Lafayette - Friend of America
Marie-Joseph-Paul-Yves-Roch-Gilbert du Motier (1757-1834)
Marquis de Lafayette
There is no doubt that the Marquis de Lafayette loved the
thirteen American states. It should be remembered by all Americans that,
without this young man's help, America would be an entirely different country.
"...Lafayette is a young man of royal birth, with liberal politics and
later called 'a canine appetite for fame.' Someone said he was
'a stature in
search of a pedestal.' But he was intoxicated with, [had] a
theoretical love of, liberty. It was theoretical because liberty
to may Europeans. [Lafayette] was a great romantic and
he fell in
love with America, the concept of America that the French had.
This wild new
world where you could start the world over, to use Tom
Scholar Richard Norton Smith
European adventurers, soldiers-of-fortune, and romantics like
Lafayette flocked to the Continental Army during the American Revolution.
A long list of European soldiers aided the Continental cause, including:
von Steuben, from Prussia,
who is credited with shaping Washington's
independent-minded army into a well-drilled machine.
Tadeusz Kosciuszko, the Polish patriot and engineer, who fought at
Saratoga and engineered the construction of fortifications around West Point.
another Pole, who was called "The Father of American Cavalry",
fought with Washington at Brandywine and Germantown. Killed at age 32
during Battle at Savannah.
Baron de Kalb, a German born soldier, arrived with Lafayette, served with Washington as Major General at
Valley Forge and then at the Battle of Camden where he was mortally wounded.
Gilbert du Motier was born on September 6, 1757 in Auvergne,
France. His father died when he was 2 years old and when his mother and
grandfather died 11 years later he inherited a large fortune. Lafayette,
who came from a long line of soldiers, studied at the Military Academy in
Versailles and became a captain in the French cavalry at age 16.
The Marquis was about 20 years old. He wanted
passionately to help and be a member of the American Continental Army.
With the recommendation of Silas Deane,
then serving as an Envoy to France,
Lafayette was granted a commission in the "Army of the United
States". But he was required to serve as a "volunteer"
without a command and at his own expense. Based on this commitment
Lafayette purchased a ship named La Victoire, and with Baron de Kalb enlisted several aides and
planned to secretly embark for America. On board ship with Lafayette was one of the
most skillful military map makers of the era, Michel Capitaine du Chesnoy.
At the insistence of the British ambassador to France, orders were issued to
seize his ship then fitting out at Bordeaux, and Lafayette himself was
arrested. But the ship had been sent to a neighboring Spanish port before
the orders for her seizure could be executed, and Lafayette escaped from his
guards in disguise. It was May, 1777 when he joined his ship and his
eleven chosen companions.
The total journey from France to America was to take several months -
from April to July of 1777. Though pursued by two British cruisers which
had been sent to intercept him, they landed near Georgetown, South Carolina and
had to make a nine hundred mile overland trek to Philadelphia.
Lafayette met General Washington at a dinner in
Philadelphia. He and the General must have immediately struck it off, for
on July 31st Lafayette was appointed by Congress a Major-General in the Army of
the United States.
Lafayette served in the battle of Brandywine, September 11th
1777, at Chad's Ford, Pennsylvania,
where he is wounded with a bullet through
his left leg.
The British General "Gentleman Johnny"
Burgoyne's surrender to General Horatio Gates at Saratoga on October 17, 1777
was the turning point of the American Revolution.
The colonial victory convinced the French that the Americans had a chance of
defeating Great Britain; France's traditional enemy.
In November of 1777, Lafayette led his
first independent command of a small reconnaissance force at Gloucester, New
Jersey and got the better of a skirmish against some Hessians. He
also had a command at White Marsh (December 5-8, 1777).
period, George Washington took a strong, personal liking to the young Frenchman,
who in turn held the American commander in high admiration. He referred to
Washington as his "adopted father" and took him as his avowed
In December 1777, Lafayette received command of the
Virginia Light Infantry.
He began the winter of 1777-78 at Valley Forge, but was sent to
Albany, New York to prepare for an invasion of Canada. The invasion was
canceled and he returned to Valley Forge, where he again succeeded in a small
operation at Barren Hill (May 1778). Lafayette performed with distinction
at the battle of Monmouth (June 28th 1778). He commanded two brigades near
Newport Rhode Island (July and August 1778) in the failed, first Franco-American
allied operation of the war.
Lafayette proved to be a good officer and a wise adviser, but
more important was his popularity with his own countrymen. It contributed
to the pro-American sentiment in France and to the signing of a treaty of
alliance with the colonies on February 6, 1778. He served a liaison
officer between the Americans and the comte d'Estaing, the French commander in
mid July of 1778.
In January 1779, Lafayette returned to France, where he
successfully persuaded the French to commit more military aid and to send a
military expedition to North America. So insistent was Lafayette for aid
to the Americans that one day Count de Maurepas said in the royal council: 'It
is fortunate for the King, that Lafayette does not take it in his head to strip
Versailles of its furniture, to send to his dear Americans; as his Majesty would
be unable to refuse it." In addition to governmental supplies
Lafayette purchased out of his private account a large amount of supplies for
the troops he would command upon his return to America.
Sailing in the French frigate Hermione on March 19, 1780 he
arrived in Boston 38 days later. He reported to Washington and then went
to Philadelphia to give representatives of his government certain official
papers. Count de Rochambeau's and his military expedition were due to
arrive in July. The coming of this help brought new hope to the
American cause. In the weeks which followed Washington and Rochambeau made
careful plans so that their campaign would bring definite success and Washington
hoped it would be the final victory for independence.
the meantime the British, under the command of General Cornwallis, invaded the
South in their endeavor to crush the war there. In the spring of 1781 Washington sent Lafayette, in command of American troops, to
Virginia to unite his forces with von Stuben. The young Marquis ended up facing the
much larger force of Cornwallis. In this Virginia Campaign of April-August
1781, Lafayette proved to be a good strategist in avoiding defeat while
harassing his formidable opponent to withdraw to Yorktown for
reinforcements. Lafayette commanded his American brigade at the siege of
Yorktown (September 1781).
The "Battle of the Virginia Capes" saw the French
Admiral de Grasse's 24 French ships of the line drive off the 19 British ships
under Admiral Graves in early September 1781, thus isolating the British forces
of Cornwallis at Yorktown.
As a result of brilliant efforts on the part of
American and the French fleet , Cornwallis was compelled to surrender on October
19, 1781 at Yorktown.
Rejoicing was manifested throughout the entire country with
gratitude given to the French for their timely help and particularly Lafayette
for his unselfish devotion to the American cause. Lafayette went to
General Washington to secure a leave of absence to return home to France.
In December of 1781, Lafayette sailed for France on the
American ship "Alliance". He was universally hailed as
"America's Marquis". To the French he was "the friend of
Washington" and "the hero of two worlds". Upon arrival in
France he received many honors and was promoted to the rank of marechal-de-camp
(major general) in the French Army by Louis XVI.
In late 1784, Lafayette returned to America and to Mount Vernon
on Washington's invitation. It was their last time together. While
here he was made a citizen of several states and urged constitutional reform to
strengthen the new government. He continued to advocate close
Franco-American ties, and on his return to France he worked to secure business
concessions for his adopted country.
Lafayette continued to be involved in liberal ideas working to
make France a constitutional monarchy. He envisioned a Declaration of the
Rights of Man and the Citizen. It was composed with help from Thomas
Jefferson and modeled after the American Declaration of Independence and the
constitutions of the American States. Lafayette tried but was unable to
influence a more moderate course in the French Revolution.
On July 14th 1789 a crowd stormed the Bastille in Paris and
freed the political prisoners. The next day King Louis named Lafayette as
Commander in Chief of the bourgeois militia of Paris. He organized the
militia into the Paris National Guard and gave it the blue, white and red
cockade that eventually became the French tricolor.
October 5th of the same year, the Palace of Versailles was invaded by a crowd
with intentions on the royal family. Lafayette troops saved King Louis XVI
and Queen Marie Antoinette from the mob.
When the Constitution of 1790 was finally adopted, Lafayette
retired from public life to his estate in La Grange, but in April, 1792 France
declares war against Austria. Lafayette was soon called to
service in the war with Austria and Prussia, being one of the three major
generals in command of the French forces.
August the French monarchy is overthrown and the Jacobins, the
extreme Revolutionist, attempted to displace him from his powerful position
because Lafayette intended to use his army to restore limited monarchy.
Fleeing to Belgium from the Jacobins, the General fell into the hands of the
Austrians. Claiming American citizenship was to no avail with the
Austrians. The next month, Lafayette's wife, Adrienne de Lafayette and two
daughters were arrested and confined at Chateau Chavaniac for over a year and a
For five years (1792 - 1797) Lafayette remained in Prussian and
Austrian jails, one year at Magdeburg and four years at Olmutz castle.
It is interesting that
Lafayette's wife, Adrienne and his two daughters, Anastasie and Virginie,
by their choice were imprisoned with him for
the last two years. In 1793 when Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were
executed on the guillotine, Adrienne's family; her mother, sister and
grandmother who were of nobility and were
related to the king, were also executed. Lafayette's son, George, escaped
to America. Adrienne and his two daughters were taken to
the prison in Paris. Five days after the execution of Adrienne's family, the Reign of
Terror ended when Robespierre was sent to the guillotine. With the help of
the Ambassador to France, Gouverneur Morris and James Monroe, Adrienne and her
daughters were freed and went to Austria on October 1795 to plead for the
release of her husband.
Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor refused; whereupon
Adrienne asked to share, with her two daughters, her husbands prison cell.
The dungeon was damp, musty and rat-infested. Soon her daughters
were sick with infection and Adrienne was ill with blood poisoning. The
Emperor arranged for them to be taken to a hospital, but Adrienne refused and
remained with her husband for almost two years. In 1797 Napoleon secured his
Returning to France he found his personal fortune gone.
While he acknowledged Bonaparte's position, Lafayette declined any role in the
Emperor's regime and refused the Legion d'Honor, becoming a gentleman
farmer on his wife's estates. For a time he was an elected member of the
Chamber of Deputies, working for Napoleon's second abdication.
George Washington died December 14, 1799. When the sad
news reached France early in the year 1800, Napoleon decided to hold a memorial
service for Washington at Invalides, but Lafayette was not invited and Napoleon
ordered the orator not to refer to Lafayette in his oration. It was rather
a glorification of Napoleon than a memorial service to Washington.
However, Lafayette had his glorious memories of Washington and the friendship of
the great man.
On Christmas Eve, 1807 his wife, Adrienne de Noailles, died of
lead poisoning at
age 48 after 33 years of marriage to Lafayette. According to her wishes
Adrienne was buried in the little Picpus Cemetery in Paris. Knowing her
devotion, Lafayette promised never to remarry and he never did.
Lafayette continued to maintain strong ties with the United
States. Congress proclaimed him an honorary citizen in 1824 and President
Monroe invited him to tour the United States as its first official guest.
The "Nations Guest" was old and lame at the time but he visited every
one of the 24 states, greeted by large crowds. He was a reminder of the
glorious past, the "adoptive son" of George Washington, the last
surviving major general of the War of Independence and Europe's outstanding
contemporary opponent of monarchial tyranny. See
Fayetteville" page on this site.
House Chamber Portraits
A full length portrait of the Marquis de Lafayette, the
first foreign dignitary to address a joint meeting of the Congress, was
presented to the House of Representatives by the French artist Ary Scheffer in
1824. The portrait is located to the left of the rostrum.
A portrait of George Washington hangs at the right of the
Speaker's rostrum. This portrait was commissioned in 1834 from American
artist John Vanderlyn as a companion to the portrait of the Marquis de
Lafayette knew and supped with the first seven presidents of
the United States - with Washington during the Revolutionary War, and on this
trip with John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy
Adams and the future president , Andrew Jackson. He was accompanied
by his son, George Washington Lafayette and his secretary, Auguste Levasseur,
who kept a daily journal of Lafayette's trip.
September 7, 1825, Lafayette and his company boarded the ship Brandywine for the
journey to France. The trip took 24 days. When he disembarked at La
Havre, cannons were fired and on October 9th when he reached his farm, La
Grange, he was feted at a gala party of 4,000.
Under the restored Bourbon monarchy, Lafayette was generally
politically inactive until the people were again oppressed. At the age of
73, he led the opposition to the king's restrictions on citizens' rights.
In 1830 he took part in his third revolution and once again became a kingmaker
in France. He commanded the Army of National Guards that drove Charles X
from France. He rejected the popular demand that he become president of
the new republic and helped make Louis Philippe the constitutional monarch of
France. Later he began to regret his support of Philippe and began his
support for a pure republic in France. To the end of his life, the great
general held firm for representative government in his country.
Lafayette died on May 20th 1834 at the age of 78 and was buried
next to his wife in the Le Jardin de Picpus Cemetery in
Paris. The soil that he brought back from Bunker Hill Monument was placed
around his casket.
The following text and photographs are taken from the blog,
A very nice description of the cemetery and the annual memorial for Lafayette.
A link to this blog is listed on this page.
Lafayette, We Were There
The Cimetiere de Picpus has to be one of the most tranquil outdoor spaces in
Paris. When strolling through the grounds, you have a sense of being
transported in time to a small village far from any booming metropolis. Yet it
is located a short walk from the Place de la Nation in the 12e arrondissement.
The private cemetery encompasses a 19th-century Chapel, a large expanse of
grass, fragrant boxwoods, and minuscule burial grounds (by Paris standards).
It is here that the Marquis de Lafayette is buried, in soil from Virginia
that he brought to France after his final visit to the young United States in
1825. It is at Lafayette's grave that the American flag has flown uninterrupted
in France, even during years of the Nazi occupation of Paris. It is here that
General Pershing's assistant, Stanton, pronounced the famous "Lafayette, nous
voilà!" on July 4, 1917, to proclaim the U.S. troops' arrival to support France
in the throes of a terrible World War I. It is here that Lafayette's wife
Adrienne was buried before him, in a spot chosen for its proximity to the mass
grave where her immediate family had been "buried" with hundreds of other nobles
beheaded in the French Revolution.
So it is fitting that each July 4 the American flag at Picpus Cemetery is
renewed amid great solemn and moving ceremony. At 11 AM, dignitaries
from the U.S. Embassy, the French Senate, the Mairie de Paris, the Society of
the Cincinnati, the Sons of the American Revolution, and Friends of Lafayette
and the general public -- both French and American -- gathered to pay tribute to
this hero of two worlds.
A U.S. Military Color Guard stood at attention while the French Garde
Nationale band played the "Star Spangled Banner." That
alone was a touching moment of transatlantic honor and friendship. The
Marseillaise followed, of course. In lieu of loud cheering, there was a
wave of emotion that reverberated among the spectators. The crowd, already
hushed, shared an official minute of silence. Brief speeches followed,
with placing of flowers on Lafayette's grave site. The U.S. Ambassador,
addressing the assembled group in French, was moved to tears as he spoke.
This is a momentous year in French-American relations, capped off by
celebrations of the 250th Anniversary of Lafayette's birth. In France and in the
U.S., he is a man to remember and revere. During all the political ups and downs
of the nearly two and a half centuries of friendship between our two nations, we
owe it to ourselves to remember that in the U.S. House of Representatives, there
are two larger-than-life portraits flanking the speaker's podium: Washington and
Perhaps the most permanent effect that Lafayette has had in
this country, beyond his heroism on the battlefield, is the number of places
named for him in the United States. The name "Lafayette" or
related names like "Fayette" are found almost 400 times in the United
A small town in North Carolina in 1783 was the first town named
Fayetteville in honor of the Revolutionary War hero. He visited his
namesake on March 4th and 5th, 1825, arriving from Raleigh and departing to
Cheraw, South Carolina.
An account of his visit may be read by clicking on marker photo.
An interesting story about the State House drawing and Lafayette can be read
by clicking on State House sketch.
Portrait of Lafayette by Baugnut
True republicanism is the sovereignty of the people....There
are natural and imprescriptible rights which an entire nation has no right to
--Lafayette in his last major speech, January 2, 1834
Lafayette's Coat of Arms
Cur Non - Why Not
The information contained in this web page has been compiled from many sources,
including other web sites. Credit is therefore given to others who have
spent their time and effort.
Appreciation is also given to the Cumberland County Public Library, NC
Historical Department, and its staff.
celebrates Marquis de Lafayette's 250th Birthday
Clicking on banner will take you to the
official Fayetteville Birthday Party website for Lafayette
To see the 3 day schedule, click on thumbnail photo
American Friends of
Lafayette Society of
Fayetteville, North Carolina
Bienvenue sur le site
du chateau-musee Lafayette
Virginia Campaign of 1781
Marquis de Lafayette
Travel in America Documented
The Merci Lafayette French and
American Alliance for Liberty
From Albert Knute Oberst, JD
Chers Amis de Lafayette et le French and American Alliance for Peace,
Pere Noel et tout les French will be bringing a magnificant/awesome
gift to America in just a few months. The French have been working
tres tres durement (hard) for over 15 years to build the Hermione. The
Hermione will be visiting USA in about 18 months. This greatest of symbols
of the French and American Alliance for our Peace will be docking
in Yorktown. We must recall the first Hermione landed in Boston
in 1780 with Lafayette bringing the great news that the French shall
support our Revolution.
Please help us to be prepared to give the frigate Hermione
greatest welcome. Let us show our appreciation to the French for
this greatest of gesture (geste) of deep affection for our alliance
that started in France in the late 1700s. It was in 1783 with the
Treaty of Paris that showed the French support for our Nation.
Please open the web site above and view the video to understand
how dedicate and how hard these French ship builders have been
working for all these years. I was there in 2002 when it was just
a mere stucture of wood. Now look at the current accomplishment.
C'est tres tres grand ettonement (astonishment).
Vive Lafayette vive les French and American Alliance!!
The latest information regarding the L'Hermione Project :
April 28, 2014Bonjour Monsieur Thomas-Lescouzeres et tout les
Today's date on April 28,1780 the Hermione arrived in Boston at
John Hancock's wharf in Boston to a great reception with a huge crowd
of well wishers, fire works, cheers and bonfires. " Vive France, Lafayette,
et L' Hermione.
Merci beaucoup! L' Hermione c'est epatante, formidable.
Merci Lafayette French et American Alliance pour Liberte'
Date: Wed, 2 Apr 2014 16:08:39 +0200
Subject: L'Hermione 1997/2014.
En 4 minutes, retrouvez les grandes étapes
du projet Hermione en attendant les premiers essais en mer en septembre.
A bientôt à bord!
Pascal Lescouzères(Délégué Hermione).
Translation: In 4
minutes, find the main stages of
Hermione project until
the first sea trials
See you on board!
Below is a link to several videos
depicting the building of this beautiful frigate.
Become a member of the Association that manages the Hermione Project
Have your name of the sails of the Hermione