Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Lafayette's American Tour

When Lafayette came to America in 1824-25, he made sure to visit old friends, like John Adams and Thomas Jefferson:
Although the tour was orchestrated as a public event and generated optimism about the consequences of legal and political equality in a democratic society, Lafayette also took time to make private visits with old friends like John Adams, Albert Gallatin, and Thomas Jefferson. Lafayette informed Jefferson of his plans to travel south and Jefferson replied that "our little village of Charlottesville insists also on receiving you."[11] Lafayette had to postpone his arrival at Monticello for several weeks, and when he finally arrived at the county line, Jefferson sent him a letter through his grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph, to welcome him. On Thursday, November 4, Lafayette entered Albemarle County. After a brief ceremony and a lunch at Mrs. Boyd's tavern, he set out for Monticello at noon in a landau drawn by four gray horses. A long procession accompanied him. Amidst a number of spectators, a bugle announced his approach, and two lines, one of ordinary citizens and one of cavalrymen, formed on two sides of the ellipse on the east front of the house.

Lafayette's memoirs include a description of the visit: "Mr. Jefferson received me with strong emotion. I found him much aged, without doubt, after a separation of thirty-five years, but bearing marvelously well under his eighty one years of age, in full possession of all the vigor of his mind and heart which he has consecrated to the building of a good and fine university.... Today [November 8] we visited this beautiful institution which occupies the honored old age of our illustrious friend. His daughter Mrs. Randolph lives with him; he is surrounded by a large family and his house is admirably located. We attended a public banquet in Charlottesville, MM. Jefferson and Madison were with us; the answer which Mr. Jefferson had read to the toast in his honor brought tears to everybody's eyes."[12] It was in this toast that Jefferson summarized Lafayette's contributions to the American Revolution: "When I was stationed in his country for the purpose of cementing its friendship with ours, and of advancing our mutual interests, this friend of both, was my most powerful auxiliary and advocate. He made our cause his own, as in truth it was that of his native country also. His influence and connections there were great. All doors of all departments were open to him at all times. In truth, I only held the nail, he drove it."[13]

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