Contact me

These days, I'm the director of the American Library Association' s Office for Intellectual Freedom. I'm also executive director and secretary of the Freedom to Read Foundation. See "About Me" for contact information.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Lafayette

I just finished Sarah Vowell's "Lafayette in the Somewhat United States." A wonderful book. I wonder how many people know that our success in the Revolutionary War was absolutely dependent upon the French - whose navy fended off British forces while Washington defeated Cornwallis in Yorktown. Among the greatest of Revolutionary heroes was the Marquis de Lafayette, who left his French home and family at 19 to pledge his honor and life to the Revolution, and went on to become, while still in his early 20s, a major general under Washington. As Vowell quotes, "He acknowledged to his American hosts on his triumphal return tour to the U.S. that there was 'much to deplore' in the South's practice of slavery..." But then, "Lafayette lifted his glass at one reception to toast 'the perpetual union of the United States,' adding, 'it has always saved us in time of storm; one day it will save the world.'"

In 1917, when the American Expeditionary Forces marched on Paris on July 4, 1917, General John J. Pershing headed straight to the tomb of Lafayette, where he declared, "America has joined forces with the Allied Powers, and what we have of blood and treasure are yours. Therefore it is that with loving pride we drape the colors in tribute of respect to this citizen of your great republic. And here and now, in the presence of the illustrious dead, we pledge our hearts and our honor in carrying this war to a successful issue. Lafayette, we are here."

In the aftermath of the terrorist attack on Paris, this has particular poignancy.

2 comments:

Douglas Kretzmann said...

used to read Sarah Vowell when she wrote for Salon, some years back - look forward to reading the book.

I did not know that about General Pershing. "Lafayette, we are here". That is beautiful.

James LaRue said...

I love listening to her read. She hits the sweet spot between snark and erudition. And between Lafayette and the Statue of Liberty, yeah, let's take a moment to remember and praise the French.