Remembering Revolutionary War hero Lafayette and what he stood for

  • Marquis de Lafayette as painted by Joseph-Désiré Court

  • The New Hampshire chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution color guard shoot off a round during the dedication of the marker commemorating the Lafayette Trail in Hopkinton on Wednesday as Gov. Chris Sununu and Julien P. Icher, founder of The Lafayette Trail, watch. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • With New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu and Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington looking on, Lafayette Trail President Julien Icher unveils the marker in downtown Hopkinton on Wednesday, May 5, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu laughs as Lafayette Trail President Julien Icher unveils the marker in downtown Hopkinton.

  • Dorothea Jensen reacts as The New Hampshire chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution color guard shoot off a round during the dedication of the unveiling of the marker commerating the Lafayette Trail in downtown Hopkinton on Wednesday, May 5, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Lena D’Orazo came to the Lafayette Trail dedication with her mother and brother on Wednesday, May5, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Dorothea Jensen reacts as The New Hampshire chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution color guard shoot off a round during the dedication of the unveiling of the marker commerating the Lafayette Trail in downtown Hopkinton on Wednesday, May 5, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • General John Stark a.k.a Richard Wright raises his tricorne hat during the Pledge of Allegiance at the Lafayette Trail dedication in downtown Hopkinton on Wednesday, May 5, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 5/5/2021 4:41:41 PM

As a junior diplomat at the French consulate in Boston, Julien Icher was working to promote Marquis de Lafayette’s legacy in America. He was specifically focused on the significance of Lafayette’s farewell tour in 1824 and 1825, when he was invited by President James Monroe to tour America for the nation’s 50th anniversary.

Four years later, Icher, who lives in Maryland now, is striving to immortalize this tour with a nonprofit he founded called The Lafayette Trail. The organization’s goal is to document and map the footsteps of Lafayette by placing 175 historic markers in 25 states in time for the bicentennial celebration of Lafayette’s tour. This week, Icher inched closer to that goal as the total number of markers in New Hampshire grew to six, the most in any state so far.

“People are very excited about my project here,” Icher said. “New Hampshire leads the way in authorizing my markers to go up.”

The ceremonies took place in Greenland, Derry and Hopkinton. U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and U.S Rep. Chris Pappas spoke at the Greenland event, and Gov. Chris Sununu spoke at the Hopkinton event.

Icher believes that Lafayette is a unifying figure in American politics, allowing for people to rally around his legacy.

“He’s one of those rare figures, I think, who has the ability to unite the country, being from the Revolutionary War,” Icher said.

Lafayette was a French military officer who commanded American troops against the British and became a honorary American citizen after the war. A lifelong friend of George Washington of Thomas Jefferson, Lafayette returned to the United States in 1824 for his tour across the young nation, where he was celebrated as a war hero. He was also a staunch abolitionist at a time when the country was deeply divided over the issue of slavery.

“He brought Americans together when everything divided them,” Icher said. “In a sense, his legacy is very relevant to today.”

That legacy of unification, he said, is part of the goal of the nonprofit.

“I’m not breaking any news in saying that the country is divided,” Icher said.

Lafayette’s legacy, he said, was to unite the country.

“I believe that his legacy in 2021, and our work, can fulfill that mission of his – to provide more common ground, to widen this middle space for Americans,” Icher said.

“I really believe also that the country is revisiting the legacy of the founding generation, and I believe that Lafayette is very helpful in doing that,” Icher added. “And connecting with France, and engaging in a conversation about what France’s contribution to America’s independence was.”

Franco-American relations are important to Icher, a Frenchman himself. After his time at the French consulate in Boston, when he saw the success of his work related to Lafayette’s farewell tour in New England, he decided that expanding it was the next step.

“It was a success, I could already see the interest of locals and lawmakers,” he said. He went back to France, raised $100,000 for the project, and was selected by President Emmanuel Macron to be a part of his delegation to promote the historical bonds of friendship between the two nations.

Now, in his full-time job as president of his new nonprofit, Icher said that he can still see evidence of that friendship, especially in New Hampshire.

“I can see the way Granite Staters have treated me, just like they treated Lafayette two hundred years ago,” he said. “I can see the same support, the same passion, and the same interest in his legacy.”

“Lafayette is a unique figure in American history, and I really want people to know more about what he stood for, and connected it to the present-day,” Icher said.

The nonprofit is continuing its work to memorialize Lafayette’s tour with more historic markers, and also to support French-American relations. For more information, visit thelafayettetrail.org.




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