Join us this Independence Day ! On the Fourth of July, partake in the patriot festivities we’re offering throughout the day. Come churn ice cream from scratch, enjoy tunes ‘n tales from the Hudson River Ramblers, and hunt for 18th-century treasures throughout the Museum. Also, don’t miss our special installation, Lafayette’s Return on view through August 16. And if you’re up for an adventure, head to Governor’s Island! Our Student Historian Teen Leaders-curated pop-up exhibition Revolution: NYC & the War for Independence opens Saturday! The show features reproductions of works from our rich collections, as well as a colonial garden.
To kick off the celebration, we’re highlighting one adoptive American’s story. The Marquis de Lafayette was a French nobleman who, inspired by the Revolutionary War, defied French King Louis XVI’s orders and set sail for America in 1777. Promised the notable title of major general, he arrived on American shores to join the fight for independence. Because of his impressive connections and personal wealth, Lafayette was immediately welcomed by leading figures, including George Washington. “In the United States,” explained Lafayette biographer Dr. Laura Auricchio, “Lafayette’s matter-of-fact sensibility and self-deprecating humor won the hearts of Americans who recognized a kindred spirit in the earnest young nobleman.” Young, being the operative word—the “Boy General” was only 20 years old when he first arrived on American soil.
Both by pen and sword, Lafayette devoted himself to the American Revolution. Though he found himself bedridden and wounded after the 1777 Battle of Brandywine, he was indefatigable and conducted a successful letter-writing campaign from his cot. “The insurgents” found Lafayette’s unrelenting determination to be a powerful wartime tool; he ultimately convinced French leaders at Versailles to aid the American cause. France formally allied with the patriots four months later.
And by 1779, Lafayette began self-identifying as an American. In a letter to the illustrious Benjamin Franklin, he wrote, “When I say ours, I mean the Americans.” His new identity didn’t end there. When he returned to France in the 1780s, America followed him. Lafayette named his son after his close friend, George Washington and named his daughter after Washington’s home state of Virginia. “So closely did he associate himself with the new nation,” described Dr. Auricchio, “that, according to the explorer John Ledyard, Lafayette ‘planted a tree in America, and sits under its shade at Versailles.’”
So join us this Saturday to celebrate Lafayette and all other American patriots this Independence Day!