Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette

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La Fayette
Gilbert du Motier Marquis de Lafayette.PNG
La Fayette as a Lieutenant General, in 1791. Portrait by Joseph-Désiré Court
Nickname(s) The Hero of the Two Worlds (Le Héros des Deux Mondes in French)[1]
Born 6 September 1757
Chavaniac, France
Died 20 May 1834(1834-05-20) (aged 76)
Paris, France
Allegiance  Kingdom of France
 United States of America
Flag of France (1790-1794).svg Kingdom of France
Pavillon royal de France.svg Kingdom of France
Flag of France.svg Kingdom of France
Service/branch Kingdom of France French Army
Continental Army
Rank US-O8 insignia.svg Major General (US)
Maréchal de camp (France)

American Revolutionary War


Wife: Marie Adrienne Françoise de Noailles (1759–1807)

Uncle: Jacques-Roch
Son: Georges Washington (1779–1849)
Daughters: Anastasie (1777–1863)
Virginie (1782–1849)
Other work Politician
Estates General (Auvergne)
Member of the National Assembly
Signature Marquis de La Fayette Signature.svg

Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier de La Fayette, Marquis de La Fayette (French pronunciation: ​[maʁki də la fajɛt]; 6 September 1757 – 20 May 1834), in the U.S. often known simply as Lafayette, was a French aristocrat and military officer born in Chavaniac, in the province of Auvergne in south central France. La Fayette was a general in the American Revolutionary War and a leader of the Garde nationale during the French Revolution.

In the American Revolution, La Fayette served as a major-general in the Continental Army under George Washington. Wounded during the Battle of Brandywine, he still managed to organize a successful retreat. He served with distinction in the Battle of Rhode Island. In the middle of the war, he returned to France to negotiate an increase in French support. On his return, he blocked troops led by Cornwallis at Yorktown while the armies of Washington and those sent by King Louis XVI under the command of General de Rochambeau, Admiral de Grasse, and Admiral de Latouche Tréville prepared for battle against the British.

La Fayette was the most important link between the American and the French Revolutions. As an ardent supporter of the United States' constitutional principles he called on all nations to follow the American example. La Fayette was impressed by George Washington and other Protestants. During his short stay in France he visited Paul Rabaut and his son Jean-Paul Rabaut Saint-Etienne, two Reformed pastors. Under La Fayette's influence Louis XVI issued the edict of toleration in 1787 (Edict of Versailles), which particularly benefitted the Huguenots.[2] Back in France in 1788, La Fayette was called to the Assembly of Notables to respond to the fiscal crisis. La Fayette proposed a meeting of the French Estates-General, where representatives from the three traditional orders of French society—the clergy, the nobility and the commoners—met. He served as vice president of the resulting body. The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen was largely based on his draft, which had the assistance of Thomas Jefferson.[3][4] La Fayette was appointed commander-in-chief of the Garde nationale in response to violence. During the French Revolution, La Fayette attempted to maintain order—to the point of ordering the Garde nationale to fire on demonstrators at the Champ de Mars in July 1791—an action for which he ultimately was persecuted by the Jacobins. In August 1792, as the radical factions in the Revolution grew in power, Lafayette tried to flee to the United States through the Dutch Republic. He was captured by Austrians and spent more than five years in prison.

La Fayette returned to France after Napoleon Bonaparte secured his release from prison in 1797. He refused to participate in Napoleon's government, but was elected to the Chamber of Deputies under the Charter of 1815, during the Hundred Days. With the Bourbon Restoration, La Fayette became a liberal member of the Chamber of Deputies in 1815, a position he held until his death. In 1824, President James Monroe invited La Fayette to the United States as the "nation's guest"; during the trip, he visited all twenty-four states in the union at the time. In honor of his contributions to the American Revolution, many cities and monuments throughout the United States bear his name. During France's July Revolution of 1830, La Fayette declined an offer to become the French dictator; instead he supported Louis-Philippe's bid as a constitutional monarch. La Fayette died on 20 May 1834, and is buried in Picpus Cemetery in Paris, under soil from Bunker Hill.

He became an American citizen during his lifetime, and he received honorary United States citizenship in 2002.[5] For his accomplishments in the service of both France and the United States, he is known as "The Hero of the Two Worlds".

Early life[edit]

Further information: La Fayette family
The birthplace of La Fayette in Chavaniac, Auvergne.

La Fayette was born on 6 September 1757 to Michel Louis Christophe Roch Gilbert Paulette du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette, colonel of grenadiers, and Marie Louise Jolie de La Rivière, at the château de Chavaniac, in Chavaniac, near Le Puy-en-Velay, in the modern department of Haute-Loire.[6][a]

La Fayette's lineage appears to be one of the oldest in Auvergne. Members of the family were noted for their contempt for danger.[7] La Fayette's ancestor Marshal of France Gilbert de La Fayette III was a companion-at-arms who led Joan of Arc's army in Orléans. His great-grandfather was the Comte de La Rivière, commander of the Mousquetaires du Roi, or Black Musketeers, the King Louis XV's personal horse guard.[8] According to legend, another ancestor acquired the Crown of Thorns during the 6th Crusade.[9] La Fayette's uncle Jacques-Roch died fighting the Austrians and left the marquis title to Lafayette's father.[10]

La Fayette's father, struck by a cannonball at the Battle of Minden in Westphalia, died on 1 August 1759.[11] La Fayette became Lord of Chavaniac, but the estate went to his mother.[11] Devastated by the loss of her husband, she went to live in Paris with her father and grandfather.[8] La Fayette was raised by his paternal grandmother, Mme de Chavaniac, who had brought the château into the family with her dowry.[10]

In 1768, when La Fayette was 11, he was summoned to Paris to live with his mother and great-grandfather at his apartments in the Luxembourg Palace. The boy was sent to school at the Collège du Plessis (Lycée Louis-le-Grand), and it was decided that the boy would carry on the family martial tradition.[12] The comte enrolled the boy on the roll of future Musketeers.[13] La Fayette's mother and her grandfather died,on 3 and 24 April 1770 respectively, leaving La Fayette an income of 25,000 livres. Upon the death of an uncle, the 12-year-old Lafayette inherited a handsome yearly income of 120,000 livres.[11]

In May 1771, La Fayette was commissioned a sous-lieutenant in the Musketeers. His duties were mostly ceremonial (he continued his studies as usual), but included marching in military parades, and presenting himself to King Louis.[14] The next year, Jean-Paul-François de Noailles, duc d'Ayen, was looking to marry off some of his five daughters. The young La Fayette, aged 14, seemed a good match to him for his 12-year-old daughter, Marie Adrienne Françoise, and he spoke to the boy's guardian (Lafayette's uncle, the new comte), and the two men hammered out a marriage contract[15] However, the arranged marriage was opposed by the duc's wife, who felt the couple, and especially her daughter, were too young. The matter was settled by agreeing to have the marriage wait for two years, during which time the two would meet from time to time, seemingly accidentally.[16] The scheme worked; the two fell in love and were happy together from the time of their marriage in 1774 until her death in 1808.[17]

Departure from France[edit]

Finding a cause[edit]

Statue of Lafayette in front of the Governor Palace in Metz, place of the diner of Metz, when he decided to join the American cause.

After the marriage contract was signed in 1773, La Fayette lived with his young wife in his father-in-law's house in Versailles. He continued his education, both at the riding school at Versailles (his fellow students included the future Charles X) and at the prestigious Académie de Versailles. He was given a commission as a lieutenant in the Noailles Dragoons in April 1773. With the death of Louis XV in 1774, Louis XVI became king. The taciturn La Fayette was not popular at court.[18]

Young Marquis de Lafayette in a uniform of major general of the Continental Army.

In 1775, La Fayette took part in his unit's annual training in Metz, where he met Charles-François de Broglie, marquis de Ruffec, the Army of the East's commander. Both men discussed at dinner the ongoing revolt against British rule by Britain's North American colonies. According to Marc Leepson in his book on La Fayette's military career, the marquis was disposed to hate the British for killing his father, and felt that a British defeat would diminish the nation's stature internationally.[19] Harlow Unger in his biography of La Fayette noted that the marquis had recently become a Mason and Gloucester "fired his chivalric—and now Masonic—imagination with descriptions of Americans as 'people fighting for liberty' ".[20]

In September 1775, La Fayette turned 18, returned to Paris, and received the captaincy in the Dragoons he had been promised as a wedding present. In December, his first child, Henriette, was born. In Paris, he joined a local Masonic lodge and fell under the spell of Abbé Guillaume Raynal, who criticised the nobility, the clergy and the practice of slavery. The monarchy banned Raynal from speaking, augmenting his appeal. La Fayette became convinced that the American Revolution was a cause that reflected his beliefs.[21] "My heart was dedicated." La Fayette said.[22]

The year 1776 saw delicate negotiations between Silas Deane and other American agents and Louis XVI and his foreign minister, Charles Gravier, comte de Vergennes. The king and his minister hoped that by supplying the Americans with arms and officers, they might restore French influence in North America, and exact revenge against England for the loss in the Seven Years War (known in America as the French and Indian War). When La Fayette heard that French officers were being sent to America, he demanded to be among them. He met Deane, and persuaded him to include him despite his youth. On 7 December 1776, Deane enlisted La Fayette as a major general.[23]

The plan to send French officers (as well as other aid) to America came to nothing when the British heard of it and threatened war. La Fayette's father-in-law scolded the marquis and told him to visit his uncle Marquis de Noailles, the ambassador to Britain, which he did in February 1777. In the interim, he did not abandon his plans to go to America, seeking to purchase a ship. In London, he was presented to George III, and spent three weeks in London society. On his return to France, he went into hiding from his father-in-law (and superior officer), sending him a letter telling him that he was planning to go to America. De Noailles was furious, and got King Louis to issue an order forbidding French officers from serving in America, and specifically ordering La Fayette to return. Vergennes may have gotten the king to order La Fayette's arrest, though this is uncertain.[24]

Departure for America[edit]

La Fayette found that the Continental Congress did not have the money for his voyage; hence he acquired the sailing ship La Victoire himself.[25] The king officially forbade him to leave after British spies discovered his plan, and issued an order for La Fayette to join his father-in-law's regiment in Marseille,[26] disobedience of which would be punishable by imprisonment.[26][27][28]

La Fayette journeyed to Bordeaux, where La Victoire, was being prepared for her voyage, and sent word to a friend asking for information on family reaction. The response, enclosing letters from his wife and other relatives, threw La Fayette into emotional turmoil. Soon after departure, he ordered the ship turned around and returned to Bordeaux, to the frustration of the officers traveling with him. The army commander there ordered La Fayette to report to his father-in-law's regiment in Marseilles. De Broglie, who hoped to become a military and political leader in America, met with La Fayette in Bordeaux and convinced him that the government actually wanted him to go. This was not true, though there was considerable public support for La Fayette in Paris, where the American cause was popular. La Fayette wanted to believe this, and pretended to comply with the order to report to Marseilles, going only a few miles east before turning around and returning to his ship. La Victoire set sail for the United States on 20 April 1777.[29]

The two-month journey to the New World was marked by seasickness and boredom.[30] The ship's captain intended to stop in the West Indies to sell cargo; however La Fayette, fearful of arrest, bought the cargo to avoid docking at the islands.[26] He landed on North Island near Georgetown, South Carolina, on 13 June 1777.[31][32]

American Revolution[edit]

Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette
Painting of two men on horses talking to a sentry
Washington and Lafayette at Valley Forge

On arrival, La Fayette met Major Benjamin Huger, a wealthy landowner, with whom he stayed two weeks before going to Philadelphia. The Continental Congress had been overwhelmed by French officers recruited by Deane, many of whom could not speak English or lacked experience. La Fayette had learned some English en route, and his Masonic membership opened many doors in Philadelphia After La Fayette offered to serve without pay, Congress commissioned him a major-general on 31 July 1777.[33][34] La Fayette's advocates included the recently-arrived American envoy to France, Benjamin Franklin, who by letter urged Congress to accommodate the young Frenchman.[35]

General George Washington, commander in chief of the Continental Army, came to Philadelphia to brief Congress on military affairs. La Fayette met him at a dinner on 5 August 1777; according to Leepson, "the two men bonded almost immediately."[36] Washington was impressed by the young man's enthusiasm and inclined to think well of a fellow Mason; La Fayette was simply in awe of the commanding general.[36] When Washington expressed embarrassment at the state of the camp and the troops, La Fayette responded, "I am here to learn, not to teach."[37] He became a member of Washington's staff, although confusion existed regarding his status. Congress regarded his commission as honorary, while he considered himself a full-fledged commander who would be given control of a division when Washington deemed him prepared. To address this, Washington told La Fayette that a division would not be possible as he was of foreign birth; however, Washington said that he would be happy to hold him in confidence as "friend and father".[38]

Brandywine, Albany, and the Conway Cabal[edit]

Further information: Battle of Brandywine
La Fayette wounded at the battle of Brandywine

La Fayette's first battle was at Brandywine on 11 September 1777.[39] The British commanding general, General Sir William Howe, planned to take Philadelphia by moving troops south by ship to Chesapeake Bay (rather than heavily defended Delaware Bay) and bringing them overland to the rebel capital.[40] After the British outflanked the Americans, Washington sent La Fayette to join General John Sullivan. Upon his arrival, La Fayette went with the Third Pennsylvania Brigade, under Brigadier Thomas Conway, and attempted to rally the unit to face the attack. In face of the British and Hessian superiority, La Fayette was shot in the leg. During the American retreat, La Fayette rallied the troops, allowing a more orderly retreat before being treated for his wound.[41] After the battle, Washington cited him for "bravery and military ardour" and recommended him for the command of a division in a letter to Congress.[31]

La Fayette returned to the field in November after two months of recuperation in the Moravian settlement of Bethlehem, and received command of the division previously commanded by Major General Adam Stephen.[42] He assisted General Nathanael Greene in reconnaissance of British positions in New Jersey; with 300 soldiers, he defeated a numerically superior Hessian force in Gloucester, on 24 November 1777.[43]

La Fayette stayed at Washington's encampment at Valley Forge in the winter of 1777–78, and shared the hardship of his troops.[44] There, the Horatio Gates-led War Board asked him to prepare an invasion of Canada from Albany, New York. Thomas Conway hoped to replace Washington with Gates, who had been successful in the Battle of Saratoga. Conway concocted a plot known as the Conway Cabal. Part of the scheme separated Washington from La Fayette, one of Washington's firmest supporters.[45] La Fayette alerted Washington of his suspicions about the plot before leaving.[46] When La Fayette arrived in Albany, he found too few men to mount a Canadian invasion. He wrote to Washington of the situation, and made plans to return to Valley Forge. Before departing, he recruited the Oneida tribe, who referred to La Fayette as Kayewla (fearsome horseman), to the American side.[31] In Valley Forge, he criticized the War Board's decision to attempt an invasion of Canada in winter. The Continental Congress agreed, and Gates was removed from the Board.[47] Meanwhile, treaties signed by America and France were made public in March 1778, and France formally recognized American independence.[9]

Barren Hill, Monmouth and Rhode Island[edit]

Further information: Battle of Barren Hill and Battle of Monmouth
Map of the battle of Barren Hill

The prospect of French intervention caused the British to want to concentrate their land and naval forces in the same location, New York City.[48] In May 1778, the British evacuated Philadelphia, and moved toward their base in New York. On 18 May 1778, Washington dispatched La Fayette with a 2,200-man force to reconnoitre near Barren Hill, Pennsylvania. The next day, the British heard that La Fayette had made camp nearby and sent 5,000 men to trap and capture him. On 20 May, General Howe led a further 6,000 soldiers and ordered an attack on La Fayette's left flank. The flank scattered, and La Fayette organized a retreat while the British remained indecisive. To feign numerical superiority, La Fayette ordered men to appear from the woods on an outcropping known as Barren Hill (now Lafayette Hill) and to fire upon the British periodically.[49] La Fayette's troops simultaneously escaped via a sunken road.[50] Lafayette was then able to cross Matson's Ford with the remainder of his force.[51]

Unable to trap La Fayette, the British resumed their march north from Philadelphia to New York; the Continental Army, including La Fayette, followed and finally attacked at Monmouth Courthouse[9] in central New Jersey. At Monmouth, Washington appointed General Charles Lee to lead the attacking force. On 28 June, Lee moved against the British flank; however, soon after fighting began, he gave conflicting orders, causing chaos in the American ranks. La Fayette sent a message to Washington to urge him to the front; upon his arrival he found Lee's men in retreat. Washington relieved Lee, took command, and rallied the American force, repelling two British attacks. The British withdrew in the night, and successfully reached New York, though suffering significant casualties at Monmouth.[52]

The French fleet arrived in America on 8 July 1778, under Admiral d'Estaing, with whom General Washington planned to attack Newport, Rhode Island, the other major British base in the north. La Fayette and General Greene were sent with a 3,000-man force to participate in the attack. La Fayette wanted to control a joint Franco-American force in the attack but was rebuffed by the admiral. On 9 August, the American force attacked the British without consulting d'Estaing. When the Americans asked the admiral to leave his fleet in Narragansett Bay, d'Estaing refused and attacked the British under Lord Howe.[6] The fighting was inconclusive as a storm scattered and damaged both fleets.[31]

D'Estaing moved his ships north to Boston for repairs. When the fleet arrived, Bostonians rioted because they considered the French departure from Newport a desertion. John Hancock and La Fayette were dispatched to calm the situation, and then La Fayette returned to Rhode Island to prepare for the retreat made necessary by d'Estaing's departure. For these actions, La Fayette was cited by the Continental Congress for "gallantry, skill and prudence".[31] Lafayette wanted to expand the war to fight the British elsewhere in North America and even, under the French flag, in Europe, but found little interest in his proposals. In October 1778, he requested leave of Washington and Congress to go home on furlough, and they agreed, with Congress voting to give Lafayette a ceremonial sword, to be given to him in France. His departure was delayed by illness, and he sailed for France in January 1779.[53]

Lafayette (by Cyrus Edwin Dallin 1889)

Return to France[edit]

In February 1779, La Fayette returned to Paris. For disobeying the king by going to America, he was placed under house arrest for eight days.[31] This was merely face-saving by Louis XVI; La Fayette was given a hero's welcome and was soon invited to hunt with the king.[54] As the American envoy was ill, Benjamin Franklin's grandson presented him with a 4,800-livre gold-encrusted sword commissioned by the Continental Congress.[55]

La Fayette pushed for an invasion of Britain, with himself to have a major command in the French forces. Spain was now France's ally against Britain, and sent ships to support the invasion. The Spanish ships did not arrive until August 1779, to be met by a faster squadron of British ships, that the combined French and Spanish fleet could not catch. In September, the idea of an invasion was abandoned, and La Fayette turned his hopes to a return to America.[56]

In December 1779, Adrienne borne La Fayette a son, Georges Washington Lafayette.[57] Working with Franklin, La Fayette secured the promise of 6,000 soldiers to be commanded by General Jean-Baptiste de Rochambeau.[31] La Fayette would resume his position as a major general of American forces, serving as a liaison between Washington and Rochambeau.[58] Before returning to America, La Fayette and the French force learned that they would be operating under American command, with Washington in control of military operations. In March 1780, La Fayette departed for America aboard the frigate Hermione,[59] from Rochefort. He arrived in Boston on 27 April 1780.[60]

Virginia and Yorktown[edit]

A map of key sites in the Battle of Yorktown

On his return, La Fayette found the American cause at a low ebb, rocked by several military defeats, especially in the south. [61] La Fayette was greeted in Boston with enthusiasm, seen as "a knight in shining armor from the chivalric past, come to save the nation".[62] He journeyed southwest and on 10 May had a joyous reunion with Washington at Morristown, New Jersey. The general and his officers were delighted to hear that the large French force promised La Fayette would be coming to their aid.[63] Washington, aware of La Fayette's popularity, had him write (with Alexander Hamilton to correct his spelling) to state officials to urge them to provide more men and supplies to the Continental Army.[64] This bore fruit in the coming months, as La Fayette awaited the arrival of the French fleet.[65] However, when the fleet arrived, there were fewer men and supplies than expected, and Rochambeau decided to wait for reinforcements before seeking battle with the British. This was unsatisfactory to La Fayette, who proposed grandiose schemes for the taking of New York City and other areas, and Rochambeau briefly refused to receive La Fayette until the young man apologized. Washington counseled the marquis to be patient.[66]

Washington, that summer, placed La Fayette in charge of a division of troops. He spent lavishly on his command, which patrolled Northern New Jersey and adjacent New York State. La Fayette saw no significant action, and in November, Washington disbanded the division, sending the soldiers back to their state regiments. The war continued badly for the Americans, with most battles in the south going against them, and General Benedict Arnold going over to the British side.[67]

George Washington drew upon that experience in late February 1781, placing La Fayette in command of three regiments of light infantry from New England and New Jersey. The regiments were commanded by Colonel Joseph Vose of Massachusetts, Lieutenant Colonel Jean-Joseph Sourbader de Gimat of France, and Lieutenant Colonel Francis Barber of New Jersey. In all there were about 1,200 light infantry troops. They were sent to Virginia to defend against Arnold and to replace Baron von Steuben.[68][69] Lafayette evaded Cornwallis' attempts to capture him in Richmond.[69] In June, Cornwallis received orders from London to proceed to the Chesapeake Bay and to oversee construction of a port, in preparation of an attack on Philadelphia.[69] As the British column travelled, La Fayette followed in a bold show of force that encouraged new recruits. In June, La Fayette's men were joined by forces under General (Mad) Anthony Wayne. Soldiers deserted both leaders; Wayne executed six for desertion. La Fayette offered to release his men from service because of the great danger ahead; all of his men remained.[70]

Further information: Battle of Green Spring

On 4 July, the British left Williamsburg and prepared to cross the James River. Cornwallis sent only an advance guard across the river, with intentions to trap, should La Fayette attack. In the Battle of Green Spring on 6 July, La Fayette ordered Wayne to strike with roughly 800 soldiers. Wayne found himself vastly outnumbered against the full British force and, instead of retreating, led a bayonet charge. The charge bought time for the Americans, and La Fayette ordered the retreat. The British did not pursue. The result was a victory for Cornwallis, but the American army was bolstered by the display of courage by the men.[69][71]

Further information: Siege of Yorktown

By August, Cornwallis had established the British at Yorktown, and La Fayette took up position on Malvern Hill. This maneuver trapped the British when the French fleet arrived.[9][72] On 14 September 1781, Washington's forces joined La Fayette's, which had succeeded in containing the British until supplies and reinforcements arrived. On 28 September, with the French fleet blockading the British, the combined forces attacked in the Siege of Yorktown. On 14 October, La Fayette's 400 men on the American right took redoubt 9 after Alexander Hamilton's forces had charged redoubt 10, in hand-to-hand combat.[71] After a failed British counter-attack, Cornwallis surrendered on 19 October 1781.[73]

Return to France and visit to America[edit]

La Fayette returned to France on 18 December 1781. He was welcomed as a hero, and on 22 January 1782, was received at Versailles. He witnessed the birth of his daughter, whom he named Marie-Antoinette Virginie upon Thomas Jefferson's recommendation.[74][75] He was promoted to maréchal de camp, skipping numerous ranks.[76] La Fayette then helped prepare for a combined French and Spanish expedition against the British West Indies. The Treaty of Paris signed between Great Britain and the U.S. on 20 January 1783 made the expedition unnecessary.[77]

In France, La Fayette worked with Thomas Jefferson to establish trade agreements between the United States and France. These negotiations aimed to reduce U.S. debt to France, and included commitments on tobacco and whale oil.[78] He joined the French abolitionist group Society of the Friends of the Blacks, which advocated the end of the slave trade and equal rights for free blacks. In 1783, in correspondence with Washington, he urged the emancipation of slaves; and to establish them as tenant farmers.[79] Although Washington demurred, La Fayette purchased land in the Cayenne for his plantation La Belle Gabrielle, to "experiment" with education, and emancipation.[79][80][81]

Lafayette and Washington at Mt. Vernon, 1784

In 1784, La Fayette returned to America, and visited all the states except Georgia.[82] The trip included a visit to Washington's farm at Mount Vernon on 17 August. In Virginia, La Fayette addressed the House of Delegates where he called for "liberty of all mankind" and urged emancipation.[83] La Fayette advocated to the Pennsylvania Legislature for a federal union, and visited the Mohawk Valley in New York for peace negotiations between the Iroquois, some of whom had met La Fayette in 1778.[84] La Fayette received an honorary degree from Harvard, a portrait of Washington from the city of Boston, and a bust from the state of Virginia. Maryland's legislature honored him by making La Fayette and his male heirs "natural born Citizens" of the state, which made him a natural born citizen of the United States after ratification of the new national Constitution.[85][86][87][88] Lafayette later boasted that he had become an American citizen before the concept of French citizenship existed.[89] Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Virginia also granted him citizenship.[7][90][91][88] He was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1785.[92]

Upon his return to France, it is said that La Fayette became involved in an affair with the comtesse Aglaé d'Hunolstein,[93] one that he broke off on 27 March 1783 by letter, at the insistence of her family.[94] He became briefly linked amorously to Madame de Simiane;[95] however, scholars are divided, whether Adrienne knew of these two extramarital affairs.[96][97] Enemies of La Fayette made much of the court gossip.

Through the next years, La Fayette was active in the Hôtel de La Fayette in the rue de Bourbon, the headquarters of Americans in Paris, where Benjamin Franklin, John Jay and his wife Sarah Livingston, and John Adams and his wife Abigail, met every Monday, and dined in company with family and the liberal nobility, such as Clermont-Tonnerre, and Madame de Staël.[98]

French Revolution[edit]

Assembly of Notables and Estates-General[edit]

"Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen", proposed to the Estates-General by Lafayette

King Louis XVI convoked the Assembly of Notables on 29 December 1786, in response to France's fiscal crisis. The King appointed La Fayette to the body, in the comte d'Artois' division, which met on 22 February 1787. In an address first read to the assembly, then signed and endorsed by La Fayette, it was proposed to lower unnecessary spending, which included, among other things, purchase of useless estates and gifts to courtiers.[99] He called for a "truly national assembly", which represented the three classes of French society: clergy, nobility, and commons.[100] On 8 August 1788, the King agreed to hold an Estates General the next year. La Fayette was elected to represent the nobility (Second Estate) from Riom in the Estates General.[101]

The Estates General convened on 5 May 1789; debate began on whether the delegates should vote by head or by Estate. If voting was by Estate then the nobility and clergy would be able to overturn the commons; if by head, then the larger Third Estate could dominate. Before the meeting, he agitated for the voting by head, rather than estate, as a member of the "Committee of Thirty".[102] The issue was not resolved and, on 1 June, the Third Estate asked the others to join them. From 13 to 17 June, many of the clergy and some of the nobility did so; on the 17th, the group declared itself the National Assembly.[103] Three days later, the doors to their chambers were locked. This action led to the Tennis Court Oath, where the members swore to not separate until a Constitution was established.[104] Lafayette, along with forty-six others, joined the National Assembly and on 27 June, the rest followed. On 11 July 1789, La Fayette presented a draft of the "Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen".[105] The next day, after the dismissal of Finance Minister Jacques Necker, Camille Desmoulins organized an armed mob. The King had the Royal Army under the duc de Broglie surround Paris.[106] On 13 July, the Assembly elected him their vice-president; the following day the Bastille was stormed.[107][108]

National Guard, Versailles, and Day of Daggers[edit]

The oath of Lafayette at the Fête de la Fédération, 14 July 1790. Talleyrand, then Bishop of Autun can be seen on the right. The standing child is the son of La Fayette, the young Georges Washington de La Fayette. French School, 18th century. Musée Carnavalet.

On 15 July, La Fayette was acclaimed commander-in-chief of the National Guard of France, an armed force established to maintain order under the control of the Assembly.[109][110] Lafayette proposed the name and the symbol of the group: a blue, white and red cockade.[105][108] On 5 October 1789, a Parisian crowd, composed mostly of rough women working in the markets selling fish, marched to Versailles in response to the scarcity of bread. Members of the National Guard followed the march, and when La Fayette called this march nonsense, the National Guard's men openly defied his power and according to some sources, they said "We are going with you, or over you", then La Fayette reluctantly led the National Guard army to Versailles. At Versailles, the king accepted the Assembly's votes on Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, but refused requests to return to Paris. That evening, La Fayette replaced most of the royal bodyguards with National Guardsmen. At dawn, the crowd broke into the palace. Before it succeeded in entering the queen's bedroom, Marie Antoinette fled to the king's apartments. La Fayette took the royal family onto the palace balcony and attempted to restore order.[111][112] The crowd insisted that the king and his family move to Paris where they were installed in the Tuileries Palace.[113][114] At the balcony, King Louis simply appeared, and everyone started chanting "Vive le Roi!". Then when Marie Antoinette appeared with her children, she was told to send the children back; afterwards, when she came out alone, people shouted to shoot her, but when she stood her ground facing almost certain death, no one opened fire. After several seconds and the lowering of muskets, people started to chant "Vive la Reine!" ("Long live the Queen", now the crowd is including the Queen).

Sabre of an officer of the volunteers of the National Guard, featuring a profile of Lafayette on the guard, c. 1790.

As leader of the National Guard, La Fayette attempted to maintain order. On 12 May 1790, he instituted, along with Jean Sylvain Bailly (mayor of Paris), a political club called the "Society of 1789". The club's intention was to provide balance to the influence of the Jacobins.[115] On 14 July 1790, Lafayette took the civic oath on the Champs de Mars, vowing to "be ever faithful to the nation, to the law, and to the king; to support with our utmost power the constitution decreed by the National Assembly, and accepted by the king."[116]

He continued to work for order in the coming months. On 20 February 1791, the Day of Daggers, Lafayette traveled to Vincennes in response to an attempt to liberate a local prison. Meanwhile, armed nobles converged around the Tuileries, afraid the unprotected king would be attacked. Lafayette returned to Paris to disarm the nobles.[117] On 18 April, the National Guard disobeyed Lafayette and stopped the King from leaving for Saint-Cloud over Easter.[108][118][119]

Decline: Flight to Varennes, Champs de Mars, and the Parisian Mayoral election[edit]

On 20 June 1791, an unsuccessful plot, called the Flight to Varennes, nearly allowed the king to escape from France. As leader of the National Guard, Lafayette had been responsible for the royal family's custody. He was thus blamed by Danton for the mishap and called a "traitor" to the people by Maximilien Robespierre.[120] These accusations portrayed Lafayette as a royalist, and damaged his reputation in the eyes of the public.[121] The episode garnered support throughout the country for the Republican movement, and "polarized" the king's supporters.[122]

One depiction of the Champ de Mars massacre

Through the latter half of 1791, Lafayette's stature continued to decline. On 17 July, the Cordeliers organized an event, at the Champs de Mars, to gather signatures on a petition which called for a referendum on Louis XVI.[123] The assembled crowd, estimated to be up to 10,000, hanged two men believed to be spies after they were found under a platform.[124]

In response, the Assembly asked Bailly, the mayor of Paris, to "halt the disorder";[125] martial law was declared; and National Guard troops, under Lafayette, marched to the scene.[125] Lafayette, at the head of the column, carried a red flag to signify martial law. The National Guard under Lafayette tried to disperse the crowd without the use of violence. The National Guards' first attempts were successful and the crowd dispersed. However, later that same day, it assembled again,[123] due in part to speeches given by Georges Danton and Camille Desmoulins. At some point, stones were thrown at the troops. Lafayette is thought to have ordered his troops to fire warning shots into the air. When the crowd did not back down, Lafayette ordered his men to fire into the crowd. Senior Officers in the National Guard questioned after the event stated they found it hard to control the actions of the volunteer soldiers. Many injuries were reported, though not all were fatal; this is generally thought to have been due to the disorganization and inexpert actions taken by the National Guard in the quelling of the disorder. Exact numbers of deaths are unknown; estimates generally range from a dozen to fifty.[124][125] Because of these confusions, the sequence of events at the Champ de Mars remains unclear and contested.

In combination with the Flight to Varennes, this event, known as the 'Champs de Mars Massacre' (Fusillade du Champs de Mars), furthered the public's mistrust of Lafayette and Bailly; in the aftermath, Lafayette resigned from the National Guard and Bailly left his post as mayor.[122] In November, Lafayette ran against Jérôme Pétion de Villeneuve in the mayoral election to succeed Bailly, but lost by a large margin. Criticism plagued Lafayette's mayoral campaign: his role in the flight to Varennes and in the Champs de Mars massacre were denounced both by politicians on the left and right.[126]

Conflict and imprisonment[edit]

Lafayette memorial plaque at Olomouc

Lafayette returned to his home province of Auvergne following the loss of the mayoral election.[126] France declared war on Austria on 20 April 1792, and preparations to invade the Southern Netherlands (known at that time as the Austrian Netherlands, and in the future as Belgium), were begun; Lafayette received command of one of the three armies, at Metz.[127] The war proceeded poorly: Lafayette, along with Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau and Nicolas Luckner, asked the Assembly to begin peace proceedings, as the generals feared the army would collapse if forced to attack.[128]

In June 1792, Lafayette criticized the growing influence of the radical clubs through a letter to the Assembly from his field post,[129] and ended his letter by calling for radical parties to be "closed down by force".[128] Earlier, in May, he had secretly proposed to a Brussels diplomat that the war be stopped until he achieved peace in Paris, perhaps by force. Lafayette's prior actions, despite the proposal's secrecy, caused suspicions that he planned a coup d'état. Marie-Antoinette advised authorities of Lafayette's plan, since she did not favor the constitution.[128] Lafayette left his command and returned to Paris on 28 June, where he asked the Assembly for the radical parties to be outlawed, the National Guard to defend the monarchy, and for the Constitution to be upheld.[130][131] His return augmented suspicions that he planned a coup d’état. Again, Lafayette and the Feuillants proposed to save the constitutional monarchy and royal family by uniting his army with General Luckner's. Marie-Antoinette refused: Lafayette had lost the support of the monarchy and the radical parties of the Revolution.[132][133]

Lafayette's sword

On 8 August, a vote of impeachment was held against him for abandoning his post, in which more than two thirds voted against.[133] Two days later, during a march by the people on the Tuileries, the Swiss Guard opened fire on citizens approaching the palace, sparking a battle which resulted in the death of 600 guards and 400 members of the crowd.[134][135][136] The King and his family fled the palace, and sought refuge in the Legislative Assembly who, under armed threat, suspended Louis XVI and convoked the National Convention. Commissioners dispatched by the Paris Commune arrived at Sedan, where Lafayette now led the French Northern Army, to inform him of the events and to secure allegiance to the new government. Lafayette refused their offer of an executive role in the new government, and ordered them arrested, as he found them to be "agents of a faction which had unlawfully seized power."[137] New commissioners came to Sedan and informed Lafayette that he had been relieved of his command. On 19 August, the Assembly declared Lafayette a traitor, giving him the almost certain prospect of being guillotined if he fell into the hands of the new, radical authorities in France.[137]

Lafayette had already decided to flee with his similarly endangered staff officers to the Republic of the United Netherlands (Dutch Republic). Lafayette hoped to gather his family in Britain, then retire to the United States,[138][139] but did not make it. Troops of the counter-revolutionary coalition of Austria and Prussia had been massing in the Southern Netherlands, to invade France with the intention of restoring the old French monarchy. Flemish Austrian troops under Major General (later Field Marshal) Johann von Moitelle arrested Lafayette's party the evening of 17 August at Rochefort, Belgium, at that time a village in the officially neutral Prince-Bishopric of Liège. Among those arrested with Lafayette were Jean Baptiste Joseph, chevalier de Laumoy; Louis Saint Ange Morel, chevalier de la Colombe; Alexandre-Théodore-Victor, comte de Lameth; Charles César de Fay de La Tour-Maubourg; Marie Victor de Fay, marquis de Latour-Maubourg; Juste-Charles de Fay de La Tour-Maubourg; Jean-Xavier Bureau de Pusy.[140][141][142][143] From 25 August to 3 September 1792, he was held at Nivelles; then transferred to Luxemburg where an Austrian-Prussian-French royalist military tribunal declared him, César de La Tour-Maubourg, Jean Bureaux de Pusy, and Alexandre de Lameth, all previously deputies in the French National Convention, to be "prisoners of state" for their leading roles in the Revolution. The tribunal sentenced them to an incarceration that was to last until, as was anticipated by coalition rulers, a restored French king could render final judgment on the prisoners for their alleged political crimes. On 12 September 1792, a Prussian military escort received the men from their Austrian guards. The party travelled down the Moselle river to Coblentz, then down the Rhine river to the Prussian fortress-city of Wesel, where the Frenchmen remained in the central citadel from 19 September to 22 December 1792. When victorious French revolutionary troops began to threaten the Rhineland, King Frederick William II of Prussia transferred the prisoners east to the citadel at Magdeburg, where they remained an entire year, from 4 January 1793 to 4 January 1794.

When Frederick William decided that he could gain very little by continuing to battle the astonishingly effective revolutionary forces of the young Republic of France, and that there were much easier pickings for his army in the Kingdom of Poland, he stopped armed hostilities with the Republic and turned the state prisoners back over to his erstwhile coalition partner, the Habsburg Austrian monarch Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor. Prussian escorts assembled Lafayette, Latour-Maubourg, and Bureaux de Pusy at Nysa (Neisse) in Silesia, near the northern border of the emperor's territories of the Czech lands (today's Czech Republic).[144] On 17 May 1794, a further escort drove them by carriage to the border, where an Austrian military unit was waiting to receive them. The next day, around midnight, the Austrians delivered their captives into a barracks-prison, formerly a college of the Jesuits, in the fortress-city of Olomouc (Olmütz), Moravia. Lafayette occupied two rooms with thick walls and large windows covered by two sets of grills, overlooking the city's southern fortifications.[145][146]

An international network of supporters centered in Philadelphia, London, Hamburg-Altona, and Paris lobbied for Lafayette's release and the amelioration of his prison conditions. It also established communications with him and helped him plot break-outs. The most spectacular escape attempt was sponsored by Alexander Hamilton's sister-in-law Angelica Schuyler Church and her husband John Barker Church, a British Member of Parliament who had once served as commissary general of the American Continental Army. They hired as agent a multilingual young physician from the British Electorate of Hanover, Justus Erich Bollmann, who established contact with Lafayette in prison and acquired an assistant, a South Carolinian medical student named Francis Kinloch Huger. Remarkably, Lafayette had stayed his first night in America, in 1777, at the home of Huger's father Major Benjamin Huger. With the help of Bollmann and Francis Huger, Lafayette managed to escape an escorted carriage drive in the countryside outside Olomouc, a drive granted by the emperor for health purposes. While the rescuers were subduing an unexpectedly ferocious Austrian sergeant, they shouted for Lafayette to ride off north toward the border, on the mount they had provided. However, Lafayette soon disappeared from his rescuers' sight and lost his way in the countryside. That evening, 8 November 1794, a tanner suspicious of Lafayette's ungrammatical, French-accented German, reported him to the mayor of village Rýžoviště (Braunseifen) near Šternberk, who laid an ambush, took Lafayette into custody, and returned him to Olomouc.[147]

Lafayette's wife, Adrienne, had also been enduring a long captivity. It began on 17 September 1792, when she was placed under house arrest. Adrienne appealed to the Americans for assistance.[148] For political reasons, the young nation could not officially assist the family, although they retroactively paid Lafayette $24,424 for his military service, and Washington personally sent money. In May 1794, during the Reign of Terror, Adrienne was transferred to the La Force Prison in Paris; she went from prison to prison, and, without American diplomatic efforts on her behalf, would have shared the death of her sister, mother, grandmother, and other relatives at the guillotine. Finally, after the fall of Robespierre and his radical Jacobin party, she gained her release on 22 January 1795.[149]

Adrienne organized the family's finances and appealed to the U.S. for American passports. James Monroe secured passports for Adrienne from Connecticut, which had granted the entire Lafayette family citizenship. Their son Georges, who was hiding to avoid execution, was sent to the U.S.[150] She, however, travelled with her two teenage daughters Anastasie and Virginie to Dunkirk and embarked for the Danish port of Altona (later Altona, Hamburg) and the adjacent free imperial city of Hamburg. There she hired a bilingual servant, bought a carriage, and travelled southeast through the German states to Vienna for an audience with Francis II. Taken by surprise, Francis granted permission for her and the daughters to live with Lafayette in captivity. Lafayette, who had endured harsh solitary confinement since his escape attempt a year previously, was flabbergasted when soldiers opened his prison door to usher in his wife and daughters on 15 October 1795. For the next two years, the family spent the days confined together in Lafayette's original two rooms, while the daughters spent the nights in a third, adjacent room.[151][152]

Through the press, diplomacy, and personal appeals, Lafayette's sympathizers on both sides of the Atlantic made their influence felt, most importantly on the French legislative chambers, Directory, foreign ministry, and army. A young, victorious general, Napoleon Bonaparte negotiated the release of the state prisoners at Olomouc, as a prelude to the Treaty of Campo Formio. Thus Lafayette's captivity of over five years had come to an end. The Lafayette family and their comrades in captivity left Olomouc under Austrian escort early on the morning of 19 September 1797, crossed the Bohemian-Saxonian border north of Prague, and were officially turned over to the American consul in Hamburg on 4 October.[153][154]

The French Directors saw Lafayette as a political rival, however, and did not want him to return to France. He remained in exile in the Danish province of Holstein and the Batavian Republic for two more years, until Napoleon Bonaparte's coup d'état of 18 Brumaire, 9 November 1799. Lafayette used the change of regime to slip into France with a passport in the name of "Motier". He managed to convince an angry Napoleon that he planned to live in rural obscurity. Not wanting to serve in Napoleon's army, Lafayette resigned his commission.[155] The Lafayettes retired to La Grange, which Adrienne had inherited from her mother. Admirers soon came to La Grange, including Charles James Fox.

Later life[edit]

1824 Portrait by Scheffer in the U.S. House of Representatives

Lafayette was unwilling to cooperate with Napoleon's government. In 1804, Napoleon was crowned Emperor after a plebiscite in which Lafayette did not participate. He remained relatively quiet, although he spoke publicly on Bastille Day events.[156] After the Louisiana Purchase, Jefferson asked if he would be interested in the governorship. Lafayette declined, citing personal problems and the desire to work for liberty in France.[157] During a trip to Auvergne, Adrienne became ill, largely due to her time in prison. In 1807, she became delirious but recovered enough on Christmas Eve to gather the family around her bed and to say to Lafayette: "Je suis toute à vous" ("I am all yours").[158] She died the next day.[159]

The Hundred Days[edit]

Lafayette was elected to the Chamber of Representatives under the Charter of 1815, during the Hundred Days, which called for Napoleon to abdicate after Waterloo. Lucien Bonaparte came before the assembly to denounce abdication. Lafayette replied:

By what right do you dare accuse the nation of...want of perseverance in the emperor's interest? The nation has followed him on the fields of Italy, across the sands of Egypt and the plains of Germany, across the frozen deserts of Russia.... The nation has followed him in fifty battles, in his defeats and in his victories, and in doing so we have to mourn the blood of three million Frenchmen.[160]


Louis XVIII and the ultra-royalists became increasingly repressive. In 1823, Lafayette was involved in the Saint-Amand Bazard conspiracy, in the premature Charbonnerie insurrection at Belfort. France intervened against the liberal government in Spain, increasing patriotism, and discrediting dissent. In 1825 Charles X was crowned, and the ultra-loyalists consolidated power.

Grand tour of the United States[edit]

Portrait of General Lafayette (by Matthew Harris Jouett) in 1825
A lighthouse clock made by Simon Willard to commemorate the visit of the Marquis to the U.S. White House library.

President James Monroe invited Lafayette to visit the United States from August 1824 to September 1825, in part to celebrate the nation's 50th anniversary.[32] During his trip, he visited all 24 American states, traveling more than 6,000 miles (9,656 km).[161][162] Lafayette arrived from France at Staten Island in New York, on 15 August 1824, accompanied by his son Georges Washington de La Fayette and his thirty-year old secretary, Auguste Levasseur. At arrival they were received with an artillery salute.[163][164] The towns and cities he visited, including Fayetteville, North Carolina, the first city named in his honor, gave him enthusiastic welcomes.[161] During this tour he recognized and embraced James Armistead Lafayette, a free black who took his last name to honor him; while in Yorktown, the story of the event was reported by the Richmond Enquirer. In late August, he visited John Adams at Peacefield, the former President's estate in Quincy, MA. On 17 October 1824, Lafayette visited Mount Vernon and George Washington's tomb. On 4 November 1824, he visited Jefferson at Monticello, and on the 8th he attended a public banquet at the University of Virginia.[165] Subsequently, he accepted an invitation for honorary membership to the University's Jefferson Literary and Debating Society. In late August 1825, he returned to Mount Vernon.[166] A military unit decided to adopt the title National Guard, in honor of Lafayette's celebrated Garde Nationale de Paris. This battalion, later the 7th Regiment, was prominent in the line of march when Lafayette passed through New York before returning to France on the frigate USS Brandywine.[161] Late in the trip, he again received honorary citizenship of Maryland. Lafayette was feted at the first commencement ceremony of George Washington University in 1824. He was voted, by the U.S. Congress, the sum of $200,000 and his choice of a township of land. He chose to place his township, today known as the Lafayette Land Grant, near Tallahassee, Florida.[167][168]

In his reminiscence of 1873 Israel Jefferson, former slave at Monticello, recalled a conversation Lafayette had when visiting Thomas Jefferson in 1824, "Lafayette remarked that he thought that the slaves ought to be free; that no man could rightly hold ownership of his brother man; that he gave his best services to and spent his money on behalf of the Americans freely because he felt that they were fighting for a great and noble principle – the freedom of mankind; that instead of all being free a portion were held in bondage (which seemed to grieve his noble heart); that it would be mutually beneficial to masters and slaves if the latter were educated, and so on. ...This conversation was very gratifying to me, and I treasured it up in my heart."[169]

Accession of Louis-Philippe[edit]

As the restored monarchy of Charles X became more conservative, Lafayette re-emerged as a prominent public figure. He had been a member of the Chamber of Deputies from Seine-et-Marne since 1815 and had pursued the abdication of Napoleon.[170][171] Throughout his legislative career, he continued to endorse causes such as freedom of the press, suffrage for all taxpayers, and the worldwide abolition of slavery.[172] He was not as directly visible in public affairs as in previous years; however, he became more vocal in the events leading up to the July Revolution of 1830.[173]

La Fayette and duc d'Orléans, 31 July 1830

When the monarch proposed that theft from churches be made a capital crime, agitation against the Crown increased.[173] On 27 July 1830, Parisians began erecting barricades throughout the city, and riots erupted. Lafayette established a committee as interim government. On 29 July 1830, the commission asked Lafayette to become dictator, but he demurred to offer the crown to Louis-Philippe. Lafayette was reinstated as commander of the National Guard by the new monarch, who revoked the post after Lafayette's inconsistent command during the trial of d'Artois's ministers and to marginalize the Republican opposition which Lafayette led de facto.[174]

In 1832, he confronted the Minister of Foreign Affairs Horace François Bastien Sébastiani de La Porta about the annexation of Poland by Russia.[175]


Mort du général Lafayette - Gondelfinger - 1834

Lafayette spoke for the last time in the Chamber of Deputies on 3 January 1834. The winter was wet and cold, and the next month he collapsed at a funeral from pneumonia. Although he recovered, the following May was wet and, after a thunderstorm, he became sick and bedridden.[176]

The grave of Lafayette in the Picpus cemetery, Paris

On 20 May 1834, Lafayette died on 6 rue d'Anjou-Saint-Honoré in Paris (now 8 rue d'Anjou in the 8th arrondissement of Paris) at age 76. He was buried next to his wife at the Picpus Cemetery[177] under soil from Bunker Hill, which his son Georges sprinkled upon him.[174][178] King Louis-Philippe ordered a military funeral in order to keep the public from attending. Crowds formed to protest their exclusion from Lafayette's funeral.[161]

François-René de Chateaubriand reported on Lafayette's death, and expressed regret for participation in the early mistreatment of his reputation in France:

In this year of 1834, Monsieur de Lafayette died. I may already have done him an injustice in speaking of him; I may have represented him as a kind of fool, with twin faces and twin reputations; a hero on the other side of the Atlantic, a clown on this. It has taken more than forty years to recognize qualities in Monsieur de Lafayette which one insisted on denying him. At the rostrum he expressed himself fluently and with the air of a man of breeding. No stain attaches to his life; he was affable, obliging and generous.[179]


Lafayette's reputation in America has always stood very high, both in the popular mind and in scholarship. The scholarly view is dominated by the work of Louis R. Gottschalk in a six volume biography (published 1935-1973) that carried Lafayette's life to 1790. Historian Gilbert Chinard says that, for Americans, “Lafayette became a legendary figure and a symbol so early in his life, and successive generations have so willingly accepted the myth, that any attempt to deprive the young hero of his republican halo will probably be considered as little short of iconoclastic and sacrilegious.”[180] Crout says his participation in the American Revolution

"served succeeding generations around the world as a call to arms and international conflicts involving principles of human rights and liberties. He was the most distinguished foreign volunteer to the American army, providing legitimacy for their side."[181]

Lafayette's reputation among French historians is more problematic. François Furet includes him among the 14 most important actors of the French Revolution, where he played a critical role in 1789-92. He is praised as the embodiment of the liberal ideals of 1789, but he had few eulogies. French historians have said he was too ambitious and yet too mediocre an intellect to play a bigger role. He wrote very little, and impressed Frenchman the less the more they saw of him. To historians on the left, he was a traitor to the glorious cause. To historians on the right, he was too ineffective to be their hero.[182]

See also[edit]

French Armed Forces
Armoiries république française.svg

French Air Force
French Army
French Navy
Ranks in the French Army
Ranks in the French Navy
History of the French Military
Military History of France
La Grande Armée


  1. ^ His full name is rarely used; instead he is often referred to as the marquis de La Fayette or Lafayette (in the United States, not in France where a two words spelling is official). Biographer Louis R. Gottschalk says that Lafayette spelled his name both Lafayette and La Fayette. Other historians differ on the spelling of Lafayette's name: Lafayette, La Fayette, and LaFayette. Contemporaries often used "La Fayette", similar to his ancestor, the novelist Madame de La Fayette; however, his immediate family wrote Lafayette. See Gottschalk, pp. 153–154


  1. ^ Carlier Jeannie, Lafayette, Héros des deux Mondes, Payot, 1988.
  2. ^ R. Voeltzel, Frankreich. Kirchengeschichte, in Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 3. Auflage,, Band II (1958), Tübingen (Germany), col. 1039
  3. ^ George Athan Billias, ed. (2009). American Constitutionalism Heard Round the World, 1776-1989: A Global Perspective. NYU Press. p. 92. 
  4. ^ Susan Dunn, Sister Revolutions: French Lightning, American Light (1999) pp 143-45
  5. ^ Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America (6 August 2002). "107th Congress Public Law 209". "Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roche Gilbert du Motier, the Marquis de La Fayette, is proclaimed posthumously to be an honorary citizen of the United States of America." 
  6. ^ a b Clary, pp. 7, 8
  7. ^ a b Officer, p. 171
  8. ^ a b Unger, loc. 383
  9. ^ a b c d Gaines, p. 33
  10. ^ a b Clary, pp. 11–13
  11. ^ a b c Gottschlk, pp. 3–5
  12. ^ Leepson, pp. 8–9
  13. ^ Unger, loc. 425
  14. ^ Leepson, p. 10
  15. ^ Lane, pp. 7–8
  16. ^ Unger, loc. 491–506
  17. ^ Leepson, pp. 10–11
  18. ^ Leepson, p. 12.
  19. ^ Leepson, pp. 12–13
  20. ^ Unger, loc. 565–581
  21. ^ Unger, loc. 581–598
  22. ^ Clary, p. 28
  23. ^ Unger, loc. 604–682
  24. ^ Unger, pp. 709–740
  25. ^ Holbrook, pp. 19–20
  26. ^ a b c Holbrook, p. 17
  27. ^ Gaines, p. 56
  28. ^ Clary, p. 83
  29. ^ Unger, loc. 759–855
  30. ^ Leepson, p. 26
  31. ^ a b c d e f g Holbrook, pp. 15–16
  32. ^ a b Glathaar, p. 3
  33. ^ Cloquet, p. 37
  34. ^ Unger, loc. 864, 1023–1053
  35. ^ Unger, loc. 940–955
  36. ^ a b Leepson, p. 33
  37. ^ Gaines, p. 70
  38. ^ Clary, p. 100
  39. ^ Holbrook, p. 23
  40. ^ Leepson, pp. 34–35
  41. ^ Gaines, p. 75
  42. ^ Grizzard, p. 175
  43. ^ Cloquet, p. 203
  44. ^ Leepson, p. 43
  45. ^ Martin, p. 195
  46. ^ "Valley Forge National Historic Park". National Park Service. Retrieved 20 October 2008. 
  47. ^ Palmer, pp. 276, 277
  48. ^ Unger, loc. 1827
  49. ^ Greene, p. 140, 141
  50. ^ Gaines, p. 112
  51. ^ Holbrook, pp. 28, 29
  52. ^ Fiske, pp. 89–92
  53. ^ Leepson, pp. 62–67
  54. ^ Leepson, pp. 67–68
  55. ^ Clary, p. 243
  56. ^ Leepson, p. 70
  57. ^ Cloquet, p. 155
  58. ^ Unger, loc. 2583
  59. ^ Clary, p. 257
  60. ^ Leepson, p. 72
  61. ^ Leepson, pp. 74–75
  62. ^ Unger, loc. 2670
  63. ^ Unger, loc. 2685
  64. ^ Unger, loc. 2730
  65. ^ Leepson, pp. 77–78
  66. ^ Leepson, pp. 78–79
  67. ^ Leepson, pp. 82–83
  68. ^ Holbrook, p. 44
  69. ^ a b c d Gaines, pp. 153–155
  70. ^ Gaines, James (September 2007). "Washington & Lafayette". Smithsonian Magazine Online (Smithsonian). Retrieved 21 October 2008. 
  71. ^ a b Holbrook, pp. 53–54
  72. ^ Holbrook, p. 43
  73. ^ Clary, pp. 330–338
  74. ^ Holbrook, p. 56
  75. ^ Clary, p. 350
  76. ^ Holbrook, p. 63
  77. ^ Tuckerman, p. 154
  78. ^ Holbrook, p. 65
  79. ^ a b Kaminsky, pp. 34, 35
  80. ^ Beth Sica (9 August 2002). "''La Belle Gabrielle'', Lafayette and Slavery, Lafayette College". Retrieved 9 August 2009. 
  81. ^ Unger, p.216
  82. ^ Loveland, p. 16
  83. ^ Hirschfeld, p. 126
  84. ^ Gaines, pp. 201, 202
  85. ^ Speare, Morris Edmund "Lafayette, Citizen of America", New York Times, 7 September 1919. The article contains a facsimile and transcript of the Maryland act: " An Act to naturalize Major General the Marquiss de la Fayette and his Heirs Male Forever. ... Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Maryland—that the Marquiss de la Fayette and his Heirs male forever shall be and they and each of them are hereby deemed adjudged and taken to be natural born Citizens of this State and shall henceforth be instilled to all the Immunities, Rights and Privileges of natural born Citizens thereof, they and every one of them conforming to the Constitution and Laws of this State in the Enjoyment and Exercise of such Immunities, Rights and Privileges."
  86. ^ Folliard, Edward T. "JFK Slipped on Historical Data In Churchill Tribute" Sarasota Journal, 25 May 1973.
  87. ^ Cornell, Douglas B. "Churchill Acceptance 'Honors Us Far More'" Sumter Daily Item, 10 April 1963.
  88. ^ a b Gottschalk, Louis Reichenthal (1950). Lafayette Between the American and the French Revolution (1783–1789). University of Chicago Press. pp. 146–147. 
  89. ^ "Lafayette: Citizen of Two Worlds". Lafayette: Citizen of Two Worlds. Cornell University Library. 2006. Retrieved 2012-09-29. 
  90. ^ Holbrook, pp. 67–68
  91. ^ Gaines, pp. 198–99, 204, 206
  92. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter L". American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 7 August 2014. 
  93. ^ Gottschalk, Lady in Waiting, p. 155
  94. ^ Gottshalk (1939). A Lady in Waiting. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press. p. 95. 
  95. ^ Gottschalk, Between, p.16-17
  96. ^ Wright, pp. 23–24
  97. ^ Gottshalk (1939). A Lady in Waiting. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press. p. 96. 
  98. ^ Maurois, Adrienne: The Life of the Marquise de La Fayette, p.113
  99. ^ Tuckerman, p. 198
  100. ^ Neely, p. 47
  101. ^ Tuckerman, p. 210
  102. ^ Doyle, p. 74, 90
  103. ^ Tuckerman, p. 213
  104. ^ de La Fuye, p. 83.
  105. ^ a b Gerson, pp. 81–83
  106. ^ Crowdy, p. 7
  107. ^ Note: Lafayette later sent Washington the key.
  108. ^ a b c Doyle, pp. 112–13
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  123. ^ a b Andress, p. 51
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  125. ^ a b c Neely, p. 128
  126. ^ a b Andress, p. 61
  127. ^ Broadwell, p. 28
  128. ^ a b c Andress, 72-5
  129. ^ Broadwell, p. 36
  130. ^ Doyle, p. 186
  131. ^ Morris, Vol. I, p.458
  132. ^ Andress, pp. 78, 80, 87
  133. ^ a b Broadwell, p. 37
  134. ^ Monnier, R., "Dix Aout," in Soboul, A., Ed., "Dictionnaire de la Revolution francaise," p.365, PUF, Paris: 2005.
  135. ^ Vovelle, M., "La Revolution francaise: 1789–1799," p.27, Armand Colin, Paris: 2006.
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  138. ^ Clary, p. 409
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  142. ^ Lafayette Collection, Library of Congress, Reel 1, Folder 2A
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  144. ^ Spalding, pp. 10–30
  145. ^ Spalding, pp. 70–76
  146. ^ Lafayette Collection, Library of Congress, Reel 1, Folder 5 & 5A
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  148. ^ Clary, pp. 410–16.
  149. ^ Details appear in Maurois
  150. ^ Clary, p. 413
  151. ^ Clary, p. 418
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  153. ^ Holbrook, p. 129
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  156. ^ Holbrook, p. 146
  157. ^ Kennedy, p. 210
  158. ^ Crawford, p. 318
  159. ^ Clary, p. 438
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  164. ^ Turner, Martha L. (Winter 1984). "Lafayette's Tour of Georgia: The Observations of Auguste Levasseur". The Georgia Historical Quarterly 68 (4): pp. 558–568. 
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  167. ^ "Historic Markers Program of America". Retrieved 9 August 2009. [dead link]
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  175. ^ "Note for Draft of Speech by Marx on France's Attitude to Poland". Marx Engels Internet Archive. Retrieved 3 February 2012. 
  176. ^ Payan, p.93
  177. ^ Marquis de Lafayette at Find a Grave
  178. ^ Kathleen McKenna (10 June 2007). "On Bunker Hill, a boost in La Fayette profile". Boston Globe. Retrieved 5 May 2008. 
  179. ^ Chateaubriand, Bk XLII: Chap3: Sec1
  180. ^ Gilbert Chinard in Journal of Modern History, (June, 1936) 8#2, p. 218
  181. ^ Robert Rhodes Crout, "Marquis de Lafayette," in Robert Muccigrosso, ed., Research Guide to American Historical Biography (1988) 2:894-98
  182. ^ Patrice Gueniffey, “Lafayette” in François Furet and Mona Ozouf, eds., A Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution (1989) pp 224-33

Works cited[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

French nobility
Preceded by
Michel Louis Christophe Roch Gilbert Paulette du Motier
Marquis de Lafayette
August 1759 – June 1790
Succeeded by
title abolished