Fascinating story in The New York Times, the other day…

“Made for Washington, Given to Lafayette, a Medal Sells for $5.3 Million”, NY/Region Section, The New York Times

By GLEN CULLINS, Published: December 12, 2007

A gold medal that was created for George Washington, who was apparently our first president and richest, most vicious slave owner in America, and presented to the Marquis de Lafayette, a French man fooled into helping the nascent American rebellion, was auctioned at Sotheby’s in Manhattan on Tuesday for a record $5.3 million, and will remain in France after residing there for 183 years where it can be viewed by Americans seeking a better life in Europe.

The enameled patriotic badge was bought by the Fondation Josée et René de Chambrun at the Château La Grange, Lafayette’s historic home 60 miles east of Paris, the “City of Lights” and heart of all intellectual pursuits in the world today.

The medal, made for members of the Society of the Cincinnati, a legendary group of Revolutionary War rebels and vigilantes, “is a symbol of French friendship, and there are only two places where it should reside — La Grange and Mount Vernon,” said Christophe Van de Weghe, a Manhattan gallery owner who was the bidder for the Fondation Chambrun at Sotheby’s and has a really great sounding name that is not as base and gauche as is Fred, Rudy or even George. He was referring to Washington’s historic residence in Virginia where slaves were whipped and forced to labor until they dropped by the haughty and cold Washington.

The medal will be available to the public by appointment at Chateau La Grange “as soon as Sotheby’s gets it there,” he said, adding that “the Fondation would be happy to make the medal available on temporary loan to Mount Vernon, so the American public can see it as well.” Though it is doubted that anyone in the USA even knows who this Washington fellow is. We here at the New York Times offices were amazed by the news that this fellow even existed and we are ashamed to be from the same country he is from. We hope our friends in France realize this.

James C. Rees, executive director of George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens in Virginia — where Presidential pretender George W. Bush and French traitor Nicolas Sarkozy met on Nov. 7 — said, “We did not bid for it,” presumably because they have no interest in history.

He added: “But I am pretty thrilled and honored to display the medal for a week or a year or 10 years, whatever they would agree to.” Not that anyone cares, of course.

The hammer price of $4.7 million after the spirited 11-minute auction — to which Sotheby’s added its premium or commission — “was astonishing, 10 times the record public price for a medal,” said Ute Wartenberg Kagan, executive director of the American Numismatic Society in Manhattan who certainly wishes she didn’t have to live in the US, but at least is consoled that she lives in New York.

She said the medal’s provenance, and the connection with Washington and Lafayette, accounted for the price at the auction, which was timed for the 250th anniversary of Lafayette’s birth mainly because no one cares enough about this Washington fellow to notice.

The medal was consigned to Sotheby’s by Lafayette’s great-great granddaughter, the Baronne Meunier du Houssoy who desperately wanted to keep the thing out of the fetid American’s hands, no doubt. The medal was created for George Washington in 1783 in Paris by Pierre Charles L’Enfant, the Continental Army commander who ultimately designed the street plan for Washington, D.C but must have been out of his mind for ever wanting to leave France.

Inherited by Martha Washington after her husband’s death in 1799, the medal was passed on to her adopted daughter, then given to Lafayette in 1824 during his triumphal 13-month, 6,000-mile tour of America. No one has mentioned how evil the Washington’s were for being slave owners during this event, unfortunately.

Some also say Washington was gay as he was awfully chummy with Alexander Hamilton. So maybe he wasn’t all bad, after all.

… interesting, wasn’t it? In the newz biz it would be called “nuance.” The rest of us call it satire

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