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”

Famous Eclipses In History And Literature

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Hank Morgan faced death in the worst way. The king had ordered he be burned at the stake. His heart sank. There was no way out. “I shall never see my friends again—never, never again,” he whispered mournfully. Unless…

Facing his doom, Hank confidently warned, unless the king freed him, “I will smother the whole world in the dead blackness of midnight; I will blot out the sun, and he shall never shine again; the fruits of the earth shall rot for lack of light and warmth, and the peoples of the earth shall famish and die, to the last man!”

No one believed him… until it was so!

King Arthur released this Connecticut Yankee; thus, scoring the perfect theatrical tension in Mark Twain’s famous story. Ah, the power of fiction. To create worlds that we can only dream of. To craft scenes we can only wish for. To fashion from our imaginations that which could only happen in the land of make believe.

But wait! Twain’s story telling borrowed from actual events (as Hank Morgan attests in the Continue Reading “Famous Eclipses In History And Literature”

Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Lafayette Prepares To Enter The Greater Western New York Region

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The sun rose the morning of Friday, June 3, 1825, at 4:05am local time in Waterford, Pennsylvania.1 Lafayette had two weeks—14 days—to travel 550 miles and visit almost two dozen towns and villages before the June 17th dedication of the Bunker Hill Monument in Boston. He was determined to meet every community he promised to visit. Speed was of the essence.

But he couldn’t show it. At least not in a too obvious way.

Roughly three hours after the break of dawn, at about 7 o’clock, Lafayette’s party left Waterford for the seat of the County, Erie, Pennsylvania.2 Though technically still in the Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Lafayette Prepares To Enter The Greater Western New York Region”

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

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Marquis de Lafayette commemerative announcing, “The Nation’s Guest. In Commemoration of the Magnanimous and Illustrious Lafayette’s Visit to the United States of North America in the Forty-Ninth Year of Her Independence,” Perkins and Scheffer (1825). Source: National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

Once again, only this time with greater speed, Lafayette marched through Virginia. That did not mean Lafayette didn’t have spare time for the local folk. Levasseur provides the following anecdote from a few miles outside of Norfolk, Virginia. It expresses the feelings for the General shared by almost every American during his tour:

“We were sitting in our carriage when the landlord presented himself, asked to see the general, and eagerly pressed him to alight for a moment and come into his house. ‘If,’ said he, ‘you have only five minutes to stay, do not refuse them, since to me they will be so many minutes of happiness.’ The general yielded to his entreaty, and we followed him into a lower room, where we observed a plainness bordering on poverty, but a remarkable degree of cleanliness. Welcome Lafayette, was inscribed with charcoal upon the white wall, enwreathed with boughs from the fir trees of the neighbouring wood. Near the fire-place, where pine wood was crackling, stood a small table covered with a very clean Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Overview Of His 1824-1825 American Visit (Part II)”

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

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

Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Why Lafayette?

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Lafayette (right) and Washington at Valley Forge. By John Ward Dunsmore (1907)

America stood poised on the cusp of celebrating the golden anniversary of its birth as a nation. With all the rising patriotism came a burst of nostalgia. America’s first and greatest generation—the heroes of the Revolutionary War—were fast leaving their mortal coil. The heirs of that founding cohort desperately wanted one last chance to hear the tales of that victory from those that were there.

Of all the people they might select to focus on, why choose a Frenchman born to the aristocracy?

Well, for one thing, his life story shows he had long ago shorn off the mantle of gentry. Indeed, he not only had the physical scars of Brandywine to prove it, he also had the Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Why Lafayette?”

Lafayette’s Tour: America Welcomes The Nation’s Guest

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Landing of Gen. Lafayette at Castle Garden, New York, 16th August 1824, artist unknown, 1886. Public domain from The New York Public Library

The Cadmus, having departed from Havre on July 13, 1824, had been at sea for thirty-two days before seeing land on the horizon. On Saturday, August 14th, the passengers and crew spotted their destination.1 New York Harbor would present the ideal place to make their inaugural landing. The Cadmus would reach that port early the next morning.

The Committee appointed by the Common Council of the City of New York was busy putting the finishing touches on the celebration to welcome Lafayette. It had arranged for a “suite of splendid apartments in the City Hotel” to be set aside for The Nation’s Guest and his party. Besides the military display (anticipated to include 20,000 men), the City planned to host “a great civic feast, in the Banqueting Room in the City Hall, which will be illuminated at night, together with the whole City.” To make a memorable first impression upon entering the Harbor, “a grand salute of 100 guns will be fired from Fort Lafayette, together with salutes from the Batteries and ships of war in the harbor, and the decoration of all the shipping.”2

So, America’s largest city was more than prepared to host The Nation’s Guest. Only, not on Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Tour: America Welcomes The Nation’s Guest”

Lafayette’s Tour: And The Lucky Winner Is…

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The nation waited anxiously for a formal response to President James Monroe’s invitation to General Lafayette. In March and April of 1824, newspapers across the country printed letters hinting that Lafayette had prior commitments.

To Major Joseph Wheaton of Washington came word from Lafayette that “…duties to the cause of freedom make it, if not a matter of hope, at least a point of honor, to keep his present post.”1 Similarly, Lafayette wrote to Dr. James Thatcher, “At this moment a sense of duty keeps me on the European side of the Atlantic.”2

While the papers proclaimed these missives as “the latest communication from Lafayette,”3 they were months old by the time they hit the press. It wasn’t as if Lafayette disliked America. In truth, he loved his adopted country. He wrote his good friend William Eustis, Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Tour: And The Lucky Winner Is…”

Lafayette’s Tour: America In 1824

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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 Tour: America In 1824”

Lafayette’s Tour: A Message From An Old Friend

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By February of 1824, the foreign press had finally revealed the extent of Lafayette’s legal troubles. He had already brought forth the wrath from the newly restored Bourbon monarchy.

In 1814, Napoleon was exiled to Elba. King Louis XVIII was restored to the crown his brother Louis XVI lost his head over during the French Revolution. Napoleon returned briefly in 1815, but quickly (after his defeat at Waterloo 100 days later) returned to exile, this time for good.

With that, the Bourbon Restoration commenced in full bloom. Lafayette, who had remained dormant following his wife’s death, was convinced to return to politics. In 1818 he wasContinue Reading “Lafayette’s Tour: A Message From An Old Friend”

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