“The easy part was winning the war. More difficult to get these thirteen states to get along and plan for the future,” Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette quoting George Washington.
Colonial Williamsburg has discovered a winning formula with these “conversations” with historical characters. In this case, we are guests at a “town hall” meeting in Paris in 1802 to hear the Marquis’ perspective on the revolutions in America and France.
Lafayette, as presented by Mark Snyder, is well-informed and passionate about the cause of liberty, equality and fraternity. He enjoyed an insider’s view of both the American and the French Revolutions. His personal relationship with Louis XVI, George Washington and Napoleon Bonaparte give him rare insights. Guess which told him, “Never disobey me again?”
If one may criticize, as presented, the Marquis’s noble French accent is daunting to lazy American ears. Likewise, the rapid pace of his presentation often outstripped the comprehension of the audience. He recalled facts, names and dates instantly.
Especially poignant is the tale of Lafayette’s attempts to secure the freedom of black American James Armistead, who spied on Cornwallis during the Yorktown campaign by the simple expedient of being his every present, but ignored valet.
It’s a shame these presentations are uniformly scheduled at 1:15 PM (with different characters recurring on “their” day) because that renders them inaccessible to all but vacationers and retirees.
Some presentations curtail with the end of the tourist season, but new programs are in work. Look for Lafayette on the Rights of Man in September. Check Colonial Williamsburg’s website, which unfortunately is not structured for easy searching of these conversations.