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May 6, 2014: Dean Malissa & Ben Goldman

General George Washington and the
Marquis de Lafayette: A French Alliance

General Washington was greeted with a round of applause when he arrived at the Valley Forge Park Theatre on Tuesday evening, May 6, 2014, for his visit with the Marquis de Lafayette in celebration of the French Alliance of 1777. Soon after his arrival, the Marquis de Lafayette proposed a toast “to American Liberty and to those who keep its flame burning,” with General Washington adding, “And to France and her assistance.”

Dean Malissa & Ben Goldman Photos: Stan Sarnocinski, Jr.

General George Washington was portrayed by Philadelphia’s own well-known and capable Dean Malissa who is currently the official George Washington at Mount Vernon. Joining Dean Malissa was Benjamin Goldman portraying Lafayette. Malissa and Goldman first presented their dialogue at the White House on November 6, 2007 following a state dinner in honor of President Nicolas Sarkozy. Goldman’s performance was so convincing that President Sarkozy inquired of him afterwards which province in France was his home!

The evening’s conversation yielded many other notable items, including:

  • The Marquis de Lafayette’s full name is General Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, the Marquis de Lafayette.
  • Lafayette said, “I have come to learn and not to teach.”
  • Washington readily acknowledged Lafayette’s contributions to the siege of Yorktown, the surrender of Cornwallis and the end of the war.
  • Efforts leading up to the French Alliance began in 1775.
  • When Lafayette returned from his first trip back to France, he was accompanied by Rochambeau with cannons, 6000 expeditionary forces, ships of the line and 9000 sailors to help the United States.
  • General Washington did not learn of the French Alliance from Congress, but rather through a 3-day-old copy of the Pennsylvania Gazette.
  • In celebration of the Alliance Washington issued orders at Valley Forge for a general celebration on Wednesday, May 6, 1777. The orders began, “It having pleased the Almighty ruler of the Universe propitiously to defend the Cause of the United American-States and finally by raising us up a powerful Friend among the Princes of the Earth to establish our liberty and Independence up lasting foundations, it becomes us to set apart a day for gratefully acknowledging the divine Goodness and celebrating the important Event which we owe to his benign Interposition.”
  • The observance included a grand parade and display of martial strength and the firing of 13 cannons, a “feu de joie”!
  • General Washington was also the guest of Jersey troops during the religious services of the day.
  • Two soldiers who were awaiting execution were pardoned and restored to their rank.
  • When the British surrendered at Yorktown, they passed between a line of American soldiers on one side and French soldiers on the other. Lafayette noticed that they refused to look at the Americans, keeping their eyes on the French. He gave orders for his musicians to play Yankee Doodle.
  • Yankee Doodle, the 2nd most popular song during the war, was first sung by the British in mockery of the Americans, a “macaroni” being a sort of outlandish effeminate fashionable fellow.
  • General Washington (Malissa) urged that other and better verses of Yankee Doodle be sung, rather than the “macaroni” verse.
  • In the midst of the Conway Cabal which sought to replace Washington as Commander in Chief, Lafayette happened to in the company of some who were engaged in lively conversation concerning the matter. Lafayette listened for a while and then proposed a toast to General Washington, “May he command until peace is won!”