The Overthrow of
the Statue of
King George by Sarah J. Prichard
Tale of the American Revolution
If, on the evening of July 9, 1876, at six of the clock, you go and
stand where the shadow of the steeple of St. Paul's church in New York
is falling, you will occupy the space General Washington occupied, just
one hundred years ago, when with uncovered head and reverent mien, he,
in the presence of and surrounded by a brigade of noble soldiers,
listened to the reading of the Declaration of Independence.
You will remember that at the church door on Sunday, Blue-Eyed Boy
brought to him, by word of mouth, the great news that a nation was born
This news was now, for the first time, announced to the men of New
York and New England.
No wonder that their military caps came off on Tuesday, that their
arms swung in the air, and their voices burst forth into one loud
acclaim that might have been heard by the British foe then landing on
As you stand there, and the shadow of old St. Paul swings around and
covers you, shut your eyes and listen. Something of the olden music, of
the loud acclaim, may swing around with the shadow and fall on your
ears, since no motion is ever spent, no sound ever still.
On that night, when the grand burst of enthusiasm had arisen,
Blue-Eyed Boy said to General Washington: I am afraid, sir, if
Congress had known, they never would have done it, never! It seemed
easy to do it in Philadelphia, where everything is just as it used to
be; but here, with all the British ships riding in, full of soldiers,
and guns enough in them to smash the old State House where they did it!
If they'd only known about the ships!
Ah! Blue-Eyed Boy. You didn't keep your eye very close to Congress
Hall in the morning of last Thursday, or you would have heard Mr.
Hancock or Mr. Thompson read to Congress a letter from General
Washington, announcing the arrival of General Howe at Sandy Hook with
one hundred and ten ships of war.
No, no! Blue-Eyed Boy and every other boy; the men who dared to say,
and sign their names to the assertion, A nation is born to-day, did
not do it under the rosy flush of glorious victory, but in the
fast-coming shadow of mighty Britain, strong in all the power and
radiant with all the pomp of war.
And what had a few little colonies to meet them with? They had, it
is true, a new name, that of States; but cannon and camp-kettles
alike were wanting; the small powder mills in the Connecticut hive
could yield them only a fragment of the black honey General Washington
cried for, day and night, from Cambridge to New York; the houses of the
inhabitants, diligently searched for fragments of lead, gave them not
enough; and you know how every homestead in New England was besieged
for the last yard of homespun cloth, that the country's soldiers might
not go coatless by day and tentless at night.
Brave men and women good!
Let us hurrah for them all, if it is a hundred years too late for
them to hear. The men of a hundred years to come will remember our
huzzas of this year, and grow, it may be, the braver and the better for
But now General Washington has ridden away to his home at Number One
in the Broadway; the brigade has moved on, and even Blue-Eyed Boy is
hastening after General Washington, intent on taking a farewell glance,
from the rampart of Fort George, at the far-away English ships.
To-morrow he will begin his homeward journey through the Jerseys.
His pass is in his pocket, and as he quickens his steps, he sees groups
gathering here and there, and knows that some excitement is astir in
the public mind, but thinks it is all about the great Declaration.
He reaches Wall street, and the sun is at its going down. Up from
the East river come the sounds of orderly drummers drumming, of
regimental fifers fifing. He stays his steps, and stands listening: he
sees a brigade marching the grand parade at sunset.
Up it comes from Wall street to Smith street; (I am sure I do not
know what Smith street is lost into now, but the orderly-book of Major
Phineas Porter of Waterbury, one hundred years old to-morrow morning,
has it Smith street"); from the upper end of Smith street back to Wall
street, and the young Philadelphian follows it, marching to sound of
fife and drum.
As it turns towards the East river, he remembers whither he was
bound and starts off with speed for the Grand Battery.
As he goes, glancing backward, he sees that all the town is at his
He begins to run. All the town begins to run. He runs faster: the
crowd runs faster. It is shouting now. He tries to listen; but his feet
are flying, his head is bobbing, his hat is falling, and this is what
he thinks he hears in the midst of all: Down with him! Down with the
Tory! It is tyrant that they cry, but he hears it as tory, and he
knows full well how Governor Franklin of New Jersey and Mayor Matthews
of New York have just been sent off to Connecticut for safer keeping,
and he does not care to go into New England just now, so he flies
faster than ever, fully believing that the crowd pursues him, as a
Just before him opens the Bowling Green. Into it he darts, hoping to
find covert, but there is none at hand.
Right in the midst of the enclosure stands an equestrian statue of
King George the Third.
It is high; it looks safe. Blue-Eyed Boy makes for it, utterly
ignorant of what it is.
The crowd surges on. It is now at the gate. The young martyr makes a
spring at the leg and tail of the horse; he swings himself aloft, he
catches and clutches and climbs, and in the midst of ringing shouts of
Down with him! Down with horse and king! Blue-Eyed Boy gets over King
George and clings to the up-reared neck of the leaden horse; thence he
turns his wild-eyed face to the throng below. Down with him! He don't
hear! He won't hear! cry the populace.
I do hear! in wild afright, shrieks Blue-Eyed Boy, and I'm not a
Shut your eyes again, and see the picture as it stands there in the
waning light of the ninth of July, 1776.
Four years ago, over the ocean, borne by loyal subjects to a loyal
colony, it came, this statue, that you shall see. It is a noble horse,
though made of lead, that stands there, poised on its hinder legs, its
neck in air. King George sits erect, the crown of Great Britain on his
head, a sword in his left hand, his right grasping the bridle-lines,
and over all, a sheen of gold, for horse and king were gilded.
King George faces the bay, and looks vainly down. All his brave
ships and eight thousand Red Coats, yesterday landed on yonder island,
cannot save him now. Had he listened to the petitions of his children
it might have been, but he would not hear their just plaints, and now
his statue, standing so firm against storm, wind and time, trembles
before the sea of wrath surging at its base.
Come down, come down, you young rascal! cries a strong voice to
Blue-Eyed Boy, but his hands grasped at either ear of the horse, and he
clings with all his strength to resist the pull of a dozen hands at his
Come down, you rogue, or we'll topple you over with his majesty,
King George, greets the lad's ears, and opens them to his situation.
King George! cried Blue-Eyed Boy with a sudden sense of his
ridiculous fear and panic, and he yields to the stronger influence
exerted on his right leg, and so comes to earth with emotions of relief
and mortification curiously mingled in his young mind.
To think that he had had the vanity to imagine the crowd pursued
him, and so has flown from his own friends to the statue of King George
I won't tell, thinks the lad, a word about this to anyone at
home, and then he falls to pushing the men who are pushing the statue,
and over it topples, horse and rider, down upon the sod of the little
United States, just five days old.
How they hew it! How they hack it! How they saw at it with saw and
penknife! Blue-Eyed Boy himself cuts off the king's ear, that will not
hear the petitions of people or Congress, proudly pockets it, and walks
off, thankful because he carries his own on his head.
Would you like to know what General Washington thought about the
overthrow of the statue in Bowling Green?
We will turn to Phineas Porter's orderly-book, and copy from the
general orders for July 10, 1776, what he said to the soldiers about
The General doubts not the persons who pulled down and mutilated
the statue in the Broad-way last night were actuated by zeal in the
public cause, yet it has so much the appearance of riot and want of
order in the army, that he disapproves the manner and directs that in
future such things shall be avoided by the soldiers, and be left to be
executed by proper authority.
The same morning, the heavy ear of the king in his pocket, Blue-Eyed
Boy, once more on his pony, sets off to cross the ferry on his way to
Philadelphia. We leave him caught in the mazes of the Flying Camp
gathering at Amboy; whither by day and by night have been ferried over
from Staten Island, all the flocks of sheep and herds of cattle that
could be gotten awaylest the hungry men in red coats, coming up the
bay, seize upon and destroy them.
Ah! what days, what days and nights too were those for the young
United States to pass through!
To-day, we echo what somebody wrote somewhere, even then, amid all
the darknesswords we would gladly see on our banner's top-most fold:
The United States! Bounded by the ocean and backed by the forest.
Whom hath she to fear but her God?