Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Overview Of His 1824-1825 American Visit (Part I)

Bookmark and Share

“The spirits of the defenders of the American liberty are visiting him during his passage, the genu protectors of America drive away the storms,” Moreau and Dubouloz (1825). Source: National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

When Lafayette arrived at the harbor in New York, he came with two traveling companions. They would remain with him for the entire journey. During this excursion, they would witness and experience the raw emotion of the reunion between old friends.

The most prominent of Lafayette’s party was his son, Georges Washington Louis Gilbert de La Fayette. Contemporary American newspaper accounts refer to him as “George Washington Lafayette.” This makes sense, given the patriotic zeal that enveloped the country.

Lafayette’s son was born on Christmas Eve 1779. This was the year Lafayette was home in France in between his two war-time tours in America.

Think about that for a moment. Lafayette had only served under Washington for a little over a year. Still, the aura of that great man so impressed the young Marquis that Lafayette honored George Washington by naming his son after him.

Immediately after the American Revolution, Georges lived in Paris. Ben Franklin, John Jay, and John Adams would meet at the Lafayette’s residence every Monday. Those weren’t the only Revolutionary War icons Georges would meet.

The French Revolution ultimately forced the Lafayette family into exile. Georges was sent to the United States and studied at Harvard. He also was a house guest of his namesake, and now U.S. President George Washington. Georges spent time with George at both the presidential mansion in Philadelphia and at Mount Vernon.

The other member of the Lafayette travel party was Lafayette’s secretary André-Nicolas Levasseur (also known as Auguste Levasseur). In 1829, after finishing his duties with Lafayette, Levasseur published Lafayette en Amérique, en 1824 et 1825 ou Journal d’un voyage aux États-Uni. This book was immediately translated into English and published in America.

Many historians consider the two-volume set of Lafayette in America in 1824 and 1825 the primary source of Lafayette’s 1824-1825 American tour. Levasseur foresaw this as, in his Author’s Preface, he wrote that his book “has a character of incontestible authenticity, for in addition to the testimony of several millions of witnesses, that might be adduced if necessary, I can also say, all I relate I have seen.” (Author’s emphasis.)1

Following the festivities marking his arrival in New York City, Lafayette departed for Boston. He traveled along the Long Island Sound on the shores of southern Connecticut, very close to the route of the current I-95. Along the way, he passed through cities like Greenwich, Stamford, and Norwalk.

They made a quick stop in New Haven to see Yale College before moving on to New London, where they turned North (think I-395) through Norwich and Providence before finally coming to Boston on August 24, 1824.2 They stayed there about a week, visited Georges’ alma mater (Harvard), meeting with the 89-year-old John Adams and reviewing the Massachusetts militia before leaving for Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Lafayette and company meandered through southern New Hampshire and eastern Massachusetts before heading down what would become I-84 from Worcester, Massachusetts, to Hartford, Connecticut. Then it was on to New York again in time for the Society of Cincinnati’s dinner on September 6, 1824 (coincidentally Lafayette’s 67th birthday).3

For the next two weeks, Lafayette ambled about Manhattan. In the middle of his stay in that city, he headed up the Hudson to visit West Point, Poughkeepsie, and Albany, among others. On September 23, 1824, he left New York for Philadelphia. As was becoming his standard, he made several whistle stops in New Jersey before arriving in the City of Brotherly Love. He remained there for a little more than a week.

By October 7, 1824, the tourists arrived in Baltimore for a three-day stay. Then it was on to Washington, D.C. from the 12th of October through the 16th. On the 17th he visited Mount Vernon on his way to Yorktown, Virginia. Lafayette’s party remained in Virginia from October 18, 1824, until November 22, 1824. During that time, he visited Thomas Jefferson. He also stayed with James Madison for several days.

Next, Lafayette returned to Washington D.C. After taking a day’s rest, the party left for Baltimore for the annual meeting of the farmers of Maryland. Lafayette took notes which he hoped “would prove useful on his farm at La Grange.”4

A pleasant surprise awaited Lafayette when he came back to Washington, D.C. Dozens of messages from southern and western states invited him to visit. “The representatives of the different states who had come to sit in congress, daily came to see him, and spoke with enthusiasm of the preparations which their fellow citizens were already making to receive the nation’s guest.” So honored, Lafayette could not say no. He accepted the offers. The only caveat: he couldn’t start what would become the second leg of his tour until the end of winter.5

After a 4-day diversion to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in late January/early February 1825, Lafayette launched his southern tour from Washington D.C. the third week of February.

The civilized folk of the Nation’s Capital expressed a certain lack of confidence in the Nation’s Guest heading out into the hinterlands to the south and west of the coastal comforts. These new states—and parts of the original colonies, too—had a feral air to them.

At least in the minds of the civilized folk.

Lafayette had no compunction, though. He left it to his son George to work out a suitable itinerary that met with all the promises the father made. One of those promises was made to the City of Boston. Lafayette had agreed to participate in the dedication of the new Bunker Hill Monument. The celebration was scheduled to take place on June 17, 1825. The map would take Lafayette and his travel companions on a circuitous route—“twelve hundred leagues to pass over in less than four months.”6

Still, the small crew did take precautions. One of their friends urged them to accept a “commodious and easy carriage.”2 Instead, they bought “good saddle-horses to substitute for the coach on very bad roads” and “reduced our baggage as much as possible.” At nine o’clock in the evening of February 23, 1825, they set sail on the Potomac, into the Chesapeake Bay, and finally on the Atlantic Ocean. Their destination: Norfolk, Virginia.7

So began the second leg of Lafayette’s Farewell tour across America. It signaled the start of a much different visit. The northeastern tour featured prominent cities, celebrity visits, and famous Revolutionary War battlefields. This next phase would herald hardship, but also the true heart of America.

Next Week: Overview Of His 1824-1825 American Tour (Part II)

1 Levasseur, A., Lafayette in America in 1824 and 1825. Vol. I, John D. Godman translation, (Philadelphia: Carey and Lea, 1829), p. iii
2 This isn’t a complete list of stops. For that, go to, [Retrieved February 24, 2024]
3 Poughkeepsie Journal, Wednesday, August 25, 1824, p.3
4 Levasseur, A., Lafayette in America in 1824 and 1825. Vol. II, John D. Godman translation, (Philadelphia: Carey and Lea, 1829), p. 9
5 Ibid, p.10
6 Ibid, p.30
7 Ibid, p.30


  1. […] what lured Lafayette to extend his stay. What was it? Read this week’s Carosa Commentary “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Overview Of His 1824-1825 American Visit (Part I)” and see how the simplest of actions can sometimes produce the biggest […]

Speak Your Mind


You cannot copy content of this page

Skip to content