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the Marquis de Lafayette
Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, the Marquis de Lafayette was
the great grandson of Marie-Joseph St Clair de la Riviere of the l'Eure,
Normandie. Lafayette was a moderate liberal devoted to social reforms
consistent with the maintenance of public order. Throughout his life,
Lafayette urged social equality, popular representation, religious
tolerance, and freedom of the press.
Lafayette studied at the Military Academy in Versailles. When he was 16
years old he married Marie Adrienne Françoise de Noailles, he purchased a
captain's commission in the Kneels dragoons.
Lafayette was 19 when the American colonies had declared their autonomy from
England. "Aux premières nouvelles de cette querelle" (At the first news of
this quarrel), Lafayette afterward wrote, "mon coeur a été enrôlé dans lui"
(my heart was enrolled in it." He secured from Silas Deane, the American
agent in Paris, a commission as major general in the continental army.
Disobeying the commands of both his king and his father-in- law, Lafayette
purchased a ship and departed for Philadelphia in 1777. He arrived in the
war embroiled colonies on 13 June 1777 together with Baron de Kalb, a German
mercenary in the French army who fought so well during the Seven Years' War
that de Kalb he rose in rank from lieutenant to brigadier general.
In 1782 Lafayette was promoted to the rank of marechal-de-camp (major
general) in the French Army by Louis XVI. He visited the U.S. in 1784,
staying at Mount Vernon with Washington. He was made a citizen of several
states, and he urged American constitutional reform to strengthen the
national government. The reform took the form in 1791 of ten amendments,
which are commonly referred to as The Bill of Rights. He continued to
advocate close Franco-American ties, and on his return to France he worked
to secure commercial concessions for the fledging United States.
He tried to make France a constitutional monarchy and joined those French
noblemen who favoured the Revolution of 1789. He was elected to the
Estates-General and presented a draft for a Declaration of the Rights of Man
and the Citizen, which he introduced into the National Assembly on 11 July
1789--it was composed with help from Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson was in
Paris fresh from the revolution that gave birth to modern democracy,
watching with deep interest as the events leading to the French Revolution
Gradually Lafayette became appalled at the growing excesses of the
Revolution. Unable to help the king and queen and unable also to turn his
troops on the Paris mob, he was called, traitor..On 10 August 1792 the
monarchy was overthrown, Danton took control, and the Assembly impeached
Lafayette. Knowing he would be executed if he returned to Paris, Lafayette
deserted his command and fled into Belgium, which at the time was part of
the Austrian Netherlands. Here Lafayette was arrested by a patrol and taken
to Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor. The emperor accused Lafayette as a
Republican and against monarchies, thereby committing Lafayette to life in
From 1792 to 1797, he remained in Prussian and Austrian jails, despite the
efforts of his contacts in England and America
to secure his freedom. At long last the Austrians yielded him, as an
American citizen, to the U.S. consul at Hamburg. He was America's first
honorary citizen the only other was Sir Winston Churchill.
At the death of George Washington, the sword, which Lafayette had worn in
the American war of independence, was laid on Washington's coffin, with a
note from the Marquis said simply "The Boy".
In 1803 Lafayette was granted a huge tract of land in Louisiana.
Demonstrating the gratitude of the American nation, Congress proclaimed
Lafayette an honorary citizen in 1824 and invited him to tour the U.S. as it
's first official guest. He was old and lame at the time, but he visited
every one of the 24 states and was greeted by large crowds and
demonstrations of frenzied enthusiasm. Congress voted to give him $200,000;
he had served in the American Revolution without pay and at his own expense,
and an additional township in Florida. Washington, in contrast, had received
over $624,000 for his services.
Returning to France Lafayette at age 73 led the opposition to the king's
restrictions on citizens' rights. In 1830 he took part in his third
revolution. He commanded the Army of National Guards that drove Charles X
from France, rejected the popular demand that he become president of the new
republic, and placed on the throne Louis Philippe, the "citizen king."
He promoted throughout his life, sometimes at terrifying personal cost, the
ideas of liberty, equality, human rights and national self-determination
that continue, to this day, to inspire people throughout the world.
24 hours of every day, since the death of Lafayette the American flag,
through two World Wars and German occupation,the American flag has been
flown over his grave continuously for over 160 years, repeatedly replaced
when tattered. When the Germans took Paris during World War II the flag over
Lafayette's grave was not disturbed at the instance of the traitorous Vichy
When General John J. Pershing arrived in France with the American
Expeditionary Army during World War I, he exclaimed: "Lafayette, we are
here!" At the end of the war Black Jack remarked "Lafayette, your debt is
Lafayette died on 20 May 1834 at age 78 and was buried next to his wife in
the little Picpus Cemetery in Paris. Soil brought back from the Bunker
Hill Monument was poured over his grave.
During his tenure in the National Assembly, Lafayette put forth bill of
rights, The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, This Declaration
was the first step towards equal rights among the French.
On 26 March 2002 Caroline du Pusy de Lafayette was born in Paris She is the
second child of Count Gilbert du Pusy de Lafayette, Lafayette's great, great
great grandson and Countess Irasema de Lafayette.
Ref Klamkin: The Return of Lafayette 1824/25 (NY: Chas. Scribner's Sons,
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