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|Nickname||The Hero of the Two Worlds (Le Héros des Deux Mondes in French)|
|Born||6 September 1757|
|Died||20 May 1834 (aged 76)|
United States of America
|Rank|| Major General (US)|
Maréchal de camp (France)
Wife: Marie Adrienne Françoise de Noailles (1759–1807)Uncle: Jacques-Roch
Son: Georges Washington (1779–1849)
Daughters: Anastasie (1777–1863)
Estates General (Auvergne)
Member of the National Assembly
|Nickname||The Hero of the Two Worlds (Le Héros des Deux Mondes in French)|
|Born||6 September 1757|
|Died||20 May 1834 (aged 76)|
United States of America
|Rank|| Major General (US)|
Maréchal de camp (France)
Wife: Marie Adrienne Françoise de Noailles (1759–1807)Uncle: Jacques-Roch
Son: Georges Washington (1779–1849)
Daughters: Anastasie (1777–1863)
Estates General (Auvergne)
Member of the National Assembly
The Marquis de La Fayette French pronunciation: [maʁki də la fajɛt]; Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier; (6 September 1757 – 20 May 1834), often known as simply Lafayette, was a French aristocrat and military officer born in Chavaniac, in the province of Auvergne in south central France. Lafayette was a general in the American Revolutionary War and a leader of the Garde nationale during the French Revolution.
In the American Revolution, Lafayette 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.
Back in France in 1788, Lafayette was called to the Assembly of Notables to respond to the fiscal crisis. Lafayette 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 and presented a draft of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. Lafayette was appointed commander-in-chief of the Garde nationale in response to violence. During the French Revolution, Lafayette 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.
Lafayette 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, Lafayette became a liberal member of the Chamber of Deputies in 1815, a position he held until his death. In 1824, President James Monroe invited Lafayette to the United States as the "nation's guest"; during the trip, he visited all twenty-four states. 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, Lafayette declined an offer to become the French dictator; instead he supported Louis-Philippe's bid as a constitutional monarch. Lafayette died on 20 May 1834, and is buried in Picpus Cemetery in Paris, under soil from Washington's grave at Mount Vernon. He became a United States citizen during his lifetime, and received honorary United States citizenship in 2002.
Lafayette was born on 6 September 1757 to Michel Louis Christophe Roch Gilbert Paulette du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette, colonel aux Grenadiers de France, 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. His full name is rarely used; instead he is often referred to as the marquis de La Fayette or Lafayette. Biographer Louis R. Gottschalk says that Lafayette spelled his name both Lafayette and LaFayette.
Lafayette's lineage appears to be one of the oldest in Auvergne. Members of the family were noted for their contempt for danger. Lafayette'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, a former lieutenant general in the Royal Armées. According to legend, another ancestor acquired the Crown of Thorns during the 6th Crusade. Lafayette's uncle Jacques-Roch died fighting the Austrians and left the marquis title to Lafayette's father.
Lafayette's father, struck by a cannonball at the Battle of Minden in Westphalia, died on 1 August 1759. Lafayette became Lord of Chavaniac, but the estate went to his mother. Lafayette's mother and his maternal grandfather, the Marquis de La Rivière, died, on 3 and 24 April 1770 respectively, leaving Lafayette 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. Lafayette was raised by his paternal grandmother, Mme de Chavaniac, who had brought the château into the family with her dowry. Also in the household were Mme de Chavaniac's daughters Madeleine du Motier, and Charlotte de Guérin, the Baronne de Chavaniac.
In 1775, Lafayette 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. When he first learned of that quarrel, he wrote, "My heart was enlisted and I thought only of joining the colors."
Lafayette returned to Paris in the fall and participated in sociétés de pensée (thinking groups) that discussed French involvement in the American Revolution. At these meetings, a frequent speaker, Abbé Guillaume Raynal, emphasised the "rights of man". He criticised the nobility, the clergy and the practice of slavery. The monarchy banned Raynal from speaking, and he expressed his views secretly in the Masonic Lodges of which Lafayette was a member.
On 7 December 1776, Lafayette arranged through Silas Deane, an American agent in Paris, to enter the American service as a major general. Lafayette visited his uncle Marquis de Noailles, the Ambassador to Britain. During a ball at Lord George Germain's, he met Lord Rawdon, met Sir Henry Clinton at the Opera, and met Lord Shelburne at breakfast. Lafayette refused to toast King George, and left after three weeks. In 1777, the French government granted the American military one million livres in supplies after Minister Charles Gravier pressed for French involvement. De Broglie intrigued with his old subordinate, German Johann de Kalb, (who had previously done a reconnaissance of America), to send French officers to fight alongside the Americans, (and perhaps set up a French generalissimo). De Broglie approached Gravier, suggesting assistance to the American revolutionaries. De Broglie then presented Lafayette, who had been placed on the reserve list, to de Kalb.
Returning to Paris, Lafayette found that the Continental Congress did not have the money for his voyage; hence he acquired the sailing ship La Victoire himself. The king officially forbade him to leave after British spies discovered his plan, and issued an order for Lafayette to join his father-in-law's regiment in Marseille, disobedience of which would be punishable by imprisonment. The British ambassador ordered the seizure of the ship Lafayette was fitting out at Bordeaux, and Lafayette was threatened with arrest. He travelled to Spain for support in the American cause. On 20 April 1777, he sailed for America, disguised as a woman, leaving his pregnant wife in France. The ship's captain intended to stop in the West Indies to sell cargo; however Lafayette, fearful of arrest, bought the cargo to avoid docking at the islands. He landed on North Island near Georgetown, South Carolina, on 13 June 1777.
On arrival, Lafayette met Major Benjamin Huger, with whom he stayed two weeks before going to Philadelphia. The Continental Congress delayed Lafayette's commission, as they had tired of "French glory seekers". After Lafayette offered to serve without pay, however, Congress commissioned him a major-general on 31 July 1777. Since he was not assigned a unit, he nearly returned home.
Benjamin Franklin wrote to George Washington recommending acceptance of Lafayette as his aide-de-camp, hoping it would influence France to commit more aid. Washington accepted, and Lafayette met him at Moland House in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, on 10 August 1777. When Washington expressed embarrassment at the state of the camp and the troops, Lafayette responded, "I am here to learn, not to teach." 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 Lafayette 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".
Lafayette's first battle was at Brandywine on 11 September 1777. After the British outflanked the Americans, Washington sent Lafayette to join General John Sullivan. Upon his arrival, Lafayette 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, Lafayette was shot in the leg. During the American retreat, Lafayette rallied the troops, allowing a more orderly retreat before being treated for his wound. 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.
Lafayette returned to the field in November after two months of recuperation in the Moravian settlement at Bethlehem, PA, and received command of Major General Adam Stephen's division. 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.
He returned to Valley Forge for the winter, where 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. He concocted a plot known as the Conway Cabal which separated Washington from Lafayette, one of Washington's firmest supporters. Lafayette alerted Washington of his suspicions about the plot before leaving. When Lafayette 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 Lafayette as Kayewla (fearsome horseman), to the American side. 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. Meanwhile, treaties signed by America and France were made public in March 1778, and France formally recognised American independence.
The Americans tried to sense the British forces' reaction to France's entering the war. On 18 May 1778, Washington dispatched Lafayette with a 2,200-man force to reconnoitre near Barren Hill, Pennsylvania. The next day, the British heard that Lafayette had made camp nearby and sent 5,000 men to capture him. On 20 May, General Howe led a further 6,000 soldiers and ordered an attack on Lafayette's left flank. The flank scattered, and Lafayette organized a retreat while the British remained indecisive. To feign numerical superiority, Lafayette ordered men to appear from the woods on an outcropping known as Barren Hill (now Lafayette Hill) and to fire upon the British periodically. Lafayette's troops simultaneously escaped via a sunken road. Lafayette was then able to cross Matson's Ford with the remainder of his force.
Unable to trap Lafayette, the British resumed their march north from Philadelphia to New York; the Continental Army, including Lafayette, followed and finally attacked at the Monmouth Courthouse in 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 began acting strangely. Lafayette sent a message to Washington to urge him to the front; upon his arrival he found Lee's men in retreat. Washington rallied the American force and repelled two British attacks. Due to the day's heat, fighting ended early and the British withdrew in the night.
The French fleet arrived in America on July 8, 1778, under Admiral d'Estaing, with whom General Washington planned to attack Newport, Rhode Island. Lafayette and General Greene were sent with a 3,000-man force to participate in the attack. Lafayette wanted to control a joint Franco-American force in the attack but was rebuffed. 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. The attack dispersed the British fleet, but a storm damaged the French ships.
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 Lafayette were dispatched to calm the situation, and then Lafayette returned to Newport to prepare for the retreat made necessary by d'Estaing's departure. For these actions, Lafayette was cited by the Continental Congress for "gallantry, skill and prudence". However he realized that the Boston riot might undermine the Franco-American alliance in France, so he requested and was given permission to return to France.
In February 1779, Lafayette returned to Paris. For disobeying the king by going to America, he was placed under house arrest for two weeks. Nevertheless, his return was triumphant. Benjamin Franklin's grandson presented him with a 4,800-livre gold-encrusted sword commissioned by the Continental Congress, and the king asked to see him. Louis XVI, pleased with the soldier after Lafayette proposed schemes for attacking the British, restored his position in the dragoons. Lafayette used his position to lobby for more French aid to America. Working with Franklin, Lafayette secured another 6,000 soldiers to be commanded by General Jean-Baptiste de Rochambeau.
Lafayette received news that Adrienne had borne him a son, Georges Washington Lafayette. After his son's birth, he pushed for additional commitments of support from France for the American Revolutionary War. He ordered new uniforms and arranged for the fleet's departure. Before returning to America, Lafayette and the French force learned that they would be operating under American command, with Washington in control of military operations. In March 1780, Lafayette gave power of attorney to business manager Jacques-Philippe Grattepain-Morizot and Adrienne, and left France, departing for America aboard the Hermione, from Rochefort. He arrived in Boston on 28 April, carrying the then secret news that he had secured French reinforcements (5,500 men and 5 frigates) for George Washington.
Lafayette returned to America in May 1780 and by August was in command of two brigades of light infantry that operated in the Highlands north of New York City. The brigades were commanded by Brigadier Generals Enoch Poor and Edward Hand. These units disbanded late that year and provided Lafayette with additional valuable field command experience.
George Washington drew upon that experience in late February 1781, placing LaFayette 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 Benedict Arnold and to replace Baron von Steuben. Lafayette evaded Cornwallis' attempts to capture him in Richmond. 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. As the British column travelled, Lafayette followed in a bold show of force that encouraged new recruits. In June, Lafayette's men were joined by forces under General (Mad) Anthony Wayne. Soldiers deserted both leaders; Wayne executed six for desertion. Lafayette offered to release his men from service because of the great danger ahead; all of his men remained.
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 Lafayette attack. In the Battle of Green Spring on 6 July, Lafayette 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 Lafayette 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.
By August, Cornwallis had established the British at Yorktown, and Lafayette took up position on Malvern Hill. This maneuver trapped the British when the French fleet arrived. On 14 September 1781, Washington's forces joined Lafayette'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. Lafayette's 400 men on the American right took redoubt 9 after Alexander Hamilton's forces had charged redoubt 10, in hand-to-hand combat. After a failed British counter-attack, Cornwallis surrendered on 19 October 1781.
Lafayette 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. He was promoted to maréchal de camp, skipping numerous ranks. Lafayette 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.
In France, Lafayette 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. 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. Although Washington demurred, Lafayette purchased land in the Cayenne for his plantation La Belle Gabrielle, to "experiment" with education, and emancipation.
In 1784, Lafayette returned to America, and visited all the states except Georgia. The trip included a visit to Washington's farm at Mount Vernon on 17 August. In Virginia, Lafayette addressed the House of Delegates where he called for "liberty of all mankind" and urged emancipation. Lafayette 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 Lafayette in 1778. Lafayette 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 Lafayette 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. Lafayette later boasted that he had become an American citizen before the concept of French citizenship existed. Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Virginia also granted him citizenship.
Upon his return to France, it is said that Lafayette became involved in an affair with the comtesse Aglaé d'Hunolstein, one that he broke off on 27 March 1783 by letter, at the insistence of her family. He became briefly linked amorously to Madame de Simiane; however, scholars are divided, whether Adrienne knew of these two extramarital affairs. Enemies of Lafayette made much of the court gossip.
Through the next years, Lafayette 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.
King Louis XVI convoked the Assembly of Notables on 29 December 1786, in response to France's fiscal crisis. The King appointed Lafayette 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 Lafayette, it was proposed to lower unnecessary spending, which included, among other things, purchase of useless estates and gifts to courtiers. He called for a "truly national assembly", which represented the three classes of French society: clergy, nobility, and commons. On 8 August 1788, the King agreed to hold an Estates General the next year. Lafayette was elected to represent the nobility (Second Estate) from Riom in the Estates General.
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". 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. 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. Lafayette, along with forty-six others, joined the National Assembly and on 27 June, the rest followed. On 11 July 1789, Lafayette presented a draft of the "Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen". 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. On 13 July, the Assembly elected him their vice-president; the following day the Bastille was stormed.
On 15 July, Lafayette was acclaimed commander-in-chief of the National Guard of France, an armed force established to maintain order under the control of the Assembly. Lafayette proposed the name and the symbol of the group: a blue, white and red cockade. 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 Lafayette 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 Lafayette 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, Lafayette replaced most of the royal bodyguards with National Guardsmen. At dawn, the crowd broke in to the palace. Before it succeeded in entering the queen's bedroom, Marie Antoinette fled to the king's apartments. Lafayette took the royal family onto the palace balcony and attempted to restore order. The crowd insisted that the king and his family move to Paris where they were installed in the Tuileries Palace. 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 rifles, people started to chant "Vive la Reine!" ("Long live the Queen", now the crowd is including the Queen).
As leader of the National Guard, Lafayette 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. 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."
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. On 18 April, the National Guard disobeyed Lafayette and stopped the King from leaving for Saint-Cloud over Easter.
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. These accusations portrayed Lafayette as a royalist, and damaged his reputation in the eyes of the public. The episode garnered support throughout the country for the Republican movement, and "polarized" the king's supporters.
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. The assembled crowd, estimated to be up to 10,000, hanged two men believed to be spies after they were found under a platform.
In response, the Assembly asked Bailly, the mayor of Paris, to "halt the disorder"; martial law was declared; and National Guard troops, under Lafayette, marched to the scene. 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, 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. 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. 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.
Lafayette returned to his home province of Auvergne following the loss of the mayoral election. 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. 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.
In June 1792, Lafayette criticized the growing influence of the radical clubs through a letter to the Assembly from his field post, and ended his letter by calling for radical parties to be "closed down by force". 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. 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. 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.
On 8 August, a vote of impeachment was held against him for abandoning his post, in which more than two thirds voted against. Two days later, a mob attacked the Tuileries and massacred the Swiss Guard. The King and his family 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." 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.
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, 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. 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). 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.
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.
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. 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, but for 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.
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. 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.
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.
The French Directors and Napoleon Bonaparte 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. The Lafayettes retired to La Grange, which Adrienne had inherited from her mother. Admirers soon came to La Grange, including Charles James Fox.
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. 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. 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"). She died the next day.
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.
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.
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. During his trip, he visited all 24 American states, traveling more than 6,000 miles (9,656 km). Lafayette arrived from France at Staten Island in New York, on 15 August 1824, to an artillery salute. The towns and cities he visited, including Fayetteville, North Carolina, the first city named in his honour, gave him enthusiastic welcomes. During this tour he recognized and embraced James Armistead Lafayette, a free negro who took his last name to honor him; while in Yorktown, the story of the event was reported by the Richmond Enquirer. 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. 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. A military unit decided to adopt the title National Guard, in honour 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. 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 a township of land located in Tallahassee, Florida, to be known as the Lafayette Land Grant.
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."
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. 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. 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.
When the monarch proposed that theft from churches be made a capital crime, agitation against the Crown increased. 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.
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. On 20 May 1834, Lafayette died. He was buried next to his wife at the Picpus Cemetery under soil from Bunker Hill, which his son Georges sprinkled upon him. 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.
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.
American President Andrew Jackson ordered that Lafayette be accorded the same funeral honors as John Adams and George Washington. Therefore, 24-gun salutes were fired from military posts and ships, each shot representing a U.S. state. Flags flew at half mast for thirty-five days, and "military officers wore crepe for six months". The Congress hung black in chambers and asked the entire country to dress in black for the next thirty days.
Lafayette was widely commemorated in the U.S. In 1824, the U.S. government named Lafayette Park in his honor; it lies immediately north of the White House in Washington, D.C. In 1826, Lafayette College was chartered in Easton, Pennsylvania. Lafayette was honored with a monument in New York City in 1917. Portraits display Washington and Lafayette in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives. Numerous towns, cities, and counties across the United States were named in his honor.
On 4 July 1917, shortly after the U.S. entered World War I, Colonel Charles E. Stanton visited the grave of Lafayette and uttered the famous phrase "Lafayette, we are here." After the war, a U.S. flag was permanently placed at the grave site. Every year, on Independence Day, the flag is replaced in a joint French-American ceremony. The flag remained even during the German occupation of Paris during World War II. On visiting Corsica in 1943, General George S. Patton commented on how the Free French forces had liberated the birthplace of Napoleon, and promised that the Americans would liberate the birthplace of Lafayette.
Although he became a naturalized American citizen during his lifetime, Lafayette was granted honorary United States citizenship by Congress in 2002. The Order of Lafayette was established in 1958 by U.S. Representative Hamilton Fish III, a World War I veteran, to promote Franco-American friendship and to honor Americans who fought in France. The frigate Hermione, in which Lafayette returned to America, has been reconstructed in the port of Rochefort, Charente-Maritime, France.
Several warships were named after Lafayette. The French Navy acquired USS Langley in 1951 and renamed it La Fayette. A modern stealth frigate is also named after Lafayette, and is also the name of a ship class, La Fayette.
The French ocean-liner SS Normandie was to be the troopship USS Lafayette after being acquired by the US Government, but was destroyed by a fire before conversion to the new role was completed. The name was later given to a ballistic missile submarine.
The city of Fayetteville, North Carolina, is named after General Lafayette. While many cities are named after Lafayette, Fayetteville was the first and holds the distinction of being the only one he actually visited. He arrived in Fayetteville by horse-drawn carriage in 1825.
James McHenry, whom Lafayette considered a good friend, built a country seat on 95 acres and named it Fayetteville in his honor. He purchased it in 1792 from a tract called Ridgely's Delight about a mile west of Baltimore.
Many streets around the United States are named for Lafayette, such as Lafayette Street in New Haven, Connecticut, Lafayette Street in Williston Park and Lafayette Street (Manhattan). New York City actually has five Lafayette Streets, one in each borough, as well as a Lafayette Avenue in Brooklyn. US 1 in New Hampshire, from the Massachusetts border in Seabrook to Portsmouth, is named Lafayette Road. Avenue de Lafayette is located in the Downtown Crossing section of Boston. Lafayette Street in Baltimore is also named to honor him. There are also Lafayette Boulevard in Bridgeport, Conn. and Lafayette Street in Cape May, NJ.
Ulice Lafayettova ("Lafayette Street") in Olomouc, Czech Republic, is near the site of Lafayette's imprisonment.
Mount Lafayette, a mountain in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, is named in honor of General Lafayette. Lafayette re-visited New Hampshire and all the other states in an extremely popular, triumphal tour during 1824-1825, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill.
Place des États-Unis, Paris, France
Major General Marquis Gilbert de Lafayette, Washington, D.C.
Poste Lafayette, Mauritius
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Michel Louis Christophe Roch Gilbert Paulette du Motier
|Marquis de Lafayette|
August 1759 - June 1790