Saturday, July 4, 2009

L'Hermione, the Liberty Frigate

In June 2012, a replica of the 1780 French frigate Hermione will anchor off the Statue of Liberty, New York after having crossed the Atlantic Ocean (Rochefort, Boston, New-York). The original frigate had sailed to l'Amérique to support and help the American people in their quest for freedom and independence.
Aboard the Hermione ("Frégate de la Liberté") when she set sails from Rochefort in March 1780, was le Marquis de La Fayette. After a 38 day sail, the 65 metres long man-of-war reached Boston where the French officer landed to re-join George Washington's forces. In 1777, having disobeyed Louis XVI's orders and avoided capture by British spies, young La Fayette had eventually reached American shores to serve in the Continental Army. He had returned to France a hero and played a key role in strengthening the French Monarchy's commitment to the American struggle.

The idea for an absolute king to support another people's struggle for freedom was daring. Of course, the monarch backed the project for the blow it would deal to His Britannic Majesty King GeorgeIII, and not to "defend freedom". For La Fayette the latter was the point for he had been truly inspired by the ideal of individual liberty (right with G. Washington at Mt. Vernon in 1784). During the French Revolution - despite persecution by the Jacobin revolutionaries - and throughout his life, he remained true to this ideal.

Crossing an ocean in the 18th century was adventurous but so is the 20th century project to build a replica and sail her across the Atlantic. If all goes well, the image of the "Frégate de la Liberté" anchored in front of the "Statue de la Liberté" will bear testimony to the will and achievements of a few who inspired so many. It will also honour the spirit of a free man who made a difference, Monsieur de La Fayette.
This project was initiated by a group of citoyens (Association Hermione-La Fayette founded in 1997), and after difficult beginnings (technical and financial), construction is well under way in 2009 (hull completed and caulked, big capstan installed). Of course, the French Republic keenly backs it (with taxpayers' money). The political objective behind may be to commemorate our common history, the friendship between our two nations and the ideal of liberty but one thing is certain, it is not in support of economic freedom! C'est un peu l'histoire qui se répète....

Happy 4th of July. Et vive la liberté!

1 comment:

  1. We came to see the ship under construction in October 2009 - can anyone tell me when she will be able to float out of the dry dock which she is being built in as I would like to be there?