The first, famous Liberty Tree stood on the Boston Common, an American Elm with a political history. The elm was a commons tree in the pre-Norman ‘English borough’ tradition: A place for the people of the shire to gather on their own terms and for their own purposes.
In the decade of agitation that fed into the American Revolution, Boston radicals rallied beneath the tree’s canopy, speaking against imperial authorities and calling for home rule in the colonies.
After the speeches, the people marched. In one case, hundreds of marchers ended their protest at the docks, where they cheered on scores of activists as they dumped British East India Trading
Company tea into the harbor. In another case, the march ended in a volley fired from imperial rifles, martyring Crispus Attucks and four others as the first casualties of the revolution.
In the first months of the Revolutionary War, British troops occupied Boston, and cut the elm to the ground. Yet the Liberty Tree lived on. In hundreds of towns, and in every colony, the revolutionaries consecrated new Liberty Trees and Liberty Poles, and flew their likenesses on their flags.
Thomas Paine wrote of the Liberty Tree in poetry and prose, and soon the tree was an international symbol. French revolutionaries hailed the tree, as did Irish and South American republicans.
In Haiti, the great Toussaint L’Ouverture prophesied:
By overthrowing me, you have succeeded in cutting down the tree of liberty of the blacks in Santo Domingo, but have failed to destroy the roots that are deep and strong. The tree will grow again.
The original Liberty Tree served as a physical and symbolic gathering place for revolutionary, democratic movements. It is our intention that this new Liberty Tree serve in the same purpose. As an organization, the Liberty Tree Foundation for the Democratic Revolution provides material support for the growth of a broad based, deeply rooted, aggressive democracy movement in the United States. At Liberty Tree, we echo the sentiments of the abolitionists of the 1850s who wrote that:
Revolutions must be prepared for gradually, outrages must be resisted, and outrageous laws must be resisted and refused obedience to, before a revolution can be prepared for, long before it can be matured. --The Racine Advocate, 1851