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.'"
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.
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