Lafayette Exalted

The following is from Knight Templar magazine, volume XXXII October 1986
Sir Knight William A. Brown
Old Dominion Commandery No. 11
Alexandria, Virginia
Although there is some question as to where the Marquis de
Lafayette received his symbolic degrees, there is no question as
to when and where the general received his Royal Arch Degree.
Lafayette was an American-made Mason, as there is little doubt
that he received his symbolic degrees in America.  We can assume
that Lafayette's great intimacy with Brother George Washington
led him to desire to become a member of the Fraternity.

You might wonder why the time and place of his having received
the first three degrees of Masonry should not have been well
recorded, but there is uncertainty only because the stories told
were embellished and changed to make the teller important.

Where was it?  Morristown, New Jersey, or Albany, New York?
Could it have been Newburgh?  All three claim to be the home and
birthplace of Layfayette's Masonic life. Most authorities agree
that Lafayette was in his twentieth year when he received his
degrees in the Symbolic Lodge, which, oddly, is the same age at
which Washington received his first degree in Fredericksburg
Lodge, Fredericksburg, Virginia.

The most popular story, and the one most quoted, claims that
Lafayette received his degrees in a room over the bar of the old
Freemen's Tavern in Morristown, New Jersey.  They also state that
Brother Washington himself presided at the ceremony as Master; of
this there is no proof, but it made a good story and may be true.
The concession and probability is in favor of the degrees being
conferred in some military Lodge at some time prior to the
capitulation of Yorktown, for it is recorded that Washington, Ma
rshall, Lafayette, and Nelson attended Lodge No. 9 immediately
after the surrender.

It was in 1784 that Lafayette, on a visit to America, made a
special trip to Mt. Vernon to visit Washington and Martha; they
were like a father and mother to him and he loved them dearly.
On that visit he presented to Washington a beautiful Masonic
apron - the handiwork of Madame de Lafayette - and also a
handsome rosewood cabinet, beautifully inlaid with emblems of the
order, in which to store the apron.  The apron is now the
property of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania and the box is on
display in the George Washington Masonic National Memorial at
Alexandria, Virginia and the property of Alexandria-Washington
Lodge No. 22.

In 1824, on an invitation of the Congress of the United States,
Lafayette made his last visit to America. Lafayette arrived in
New York on August 15 in what proved to be a triumphant journey
through the twenty-four states.  All parts of the country desired
to do homage to him.  Masonic bodies in the various states which
he visited extended him invitations and in most instances he
accepted, as is recorded in the proceedings of those many Lodges
and Grand Lodges. But ultimately it was Jerusalem Chapter No. 8
which had the honor of extending him the first Masonic honor
after his arrival in New York.

On this last visit, Lafayette was not alone; accompanying him was
his son, George Washington Lafayette whom he had named for the
father he had "adopted," and also M. L. Vasseur, who served
Lafayette as his secretary during the trip. In September 1824,
two interesting events are recorded in the minutes of Jerusalem
Chapter No. 8. On the 8th of September, Brother George Washington
Lafayette, son of the great Marquis, was proposed, and at a
special meeting held the next day, all the degrees were conferred
upon him.  According to their minutes, "It was also voted to
present him with a gold medal as a token of the respect and
esteem in which he is held by the members of this Chapter."
Three days later, the Marquis himself was proposed and elected,
and received the degrees at one convocation.

When Lafayette had arrived in New York for some days he was
entertained by the city authorities with great hospitality.  He
traveled to other cities in the east and returned to New York in
September when he was invited to the Grand Lodge to participate
in a great celebration in his honor. This was given on September
20.  It was recorded in the minutes of Jerusalem Chapter that the
Chapter entertained him and conferred the capitular degrees upon
him eight days earlier than the reception given to him by the
Grand Lodge.

The following account is from a Tennessee newspaper, after
Lafayette's visit to that Grand Lodge: Most Excellent High Priest
and worthy Companions: It was in this city where I first met with
that kind reception and those cordial welcomes which I have
repeatedly experienced in the progress of my late journey through
the twenty-four states of the union.  It was here within these
walls that I first received admission to the higher orders of
Masonry, and I may, therefore, justly regard this Chapter as the
cradle of my Masonic life, having been, by your kindness, enabled
to visit the various Masonic institut ions throughout the United
States. Indeed I may justly be regarded as one of the greatest
Masonic travelers in this country, having, in my late tour with
my son, George Washington Lafayette, and my worthy companion, M.
LaVasseur, visited all the Grand Lodges and higher Masonic bodies
of the United States, with great pleasure and satisfaction.  I am
also happy to state that I found, in my travels, the Masonic
Fraternity flourishing and harmonious, and held in high public
respect and honor.  Even in some of the more recently settled
portions of the country, in Cincinnati and particularly in
Nashville, it was with no less surprise that pleasure that I
observed the Masonic societies had made improvements so
creditable to themselves and honorable to the order.

The harmony and respectability of Masonry throughout this
extensive country may well be regarded as affording an important
pillar of support and union to its free institutions and happy
form of government.

Accept, therefore, in return for your kindness, my sincere thanks
for having afforded me the facilities of being so honorably
received and accepted by all the Masonic institutions in the
twenty-four states of this republic.

Although New York was to be the first to entertain Lafayette, he
received an invitation by the citizens of Alexandria, Virginia,
to be their guest as soon as possible.  Thus, on the 16th of
October 1824, Lafayette was received with an ovation, and Lodges
Nos. 22,47 and 8 extended him their hospitalities.  The streets
of Alexandria were decorated and the whole city turned out for
their very distinguished guest.  Alexandria-Washington Lodge No.
22, Brook Lodge No. 47, and E vangelical Lodge No. 8 were his
offi cial hosts.

After the ceremonies were over, Lafayette found time to
visit the tomb of Washington at Mt. Vernon and pay a silent
tribute to the memory of his beloved mentor.

From Alexandria, Lafayette went on to visit the Grand Lodge of
Louisiana in late October and from there he traveled among the
Grand Lodges of the states.  Upon his return to Alexandria on the
21st of February 1825, a farewell party was given for the
Lafayette party, at which Lafayette presented to
Alexandria-Washington Lodge the key to the Bastille, which has
been in their possession ever since. Many presents and tokens
were presented to Lafayette during the banq uet at Gadsby's
Tavern that night.

Madame de Stael wrote of him: You can with certainty predict what
he would do under any and all circumstances; brave yet tender,
firm yet gentle, a pillar of light to Masons and to all mankind.

"Brother Lafayette died May 20, 1834, just ten years after his
last visit to America.

"The chosen friend and dear adopted son of the Brother of our
Craft, George Washington."

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