King George III's Statue: Beheaded And Melted It Down For Bullets In 1776

By | July 1, 2020

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(New York Historical Society)

On March 21, 1770, an awe-inspiring statue of King George III was installed on a small patch of land called Bowling Green, right on the southern tip of Manhattan Island. Sculpted by Joseph Wilton, the statue was commissioned by the New York General Assembly four years earlier and meant to remind people living in the colonies that King George was their graceful, thoughtful leader. By 1776, however, the winds had changed on George. Following a reading of the newly written Declaration of Independence, New Yorkers decided that they wouldn't tolerate a statue dedicated to a tyrant, pulled the monument from its pedestal, and proceeded to melt it down to make musket bullets.

The Likeness Of King George

When the statue of King George III was commissioned, George wouldn't stand for any old statue. He wanted it to be inspiring. Following these instructions, Wilton modeled King George after the statues of Marcus Aurelius, specifically the gestures made by the leader as well as his clothing, with the hope that the colonists would view George as having the same qualities as the Roman emperor.

The statue made George look superhuman. Not only was this depiction of George larger than a normal person, it shined silver and gold in the sunlight. Lieutenant Isaac Bangs described the statue:

Near the Fort, is the Equestrian Statue of King George ... The Man is represented about 3 feet larger than a natural Man; the Horse, in proportion, both neatly constructed of Lead gilt with Gold raised on a Pedestal of White Marble, about 15 feet high, enclosed with a very elegant Fence about 10 feet high; the enclosure was oval.

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(US Naval Institute)

The Tides Of War

As relations between the colonists and England became increasingly testy, frustrations continued to mount stateside. Between 1774 and 1776, King George III basically begged the colonies to go to war by passing the Coercive Acts, the Quebec Act, the New England Restraining Act, and the Prohibitory Act while refusing to address any of the colonists' grievances with British rule.

Tensions mounted after a fleet of British warships dropped anchor in the New York Bay on June 29, 1776, a sign that a lengthy and bloody battle was all but certain. By July 2, British troops were making their way across Staten Island as small fire fights broke out between separatists and the military.