LAFAYETTE, MARIE JEAN PAUL ROCII YVES MOTIER, Marquis de (ante). A simple epitome of the acts of Lafayette from early youth to ripe old age, in the thick of the grandest revolutions of the world's history, and he in all a leading actor, would suffice to give the student of history a profound recognition of the greatness and nobility of his character. But the part taken by Lafayette in the struggle of the thir teen American colonies to become a free republic was of a nature which demands exceptional recognition in America. The chivalric and persistent devotion of the boy nobleman to the cause of liberty when it seemed most gloomy and hopeless will always cause a throb of grateful interest in his life in the hearts of Americans, and make them curious to follow to its close a life so wilily begun. Orphaned of father at birth and of mother at the age of 12, his life developed from within, and was little molded by any will tint his own. -His aptness and progress crowned his school-days with honor. The writings and philosophy of that time were particularly imbued by s chivalric tendency to promote liberty and progress, and those who were soon to lose most by tie natural logic of such opinions were foremost in their advocacy. Lafayette had the stimulus medal for the development of a noble life. Filled with a French boy's thirst for glory, young Lafayette was unique in his appreciation that true glory is gained only in a noble cause. Iu his memoirs we see on how high a plane his nature was leveled when he states that while with his regiment at Noailles, at the age of 18, he was unpopular on account of his silence, and silent because he heard nothing worth hearing. His high rank would have made his progress at court sure and rapid had he been a courtier. But he disdained the court life and was ill at ease in it.
The struggle of the American colonies had attracted little attention in Europe until the declaration of independence. That terse and thrilling appeal to the sympathy and judgment of the world commanded attention. In the summer of 1776, while stationed at Metz ou duty in the army, he attended a dinner given by the French,officers to the duke of Gloucester, brother of the king of England. Llifigatehes had just been received from London containing the declaration of independened information of the vigor ous measures being takeu to crush the rebellion. Whilafiat table in conversation with the English guests, he formed the resolution to offer his services to the colonies. He went to Paris and consulted with the count de Broglie, an old general of the army and a friend of his father, concerning his projects. De Broglie "thought it so chimerical and fraught with so many hazards, without a prospect of the least advantage, that he could not for a moment regard it with favor," and advised the youth to abandon it imme diately. Lafayette replied that he must go, and obtained a promise from the old soldier not to betray his intention. The old friend's parting words ai'ere: " I have seen your uncle die in the wars of Italy, I witnessed your father's death at the battle of Minden, and I will not be accessory to the death of the only remaining member of the family." He argued in vain to divert Lafayette from his purpose, and finally introduced him to baron de Kalb, who also was seeking to get to the aid of the colonies. Soon afterwards came the news of the evacuation of New York by 'Washington and of general disasters to the colonial forces. Lafayette was again urged to abandon a scheme which seemed not only without hope of success, but without glory or reward in case of success. But the misfortunes of the colonies but deepened his sympathy and strengthened his deter mination. He had before thought only to offer his sword and his life, with a few devoted companions. He now resolved to purchase a ship, store it with munitions needed by Washington, and to lose no time in going to his assistance. Franklin and Arthur Lee were then the American commissioners in Paris. With grateful admiration they seconded the young man's plans. With a reticence and skill remarkable in a youthful enthusiast, Lafayette distracted attention from his purpose by a visit to Eng Lind while his vessel was being fitted for the voyage, and kept his plans a secret from the French ambassador in London as well as from his own government. Ile returned when his ship was ready, saw few friends, did not go to Paris, and was ready to start, when his scheme was exposed to his government, which caused his arrest and detention on the ground that the assistance he was endeavoring to render the colonies was a breach of neutrality on the part of France towards England. His father-in-law procured a iettre de cachet commanding Lafayette to repair to Marseilles and await orders. His family wounded him with reproof for his rash determination. But his noble ,young wife, whom he had married when he was 16 years of age, was one with him in spirit and purpose, and seconded his determination. He kept well advised of the movements anticipated for his arrest, and, feigning to obey the order to go to Marseilles, he started for that city, but arriving at Bordeaux assumed the dress of a courier, and with much difficulty succeeded in reaching his ship and set sail for America. Nearly a year had been consumed in these preparations and enforced delay's. His vessel reached land at Georgetown, S. C., about the middle of June, 1777. His party proceeded quickly to Charleston, and thence, visiting the state capitols and officials on the way, to meet con gress at Philadelphia. When his letters of tender of service in the American army were presented to the chairman of the committee on foreign affairs, that dignitary informed him that "so many foreigners had offered themselves for employment that congress was embarrassed with their applications," etc. Lafayette's action following was characteristic. He wrote a note to the president of congress in which he desired to
be permitted to serve in the American army on two conditions: first, that he should receive no pay; secondly, that lie should act as a volunteer. His persistence and disinter estedness won, and he was appointed it maj.gen. in the American army before he had reached the age of 20. His first meeting with Washington resulted in a warm and enduring friendship, and lie was at once invited to become a member of the command er's military family. His first service in battle was at Brandywine, where his bravery, skill, and coolness were conspicuous and be received his first wound. Late in 1777 a cabal was formed in congress, in which one Conway was the intriguer. against 'Wash ington, with purpose to . make gen. Gates commander-in-chief. Congress instituted new board of war, placing gen. Gates at the head of it. This board planned an attack ou Canada without any consultation whatever with Washington. One of its first seta was to forward a letter to Washington through Lafayette, inclosing the appointment of the latter to the command of the expedition. It was intended to separate Lafayette from Washington. But he was not flattered, nor uncertain how to receive it. He handed the letup. to Washington and told him that he should decline. 'Washington, however, urged him to accept the appointment for patriotic reasons, and he went to Albany to assume command. But the plans of the board of war were not carried out. He found no army to command, and during the winter rejoiued Washington at Valley Forge. Sparks, in his Life of Washington, observes: " It must here be recorded to the honor of Lafayette—if, indeed, his whole career in America was not a noble monument to his honot, his generosity, and unwavering fidelity to every trust imposed on him—that from the very first he resisted every attempt that was made by the flatteries of Conway and the artifices of others to bring him into the league." The attention called to the revolutionary struggle by Lafayette's chivalric devotion to it created a romantic sympathy for the Americans among the noble classes of France, which Lafayette aided by correspondence to foster. In Feb., 1778, the American com missioners in Paris, Franklin, Dean, and Lee, not only obtained the recognition of the independence of the United-States, but secured a treaty of alliance with France. May 20, 1778, Washington placed 2,000 men under the command of Lafayette to watch and harass the main British army then about to move from Philadelphia to New York. He was attacked in force, but handled his troops in a masterly manner and withdrew with an insignificant loss. From this time forward Washington placed the boy-commander in positions which particularly required alertness, boldness, and prudence combined. Late the same year Lafayette returned to France to urge speedy assistance for the Americans, and returned late in April, 1779, with the newt that a French fleet and land force was on its way to the United States. He visited Washington in camp, and then visited the congress. The fleet brought not only a considerable French laud force, but also large supplies of clothing and ammunition for the Americans, which Lafayette had induced his government to send. While he was in Paris the French prime minister had remarked: " It is fortunate for the king that Lafayette does not take it into his head to strip Versailles of its furniture to send to his dear Americans, as his majesty would be unable to refuse it." Another valuable service rendered during his short stay in Paris was the instructions which lie procured from the commander of the French forces in America, which stated in unequivocal language that the French forces by land and sea were to be under the control of Washington and to act as auxiliaries of the states' army, and that French officers were to receive orders from American officers of the same rank. This insured a harmony and efficiency of joint service that could not otherwise have been attained. In Feb., 1781, Washington placed Lafayette in command of a detachment to act in Maryland and Virginia. The French fleet was to move down the coast to act in conjunction with him, but that part of the plan failed. • Later in the season, however, his activity and skillful maneuvering served to hold Cornwallis in check in southern Virginia. Both Washington and the count de Vergennes, French ambassador, wrote letters of warm commendation of the ability with which Lafayette handled -his army in that campaign. In the beginning of this campaign the troops were so scantily clad and the government was so unable to supply them that Lafayette, on his own personal responsibility, borrowed $10,000 of the merchants of 13altiniore to buy cloth for them, and inspired the ladies of that city to make the garments required. In Oct., 1781, Lafayette took conspicuous part in the siege and storming of Yorktown, resulting in the surrender of Cornwallis and the British army under him. Soon after this final victory, Lafayette obtained permission of congress to return to France. From that time forward his life was identified with the history of France for upwards of 40 years, and no stain is known to rest on the purity and disinterestedness of his public service. No private misfortunes or losses incident to the forfeiture of his great estates by the revolution of 1789-93 ever drew from him a revocation of his republican prin ciples, or a sign of regret for the sacrifices which he had made for them. His visit to the United States in 1824, on invitation by Congress, was an event memorable in American annals. He was sought as a public guest in all parts of the country; his course was amid a universal tumult of honor and praise; the nation thronged around him to testify with one voice its gratitude and love.