Tonight the Lexington Historical Society will host a talk by Alan R. Hoffman about the Marquis de la Fayette’s farewell tour of America in 1824-25. Lafayette had been the youngest of the Continental Army’s generals, and was among the last surviving leaders from the Revolutionary War. As a result, he was fêted in every state of the U.S. of A. Which provided a relief from political repression and, as I recall, money troubles back in France.
During that visit, Lafayette’s secretary sent regular reports back to the French press. Those were collected and published in the 1800s, including an incomplete English translation. Hoffman’s 2007 volume Lafayette in America in 1824 and 1825: Journal of a Voyage to the United States is apparently the first complete version in English. Amazon user Ronald R. Duquette comments:
This is not only a travelogue, but a series of sly political commentaries on what French readers were facing in France compared to what the young Republic in America was accomplishing, and how far the promise of the French Revolution had fallen short of the reality.Hoffman’s talk will center on the marquis’s reception in Lexington. Charles Hudson’s 1913 history of the town describes that visit like this:
On the 2d of September, 1824, Lafayette honored Lexington with his presence. Attended by his voluntary suite, he left Boston for our peaceful village. At the line of the town he was received by a troop of horse and a cavalcade of citizens, who escorted him to the Common. Here was a beautiful arch of evergreen and flowers, with a motto,—“Welcome, Friend of America, to the Birthplace of American Liberty.”That banner became the property of the Lexington Historical Society, and will be brought out for display during Hoffman’s talk. Hudson continues:
The Common was tastefully decorated with flags, and a large concourse of people had assembled to do honor to one who had done so much for our country. Among those thus assembled were the children from the schools, and fourteen of the gallant men who had participated in the battle of the 19th of April, 1775. After entering the Common, under the arch before mentioned, the procession moved to the Monument, where the following patriotic and eloquent speech of welcome was delivered by Major Elias Phinney, of Lexington: . . .The next year, Phinney published his History of the Battle of Lexington, continuing his argument that his town common was where American militiamen first fired back at the British regulars. That provoked an oh-no-you-didn’t response in 1827 from the Rev. Ezra Ripley of Concord, with the happy result that more memories of men who were in the battle on 19 Apr 1775 got written down.
[…blah blah blah yada yada yada…]
“On this hallowed ground, consecrated by the blood of the first martyrs to liberty, was kindled that flame which roused the nation to arms, and conducted them through peril and blood to a glorious Independence. Here a small band of patriots hurled the first signal of defiance to a host in arms, and taught the enemies of their country the appalling truth, that Americans dared to die in defence of their rights.”
Hoffman’s lecture will take place at the Lexington Depot starting at 8:00 P.M. It’s free and open to the public, and the historical society promises refreshments.