Saturday, March 19, 2022

Lafayette in Hudson

On Tuesday, the Common Council passed a resolution supporting the installation of a marker in Hudson commemorating the Marquis de Lafayette's visit to Hudson in 1824. The marker is part of the project being undertaken by the not-for-profit organization The Lafayette Trail, Inc.

Lafayette was, of course, the French aristocrat and military officer who fought in the Revolutionary War, commanding American troops in several battles, most notably the Battle of Yorktown in the autumn of 1781, which was the decisive victory in the war. 

Washington and Lafayette at the Battle of Yorktown, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation 

Lafayette in 1825, National Portrait Gallery

In 1824, President James Monroe and Congress invited Lafayette to return to the United States, in part to celebrate the country's upcoming fiftieth anniversary. During that visit, which lasted for more than a year, 
Lafayette traveled to all twenty-four states that then made up the Union. Hudson was one of his early stops. He arrived in New York on August 15, 1824. On September 17, 1824, he paid a brief visit to Hudson. An account of Lafayette's visit to Hudson is found is Stephen B. Miller's 1862 book, Historical Sketches of Hudson. The following is quoted from that book:
Hudson was one of the first cities in the Union which sent a committee of invitation to meet Lafayette in New York, and tender him the hospitalities of the city. In the month of September, in 1824, he started upon the steamer James Kent, commanded by Capt. Samuel Wiswall, or the "Commodore" as he was styled, to visit the different places upon the North river. Upon his arrival at the residence of the Hon. Edward P. Livingston, the evening previous to his visit here, word was sent to the city, when a committee of citizens, consisting of Rufus Reed, Esq., Mayor, Doct. John Tallman, and Col. Strong, accompanied by two military companies mentioned [Hudson City Guards and Scotch Plaids], the Hudson Brass Band, Gen. Jacob R. Van Rensselaer and suite, Brig. Gen. James Fleming and suite, proceeded upon the steamboat Richmond, Capt. William J. Wiswall, to meet Lafayette at Clermont and escort him to this city upon the day following. In the evening the grounds and dwelling of Mr. Livingston were beautifully illuminated, and a ball given, attended by several hundred people, among them many of the most distinguished citizens of the State. The military companies from this city were quartered over night upon the James Kent. After a short visit at Catskill, Lafayette reached Hudson about noon of the day following, and "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 its vicinity, under the direction of Col. Charles Darling as Marshal of the day, was carried through the principal streets, which were literally choked with people, to all of whom Lafayette tried in vain to bow. Arches of evergreens were erected at various points, bearing inscriptions of welcome, and that at the head of the street was surmounted by a colossal figure of the Goddess of Liberty, bearing the Stars and Stripes in her hand. At the Court House, which was filled "by elegantly dressed women," he 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, lastly the "elegantly dressed women." Dinner had been provided for a great number of people at Mr. Allen's tavern, the long room of which had been beautifully decorated by the ladies. Over the chair designed for Lafayette was suspended a beautiful wreath of flowers, enclosing an appropriate poetical welcome, while around the room were the most tasteful and elaborate decorations which had been anywhere seen upon his journey. But these labors of love were all lost, the want of time preventing his remaining for dinner; he did, however, so great was the pressure of citizens upon him in passing this point, alight, and after remaining for a short time and partaking of a glass of wine, bade the multitude farewell, proceeded directly to the river and embarked for Albany about the middle of the afternoon.
We take the particulars of this reception from the Commercial Advertiser of that date, whose reporter accompanied Lafayette upon his extended tour through the country.
In 1824, the courthouse was not located where it is today. What was the second Columbia County Courthouse (the first was in Claverack) and the first of four in Hudson was located at the corner of Warren and Fourth streets, where the First Presbyterian Church now stands. The location of "Mr. Allen's tavern" is unknown. Wisely, it was decided not to put the commemorative marker on the site where Lafayette was welcomed by Mayor Rufus Reed and responded with a "brief speech" or where he declined dinner and partook of a glass of wine but rather in riverfront park, where he would have arrived and departed. 

These pictures from the Lafayette Trail website provide a preview of what the marker will look like.

The following is the proposed text for the marker:



  1. Where? My 2cents: Given that Lafayette and his party of ships initially landed at Hudson, and subsequently “proceeded directly to the river and embarked for Albany about the middle of the afternoon,” I could think of no place more fitting to commemorate this august event with a historical marker than Rick’s Point and Henry Hudson Riverfront Park.

  2. I don't disagree with Mr. Wallace, but I do think commemorating this event (i'm guessing the memorial plaque costs us nothing) behooves us to spend a little effort finding out where "Mr. Allen's Tavern" was, which seems not a big deal for a City (Hudson) so steeped in history. But we should also use this event to mark "the grounds and dwelling of Mr. Livingston," where a "beautifully illuminated, and a ball given, attended by several hundred people, among them many of the most distinguished citizens of the State" were in attendance. Let's find a place otherwise unknown to current Hudson, to mark a remarkable historic event. --peter meyer

    1. "The grounds and dwelling of Mr. Livingston" is Clermont. They may be putting a marker there as well.

      Despite the account repeated by Stephen B. Miller, there are those who say that Lafayette was running late because he spent too much time in Catskill, and although the steamer James Kent stopped in Hudson, Lafayette never got off the boat. If that was the case, the waterfront is definitely the appropriate place for the marker.