The Bicentennial of Lafayette’s Celebrated Return to the United States: 1824-25

This Year Marks 200 Years Since the Marquis de Lafayette’s Celebrated Farewell Tour, and Raab is Exhibiting Two Great Lafayette Letters Including One Written by the General on That Very Trip


As the United States approached the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, in the midst of the Era of Good Feelings, plans arose to commemorate this milestone. Many of the men and women who had taken part in it were old but still alive. In 1824, at the invitation of President James Monroe, the Marquis de Lafayette returned to the United States for a grand ‘Farewell Tour’ to celebrate the success of the new nation. Lafayette was considered the “last significant surviving general of the American Revolution.” He had been a young man then, a son-like figure to the immortal Washington. 

Lafayette’s Farewell Tour lasted thirteen months, from August 1824 through September 1825. Highlights included dining at the White House and staying with Thomas Jefferson at Monticello. Lafayette also met with all of the living presidents, from John Adams to Andrew Jackson, and became the first foreign dignitary to address a joint session of Congress. 

As he made his way across all of the then-existing 24 states, the Revolutionary War general was honored with many parties, parades, and dinners. The events were star-studded and adorned with much fanfare, military parades and grand speeches. 

The Marquis de Lafayette in New York

Lafayette’s great tour began in New York City in August of 1824. The following June he returned to the state of New York. While in Albany, around June 12, 1825, Lafayette wrote to his dear friend Edward Livingston, who had held several political offices, including representative to both New York and then Louisiana in Congress; mayor of New York City; Secretary of State; and Minister to France. 

In the letter to Livingston, Lafayette makes plans for upcoming tour events, particularly those happening later that week in Boston: 

“My Dear Edward, Mr. Buckingham has asked me to lead with me some officers of the general staff or others; but it seems to me better that they might be invited by the committee. You are familiar with its composition; you are connected with Mr. Buckingham. Arrange this as you would like with him.”

Marquis de Lafayette letter 1825

The Buckingham to whom Lafayette refers was Joseph T. Buckingham, an acquaintance of both Lafayette and Livingston. He was a writer and editor in Massachusetts, who hosted an event on the tour. Later, he would serve as president of the Bunker Hill Monument Association

The event Lafayette was organizing with Livingston was the banquet hosted by Buckingham at the Marlboro Hotel, where Lafayette stayed during this leg of the tour, on June 20, 1865, which followed the laying of the cornerstone of the Bunker Hill Monument in Charlestown. 

To see Lafayette’s participation in the planning of his epic tour is quite something. Letters written by Lafayette during his Farewell Tour are rare; we have found a scarce handful having sold going back decades.

Lafayette Introduces “a Zealous Friend of Liberty”

Just a year after his return to France from his year abroad, Lafayette provided an introduction for an Italian revolutionary to one of his influential contacts in the United States. In the letter, dated October 1826, Lafayette wrote to the mayor of New York City, Philip Hone, to introduce a man who was ready to begin his own journey to the U.S.: “Dr. Tadini is a zealous friend of liberty.I beg leave to introduce him to you and our friends in New York.” 

Two Lafayette letters on exhibit at Raab

Francesco Tadini had spent years in exile for his activities in Italy and would later found the Italian Liberation Society.

With this letter, Lafayette was, in effect, connecting the patriotic movements in Italy, France, and the U.S. and perpetuating the spirit of revolution that had induced him to join the Continental Army nearly fifty years before. 

The Bicentennial of Lafayette’s Farewell Tour 

When Lafayette returned to the U.S. in 1824, he was dubbed “The Guest of the Nation,” welcomed and received by notables everywhere he visited. 

Marquis de Lafayette print 1825
Credit: National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

Throughout this year and next, several institutions and organizations are planning events to celebrate the bicentennial of Lafayette’s Farewell Tour. They include: 

The American Revolution Institute in Washington, D.C., has already opened its exhibition, Fete Lafayette: A French Hero’s Tour of the American Republic, which is up through the end of the year.  

The Rye, New York, Historical Society is hosting the exhibition, “The Nation’s Guest: Celebrating Lafayette’s Return,” which remains on view through August 16 and will then travel to another institution. 

The American Friends of Lafayette will officially kick off a recreation of the bicentennial celebration of Lafayette’s Farewell Tour this August, with events in cities and communities across the Eastern U.S. in the exact order that Lafayette and his entourage experienced it. 

Lafayette College Library in Pennsylvania will host an exhibition of letters and memorabilia related to the bicentennial in Fall 2024. (A letter recently purchased from Raab will be central to the display.) 

Tracing Lafayette’s route is also possible with the help of The Lafayette Trail, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to document, map, and mark his footsteps during his Farewell Tour in the run-up to the bicentennial.  

Marquis de Lafayette Historical Documents & Autographs

Lafayette’s historical documents and autograph letters are increasingly rare. To peruse our inventory, visit our dedicated Lafayette page. 

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