A Letter from Paris

“’Tis liberty alone that gives the flower
Of fleeting life its lustre and perfume;
And we are weeds without it.”—COWPER.
“AN interesting ceremony took place at Washington a day or two before
the departure of the Nation’s Guest. This was the presentation to the
representative of the Columbian Republic certain presents to be
forwarded by him to Bolivar, the Liberator. The presents consisted of a
medal of gold presented to Lady Washington by the city of Williamsburg,
in honor of her illustrious husband, and also a portrait of General
Washington, inclosing in the back of the picture a lock of the
patriarch’s hair. These gifts were presented by George Washington P.
Custis, by the honored hands of the last of the generals of the army of
North American independence—General La Fayette. The following is a
translation of the letter written by General La Fayette to the
president, Liberator Bolivar, which, together with a letter from George
Washington Custis, accompanied the gifts.”
“PRESIDENT LIBERATOR: My religious and filial devotion to the memory of
General Washington could not be better appreciated in his family than by
the honorable charge now bestowed upon me. While I recognize the perfect
likeness of the portrait, I am happy to think that among all existing
characters, and all those recorded in history, General Bolivar is the
one to whom my paternal friend would have preferred to offer it. What
shall I say more to the great citizen whom South America has hailed by
the name of liberator, a name confirmed by both worlds, and who,
possessing an influence equal to his disinterestedness, carries in his
heart the love of liberty, without any exception, and of the republic,
without any alloy? However, I feel authorized by the public and recent
testimonies of your kindness and esteem to present you with the personal
congratulation of a veteran of our common cause, who, on the eve of his
departure for another hemisphere, shall follow with his best wishes the
glorious complement of your labors, and that solemn congress at Panama
where will be consolidated and completed all the principles and all the
interests of American independence, freedom, and policy.
“Accept, President Liberator, the homage of my deep and respectful
attachment.
“LA FAYETTE.”
To which letter La Fayette subsequently received the following reply:—
“LIMA, March 16, 1826.
“GENERAL: For the first time I behold the characters traced by the hand
of the benefactor of the New World. I owe that happiness to Colonel
Mesh, who has just handed me your honorable of the 13th October last.
“It is with inexpressible pleasure that I learned from the public papers
that you had had the goodness to honor me with a treasure from Mount
Vernon. The likeness of Washington, and one of the monuments of his
glory, are, it is said, to be presented to me by you in the name of the
illustrious citizen’s eldest son of liberty in the New World. How shall
I express the value which my heart attaches to a testimony of esteem so
glorious for me? The family of Mount Vernon honor me beyond my hopes;
for Washington, from the hands of La Fayette, is the most sublime
recompense that man could desire.
“Washington was the courageous protector of social reform, and you, sir,
you are the heroic citizen, the champion of liberty, who served America
with the one hand, and the Old World with the other. What mortal could
suppose himself worthy of the honor with which you deign to overwhelm
me? Hence my confusion is in proportion with the extent of gratitude,
which I offer to you with the respect and veneration which every man
owes to the Nestor of liberty.
“I am, with the greatest consideration, your respectful admirer,
“BOLIVAR.”
The _Niles Register_ of September 3, 1825, says:—
“General La Fayette will commence his return voyage to Europe, by
proceeding to the new and splendid frigate _Brandywine_, on the 8th
inst., which now lies in the Potomac; and millions of wishes will be
offered up that he may have prosperous gales and pleasant weather, and a
happy meeting with his friends, a long life of serenity and peace, and a
triumphant exit from this world to that which is to come. Highly favored
man—who hast thyself seen and felt all that grateful posterity can
confer for imperishable deeds of virtue, farewell!—and, if so it shall
yet be that the evening of thy days and thy night of death are passed in
this land of the free, every house will be open to receive thee, or
every heart be engaged to invoke eternal blessings upon thee.”
From the same paper, dated September 10, we quote the following:—
“La Fayette has departed. He left Washington on Wednesday last in the
steamboat _Mount Vernon_, and in due season reached the new frigate
_Brandywine_ lying at the mouth of the Potomac, which was also visited
by the steamboat _Constitution_, from Baltimore, with a large party of
gentlemen. All was done that could be done to honor the Nation’s Guest,
and the people were not less zealous to show their affection for him on
the day of his departure, than to press about him on that of his arrival
among us more than a year ago. For some time past he had made his home
with the President, from whom and all else he received every civility
and kindness that it was possible, by those who loved him the more the
better they knew him, to bestow upon him. We shall give some of the
particulars of the ceremonies and proceedings that took place on the
interesting occasion. The parting in the grand hall of the President’s
house filled with citizens and officers, on Wednesday last, is described
as one of the most sublime and affecting scenes that can be imagined.
The President’s address to him is a composition worthy of the occasion;
he delivered it with great emotion, yet with much dignity; but hardly
one was present who did not feel the tears moistening his eyes or
trickling down his cheeks, and many will be in like manner affected even
when they _read_ it. La Fayette’s reply is also eloquent and abounds
with feeling. The silence of the grave prevailed while either was
speaking. When the latter had ended he gave vent to his tears with
embraces, and all partook of his emotions.
“The last three weeks which the Nation’s Guest spent in our happy land
were exceedingly well appropriated. After witnessing the magnificent
ceremony at Boston on the anniversary of the battle of Bunker Hill, he
leisurely returned to the city of Washington, visiting many of his
personal friends on the way, and reviewing the battle-field at
Brandywine.
“From the city of Washington he made delightful excursions into
Virginia, in which it happened that three out of all the Presidents
which we have had yet, reside as citizens.
“The last days of his visit were properly spent by La Fayette in the
nation’s house, on the invitation of its present possessor, the chief
magistrate of the United States. Mr. Adams was in his early youth a
favorite with the general, having much personal communication with him;
and of his disposition and ability to represent the hospitality and
feeling of the millions of free people over whose affairs he presides
there could not be a doubt. La Fayette was at home in the national
house, in the city of Washington, and in the heart of a family which
offered every inducement that can operate on the human mind to make him
comfortable: this was his abode till the moment of his departure to
embark in the _Brandywine_, named in compliment to him, and peculiarly
fitted for his accommodation—her ‘giddy mast’ bearing the stripes and
the stars, her bosom to contain the person of our guest; a man of whom
it may be said, ‘take him all in all, we ne’er shall look upon his like
again,’ unless he shall again visit our shores; one who was the same,
great and good, in prosperity and adversity—grateful for kind offices,
forgiving of injuries, zealous to confer benefits, modest when on the
pinnacle of human glory, dignified and collected in the proud presence
of kings. But I must not proceed—if, after Mr. Adams’ display of
eloquence and power, he who commands words and they obey him, honestly
confessed ‘a want of language to give utterance to his feelings’—who
among us may attempt it? I shall, therefore, proceed to notice some of
the things which happened at the departure of La Fayette, with this
simple remark, that if there is any American who can read, unmoved, Mr.
Adams’ valedictory address to him, or the reply of the general to that
address, I would not possess that man’s heart for his fortune though he
were a Crœsus.
“The 7th inst. was the day appointed for his departure. The civil and
military authorities and the whole people of Washington had prepared to
honor it. The banks were closed and all business suspended, and nothing
else engaged attention except the ceremonies prescribed for the
occasion.
“At about twelve o’clock the authorities of Washington, Georgetown, and
Alexandria, the principal officers of the general government, civil,
military, and naval, some members of Congress, and other respectable
strangers were assembled in the President’s house to take leave of La
Fayette. He entered the great hall in silence, leaning on the marshal of
the district and on the arm of one of the President’s sons. Mr. Adams
then with much dignity, but with evident emotion, addressed him in the
following terms:—
”_Address of the President of the United States to General La Fayette,
on taking leave of him at his departure on the 7th of September,
1825._
“‘GENERAL LA FAYETTE: It has been the good fortune of many of my
distinguished fellow-citizens, during the course of the year now
elapsed, upon your arrival at their respective places of abode, to greet
you with the welcome of the nation. The less pleasing task now devolves
upon me, of bidding you, in the name of the nation, adieu.
“‘It were no longer seasonable, and would be superfluous, to
recapitulate the remarkable incidents of your early life—incidents which
associated your name, fortunes, and reputation in imperishable
connection with the independence and history of the North American
Union.
“‘The part which you performed at that important juncture was marked
with characters so peculiar, that, realizing the fairest fable of
antiquity, its parallel could scarcely be found in the _authentic_
records of human history.
“‘You deliberately and perseveringly preferred toil, danger, the
endurance of every hardship, and the privation of every comfort, in
defence of a holy cause, to inglorious ease, and the allurements of
rank, affluence, and unrestrained youth, at the most splendid and
fascinating court of Europe.
“‘That this choice was not less wise than magnanimous, the sanction of
half a century, and the gratulations of unnumbered voices, all unable to
express the gratitude of the heart with which your visit to this
hemisphere has been welcomed, afford ample demonstration.
“‘When the contest of Freedom, to which you had repaired as a voluntary
champion, had closed, by the complete triumph of her cause in this
country of your adoption, you returned to fulfil the duties of the
philanthropist and patriot in the land of your nativity. There, in a
consistent and undeviating career of forty years, you have maintained,
through every vicissitude of alternate success and disappointment, the
same glorious cause to which the first years of your active life had
been devoted,—the improvement of the moral and political condition of
man.
“‘Throughout that long succession of time, the people of the United
States, for whom and with whom you had fought the battles of liberty,
have been living in the full possession of its fruits—one of the
happiest among the family of nations. Spreading in population; enlarging
in territory; acting and suffering according to the condition of their
nature; and laying the foundations of the greatest, and, we humbly hope,
the most beneficent power that ever regulated the concerns of man upon
earth.
“‘In the lapse of forty years, the generation of men with whom you
co-operated in the conflict of arms has nearly passed away. Of the
general officers of the American army in that war, you alone survive; of
the sages who guided our councils; of the warriors who met the foe in
the field or upon the wave, with the exception of a few, to whom unusual
length of days has been allotted by Heaven, all now sleep with their
fathers. A succeeding, and even a third, generation have arisen to take
their places; and their children’s children, while rising up to call
them blessed, have been taught by them, as well as admonished by their
own constant enjoyment of freedom, to include in every benison upon
their fathers, the name of him who came from afar, with them, and in
their cause to conquer or to fall.
“‘The universal prevalence of these sentiments was signally manifested
by a resolution of Congress, representing the whole people, and all the
states of this Union, requesting the President of the United States to
communicate to you the assurances of grateful and affectionate
attachment of this government and people, and desiring that a national
ship might be employed at your convenience, for your passage to the
borders of our country.
“‘The invitation was transmitted to you by my venerable predecessor;
himself bound to you by the strongest ties of personal friendship;
himself one of those whom the highest honors of his country had rewarded
for blood early shed in her cause, and for a long life of devotion to
her welfare. By him the services of a national ship were placed at your
disposal. Your delicacy preferred a more private conveyance, and a full
year has elapsed since you landed upon our shores. It were scarcely an
exaggeration to say that it has been to the people of the Union a year
of uninterrupted festivity and enjoyment, inspired by your presence. You
have traversed the twenty-four states of this great confederacy. You
have been received with rapture by the survivors of your earliest
companions in arms. You have been hailed as a long-absent parent by
their children, the men and women of the present age; and a rising
generation, the hope of future time, in numbers surpassing the whole
population of that day when you fought at the head, and by the side of
their forefathers, have vied with the scanty remnants of that hour of
trial, in acclamations of joy at beholding the face of him whom they
feel to be the common benefactor of all. You have heard the mingled
voices of the past, the present, and the future age, joining in one
universal chorus of delight at your approach; and the shouts of unbidden
thousands, which greeted your landing on the soil of freedom, have
followed every step of your way, and still resound, like the rushing of
many waters, from every corner of our land.
“‘You are now about to return to the country of your birth, of your
ancestors, of your posterity. The executive government of the Union,
stimulated by the same feeling which had prompted the Congress to the
designation of a national ship for your accommodation in coming hither,
has destined the first service of a frigate recently launched at the
metropolis, to the less welcome but equally distinguished trust, of
conveying you home. The name of the ship has added one more memorial to
distant regions and to future ages, of a stream already memorable at
once in the story of your sufferings and of our independence.
“‘The ship is now prepared for your reception, and equipped for sea.
From the moment of her departure, the prayers of millions will ascend to
Heaven, that her passage may be prosperous, and your return to the bosom
of your family as propitious to your happiness as your visit to this
scene of your youthful glory has been to that of the American people.
“‘Go, then, our beloved friend; return to the land of brilliant genius,
of generous sentiment, of heroic valor; to that beautiful France, the
nursing mother of the twelfth Louis, and the fourth Henry; to the native
soil of Bayard and Coligni, of Turenne and Catinat, of Fénélon and
d’Aguesseau. In that illustrious catalogue of names which she claims as
of her children, and with honest pride holds up to the admiration of
other nations, the name of La Fayette has already for centuries been
enrolled. And it shall henceforth burnish into brighter fame; for if, in
after days, a Frenchman shall be called to indicate the character of his
nation by that of one individual during the age in which we live, the
blood of lofty patriotism shall mantle in his cheek, the fire of
conscious virtue shall sparkle in his eye, and he shall pronounce the
name of LA FAYETTE. Yet we, too, and our children, in life and after
death, shall claim you for our own. You are ours by that more than
patriotic self-devotion with which you flew to the aid of our fathers at
the crisis of their fate.
“‘Ours by that long series of years in which you have cherished us in
your regard. Ours by that unshaken sentiment of gratitude for your
services which is a precious portion of our inheritance. Ours by that
tie of love, stronger than death, which has linked your name for the
endless ages of time, with the name of Washington.
“‘At the painful moment of parting from you, we take comfort in the
thought, that wherever you may be, to the last pulsation of your heart,
our country will be ever present to your affections; and a cheering
consolation assures us that we are not called to sorrow most of all,
that we shall see your face no more. We shall indulge the pleasing
anticipation of beholding our friend again. In the meantime, speaking in
the name of the whole people of the United States, and at a loss only
for language to give utterance to that feeling of attachment with which
the heart of the nation beats as the heart of one man—I bid you a
reluctant and affectionate farewell.’
“To which General La Fayette made the following answer:—
“‘Amidst all my obligations to the general government, and particularly
to you, sir, its respected chief magistrate, I have most thankfully to
acknowledge the opportunity given me, at this solemn and painful moment,
to present the people of the United States with a parting tribute of
profound, inexpressible gratitude.
“‘To have been, in the infant and critical days of these states, adopted
by them as a favorite son, to have participated in the toils and perils
of our unspotted struggle for independence, freedom, and equal rights,
and in the foundation of the American era of a new social order, which
has already pervaded this, and must for the dignity and happiness of
mankind successfully pervade every part of the other hemisphere, to have
received at every stage of the Revolution, and during forty years after
that period, from the people of the United States and their
representatives at home and abroad, continual marks of their confidence
and kindness, has been the pride, the encouragement, the support of a
long and eventful life.
“‘But how could I find words to acknowledge that series of welcomes,
those unbounded and universal displays of public affection, which have
marked each step, each hour, of a twelve months’ progress through the
twenty-four states, and which, while they overwhelm my heart with
grateful delight, have most satisfactorily evinced the concurrence of
the people in the kind testimonies, in the immense favors bestowed on me
by the several branches of their representatives, in every part and at
the central seat of the confederacy.
“‘Yet gratifications still higher awaited me: in the wonders of creation
and improvement that have met my enchanted eye; in the unparalleled and
self-felt happiness of the people, in their rapid prosperity and insured
security, public and private, in a practice of good order,—the appendage
of true freedom,—and a national good sense,—the final arbiter of all
difficulties,—I have had proudly to recognize a result of the republican
principles for which we have fought, and a glorious demonstration to the
most timid and prejudiced minds of the superiority, over degrading
aristocracy or despotism, of popular institutions founded on the plain
rights of man, and where the local rights of every section are preserved
under a constitutional bond of union. The cherishing of that union
between the states, as it has been the farewell entreaty of our great
paternal Washington, and will ever have the dying prayer of every
American patriot, so it has become the sacred pledge of the emancipation
of the world, an object in which I am happy to observe that the American
people, while they give the animating example of successful free
institutions in return for an evil entailed upon them by Europe, and of
which a liberal and enlightened sense is everywhere more and more
generally felt, show themselves every day more anxiously interested.
“‘And now, sir, how can I do justice to my deep and lively feelings for
the assurances, most peculiarly valued, of your esteem and friendship;
for your so very kind references to old times, to my beloved associates,
to the vicissitudes of my life; for your affecting picture of the
blessings poured by the several generations of the American people on
the remaining days of a delighted veteran; for your affectionate remarks
on this sad hour of separation, on the country of my birth, full, I can
say, of American sympathies; on the hope so necessary to me of my seeing
again the country that has deigned, near a half-century ago, to call me
hers? I shall content myself, refraining from superfluous repetitions,
at once, before you, sir, and this respected circle, to proclaim my
cordial confirmation of every one of the sentiments which I have had
daily opportunities publicly to utter; from the time when your venerable
predecessor, my old brother in arms and friend, transmitted to me the
honorable invitation of Congress; to this day, when you, my dear sir,
whose friendly connection with me dates from your earliest youth, are
going to consign me to the protection, across the Atlantic, of the
heroic national flag, on board the splendid ship, the name of which has
been not the least flattering and kind among the numberless favors
conferred upon me.
“‘God bless you, sir, and all who surround us. God bless the American
people, each of their states, and the federal government. Accept this
patriotic farewell of an overflowing heart; such will be its last throb
when it ceases to beat.’”
“As the last sentence was pronounced,” says the _National
Intelligencer_, “the general advanced, and, while the tears poured over
his venerable cheeks, again took the President in his arms. He retired a
few paces, but, overcome by his feelings, again returned, and uttering
in broken accents, ‘God bless you!’ fell once more on the neck of Mr.
Adams. It was a scene at once solemn and moving, as the sighs and
stealing tears of many who witnessed it bore testimony. Having recovered
his self-possession, the general stretched out his hands, and was, in a
moment, surrounded by the greetings of the whole assembly, who pressed
upon him, each eager to seize, perhaps for the last time, that beloved
hand which was opened so freely for our aid, when aid was so precious,
and which grasped, with firm and undeviating hold, the steel which so
bravely helped to achieve our deliverance. The expression which now
beamed from the face of this exalted man was of the finest and most
touching kind. The hero was lost in the father and the friend: dignity
melted into subdued affection, and the friend of Washington seemed to
linger with a mournful delight among the sons of his adopted country. A
considerable period was then occupied in conversing with various
individuals, while refreshments were presented to the company. The
moment of departure at length arrived, and having once more pressed the
hand of Mr. Adams, he entered the barouche accompanied by the
secretaries of state, of the treasury, and of the navy.”
Another writer says:—
“The parting being over, the carriage of the general, preceded by the
cavalry, the marine corps, and Captain Edwards’ rifle corps, and
followed by the carriages containing the corporate authorities of the
cities, of the district, and numerous military and high civil officers
of the government, moved forward, followed by the remaining military
companies. In taking up the escort the whole column moved through the
court in front of the President’s mansion, and paid him the passing
salute as he stood in front to receive it. The whole scene—the peals of
artillery, the animating sound of numerous military bands, the presence
of the vast concourse of people, and the occasion that assembled
them—altogether produced emotions not easily described, but which every
American will readily conceive.


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“On reaching the bank of the Potomac, near where the _Mount Vernon_
steam vessel was in waiting, all the carriages in the procession, except
the general’s, wheeled off, and the citizens in them assembled on foot
around that of the general. The whole military body then passed him in
review, as he stood in the barouche of the President, attended by the
secretaries of state, of the treasury, and of the navy. After the
review, the general proceeded to the steam vessel, under a salute of
artillery, surrounded by as many citizens, all eager to catch the last
look, as could press on the large wharf; and at four o’clock, this great
and good and extraordinary man trod for the last time the soil of
America, followed by the blessings of every patriotic heart that lives
on it.
“As the vessel moved off, and for a short time after, the deepest
silence was observed by the whole of the vast multitude that lined the
shore. The feeling that pervaded them was that of children bidding a
final farewell to a venerated parent. The crowd remained gazing after
the retiring vessel, until she had passed Greenleaf’s Point, where
another salute repeated the valedictory sounds of respect, and these
again were, not long after, echoed by the heavy guns of Fort Washington,
and reminded us of the rapidity with which this benefactor and friend of
our country was borne from it.
“The general was accompanied to the _Brandywine_ by the Secretary of the
Navy, the mayors of the three cities of the district, the
commander-in-chief of the army, the generals of the militia of the
district, Commodore Bainbridge, Mr. Custis, of Arlington, and several
other gentlemen.”
The trip to the _Brandywine_, and the ceremonies on board of the frigate
on the reception of the general, are thus described by one of the
passengers in the steamboat _Mount Vernon_:—
“The moment of separation arrived. The _Mount Vernon_ received her
venerable freight, and the general, from the midst of the suite, whom
the government had detailed as an escort of honor, waved his hand and
bowed to the thousands who thronged the shores, an affectionate adieu.
“Under the discharge of artillery, and the fervent benedictions of the
vast assemblage who still lingered and looked, when they no longer
spoke, a last farewell, the _Mount Vernon_ proceeded on her way.
“On passing Alexandria, the wharves and shipping were crowded with
citizens and neighbors, all business was suspended, and the ‘hum of men’
was hushed in the respectful silence which pervaded this ‘parting hour.’
The general, uncovered, took the station which would place him nearest
to his friends, where he could best give and best receive the salute of
mutual attachment and esteem. So abstracted from ordinary considerations
were the minds of all parties, that the steersman neared the town till
the general became enveloped in the smoke of the cannon, which, however
appropriate to enemies, were nearer than is usual to friends. The boat,
after passing, returned, and repassed the town, again and again
producing the most enthusiastic expressions of affectionate farewell.
The ramparts of Fort Washington paid their honors, as the mansion, the
groves, and the tomb of Mount Vernon opened to view. The progress of the
little fleet was arrested, that the last of the generals might pay his
pious homage and filial duty to the tomb of the paternal chief.
“La Fayette arose—the wonders which he had performed for a man of his
age, in successfully accomplishing labors enough to have tested his
meridian vigor, whose animation rather resembles the spring than the
winter of life, now seemed unequal to the task he was about to
perform,—to take a last look at the grave of Washington! He advanced to
the effort: a silence the most impressive reigned around, till the
strains of sweet and plaintive music completed the grandeur and sacred
solemnity of the scene. All hearts beat in unison with the throbbings of
the veteran’s bosom, as he looked, and that for the last time, on the
sepulchre which contains the ashes of the first of men. He spoke not,
but appeared absorbed in the mighty recollections which the place and
the occasion inspired.
“After this noble scene, the fleet resumed its course, and, after a
voyage of safety and expedition, anchored near the _Brandywine_ the
ensuing morning. The general was received in the commodore’s barge, and
repaired, through very inclement weather, to the gallant bark which is
to bear him to his other home. He was placed on the deck of the ship by
an ornamented chair, rigged for the special purpose, and under a salute
from the main battery—the music of the band, and the greetings of the
commodore, his officers, and many guests, who were assembled for this
interesting event; but above all, by the warm embrace of the
Revolutionary worthies, who had repaired to the ship to take another
farewell of their beloved associate of the heroic time. After a
sumptuous collation served in the captain’s cabin, and a number of
feeling and appropriate toasts, among which was the following by La
Fayette:—
“‘The national flag of the United States; ever the pledge of glory; on
this day the rendezvous of friendship’; and by Mr. Custis, of
Arlington:—
“‘The _Brandywine_, which bears to his native land the last of the
generals of the army of American independence, and the great apostle of
the rights of mankind.—May the winds of Heaven not visit her course too
roughly, but with kindest breath swell the bosom of her sails, and the
guardian genius that protects the just and good, be an ever-watchful
Palinurus to guide her helm.’ After which Colonel Bentalou, of
Baltimore, offered the following toast:—
“‘The memory of General Washington—the military father and beloved
friend of our nation’s guest.’
“This toast was drunk standing, and the final moment of separation
having arrived, the last adieus were spoken.
“The barges of the ship bore the sorrowing guests to their respective
vessels, while the thunders of the superb _Brandywine_ told to the
echoes around the adieu to La Fayette.”
The day had been boisterous and rainy, but just as the affecting scene
had closed, the sun burst forth in all his glory, as a propitious omen.
The editor of the _Irishman_, a journal conducted at Belfast, in the
issue of September, 1825, in commenting upon the proceedings at
Washington on the occasion of the farewell to La Fayette, says:—
“We this day give our readers one of the most interesting scenes which
can be laid before the human mind,—the departure and farewell address of
the greatest republic the world ever saw, to that veteran hero, whose
sword was one of the first in the field to assert her freedom. The
address of Mr. Adams is a chaste and beautiful composition,—a triumphant
recapitulation of the glories of liberty,—and the reply of the old
soldier is characterized by all the fire of youth and wisdom of age. The
_Irishman_ feels no small pleasure in being the first journal to give
these immortal productions to the people of Ireland.”
The _North Star_, printed at Danville, Vermont, says, regarding La
Fayette’s last act in America:—
“We are informed that General La Fayette has addressed a letter to
General Fletcher, from on board the _Brandywine_, on the subject of the
imprisonment of General William Barton, and inclosed a draft, with a
request that the sum for which General Barton was confined should be
paid. That request has been complied with, and General Barton was
informed that he was no longer a prisoner. With what emotions of
surprise and gratitude this intelligence was received by the valiant
captor of Prescott can be better imagined than described. The scene was
rendered more interesting by the peculiarly delicate manner in which the
business was conducted and the fact announced by General Fletcher. All
participated in the satisfaction which was expressed, that General
Barton was at liberty to return to his family, after a separation of
more than thirteen years.”
Mr. Kerate, a French author of a work entitled “Divine Worship,” taking
our reception of La Fayette as his standard, addresses the French youth,
and thus urges their ambition to fly to the succor of the Greeks:—
“A man is at this moment traversing the continent of North America. The
whole population crowds around him; from the sources of the rivers, from
the recesses of the forests, they flock to see him; the maidens of the
banks of the Ohio crown him with flowers; the youths desire to behold
him, to touch his garments; the old men to press his hand before they
lose him. These marks of respect will be transmitted from generation to
generation; they will become family documents. At his approach the
magistrates make room to receive him among them; his presence diffuses
joy in the cities; he brings glory to the tombs of the brave; it might
be thought that they had waited for him to begin their immortality; he
himself is loaded with benedictions and honors. What, then, has he done?
Is he a prince or a potentate? No! With the means at the command of a
private man he assisted an oppressed nation. Young Frenchmen! this is
the picture you should have before your eyes; it is worthy of you.”
A letter from Paris, dated Sept. 7th, and published in one of the London
papers, says:—
“Our ministers are under a good deal of embarrassment in regard to the
manner of receiving La Fayette, who, according to the accounts brought
by the _Edward Bonaffe_, must soon arrive. The moment our ministers
heard that the general was coming in the frigate _Brandywine_, they
despatched orders to the authorities at Havre, to prevent any kind of
meeting and every mark of honor which might be attempted to be bestowed
upon him. On the other hand, the most respectable of the merchants and
other inhabitants have resolved to express their esteem for his
character by every means in their power. The military commandant is a
violent royalist, but the mayor is a good-natured, moderate man, who
wishes to avoid every sort of tyrannical measures. The American frigate
is another subject of embarrassment. It is usual, when a frigate enters
the port, for her to salute the batteries with fifteen guns, but this
salute must be returned by an equal number. Now, our government are
afraid that, if they reply to the American salute, the people will think
they are expending powder in honor of La Fayette; but if they do not
agree to return, they will be obliged to let the frigate enter without
saluting, for they well know that the American captain will not burn a
match without an assurance of reciprocity.”
The editor of the _Niles Register_ adds:—
“The writer of the letter justly estimates the fact. Morris and his crew
would rather fight the largest and the best-fitted frigate that ever
belonged to France, than fire a salute but with the belief that it would
be returned, gun for gun. The stripes and stars may be hauled down by a
conqueror, but shall not be disgraced.”
The _Niles Register_ for November says:—
“La Fayette was received at Havre with the greatest enthusiasm. It does
not appear that the government had taken any measures to prevent a
favorable greeting of him. The _Brandywine_ saluted the forts, which
returned an equal number of guns. On the day of his disembarkation, the
general proceeded to his country-seat, accompanied for two leagues by a
numerous cavalcade, consisting of young men of the principal families of
Havre and its neighborhood.”
When General La Fayette was about to leave the frigate _Brandywine_, on
her arrival at Havre, a farewell address was presented to him by the
midshipmen attached to the ship. To this flattering attention General La
Fayette thus verbally replied:—
“MY DEAR YOUNG FRIENDS: I am unable to express my feelings towards you.
Before I had the pleasure of your acquaintance I considered it an honor
to belong to the United States navy: since then my knowledge of you as
individuals has added to my admiration of the chivalry of your
profession, and rendered sanguine my expectations of its future
achievements. Your country has reason to be proud of you; I part from
you with regret: but should your duties or inclinations bring you again
to France, remember that La Grange is the home of every American.
Farewell!”
The Paris _Constitutionnel_ of the 20th December, 1825, contained a
circumstantial account of the reception of La Fayette at La Grange,
after his return from his visit to America. The neighboring villages
united in a public festival in his honor, notwithstanding strong efforts
on the part of the municipal authorities to prevent rejoicing of any
kind.
The following is a translation of one of the addresses delivered to the
general by deputations, together with one of his answers.
_Address_: “At length we again behold you, grown younger from the
atmosphere of liberty which you have been breathing, and the spectacle
of the happiness of a powerful and grateful people, which you have
contemplated with delight. Like the Americans, we could wish to describe
to you our love, pleasure, and admiration; but these sentiments,
agitating too strongly our hearts, deprive us of the power of so doing.”
To which the general replied:—
“The affecting welcome which awaited me here, and the fresh testimonials
of attachment which you lavish upon me to-day, fill up the measure of my
joy in finding myself in the bosom of my family and in the midst of you,
my dear friends and neighbors. During my journeys over the free and
prosperous territories of the United States it was sweet to me to think
that the voices of that excellent and admirable people would resound
even as far as your abodes, and that you would enjoy them for me.
“The enemies of the people’s cause have cast it as a reproach upon me
that, in expressing my sentiments at the American meetings, I thought
also of you. They were right to believe this; and, in fact, at the sight
of the wonders of the public prosperity and private happiness which, in
that immense country, are the fruits of liberty, equality, legal and
national order, it would have been difficult for me to forget the wish I
had ever cherished, that my French countrymen should exercise the same
rights and obtain the same felicity.
“You see me now restored to my retreat of La Grange, which is dear to me
on so many accounts; and to those agricultural employments of which you
know me to be so fond, and which, for a long series of years, I shared
with you, my neighbors, and the greater part of the friends who surround
me. Your regard, fully reciprocated on my part, causes them to be more
and more prized. Accept, I pray you, my thanks for the fine festival
that you have prepared for me, and that fills my heart with delight and
gratitude.”
More than six thousand persons were present at this joyous commemoration
of the return of him whom they called the _American Nation’s Guest_. The
dancing was continued throughout the night, and the air was filled with
cries of “Long live La Fayette!” “Long live the friend of the people!”
On the following day the general received a number of distinguished
visitors from Paris.
The Edinburgh _Observer_ thus comments upon this memorable visit of La
Fayette to America:—
“After a residence of nearly twelve months in the United States, General
La Fayette has at last returned to Europe. Hitherto we have, somehow,
abstained from saying a single word on the extraordinary spectacles by
which his visit has been throughout distinguished. We have, like all
mankind, been struck mute, as it were, by each successive gushing out of
the spontaneous and unpurchased homage of ten millions of free people.
We have stood by, in almost stupid wonder, while so many more than
classic triumphs, so much higher than classic feelings, were performing
and bursting around us, hardly knowing, indeed, whether we had to deal
with the honest excitement of a real and gallant people, or were cheated
by the solemn phantasies of a race of Bedlamites. It was not, in fact,
till after the blinding pageant had passed away that we could bring
ourselves to talk soberly either of its fitness or its reality. At last,
however, the question does rush upon our minds: Why have all these
things been? How is it that for twelve long months we have heard of
nothing but processions, feastings, and jubilees, among a people
pre-eminent among all men for thrift, jealousy, and stubbornness? What
can this or any man have done, to turn upon himself the rejoicing lustre
of so many millions of eyes, to call down blessings from so incalculable
a host of uplifted hands, and to feel the honors and gratitude of a
mighty people wafted to his bosom as by the voice of a single man? What
is it, in fact, that has swayed the hearts of these stout republicans
throughout the twenty-four communities, that has hurried, all along that
vast line, every woman from her distaff, and every infant from its
cradle, to shout, on the steps of a total stranger to their blood, and
has now melted so many jarring interests into one general prayer of
regret, thankfulness, and safety? This is not anything like a venal
sycophancy to dignity or riches or descent; it is not the conventual
homage of one great authority to another, nor can it be placed even
among the reasonable but frigid trophies of a mere general merit. It is
too stupendous, too immediate, too much akin to the burning ardor of
children to a parent. It is a portion of the unbounded gratitude of a
gallant people to the _founder of their freedom_. It is no mere
temporary return of any present benefit, but a part of the perpetual
worship owing to an author of their political existence. It is the
homage of America to the Nestor of the Revolution. Her early warriors
are now no more. Her Franklins and Washingtons have long since sunk, one
after another, amid the tears of their people, into an illustrious tomb.
One commander alone remains who fought at Flat-Bush, at Brandywine, and
at Yorktown. What wonder, then, that the honors, and almost the merits,
of the extinguished mighty should seem to concentrate around their sole
surviving fellow? Generation after generation has sundered him from
everything in America that could excite rivalry and add a sting to
passion. He left them in a feverish and bloody infancy; he has returned
in their peaceful and majestic manhood. He left them worn, divided, and
impoverished; he has found them strong, unanimous, and rich. He has come
to see the grain quietly waving over the fields of slaughter; to find
their once vacant harbors crowded with a gallant navy; their unsheltered
beaches secured by impregnable works; their swampy forests swarming with
a gay and growing population. And he can say, what no living leader can
say with him, ‘This is partly my work; in the heart of a corrupted state
I digested the manual of freedom; hemmed round by the blandishments of
luxury, I preserved the spirit of independence; I forsook the court for
the sword; I adopted danger for ease; and here are my rewards!’ It was
the younger Scaliger, we believe, who would have preferred the honor of
writing a single ode of Horace, to the empire of Germany, and he was
right. But what are the honors of all the odes of all the Horaces that
ever lived, to this pride of a patriot’s bosom, to the outbursting of a
nation’s gratitude? After all, there is much more in these things than
the merit or the praise of any one person, or any one set of persons. It
is not man individually, but man collectively, that is here chiefly
concerned. These rewards and these deservings are, in fact, the
recognition by Nature of her own nobility. They form the evidence which
she bears to the eternity of her own character; they are the proud
effusions of her thankfulness to the power which impressed that
character upon her.”