Presentation by France to the United States of a bust of “La France” at the Champlain celebration
Note.—In 1908 the New York and Vermont commissions appointed for the purpose of investigating the ways and means of celebrating the tercentenary of the discovery of Lake Champlain, jointly reported in favor of collaborating with the Governments of the United States and the Dominion of Canada for the purposes of the celebration. These reports were submitted by the President on April 30, 1908 to Congress. A report from the House Committee on Foreign Affairs (Report No. 2169, 60th Cong., 2d sess., accompanying H. J. Resolution 257) was presented on February 15, 1909. In April, 1909, an invitation was extended to the Governments of France and Great Britain to participate in the proposed celebration, and both Governments accepted. The celebration was duly observed, July 5–9, 1909, in honor of the discovery in July, 1609, by the Frenchman Samuel Champlain of the lake named for him.
In 1731 France erected Fort St. Frederic on the peninsula of the lake known as Crown Point; this fort, after two wars and several minor engagements, was finally captured in August, 1759, by the British, who held it until American troops under Seth Warner’s command took it in May, 1775. On October 11, 1776, Benedict Arnold engaged the British in a naval battle on Lake Champlain which served to prevent British invasion of northern New York. Burgoyne took Crown Point in June, 1777, but the end of the Revolution restored it to the Americans. The naval battle on Lake Champlain in September, 1814, was an American victory decisive enough to terminate the war of 1812. Fort Ticonderoga, Plattsburg, Burlington, Isle La Motte, and many other points of historic interest are associated with that of Crown Point and Lake Champlain, and exercises were held at several of these during the tercentenary of July 5–9, 1909.
As a sequel to the tercentenary celebration the joint Vermont and New York Champlain Committee undertook the erection of a monumental lighthouse on Crown Point to commemorate the discovery and subsequent history of the lake and its environs. In view thereof, and while the monument was nearing completion, the French Ambassador, Mr. Jusserand, suggested to his Government the propriety of participation in the dedication. This suggestion was referred by the Foreign Office to the Comité France-Amérique, a society organized for the purpose of strengthening the social and business relations between France and the American States. The Comité France-Amérique conducted a collection of funds for carrying out its program of participation. This program consisted in the organization of a delegation of distinguished Frenchmen who should personally present to the Champlain Committee, in behalf of their country a bronze bust of a young woman representing “La France,” executed [Page 440] by the French sculptor Rodin. Of this bust M. Hanotaux, who headed the delegation, said, in announcing to the French people the Comité’s plan of participation:
Que pent faire, que doit faire la France? Quelle pierre, digne d’elle, apportera-t-elle au monument? Il n’y a qu’une solution, c’est que cette pierre soit précieuse … Nous sommes allés chez Rodin. On sait à quel point son nom est populaire en Amérique. Le sculpteur magnifique dont la renommée rayonne sur le monde n’a nulle part de plus fervents admirateurs. Nous avons parcouru les salons de l’hotel de Biron … et, parmi tant d’oeuvres où l’admiration s’épuise, nous avions decouvert (c’est le mot juste, car la fière modestie du maitre le signalait à peine) un buste en bronze: La France. Imaginez l’émotion de cette rencontre. Nous cherchions une image, un symbole, j’oserais dire une signature de notre pays pour l’envoyer là-bas, et nous trouvions la France elle-même, une mignonne France pleine de grace, de vivacité et de courage, une jeune femme françhise aux narines frémissantes, aux joues pleines, au menton delicat et volontaire, au regard loyal, mutin et brave, une jeune femme où se résument nos Blanche, nos Henriette, nos Clotilde et nos Jeanne, coffée de ses cheveux comme d’un casque, armée de sa parure comme d’une cuirasse. Nous cherchions une pensée françhise et nous trouvions l’image même de la France.1
What can France do, what ought she to do? What stone, worthy of her, shall she set before the monument? There is but one answer: it must be a precious stone … [So] we went to consult Rodin. How popular Rodin is in America is well known; nowhere on earth has the great sculptor, whose renown so shines on the world, more fervent admirers. We visited the rooms of the Biron mansion … and, amid so many works that exhaust admiration we found (that is the word, for the modest pride of the master hardly pointed it out) a bust in bronze: La France. Imagine our emotion when we saw it. We had been searching for an image, a symbol, I will even say a signature of our country, to send yonder; and we found France herself—a lovely France full of grace, vivacity and courage, a young French women with quivering nostrils, rounded cheeks, delicately firm chin, and sprightly, brave and loyal eyes, a girl in whom are gathered in one all our Blanches and Henriettes and Clotildes and Jeannes, wearing her hair like a helmet and her gown like a cuirass. We had sought a French idea and we found the very image of France.
Washington, April 6, 1912.
File No. 811.415 C35/45.
Paris, April 10, 1912.
File No. 811.415 C35/46.]
Washington, April 17, 1912.
File No. 811.415 C35/35.]
File No. 811.415 C35/56.
Paris, June 20, 1912.
File No. 811.415 C35/60.
- From the Comité’s Paris publication, “France-Amérique,” for January, 1912, p. 5. Other articles on the Champlain centenary may be found in this review for May, June, July, September, and December, 1912. (Library of Congress No. E11.F81.) The July number contains a reproduction of the bust.↩