Visit of the Marquis de Lafayette to the United States

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Portrait of General Lafayette (by Matthew Harris Jouett) in 1825

From July 1824 to September 1825, the last surviving French general of the Revolutionary War, the Marquis de Lafayette, made a tour of the 24 states in the United States. At many stops on this tour he was received by the populace with a hero's welcome, and many honors and monuments were presented to commemorate and memorialize the Marquis de Lafayette's visit.

Reason for the visit[edit]

The Marquis de Lafayette led troops alongside George Washington in the American Revolution over 40 years earlier. He fought in several crucial battles, including the Battle of Brandywine in Pennsylvania and the Siege of Yorktown in Virginia.

The Marquis had returned to France and pursued a political career championing the ideals of liberty that the fledgling U.S. republic represented. While the Bourbon constitutional monarchy had been in place in France for at least ten years, in the spring of 1824, King Louis XVIII was wheelchair bound and suffering from severe health issues that would prove fatal by late summer.[1] Further, Lafayette was being monitored by the dying King.[2] After the Marquis left the French legislature in 1824, President James Monroe invited him to tour the United States, partly to instill the "spirit of 1776" in the next generation of Americans[3] and partly to celebrate the nation's 50th anniversary.[4]

The traveling party[edit]

During his trip, he visited all of the American states and travelled more than 6,000 miles (9,656 km).[5][6] Lafayette was accompanied by, among others, his son Georges Washington de La Fayette.[3] For part of the journey, Lafayette was also accompanied by social reformer Fanny Wright.[7] The main means of transportation for the party were stagecoach, horseback, canal barge, and steamboat.[8]

Welcoming celebrations[edit]

Landing of General Lafayette at Castle Garden, New York, 16 August 1824

Different cities celebrated in different ways. Some held parades or conducted an artillery salute. In some places schoolchildren were brought to welcome the Marquis. Veterans from the war, some of whom were in their sixties and seventies, welcomed the Marquis, and some dined with him. While touring Yorktown, he recognized and embraced James Armistead Lafayette, a free negro who adopted his last name to honor the Marquis (he was the first US double agent spy); the story of the event was reported by the Richmond Enquirer.[9]

General timeline[edit]

He left France on an American merchant vessel, the Cadmus, on July 13, 1824. Lafayette's extended tour began on August 15, 1824, when he arrived at Staten Island, New York. Lafayette toured the northern and eastern states in the fall of 1824, including stops at Monticello to visit Thomas Jefferson and Washington, D.C., where he was received at the White House by President James Monroe. Lafayette began his tour of the Southern United States in March 1825, arriving at the Fort Mitchell crossing of the Chattahoochee River on March 31.[3]

Detailed timeline[edit]

A lighthouse clock made by Simon Willard to commemorate the visit of the Marquis to the U. S. White House library


July 1824[edit]

  • July 13 – Lafayette leaves France.

August 1824[edit]

September 1824[edit]

Lafayette's welcoming parade in Philadelphia

October 1824[edit]

November 1824[edit]

December 1824[edit]


January 1825[edit]

  • January 1 – Attends a banquet hosted by Congress.[16]
  • January 19 – Visits Baltimore and leaves January 20 on a steamboat bound for Norfolk, on his way to visit the legislature of Virginia at Richmond.[25]
  • January 31 – Visits Perseverance Lodge #21 Harrisburg, Pennsylvania,[26]

February 1825[edit]

March 1825[edit]

April 1825[edit]

May 1825[edit]

A postcard celebrating the 1825 visit of LaFayette, bearing a painting by Malcolm Parcell.

June 1825[edit]

Original cornerstone of "South College" in Burlington

July 1825[edit]

August 1825[edit]

September 1825[edit]

  • September 6 – Lafayette arrives in Washington, D.C., where he meets the new U.S. President John Quincy Adams, addresses a joint session of Congress and celebrates his 68th birthday at a White House banquet with President Adams.[12]
  • September 7 – Lafayette leaves Washington and returns to France on the frigate USS Brandywine.[5]

Honors received during the trip[edit]

Fayetteville, North Carolina, was named after him. The College of William and Mary on October 20, 1824, conferred upon him the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws. Late in the trip, he again received honorary citizenship of Maryland.[a] He was voted, by the U.S. Congress, the sum of $200,000 and a township of land in Tallahassee, Florida, to be known as the Lafayette Land Grant.[67][68]

1824: Visit to Monticello[edit]

In the summer of 1824, while Thomas Jefferson was making final plans for the opening of the University of Virginia, he learned that Lafayette would be arriving soon. He knew this meant that he would soon be reunited with an old friend and consultant that guided him around France when he was Minister there. They had not seen each other since 1789. Lafayette finally arrived at Monticello on November 4 in a carriage provided by Jefferson with a military escort of 120 men. Jefferson waited outside on the front portico. By this time some 200 friends and neighbors had also arrived for the event. Lafayette's carriage pulled up to the front lawn where a bugle sounded the arrival of the procession with its revolutionary banners waving. Lafayette, advanced in age, slowly stepped down from the carriage. Jefferson, who was now 81 years old and in ill health, slowly descended the front steps and began making his way towards his old friend. Jefferson's grandson Randolph was present and witnessed the historic reunion: "As they approached each other, their uncertain gait quickened itself into a shuffling run, and exclaiming, 'Ah Jefferson!' 'Ah Lafayette!', they burst into tears as they fell into each other's arms." Everyone in attendance stood in respectful silence, many of them stifling sobs of their own. Jefferson and Lafayette then retired to the privacy of the house and began reminiscing the many events and encounters they shared years before.[69]

The next morning Jefferson, Lafayette and James Madison rode to the Central Hotel in Charlottesville in Jefferson's landau. They were escorted by mounted troops and followed by the local townspeople and other friends. After being greeted and honored with speeches they departed the hotel at noon and set out for a banquet at the University of Virginia which Jefferson was anxious for Lafayette to see. Jefferson had postponed the commencement of classes for the event beforehand. In the rotunda of the university with Jefferson seated between Lafayette and Madison, they enjoyed a fine dinner, complete with French wine which Jefferson had personally selected from the cellar at Monticello. It was the first public function at the University. After a three-hour dinner Jefferson had someone read a speech he had prepared for Lafayette, as his voice was weak and could not carry very far. This would prove to be Jefferson's last public speech. Lafayette later accepted Jefferson's invitation for honorary membership to the University's Jefferson Literary and Debating Society. After an eleven-day visit, Lafayette bid Jefferson goodbye.[70][71][72]

1825: Conveying Marquis de Lafayette back to France[edit]

USS Brandywine, the ship that returned Lafayette to France after his 1824-1825 tour of the United States

Lafayette had expressed his intention of sailing for home sometime in the late summer or early autumn of 1825. President John Quincy Adams decided to have an American warship carry Lafayette back to Europe. Adams chose a recently built 44-gun frigate (originally named Susquehanna) for this honor, and accordingly, as a gesture of the nation's affection for Lafayette, the frigate was renamed Brandywine to commemorate the battle in which the Frenchman had shed his blood for American freedom. Launched on June 16, 1825, and christened by Sailing Master Marmaduke Dove, Brandywine was commissioned on August 25, 1825, Capt. Charles Morris in command.

Lafayette enjoyed a last state dinner to celebrate his 68th birthday on the evening of September 6, and then embarked in the steamboat Mount Vernon on the 7th for the trip downriver to join Brandywine. On the 8th, the frigate stood out of the Potomac River and sailed down Chesapeake Bay toward the open ocean.

As he sat on the Brandywine ready to depart, General Isaac Fletcher conveyed Revolutionary War compatriot General William Barton's greetings as well as Barton's situation with respect to being in debtors' prison in Danville, Vermont, for 14 years. Lafayette promptly paid Barton's fine and thus allowed him to return to his family in Rhode Island.[73]

After a stormy three weeks at sea, the warship arrived off Le Havre, France, early in October, and, following some initial trepidation about the government's attitude toward Lafayette's return to a France now ruled by King Charles X, Brandywine's honored passenger returned home.


  1. ^ Lafayette was already a "natural born" American citizen via his pre-Constitution Maryland citizenship.[66]


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