Lafayette’s Visit to America, 1780

“here I am, My dear General, and in the Mist of the joy I feel in finding Myself again one of your loving Soldiers I take But the time of telling you that I Came from france on Board of a fregatt Which the king Gave me for my passage–I have affairs of the utmost importance that I should at first Communicate to You alone…and do Assure You A Great public Good May derive from it.” -Lafayette (at Boston Harbor) to George Washington, 27 April 1780 (ALS, PEL)

hermione

L’Hermione, courtesy of The Hermione Project 2015


Lafayette arrived at Boston Harbor on 27 April, sailing from France aboard L’Hermione. Inclement weather and damage to the ship delayed his departure until 20 March (see Lafayette to his wife, 18 March, and to Benjamin Franklin, 20 March, in Lafayette Papers, 2:379-80). Lafayette carried instructions from Charles Gravier, comte de Vergennes, French secretary of state for foreign affairs. These instructions, dated 5 March, directed Lafayette to “inform [General Washington] confidentially that the king, wishing to give the United States a new testimony of his affection and his concern for their security, has resolved to send to their aid six ships of the line and 6,000 regular infantry troops…to assist the American army and to join it if General Washington considers it necessary” (Lafayette Papers, 2:364-68; see also GW’s draft letter to Samuel Huntington, 13 May 1780, DLC:GW).

Lafayette described his reception when he wrote his wife from Waterbury, Conn., on 6 May: “I disembarked after noon in the midst of an immense crowd. They welcomed me with the roar of guns, the ringing of all the city’s bells, the music of a band that marched ahead of us, and the huzzas of all the people that surrounded us. In this way I was led to the house that the council and the assembly of representatives of Boston had prepared for me. There was a deputation from these bodies to welcome me…In the evening the people gathered in front of the my door and built a great bonfire with much cheering, which lasted until after midnight” (Lafayette Papers, 3:8-10; see also Samuel A. Otis to Nathanael Greene, 30 April, in Greene Papers, 5:536-39, and Wilson, Heath’s Memoirs, 248). See the Newspaper Articles section below for further details of Lafayette’s reception.

Correspondence

Newspaper Articles of Lafayette’s visit and L’Hermione

  • The Boston Gazette, and the Country Journal article, 1 May 1780, Issue 1340, Page 2.
  • The Continental Journal, and Weekly Advertiser article, 4 May 1780, Issue 218, Page 3.

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