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A liberty pole is a tall wooden pole, often used as a type of flagstaff, planted in the ground, surmounted by a Phrygian cap. The symbol originated in the immediate aftermath of the assassination of Roman dictator Julius Caesar by a group of Rome's Senators in 44 BC. Immediately after Caesar was killed, the leaders of the assassination plot went to meet a crowd of Romans at the Roman Forum; a pileus (a kind of skullcap that identified a freed slave) was placed atop a pole to symbolize that the Roman people had been freed from the rule of Caesar, which the assassins claimed had become a tyranny because it overstepped the authority of the Senate and thus betrayed the Republic.
A great pole with twelve tar barrels at its top was erected, and twenty-five cords of wood were placed at its base. Then while a salute of twenty-five guns was fired in another part of the fields, the great bonfire was kindled and the royal standard raised amid the cheers of the crowd. Still another pole was raised on this memorable day, bearing the inscription, "The King, Pitt, and Liberty", the first liberty-pole, which was to serve as the rallying point of the citizens for several years, the visible sign of the principle of no taxation without representation.
This liberty-pole stood not far from the barracks of the soldiers, on the north side of Chambers Street. On the tenth of August, a party belonging to the 28th Regiment cut the pole down. The next day, while the citizens were assembled on the Commons preparing to erect another, they were attacked by the soldiers, and several of the Sons of Liberty, among whom were Isaac Sears and John Berrien, were severely hurt. Though complaints were made by the citizens, the British officers declared that the affidavits submitted were falsehoods and refused to reprimand or punish the offenders.
This insult aroused the Sons of Liberty; and on the evening of the seventeenth, handbills were circulated calling a meeting that night upon the Commons. Three thousand citizens assembled and passed strong resolutions in regard to the daily outrages committed by the soldiery and threatened to regard those found outside their barracks after roll-call as enemies of the city. The next day there began a two days' conflict with the soldiers in which several lives were lost. Since the various affrays occurred in the neighborhood of John and William streets--a locality known at that time as Golden Hill, the conflict has been termed the "Battle of Golden Hill." It occurred two months before the Boston Massacre, and it was here that the first blood of the coming conflict was shed.
The Sons of Liberty requested permission to erect another liberty-pole, but the Common Council refused permission. While the council was considering the request, Lamb and several others of the club purchased a plot of ground eleven feet wide and one hundred feet deep near the site of the former pole. Here, on February 6, 1770, the last of the liberty-poles
was raised. It was a mast of great length, sunk twelve feet into the ground, and encased for two thirds of its height with iron bands and hoops firmly riveted together.