In 1825 Marquis de Lafayette, the colonists' friend during the Revolutionary War and participant in the surrender of Cornwallis after the battle of Yorktown, made a return visit to the young nation as its honored guest. Ushered from city to city to review the progress of the young American republic, he was greeted everywhere by enthusiastic crowds. When the honored general came to Brooklyn to lay the cornerstone of the Apprentice's Library, school was let out so that the children might view this auspicious event. One of those children was five-year-old Walt Whitman, who, as he recorded in "My First Reading—Lafayette" in Specimen Days (1882), was embraced and kissed by Lafayette himself as he helped lift children away from a dangerous excavation to safer viewing spots. Whitman never forgot the experience and liked to think that the "old Republican" had dedicated him to the cause of liberty and democracy.
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Whitman, Walt. "My First Reading—Lafayette." Specimen Days. Vol. 1 of Prose Works 1892. Ed. Floyd Stovall. New York: New York UP, 1963. 13.
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