Friday, August 15, 2008

Lafayette - American Liberty with a French Accent

The crowd cheered, the militia fired salutes, and the dignitaries gave patriotic speeches. This was the scene at Temple Hall Farm Regional Park on Saturday August 9th, as a crowd of over 300 people joined in the second annual Lafayette Day celebrations. The scene mirrored the events of August 9th 1825, when the Marquis de Lafayette, President John Quincy Adam and former President James Monroe visited Temple Hall Farm.

Lafayette Day is becoming one of the major events at Temple Hall Farm Regional Park that highlights the history of this farm. Temple Hall Farm was established in 1810 by William Temple Mason, a nephew of George Mason. Today, it is a popular farm park that hosts the annual fall MAiZE which attracts over 12,000 visitors. The public can enjoy farm tours, horse drawn wagon rides, playground and picnic areas most of the year.

Lafayette visited Temple Hall Farm as part of a year and a half tour of the United States, forty-five years after the American Revolution. Everywhere he went, large crowds came out to see the last surviving general of the Revolution. Prior to going to Temple Hall Farm, Lafayette, Adams and Monroe spent most of the day celebrating in Leesburg.

Lafayette was one of the most amazing figures in American and world history. In addition to being George Washington’s closest friend, he was responsible for bringing the French army and navy to help defeat the British at Yorktown, winning the Revolutionary War. After the American Revolution, he started the French Revolution. Lafayette was committed to liberty and lobbied for the end of slavery at the time of the Revolution. In the early 1800’s, he used some of his money to buy a farm in Tennessee for freed slaves.

Last Saturday, Michael Halbert played Lafayette, Brian Lewis played John Quincy Adams, and Jay Harrison played James Monroe. Other re-enactors included Bonnie Fairbanks as Mrs. Mason and Jenna Gilbert as Mary Mason (age 8); and Steve Doss, Todd Brighton, Andrew House and John Davidson played the local militia/honor guard.

Among the public was a group of French tourists who were interested in seeing one of their countrymen celebrated for his role in securing American freedom.

Temple Hall Farm is one of 21 parks owned and operated by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NVRPA). NVRPA has over 10,000 acres of parkland in Loudoun, Fairfax and Arlington Counties and the Cities of Fairfax, Falls Church and Alexandria. Other major historic sites in the NVRPA system include the Carlyle House in Old Town Alexandria, Aldie Mill, and Balls Bluff Battlefield in Leesburg.

For more information on the Marquis de Lafayette see: