|Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette, hero of the American Revolution.|
As I was saying earlier today. . .
Yesterday the weather was exquisite, the garden perfection — grass cut (emerald green from the rain), flowers in bloom, not a weed in sight — so we invited a few friends for drinks.
One of our friends is a descendant ofMarie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette, or as those of us who know our history refer to him: Lafayette, the young man who believed in the ideal of freedom for the 13 American colonies and became one of George Washington’s most loyal followers.
On several occasions I’ve mentioned that one of the major reasons Ienjoy soirées in France is that almost inevitably, the conversation turns to some historical reference and from that point on everyone launches in with details and opinions. And, the French really know their history.
|George Washington and Lafayette together at Valley Forge in the winter of 1777-78.|
At my urging, this is what we learned yesterday:
Lafayette was an immensely rich orphan. He had heard about the colonists’ struggles for independence from the English crown and with his own money, against the command of his king, Louis XVI, he bought a boat and set sail to join the revolution. In June 1777 he landed in North Carolina. He was not yet 20 years old.
The Continental Congress gave him the commission of major general, but he was essentially an assistant to General George Washington. Despite the difference in their ages, the two became close friends. After participating in the battles against the British in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, he returned to France. His mission was to convince Louis to support the colonists.
On his return to France in 1779 he was arrested for disobeying his king, but was quickly forgiven. In 1780 he set sail once again toward North American, this time at the command of French forces which were sent, at his behest, to aid the cause.
|General Charles Cornwallis (coincidentally also a marquess).|
In 1781 Lafayette was in command of the Virginia defense with the rank of major general. He concocted a strategy that drew Charles Cornwallis into a trap at Yorktown where he and his forces were blockaded by American and French troops resulting in the English general’s surrender.
When Lafayette returned to France in 1782, he was hailed as a hero and became, according to our friend, “not an enemy of the monarchy” in France, but rather an idealistic “liberal” who abhorred absolute rule by a single individual. His participation in the French Revolution, he maintained, is often misunderstood, particularly by French aristocrats even to this day.
In 1824, Lafayette returned for the last time to the United States. He was 67-years-old. For 15 months he traveled through the original 13 colonies where he was feted as one of the country’s greatheroes. Congress rewarded him for his participation in the American Revolution with gifts of land and money.
Et voila, that was our day. If you’re as fascinated as we were, click here for more.
|Perhaps a book like this would be a charming Forth of July gift.|
Our friend said he read an article in the New York Times that reported that less than 30 percent of Americans know the name Lafayette. Rather sad, don’t you think?