A TALK WITH UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA PROFESSOR ANDREW JACKSON O’SHAUGHNESSY March 28, 2014
DR. ANDREW JACKSON O'SHAUGHNESSY, RIGHT, IS AN EXPERT ON THE AMERICAN REVOLUTIONARY PERIOD; HIS LATEST BOOK, LEFT, EXAMINES BRITISH LEADERS' ATTITUDES AND POLICIES DURING OUR FIGHT FOR INDEPENDENCE.
WITHOUT THE CLOSE COOPERATION AMONG COMTE DE ROCHAMBEAU, ABOVE, LAFAYETTE AND WASHINGTON, THE FIGHT FOR INDEPENDENCE FROM GREAT BRITAIN MIGHT HAVE FAILED.
IT WAS LAFAYETTE'S CRAFTY MOVEMENT OF HIS AMERICAN AND FRENCH TROOPS THAT "DISTRACTED CORNWALLIS (PICTURED ABOVE) FROM RANSACKING VIRGINIA," ACCORDING TO DR. O'SHAUGHNESSY. THESE WILY MOVES BY LAFAYETTE WHICH SET THE STAGE FOR CORNWALLIS'S ULTIMATE ENTRAPMENT AND DEFEAT AT YORKTOWN IN 1781.
THE ROBERT H. SMITH INTERNATIONAL CENTER FOR JEFFERSON STUDIES, MONTICELLO.
WHILE NEVER AS CLOSE A FATHER-SON RELATIONSHIP THAT LAFAYETTE, RIGHT, HAD WITH WASHINGTON, JEFFERSON'S RAPPORT WITH THE "HERO OF TWO WORLDS" WAS CLOSE AND SINCERE; EACH SHED TEARS ON THEIR REUNION AT MONTICELLO IN 1824.
IT WAS THE HERMIONE, DEPICTED HERE IN AN 18TH CENTURY PAINTING BY ROSSEL DE CERCY, THAT CARRIED LAFAYETTE TO AMERICA IN 1780 WITH NEWS, TROOPS AND SUPPLIES FURNISHED BY FRENCH KING LOUIS XVI.
A TALK WITH UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA PROFESSOR ANDREW JACKSON O’SHAUGHNESSY
Editor’s Note: Dr. Andrew O’Shaughnessy is the Saunders Director of the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello, as well as a Professor of History at the University of Virginia. He is the author of “An Empire Divided: The American Revolution and the British Caribbean” (2000) as well as his new work, “The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution, and the Fate of the Empire,” now available.
Recently, Pascale Richard, Director of Education, Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America, talked with Dr. O’Shaughnessy about the important relationship between Lafayette and Jefferson and plans for an upcoming symposium about “Lafayette and the European Friends of the American Revolution,” scheduled for in 2015.
Pascale Richard: You are organizing a symposium on the War of Independence/ Lafayette for June 12-14 2015 . Could you tell us a bit more about the program and the guests?
Dr. O’Shaughnessy: The topic of the program will be “Lafayette and European Friends of the American Revolution.” The aim is to invite the leading scholars with particular emphasis upon Lafayette and France. However, we shall include some papers on the Netherlands and Spain. The scholars will be selected from those doing the most current work on the topic and who have used archives in both Europe and the US.
Q: What is the ultimate goal of this symposium?
A: The aim is to show the importance of European allies in the success of the American Revolution. The British justifiably hoped that the revolution would go bankrupt in the months before Yorktown. Washington had to borrow money personally from Rochambeau to march from New York to Williamsburg and Yorktown. The US was heavily depending on funding from France. The US also needed the French navy without which Cornwallis could have escaped from Yorktown.
The assistance of France deflected the British war effort throughout the globe after 1778. However, my recent book “The Men Who Lost America” shows that Britain’s behavior was affected by France from the beginning of the war in 1775. The British did not fully mobilize their armed forces for fear that France would enter the war as an ally of the US. The cost was a major factor in the bankruptcy of the French treasury leading to the French Revolution. There were more French sailors and soldiers at Yorktown than Americans. It is one reason – in addition to a sense of honor – that the British tried to surrender to the French rather than the Americans.
Q: As an historian how do you see the role of Lafayette/ France in the War of Independence?
A: Lafayette has always been the favorite foreign ally of the revolution among Americans. It is partly because he joined the cause even before war broke out with France. He was idealistically committed. He was also the favorite of Washington. His military importance relates largely to his activities in Virginia in 1781 when he had independent command and led an outnumbered army, which distracted Cornwallis from ransacking Virginia. He kept the British general busy until Washington and Rochambeau arrived to inflict the final blow at Yorktown.
Q: Since 2003 you are the Saunders Director of the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies, Monticello. Can you tell us a bit more about your responsibility and activities there?
A: The center is the hub of the research and academic activities of Monticello, the home of Jefferson. It is a seventy-eight acre campus with its own library. It aims to do original research and disseminate information on Jefferson. It publishes the papers of Jefferson for his retirement period (1809-1826), which includes correspondence with Lafayette.
It publishes monographs and has one of the leading archaeological departments in the country, which has spearheaded a digital archaeological archive of comparative slavery in the American south and the Caribbean (DAACS).
It has a fellowship program, which provides stipends and scholars of whom a third are from abroad. The most recent scholar from France was Franҫois Specq, Professor of American Literature and Culture and Chair of the Department of Modern Languages at the École Normale Supérieure de Lyon, who is doing the first full translation of Jefferson’s “Notes on the State of Virginia.” It also hosts conferences and does at least one annual conference abroad, which has included two recently in Paris. Other venues in the last two years included Cuba, China and Russia.
Q: Could you say a word about the relationship between Lafayette and Jefferson?
A: Their relationship was close. They corresponded throughout Jefferson’s life and they met at Monticello in 1824. It was very emotional reunion with scarcely a dry eye among the crowds of spectators. They dined together in the Rotunda that Jefferson had designed for his new University of Virginia. Jefferson was the ultimate Francophile whose ideas and architecture were much influenced by France. He saw France as the natural ally of the United States rather than Britain. This is why President Obama was the first sitting president to bring another head of state to Monticello and he chose President Hollande.
For more information, please see: http://www.monticello.org/site/research-and-collections/conferences-symposia
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