A person's true character emerges when they are tested. "Hard times made us". Our struggles, our hardships, our trials - these are the things that define us as people. Ask yourself, is there anything that the country could do to you to make you turn your back on the things you believe in? Could you be persecuted, imprisoned, and cast out of America's borders, yet still stand up when called upon to do your duty? On radio Tuesday morning, Glenn shared the story of a relatively unknown American hero who was asked to do just that: Charles Pomeroy Stone, the man who laid the foundation for the Statue of Liberty.
I want to tell you an American story. A story that will really take us to a place to say, who are we? Who are we as people? What is it that we really believe? What is our responsibility, and what is our duty? I want to bring this up because of what we're dealing with, with ISIS and what we're dealing with, with our economy and our belief in who we are, belief in our country.
What could possibly be done to you that would crush your belief in those principles that we have always held self-evident? What is it that could be done to you? Could your country imprison you, discredit you? Is there anything this country could do that could make you say, I no longer believe in these things?
I want to tell you a story about a guy that you might ever heard of before, but should because you know his work. His name is Charles Pomeroy Stone. He's he's really a kind of interesting guy because of what he went through in his life and what happened in his life.
He was a soldier in the Civil War. He had a -- he was a soldier in the Civil War, and he's really probably most well-known for something the Battle of Balls Bluff. It was a small engagement. But the war was going badly for the North. I don't know all the details, but there was a bad blunder, and he got the blame for it. Now, he wasn't even there. There's no evidence showing that he was even there.
"Charles P. Stone" by Unknown photographer, restored by Michel Vuijlsteke.
But the Republicans in Congress were looking for a scapegoat for this, and Stone was the guy because while he was a Union soldier, he was a member of the Democratic party, so he was a Democrat.
He was a Democrat because - I love this, the irony here is just so amazing - he was a Democratic because he was sympathetic to slave owners.
So he was fighting for the Union army, but he was a Democrat because he was friends of slave owners. In fact, not only had he been tolerant and courteous with his slave owners in Maryland, but he had also issued orders that fugitive slaves who were finding sanctuary within his area would have to be returned to their owners.
But he was doing his best to try to keep Maryland in the hands of Lincoln and the Union. But it really enraged the Republicans because the Republicans were rabidly antislavery.
And so here's this guy, and the battle goes poorly. Well, they need a scapegoat. And the Republicans see this guy and they say, 'you know what, let's pin it on him'. He wasn't even at the battle. 'Let's pin it on him because we can get him out. Because we don't want anyone who is sympathetic with the slave owners on our side, so let's get him out'.
Now, they did everything they could to get him out. In fact, they railroaded him. What happened is Congress established a Joint Committee on the Conduct of War, and the Republicans had control of it; and in secret proceedings, the committee gathered evidence against Stone and judged him without even hearing his defense. He didn't have a chance to even have a defense. They just deemed him guilty. Concentrated power.
So what happened next? Well, he is trying to clear his name. He finally gets a chance to speak in front of the Joint Committee. But by that time, everyone had made their own decision. So he was done. He was carried off to Fort Lafayette in New York harbor where he spent 18 months in prison for a crime he didn't commit. He had nothing to do -- he was now in prison until -- for 18 months until finally they said, 'okay, we don't really have any evidence' and and it was overturned.
But he had been so discredited, he couldn't find any work.
Now, let me throw in something else that he did.
At the same time he's being called a traitor, same time all of this stuff is happening and he's no friend of the North, even though he's in the Union Army. In late February, right before this happened, he heard a plot against Lincoln. He learned from detectives in Baltimore that rebel sympathizers planned to assassinate President Lincoln as he was coming in. As he passed through Baltimore to his inauguration ceremonies in Washington.
So Stone went and he not only warned his superiors, but he got Lincoln to change his travel plans. And then he actually posted himself next to the carriage during the inaugural parade. He supervised all of the security arrangements, which include posting riflemen at strategic locations along the parade route and had 50 armed men all around the president that nobody knew.
This is really kind of the first Secret Service operation. That's this guy.
He finds himself in prison. Wrongfully imprisoned. He gets out after 18 months, but his name has been so dragged through the mud, nobody will hire him. He is an absolute pariah. Well, he's a brilliant strategist.
Well, the French need help. The French needs help over in Egypt. Time goes by. He's got to have some work. So he goes and assists the French. He learns how to speak French. He learns how to work with the French. I mean, that's not an easy thing.
He comes back to the country years later, it's now in the late 1870s. He still can't find a job. No one wants to hire him in America. He's still a pariah.
Now, where would you stand at this point?
This started in the 1860s. It's now been 20 years. You spent almost 20 months in a prison wrongfully accused. You saw your Congress, your politicians, gather together and hold secret meetings. You weren't even allowed to present your side of the story. They so destroyed your life. You cannot have a life here.
And that's when the government come knocking at his door. It's now 1883.
The government comes knocking at his door and says, 'We need your help because a few years ago we had some boxes show up, and we don't know what the hell we're even doing with those boxes. They've been sitting in a park. We've opened them up. We've raised some money, but we don't know what we're doing and, of course, all the instructions are in French. You know how to do it. Will you help us?'
On my desk, from the office of the American Committee of the Statue of Liberty.
He says, 'Yes, I'll help you build the Statue of Liberty.'
This is a purchase order signed by him for 8,000 cubic yards of stone that need to be delivered to the wharf of Liberty Island.
Purchase order signed by Charles Pomeroy Stone for 8,000 cubic yards of stone that need to be delivered to the wharf of Liberty Island.
I had no idea that the guy who helped build the Statue of Liberty, who oversaw the erection of the Statue of Liberty was a guy this country maligned, wrongfully imprisoned, ran out of the country. A guy who could not find a job. But was the only guy that could actually put this together.
How ironic that the man who was friendly to slave owners, who was maligned and destroyed because he was friendly to slave owners, he was maligned and discredited and went wrongfully to prison would be the one who fastened the feet with the broken chain onto the stone that he assembled.