The Statue of Liberty was a gift from the people of France to the people of the United States to mark the centennial of the Declaration of Independence and "in recognition of the friendship established during the American Revolution." As it turns out, "We the People" weren't originally so crazy about receiving the gift because we had to raise the money privately for a foundation on which it would stand.
According to the Ellis Island-Statue of Liberty Foundation, "Joseph Pulitzer (noted for the Pulitzer Prize) opened up the editorial pages of his newspaper, "The World" to support the fund raising effort. Pulitzer used his newspaper to criticize both the rich who had failed to finance the pedestal construction and the middle class who were content to rely upon the wealthy to provide the funds. Pulitzer's campaign of harsh criticism was successful in motivating the people of America to donate."
Fast forward to noted modern historical authorities Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin discussing our Lady Liberty on his show on 1/14:
BECK: You were — you bring up France — you were telling me before we went on the air stuff I didn't know about the Statue of Liberty and the
PALIN: Twenty-five windows. Yes. [This number is correct, There are 25 windows in the crown which symbolize gemstones and the heaven's rays shining over the world. ]
BECK: What is this?
PALIN: Gems, representing the natural resources in our nation.
BECK: Yes, I didn't — I didn't know that.
PALIN: Well, I had my son Google for me real quick. What does everything mean? What are the symbols?
BECK: Did you think there will be a test on this?
PALIN: Yes. I thought, oh, no, he's going to do a gotcha on what do those seven points mean and that's why I google — I had Track google real quick.
BECK: ... seven points are just rays of light. They're not crown — it's not really a crown of seven, it's the rays of light. Did you ever see the Michaelangelo's Moses where he has horns? [Fact: The seven rays represent the seven seas and continents of the world]
BECK: That's a misinterpretation from the Latin. It can be interpreted rays of light or horns.
BECK: And somehow or another, they interpreted it as horns, but it's actually just the rays of light.
PALIN: Well, so full of symbolism, though. And those seven points represent our seas, our continents. Anyway, my son, I asked him very quickly, "Tell me what all this means." He says, "Quite timely, mom. I'll tell you what the Statue of Liberty means. It just got a tattoo of the Statue of Liberty on my arm." Thanks, Track, for letting me know that.
But I learned a lot about it this morning.
BECK: It's — what people don't understand about this is this almost a — this is France saying to the French, "We need to be more like America." [False: The French government was in the Third Republic by then, already having deposed emperor Napoleon III.]
BECK: And it's interesting now that we have so lost our way.
BECK: ... that we say we need to be more like Europe.
BECK: What we ran from, we seem to have so many in our country trying to run back to.
PALIN: And you're right. Even the French recognized, too, the potential in this free country. And the French gifted this to us, this, in partnership, this international symbol of liberty and freedom — the French hoping that we wouldn't lose that and we won't evolve into something more along their lines. And yet, yes, right, look at this full circle thing.
BECK: Here we are.
Yes, here we are.
More on the Statue of Liberty's actual history here.