Lafayette in America


Translated by Alan Hoffman. From the book’s website:

Auguste Levasseur’s Lafayette in America is a journal of General Lafayette’s 1824-1825 Farewell Tour of all 24 United States. In this book, Lafayette’s private secretary describes how the now 67-year-old hero of the American Revolution and apostle of liberty in Europe was welcomed in an adoring frenzy by the American people. With its panoramic view of the young country – its burgeoning cities and towns, its technological innovations like the Erie Canal, and its industrious people – this book captures America on the cusp of its jubilee year. A decade before Tocqueville, Levasseur came, observed and reported on the state of the American Republic. He describes the Americans’ enormous pride in the republican institutions created by the revolutionary generation and the ensuing growth and prosperity. He recounts their intense feeling of gratitude towards those who had won the republic, among whom Lafayette was the sole surviving major general of the Continental Army.

Levasseur also chronicles Lafayette’s affectionate visits with his old friends John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe and John Quincy Adams, and his encounter with Senator Andrew Jackson. A keen observer, Levasseur gives us a sense of the characters of these men who, with Lafayette’s paternal friend George Washington, led the United States through its first six decades. Levasseur does not overlook the searing problem of “Slavery of the Blacks” and the plight of the Indian tribes. Echoing Lafayette’s views, the author describes slavery’s deleterious effects and advocates education and gradual emancipation as a practical solution. He also comments on the ravages that “civilization” had visited on Native American peoples and portrays sympathetically the plight of the Creek Nation, forced to abandon its ancestral homelands in Georgia and Alabama.

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