What IS Right With America? Our Propensity to Speak Out!
The first meeting in the Cradle of Liberty occurred on March 14, 1743. Although it later became a meeting hall with appearances by notable patriots such as Samuel Adams, the first meeting had a somber mood at best. The occasion was the eulogy for Peter Faneuil. Faneuil was a merchant who built and gifted the hall to the town of Boston. Faneuil made his money by running a shipping business that amongst other things brought slaves to the West Indies and sugar and molasses to the colonies. The marketplace contained within the hall itself had been open for six months prior to Faneuil’s death. In a eulogy to Faneuil, John Lovell said that he “fed the hungry and he clothed the naked, he comforted the fatherless, and the widows in their affliction.” It was named for Faneuil posthumously. That was not the only eulogy to take place in the hall. On August 2, 1826, Daniel Webster offered a eulogy for both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. Eulogies were also offered in Faneuil Hall for Marquis de Lafayette and John Quincy Adams. It is amazing how many patriots were remembered in this single hall!
The hall has served a place of protest. The Sugar Act and Stamp Act were vehemently protested before the Revolution. Speculation is that meetings at the hall led to the Boston Tea Party! The meetings occurred in this building even though it was built to be a mere marketplace. There is so much history within the walls of this building Frederick Douglas, amongst others, continued to speak out for freedom in the 1800’s. Currently, the third floor of the building is home to the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts. It is the oldest chartered military organization in the western hemisphere, and the third oldest in the world.
The weather vane, in the shape of a grasshopper, served an unusual purpose during the American Revolution. The hall was so well known that people suspected of spying for Britain were asked to identify the figure that sat on top of the hall. It was assumed that all those who lived in the vicinity of Boston could readily respond that a grasshopper could be seen on top of the tower. Those who were unable to do so were often convicted as spies for the Crown.
A third floor was added in 1805. During the same renovation, Charles Bulfinch also added new bays and enclosed the arcade. Faneuli Hall was rebuilt with fire safe materials to prevent damage to non-masonry portions of the building as had occurred in 1761. It has been periodically updated and remodels with the most recent revision occurring in the 1990’s.
Faneuil Hall is currently listed in the US National Register of Historic Places, as well as being named a National Historic Landmark. The hall, itself, is now a part of the Faneuil Hall Marketplace and one of the most frequently visited of all historical monuments in the United States. It is the home to swearing in of new citizens two dozen times every year.