Edouard Rene Lefevre de Laboulaye was born in Versailles, France in 1811 (died 1883). He was a French historian and noted scholar of U.S. Constitutional Law. Like Alexis de Tocqueville, he was an "Americanist," who saw great promise in culture and institutions of the fledgling United States. de Laboulaye also served at the head of the French Anti-Slavery Society and was an ardent supporter of the Northern cause during the American Civil War.
1865 was a momentous year for de Laboulaye, and his like-minded countrymen. It was in this year that the American Civil War came to an end, and President Abraham Lincoln, who had delivered the Emancipation Proclamation, was murdered. With these events on his mind, that summer de Laboulaye hosted a dinner at his home in Versailles. It was then that he shared with his guests his vision for a monument to comemmorate France's century-long friendship with the United States and the American dream of Liberty.
The French sculptor Auguste Bartholdi, who was at de Laboulaye's home that evening, was intrigued by the idea. Together, they formed the "French-American Union" to raise funds for the project. Edouard de Laboulaye was named president of the union, whose membership eventually included some of the most notable names in France. It was decided that the finished work would represent the joint effort of both nations. The French people were to build the statue and transport it to the United States; and the American people would build the pedestal on which it was to stand.
Public fetes and other entertainments were given to help raise funds for the project, but it was not until 1875 that enough capital was raised to allow construction to begin. After nine years, "Liberty Enlightening the World" was completed, and in 1886 the Statue of Liberty was dedicated in New York. Sadly, de Laboulaye did not live to see her completion. He had died the year before.
In addition to his credit as the "thinker" of the Statue of Liberty, de Laboulaye also composed poetry, including Du fond des grand bois m'arrive une voix and L'oiseau bleu.