Lafayette’s Bottle Slider Gift to Washington
LAFAYETTE AND WASHINGTON, DEPICTED ABOVE, ON THE PORCH OF MOUNT VERNON, OVERLOOKING THE POTOMAC RIVER, IN THIS PAINTING BY THOMAS PRITCHARD ROSSITER AND LOUIS REMY MIGNOT.
While most American Revolution history buffs know that General Washington considered the young Lafayette like a son, here’s an interesting Lafayette-Washington anecdote you may not know.
GIVEN THEIR ENDEARING, ENDURING FRIENDSHIP, EVEN THE ATLANTIC OCEAN COULD NOT SEVER THEIR TIES ONCE THE MARQUIS RETURNED TO FRANCE FOLLOWING THE SIGNING OF THE TREATY OF PARIS, ENDING BRITISH-AMERICAN HOSTILITIES, ON SEPTEMBER 3, 1783. A FREQUENT CORRESPONDENCE ENSUED BETWEEN THE TWO WAR VETERANS, INCLUDING MANY EXCHANGES OF GIFTS.
Now we know as our first President, Washington wisely espoused a neutral foreign policy strategy during his two-term presidency – read his 1796 Farewell Address which famously asserts our nation should avoid all “entangling alliances”. But in actual fact he, and his wife Martha, might be considered as closet Francophiles!
Here’s an incontrovertible piece of evidence, a silver bottle slider; a gift from Lafayette himself! You don’t know what a “bottle slider” is? Well, we call it a wine coaster; but Washington’s is not just any wine coaster, it’s an artisan-crafted one from a Parisian silversmith; see photo below.
THE MOUNT VERNON LADIES’ ASSOCIATION. PURCHASE, 1981. CONSERVATION COURTESY OF THE LIFE GUARD SOCIETY OF MOUNT VERNON. PHOTOGRAPHY BY GAVIN ASHWORTH.
So does accepting just one gift from Lafayette make George and Martha confirmed Francophiles? Not necessarily, but one look at their dining preferences, and their obvious preference for French tableware of all sorts, well, the evidence mounts.
From the dinners and suppers Martha and George served at their beloved Mount Vernon to state galas during Washington’s two terms in office, French cuisine, and French silver (alongside, of course, American silver) ruled. Such Francophile recipes are documented in a wonderful book: Dining with the Washingtons: Historic Recipes, Entertaining, and Hospitality from Mount Vernon, published by the University of North Carolina Press in 2011. And as the bottle slider gives us a clue, we find that much of the porcelain and silver adorning the Washington’s well-set tables are also from France.
In future http://www.hermione2015.com blog posts, we will describe some of the cuisine served not only on board the L’Hermione, but also some of the dinners and meals served once the L’Hermione reached Boston and sailed on to Yorktown.
Stay tuned and have your knife, fork and spoon — and one of your Mount Vernon replica tavern glasses and rinsers — at the ready!
For more information about Lafayette’s silver bottle slider gift to Washington, see the Art & Antiques article online at: http://www.antiquesandfineart.com/articles/article.cfm?request=701
The author wished to credit and thank the editors and writers of Art & Antiques magazine in the preparation of this blogpost.
Editor’s Note: David Lincoln Ross, the author, serves as Editorial Director of Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America, and this blogpost below comes from the hermione2015.com site. What is the aim of this group?
Twenty years ago a small group met together and discussed the idea of reconstructing an exact replica of L’Hermione, a French frigate that brought Lafayette to America in 1780 in support of the American Revolution. Now L’Hermione is almost completed – originally one of the most authentically built Tall Ships ever. Meantime, the idea grew that L’Hermione should sail to the USA – bringing to life the voyage made by LaFayette in 1780 and re-affirming the historic relationship between the United States and France. L’Hermione’s first voyage will take her across the Atlantic – voyage 2015.