedom from England. They boycotted, which means they refused to buy imported products, and eventually they had the famous “Boston Tea Party” where they dumped imported tea with tax on in into Boston Harbor.
The Liberty Bell called people together for such things as unfurling of the first national flag.
The bell donggged and donggged at high noon on Monday July 8, 1776, when the first Independence Day celebration began. People believed its glorious music was proclaiming liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants. Other bells joined in harmony, and some writers say the ground shook with the noise and there was no silent place at all in Philadelphia that day. But suddenly the metal stopped ringing and people stood silent as the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence.
Yet, the British wanted to capture Philadelphia and take away people’s freedom. People continued to worship God in the way they wished. “Quakers” populated much of Philadelphia, a religious denomination known today as the Religious Society of Friends. They were nicknamed Quakers because of a saying by George Fox, “Tremble at the Word of the Lord,” or from their habit of shaking with emotion during their worship to God.
The Quakers met with violent persecution by the Church of England before they immigrated to America. Many were put in prison. In 1656, there were seldom less than 1,000 Quakers in prison. Children continued the meetings when all the adults were locked up.
In the New England the Quakers still met with persecution. Some were put in prison or flogged and driven out of town. Four were hanged, including a woman, Mary Dyer.
So people, even in America, needed people to hear the bell’s message, “Proclaim Liberty throughout the Land, to all the inhabitants thereof.”
The new country was at war with the British, known as the “Redcoats.”
One day the people realized if the British took control of the Liberty Bell, it would be melted and made into bullets. So the bell -- and all bells in public buildings and churches -- were taken down and hidden.
The Liberty Bell --- then called the Independence Bell -- was moved to Allentown, where it was tucked away under the floor of Zion Reformed Church.
But there was no battle in Philadelphia. By autumn, the bell was back. But it announced no celebrations until Oct. 24, 1881 when it was yanked and yanked to announce the surrender of Cornwallis and the end of the Revolutionary War.
The records says, “The bell was rung at 12 o’clock this day to announce to the people the surrender of Cornwallis to the Confederate arms of the United States and France -- a day of the most intense interest, joy and rejoicing of the people. The standard of the state was hoisted to the peak of the belfry over the State House. Four pieces of artillery responded to the pealing of the Bell and all the city bells answered.
At last there was a formal proclamation of peace and the War of Independence ended in 1783. The bell at last could ring and announce freedom was accomplished.
The bell was rung at the opening session of the federal convention in 1783, and the ratification of the Constitution of the United States.
It rang at George Washington’s birthday party, and cracked again, even after being repaired.
Because of the role it played, the Liberty Bell became the symbol of freedom.
But the words on it, “Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof” (Leviticus 25:10) weren’t accepted by everyone.
Even some of the early settlers of this country were not ready to hear that message. As one author said, “All right to quote the Bible, but to act accordingly would be a most disquieting idea.”
Today, men and women still try to limit our freedom, even freedom of worship.
It is up to me and you to proclaim liberty throughout the land today, because the Liberty Bell is silent. It is on display now at Independence Hall in Washington, D.C.
Tour guides will tell you the bell’s story, but its message now needs tongues of flesh.
We now must ring the news of liberty across the land, and use that liberty to tell others they can live forever if they believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s the greatest news anyone can hear.
Copyright Ada Brownell 2016
Old Liberty Bell, by Frances Rogers and Alice Beard, J.B. Lippincott Company, New York, 1942.
Old Liberty Bell
Old Liberty Bell, page 24.