Today, the Lafayette Commemorative Silver Dollar Coin remembers the speech of Henry Clay in the House of Representatives on December 10, 1824 welcoming and honoring General Lafayatte.
From The speeches of Henry Clay edited by Calvin Colton, published in 1857:
Address To General Lafayette.
In the House of Representatives, December 10, 1824.
Mr. Clay being Speaker of the House of Representatives when General Lafayette was presented to that body, it devolved on him to welcome the nation’s guest; and the following is a copy of his brief speech on that interesting occasion.
Forty years had elapsed since General Lafayette had left our shores, and he, in the mean time, had enacted a prominent part in the eventful changes through which his own country had passed, besides having been once in captivity for his country’s cause.
A young man, he came to assist America in her struggle for freedom, was the companion in arms of Washington, and continued in our service till the close of the Revolutionary War.
Grateful for these services, the American people, through their representatives at Washington, had invited Lafayette to visit this country in his old age, as the nation’s guest, and sent a public ship to bring him to our shores.
This invitation was accepted, and General Lafayette had made his tour of the States, everywhere honored by an uninterrupted ovation, before Congress assembled.
It was peculiarly fit, that the most prominent and most influential American statesman in the war of 1812, should welcome to our midst this volunteer soldier of the war of 1776, who left his own country to fight our battles in company with Washington, and who never left the field till our independence was achieved.
Mr. Clay, crowned with a civic laurel, stood in the presence of the man, who, a foreigner, had staked his fortune and drawn his sword for American Liberty, when it hung doubtful in the scales of the future, and whose brow was covered with military chap-lets, won on our own soil, and on that of his own country.
Such were the men brought together as speakers on this occasion — one to express the gratitude of a nation, and the other to receive the first meed of praise for services, long past, in behalf of a generation now for the most part in their graves.
But, while men die, history lives, and imparts unfading renown to those who have justly earned it.
It is rare, in the history of the world, that such an occasion occurs as that on which the following address was delivered; and still more rare, that speakers occupying a like relative position should grace it and make it memorable.
General, The House of Representatives of the United States, impelled alike by its own feelings, and by those of the whole American people, could not have assigned to me a more gratifying duty than that of presenting to you cordial congratulations upon the occasion of your recent arrival in the United States, in compliance with the wishes of Congress, and to assure you of the very high satisfaction which your presence affords on this early theater of your glory and renown.
Although but few of the members who compose this body shared with you in the war of our Revolution, all have, from impartial history, or from faithful tradition, a knowledge of the perils, the sufferings, and the sacrifices, which you voluntarily encountered, and the signal services, in America and in Europe, which you performed for an infant, a distant, and an alien people; and all feel and own the very great extent of the obligations under which you have placed our country.
But the relations in which you have ever stood to the United States, interesting and important as they have been, do not constitute the only motive of the respect and admiration which the House of Representatives entertain for you.
Your consistency of character, your uniform devotion to regulated liberty, in all the vicissitudes of a long and arduous life, also commands its admiration.
During all the recent convulsions of Europe, amid, as after the dispersion of, every political storm, the people of the United States have beheld you, true to your old principles, firm and erect, cheering and animating with your well-known voice, the votaries of liberty, its faithful and fearless champion, ready to shed the last drop of that blood which here you so freely and nobly spilled, in the same holy cause.
The vain wish has been sometimes indulged, that Providence would allow the patriot, after death, to return to his country, and to contemplate the intermediate changes which had taken place; to view the forests felled, the cities built, the mountains leveled, the canals cut, the highways constructed, the progress of the arts, the advancement of learning, and the increase of population.
General, your present visit to the United States is a realization of the consoling object of that wish.
You are in the midst of posterity.
Everywhere, you must have been struck with the great changes, physical and moral, which have occurred since you left us.
Even this very city, bearing a venerated name, alike endeared to you and to us, has since emerged from the forest which then covered its site.
In one respect you behold us unaltered, and this is in the sentiment of continued devotion to liberty, and of ardent affection and profound gratitude to your departed friend, the father of his country, and to you, and to your illustrious associates in the field and in the cabinet, for the multiplied blessings which surround us, and for the very privilege of addressing you which I now exercise.
This sentiment, now fondly cherished by more than ten millions of people, will be transmitted, with unabated vigor, down the tide of time, through the countless millions who are destined to inhabit this continent, to the latest posterity.
The Lafayette Commemorative Silver Dollar Coin shows with an image of Henry Clay, circa 1822.