Lafayette, Or La Fayette, Marie Jean Paul Roch Yves Gilbert Motier, marquis de, a general of the American revolution and a French statesman, born at the chateau of Chavagnac, near Brioude, Sept. 6, 1757, died in Paris, May 20, 1834. His family was one of the most ancient and eminent in the French nobility. His father, the marquis de Lafayette, was an officer of the army, and fell in battle in Germany at the age of 25. His mother died soon afterward, and he was thus left in infancy heir to a large estate. At an early age he was sent to the college of Plessis at Paris, and when only 16 married a lady still younger, a daughter of the count d'Ayen, son of the duke de Noailles. He entered the army as an officer of the guards, and in 1776 was stationed at Metz with his regiment, in which he was a captain of dragoons. At a dinner given by the commandant of the garrison to the duke of Gloucester, brother of the king of England, who was then on a visit to Metz, Lafayette heard that the American colonies had declared their independence. Before he left the table he had mentally resolved to draw his sword in the cause of American liberty, and he immediately went to Paris to make arrangements for the execution of his plan.
He became acquainted with the American agents in Paris, Franklin, Deane, and Arthur Lee, and communicated to them his intention of proceeding to America. This was at the darkest period of the revolutionary war, and the news had just reached France of the occupation of New York, the loss of Fort Washington, and the disastrous retreat of the Americans through New Jersey. The cause of America looked desperate, and the few friends whom Lafayette had apprised of his design urged him to abandon it. Even the American commissioners told him they could not in conscience urge him to go; they had not the means even to give him a passage across the Atlantic. But he replied that the more desperate were the affairs of the Americans, the more necessity was there for giving them assistance; and as for passage, he would purchase a vessel for himself and his companions. He accordingly caused a vessel to be secretly fitted out at Bordeaux. While his preparations were going on, to avert suspicion from himself, he made a visit to his kinsman the marquis de Noailles, then French ambassador in London; but while in Great Britain he scrupulously abstained from using the opportunity afforded of obtaining military information that might be of service to the Americans. At the end of three weeks he returned to France, and without passing through Paris hastened to Bordeaux. Here he learned that the British ambassador at Paris had penetrated his design, and that the government had given orders for his arrest.
Though his ship was not quite ready, he instantly made sail for Pasages, the nearest port in Spain, where he had scarcely arrived when he was waited upon by two French officers with an order from the king of France directing him to go to Marseilles. They also brought letters from his relatives censuring his conduct, and requesting him to return home; but his wife, who was devotedly attached to him, and who shared his enthusiasm for American liberty, wrote urging him to stand firm and to proceed on his enterprise. He returned with the officers to Bordeaux by land, leaving his vessel at Pasages, and in apparent obedience to the royal command set out for Marseilles; but soon after leaving Bordeaux he took the road to Spain, and, though closely pursued, reached Pasages, where he instantly put to sea. He was accompanied by 11 officers, among them the German veteran Baron de Kalb. His departure created a great sensation not only in France but in England. The passage to America was long and stormy, and there was much danger from the English cruisers on the coast.
Lafayette and his companions, however, landed in the night near Georgetown, S. C, and, though at first taken for a party of the enemy, were at length received and hospitably entertained in the house of Major Huger, who conveyed them the next day, April 25, 1777, to Charleston, where they were received with enthusiasm. " The sensation produced by his appearance in this country," says Mr. Ticknor, "was, of course, much greater than that produced in Europe by his departure. It still stands forth as one of the most prominent and important circumstances in our revolutionary contest; and, as has often been said by one who bore no small part in its trials and success, none but those who were then alive can believe what an impulse it gave to the hopes of a population almost disheartened by a long series of disasters." Lafayette proceeded by land to Philadelphia, where congress was then in session, and on his arrival addressed a letter to the president of that body, asking leave to enter the army as a volunteer and to serve without pay.
Congress expressed its high sense of the value of his example and of his personal worth by the following resolution: "Whereas the marquis de Lafayette, out of his great zeal to the cause of liberty, in which the United States are engaged, has left his family and connections, and at his own expense come over to offer his services to the United States, without pension or particular allowance, and is anxious to risk his life in our cause: Resolved, that his services be accepted, and that, in consideration of his zeal, illustrious family and connections, he have the rank and commission of major general in the army of the United States." His commission was dated July 31, 1777, while he yet lacked more than a month of being 20 years old. Congress considered the appointment merely honorary; but it speedily became apparent that Lafayette was bent on serious service, and was well qualified to command. Washington and Lafayette met for the first time at a dinner party in Philadelphia. Lafayette made a highly favorable impression, and at the close of the entertainment Washington took him aside, thanked him warmly for the sacrifices he had made in the American cause, and invited him to regard himself at all times as a member of his military family.
The personal acquaintance thus commenced soon ripened into an intimacy that was never for a moment interrupted. The private correspondence of Washington shows that he not only felt for Lafayette the warmest affection, but entertained the highest opinion of his military talent, personal probity, and general prudence and energy. The youthful major general was first in active service at the battle of Brandy wine, Sept. 11, where he had no separate command, but was attached to the staff of Washington as a volunteer. He plunged into the hottest of the fight, and when the defeated Americans began to retreat, threw himself from his horse, entered the ranks, and exerted himself to rally them. He was shot by a musket ball through the leg, but was unconscious of the wound till his aide told him that the blood was running from his boot. He rode with a surgeon to Chester, but would not suffer his wound to be dressed till he had restored order among the troops who were retreating in confusion through the village. It was two months before his hurt was sufficiently healed to enable him to join the army.
On Dec. 1 congress resolved "that Gen. Washington be informed that it is highly agreeable to congress that the marquis de Lafayette be appointed to the command of a division in the continental army." This resolve was passed at the request of Washington himself, who three days afterward directed Lafayette to take command of the division of Gen. Stephen, who had been dismissed. About this period the board of war, of which Gates was the head and which had been created and was controlled by the faction hostile to Washington, planned an expedition to Canada which was approved by congress; and Lafayette was appointed to the command in the expectation that so flattering a distinction would attach him to the party by whom it was conferred. The first intimation that Washington had of the project was from the letter to Lafayette announcing his appointment. The young Frenchman, indignant at the slight offered to his chief in not consulting him, carried the letter immediately to Washington, told him he saw through the artifice, and would be governed by his advice. Washington advised him to accept the appointment, but told him he did not know where the means could be found to carry out such an expedition.
Lafayette accordingly accepted the command, and proceeded to Albany, the designated headquarters of the expedition; but after waiting three months for the promised force and supplies, during which period he took measures for putting the Mohawk valley in a state of defence, he at length received orders from congress to join the army at Valley Forge, and to suspend the invasion of Canada. He returned to the camp in April, 1778, and on May 18 was despatched by Washington from Valley Forge to Barren Hill, 12 m. distant, where he took post with 2,100 men and five pieces of cannon. Sir Henry Clinton, the British commander at Philadelphia, on the night of May 19 sent Gen. Grant with 5,000 men to surprise Lafayette. The negligence of the militia outposts permitted the British to approach within a mile before they were discovered, and early in the morning Lafayette found himself nearly surrounded. But a dexterous stratagem and a skilful movement, promptly conceived and executed, baffled the British general, and conveyed the Americans with their artillery safely across the Schuylkill and back to Valley Forge. His conduct in this affair called out the warmest expressions of approbation from Washington. At the battle of Monmouth, June 28, Gen. Lee, to whom as next in rank to the commander-in-chief the command of the advanced forces belonged, refused at first to take it, and Washington gave it to Lafayette; but Lee subsequently changed his mind and applied to be reinstated, to which Lafayette assented with his accustomed grace and disinterestedness, and served under Lee during the battle, in which he displayed great gallantry.
Seeing at one point of the engagement a good opportunity to attack the enemy with his division, he rode up to Lee and asked permission to make the attempt. "Sir," replied Lee, "you do not know British soldiers; we cannot stand against them." Lafayette replied: "It may be so, general; but British soldiers have been beaten, and they may be again; at any rate I am disposed to make the trial." Lee gave him permission to attack, which he did with vigor and success until Lee, on beginning the "unnecessary, disorderly, and shameful retreat" for which he was afterward punished by court martial, ordered him to fall back. A few weeks later Lafayette was sent with two brigades of infantry to assist Gens. Greene and Sullivan in the attempt to drive the British from Rhode Island, in which they had at first the assistance of a French fleet under Count d'Estaing, France having now declared war against England and formed an alliance with the United States. D'Estaing, however, before anything of importance was effected, withdrew with his fleet to Boston harbor for repairs, in spite of the remonstrances of the American generals.
Lafayette was despatched to Boston to persuade him to return to Newport, but could only get a promise from him that if required he would march his marines by land to the aid of the Americans. During Lafayette's absence an engagement took place, Aug. 29; and though he rode from Boston to Rhode Island, 70 m., in 6-1/2- hours, he arrived only in time to assist in conducting the retreat from the island, which the American commanders had decided upon, on learning of the approach of the British fleet with a fresh army on board. The good understanding between the French and American troops had been somewhat impaired by the conduct of D'Estaing, and Lafayette was of essential service in restoring harmony. - His own country being now at war, Lafayette, who still retained his commission in the French army, deemed it his duty at the end of the campaign of 1778 to return to France and place himself at the disposal of his government, and at the same time to exert himself in behalf of America by personal conferences with the French ministry. At the request of Washington, congress granted him leave of absence, accompanied by complimentary resolutions, and by a letter recommending him to the good offices of the American minister in Paris. Congress also voted him a sword.
After a detention at Fishkill by severe illness, he embarked for France at Boston in January, 1779. He, was received with extraordinary demonstrations of popular enthusiasm by all classes of society. His name, introduced into dramatic performances, called out acclamations at the theatres; he was followed by crowds in the streets wherever he went; he made a journey to one of his estates in the south of France, and all the towns through which he passed received him with processions and civic honors; and in the city of Orleans he was detained nearly a week by prolonged festivities in honor of his return. Amid the admiration and flattery with which he was surrounded he did not neglect the interests of America. It was mainly his personal efforts that caused the army of Rochambeau to be sent to America. "It is fortunate for the king," said the old count de Maurepas, the head of the ministry, "that Lafayette did not take it into his head to strip Versailles of its furniture to send to his dear America, as his majesty would have been unable to refuse it." Having procured for the United States assistance both with men and money, Lafayette, on May 11, 1780, rejoined Washington at the headquarters of the army, bringing himself the first intelligence of his success.
He brought also a commission from Louis XVI. appointing Washington a lieutenant general of the army of France and vice admiral of its navy, a measure intended, as it afterward operated, to prevent difficulties respecting official etiquette between the French and American commanders. A French fleet bringing Rochambeau and 6,000 soldiers arrived at Newport July 10, and Washington despatched Lafayette to concert measures with Rochambeau for future operations. Soon after his return he was stationed at Tappan on the Hudson in command of six battalions of light infantry, watching the movements of the British under Sir Henry Clinton, with whom Arnold, then in command at West Point, was secretly negotiating for the betrayal of that important fortress. Arnold made an attempt to obtain from Lafayette the names of the spies he maintained in New York city, on pretence that intelligence from them might often be conveyed more expeditiously by way of West Point: but Lafayette declined to communicate them. Lafayette was one of the court of 14 general officers, convened at Tappan, Sept. 29, by whom Major Andre was tried as a spy and condemned to death.
During Arnold's invasion of Virginia in the beginning of 1781, Washington sent Lafayette, Feb. 20, with 1,200 men of the New England and New Jersey lines, to assist in the defence of that state. They arrived at Annapolis in a state of great destitution, without shoes, hats, or tents. The United States having neither money nor credit, he purchased for them a full supply with his own funds. His presence inspired the militia of Virginia with fresh hope, and his force was soon doubled in numbers. Toward the end of May Lord Cornwallis took command of the British in Virginia, and, with his usual energy, on the fourth day after his arrival he marched to attack Lafayette, who with about 3,000 troops was then encamped in the neighborhood of Richmond. Confident in his superiority of numbers, Cornwallis was so sure of success that he wrote home, "The boy cannot escape me." Lafayette, however, made a skilful retreat to the northward, and, though pursued with unusual activity, made his way safely to the Raccoon ford on the Rappahannock in Culpeper county, where he was joined by Gen. Wayne, who had marched from Maryland to his assistance with 800 men.
Lafayette then advanced, and interposed himself in a strong position near Charlottesville between the British army and some large quantities of stores removed from that town on the enemy's approach. Cornwallis marched off toward Williamsburg, pursued by Lafayette, a portion of whose troops overtook the British, July 6, at the Jamestown ford, where a sharp action was fought. Continuing his retreat, Cornwallis at last took post at Yorktown. Lafayette stationed his army so as to cut off their retreat into the Carolinas, and awaited the reenforcements from the north, which came a few weeks later under the command of Washington and Rochambeau. For his services during the siege of Yorktown, where in conjunction with Hamilton he commanded one of the assailing parties, he was publicly thanked by Washington on the day after the surrender of Cornwallis. - At the close of the campaign he returned to France. In granting him leave of absence, congress passed resolutions acknowledging his eminent services, and directing all the ministers of the United States in Europe to confer and correspond with him. He was received with the highest enthusiasm in France, and his request for additional men and money for service in America was readily complied with.
The enthusiasm spread from France to Spain, and an expedition of 60 vessels of the line and 24,000 troops was organized to sail from Cadiz under the command of Lafayette, who led 8,000 men from Brest to Cadiz. Soon after his arrival he heard of the conclusion of peace at Paris; and from a letter which he sent from Cadiz, Feb. 5, 1783, congress first learned the news of the treaty. In 1784, at the invitation of Washington, he revisited the United States, landing at New York Aug. 4, and proceeded almost immediately to Mount Vernon. He subsequently visited Annapolis, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Albany, and Boston, receiving everywhere the warmest testimonials of affection and respect. On his departure in December, congress appointed a solemn deputation of one member from each state to take leave of him on behalf of the whole country. In the year after his return to France he visited Germany, where he was received with much distinction. Frederick the Great paid him marked attention, and took him with him on a military tour of inspection and review. For some years he now occupied himself with efforts to ameliorate the political condition of the French Protestants, and in promoting the abolition of slavery in the colonies.
He purchased a plantation in Cayenne, emancipated the slaves, and expended a large sum in their education. The assembly of the notables at Paris, Feb. 22, 1787, was the first step in the French revolution. Of that assembly Lafayette was a member, and contributed essentially to give character to its deliberations. He stepped forth at once the champion of the people, denounced the abuses of the government, proposed the abolition of private arrests and of the prisons of state, the restoration of Protestants to equal privileges of citizenship, and the convocation of the states general. "What!" said the count d'Artois, the brother of the king, and afterward king himself as Charles X., " do you demand the states general? " "Yes," replied Lafayette, " and something better than that." The states general, which soon became the constituent assembly, met May 5,1789. According to Jefferson, its initiatory movements were concerted by Lafayette and a small circle of friends at the hotel of Jefferson himself. He proposed in this bod)" a declaration of popular rights not unlike that of the American declaration of independence; and by his influence on the night of July 13, while the Bastile was falling before the people, the decree providing for the responsibility of the royal ministers was carried through.
Two days afterward he was appointed commander-in-chief of the national guards of Paris, an organization which rapidly extended throughout the kingdom until it embraced 3,000,000 men. It was at his suggestion that the tricolor was adopted, July 26; an emblem destined, as he said, to make the tour of the world. His influence was now at its height, and while he retained it, it was always exercised on the side of moderation, humanity, and constitutional liberty. A loyal subject, though in principle a firm republican, he defended the freedom of the king as sincerely as he had ever defended that of the people. His courage and coolness during the tumults of Oct. 5 and 6 saved the lives of the king and queen from a ferocious mob that had taken possession of the palace of Versailles. When the national assembly decreed the abolition of feudal titles, Lafayette was among the first to lay down that of marquis, which he never resumed; and the only title which he bore till his death was that of general, which he derived from his commission in the American army.
After the splendid and imposing ceremony of the adoption of the constitution, July 14, 1790, in the Champ de Mars, where, in the presence of half a million of people, he took the oath to its support in the name of the nation, he resigned his command of the national guards in an able and patriotic letter, and retired to his estates in the country. When war was declared against Austria, March 20, 1792, he was appointed to the command of one of the armies sent to guard the frontier. He established discipline, and won victories at Phi-lippeville, Maubeuge, and Florennes. But the Jacobins, who were now becoming predominant in France, hated and feared him, and orders were sent to the camp from the ministry of war designedly to embarrass and annoy him. In return he addressed a letter to the assembly denouncing the Jacobins as enemies of the constitution and the people. A majority of the assembly and the local assemblies of 75 of the departments gave their formal sanction to his views. But violence at length prevailed, and on Aug. 8 he was denounced in the assembly as an enemy of the nation, and a motion was made for his arrest and trial. After vehement debates it was lost by a majority of 406 to 224. But the terrible events of Aug. 10 soon followed, and the reign of terror was established.
Commissioners were sent to the army with orders to arrest Lafayette. Arrest at that period was certain death. He saved himself by flight, after placing the army in such a position that his departure could not expose it to danger. He crossed the frontier Aug. 17, intending to take refuge in Holland. But he was seized the same night by an Austrian patrol, and being soon recognized was treated as a criminal and exposed to disgraceful indignities. He was handed over to the Prussians because their prisons were near at hand, and was at first confined at Wesel and afterward at Magdeburg. But the Prussians, unwilling to bear the odium of holding Lafayette a prisoner, soon transferred him again to the Austrians, who consigned him to damp and dark dungeons in the citadel of Olmutz. Here he was told that he would never again see anything but the four walls of his prison; that he would never receive news of events or of persons; that his name would be unknown in the citadel, and that in all accounts of him sent to court he would be designated only by a number; that he would never receive any notice of his family, or of the existence of his fellow prisoners.
At the same time knives and forks were kept from him, as he was officially informed that his situation was one which would naturally lead to suicide. The want of air and of proper food, and the dampness and filth of his dungeon, brought on dangerous diseases, of which his jailers took no notice; and at one time all his hair came off. His friends for a long time could get no intelligence of his fate; but at length Dr. Eric Boll-mann, who was employed by Count Lally-Tol-lendal, and who had established himself for the purpose as a physician at Vienna, ascertained that he was confined at Olmutz. The military physician at Olmutz by this time had thrice made a formal representation to the Austrian government that Lafayette would die unless he was allowed to breathe a purer air. To the first application the reply was made that " he was not sick enough yet;" but at length the outcry of public indignation in Europe compelled the authorities to grant him permission to ride out occasionally in a carriage accompanied by two soldiers.
Dr. Bollmann and a young American travelling in Austria, Francis K. Hu-ger, then planned a rescue, which proved so far successful that Lafayette escaped from the prison, but through a misunderstanding rode in the wrong direction, was rearrested, and confined with redoubled severity. (See Bollmann.) Meantime his wife, who had been imprisoned at Paris during the reign of terror, obtained her liberty on the downfall of Robespierre. She then went to Vienna, obtained with difficulty a personal interview with the emperor Francis, and gained permission to share her husband's captivity, under the hardship of which her health soon became so impaired that she never fully recovered from its effects. Great exertions were now made both in Europe and America to obtain the release of Lafayette. In the house of commons Gen. Fitzpatrick, Dec. 16, 1796, made a motion in his behalf, which was supported by Col. Tarleton, who had fought against Lafayette in America, by Wilberforce, and by Fox. President Washington wrote a letter to the emperor, asking for the liberation of his old companion in arms. The Austrian government was deaf to all entreaties. But an advocate now appeared whose plea was irresistible.
Bonaparte at the head of his victorious army demanded the release of Lafayette in the preliminary conferences held at Leoben before the treaty of Campo Formio. He was often afterward heard to say that in all his negotiations with foreign powers he had never experienced so pertinacious a resistance as that which was made to this demand. The Austrian negotiators attempted to compel Lafayette to receive his freedom clogged with conditions: but he firmly replied that he would never accept his liberation in any way that should compromise his rights and duties, either as a Frenchman or as an American citizen. He was set free at last, Aug. 25, 1797, after five years of imprisonment, 22 months of which had been shared by his wife. The unsettled condition of France still precluded his return to his native country, and he took up his residence in Holstein, where he lived in retirement, occupying himself with agriculture, until toward the end of 1799, when he removed to his estate of La Grange, a fine old chateau about 40 m. from Paris. Here he lived quietly, still occupied with agriculture and holding steadfastly to his republican convictions. Napoleon in a personal interview endeavored in vain to persuade him to take the post of senator.
He also offered him the cross of the legion of honor, but Lafayette rejected it with disdain, calling it an absurdity. When the question was submitted to the people whether Napoleon should be first consul for life, Lafayette voted in the negative, and informed Napoleon of the fact in a letter, which put an end to their intercourse. Nothing could tempt him from his retirement. President Jefferson offered to appoint him governor of Louisiana, then just become a territory of the United States; but he was unwilling by quitting France to appear to abandon the cause of constitutional freedom on the continent of Europe. During the hundred days after the return from Elba, when Napoleon granted to the people an elective house of representatives, Lafayette again appeared in public. He was chosen a representative and took his seat in the chamber, refusing a peerage which the emperor offered him. On the first ballot for president of the house he had the highest number of votes; but he declined the honor, and exerted himself for the election of Lanjuinais. He took little part in the debates till after Napoleon's return from Waterloo, when he took the lead in demanding the emperor's abdication. Lucien, the brother of Napoleon, opposed the motion to this effect in a speech of great power and eloquence.
He denounced the proposition as a signal instance of inconstancy and national ingratitude. Lafayette arose, and, contrary to rule and custom, spoke from his place and not from the tribune. "The assertion which has just been uttered," he said, " is a calumny. Who shall dare to accuse the French nation of inconstancy to the emperor Napoleon ? That nation has followed his bloody footsteps through the sands of Egypt and through the snows of Russia; over fifty fields of battle; in disaster as faithfully as in victory; and it is for having thus devotedly followed him that we now mourn the blood of three millions, of Frenchmen." These few words made an impression on the assembly which could not be resisted; and as Lafayette ended, Lucien himself bowed respectfully to him and without resuming his speech sat down.
After the entry of the allies into Paris, Lafayette returned to La Grange. Touched with a sympathy for Napoleon in his adversity which he had not felt at the height of his power, he offered to procure him the means of escaping to America; but Napoleon could not forgive his former opposition, and refused to accept his assistance. In 1818 Lafayette was elected to the chamber of deputies, where he voted constantly for all liberal measures, and opposed the censorship of the press and everything that tended to infringe the constitutional rights of the people. - In 1824 the congress of the United States passed unanimously a resolution requesting President Monroe to invite Lafayette to visit the United States. He accepted the invitation, but declined the offer of a ship of the line for his conveyance, and with his son and secretary took passage on a packet ship from Havre to New York, where he landed on Aug. 15, 1824. His progress through the country resembled a continuous triumphal procession. He visited in succession each of the 24 states and all the principal cities.
In December congress voted him a grant of $200,-000 and a township of land, "in consideration of his important services and expenditures during the American revolution." His hereditary fortune had been mostly lost by confiscation during the reign of terror. On Sept. 7, 1825, he sailed from Washington in a frigate named in compliment to him the Brandy-wine. On his arrival at Havre the people assembled to make a demonstration in his honor, but were dispersed by the police. In August, 1827, he pronounced a funeral oration over the body of Manuel, a distinguished member of the chamber of deputies. In November of the same year the chamber was dissolved, and Lafayette was reelected. During the revolution of July, 1830, he was appointed commander-in-chief of the national guards of Paris, and, though not personally engaged in the fight, his name and his experience and energy were of the greatest service to the liberal cause. His influence was successfully exerted to prevent the revolution from assuming a sanguinary character, and from proceeding to extremes which would have brought Franco into perilous collision with all the powers of Europe. He sacrificed his own republican preferences for the sake of peace and order, and placed Louis Philippe on the throne, " a monarchy surrounded by republican institutions." He soon resigned his commission as commander of the national guards, and confined himself to his duties as a representative of the people, and to the exercise of his moral influence as the acknowledged chief of the constitutional party on the continent of Europe. In attending in the winter and on foot the obsequies of a colleague in the chamber of deputies, he contracted a cold which settled on his lungs and caused his death.
He received a magnificent funeral, and his body was buried, by his own direction, in the cemetery of Picpus in the faubourg St. Antoine. - See "Eulogy on Lafayette, delivered in Faneuil Hall, Sept. 6, 1834," by Edward Everett; and Me-moires et manuscrits de Lafayette, published by his family (6 vols. 8vo, Paris, 1837-'8). There are numerous biographies of him, both in French and English.