Visit of the Marquis de Lafayette to the United States

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Portrait of General Lafayette by Samuel Morse in 1826.

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


External video
Lafayette 1825.png1825 portrait by Matthew Harris Jouett
video icon Lafayette in America, 1824–1825, Alan R. Hoffman lectures on the Grand Tour, 1:03:14[1]

Lafayette led troops under the command of George Washington in the American Revolution over 40 years earlier, and he fought in several crucial battles, including the Battle of Brandywine in Pennsylvania and the Siege of Yorktown in Virginia. He had then returned to France and pursued a political career championing the ideals of liberty that the American republic represented. The Bourbon constitutional monarchy had been restored in France for at least ten years, but King Louis XVIII was wheelchair-bound in the spring of 1824 and suffering from severe health issues that proved fatal by late summer.[2] Further, Lafayette was being monitored by the dying king.[3] Lafayette left the French legislature in 1824, and President James Monroe invited him to tour the United States, partly to instill the "spirit of 1776" in the next generation of Americans[4] and partly to celebrate the nation's 50th anniversary.[5]

Lafayette visited all of the American states and traveled more than 6,000 miles (9,656 km),[6][7] accompanied by his son Georges Washington de La Fayette, named after George Washington, and others.[4] He was also accompanied for part of the trip by social reformer Frances Wright.[8] The main means of transportation were stagecoach, horseback, canal barge, and steamboat.[9]

Landing of General Lafayette at Castle Garden, New York, August 16, 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 man of color 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.[10] More than a century later, various towns continued to honor their own "Lafayette Day".


Lafayette left France on the American merchant vessel Cadmus on July 13, 1824, and his tour began on August 15, 1824, when he arrived at Staten Island, New York. He 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. He began his tour of the Southern United States in March 1825, arriving at the Fort Mitchell, Alabama crossing of the Chattahoochee River on March 31.[4]

A lighthouse clock made by Simon Willard to commemorate Lafayette's visit to the White House


Gloves portraying Lafayette, possibly commemorating his visit to the United States in 1824
Lafayette's welcoming parade in Philadelphia
  • October 6 – Escorted to Wilmington, Delaware, by the Grand Lodge of Delaware Masons[17]
  • October 8[18] to October 11[19] – Toured Baltimore and met with surviving officers and soldiers of the Revolution
  • October 12 – Arrives in Washington, D.C., paraded into town, welcomed by the mayor in the U.S. Capitol rotunda, and celebrated with illuminations throughout the city and with a rocket show.[20][21]
  • October 15 – Spends the entire evening at Arlington House, although he returns to his hotel in Washington, D.C., at night
  • October 17 – Visits Mount Vernon and George Washington's tomb in Virginia
  • October 18–19 – Arrives by steamer in Petersburg, Virginia, for visit to Yorktown and festivities marking the 43rd anniversary of the battle; spent eight days in the Tidewater of Virginia (Norfolk and Portsmouth) area. This was one of his longest stays of the grand tour because it was the site of the American and French victory over the British at Yorktown. He arrived in Yorktown on October 18 on a ship where a water-borne honor guard met escorted him to a specially constructed Yorktown wharf, where he was greeted by a crowd of 15,000 people. Gov. James Pleasants and Virginia militia general Robert Barraud Taylor (of the 1813 Battle of Craney Island) gave speeches in his honor. During the visit, the party visited temporary monuments, including a 45-foot tall arch at the site of his courageous assault at Redoubt #10 and a 76-foot tall obelisk at the site of the British surrender. A mass assembly greeted him at Surrender Field. He visited Williamsburg, Virginia and the College of William & Mary from October 19–22 and stayed in the Peyton Randolph House in Williamsburg. He attended an honorary banquet at Raleigh Tavern with Chief Justice John Marshall and Secretary of War John Calhoun. His party rode to Jamestown, Virginia and traveled to Portsmouth to see Norfolk Naval Shipyard. While in Hampton Roads, he visited the unfinished Fort Monroe, and then Colonel Abraham Eustis escorted him to inspect the Old Point Comfort stronghold, which had been designed by French-born engineer Simon Bernard. On October 25, he left the Tidewater area on a ship bound for Richmond.[22]
  • October 22 – Arrives in Norfolk, Virginia via steamer from Petersburg and spends four days there and in Portsmouth[23][24][25]
  • October – Arrives in Richmond, Virginia, on a steamer from Norfolk[26] Edgar Allan Poe is in the youth honor guard in Richmond that welcomed him when he arrived.
  • On November 2 – Left Richmond for Monticello to visit Jefferson[27]
  • November 8 – Attends a public banquet at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville[28]
  • November 20, 21, 22—visits Fredericksburg, VA with several parties in his honor, including 2 in City Hall, now the Fredericksburg Area Museum. The following week he expected to spend time at Woodlawn near Mount Vernon, and at Mount Vernon. He expected to be in Annapolis on December 15. ref information in a letter in the Fredericksburg Museum, cited 2019/5/1. Letter is in Lafayette's handwriting.
  • Early December – Stays in Washington, D.C., visiting the White House, meeting several times with President Monroe and George Washington's relatives; visits the Washington Navy Yard
  • December 8 and 9 – Makes official visits to the Senate and addresses Congress at the House of Representatives[14]
  • December 15 – Feted at the first commencement ceremony of the Columbian College in the District of Columbia (now the George Washington University)[21][29]
  • December 17 – Arrives at Annapolis, Maryland, at 3 pm, is received in the Senate chamber and visits Fort Severn
  • December 20 – Received at the Maryland State House[30]
  • December 24 – Arrives at the Jug Bridge crossing the Monocacy River on the National Road east of Frederick, Maryland


Nathanael Greene Monument in Johnson Square
A postcard celebrating the 1825 visit of LaFayette, bearing a painting by Malcolm Parcell.
Lafayette laying cornerstone of Bunker Hill Monument June 17, 1825
Original cornerstone of "South College" in Burlington

Honors received during the trip[edit]

Fayetteville, North Carolina was named after Lafayette. The College of William and Mary conferred upon him the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws on October 20, 1824. Late in the trip, he again received honorary citizenship of Maryland.[a] Congress voted him $200,000 and a township of land in Tallahassee, Florida, known as the Lafayette Land Grant.[74][75]

1824: Visit to Monticello[edit]

Lafayette 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 was advanced in age and slowly stepped down from the carriage. Jefferson was 81 and in ill health, and he slowly descended the front steps and began making his way towards his old friend. His 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 over the many events and encounters which they shared years before.[76]

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. They were greeted and honored with speeches, then departed the hotel at noon and set out for a banquet at the University of Virginia which Jefferson was anxious for Lafayette to see; he had postponed the commencement of classes for the event. After a three-hour dinner, Jefferson had someone read a speech that he had prepared for Lafayette, as his voice was weak and could not carry very far. This proved 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. Lafayette bid Jefferson goodbye after an 11-day visit.[77][78][79]

1825: Return to France[edit]

Lafayette returned to France aboard the USS Brandywine

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 him back to Europe, and he chose a recently built 44-gun frigate named Susquehanna for this honor. However, it was renamed Brandywine to commemorate the battle in which the Frenchman had shed his blood for American freedom and as a gesture of the nation's affection for Lafayette. Brandywine was launched on June 16, 1825, and christened by Sailing Master Marmaduke Dove; she was commissioned on August 25, 1825, with Captain 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 greetings from Revolutionary War compatriot General William Barton, and also explained that Barton had been 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.[80]

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.[73]


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External links[edit]