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Lafayette

June 19th at the Dedham Museum and Archive

The Life and Legacy of the Marquis de Lafayette—A Celebration of the Bicentennial of his 1824 Farewell Tour  at 7 pm.

Over the next year and a half, the American Friends of Lafayette will be commemorating the Bicentennial of Marquis de Lafayette’s 1824-1825 Farewell Tour of the United States.  Lafayette’s 1 ½ year Farewell Tour took him to 190 towns and cities, including Dedham, in 24 states, where he was honored for his military service in the 1775-1783 Revolutionary War.  As most of us learned in middle school U.S. history, Gilbert de Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, a young idealistic French aristocrat, set sail in 1777 for America because he believed that the American struggle for liberty and independence from Great Britain was a just cause. In the ensuing years, Lafayette proved himself to be a brave and resourceful soldier in several battles, which impelled George Washington to promote him to general. Lafayette’s military accomplishments were influential in persuading King Louis XVI to send munitions, 6000 French soldiers and a 26-ship French fleet to America and it can be argued that these forces provided the margin for the American victory at Yorktown. When he returned to France in 1781, Lafayette continued to campaign for democracy and human rights by writing the Declaration of the Rights of Man, campaigning for abolition of slavery, supporting female suffrage, and opposing the regimes of kings and emperors. Lafayette’s 1824-25 return to the United States was especially celebrated, not only because of his past heroic deeds, but also because 40 years after the Revolutionary War’s conclusion, he was the Continental Army’s last living general.  

Dedham’s commemorations of Lafayette’s short stay in Dedham in 1824 has already been kicked off at the Dedham Museum and Archive with the installation of an exhibit of displays that focus on Lafayette’s contributions to American independence, along with artifacts from his visit. Moreover, DMA Director Johanna McBrien has scheduled a Lafayette presentation by noted lecturer Peter Reilly at the DMA at 7 PM on June 19th with free admission for First Church members. It should also be mentioned that on August 23rd, the 200th anniversary of Lafayette’s visit to Dedham, First Church will honor the “Hero of Two Nations” with a reading of Herman Mann’s diary entry about the event and a Lafayette-themed play derived from a 1909 short story by local writer Elinor Ramsay on the church green. We at the DMA and First Church hope you will be able to attend both of these free commemorative local history events that honor Lafayette as a partisan of liberty, an anti-racist, a supporter of women’s rights, and a diehard opponent of tyrants.

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