Mr. Vignaud to Mr. Blaine.

No. 278.]

Sir: Senator Edmond de Lafayette died here on the morning of the 12th instant at the small apartment he occupied, No. 72 Rue de Rome, during the session of the Chambers. He had been ill for about 2 months, but his illness was known only to a few. Quiet and unobtrusive, he disliked to be the occasion of any trouble for those who knew him, and gave no intimation of his condition to his relatives, although he entertained with them the most affectionate relations. With perhaps two exceptions—Count d’Assaily and Mr. de Corcelle—most of them heard of his illness simultaneously with his death. He was carried away by pulmonary congestion, but for many years he has been suffering from diabetes, and this affection was the real cause of his death. The final crisis came on so suddenly that there was neither time to call for a priest nor to summon any of the members of the family to his death-bed. Only one person was present at the critical moment, and that was Joseph, his concierge, a faithful servant who had for many a day and night nursed him, and in whose arms the heir to a name illustrious in the history of two worlds expired. An American lady—the sister of a United States Senator—and a French lady, personal friends of the old gentleman, watched the first night over his body. The next day the sad news was known to all, and many people began to call at the domicile of the deceased.

Mr. de Lafayette, who was simplicity in person and who dreaded everything having an appearance of ostentation, had directed that no special invitations to attend his funeral should be issued; that no speech should be made over his grave; and that his body should be taken, in the quickest manner, to the family tomb. In compliance with this desire, but a few lines were given to the press indicating that the funeral would take place on the 15th instant at 10 o’clock at the church of St. Augustin. The Lafayette family thought, however, that an exception was to be made for the American legation, and in their name Mr. F. de Corcelle notified me of their bereavement and invited me, as the actual representative of the United States, to be one of the pallbearers. I acknowledged in suitable terms this attention and shared, with the President of the Senate, Mr. Le Royer, Mr. Challemel Lacour, and a general whose name I do not remember, the honor of accompanying the last of the Lafayettes to his resting place.

This was to be in the cemetery of Picpus, where almost every tombstone bears a name belonging to the highest nobility of France. There rest the remains of General Lafayette and those of many members of his family. But permission could not be obtained to open this cemetery, now closed, and the body was taken to Père La Chaise, where have been laid to rest the remains of the last male descendant of that illustrious family, the pedigree of which can be traced as far back as the ninth century, one who called himself plain Mr. Lafayette, who never even used the prefix of nobility attached to his name since the time of Charles VII, who never held an office, and, although learned and able in many respects, chose to lead a modest life, with no other ambition but that of being an upright man worthy of the name he bore. He had a kind heart, and, having no personal wants, he freely gave away the little he had. No one in need of assistance appealed to him in vain. He had a peculiar weakness for the Poles and supported almost by himself a Polish school in Paris; but he kept his charities to himself, and so much [Page 295] so that a member of his family expressed to me his astonishment at seeing so many Poles at the funeral.

He was a true republican; a democrat, not only in theory, but also in practice, and no human consideration could induce him to compromise with the principles of his life. Twice during the Empire he declined the Washington mission. His political judgment was very sound. He never allowed himself to be affected by the Boulanger craze, and stood firmly by Mr. Jules Ferry when an extraordinary concourse of circumstances brought down that remarkable man, the ablest, perhaps, of the living French statesmen and politicians.

Mr. Lafayette spoke English fluently and could make an extemporary speech in that language. He was interested in everything concerning the United States and was fond of the company of Americans. Some of his most intimate friends were Americans. He was in the habit of considering the house of every United States minister here as his own, and since I have been connected with the legation I have known him to be on intimate terms with all the representatives of our Government at Paris. Mr. Washburn had the highest consideration for him; Mr. and Mrs. Morton treated him almost as a member of their family, and Mr. McLane, who had known him 40 years ago, entertained him regularly every Sunday at his house. He was an habitué of Mr. Reid’s hospitable house, where he had the pleasure of meeting and of conversing with a host of prominent Americans, which he enjoyed immensely.

His will was opened on Saturday. He leaves no other property but the home of the family, the “Château de Chavaniac,” in the department of the Haute-Loire, where the general and himself were born. This chateau is an old manor, originally built in the fourteenth century, rebuilt in 1701, and restored in 1791 by General Lafayette. It is full of relics and of souvenirs concerning the general. I understand that it goes now to Mr. de Sahune, one of the two male descendants of George Washington Lafayette, son of the general.

It may not be uninteresting to make known here what the actual status of the Lafayette family is. The lineal table annexed herewith shows this at a glance. I also inclose a translation of Mr. de Corcelle’s letter to me and of my reply.

In behalf of the legation I sent for the funeral a wreath, which I have charged to the contingent fund, as was done in 1881, when Mr. Oscar de Lafayette died.

I have, etc.,

Henry Vignaud.
[Inclosure 1 in No. 278.—Translation.]

Mr. de Corcelle to Mr. Vignaud.

Mr. Chargé d’Affaires: Although Mr. Lafayette requested in his last will that no invitations be issued for his funeral, his family believes it would fail to do its duty if it did not advise the representative of the United States of the date of this ceremony. I have the honor, in the name of Mr. Lafayette’s nephews, to inform you of their loss and to state that if you will call at No 72 Rue de Rome next Monday, at quarter before 10, one of the places of pallbearer will be reserved for you.

Accept, etc.,

F. Corcelle.
[Page 296]
[Inclosure 2 in No. 278.]

Mr. Vignaud to Mr. de Corcelle.

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge reception of the letter you were good enough to write me in the name of your family to inform the representative of the United States of the death of Mr. Edmond de Lafayette, and to say that in that capacity I was expected to be one of the pallbearers.

I thank your family and yourself for having thought that the representative of a country which is the second home of the Lafayettes should occupy a place near the hearse at the funeral of the last one bearing that name, and I beg you to express to your relatives the feelings of sorrow which your bereavement has caused to every American.

Having received person ally many marks of affection from him who has just departed, I feel deeply the loss you have incurred, and it will not be without emotion that I shall attend to the honorable duty assigned to me.

Please accept, etc.,

Henry Vignaud,
Chargé d’Affaires, etc.
[Inclosure 3 in No. 278.]

Family Table.

General Lafayette, married April 11, 1777, to Adrienne d’Ayen de Noailles and had by that marriage three children, viz:

1. Anastasie de Lafayette, born in 1778, married May 9, 1798, to Count of Latour Maubourg (two daughters). { Mme. de Brigode.
Mme. de Perrout St. Marains.
2. George Washington de Lafayette, born December 24, 1779, died in 1849; married Miss de Tracy (five children). { Oscar de Lafayette No children.
Edmond de Lafayette No children.
Mme. Gustave de Beaumont. { Ct. Antoine de Beaumont.
Paul de Beaumont (dead).
Mme. Bureau de Pusy Two children.
Mme. Adolphe Perier One of her daughters married M. de Sahune.
3. Marie Antoinette Virginie de Lafayette, born September, 1782; died in 1849; married April 20, 1803, Marquis Louis de Lasteyrie du Saillant, who died in 1826 (four children). { Mme. De Rémusat { One of her children was Senator Paul de Rémusat, who died a few years ago.
Mme. de Corcelle. { One of her children is Mr. F. de Corcelle; another is Mme. de Chambrun.
Mme d’Assailly. Count d’Assailly.
Mr. de Lasteyrie (Adrien Jules), born October 10, 1810. Mr. de Lasteyrie.