T he Marquis de Lafayette, a French nobleman who helped America win the Revolutionary War, has a special connection with Louisiana, where the biggest city in Acadiana is named in his honor.
That’s why we’re heartened by the recent arrival in the United States of a replica of the Hermione, the ship that brought Lafayette to America in 1780 to help revolutionary patriots in their cause.
Lafayette embraced the Revolutionary War as a chance to fight against Great Britain, a longtime rival to France. He was made a major general in the Continental Army when he agreed to serve without pay. He eventually persuaded his government to send aid to the American colonists. The presence of the French fleet near Yorktown helped the Americans win a conclusive victory over the British. Lafayette later participated in negotiations that won American independence.
The later part of Lafayette’s life wasn’t so glorious. He was a prominent leader in the early part of the French Revolution but lost his fortune and social standing when he refused to participate in some of the revolution’s radical excesses.
Although Louisiana wasn’t among the 13 colonies that participated in the American Revolution, the state’s deep French heritage created a natural rationale for naming a Louisiana city, Lafayette, in tribute to the marquis.
The replica of the Hermione, 17 years in the making, used wood from 2,000 French oak trees. It cost $21.6 million to make and was funded by private donors and local and regional French governments, who hope the ship’s voyage will help promote tourism.
The Hermione left France amid much fanfare in August and is touring the eastern seaboard of the United States; it recently docked in Annapolis, Maryland.
No stops are planned in Louisiana for this maiden voyage of the new Hermione, but we hope the ship visits here one day. That would be a happy development in a state where Lafayette’s legacy continues to loom large.