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Paris Diary: Lafayette et Washington

General John J. Pershing is supposed to have said, “Lafayette, nous voilà ” (Lafayette, here we are) when he first set foot in France in 1917, but it ain’t so. The much-encompassing phrase was spoken in Paris’ PicPus cemetary by Colonel Charles E. Stanton on July 4, 1917 on the occasion of an Independence Day celebration by a batallion of American troops.

Lafayette came to George Washington’s aid during the Revolution, and Americans have been happily grateful ever since. The French were proud of their role, too, or so it seems, for a good many years, even after we helped them out in WWI. Perhaps the fact that our GI’s had to help the French again in WWII put the folks here uncomfortably into America’s debt, and the Gaullist élite seems never to have gotten over France’s diminished status. Tant pis.

Laff Wash Statue.jpg

Laff Wash Plaque.jpg

The above monument stands in the Place des Etats-Unis in the 16th arrondissment. It was offered to the City of Paris in 1895 by Joseph Pulitzer. The laconic plaque reads:

Lafayette et Washington. Hommage à  la France en reconnaissance de son généreux concours dans la lutte du peuple des Etats-Unis pour l’indépendance et la liberté.

[Lafayette et Washington. Homage to France in recognition of its generous participation in the American people’s fight for independence and freedom.]

Today, curiously, the French right is more reluctant to work with the U.S. than the left. François Hollande was publicly grateful for the ability to use American airlift capacity in France’s recent police action in Mali.


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