Volume LIVAugust 2007Number 3

2007 Marks the 250th Birthday of Brother Lafayette
by Andrew A. Zellers-Frederick, Executive Director, The Masonic Library and Museum of Pennsylvania

When the great names associated with those who fought during America's War for Independence are spoken, always beginning with Bro. George Washington, the name of Bro. Lafayette is invariably mentioned as a close second. Marie Joseph Yves Gilbert du Mortier, the Marquis de La Fayette (or Lafayette in English), was a young French aristocrat under 20 years of age, when he learned of the struggle in America for independence and resolved to serve the cause of liberty as a volunteer. Arriving in 1777, he fought in key battles, from Brandywine, where he was injured in September, to Yorktown in October 1781, where he developed a bond of deep friendship with Bro. Washington, which lasted as long as the General lived. Bro. Lafayette's great affection for the United States is also legendary, and he was posthumously made an Honorary Citizen (one of only six persons so honored).

Following the decisive 1781 Battle of Yorktown, Bro. Lafayette secured permission of Congress, which was meeting in Philadelphia, to return to his native France. Thanked by Congress with a fine letter of appreciation for his dedicated services to the young republic, he also received a personal letter from Bro. Washington saying: "I owe it to your friendship and to my affectionate regard for you, my dear Marquis, not to let you leave this country without carrying with you fresh marks of my attachment to you, and new expressions of the high sense I entertain of your military conduct and other important services in the course of the last campaign..." Lafayette's heartfelt reply was "Adieu, my dear General, I know your heart so well that I am sure no distance can alter your attachment to me. With the same candour I assure that my love, respect, my gratitude for you, are above expression..." Brothers Lafayette and Washington would see one another for the last time in 1784 when the Marquis visited America and stayed at Mount Vernon.

Nearly half a century after the American Revolution, Bro. Lafayette is officially invited by President and Brother James Monroe to visit the United States. A hectic tour of 25 states, including the sites associated with the war and visits to the remaining aging individuals associated with America's eight-year long independence struggle, began in August 1824 and lasted more than a year, until September 1825. During this time, Bro. Lafayette received more Masonic honors than any Freemason before or since with lodges, chapters, councils, commanderies, Scottish Rite and Grand Lodges conferring honorary degrees, citations, gifts and memberships. Today, there are more than 75 Masonic bodies within the United States named after him including 39 lodges, 18 chapters, four councils, four commanderies and seven Scottish Rite bodies. A high point of Bro. Lafayette's triumphant tour was his visit in Philadelphia. Arriving in the city's environs on Sept. 26, he was treated to a week-long, intense schedule of receptions, balls and special events which rekindled people's interest in the American Revolution and the dedication of those who served in it. An exceptional event of the Philadelphia festivities was the formal reception and dinner presented to him by the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania on Oct. 2, 1824, and held at the rebuilt Chestnut Street Masonic Hall. The building was suitably adorned, and paintings of both Brothers Washington and Lafayette were placed within the banquet room. This year marks the 250th anniversary of Bro. Lafayette's birth (the actual birth date is Sept. 6). To commemorate this special historic occasion and Bro. Lafayette's contributions both to Freemasonry and America, The Masonic Library and Museum of PA has tentatively scheduled an all-day event on Saturday, Oct. 20, which will include scholarly lectures, a walking tour of Lafayetteassociated sites in Philadelphia and a luncheon at the historic City Tavern where Brothers Washington and Lafayette met for the first time. This event will have limited space, so advance reservations are strongly urged to avoid disappointment. For reservations or for inquiries about this event, call (215) 988-1909.

From the collection of The Masonic Library and Museum of PA

Translation of Letter from Bro. Lafayette to Peter Du Ponceau

La Grange 10 August 1828

This letter will be delivered, my dear comrade-in-arms, by a young man who was employed for a time at the American Consulate in Paris, and who was heartily recommended by Mr. Barnet and by Mr. Le Cordier, mayor of the Arrondissement (district) of Paris where I live. He recommends himself also by his own merit and by his father's name. I ask your good advice for him, and I renew the expression of friendship which I vowed to you.

Note: DuPonceau, (1760-1844) a lawyer, was Bro. Baron Von Steuben's aide-de-camp during the Revolution. An authority on American Indian languages, he petitioned Lodge No. 2, Philadelphia, and received his entered apprentice and fellow craft degrees on Aug. 14, 1782. There is no mention of a Master Mason degree.

Table of Contents | Index of Issues | Home