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As Long as We Remember...

August 2, 2002

Finally This Patriot Will Become A U. S. Citizen

John W. Ashbury

It's about time. Finally the President of The United States and both houses of the U. S. Congress have agreed that Paul Yves Roch Gilbert de Motier should be an honorary citizen of this great country.

When Winston S. Churchill became an honorary citizen in 1963, it was the first time such an accolade had ever been bestowed. Certainly there were many who deserved it, but Churchill became the first, for obvious reasons.

Among President Kennedy's remarks on April 9, 1963, was this line, which epitomizes this great British prime minister: "He mobilized the English language and sent it into battle. The incandescent quality of his words illuminated the courage of his countrymen." Can there ever be greater praise for any politician?

There have been five other foreign nationals who have been so honored: Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved 100,000 Hungarian Jews during World War II, and then disappeared into the hands of the Soviets; William and Hannah Penn, who founded Pennsylvania; Mother Theresa, the Macedonian of Albanian descent, who, as a nun of the Roman Catholic Church, brought comfort to millions of India's poorest of the poor; and most recently Andrei Sakharov, the Soviet physicist who turned his energies to the issue of human rights.

Now a man who has direct connection to Frederick County will be so honored. We know him better as the Marquis de Lafayette, without whose help the United States of America may not even exist.

He came to our aid in our greatest hour of need, bringing armed troops with him from France, and financing their efforts from his own pocket. It was his influence that brought France into the conflict on the side of the rebels. And it was the French fleet that prevented Lord Cornwallis from fleeing Yorktown by sea and forced his surrender to George Washington, although Cornwallis sent an aide to surrender his sword.

Lafayette's connection to Frederick began at the Battle of Brandywine, near Philadelphia, when Lawrence Everhart, of Middletown, and another patriot carried him, severely wounded, from that engagement. Everhart and Lafayette developed a great friendship, as everyone seemed to do with this Middletown farmer, who became a minister later in life.

It wasn't until 1824, when Lafayette made a triumphant tour of this young nation, that Fredericktonians came to fully realize the closeness of the bond between these two soldiers. It was Everhart, along with a host of local dignitaries, who greeted the French patriot at Jug Bridge, when that structure was a mere 16 years old. There was a great parade through the city. A ball was held at what we know today as the Ross and Mathias houses on Council Street. And an elaborate dinner was held at Talbott's Tavern in the first block of West Patrick Street.

So now, 221 years after the Revolutionary War ended, and 168 years after his death, The Marquis de Lafayette will become a true citizen of The United States.

There are those who will argue that he had been an honorary citizen since the inception of this great nation. Both Virginia and Maryland made him so long before the adoption of the U. S. Constitution, and, therefore, when we became a country, he became a citizen.

That is neither here nor there. This is an official act that is long overdue. And we in Frederick County can be proud that this honored gentleman came to see our town during his only return trip to America after the war.

Here is the text of the Joint Resolution passed by Congress earlier this year.


Conferring honorary citizenship of the United States on Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, also known as the Marquis de Lafayette.

     Whereas the United States has conferred honorary citizenship on four other occasions in more than 200 years of its independence, and honorary citizenship is and should remain an extraordinary honor not lightly conferred nor frequently granted;
     Whereas Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, also known as the Marquis de Lafayette or General Lafayette, voluntarily put forth his own money and risked his life for the freedom of Americans;
     Whereas the Marquis de Lafayette, by an Act of Congress, was voted to the rank of Major General;
     Whereas, during the Revolutionary War, General Lafayette was wounded at the Battle of Brandywine, demonstrating bravery that forever endeared him to the American soldiers;
     Whereas the Marquis de Lafayette secured the help of France to aid the United States' colonists against Great Britain;
     Whereas the Marquis de Lafayette was conferred the honor of honorary citizenship by the Commonwealth of Virginia and the State of Maryland;
     Whereas the Marquis de Lafayette was the first foreign dignitary to address Congress, an honor which was accorded to him upon his return to the United States in 1824;
     Whereas, upon his death, both the House of Representatives and the Senate draped their chambers in black as a demonstration of respect and gratitude for his contribution to the independence of the United States;
     Whereas an American flag has flown over his grave in France since his death and has not been removed, even while France was occupied by Nazi Germany during World War II; and
     Whereas the Marquis de Lafayette gave aid to the United States in her time of need and is forever a symbol of freedom: Now, therefore, be it
     Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, also known as the Marquis de Lafayette, is proclaimed to be an honorary citizen of the United States of America.

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