Lafayette: We are Still Here!

DATELINE: Not Honored in France 

It’s seems this one-hour documentary is built on the assumption that no one remembers the Marquis de Lafayette. It starts out with the premise that history books have somehow cut his name from the important people of the American Revolution.

Lafayette: the Lost Heronever was lost. He was always there, always a hero, always known. He was the youngest Major General in American history: 19 years old.

So, all those Americans who have gone to France to rescue it in times of trouble, shouting out, “Lafayette, we are here!” have simply confounded fellow citizens.

There are about 50 cities named after the French officer around the United States.

Lafayette did not lose his own head in the French Revolution mainly because he eschewed the royal trappings of France. Yet, he was royalty and one of the richest men of the country. He had open access to the King who did lose his head.

Lafayette was, most surprisingly, a rebellious teenager. We don’t mean growing up: we mean he shocked Gen. Washington when he arrived in Philadelphia because he was 19. Yes, he bought his own ship, paid for his own army, and bought his commission. But, he believed in the American dream of freedom and democracy. He taught himself English to be able to speak to Americans.

 

You have to be surprised that he danced with Marie Antoinette at a ball and was laughed at for his bad dancing. You have to be shocked that he had dinner with the King of England’s brother—who also supported the American colonists.

He was super-rich and had influence at the French court and was married at 16. So, when people call him a man, we are puzzled. When the re-enactor looks like he is 40, we are non-plussed.

Yes, we were shocked at how little we knew about this boy leader who turned out to be the son Washington never had. When he visited America on its 50thanniversary, he scooped up some dirt from Washington’s grave: he wanted to buried with some American soil in France.

The French, of course, moved his American bought statue from a place of prominence in Paris to a backwater location. He is without honor in his own home.

We must say we are seldom amused by our lack of knowledge, but this documentary amused us.