George Washington's

Bastille Key
"The Liberty Key"


Courtesy of Mount Vernon Ladies' Association

n exciting tale of two revolutions, the men who made them, and the key (now a national treasure) that connected them. 
Follow the fight for freedom
an idea whose time had come taking two different paths, with two dramatically different outcomes. 

"Definitely the Key Book about George Washington!" –  a best-seller at Mount Vernon

The amazing story of how George Washington came by his Key "of" Liberty
...and his wise counsel on the Key "to" Liberty that has made America great!*

This highly insightful book links Mount Vernon's Bastille Key (and its tortuous travels through bloody, revolutionary France) to George Washington's 
character and his advice on the three key, crucial, and indispensable conditions for freedom to survive and thrive:  "Character, Culture, Constitution."

Discover the amazing magic of George Washington's Liberty Key, Mount Vernon's Bastille Key, in this wonderfully crafted history book!

Best-seller at Mount Vernon: Copies with author-signed bookplates now available at the Shops at Mount Vernon

George Washington's Liberty Key: Mount Vernon's Bastille Key - the Mystery and Magic of Its Body, Mind, and Soul
Amazon print-version  $17.90   Kindle $7.90     Distributor/Bookstore discounts


     This book shines a bright light on the most interesting key ever made – America's premier symbol of liberty's victory over tyranny – which now hangs in the central passageway of George Washington’s Mount Vernon mansion, helping to greet over a million visitors a year.  The main key to the Bastille prison in Paris, it was given in 1790 to Washington, the patriarch of liberty, by his missionary, the Marquis de Lafayette, who took the “sacred fire of liberty" he discovered in America and tried to fan its flames in France.  Become a history detective and uncover how this unique key was made, how the man who made it helped kill a king, and how it made its way to Mount Vernon.  Along the way, experience the fascinating twists and turns made in unlocking the doors hiding the truth about the key, which some have (incorrectly) argued is a counterfeit.  Then distill what Washington and Lafayette each believed was the “key” to establishing and maintaining liberty, and what went right and wrong in their respective revolutions.  Finally, learn how the key continues to inspire a world-wide devotion to freedom – with Washington's personal challenge to you

     So, should we care that the Mount Vernon Bastille key is, in Lafayette’s words, “the main key to the Bastille…the fortress of despotism”?  Yes, we should care, because some, not the least of which was the French Count Chateaubriand, who witnessed the storming of the Bastille and later saw George Washington’s key in Philadelphia, thought it was a fraud.  Called the “greatest character of the age” by British King George III, was Washington, the man who made America great with his genius of character, the victim of a hoax?  Should he have believed Lafayette, his “adopted son” and most fervent fan, that this was not only a Bastille key but its main key?  How do we know how this “main key,” if that’s what it was, survived the chaos and pandemonium of the revolutionary attack on the Bastille in 1789 Paris to make its way into Lafayette’s hands and thence, over a tortuous trip of 4,000 statute miles in 1790, to Washington in New York City?  And why might Lafayette not have substituted a larger, more impressive-looking key such as the one he gave decades later to Washington’s Masonic Lodge [National Memorial] in Alexandria, Virginia?  If it’s not the real "main key," have “We the People,” the tens of millions of visitors to Mount Vernon over the years, been fooled?  And has George Washington, our preeminent Founding Father, who above all aspired to be an honest man, been an unwitting participant in such fraud?  “Forbid it, Almighty God!  I know not what course others may take; but as for me, I'd recommend getting a 'lock' on it by reading George Washington's Liberty Key!"


Current version 1.14    March 2020
"Pin it for later"


Link to Extra Supplements
 for previous purchasers (includes creative method of measurement for accurate Bastille size and dimensions,
interesting photos, with link to photos of the Iron Mask and Bastille Door)

When even more interesting things don't fit on Extra Supplements (eg news of an upcoming Youtube movie/video of how I solved the mystery of how big the Bastille was),
I put them here in Blog Form.  Click here and then Follow for automatic updates.

Click here for artwork.


     Author Bill Bahr introduces and brings to life FerrousTM  the key and his improbable journey from the iron foundries of 18th century France to a Bastille prison gate and finally to the entrance hall of George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon.  In this book, follow FerrousTM  to learn what the best history work can tell about the truth behind what Mount Vernon tour-guides have called “George Washington’s Liberty Key”!  FerrousTM  once represented tyranny and oppression – synonymous with the fate of a prisoner condemned without trial or hope.  Now FerrousTM  stands for the idea of liberty, so cherished by George Washington  –  in his own words  –  "a token of victory gained by Liberty over Despotism."  What a transformation! 

     It was the cost of the French and Indian War, ignited by George Washington and fought in the American colonies, which called forth the British taxes which led to the American revolt.  It was France’s later aid to the American rebels which helped the colonies defeat England but which also emptied France’s treasury and contributed to the unrest leading to the French Revolution and after many a year to France’s own sustained freedom. 

     After the French Revolution dismantled both the Bastille and France’s absolute monarchy, the Marquis de Lafayette had FerrousTM  presented to George Washington as a thank you to the man who showed that freedom was possible.  To fully comprehend the magnitude of this symbolic gift requires one to understand the tremendous impact that the success of the American Revolution had not only on the thirteen colonies but the whole world and especially France, due in immeasurable part to the "indispensable man" George Washington.    

     While helping Lafayette get FerrousTM from France to George Washington in America, Thomas Paine said, That the principles of America opened the Bastille is not to be doubted; and therefore the key comes to the right place.”

     For more information about FerrousTM (the key "of" liberty), George Washington's ideas about the key "to" liberty, and your important role in his vision, you have come to the right place    this book!  Buy it and let Washington and his key inspire and challenge you for a better tomorrow!  $17.90 – a great price for a great year!

* From "The Mind" of Washington and Lafayette  –  "Character, Culture, Constitution"TM    (Honor, Country, Duty)


    Author Bill Bahr

     Bill Bahr is a retired telecommunications executive.  A graduate of West Point, he served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps, working in Germany, Cambodia (the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh), and Korea before moving into commercial telecommunications.  Along with earning three masters degrees and two patents, Bill held marketing/sales directorships at major corporations.  His work helped spark the revolution in facsimile machines and the build-out in cellular systems and the internet, with both Bill and his products receiving many public accolades.  Now volunteering in a number of community service organizations, Bill is an active participant in Rotary, VFW, and CHARACTER COUNTS!, where he has served in various leadership roles.  In his spare time, Bill unabashedly admires George Washington.  The book “George Washington’s Liberty Key” is a result of Bill’s curiosity and extensive reading about Mount Vernon's Bastille key and the extraordinary, enabling, and ennobling character of George Washington.  Another book by Bill Bahr:  Strategy Pure and Simple:  Essential Moves for Winning in Competition and Cooperation



GWLK book located in room to the left of George Washington's bronze bust at main entrance to the Shops at Mount Vernon

"We love your book, and it merchandises so well with our replica of the key to the Bastille!" — The Shops at Mount Vernon

Previous display locations


Copies with author-signed bookplate available at the Shops at Mount Vernon
(Book was on display to the immediate right after entering Shops at Mount Vernon from the Mount Vernon Inn.  If not there now, ask sales for new location.) 



"Bits" of Praise from "Key" Readers
 (in descending order received - latest is last)

"This book must've taken years of researching and writing!  I either didn't pay too much attention in school or forgot it all, but I can tell you I learned (or re-learned) something from every single chapter.  Heck, I was in France a few years ago and didn't learn this much during all of the museum tours!"  –  KG 

"A genuine contribution to both American and lock & key histories!"  –  SK (antique lock & key expert)

"I recommend it.  Very detailed...interesting if you like history.  I enjoyed it very much!"  –  JA

"A masterpiece of historical fact.  Fascinating and insightful rendering of little known artifact from the life of America's greatest statesman!"  –  KC

"An impressive book!"   JD

"Captivated from the moment I opened the book.  It's really original to write a story from the perspective of the Key!  A fun and interesting read.  Kudos!   –  DG

"Fascinating!  Just started reading this book, and I'm totally captivated."  – AL

"I really enjoyed this book. The author does a terrific job of explaining the history of the Liberty Key, the French and American Revolutions and how they were all linked by the relationship of George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette. Very entertaining and informative!"  – FR

"Fascinating!  The title of this book undersells the content. It is an outstanding historical perspective of the French Revolution and how it relates to the American Revolution and George Washington.  Besides being an easy read, it provides an anthology of the events which were taking place at the time, and links the key figures related to the Bastille, the French Revolution and the American Revolution. The Key itself just forms the link surrounding all of the stories told.  It offers a behind the scenes view which is not normally found in history books. I highly recommend this book!" – BD (architect)

"The narrator of this book is a totally relevant (yet inanimate) object. History has rarely been this exciting. In a fast-paced narrative, we learn in detail about two revolutions. More significantly, we gain key insights into why the American one succeeded and the French ones fizzled, repeatedly. Mr. Bahr takes us on a personal tour, from the back rooms of the Bastille and bowels of a blacksmith's shop to the Palace of Versailles and the stately rooms of George Washington's Mount Vernon home. Along the way, we learn the little known facts that shape history. Cleverly organized, the story unfolds in a way that's easy to follow and delightful to read."  – SB

"This is an excellent book, well written, thoroughly and meticulously researched and very highly recommended, especially to those interested in early American history, the history of the French revolution and above all, that of the Bastille.  The book is playfully appealing in that it is written in the third person of the Bastille key. ... All in all, an excellent book, an engaging and enjoyable read!"  – TL

"An amazing amount of research!" EA

"I really enjoyed the book!"  PS

"Very impressive work and well illustrated!" – BD (lock and key expert)

"A truly fascinating study!" – DS (museum curator)

"Great job of making history come alive! ... If you love history, you love those pivotal moments, when the arch of history and the fate of entire nations are changed.  July 14th, 1789, is the date when the Bastille prison fell and the Republic of France rose and the date marking one of those pivotal moments in history.  But if you really love history, you love the great stories connected to those pivotal moments, stories that few of us have heard before.  They sit there in the dark, dusty corners of the past until someone with special insights and a passion for storytelling shines a light on them and dusts them off for us all to see.  Bill Bahr does exactly that with Liberty Key.  I knew, or thought I knew, the story of the French Revolution but not with the detail that Bill uncovers. All the events leading up to, through and beyond July 14, 1789, are in this book, but the story of this key and how it came to Mount Vernon as a gift to and beloved possession of George Washington is the real gift Bill gives the reader."  – ML

"A fascinating book about Mount Vernon's Bastille Key, its travels from Paris to Mount Vernon, VA, and why it is, indeed, the main key to the Bastille, despite various claims it isn't. Book also covers Washington's and Lafayette's thoughts about the key "to" liberty and the requirements to defend and keep it. Great as well as a ready-reference book, as it's packed full of fascinating facts and intriguing insights. Holds your interest with enlightening pictures and humorous puns, turning dry history into living adventure!"    IL

"Great book not about paczki, but maybe a pun(ch)-key?  This solid, scholarly work on Bastille keys, especially the Mount Vernon Bastille Key, is liberally filled with puns, pictures, and most of all, highly interesting facts not easily found elsewhere, all of which bring history alive.  The book mainly deals with the physics and philosophy of George Washington's Liberty Key:  how it was made, what it did, how it found its way to Mount Vernon, what it meant to George Washington and Lafayette, what they each believed to be the essential requirements (key) for Liberty, how the Key has inspired a world-wide devotion to freedom, and much, much more, to include numerous new insights overturning many decades of incorrect but widely accepted beliefs about the Bastille and its main key.  In a word:  fascinating!" MS

"Character Counts!  A great book with deep research on interesting aspects of so many varied but related topics (to name just a few: key making, the Bastille, and the French Revolution). I especially liked the way the author developed Washington’s three key requirements for liberty: character, culture, and constitution, with everything resting on character. Super advice gleaned by analyzing the writings of the Father of our Country, the indispensable man who made our country great!"   MM

"What a treat...I can't put this book down!!  The author has a wonderful sense of humor and clever insights on life!  I can't wait to read it the finish!  This is the kind of historical take on life that I love!  I can see how well done it is, and inclusive...questions, facts, photos, analysis...and I just got the book.  And I just love it!!!  I'll be buying extras for my friends that love real books... not just romance novels or gothic mysteries!  This is a keen look and a long forgotten symbol of liberty, that too many, in fact all, of these last couple generations have no idea, that hard battles were ever fought for what they take for granted!!!  JH

"A fascinating book about Mount Vernon's Bastille Key, its travels from Paris to Mount Vernon, VA, and why it is, indeed, the main key to the Bastille, despite various claims it isn't. Book also covers Washington's and Lafayette's thoughts about the key "to" liberty and the requirements to defend and keep it. Great as well as a ready-reference book, as it's packed full of fascinating facts and intriguing insights. Holds your interest with enlightening pictures and humorous puns, turning dry history into living adventure!"   TB

"I really enjoyed this book!  In investigating the history of the Mount Vernon Bastille key, it nicely develops a ready-reference guide to both the American and French revolutions.  Encyclopedic in scope, it also provides interesting ancillary information, intriguing tidbits and insights about the items and individuals of the era.  The pictures are excellent, the timelines very helpful, and the weblinks to more information (to include videos) outstanding.   Thumbs-up and heads-up (not off) for this one!"   BK

"I just started the 'Liberty Key' and am fascinated by the 'story"...I can tell I am going to love it!"  JB

"Masterfully Written, Educating and Entertaining! 
I salute my West Point classmate for providing us a diligently researched history of our historic 18th century connection with the French. Bill's adaptation of using the Bastille Key as the first person main character presenter is simply brilliant. The reader is drawn into the story with bewilderment, anticipation and excitement, while always being educated and introduced to fascinating little known facts. I highly recommend this book to everyone of all ages. A GREAT READ!"
―Gary Dolan, author, speaker, businessman, decorated combat veteran, Hall-of-Fame Ranger, and inspirational leader

 5 out of 5 stars A Truly UNIQUE Book!
"A review of this book can be summed up in a single word--UNIQUE! As told by Mount Vernon's Bastille key itself (yes, by the key), it provides an absorbing look at the character of key leaders in the American and French Revolutions, notably Washington and Lafayette. While the novel narrative traces the key's historic travels from the perspective of the pun-slinging anthropomorphic iron key, the research is serious and the content dense with illuminating facts. Half a valuable reference source, half a fascinating story, fully recommended!"
―LTG Dave R. Palmer, premier military historian, US Army Lieutenant General (ret), former Superintendent of the United States Military Academy at West Point, and
originator of Mount Vernon's theme:  "George Washington, a Leader of Character"!


"From Washington to Palmer: 'The Story of Leaders of Character'"   Alternate View

"Good moral character is the first essential in a man." —GW



Discover the amazing magic of George Washington's Liberty Key, Mount Vernon's Bastille Key, in this wonderfully crafted history book!

More time than money?  Put some of your local "voluntary" tax money to good use by putting "Liberty" in your Library. 
"Educate and inform the whole mass of the people....  They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty."
  Thomas Jefferson.  Ask your library to order a copy! 

What's in your library?    What's in your bookstore? 

Scribbler's local library has filed the book under 973.3 BAH  (Biography and History > North America > United States > Revolution and confederation (1775-89).  
ISBN-10: 1537323377   ISBN-13: 978-1537323374


Bastille Day Video by Fareed Zakaria (GPS "Last Look: Bastille Day") 







Current version 1.14    March 2020



The Key to the Bastille was sent to George Washington by the Marquis de Lafayette with the following words (17 March 1790): 
"Give me leave, my dear General, to present you with the main key to the Bastille...the fortress of despotism.  It is a tribute
which I owe as a son to my adoptive father, as an aid de camp to my general, as a missionary of liberty to its patriarch."


  Photograph of Bastille Key in Central Passage of Mount Vernon

Courtesy of Mount Vernon Ladies' Association

The Bastille Key at Mount Vernon

Replicas (click for links)

                                          Courtesy of Mount Vernon Ladies' Association    

If you bought one of the keys above, you can easily "double its value" and "triple your enjoyment" by reading George Washington's Liberty Key!


George Washington’s Liberty Key:
Mount Vernon's Bastille Key – the Mystery and Magic of Its Body, Mind, and Soul


Lincoln Memorial and Bastille Amazing Comparison











"Character is Key for Liberty"

"'Ordered Liberty' is liberty under law  liberty (and concomitant progress) in its most sustainable form."      W. J. Bahr,  June 2018

Placemat version       Coffee cup version       Expresso Coffee Cup





$10 DIY (Do It Yourself) Standing Desk on which "GWLK" was written                         Mount Vernon                               Chateau de Tarascon -- Brother to the Bastille?  Facebook Pictures



Mount Vernon


Courtesy of Bernard K. Means


George Washington Masonic National Memorial

Congress presents Lafayette with sword.  He later used its golden hilt
to replace rusted hilt from sword made of bolts from the Bastille.
Right middle scene


Key, drawing, mini-Bastille, and weathervane at Mount Vernon


Sorry, FerrousTM is no relation to France's Scott Key,nor is he connected to Aleasha Keys!   


"Definitely the Key Book about George Washington!"



"Liberty Key" by W. J. Bahr

The main key was I, to the King’s Bastille,
Jailing his foes, through Letters of Seal.
So my fort’s end, by storm´ing
Came with pitchforks, one morn´ing,
That no longer, would free Frenchmen kneel!

Then to the Bastille, came the Marquis,
After they’d given him me, the Key.
Next off I went, to Washington´,
As tribute from, this adopted son´,
To thank the Father, of Liberty´!

For saving George’s Revolution –
Government form and resolution.
The key to keep our own freedom´?
“Character, Culture, Constitution!”

– FerrousTM, the Key


"Pin it for later"


You may find just the interesting pictures and puns alone are worth the price of "tuition"!  Yes, this book is so much pun!!   

An educational read disguised as fun! 


"Character, Culture, Constitution" TM
















Book on display to the immediate right after entering Shops at Mount Vernon from the Mount Vernon Inn 





Where you'll find alerts to new information items.  Please "like" (rate or review) me (to include Amazon and everywhere else)!  The Key 



   Click Here for Extra Supplements  
to include height, length, and width (size) dimensions of the Bastille  

Size of the Bastille

Click on image above for link to article:  Bastille Measurement:  Resurrecting the Dimensions of Despotism
or, for another, perhaps more accessible source, click here.

Video of September 2019 effort to find Bastille pavers during Plaza de la Bastille construction.
The rectangular stone pavers were being replaced with round metal markers.

For those looking for recent commentary about the Bastille Key and its application to the Emoluments Clause of the United States Constitution, check out this article.


If you're interested in other historical items I've researched to help set stories straight,
click here for
West Point Lore and here for Revolutionary War Reenactment.




              Our size of the Bastille       Video:  How big was the Bastille?






Link to more views of the Bastille


King Louis XVI Flight to Varennes The letter of grievances he laid on his bed before his departure.

Louis XVI

Déclaration de Louis XVI à tous les Français, à sa sortie de Paris

20 juin 1791

aka Déclaration du roi, adressée à tous les François, à sa sortie de Paris, traditionally known as the Testament politique de Louis XVI ("Political Testament of Louis XVI"),

 English Translation by William J. Bahr

 Louis XVI
Declaration of Louis XVI to the French people, on leaving Paris, aka Louis XVI's Declaration to all the French
June 20, 1791

Declaration to the French People prepared by Louis XVI


2nd Virginia Regiment (Revolutionary War)   West Point Lore

Copyright, W. Bahr, 2015-2021


Be amazed at the Magic!  Buy book @ Mount Vernon or @
George Washington's Liberty Key: Mount Vernon's Bastille Key - the Mystery and Magic of Its Body, Mind, and Soul


"From Washington to Palmer:  The Story of 'Leaders of Character'"




For Sale

 GWLK 8x10 Double-Matted 5x7 Reverse Silhouette Reproduction
(copyrighted, suitable for framing), with backing & crystal clear bag.

(image here not in focus)

$10 + $3.99 shipping/handling to US locations + applicable tax (TBD ~ $1)


or send check to

IBEX Systems
150 Greenfield Drive
Bloomingdale, IL  60108-3016
tel:  630 307-3634


Tie Tack or Brooch (large/small) with pin or clasp  $20 + $3.99 p/h 
Inquire wbahr at mail dot  com





Mousepad and more at our Zazzle Store (Check for occasional sale discounts!)



Order at Zazzle (Written exchange between Lafayette and Washington about Mount Vernon's Bastille Key).

Still more at CafePress

Quality Quora Commentary


Check out our leading liberty-leaning friends:

Every great book needs a great bookmark and a sip of coffee.
 The shots of (and in) mugs will make you smile, too.  Ready, aim, click (below)! 


      Liberty Key of D Tune     

Note:  Mount Rushmore "Character is Key for Liberty" is at bottom of Extra Supplements

  Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf - Symphony in C-major "La Prise de la Bastille" 

An excellent video summary:  Maximilien Robespierre and the Reign of Terror


Best-seller at Mount Vernon: Copies with author-signed bookplates now available at the Shops at Mount Vernon

Buy Book (Amazon Prime Members): Click below

George Washington's Liberty Key: Mount Vernon's Bastille Key - the Mystery and Magic of Its Body, Mind, and Soul
Amazon print-version  $17.90   Kindle $7.90     Distributor/Bookstore discounts


"His [Washington's] integrity was most pure, his justice the most inflexible I have ever known,
no motives of interest or consanguinity [family], of friendship or hatred, being able to bias his decision. 
He was, indeed, in every sense of the words, a wise, a good, and a great man." 

Thomas Jefferson, letter to Walter Jones, 2 Jan 1814

"Exitus acta probat" the meaning of George Washington's family motto





<a href="">William Bahr on ResearchGate</a>

BAHR No Products
"Innovation...           opening the door to tomorrow" tm

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"No punishment, in my opinion, is too great for the man who can 'build his greatness upon his country's ruin.'"  — George Washington
"Arbitrary power [tyranny, dictatorship] is most easily established on the ruins of liberty abused to licentiousness [lawlessness,
irresponsibility, anarchy]." — George Washington

Revolutionary War and Strategy Book Reviews

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Bastille Key Liberty Key