Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Remembering Silvius Hoard

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Previous: Fort Niagara And The Man-Made Wonder Of Lockport

Lafayette memorial on 1 Exchange Blvd. in downtown Rochester identifying the site of Hoard’s Tavern. Source: Albert R. Stone Negative Collection, Rochester Museum & Science Center

Think of history as a mosaic containing thousands of tiny stones. When you get up close, they appear unremarkable. Except for a few, often minor, variations in color or a slightly different shape, they look nearly identical. Sure, for any number of reasons, a few stand out and pique your curiosity. But all in all, they’re all the same.

Until you back away. Farther away, you see the small rocks begin to transform into a series of patterns. It’s as though each stone represents a dot connected to its neighbors. From a more distant perspective, you no longer see individual stones. You see a compelling picture. As if it was always there.

That’s history. It’s a picture you see, far removed from the original source, the original data points, the human stones that actually created the picture. It’s too easy to forget those Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Remembering Silvius Hoard”

Lafayette On The Folly Of Tolerance

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James Madison served as the fourth President of the United States from 1809 to 1817, immediately preceding James Monroe. History textbooks refer to him as the “Father of the Constitution” as he acted as the driving force in drafting both the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

A short three years prior to that seminal event, Madison traveled from Baltimore to Fort Stanwix to negotiate with the Iroquois Confederacy. Accompanying him was a young French general and a protégé of George Washington. That would be the Marquis de Lafayette.

This chance meeting formed what would become a lifelong bond between the two men. Very early on, Madison recognized Lafayette’s affinity with the American Indians, as well as Continue Reading “Lafayette On The Folly Of Tolerance”

Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: America In 1824

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Previous: A Message From An Old Friend

The year is 2024. Do you remember 2018? If you’re a political junkie, you may recall it was the year Brett Kavanaugh won confirmation to the Supreme Court. If you enjoy reading People Magazine, then you’ll note it was the year Meghan Markle married into the British royal family. If you prefer business, it was the year both Sears and Toys ‘R’ Us declared bankruptcy.

If you’re an adult, each of those stories endure vividly in your memory. They don’t seem that far distant. And if any of those subject areas carry emotional weight with you, those scars remain to this day.

Now imagine the year 1824. What major event happened in the year 1818 that sticks in Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: America In 1824”

Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: The Duty That Held Him Back

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Previous: What Took Congress So Long?

Take a look at his name: Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier de La Fayette, Marquis de La Fayette. It exudes aristocracy. With Lafayette, that was a mixed blessing.

On one hand, it meant he benefited from an elite schooling in proper behavior. On the other hand, it meant proper behavior shackled him. It would make him a hero to some. It would also earn him real shackles.

Born in south central France on September 6, 1757, he followed in the military tradition footsteps of both sides of his family. On his father’s side, one of his ancestors served as a Marshal of France and accompanied Joan of Arc’s army during the Siege of Orléans in 1429. His maternal great-grandfather commanded the Second Company of Musketeers (a.k.a., the “Black Musketeers”) until his retirement in 1770.1

For the curious, the “Black Musketeers” had black horses while the First Company “Grey Musketeers” mounted gray horses. The Musketeers were a special forces unit that Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: The Duty That Held Him Back”

Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: What Took Congress So Long?

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Previous: It Was Twenty Decades Ago…

Senator Robert Y. Hayne, South Carolina, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

James Monroe entered the final year of his second term feeling good. It was, after all, the “Era of Good Feelings.” In eight years, the nation’s fifth President had accomplished much. His country had many things to feel good about.

And there was more coming.

Monroe’s decision to not seek reelection confirmed the tradition of the self-imposed limit of two terms as president. Before this, however, people had a legitimate thought that Monroe would run for an unprecedented third term. He had other thoughts. In a way, they were bigger thoughts.

But he had to wait for a slow-moving Congress to give the thumbs-up.

It seems several citizens took it upon themselves to invite Lafayette to return to the nation where he first made his mark in history. While they weren’t necessarily serving in Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: What Took Congress So Long?”

Lafayette’s Tour: It Was Twenty Decades Ago…

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Two hundred years ago, in January 1824, a struggling Congress asked President James Monroe to dispatch an invitation across the ocean to the only surviving general of the American Revolutionary War. The fifth President of the United States and the last Founding Father to fill that role, Monroe wanted to send a message—on both sides of the Pond.

It was a time of transition. It was a time of hope. It was a time to remember.

Domestically, America had just won its second war of independence from Great Britain. This one-time adversary had now fast become a firm ally. Concurrently, the old monarchies of Europe reappeared, threatening to undo the republican movement in the western hemisphere.

On the verge of his sixty-seventh birthday, Monroe accomplished much by the end of his second term despite a series of controversies and setbacks that marred his first four years as President. Initially elected to the nation’s highest office in 1816, Monroe set his focus on Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Tour: It Was Twenty Decades Ago…”

The Role Of The Historian

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It’s early Saturday morning and I’m driving through history on my way to history. Like the hills I’m traveling through, the rain ebbs and flows in calm undulating waves.

“Calm” and “undulating” might not go together at first glance but think of sinusoidal waves. They move up and down with precise regularity. That regularity equates to calmness. The “up and down” represents “undulation” defined.

Such is the role of the historian, who commands the log of the human ship through waves of foible fads, ever trying to keep it calm and undamaged, despite its erratic and often misguided crew.

“Memory, thy name be frailty.” The metaphor of this butchered Shakespearian quote suggests the theme of this essay. It also represents the burden of the historian.Continue Reading “The Role Of The Historian”

How Much Are You Willing to Pay to Have Free Speech?

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James McHenry was born in Ireland in 1753. His Scots-Irish family send him to America in 1771 after he became sick from studying too hard. He may also have been sent to check out the colonies in anticipation of the entire family’s eventual immigration. In fact, a year later, the McHenry clan settled in what were then (for only a few years more) the British Colonies.

McHenry finished his studies in Philadelphia before serving as an apprentice under Benjamin Rush. You may remember Rush as the doctor/patriot who signed the Declaration of Independence, the founder of Dickinson College and the mentor/teacher of both Meriwether Lewis (of Lewis & Clark fame) and future president William Henry Harrison.

Perhaps influenced by Rush, or maybe the whole Philadelphia experience, McHenry joined the cause of the patriots. After the British captured and then released him, McHenry served on the staffs of both George Washington and General Lafayette.

Two things about McHenry stand out in his long and illustrious career as a Founding Father. It’s likely you don’t know his connection to either.Continue Reading “How Much Are You Willing to Pay to Have Free Speech?”

How Will You Repay Your Debt To Humanity?

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What legacy will you leave to mankind? Your answer may very well depend on how one asks the question. Be warned. The particular framing of the query I just posed can lead you mistakenly astray.

What’s the difference between the lead question and the question in the title?

Take a look at them both. How do the specific words used make you feel when you read them? What does “leaving a legacy” conjure up in your mind versus “repaying a debt”? And how does your picture of “mankind” contrast to what your mind sees when reading the term “humanity?”

It’s all about connotation, not denotation. Denotation means the raw dispassionate facts. Connotation favors the emotion. And, being a human, emotion rules. (Sorry to all you Continue Reading “How Will You Repay Your Debt To Humanity?”

Life (With Strings Attached)

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Sitting in the balcony at the First Presbyterian Church on North Main Street in Honeoye Falls, I couldn’t help but wonder. It was Ray Milne’s funeral service. He was an amazing man. Long ago, during my term of public service, he offered sound and wise advice. He was a man many could look to as a community role model. I only wish I could accomplish half of what he did.

But that’s not what I was wondering about. The setting itself took me back. When I first moved back to Mendon in the late 1980s, I joined many civic groups, hoping to discover what I could offer my adopted hometown. Several of those groups convened in the meeting rooms of the church.

That was a time long ago. I started thinking about all the people I knew back then. Some of them were in that church celebrating Ray’s life. Most of them were celebrating with Ray.

The solemn but sweet music coming from the organ helped place me in the mood to Continue Reading “Life (With Strings Attached)”

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