Marquis de Lafayette

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Gilbert du Motier Marquis de Lafayette.PNG
Marie Paul Yves Roch Gilbert de Motier
Marquis de Lafayette
Date & Place of Birth September 6, 1757
Auvergne, France
Parents Michel Louis Christophe Roch Gilbert du Motier
Marie-Louise-Julie de la Riviere
Spouse Marie Adrienne Francoise de Noailles
Children Georges Washington Motier de La Fayette,
Anastasie and Virginie.
Date & Place of Death May 20, 1834
Paris, France
Place of Burial Cimetière de Picpus, Paris, France
Education Collège du Plessis, Paris (1768)
Versailles Academy Military School,
(commissioned sous-lieutenant, 1771)
Occupation Soldier:
American Continental Army
French Army
Post-war career French politician

The Marquis de Lafayette (Marie-Joseph-Paul-Yves-Roch-Gilbert du Motier) (1757 - 1834) was a French nobleman and General. He emerged during the American Revolutionary War and later during the French Revolution, initially as a revolutionary and later as a more conservative force.

Lafayette was orphaned at a young age on the death of his wealthy land owner parents. In 1768, he entered the College of Louis-le-Grand. He married at sixteen to Anastasie Adrienne de Noailles, a fourteen year old girl, before traveling at the age of 19 and arrived in North America to assist the colonists in the War of Independence. He gained such influence that he helped write the American Constitution, which was later to be of use in assisting to write the French version after the French Revolution overthrew the monarchy.

In the American Revolution

Lafayette learned of the then British colonies' cause through the Duke of Gloucester; finding himself sympathetic to this cause, he sailed to Charleston, North Carolina, arriving with twelve other French officers, and landed, 14 June, 1777, at Georgetown, S. C. [1] and enlisted as a volunteer at his own expense.[2] Congress subsequently appointed him a major-general.[2]

Lafayette met George Washington - and a relationship that would last till Washington's death accrued. Lafayette became a member of Washington's staff. After defeating a numerically superior Hessian force on November 25, 1777, Lafayette was appointed a command position of one of Washington's divisions.[2]

Soon after, Lafayette was ordered to command an invasion of Canada - a move which Washington was against (yet despite protest from Lafayette, it was Washington who told him he should accept the role). Lafayette arrived in Albany, New York. The fact that the plan was poorly contrived in addition to a lack of support from New Englanders resulted in the invasion being called off.[1] Lafayette returned to Washington's camp in April 1778.[2]

Lafayette wounded at the battle of Brandywine.

Seeing the desire of cooperation between both the Americans and French, Lafayette felt he could best serve the revolutionary cause in France. After a fever delayed him, on February 12, 1779, Lafayette arrived in Paris. Lafayette convinced France to send their first naval and land forces to the Americas. To avoid tensions between American and French officers, Lafayette recommended that the French generals be seen as junior to the American generals of equivalent rank.[2]

After returning to war zone, Lafayette was immediately faced with defending Richmond, Virginia from Benedict Arnold. After days of skirmishing, Arnold and Charles Cornwallis crossed paths and effected a juncture of their units. Now outnumbered, Lafayette was forced to retreat - relying on General Anthony Wayne to catch up with him and the pursuing Cornwallis. On June 4, 1781 the juncture between Lafayette's and Wayne's army was made, and the now outnumbered Cornwallis was forced to retreat, only to be cut off by Lafayette on September 7, 1781. In Yorktown, Virginia, the combined forces of what was now Washington's, Lafayette's, Wayne's and Friedrich von Steuben's armies forced Cornwallis to surrender.[2]

Return to France and French Revolution

In December 1781, Lafayette returned to France and was welcomed as a hero. There he worked with Thomas Jefferson to establish trade agreements between the United States and France.

In 1784, after the peace, at Washington's invitation, he returned to the United States, and after a visit to Mount Vernon made a journey through the country from Virginia to Massachusetts. On 25 Dec., 1784, he sailed from New York in the French frigate "Nymphe." In 1785 he traveled in Germany. About this time he was deeply interested in the abolition of slavery, and purchased a large plantation in Cayenne, where great numbers of slaves might be educated with a view to gradual emancipation. Washington, Jefferson, and others were interested in this experiment, which it was hoped might furnish an example for imitation in the United States. [3]

After 1782, Lafayette was absorbed with questions of reform in France. He was one of the first to advocate a National Assembly, and worked toward the establishment of a constitutional monarchy during the years leading up to the French Revolution. [4]

In the years leading up to 1789, Lafayette became a leader in the campaign against the monarch. But here is what I think went wrong. First, the French had been too horribly oppressed for too long. The revolutionary movement became extremely radical and vengeful, and Lafayette didn’t know how to turn this raw, bitter force into something controllable and beneficial. He went for a more moderate course, and this ended up killing his popularity and driving him into exile. [1]

In 1791, La Fayette was placed in command of one of the armies formed to attack Austria, but for political insubordination the French Assembly declared him a traitor. He was compelled to take refuge in Belgium where he was taken prisoner by the Austrians for five years, first in Prussian and afterwards in Austrian prisons. He returned to France in 1799.

In 1815, Lafayette was elected to the Chamber of Deputies. He demanded Napoleon I's abdication.

Last years

Statue to La Fayette by Paul W. Bartlett, Paris.

He died in Paris on May 20, 1834; his remains were interred beside those of his wife in the cemetery of Picpus in the faubourg Saint-Antoine. He left one son, George Washington Lafayette (1779 - 1849), and two daughters, Anastasie and Virginie; the elder married Charles de Latour Maubourg, and the younger the Count de Lasteyrie. Ibidem

In 2002, in honor for his services, Lafayette was made an honorary citizen of Virginia.[5][6]

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 The Marquis de Lafayette (English) (HTML). The Historic Valley Forge. Retrieved on 2007-10-10.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Marquis de Lafayette (English) (HTML). Retrieved on 2007-10-10.
  3. Marquis De Lafayette.
  4. Marquis de Lafayette, Soldier & Statesman.
  6. Lafayette (English) (HTML). Lucidcafe.