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: 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”

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?”

The Day Lafayette Touched Mendon

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His full name was Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier de La Fayette. For short, he’s called the Marquis de La Fayette. If that doesn’t speak “wealth,” then what doesn’t? At least in his native France.

In traditionally egalitarian America, we know him simply as “Lafayette.” Coming from a family with a strong military tradition, he came to the New World in 1777 at the age of 19. Seeing the American Revolution as a noble cause, he joined the patriots and was immediately commissioned as a major general.

The title reflected more a sign of respect than of actual duty, for he was given no troops to command. Lafayette understood in America, one isn’t born to status, one must earn it.

And earn it, he did. He received his red badge of courage at the Battle of Brandywine. There, though wounded, he led an orderly retreat. His brave actions in the Battle of Rhode Island Continue Reading “The Day Lafayette Touched Mendon”

The History Of Local Historians

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James Sullivan, New York State Historian (1916-1922), source: New York State Archives

“The love of one’s locality and a commendable pride in its achievements lie at the basis of true patriotism. It is difficult, nevertheless, to love something about which you know nothing. One who knows the history of the place in which he is living is far more likely to venerate it than he who is entirely ignorant of its story. To preserve this history is the function of the local historian.”

Those words belong to James Sullivan, New York State Historian. The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle published them (as part of a bigger article penned by Sullivan) on page 17 of the Sunday, March 26, 1922 edition of the paper.

Sullivan used the piece to explain the nature and purpose of a relatively new law. It was passed by the State Legislature and signed into law by New York Governor Al Smith on April 11, 1919. Technically Section 57.07 of the New York State Arts and Cultural Affairs Law, it’s known more familiarly as “Local Government Historian Law” or simply the “Local Historian” Law.

The first paragraph of the law states “A local historian shall be appointed, as provided in Continue Reading “The History Of Local Historians”

How Far Do Private Property Rights Go?

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Photo by J. Amill Santiago on UnsplashMany see Thomas Jefferson’s iconic “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” as having derived directly from Aristotle’s “Life, Liberty, and Eudaimonia.” For those of you not familiar with Greek, eudaimonia literally translates to the state or condition of “good spirit.” It represents the combination of the eu (meaning good) with daimon (meaning spirit).

Aristotle used the term in his Nicomachean Ethics, his tome devoted to the “science of happiness.” As a result, we commonly equate eudaimonia with happiness. Aristotle was all about living the good life, and by “good life” Aristotle alludes to a morality of higher Continue Reading “How Far Do Private Property Rights Go?”

The Back Roads Of Morocco Greater Western New York

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Imagine The Awe That Filled Sullivan’s Soldiers As They First Set Eyes Upon The Fertile Flats Of The Genesee River Valley

Genesee River ValleyI had forgotten the beauty that is Greater Western New York. But for a tragic Thruway accident, I would not have been reminded.

I left early for Jamestown last week. But not too early. I couldn’t leave until I finished my weekly State of Greater Western New York Show. If you like trains, check it out at https://stateof.greaterwesternnewyork.com/ under Travel and Leisure. It’s an interview with Otto Vondrak, President of the Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum in Rush.

After quickly packing up the car, I left shortly before 1pm. Before departing, I plugged my destination into my route finder. Since I was going to Jamestown to pick her up, Betsy wasn’t in the car to complain about my insistence on doing this, even though I know exactly how to get to her father’s house. If she was there, I would have told her what I have told her many times before, “Google Maps tells us if we need to reroute because of an accident.”

This was one of those times.

Continue Reading “The Back Roads Of Morocco Greater Western New York”

Thoughts On Trains, Natural Gas, And The Interstate Highway System

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Photo by Antonin Duallia on UnsplashIt was a lonely vigil.

And by “vigil” I mean Easter Vigil on Saturday night.

And by “lonely” I mean I was by myself, all alone in a church I never went to before. Betsy was staying with her recovering father and Peter was not feeling well.

Only I wasn’t alone. Parishioners packed St. James (aptly named because it’s in the City of Continue Reading “Thoughts On Trains, Natural Gas, And The Interstate Highway System”

The Return Of The King: Albany Aims To Take Away Your Home Rule

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British Parliament Stamp Act 1765, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

It’s a slippery slope. Once the camel’s nose pokes into the tent, it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the beast enters that humble abode.

And so it is with our own communities.

Or at least so it may soon be.

Don’t say you haven’t been warned. These pages brought this to your attention in a most blunt manner several years ago (see “First They Came For Our Plastic Bags…,” Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel, February 6, 2020). Each year, it seems, Albany removes another right from our fingers.

Like a spreading disease, this usurpation creeps into the very heart of our lives. This year, it threatens our very communities.

It’s called “Home Rule,” and it’s part of existing New York State law. First paragraph of Section 10 (“General Powers of Local Governments to Adopt and Amend Local Laws “) of the New York Municipal Home Rule Law states:Continue Reading “The Return Of The King: Albany Aims To Take Away Your Home Rule”

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