No. 139.
Mr. Morton to Mr. Frelinghuysen.

No. 403.]

Sir: On the 6th instant a bronze statue of La Fayette, the first one erected in France, was unveiled at Le Puy, the capital of the department in which La Fayette was born, and near the home of his family.

With true appreciation of what is due to America in the fame of La Fayette, the French authorities and the family of La Fayette expressed an earnest desire that the representative of the United States should be associated with this public tribute to his memory. In response to a most flattering invitation from the prefect of the department, the mayor of Le Puy, and Senator Edmond de La Fayette, the only one now bearing that illustrious name, I esteemed it a duty as well as a pleasure to attend the ceremonies connected with the unveiling of the statue, which were performed with fitting solemnity in presence of high functionaries of the French Government, of living representatives of the family of La Fayette, and of a large concourse of people, including quite a number of distinguished Americans.

I venture to send herewith extracts from newspapers * * * giving a full account of the speeches made at Le Puy, and of interesting incidents of the day.

You will notice with gratification, I am sure, that the whole proceedings evinced in the most flattering manner the existence of a strong and true feeling of good will and amity between France and the United States. The French speakers were particularly emphatic in their expression of friendship for our country and Government, and of admiration for our institutions. These sentiments were expressed not only by those who took part in the Le Puy proceedings: the unveiling of the statue was the occasion of a general expression of the warmest feelings of friendship for our Government and people. Papers of all grades and political opinions have united in bestowing upon our country and political system the most flattering eulogies, and in rejoicing over the faithful and happy relations which have so long existed between the two nations. * * * I am satisfied that in the opinion of the masses, as well as in the belief of the Government, the United States is looked upon as the best and most reliable friend of France, the only one from whom she has nothing to fear, and perhaps also the only one in whose footsteps she is inclined to follow.

* * * * * * *

I have, &c.,

[Page 278]
[Inclosure 1 in No. 403.—From Morning News, Paris, September 7.]

Mr. Morton’s speech at the unveiling of the statue.

The Hon. L. P. Morton, who was frequently applauded, then spoke as follows:

Monsieur le Maire and Gentlemen: I accepted as a privilege and a duty the invitation with which I was honored by the department of the Haute-Loire and the town of Le Puy to be present on this occasion and to assist in the ceremonies connected with the inauguration of a statue of General La Fayette.

I claim for my country, to whom he rendered such inestimable services, a full share in the inheritance of his fame, and I rejoice as its representative to unite on this occasion with the distinguished members of the Government and with the descendants and countrymen of La Fayette in this tribute to his memory.

I am happy to express to you the devoted and sympathetic interest of my Government, and the grateful affection of the citizens of the United States, for the illustrious patriot who, next to Washington, of all the heroes of the Revolution, awakens in American hearts the deepest sympathy and gratitude. And what is it that has won for him the honor, gratitude, and affection of my countrymen? I answer, the principles which directed his public life, the invaluable services which he rendered my country in the hour of her greatest trial. It was his love of liberty which led him, a youth of nineteen years, to embrace the cause of American independence, and inspired him to say, “When I first heard the news of the struggle, my heart leaped to your cause with enthusiastic sympathy.”

And what is it that gives to La Fayette his spotless fame? I answer, his unfaltering devotion to constitutional freedom; for always, whether in the days of the monarchy, the empire, or the republic, he was ever the consistent advocate of the supremacy of the law; ever demanding that liberty should be defined and protected by chartered rights. His love of liberty was a part of his very being—the inspiration of his life.

This life-like statue—one of the triumphs of art—around which we are now assembled, will recall to generations yet unborn the great services which he rendered to the sacred cause of constitutional liberty. More than a century has passed since La Fayette enlisted in the war of American independence, devoting to it his fortune, influence, and life.

Would that he could this day rise from his grave and look upon the marvelous results of the work which he and his countrymen took so great a part in preparing. Would that he could hear the words of respect and gratitude which greet his memory to-day. Would that he could look out and see that the two countries which he loved and served so well were nevermore closely united in sympathy and good-will than on this day, when the citizens of both are here engaged in inaugurating a statue to perpetuate his memory.

Only a few weeks have passed since more than 10,000 people assembled at Burlington, in my native State, to inaugurate a statue of La Fayette, and relay the cornerstone of the University of the State of Vermont, which was originally laid by the illustrious general during his visit to the United States in 1825. Among those present were the governor of the State, all the living ex-governors, the president, faculty, and trustees of the university, battalions of United States troops, of the National Guard of the State, and of the Grand Army of the Republic.

We have assembled to-day for a similar purpose, near the birthplace of La Fayette, and I esteem it a great privilege to stand in the presence of, and feel that I may claim, both for my country and personally, the friendship of the grandson—your distinguished Senator—M. Edmond de La Fayette, and other descendants of the great patriot and soldier.

I will not attempt to even sketch the eventful life and distinguished services La Fayette rendered to his native land, or to the nation he sacrificed so much to serve; they form an important part of the history of France and of the United States during their struggle for independence. I may, however, repeat the prophetic words he uttered to a committee of the American Congress, appointed to present him, upon his return to France, with a letter addressed to the King, expressive of their high appreciation of the services he had rendered, when he said, “May this immense Temple of Freedom ever stand, a lesson to oppressors, an example to the oppressed, a sanctuary for the rights of mankind! and may these happy United States attain that complete splendor and prosperity which will illustrate the blessings of their Government, and for ages to come rejoice the departed souls of its founders.”

The founders of this Temple of Freedom have long since seen the last of earth, but the Temple they raised still stands in all its matchless proportions, a beacon light to the oppressed, a sanctuary for the rights of mankind, and we live to withess the realization of his prayer and prophetic words.

General La Fayette made two visits to the United States as the guest of the nation after the War of Independence—the first time during the life of Washington, his warm [Page 279] personal friend and companion in victory and defeat, and again in 1824. His reception by the Government and the people was on both occasions a continual ovation from the time of his arrival to that of his departure. His name is a household word from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and will be for all time imperishably associated with that of Washington, the grandest character in American history.

May the friendship formed on the field and in the camp between Washington and La Fayette—typical representatives of the grand qualities of the French and American citizen-soldier—remain unbroken between the two great Republics until the end of time.

[Inclosure 2 in No. 403.—Translation.]

Mr. Waldeck-Rousseau’s speech.

Mr. Waldeck-Rousseau followed with a speech, of which the following are the important paragraphs:

“The minister of the United States has just expressed for France sentiments of cordiality and friendship, which cannot go unanswered. I feel bound to thank him warmly for such sentiments and to tell him in the name of all republicans of this department here present how happy we are, how much we are affected to see by the side of us, united in a like sentiment of veneration for that man of whom Senator Vissaguet has just spoken so eloquently, the accredited representative of that other great democracy, which is the American democracy, of that other great Republic, which is the Republic of the United States, laborious as ours, pacific as ours, and convinced as we are that free people cannot buy that inestimable boon of peace except upon the double condition—to be firmly resolved never to undertake anything against others, but also never to permit others to undertake anything against them. [Loud applause.]

“The democracy of America is the true republicanism, and we should esteem it a happy day for France when we arrive—as we believe we are now in the way of arriving—at the perfection of a Republic such as Washington founded, with the aid of our own La Fayette. We seek no aggrandizement not founded upon the true development and just protection of our commercial interests, and these we hope to be always prepared to defend.”

[Inclosure 3 in No. 403.—Translated from La Haute-Loire of September 8, 1883.]

Senator La Fayette’s toast at the banquet.

Mr. E. de La Fayette proposed in the following terms a toast to the United States and the President of the great American Republic:

My Dear Fellow-Townsmen: I claimed the honor to propose a toast to the President of the United States, to Mr. Morton, representative of the Republic, and to his fellow-countrymen present at this banquet.

“In proposing this toast I only pay a debt of gratitude towards that country which has never ceased to give proof, in every circumstance, of its respect and of its sympathies for the name of La Fayette.

“The echo of this great fete, you may be sure, my dear fellow-townsmen, will resound in all American hearts to-day, more than ever, when the two people, having fought in the past on the same battle-fields for the cause of American independence, find themselves, at the present day, united by the ties of a community of republican institutions.

“Let Mr. Morton and his countrymen be welcomed amongst us; they will retain, I am convinced, the best souvenir of your hospitality. You have shown them by your cordial reception that, while doing honor to the memory of La Fayette, you will not forget that he was the friend and brother-in-arms of their immortal Washington.

“To Mr. Morton and his fellow-countrymen! A hearty welcome to Mr. Morton and his fellow-countrymen! To Mr. Morton, citizen of New York, minister of the American Republic, and to the President of the United States!”

This toast was greeted by enthusiastic cheers for the American representation, clapping of hands follows, table napkins are waved in the air—”Hip, hip, hurrah!”

[Page 280]
[Inclosure 4 in No. 403.—Extract from the Morning News.]

Mr. Morton’s reply.

The principal speech of the evening was made by Mr. Morton, who, replying to the toast of “The President of the United States,” felicitously proposed by Senator La Fayette, said:

Monsieur le Maire, Messieurs: The warm and enthusiastic reception which you have given to the toast in honor of the President of the United States almost leads me to believe that the department of the Haute-Loire is one of the States of the American Union. As General La Fayette was one of the founders of the American Republic, we claim his descendants as adopted citizens of the country with which his name will always be associated, and when the department of his birth knocks at the door of the American Congress for admission, she will be received with open arms, with your distinguished Senator as a member of the United States Senate.

“It is, indeed, a great pleasure for Americans to meet the descendants and fellow-townsmen of La Fayette near his birthplace, and I shall always feel deeply grateful for your cordial welcome, all your generous hospitality, and the opportunity which you have given me and my countrymen of joining with you in doing honor to his memory. Our visit to this beautiful department of France has been one of unalloyed enjoyment, and the many evidences of your affection for and interest in our country will long be remembered with great pleasure.

“If your Senator, the grandson of General La Fayette, will visit the United States, I will promise him that he will be welcomed as warmly as his illustrious ancestor, and by none more warmly than by my charming countrywomen; and it will only be from a lack of courage on his part if a lifelong alliance is not then and there formed between the descendants of La Fayette and Washington.

“I drink to the health of the president of the council-general and Senator of the department of the Haute-Loire, who honors and dignities the name he bears—Edmond de La Fayette.”