| America First|
|by Lawton B. Evans|
|Collection of one hundred action-packed stories, covering the range of American history, from the first visit of Leif the Lucky to the exploits of Sergeant York in World War I. In relating the long, thrilling story of the trials and triumphs of the pioneers and patriots, the author aims to gratify the love of children for the dramatic and picturesque, to satisfy them with stories that are true, and to make them familiar with the great characters in the history of their own country. Ages 8-12 |
LAFAYETTE'S RETURN TO AMERICA
IN 1824, Lafayette, now an old man, longed to visit once more the people of America, and to see again the scenes of his
youthful glory. Congress at once invited him to be the nation's guest.
More than forty years had passed since he had come to America's aid. The thirteen colonies were now
twenty-four states. The nation was prosperous, peaceful, and powerful—a republic of twelve million
people. Towns and villages had sprung up, and even the Far West was being opened to adventurous explorers and
Death had claimed many of the intimate friends of Lafayette. Washington had been dead for twenty-five years.
Greene, Wayne, Marion and Morgan were all gone. Lafayette was the last surviving Major-General of the
Revolution. But there were many veteran soldiers yet alive, and there was an entire nation of grateful people
to welcome him to the shores of America.
Lafayette himself had had a busy and turbulent
 career since his part in the American War for Independence. He had fought the battles of liberty in his own
country and had for five years been a prisoner in an Austrian dungeon. But in spite of this exciting life, he
was still a strong and vigorous man.
In appearance, he was very tall and rather stout. He had a round face, with regular features and a high
forehead. His complexion was clear, and his cheeks were red. He had lost his hair in the Austrian prison, and
wore a curly, reddish-brown wig to conceal his entirely bald head.
Accompanied by his son, George Washington Lafayette, and his private secretary, Lafayette reached New York, in
August, 1824. Six thousand citizens, aboard gaily-dressed vessels, went out to meet his approaching ship. With
cannon booming from the forts, and with flags flying from every masthead and building, the boat, bearing the
distinguished foreigner, came to shore while many thousands of people lined the docks, and shouted, "Welcome,
Lafayette! All honor to the nation's guest!"
In a few days, Lafayette went to Washington, and President Monroe formally received him at the White House as
the guest of the American people. From that time on, for more than a year,
 he was engaged in a long series of receptions and ovations, in every state of the Union.
Having promised to attend the graduating exercises of Harvard College, Lafayette started for Boston. There
were no railroads in those days, and traveling was done by carriages. His party, therefore, traveled for five
days, from early morning until late at night.
Every village had its triumphal arch, and its procession of citizens and soldiers. Over the streets were
mottoes of greeting to the great friend of Washington. Music and banquets and speeches of welcome greeted the
party along the entire way.
People gathered from many miles around, and camped along the road to see his carriage pass. A large procession
of horsemen followed him, as escort, from place to place. Cannon were fired, bells were rung, and bonfires
were built by the eager and grateful crowds.
In this fashion the party came to Boston; and it was thus the people of the United States greeted their guest
wherever he went.
A few weeks after his arrival, Lafayette went to Yorktown to attend the celebration of the anniversary of the
surrender of Cornwallis, which had occurred forty-three years before. He was entertained in the house which
Corn-  wallis's headquarters. Lafayette was provided with a bed; but many distinguished persons had to sleep in tents
or on straw upon the floors of the houses, so great was the crowd.
A laurel wreath was offered to Lafayette at Yorktown; after wearing it on his head for a short while, he gave
it to his friend, Colonel Nicholas Fish, who had helped him take a fort at Yorktown. "You must wear this
also," he said. "It belongs to you more than it does to me."
As these two old comrades later on sailed up the Hudson River, Lafayette turned to Colonel Fish, and said,
"Nicholas, do you remember when we were young, how we used to slide down those hills in an ox-sled with the
girls from Newburgh?"
Then they fell to talking about the old times during the Revolution; often they would laugh over some
remembered incident, and then again their eyes would fill with tears.
In Nashville, Tennessee, the hero was given a rousing welcome. In New Orleans, a band of Choctaw Indians, who
had been camped there for a month, awaiting his arrival, marched before his carriage to see "the great
warrior, brother of our good father, Washington."
Lafayette visited Mt. Vernon, the home of Washington. He went through the rooms, the halls,
 and over the grounds, with which he had been so familiar. He went to the tomb of his good chief, and stood
with bowed head before the stone coffin. Reverently, he kneeled and kissed the last resting-place of the great
man he had served so well and loved so truly. Tears were in his eyes as he rejoined his waiting companions.
Many other places did Lafayette visit in America. He was present at the laying of the corner-stone of the
Bunker Hill monument; he visited the aged Jefferson in Virginia; he went to Philadelphia.
In September, 1825, he was given a farewell dinner at the White House, by the new President, John Quincy
Adams, and, shortly afterwards, sailed for France, amid the blessings and prayers of a grateful nation.
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