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• L’Hermione, La Fayette and America

The frigate which the King gave me”, as La Fayette phrased it, was the frigate “L’Hermione”, entirely built and outfitted in the shipyards of the Rochefort Arsenal. She was appointed - by order of Louis XVI’s royal cabinet - to the secret mission La Fayette had been entrusted with, a mission consisting in informing general Washington of the imminent arrival of sea and land military supports which were meant to help him in the rebellion of the American “Insurgents” against British tyranny.

La Fayette

tablier de G. Washington

It was not mere chance which induced Vergennes, Louis XVI’ s minister for foreign affairs to invest La Fayette with such a mission. Although an aristocrat and , through his marriage, an ally of the powerful Noailles family, La Fayette had already behind him an intellectual, philosophical and moral career deeply stamped by the Age of Enlightenment. Despite his youth, he very early found himself involved in the considerable effervescence of ideas characterizing the time of encylopedists, thinkers and philosophers of the XVIIIth century. Since this specific movement of ideas was quite especially represented within the rising speculative freemasonry, a traditional, initiatic Ordre, it was simply logical for La Fayette to become one of its most enthusiastic members.

On this ground, and in the wake of his intellectual mentor, Abbé Raynal,an illustrious mason of the famous Respectable Lodge “Les Neuf Soeurs”, and on account of his new masonic principles, La Fayette rapidly turns into one of the most passionate French advocates of the cause of American independance. And, in this field, he finds himself - if we dare say so - on brotherly grounds.

Actually, one of the most salient features in the history of American Independance rests in the fact that it has been the exclusive doing of freemasons. Whether one refers to the famous ‘Boston Tea party’, organised and set up by the Respectable Lodge Saint Andrew, East of Boston, or to the inditers gathered around Thomas Jefferson to draft the “Declaration of Independance”, or still to the various civil or military members of Washington’s successive cabinets (all masons to a man !) who assisted him throughout the time of rebellion, all the numerous episodes of the Insurgents’s war bear the stamp of masonic influence.

The whole thing naturally culminates in Yorktown, in the final scene of of Lord Cornwallis, the British Commander in chief’s surrender (himself a mason) giving up his sword to a combined staff of American and voluntary foreign officers .... all masons !

One may easily imagine, that in these days, franco-american relationship was singularly facilitated, by the network of personal links created between such protagonists , all of them moved by a common ideal drawing them forward to expect the creation of an ideal humanist state. However, one must confess that subsequent history was to slightly obscure the shine of such an irenic vision.