Visit to the African Free School, New York City, September 10, 1824
At one o’clock, the General, with the company invited for the occasion, visited the African Free School, under the tuition of Mr. Andrews, and direction of the Trustees of the Manumission Society. This department of the Free School embraces about 700 scholars, and they are certainly the best disciplined and most interesting school of children, that we have ever witnessed. At this school, but about 450 were present upon this occasion, as the resolution to visit it had been formed, while the party were at Greenwich, and consequently no time for preparation was afforded. On the General’s arrival; he was conducted to a seat by the Trustees, when Mr. Ketchum adverted to the fact, that as long ago as 1788, he had been elected a member of the Institution, at the same time with Grenville Sharpe and Thomas Clarkson, of England. The General perfectly recollected the circumstance, and mentioned particularly the letter he had received on that occasion, from the Hon. John Jay, then President of the Institution. . . .
One of the pupils then stepped upon the forum, and gracefully delivered the following Address:
General La Fayette, In behalf of myself and my fellow school mates, may I be permitted to express our sincere and respectful gratitude to you for the condescension you have manifested this day, in visiting this Institution, which is one of the noblest specimens of New-York philanthropy. Here, Sir, you behold hundreds of the poor children of Africa, sharing with those of a lighter hue, in the blessings of education; and, while it will be our pleasure to remember the great deeds you have done for America, it will be our delight also to cherish the memory of General La Fayette as a friend to African Emancipation, and as a member of this Institution.
To which the General replied in his own characteristic style, “I thank you, my dear child.”
From the New York Commercial Advertiser
The men of Color had solicited the favor to present themselves to the General, and at the hour he had appointed to receive them, they came preceded by their commander Mr. John Mercier, who addressed the General as follows: “The command of the Corps of men of Colour who so eminently contributed to the defense of this Country, has been just entrusted to me; and its officers, scattered until now, and before reorganizing themselves, felt that they should first offer to one of the Heroes of the American Independence, their tribute of respect and admiration. The brave men that I command in whatever situation they may have been placed, would have purchased at the price of their blood, the honor of being presented to you, they felt an ardent desire to tell you, that they have arms always ready to defend their Country, and hearts devoted to you; deign General, to accept this sincere tribute of respect and admiration. . . .
The General received the men of colour with demonstrations of esteem and affection, and said to them: “Gentlemen, I have often during the War of Independence, seen African blood shed with honor in our ranks for the cause of the United States. I have learnt with the liveliest interest, how you answered to the appeal of General Jackson; what a glorious use you made of your arms for the defense of Louisiana. I cherish the sentiments of gratitude for your services, and of admiration for your valor. Accept those also of my personal friendship, and of the pleasure I shall always experience in meeting with you again.” The General then kindly shook hands with them all, and thanked the Governor for the opportunity he had given him to become acquainted with them.
From the Courier of New Orleans, April 19, 1825
This meeting was held in the Supreme Court Room of the Capitol, on the 19th February, and was honored by the attendance of Gen. Lafayette, Chief Justice Marshall, and many other distinguished Individuals. . . .
Mr. Custis, of Arlington, then rose and said, that as there was no immediate business before the Society, he would do himself the honour of offering a resolution. He then read the following: Resolved, unanimously—That General Lafayette be appointed a perpetual Vice President of this Society. . . .
The General then expressed concisely his high gratification at being invited to attend the annual meeting of this Society, for which he had ever felt great respect and affection. To be chosen a member of the Society would be most agreeable to his feelings, and accordant to the principles of all his life.
No objection being offered to Mr. Custis’s resolution, it was ordered that General Lafayette’s name should be recorded among the Vice-Presidents of the Institution.
From the African Repository and Colonial Journal, March 1825
I have been so long the friend of emancipation, particularly as regards these otherwise most happy states, that I behold with the sincerest pleasure the commencement of an institution, whose progress and termination will, I trust, be attended by the most successful results. I shall probably not live to witness the vast changes in the condition of man, which are about to take place in the world; but the era is already commenced, its progress is apparent, its end is certain. France will, ere long, give freedom to her few colonies. In England, the Parliament leaders, urged by the people, will urge the government to some acts preparatory to the emancipation of her slave holding colonies. Already she is looking with much anxiety towards her East India possessions for supplies of sugar, raised by free labour. England is, in fact, rich enough to buy up her slaves property and the current of public opinion, sets so decidedly against slavery, in all its forms, that if the people and government unite, it must soon cease to exist in the English possessions. South America is crushing the evil, at her first entrance upon political regeneration: she will reap rich harvests of political and individual prosperity and aggrandizement, by this wholesale measure. Where then, my dear sir, will be the last foot-hold of slavery, in the world? Is it destined to be the opprobrium of this fine country? . . .
In the course of the next half century, the changes which I have foretold, will probably come to pass; and if they should, what, my dear sir, will be the condition of our friends in the extreme south and south-west of the United States? As slavery declines in the other states, its migration will tend directly to those regions, as its last place of refuge – May we not hope that this will be deemed a matter of serious consideration, worthy of the labours of philosophers, and philanthropists, and of all who feel an interest in the safety and well being of a large portion of the American family?
From the African Repository and Colonial Journal, November 1825
The four days passed with Mr. Madison were agreeably employed in promenades over his beautiful estate, and still more agreeably by our evening conversations, particularly concerning all the great American interests, which are so dear to general Lafayette. The society which at this time habitually assembled at Montpelier, was almost entirely composed of the neighbouring planters, who for the most part appeared as well versed in all great political questions as in agriculture. Lafayette, who though perfectly understanding the disagreeable situation of American slaveholders, and respecting generally the motives which prevent them from more rapidly advancing in the definitive emancipation of the blacks, never missed an opportunity to defend the right which all men without exception have to liberty, broached among the friends of Mr. Madison the question of slavery. It was approached and discussed by them frankly, and in a manner to confirm me in the opinion I had previously formed concerning the noble sentiments of the majority of Virginians upon this deplorable circumstance. It appears to me, that slavery cannot exist a long time in Virginia, because all enlightened men condemn the principle of it, and when public opinion condemns a principle, its consequences cannot long continue to subsist.
A. Levasseur, Secretary to Lafayette during the Farewell Tour
Lafayette in America in 1824 and 1825 (New York, 1829)