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Down where yon anchoring vessel spreads the sail
VISIT OF LAFAYETTE TO AMERICA
Two names are most intimately and indissolubly associated with the dramatic train of military events which led to the establishment of the United States as a nation and government, namely, those of Washington and Lafayette. No two names are, down to the present day, more fresh in the love and gratitude of the American people, and, until time shall be no more, a test of the fidelity with which that people hold to the principles of republican wisdom and virtue that gave them birth, will be their admiration of the names of those patriots and heroes. To understand, therefore, the significance of that spontaneous outburst of popular enthusiasm which greeted Lafayette on his visit to America in 1824, and which made that year one of the most memorable in the nation's history, it will only be necessary to glance at the services, military and civil, rendered us by this large hearted patriot during the opening years of our national existence. Those services and that reception form, indeed, a national romance.
When only thirteen years of age, Lafayette was left an orphan, and in full possession of valuable estates, and master of his own affairs. Being for a time at the college in Paris, his associations brought him into notice at the court of King Louis, and he became quite a favorite with that monarch. He was appointed one of the queen's pages, and through her agency, received a commission at the early age of fifteen.
He formed an early attachment to a daughter of the noble family of Noailles, with whom he was united in marriage at the age of sixteen. Adopting the profession of a soldier, Lafayette, at nineteen, was stationed, as captain of dragoons, at Metz, one of the garrisoned towns of France. Here, in 1776, Lafayette's attention was directed to the conflict of liberty in America—the hostilities between Britain and her colonies; and while in conversation with the Duke of Gloucester, brother to George the Third, of England, he elicited facts that led him to see the whole merits of the case. The battle of Bunker Hill and the Declaration of Independence fired his heart! Before rising from the dinner table at which this interview occurred, Lafayette had resolved to leave his home, and offer himself and his services to the rising republic, whose cause he regarded as just and noble. From that hour he could think of nothing but this chivalrous enterprise, though aware that it would cut him off from the favor of that brilliant court-circle in which he shone so conspicuously, and that he would also have to tear himself away from his young, beautiful, and fondly attached wife, who alone, among all his associates, approved of his intention.
Proceeding to Paris, he confided his scheme to two young friends, Count Segur and Viscount Noailles, and proposed that they should join him. They entered with enthusiasm into his views, but owing to obstacles put in their way through family interference, they were prevented from following out their course, but faithfully kept their comrade's secret. He rext explained his intention to Count Broglie, who advised him to abandon it at once as in the highest degree chimerical and hazardous. The count assured him that his confidence was not misplaced ; but said he
“I have seen your uncle die in the wars of Italy, I witnessed your father's death at the battle of Minden, and I will not be accessory to the ruin of the only remaining branch of the family."
But, so far from being disheartened by the unpromising reception which Lafayette's plans met with from those to whom he made known his purposes, his ardor was rather increased in the pursuit of his object. “My zeal and love of liberty,” said he, "have perhaps been hereto the prevailing motives; but now I see a chance for usefulness, which I had not anticipated. I have money; } will purchase a ship, which shall convey to America myself, my companions, and the freight for congress. All this, as the sequel will show, he nobly and self-sacrificingly carried out.
This design was now made known by Lafayette to Messrs. Franklin, Lee, and Deane, the American commissioners at Paris; and to a proposal so disinterested and generous they could, of course, make no objection,—could only admire, indeed, the spirit which actuated it; and he hastened immediately to put it into execution. After surmounting the many difficulties which from time to time interrupted the progress of his plans, he at last set sail; the Baron de Kalb and eleven other officers of various ranks, in pursuit of employment in the American army, constituted his retinue. In due time they approached the shore near Georgetown, South Carolina, having fortunately escaped two British cruisers, and soon proceeded to Charleston harbor, where a magnificent reception was given them. The vessel was subsequently loaded with rice for the French market, but it foundered in going out of the harbor, and both the vessel and the cargo became a total loss.
But Lafayette had not yet reached his destination. As soon, however, as all things were in readiness, the party left Charleston and traveled to Philadelphia, where Congress was then sitting. On arriving there,' he put his letters into the hands of Mr. Lovell, chairman of the committee on foreign affairs. He called the next day at the hall of Congress, and Mr. Lovell came out to him and said, that so many foreigners had offered themselves for employment, that Congress was embarrassed with their application, and he was sorry to inform him there was very little hope of his success. Lafayette suspected that his papers had not been read, and he immediately sat down and wrote a note to the president of Congress, in which he desired to be permitted to serve in the American army on two conditions: first, that he should receive no pay; second, that he should act as a volunteer. These terms were so different from those demanded by other foreigners, and presented so few obstacles on the ground of any interference with American officers, that they were at once accepted. His rank, zeal, perseverance, and disinterestedness, overcame every objection, and he was appointed a major-general in the American army before he had reached the age of twenty.
But he was yet to stand before the face of the great American chieftain. Washington was at headquarters when Lafayette reached Philadelphia, but being daily expected in the city, the young general concluded to wait his arrival, instead of presenting himself at camp. The introduction of the youthful stranger to the man on whom his career depended was, however, delayed only a few days. It took place in a manner peculiarly marked with the circumspection of Washington, at a dinner party, where Lafayette was one among several guests of consideration. Washington was not uninformed of the circumstances connected with Lafayette's arrival in this country; and it may well be supposed that the eye of the father of his country was not idle during the repast. But that searching glance, before which pretense or fraud never stood undetected, was completely satisfied. When they were about to separate, Washington took Lafayette aside, spoke to him with kindness, complimented him upon the noble spirit he had shown and the sacrifices he had made in favor of the American cause, and then told him that he should be pleased if he would make the quarters of the commander-in-chief his home, establish himself there whenever he thought proper, and consider himself at all times as one of his family,-adding in a tone of pleasantry, that he could not promise him the luxuries of a court, or even the conveniences which his former habits might have rendered essential to his comfort, but, since he had become an American soldier he would doubtless contrive to accommodate himself to the customs,