(Marquis de La Fayette, Marie Joseph Paul Roch Yves Gilbert du Montier )


Gilbert du Motier, better known as Lafayette, was a French marquis and military hero who served as a general during the American Revolutionary War and as leader of the National Guard during the French Revolution. He won much acclaim throughout his life, and in 2002, he received honorary U.S. citizenship, a tribute given to only six other influential people.

Born in France and orphaned at a young age, Motier inherited the title of Marquis de La Fayette at twelve years old. He received an education at the prestigious Collège du Plessis before joining the military, where he served as Lieutenant to the Musketeers until the program was dismantled. He wed Marie Adrienne Francoise de Noailles, receiving as dowry the command of a unit in the Noailles Regiment. During his company’s annual training, he learned of the battle going on in America, and he began to engage in lengthy debates concerning possible French involvement. In 1776 he met with an agent in Paris and arranged to enter American service as a major-general. He acquired a ship but was ordered to abandon the mission when British spies learned of his intentions. As suspected, his ship was captured by British soldiers, but Layfette managed to escape under the guise of a courtier, and he and eleven others arrived in South Carolina two months later. Lafayette served under George Washington during the war, and despite being wounded at the Battle of Brandywine, he went on to fight in the Battle of Rhode Island and successfully blocked British troops heading south from New York.

After his return to France following the war’s successful conclusion, Lafayette was ordered to the Assembly of Notables to propose a solution to the country’s current financial crisis. He proposed a meeting of the long-disregarded Estates-General, an assembly that would eventually lead to the French Revolution, and during the meeting he drafted a Declaration of the Rights of Man. Lafayette was later appointed commander of the French National Guard in an attempt to combat violence that arose prior to the Revolution. During the Reign of Terror, his position made him a target for the Jacobins, and he attempted to escape to America, only to be captured by Austrians and held prisoner for several years. He returned to France after he was freed by Napoleon’s troops, and during the Hundred Days he served on the Chamber of Deputies. After Napoleon’s downfall, Lafayette was invited to the United States by James Monroe, and during his visit he traveled to all of the twenty-four existing states. Once back in France, he was offered the opportunity to become France’s dictator, a proposition that he refused. Instead, he supported Louis Philippe, the last true king of France. Lafayette passed away in 1834 and was buried under soil taken from Bunker Hill.

Key events during the life of Lafayette:

Born in France
Father died
Mother and grandfather died
Arranged to enter the American service as a major-general
Fought in American Revolutionary War
Returned to France
Named commander-in-chief of National Guard
Tried to flee to America but was captured
Freed from prison by Napoleon
Elected to the Champber of Deputies
Visited America
Declined an offer to becom French dictator
Received Honorary U.S. Citizenship

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Boy and the Wolf  in  Fifty Famous People  by  James Baldwin
Lafayette Comes to America  in  America First—100 Stories from Our History  by  Lawton B. Evans
Lafayette Returns  in  America First—100 Stories from Our History  by  Lawton B. Evans
The Fight at Bennington  in  Story of the Thirteen Colonies  by  H. A. Guerber
Brandywine—Germantown—Valley Forge  in  This Country of Ours  by  H. E. Marshall
Lafayette  in  American History Stories, Volume II  by  Mara L. Pratt
Era of Good Feeling  in  American History Stories, Volume III  by  Mara L. Pratt
Lafayette  in  Builders of Our Country: Book II  by  Gertrude van Duyn Southworth
Fall of the Bastile  in  The Struggle for Sea Power  by  M. B. Synge

Book Links
Lafayette for Young Americans  by  Rupert Holland

Image Links

Morse Painting the Portrait of Lafayette
 in Great Inventors and Their Inventions

Lafayette as a boy
 in Fifty Famous People

Lafayette's statue at Washington
 in Story of the Great Republic

Washington and Lafayette
 in Story of the Thirteen Colonies

Washington and Lafayette at Mount Vernon
 in Famous Men of Modern Times

First Meeting of Washington and Lafayette
 in History of the United States

The fatal banquet.
 in  Stories of the French Revolution

The national oath: The excavations
 in  Stories of the French Revolution

The Mother of George Washington receiving Marquis Lafayette
 in True Stories of Our Presidents

Washington and Lafayette at Valley Forge
 in Builders of Our Country: Book II

The Marquis de Lafayette when a Young Man
 in Builders of Our Country: Book II

Short Biography
George Washington Leader of the Continental Army of the U.S. during the Revolutionary War, and first President.
Robespierre Key figure of the French Revolution. Leader of the Reign of Terror.
Jean-Paul Marat Radical Doctor who became Leader of the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution.
Louis XVI King during the French revolution. Beheaded by republicans who sought to overthrow the monarchy.
Louis Philippe French prince with liberal sympathies. Proclaimed king after abdication of Charles X.
James Monroe Fifth president of the United States, and ally of Thomas Jefferson. Acquired Florida and promulgated the 'Monroe Doctrine.'