Friday, May 20, 2022

‘The Hero of Two Worlds’

I can’t remember where in Masonic Hall this hangs. Corinthian?

“Insurrection is the most sacred of rights and the most indispensable of duties.”

— Lafayette

On this date in 1834, Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier Marquis de La Fayette died in Paris at age 76. His remains are interred in the city at Cimetiere de Picpus—beneath soil shipped from Bunker Hill, such was the import of his role in the American War of Independence and vice versa.

That he championed the American cause, not only to smite the enemy British Empire, but to make manifest the Americans’ philosophy of individual liberty and national freedom was extremely counterintuitive for a French nobleman, if you think about his station in life. And his fighting for the Continental Army didn’t even put him in good standing when revolution, originally in the name of republicanism, was unleashed in his homeland, although it at least saved his life. In fact he lived to see various leaders and different forms of French government rise and fall, until the July Monarchy. Government troops slaughtered a crowd of civilians in April 1834. Lafayette was dead a month later. He is remembered as “The Hero of Two Worlds.”

Outside, appropriately, Colonial on 10.

Masonic historians are frustrated by the absence of a record of his initiation into the fraternity, but when he arrived in America in 1777, his Masonic membership was a given. I would say he is France’s most celebrated Freemason, at least in the eyes of American Masons. He was a Royal Arch Companion in Jerusalem Chapter 8 in New York City, as well as a Cerneau Scottish Rite 33rd Degree Mason.

(I’m assuming it’s pure coincidence, but the New York City Parks Department chose today to power wash Union Square Park’s Lafayette statue, titled “Lafayette Arriving in America,” made by Bro. Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, of Statue of Liberty fame, and dedicated in 1873.)

His famous return to the United States in 1824 consisted of a tour of all the states in the country, with Masonic celebrations along the route. The Grand Lodge of Delaware received him in 1824 and made him an Honorary Member the following year. Also in ’24, Lafayette visited the brethren in Maine and New Jersey and Maryland (another Honorary Membership there). In 1825, he was feted in South Carolina, Louisiana, Illinois, and, with another Honorary Membership, in Tennessee. Many lodges around the United States have been named in his honor.

Lafayette Lodge 27 photo

Last month Grand Master Richard Kessler led a party to a neighboring jurisdiction where its Lafayette Lodge held a ceremony to unveil a marker on The Lafayette Trail, which denotes the path of his historic tour. The New Yorkers brought with them an apron affiliated with the French hero for display that day.

Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Library photo

Click here for more on his Masonic history.

No comments: