Postcard from Paris: An unsung and forgotten national hero

The tomb of the Marquis de Lafayette in the Picpus cemetery in Paris. |

Largely overlooked in Paris, a city full of monuments and other sites popular with tourists, is the tomb of the Marquis de Lafayette.

Not only did Marie Joseph Yves Roches Gilbert du Motier serve in the Continental Army under George Washington and help secure the Franco-American alliance that changed the trajectory of the Revolutionary War, but he wrote the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen at the beginning of the French Revolution in 1789. The founding document, inspired by the Enlightenment and the principles embodied by the founding documents of America, remains to this day a foundation of the French Republic.

Despite this incredible legacy, Lafayette seems forgotten today. Of course, the whitewashing of great men of past eras by woke iconoclasts can be blamed, but it’s also undeniable that schools have long since stopped teaching history.

Lafayette’s final resting place is Picpus Cemetery, a private cemetery on the grounds of a former Roman Catholic convent. His grave is surrounded by others, including mass graves containing 1,306 victims of the guillotine during the Reign of Terror in 1794.

Absent an American flag and several plaques, the grave is remarkably humble and seems beneath the dignity of a major national hero of France and the United States.

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The tomb of the Marquis de Lafayette in the Picpus cemetery in Paris. |

The flag and most of the plaques date from July 4, 1917, when American Expeditionary Forces led by famed General John Pershing arrived in Paris shortly after the United States entered World War I or the Great War.

Pershing’s soldiers marched through the city with great fanfare. Not only was it Independence Day for the Doughboys, but the occasion was also steeped in the symbolism of the United States saving France just as Lafayette and the French came to the aid of the American cause.

The parade ended ceremoniously at the cemetery, where Pershing, accompanied by French dignitaries, paid their respects to Lafayette with Colonel Charles Stanton – speaking on behalf of the Americans – famously declaring, “Lafayette, we are here”.

Today, the American flag is replaced in a funeral ceremony every July 4th.

If you are going to

Picpus Cemetery (in French, Cimetière de Picpus) is open from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday. Access is through a rather ordinary door at 35 rue de Picpus.

Supposedly, there is a nominal entry fee of €2 (approximately $2.28 at the time of writing) but no one was collecting it when this columnist visited.

Dennis Lennox writes a travel column for the Christian Post.

Dennis Lennox writes about travel, politics, and religious affairs. It has appeared in the Financial Times, Independent, The Detroit News, Toronto Sun and other publications. To follow @dennislennox on Twitter.