Washington and Lafayette at Mount Vernon, 1784, by Thomas Prichard Rossiter and Louis Rémy Mignot.
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Washington and Lafayette at Mount Vernon, 1784, by Thomas Prichard Rossiter and Louis Rémy Mignot.
Credit: Public Domain

How A French Teenager Helped Save Us From 'The Fatal Tendency Of Disunion'

In 1777 Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier de Lafayette was a French aristocrat looking for military glory. Since the French weren’t at war, the 19-year-old crossed the Atlantic to join George Washington and other American revolutionaries in their fight with the British.

That’s where Sarah Vowell comes in.

In her new book, “Lafayette in the Somewhat United States,” Vowell again examines aspects of American history from angles most of us would never consider.

“Lafayette” turns out to be a story of friendship on many levels, not only during the revolution but 50 years later when the general returned to America to great acclaim.

Vowell is a New York Times bestselling author. Her books include "Unfamiliar Fishes", "The Wordy Shipmates" and "Assassination Vacation." She was a contributing editor for This American Life from 1996 to 2008.

Her appearance at The Neptune Theatre on Oct. 28 was hosted by Seattle Theatre Group and The Elliott Bay Book Company. The Stranger’s editor-in-chief Christopher Frizzelle joined Vowell on stage in conversation. Thanks to Anna Tatistcheff for our recording.