“Cur Non,” which roughly translates as “Why Not,” was the Marquis de Lafayette’s motto, and something the motivated young man might have kept in mind as he traversed the Atlantic Ocean aboard the Hermione in 1780, bound for a land of unlimited potential.
Lafayette, whose first stop was in Boston, was on a mission to hand-deliver a letter to General George Washington, letting him know that French forces would support the fledgling United States in its quest to break free from the clutches of the British.
That pact would lead to the American-French victory at Yorktown in 1781 during the Revolutionary War.
“Lafayette came here carrying the secret news of the French involvement in the war,” said Diane Shaw, curator of Lafayette College’s Marquis de Lafayette collection. “And the ship came straight to Boston. It was the first port of call. Boston was it.”
Two hundred thirty-five years later, a replica version of the Hermione will pull into Boston Saturday, with fanfare similar to that which welcomed the 22-year-old marquis.
The reconstructed ship, known as the “Frigate of Freedom,” will dock at Rowes Wharf. A reenactment of the original welcome ceremony and parade will be held. Mayor Martin J. Walsh; Governor Charlie Baker; Fabien Fieschi, general consul of France to Boston; and Hervé Blanché, the mayor of Rochefort, France, will be present.
The replica of the 18th-century frigate left France in mid-April, sailing 3,819 miles before reaching Yorktown, Va., on June 5. The ship has been making stops at ports along the East Coast as part of the trans-Atlantic celebration.
“Hermione Voyage 2015 celebrates the indomitable spirit of the Marquis de Lafayette, teen hero of the American Revolution and French founding father of the United States,” Miles Young, president of Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America Inc., said in a statement.
Lafayette College in Pennsylvania was named in honor of the marquis and houses an extensive archive of his papers and memorabilia.
Shaw said the Hermione’s return to Boston offers a unique opportunity for revelers to learn about the ship’s commander — and the history that connects France and America.
She said the rebuilding of the Hermione, a process that relied on using traditional materials and building methods over the course of 17 years, was a remarkable achievement.
“It’s absolutely stunning,” she said. “This is a truly big deal.”