Rehabbing Boston's Liberty Tree

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In 1775, the Essex Gazette published this account of a fatal Tory assault on Boston’s Liberty Tree: “Armed with axes, they made a furious attack upon it. After a long spell of laughing and grinning, sweating, swearing, and foaming, with malice diabolical, they cut down a tree because it bore the name of Liberty.”

For years, the tree had served as a flashpoint for all manner of incendiary violence and insurrection, both before and during the Revolutionary War. The mildly terrorist Boston Tea Party was organized in a tavern that stood in its shadow. While the destruction of the infamous elm put an end to the tarring, feathering, effigy-burning ruffianage the Sons of Liberty perpetrated around its massive bole, it only inflamed Boston’s revolutionary fervor.

In 1825, the Marquis de Lafayette stood at the Liberty Tree site and said, "The world should never forget the spot where once stood Liberty Tree, so famous in your annals."

But despite de Lafayette’s injunction, all that now marks the site where the tree once stood is a plaque near a rundown Boylston Street sidewalk, alongside the China Trade Center and the nearby RMV.

A small mob of historians and museum employees wants to change that. Spearheaded by radical historian Alfred Young and the Bostonian Society, the coalition is pushing to revitalize the site of the historic Liberty Tree, and spice up the staid Freedom Trail with some violent egalitarianism.

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