Yesterday's post "Partisan Politics in Hudson . . . 1839" made reference to Lafayette's visit to Hudson in 1824 and prompted a reader to remind me of a discovery he'd made and shared with me in 2007--that the Marquis de La Fayette, the French aristocrat who served as a major-general in the Continental Army during the American Revolution, never actually made it to Hudson on his celebrated grand tour of America in 1824 and 1825, which marked the country's fiftieth anniversary.
The fact that it was referenced, just fifteen years later, in the Columbia Republican account of Martin Van Buren's visit to Hudson provides evidence that Lafayette's visit was an accepted part of the lore of Hudson's early history. In 1907, Anna Bradbury offers this account of Lafayette's visit in her History of the City of Hudson, New York:
Both [the Hudson City Guards and the Scotch Plaids] did escort duty on the occasion of the visit of General Lafayette to Hudson in 1824, this city having been one of the first in the Union to send a committee to New York, to meet Lafayette, and to tender him its hospitalities.
In September of that year Lafayette came up the river on the steamer James Kent to visit various places on its banks, and on his arrival at the residence of the Hon. Edward P. Livingston, the Mayor of Hudson, Rufus Reed, and distinguished citizens, Gens. Van Rensselaer and Fleming, and their respective suites, accompanied by the two military companies before mentioned, and the Hudson Brass Band, proceeded down the river to greet Lafayette and escort him to this city.
On their arrival at Clermont, the seat of Judge Livingston, they participated in the festivities provided, and after a short visit at Catskill, reached Hudson about noon on the following day.
Here, it is recorded, "Lafayette met with a reception the most heartfelt and joyous ever bestowed upon man."
"He was conducted to an elegant carriage drawn by four black horses, attended by four grooms in livery, and accompanied by a lengthy procession of military and citizens of Hudson and vicinity, under the direction of Col. Charles Darling as Marshall of the day—was carried through all the principal streets, which were literally choked with people—to all of whom Lafayette tried in vain to bow."
"Arches of evergreens and flowers were erected at various points, bearing inscriptions of welcome, and that at the head of Warren street, was surmounted by a colossal figure of the Goddess of Liberty, bearing in her hand the Stars and Stripes."
At the Court House, which was filled "by elegantly dressed women," the General was welcomed by his Honor, the Mayor, to whom he replied in a brief speech. Sixty-eight veterans of the Revolution were then presented to him, for each of whom he had a kind word; after them the military officers, and lastly "the elegantly dressed women."
"Dinner had been provided for a great number of people at Mr. Allen's tavern, and over the chair designed for Lafayette was suspended a wreath of beautiful flowers, enclosing an appropriate poetical greeting, while around the room were the most tasteful and elaborate decorations which had been anywhere seen on his journey."
"But these labors of love were all lost, the want of time preventing his remaining for dinner." However, "he alighted from his carriage and remained a short time, partaking of a glass of wine, after which he bade the multitude farewell, and proceeding directly to the river, embarked for Albany, about the middle of the afternoon."
Bradbury cites as her source the Commercial Advertiser, "whose reporter accompanied General Lafayette on his extended tour through the country."
By contrast to Bradbury's glowing account, this is what was discovered by a Gossips reader at the New-York Historical Society in a book by Marian Klamkin called The Return of Lafayette: 1824-1825:
The citizens of the town of Catskill were to be hosts to Lafayette for a few brief moments during which he conversed with some Revolutionary soldiers, one of whom he recognized as having fought with him at Brandywine. A detachment of eighty old soldiers waited for Lafayette at the little town of Hudson, across the river from Catskill. Elaborate plans had been made, the usual triumphal arches built, and public entertainments prepared, but Lafayette had to skip the whole event in order to get to Albany in time. . . .
Klamkin's book, which was published by Scribner's in 1975, isn't in the collection of any of the libraries in the Mid-Hudson Library System, so Gossips hasn't been able to check the source for this debunking bit of revisionist history, and the question remains: Did Lafayette visit Hudson in 1824 or didn't he?