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

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Previous: Why Lafayette?

“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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Previous: America Welcomes The Nation’s Guest

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 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”

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”

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