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Lafayette, Marie Jean Paul Roch Yves Gilbert Motier, Marquis de 1757-

Patriot; born in Cavanac, Auvergne, France, Sept. 6, 1757. Left an heir to an immense estate at the age of thirteen years, he received the best education that could be obtained, and at sixteen married a granddaughter of the Duke de Noailles. He entered the army as a captain of dragoons, and in the summer of 1776 he heard of the struggles of the English-American colonies. He immediately resolved to aid them. When he and other French officers were ready to embark for America (1777), he was informed that the credit of the Continental Congress was so low that it could not furnish them a transport. The young enthusiast replied, “Then I will purchase one myself.” He bought and secretly freighted a vessel, named the Victory, to carry himself, the veteran Baron de Kalb, and ten or twelve other French officers across the Atlantic. While the vessel was in preparation for sailing, he made a visit to England, where he was invited to visit the navy-yards. Too honorable to inspect the armaments of a people whose armies he was about to fight against, he declined, but thought it a good joke to be introduced to their King. He was then only nineteen years of age. the Victory sailed first to a Spanish port, where Lafayette received orders from the King to give up his expedition; but he disobeyed, and sailed for America. The women of Paris applauded his heroism; the Queen gave him tokens of her admiration; the people extolled him for his strong enthusiasm in a good cause; and to his young wife, who was about to become a mother a second time, he wrote from the Victory: “From love to me, become a good American; the welfare of America is closely bound up with the welfare of mankind.”

The party landed near Georgetown, S. C., April 19, 1777. They travelled by land to Philadelphia, where Lafayette immediately addressed a letter to Congress, asking leave to serve as a volunteer in the Continental army without pay. In consideration of his zeal and illustrious family and connections, that body gave him the commission of major-general, July 31, and Washington invited him to become a member of his military family. He joined the Continental army near a house on Neshaminy Creek in August. At that time he was less than twenty years of age. From that time until the close of the

Lafayette in 1777 (from a French print).

Revolution he was the bosom friend of the commander-in-chief and the untiring and effective champion of the patriot cause in the field and at the Court of his native country. He was ever ready to defend the honor of the Americans.

To restrain British foragers and marauders, who were plundering the country for some distance around Philadelphia in the spring of 1778, Washington sent him out from Valley Forge, with about 2,100 men and five pieces of artillery, to cut off all communication between Philadelphia [286] and the country, and to obtain information concerning a rumored intention of the British to evacuate that city. Lafayette crossed the Schuylkill, and took post at Barren Hill, about half-way between Valley Forge and Philadelphia, occupying the Lutheran church there as headquarters. General Howe sent General Grant to make a secret night march to gain the rear of the marquis (May 20), and the next morning Howe marched with about 6,000 men, commanded by Clinton and Knyphausen, to capture the young Frenchman and send him to England. The marquis outgeneralled the British, though they surprised him, and escaped across the Schuylkill. Howe was disappointed, for he was about to depart for England under a partial cloud of ministerial displeasure, and he hoped to close his career in America by some brilliant act.

Lafayette's headquarters near Chadd's Ford.

After a short winter passage from Boston to Brest, in February, 1779, Lafayette joined his family and friends in his native land. His offence in sailing for America in defiance of the King's command was atoned for by a week's exile to Paris, and confinement in the house of his father-in-law. He was then received at Versailles, when the King gently reprimanded him, while the Queen eagerly sought information concerning America from his own lips. His fame made him the admired of Court society as well as of the populace of the French capital. The young marquis observed with alarm that everybody was talking of peace, while America was struggling with armed champions of royalty, and he felt that the independence of the colonies was in peril. With great earnestness he pleaded for aid for the Americans, and was successful.

In 1784 he again visited the United States, and was everywhere received with tokens of affection and respect. He became a member of the Notables at Paris in 1787, when he boldly demanded the convocation of the States-General, consisting of three orders—namely, the clergy, nobility, and commons—representatives of the whole nation. They had not met since 1614, a period of 173 years. The King (Louis XVI.) convened them on May 6, 1789. There were 308 ecclesiastics, 285 nobles, and 621 deputies of the third estate, or the “common people.” In July Lafayette was appointed commanderin-chief of the National Guard. When the abolition of titles was decreed, he dropped his, and was known only as General Lafayette. He resigned his command in 1790, and in 1792 commanded one of the armies sent to guard the frontiers of France against the forces of monarchs alarmed by the republican demonstrations in France. When the fierce Jacobins seized power the conservative Lafayette was denounced and his arrest decreed. He crossed the frontier, intending to take refuge in Holland. The Austrians seized

Lutheran Church, barren Hill, Lafayette's headquarters.

[287] him, and confined him in a dungeon five years. For a long time no intelligence of him reached his friends. Meanwhile his wife had been imprisoned at Paris during the “Reign of terror,” but had been set at liberty on the downfall of Robespierre. She hastened to Vienna, obtained a personal interview with the Emperor, and gained permission to share the captivity of her husband. Great exertions were made in Europe and America to obtain his release, but in vain, until Bonaparte, at the head of an army, demanded his release. He was set at liberty Aug. 25, 1797. Towards the end of 1799 he returned to his estate of La Grange, 40 miles from Paris. Bonaparte tried to bribe him with offered honors to enter public life again as senator. He refused with disdain; and when the vote for making Bonaparte first consul for life was taken, Lafayette voted no, and told the ambitious general so in a letter, which ended their intercourse. When Bonaparte became Emperor, Lafayette took a seat in the Chamber of Deputies; and this stanch champion of constitutional government refused the offered bauble of a peerage. After the battle of Waterloo, touched with sympathy for the fallen monarch, he offered him facilities for escaping to America; but the Emperor, who could not forgive Lafayette's former opposition, refused to accept the offer, and became a prisoner on St. Helena. In the French legislature Lafayette's voice was always in favor of liberal measures. In 1824 the Congress of the United States requested President Monroe to invite Lafayette to America as a guest of the republic. He came, but declined the offer of a ship. With his son and a private secretary he landed in New York, Aug. 15, 1824, visited in succession the whole twenty-four States, and was everywhere received with demonstrations of love and respect.

General Lafayette. (after a painting by Peale.)

Between Washington and Lafayette there had grown up a strong mutual affection during their intercourse in the scenes of the old war for independence. When at the seat of government in October, 1824, while on his visit to the United States, the marquis was conducted to Mount Vernon by George Washington Parke Custis, the adopted son of Washington, with whom George W. Lafayette had lived in the mansion of the great patriot while Lafayette was an exile from France and in a prison. He was conveyed from the capital in a [288] barge, accompanied by his son; John C. Calhoun, Secretary of War, and Mr. Custis; and at the shore at Mount Vernon he was received by Lawrence Lewis, Washington's favorite nephew, and the family of Judge Bushrod Washington, who was then absent on official business. After visiting the mansion, where, forty years before, he took his last leave of the beloved patriot, the company proceeded to

Lafayette at the Hermitage.

the tomb (the old one, on the brow of the hill), where Custis presented the marquis with a ring containing a lock of Washington's hair. He received it with emotion. The door of the vault was opened, and there were displayed the leaden caskets which contained the coffins of Washington and his wife, decorated with flowers. Lafayette entered, kissed the casket, and reverently retired. Lafayette spent fourteen months in America. He visited Andrew Jackson at the “Hermitage,” and on his return to Washington his sixty-eighth birthday was celebrated at the White House. He sailed for Europe Sept. 7, 1825, in the frigate Brandywine. [289]

During the revolution of 1830, that drove Charles X. from the throne, Lafayette was made commander-in-chief of the National Guard. He sacrificed his own republican preferences for the sake of peace and order, and placed Louis Philippe on the throne. He died the acknowledged chief of the constitutional party on the continent of Europe, May 20, 1834. He received a magnificent public funeral, when his remains were conveyed to their restingplace in the cemetery of Picpus. The monument is about 8 feet square, with appropriate inscriptions in French. The cross seen in the picture stands over the grave of another.

The American Revolution.

The following is Lafayette's narrative of his service with the American army during the Revolutionary War, from his Memoirs:

You ask me at what period I first experienced my ardent love of liberty and glory? I recollect no time of my life anterior to my enthusiasm for anecdotes of glorious deeds, and to my projects of travelling over the world to acquire fame. At eight years of age, my heart beat when I heard of an hyena that had done some injury, and caused still more alarm, in our neighborhood, and the hope of meeting it was the object of all my walks. When I arrived at college, nothing ever interrupted my studies, except my ardent wish of studying without restraint. I never deserved to be chastised, but, in spite of my usual gentleness; it would have been dangerous to have attempted to do so; and I recollect with pleasure that, when I was to describe in rhetoric a perfeet courser, I sacrificed the hope of obgaining a premium, and described the one who, on perceiving the whip, threw down his rider. Republican anecdotes always delighted me; and, when my new connections wished to obtain for me a place at Court, I did not hesitate displeasing them to preserve my independence. I was in that frame of mind when I first learned the troubles in America: they only became thoroughly known in Europe in

Lafayette's tomb.

1776, and the memorable declaration of the 4th of July reached France at the close of that same year.

After having crowned herself with laurels and enriched herself with conquests, after having become mistress of all seas, and after having insulted all nations, England had turned her pride against her own colonies. North America had long been displeasing to her: she wished to add new vexations to former injuries, and to destroy the most sacred privileges. The Americans, attached to the mothercountry, contented themselves at first with merely uttering complaints. They only accused the ministry, and the whole nation rose up against them. They were termed insolent and rebellious, and at length declared the enemies of their country: thus did the obstinacy of the King, the violence of the ministers, and the arrogance of the English nation oblige thirteen of their colonies to render themselves independent. Such a glorious cause had never before attracted the attention of mankind: it was the last struggle of Liberty; and had she then been vanquished, neither hope nor asylum would have remained for her. The oppressors and oppressed were to receive a powerful lesson; the great work was to be accomplished, or the rights of humanity were to fall beneath its ruin. The destiny of France and that of her rival were to be decided at the same moment: England was to [290] lose, with the new States, an important commerce, of which she derived the sole advantage, one-quarter of her subjects, who were constantly augmenting by a

Design on the hilt of Lafayette's sword.

rapid increase of population and by emigration from all parts of Europe—in a word, more than half of the most beautiful portion of the British territory. But, if she retained possession of her thirteen colonies, all was ended for our West Indies, our possessions in Asia and Africa, our maritime commerce, and consequently our navy and our political existence.

(1776.) When I first learned the subject of this quarrel, my heart espoused warmly the cause of liberty, and I thought of nothing but of adding also the aid of my banner. Some circumstances, which it would be needless to relate, had taught me to expect only obstacles in this case front my own family: I depended, therefore, solely upon myself; and I ventured to adopt for a device on my arms these words, “Cur non?” that they might equally serve as an encouragement to myself, and as a reply to others. Silas Dane was then at Paris; but the ministers feared to receive him, and his voice was overpowered by the louder accents of Lord Stormont. He despatched privately to America some old arms, which were of little use, and some young officers, who did but little good, the whole directed by M. de Beaumarchais; and, when the English ambassador spoke to our Court, it denied having sent any cargoes, ordered those that were preparing to be discharged, and dismissed from our ports all American privateers. While wishing to address myself in a direct manner to Mr. Deane, I became the friend of Kalb, a German in our employ, who was applying for service with the insurgents (the expression in use at the time), and who became my interpreter. He was the person sent by M. de Choiseul to examine the English colonies; and on his return he received some money, but never succeeded in obtaining an audience, so little did that minister in reality think of the revolution whose retrograde movements some persons have inscribed to him! When I presented to Mr. Deane my boyish face (for I was scarcely nineteen years of age), I spoke more of my ardor in the cause than of my experience; but I dwelt much upon the effect my departure would excite in France, and he signed our mutual agreement. The secrecy with which this negotiation and my preparations were made appears almost a miracle: family, friends, ministers, French spies and English spies, all were kept completely in the dark as to my intentions. Among my discreet confidants, I owe much to M. du Boismartin, secretary of the Count de Broglie, and to the Count de Broglie himself, whose affectionate heart, when all his efforts to turn me from this [291] project had proved in vain, entered into my views with even paternal tenderness.

Preparations were making to send a vessel to America, when very bad tidings arrived from thence. New York, Long Island, White Plains, Fort Washington, and the Jerseys had seen the American forces successively destroyed by 33,000 Englishmen or Germans. Three thousand Americans alone remained in arms, and these were closely pursued by General Howe. From that moment all the credit of the insurgents vanished: to obtain a vessel for them was impossible. The envoys themselves thought it right to express to me their own discouragement, and persuade me to abandon my project. I called upon Mr. Deane, and I thanked him for his frankness. “Until now, sir,” said I, “you have only seen my ardor in your cause, and that may not prove at present wholly useless. I shall purchase a ship to carry out your officers. We must feel confidence in the future, and it is especially in the hour of danger that I wish to share your fortune.” My project was received with approbation; but it was necessary afterwards to find money, and to purchase and arm a vessel secretly: all this was accomplished with the greatest despatch.

The period was, however, approaching, which had been long fixed, for my taking a journey to England. I could not refuse to go without risking the discovery of my secret, and by consenting to take this journey I knew I could better conceal my preparations for a greater one. This last measure was also thought most expedient by Mm. Franklin and Deane, for the doctor himself was then in France; and, although I did not venture to go to his home, for fear of being seen, I corresponded with him through M. Carmichael, an American less generally known. I arrived in London with M. de Poix; and I first paid my respects to Bancroft, the American, and afterwards to his British Majesty. A youth of nineteen may be, perhaps too fond of playing a trick upon the King he is going to fight with, of dancing at the house of Lord Germain, minister for the English colonies, and at the house of Lord Rawdon, who had just returned from New York, and of seeing at the opera that Clinton whom he was afterwards to meet at Monmouth. But, while I concealed my intentions, I openly avowed my sentiments. I often defended the Americans; I rejoiced at their success at Trenton; and my spirit of opposition obtained for me an invitation to breakfast with Lord Shelbourne. I refused the offers made me to visit the seaports, the vessels fitting out against the

Obverse side of design.

rebels, and everything that might be construed into an abuse of confidence. At the end of three weeks, when it became necessary for me to return home, while refusing my uncle, the ambassador, to [292] accompany him to Court, I confided to him my strong desire to take a trip to Paris. He proposed saying that I was ill during my absence. I should not have made use of this stratagem myself, but I did not object to his doing so.

After having suffered dreadfully in the channel, and being reminded, as a consolation, how very short the voyage would be, I arrived at M. de Kalb's house in Paris, concealed myself three days at Chaillot, saw a few of my friends and some Americans, and set out for Bordeaux, where I was for some time unexpectedly delayed. I took advantage of that delay to send to Paris, from whence the intelligence I received was by no means encouraging; but, as my messenger was followed on the road by one from the government, I lost not a moment in setting sail, and the orders of my sovereign were only able to overtake me at Passage, a Spanish port, at which we stopped on our way. The letters from my own family were extremely violent, and those from the government were peremptory. I was forbidden to proceed to the American continent under the penalty of disobedience; I was enjoined to repair instantly to Marseilles, and await there further orders.1 A sufficient number of commentaries were not wanting upon the consequences of such an anathema, the laws of the state, and the power and displeasure of the government; but the grief of his wife, who was pregnant, and the thoughts of his family and friends, had far more effect upon M. de Lafayette. As his vessel could no longer be stopped, he returned to Bordeaux to enter into a justification of his own conduct; and, in a declaration to M. de Fumel, he took upon himself all the consequences of his present evasion. As the Court did not deign to relax in its determination, he wrote to M. de Maurepas that that silence was a tacit consent, and his own departure took place soon after that joking despatch. After having set out on the road to Marseilles, he retraced his steps, and, disguised as a courier, he had almost escaped all danger, when, at Saint Jean de Luz, a young girl recognized him; but a sign from him silenced her, and her adroit fidelity turned away all suspicion. It was thus that M. de Lafayette rejoined his ship, April 26, 1777; and on that same day, after six months anxiety and labor, he set sail for the American continent.

(1777.) As soon as M. de Lafayette had recovered from the effects of seasickness, he studied the language and trade he was adopting. A heavy ship, two bad cannon, and some guns could not have escaped from the smallest privateer. In his present situation, he resolved rather to blow up the vessel than to surrender. He concerted measures to achieve this end with a brave Dutchman named Bedaulx, whose sole alternative, if taken, would have been the gibbet. The captain insisted upon stopping at the islands; but government orders would have been found there, and he followed a direct course, less from choice than from compulsion. At 40 leagues from shore they were met by a small vessel. The captain turned pale, but the crew were attached to M. de Lafayette, and the officers were numerous: they made a show of resistance. It turned out, fortunately, to be an American ship, whom they vainly endeavored to keep up with; but scarcely had the former lost sight of M. de Lafayette's vessel, when it fell in with two English frigates—and this is not the only time when the elements seemed bent on opposing M. de Lafayette, as if with the intention of saving him. After having encountered for seven weeks various perils and chances, he arrived at Georgetown, in Carolina. Ascending the river in a canoe, his foot touched at length the American soil; and he swore that he would conquer or perish in that cause. Landing at midnight at Major Huger's house, he found a vessel sailing for France, which appeared only waiting for his letters. Several of the officers landed, others remained on board, and all hastened to proceed to Charlestown.

This beautiful city is worthy of its inhabitants; and everything there announced not only comfort, but even luxury. Without knowing much of M. de Lafayette, the Generals Howe. Moultrie, and Gulden received him with the utmost kindness and attention. The new works were shown [293] him, and also that battery which Moultrie afterwards defended so extremely well, and which the English appear, we must acknowledge, to have seized the only possible means of destroying. Several adventurers, the refuse of the islands, endeavored vainly to unite themselves to M. de Lafayette, and to infuse into his mind their own feelings and prejudices. Having procured horses, he set out with six officers for Philadelphia. His vessel had arrived; but it was no longer protected by fortune, and on its return home it was lost on the bar of Charlestown. To repair to the Congress of the United States, M. de Lafayette rode nearly 900 miles on horseback. Before reaching the capital of Pennsylvania, he was obliged to travel through the two Carolinas, Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware. While studying the language and customs of the inhabitants, he observed also new productions of nature and new methods of cultivation. Vast forests and immense rivers combine to give to that country an appearance of youth and majesty. After a fatiguing journey of one month he beheld at length that Philadelphia so well known in the present day, and whose future grandeur Penn appeared to designate when he laid the first stone of its foundation.

After having accomplished his noble manoeuvres at Trenton and Princeton, General Washington had remained in his camp at Middlebrook. The English, finding themselves frustrated in their first hopes, combined to make a decisive campaign. Burgoyne was already advancing with 10,000 men, preceded by his proclamation and his savages. Ticonderoga, a famous stand of arms, was abandoned by Saint-Clair. He drew upon himself much public odium by this deed, but he saved the only corps whom the militia could rally round. While the generals were busied assembling that militia, the Congress recalled them, sent Gates in their place, and used all possible means to support him. At that same time the great English army, of about 18,000 men, had sailed from New York, and the two Howes were uniting their forces for a secret enterprise. Rhode Island was occupied by an hostile corps; and General Clinton, who had remained at New York, was there preparing for an expedition. To be able to withstand so many various blows, General Washington, leaving Putnam on the North River, crossed over the Delaware, and encamped, with 11,000 men, within reach of Philadelphia.

It was under these circumstances that M. de Lafayette first arrived in America; but the moment, although important to the common cause, was peculiarly unfavorable to strangers. The Americans were displeased with the pretensions, and disgusted with the conduct, of many Frenchmen. The imprudent selections they had in some cases made, the extreme boldness of some foreign adventurers, the jealousy of the army, and strong national prejudices, all contributed to confound disinterested zeal with private ambition, and talents with quackery. Supported by the promises which had been given by Mr. Deane, a numerous band of foreigners besieged the Congress. Their chief was a clever but very imprudent man; and, although a good officer, his excessive vanity amounted almost to madness. With M. de Lafayette, Mr. Deane had sent out a fresh detachment; and every day such crowds arrived that the Congress had finally adopted the plan of not listening to any stranger. The coldness with which M. de Lafayette was received might have been taken as a dismissal; but, without appearing disconcerted by the manner in which the deputies addressed him, he entreated them to return to Congress, and read the following note:

After the sacrifices I have made, I have the right to exact two favors: one is, to serve at my own expense; the other is, to serve at first as volunteer.

The style, to which they were so little accustomed, awakened their attention: the despatches from the envoys were read over; and, in a very flattering resolution, the rank of major-general was granted to M. de Lafayette. Among the various officers who accompanied him, several were strangers to him. He was interested, however, for them all; and to those whose services were not accepted an indemnity for their trouble was granted. Some months afterwards M.—--drowned himself in the Schuylkill, and the loss of that impetuous and imprudent man was perhaps a fortunate circumstance.

The two Howes having appeared before [294] the capes of the Delaware, General Washington came to Philadelphia, and M. de Lafayette beheld for the first time that great man. Although he was surrounded by officers and citizens, it was impossible to mistake for a moment his majestic figure and deportment; nor was he less distinguished by the noble affability of his manner. M. de Lafayette accompanied him in his examination of the fortifications. Invited by the general to establish himself in his house, he looked upon it from that moment as his own: with this perfect ease and simplicity was formed the tie that united two friends, whose confidence and attachments were to be cemented by the strongest interests of humanity.

The American army, stationed some miles from Philadelphia, was waiting until the movements of the hostile army should be decided: the general himself reviewed the troops. M. de Lafayette arrived there the same day. About 11,000 men, ill armed, and still worse clothed, presented a strange spectacle to the eye of the young Frenchman. Their clothes were particolored, and many of them were almost naked. The best clad wore hunting shirts, large gray linen coats which were much used in Carolina. As to their military tactics, it will be sufficient to say that, for a regiment ranged in order of battle to move forward on the right of its line, it was necessary for the left to make a continued counter-march. They were always arranged in two lines, the smallest men in the first line: no other distinction as to height was ever observed. In spite of these disadvantages, the soldiers were fine, and the officers zealous; virtue stood in place of science, and each day added both to experience and discipline. Lord Stirling, more courageous than judicious, another general, who was often intoxicated, and Greene, whose talents were only then known to his immediate friends, commanded as majors-general. General Knox, who had changed the profession of bookseller to that of artillery officer, was there also, and had himself formed other officers, and created an artillery. “We must feel embarrassed,” said General Washington, on his arrival, “to exhibit ourselves before an officer who has just quitted French troops.” “It is to learn. and not to teach, that I come hither,” replied M. de Lafayette; and that modest tone, which was not common in Europeans, produced a very good effect.

After having menaced the Delaware, the English fleet again disappeared, and during some days the Americans amused themselves by making jokes at its expense. These jokes, however, ceased when it reappeared in the Chesapeake; and, in order to approach it more closely during the disembarkation, the patriot army crossed through the town. Their heads covered with green branches, and marching to the sound of drums and fifes, these soldiers, in spite of their state of nudity, offered an agreeable spectacle to the eyes of all the citizens. General Washington was marching at their head, and M. de Lafayette was by his side. The army stationed itself upon the heights of Wilmington, and that of the enemy landed in the Elk River, at the bottom of Chesapeake Bay. The very day they landed, General Washington exposed himself to danger in the most imprudent manner. After having reconnoitred for a long time the enemy's position, he was overtaken by a storm during a very dark night, entered a farm-house close to the hostile army, and, from a reluctance to change his own opinion, remained there with General Greene, M. de Lafayette, and their aide-de-camp; but, when at daybreak he quitted the farm, he acknowledged that any one traitor might have caused his ruin. Some days later Sullivan's division joined the army, which augmented it in all to 13,000 men. This Major-General Sullivan made a good beginning, but a bad ending, in an intended surprise on Staten Island.

If, by making too extensive a plan of attack, the English committed a great error, it must also be acknowledged that the Americans were not irreproachable in their manner of defence. Burgoyne, leading his army, with their heads bent upon the ground, into woods from whence he could not extricate them, dragged on, upon a single road, his numerous cannon and rich military equipages. Certain of not being attacked from behind, the Americans could dispute every step they took; this kind of warfare attracted the militia, and Gates improved each day in strength. Every tree [295] sheltered a skilful rifleman; and the resources offered by military tactics, and the talents even of their chiefs, had become useless to the English. The corps left in New York could, it is true, laugh at the corps of Putnam, but it was too feeble to succor Burgoyne; and, instead of being able to secure his triumph, its own fate was even dependent upon his. During that time Howe was only thinking of Philadelphia, and it was at the expense of the northern expedition that he was repairing thither by an enormous circuit. But, on the other side, why were the English permitted to land so tranquilly? Why was the moment allowed to pass when their army was divided by the river Elk? Why in the South were so many false movements and so much hesitation displayed? Because the Americans had hitherto had combats, but not battles; because, instead of harassing an army and disputing hollows, they were obliged to protect an open city, and manoeuvre in a plain, close to an hostile army, who, by attacking them from behind, might completely ruin them. General Washington, had he followed the advice of the people, would have enclosed his army in a city, and thus have intrusted to one hazard the fate of America; but, while refusing to commit such an act of folly, he was obliged to make some sacrifice, and gratify the nation by a battle. Europe even expected it; and, although he had been created a dictator for six months, the general thought he ought to submit everything to the orders of Congress and to the deliberations of a council of war.

After having advanced as far as Wilmington, the general had detached 1,000 men under Maxwell, the most ancient brigadier in the army. At the first march of the English, he was beaten by their advance-guard near Christiana Bridge. During that time the army took but an indifferent station at Newport. They then removed a little south, waited two days for the enemy, and at the moment when these were marching upon their right wing, a nocturnal council of war decided that the army was to proceed to the Brandywine. The stream bearing that name covered its front. The ford called Chad's Ford, placed nearly in the centre, was defended by batteries. It was in that hardly examined station that, in obedience to a letter from Congress, the Americans awaited the battle. The evening of Sept. 10 Howe advanced in two columns, and, by a very fine movement, the left column (about 8,000 men under Lord Cornwallis, with the grenadiers and guards) directed themselves towards the fords of Birmingham, 3 miles on our right: the other column continued its road, and about nine o'clock in the morning it appeared on the other side of the stream. The enemy was so near the skirts of the wood that it was impossible to judge of his force: some time was lost in a mutual cannonading. General Washington walked along his two lines, and was received with acclamations which seemed to promise him success. The intelligence that was received of the movements of Cornwallis was both confused and contradictory. Owing to the conformity of name between two roads that were of equal length and parallel to each other, the best officers were mistaken in their reports. The only musket-shots that had been fired were from Maxwell, who killed several of the enemy, but was driven back upon the left of the American army, across a ford by which he had before advanced. Three thousand militia had been added to the army, but they were placed in the rear to guard some still more distant militia, and took no part themselves in the action. Such was the situation of the troops when they learned the march of Lord Cornwallis towards the scarcely known fords of Birmingham: they then detached three divisions, forming about 5,000 men, under the Generals Sullivan, Stirling, and Stephen. M. de Lafayette, as volunteer, had always accompanied the general. The left wing remaining in a state of tranquillity, and the right appearing fated to receive all the heavy blows, he obtained permission to join Sullivan. At his arrival, which seemed to inspirit the troops, he found that, the enemy having crossed the ford, the corps of Sullivan had scarcely had time to form itself on a line in front of a thinly wooded forest. A few moments after, Lord Cornwallis formed in the finest order. Advancing across the plain, his first line opened a brisk fire of musketry and artillery. The Americans [296] returned the fire, and did much injury to the enemy; but, their right and left wings having given way, the generals and several officers joined the central division, in which were M. de Lafayette and Stirling, and of which 800 men were commanded in a most brilliant manner by Conway, an Irishman, in the service of France. By separating that division from its two wings, and advancing through an open plain, in which they lost many men, the enemy united all his fire upon the centre: the confusion became extreme; and it was while M. de Lafayette was rallying the troops that a ball passed through his leg. At that moment all those remaining on the field gave way. M. de Lafayette was indebted to Gimat, his aide-de-camp, for the happiness of getting upon his horse. General Washington arrived from a distance with fresh troops. M. de Lafayette was preparing to join him, when loss of blood obliged him to stop and have his wound bandaged: he was even very near being taken. Fugitives, cannon, and baggage now crowded without order into the road leading to Chester. The general employed the remaining daylight in checking the enemy: some regiments behaved extremely well, but the disorder was complete. During that time the ford of Chad was forced, the cannon taken, and the Chester road became the common retreat of the whole army. In the midst of that dreadful confusion, and during the darkness of the night, it was impossible to recover; but at Chester, 12 miles from the field of battle, they met with a bridge which it was necessary to cross. M. de Lafayette occupied himself in arresting the fugitives. Some degree of order was re-established; the generals and the commander-in-chief arrived; and he had leisure to have his wound dressed.

It was thus, at 26 miles from Philadelphia, that the fate of that town was decided (11th September, 1777). The inhabitants had heard every cannon that was fired there. The two parties, assembled in two distinct bands in all the squares and public places, had awaited the event in silence. The last courier at length arrived, and the friends of liberty were thrown into consternation. The Americans had lost from 1,000 to 1,200 men. Howe's army was composed of about 12,000 men. Their losses had been so considerable that their surgeons, and those in the country, were found insufficient; and they requested the American army to supply them with some for their prisoners. If the enemy had marched to Derby, the army would have been cut up and destroyed. They lost an all-important night; and this was perhaps their greatest fault during a war in which they committed so many errors.

M. de Lafayette, having been conveyed by water to Philadelphia, was carefully attended to by the citizens, who were all interested in his situation and extreme youth. That same evening the Congress determined to quit the city. A vast number of the inhabitants deserted their own hearths. Whole families, abandoning their possessions, and uncertain of the future, took refuge in the mountains. M. de Lafayette was carried to Bristol in a boat; he there saw the fugitive Congress, who only assembled again on the other side of the Susquehanna. He was himself conducted to Bethlehem, a Moravian establishment, where the mild religion of the brotherhood, the community of fortune, education, and interests, amongst that large and simple family, formed a striking contrast to scenes of blood and the convulsions occasioned by a civil war.

After the Brandywine defeat the two armies manoeuvred along the banks of the Schuylkill. General Washington still remained on a height above the enemy, and completely out of his reach; nor had they again an opportunity of cutting him off. Waine, an American brigadier, was detached to observe the English; but, being surprised during the night, near the White-Horse, by General Grey, he lost there the greatest part of his corps. At length Howe crossed the Schuylkill at Swede's Ford, and Lord Cornwallis entered Philadelphia.

In spite of the declaration of independence of the new States, everything there bore the appearance of a civil war. The names of Whig and Tory distinguished the republicans and royalists; the English army was still called the regular troops; the British sovereign was always designated by the name of the King. Provinces, towns, and families were divided by the [297] violence of party spirit: brothers, officers in the two opposing armies, meeting by chance in their father's house, have seized their arms to fight with each other. Whilst, in all the rancor of their pride, the English committed horrible acts of license and cruelty, whilst discipline dragged in her train those venal Germans who knew only how to kill, burn, and pillage, in that same army were seen regiments of Americans, who, trampling under foot their brethren, assisted in enslaving their wasted country. Each canton contained a still greater number whose sole object was to injure the friends of liberty and give information to those of despotism. To these inveterate Tories must be added the number of those whom fear, private interest, or religion, rendered adverse to the war. If the Presbyterians, the children of Cromwell and Fairfax, detested royalty, the Lutherans, who had sprung from it, were divided among themselves. The Quakers hated slaughter, but served willingly as guides to the royal troops. Insurrections were by no means uncommon: near the enemy's stations, farmers often shot each other; robbers were even encouraged. The republican chiefs were exposed to great dangers when they travelled through the country. It was always necessary for them to declare that they should pass the night in one house, then take possession of another, barricade themselves in it, and only sleep with their arms by their side. In the midst of these troubles, M. de Lafayette was no longer considered as a stranger: never was any adoption more complete than his own; and whilst, in the councils of war, he trembled when he considered that his voice (at twenty years of age) might decide the fate of two worlds, he was also initiated in those deliberations in which, by reassuring the Whigs, intimidating the Tories, supporting an ideal money, and redoubling their firmness in the hour of adversity, the American chiefs conducted that revolution through so many obstacles.

[Here follow accounts of Lafayette's convalescence at Bethlehem and his success at Gloucester, of Gates's campaign in the north, and the establishment of the melancholy headquarters at Valley Forge.]

Notwithstanding the success in the north, the situation of the Americans had never been more critical than at the present moment. A paper money, without any certain foundation, and unmixed with any specie, was both counterfeited by the enemy and discredited by their partisans. They feared to establish taxes, and had still less the power of levying them. The people, who had risen against the taxation of England, were astonished at paying still heavier taxes now; and the government was without any power to enforce them. On the other side, New York and Philadelphia were overstocked with gold and various merchandises: the threatened penalty of death could not stop a communication that was but too easy. To refuse the payment of taxes, to depreciate the paper currency, and feed the enemy, was a certain method of attaining wealth: privations and misery were only experienced by good citizens. Each proclamation of the English was supported by their seductions, their riches, and the intrigues of the Tories. Whilst a numerous garrison lived sumptuously at New York, some hundreds of men, ill-clothed and ill-fed, wandered upon the shores of the Hudson. The army of Philadelphia, freshly recruited from Europe, abundantly supplied with everything they could require, consisted of 18,000 men: that of Valley Forge was successively reduced to 5,000 men; and two marches on the fine Lancaster road (on which road also was a chain of magazines), by establishing the English in the rear of their right flank, would have rendered their position untenable, from which, however, they had no means of retiring. The unfortunate soldiers were in want of everything. They had neither coats, hats, shirts, nor shoes: their feet and legs froze till they became black, and it was often necessary to amputate them. From want of money, they could neither obtain provisions nor any means of transport: the colonels were often reduced to two rations, and sometimes even to one. The army frequently remained whole days without provisions, and the patient endurance of both soldiers and officers was a miracle which each moment served to renew. But the sight of their misery prevented new engagements: it was almost impossible to levy recruits; [298] it was easy to desert into the interior of the country. The sacred fire of liberty was not extinguished, it is true, and the majority of the citizens detested British tyranny; but the triumph of the north and the tranquillity of the south had lulled to sleep two-thirds of the continent. The remaining part was harassed by two armies; and throughout this revolution the greatest difficulty was that, in order to conceal misfortunes from the enemy, it was necessary to conceal them from the nation also; that, by awakening the one, information was likewise given to the other; and that fatal blows would have been struck upon the weakest points before democratic tardiness could have been roused to support them. It was from this cause that during the whole war the real force of the army was always kept a profound secret. Even Congress was not apprised of it, and the generals were often themselves deceived. General Washington never placed unlimited confidence in any person, except in M. de Lafayette, because for him alone, perhaps, confidence sprung from warm affection. As the situation grew more critical, discipline became more necessary. In the course of his nocturnal rounds, in the midst of heavy snows, M. de Lafayette was obliged to break some negligent officers. He adopted in every respect the American dress, habits, and food. He wished to be more simple, frugal, and austere than the Americans themselves. Brought up in the lap of luxury, he suddenly changed his whole manner of living; and his constitution bent itself to privation as well as to fatigue. He always took the liberty of freely writing his ideas to Congress, or, in imitation of the prudence of the general, he gave his opinion to some members of a corps or State Assembly, that, being adopted by them, it might be brought forward in the deliberations of Congress.

In addition to the difficulties which lasted during the whole of the war the winter of Valley Forge recalls others still more painful. At Yorktown, behind the Susquehanna, Congress was divided into two factions, which, in spite of their distinction of south and east, did not the less occasion a separation between members of the same State. The deputies substituted their private intrigues for the wishes of the nation. Several impartial men had retired: several States had but one Representative, and in some cases not even one. Party spirit was so strong that three years afterwards Congress still felt the effects of it. Any great event, however, would awaken their patriotism; and, when Burgoyne declared that his treaty had been broken, means were found to stop the departure of his troops, which everything, even the few provisions for the transports, had foolishly betrayed. But all these divisions failed to produce the greatest of calamities—the loss of the only man capable of conducting the revolution.

Gates was at Yorktown, where he inspired respect by his manners, promises, and European acquirements. Amongst the deputies who united themselves to him may be numbered the Lees, Virginians, enemies of Washington, and the two Adamses. Mifflin, quartermaster-general, aided him with his talents and brilliant eloquence. They required a name to bring forward in the plot, and they selected Conway, who fancied himself the chief of a party. To praise Gates, with a certain portion of the continent and the troops, was a pretext for speaking of themselves. The people attach themselves to prosperous generals, and the commander-in-chief had been unsuccessful. His own character inspired respect and affection; but Greene, Hamilton, Knox, his best friends, were sadly defamed. The Tories fomented these dissensions. The presidency of the war office, which had been created for Gates, restricted the power of the general. This was not the only inconvenience. A committee from Congress arrived at the camp, and the attack of Philadelphia was daringly proposed. The most shrewd people did not believe that Gates was the real object of this intrigue. Though a good officer, he had not the power to assert himself. He would have given place to the famous General Lee, then a prisoner of the English, whose first care would have been to have made over to them his friends and all America.

Attached to the general, and still more so to the cause, M. de Lafayette did not hesitate for a moment; and, in spite of the caresses of one party, he remained faithful to the other whose ruin seemed [299] then impending. He saw and corresponded frequently with the general, and often discussed with him his own private situation, and the effect that various meliorations in the army might produce. Having sent for his wife to the camp, the general preserved in his deportment the noble composure which belongs to a strong and virtuous mind. “I have not sought for this place,” said he to M. de Lafayette: “if I am displeasing to the nation, I will retire; but until then I will oppose all intrigues.”

(1778.) The 22d of January Congress resolved that Canada should be entered, and the choice fell upon M. de Lafayette. The generals Conway and Stark were placed under him. Hoping to intoxicate and govern so young a commander, the war office, without consulting the commander-in-chief, wrote to him to go and await his further instructions at Albany. But, after having won over by his arguments the committee which Congress had sent to the camp, M. de Lafayette hastened to Yorktown, and declared there “that he required circumstantial orders, a statement of the means to be employed, the certainty of not deceiving the Canadians, an augmentation of generals, and rank for several Frenchmen, fully impressed,” he added, “with the various duties and advantages they derived from their name; but the first condition he demanded was not to be made, like Gates, independent of General Washington.” At Gates's own house he braved the whole party, and threw them into confusion by making them drink the health of their general.2

[Here follow accounts of Lafayette's expedition to Albany and the Mohawk, and his return in the spring to Philadelphia, where a short time after Silas Deane arrived with the treaty between France and the United States.]

By quitting France in so public a manner, M. de Lafayette had served the cause of the Revolution. One portion of society was anxious for his success; and the attention of the other had become, to say the least, somewhat occupied in the struggle. If a spirit of emulation made those connected with the Court desirous of war, the rest of the nation supported the young rebel, and followed with interest all his movements; and it is well known that the rupture that ensued was truly a national one. Some circumstances relating to his departure having displeased the Court of London, M. de Lafayette omitted nothing that could draw more closely together the nations whose union he so ardently desired. The incredible prejudices of the Americans had been augmented by the conduct of the first Frenchmen who had joined them. These men gradually disappeared, and all those who remained were remarkable for talents, or at least for probity. They became the friends of M. de Lafayette, who sincerely sought out all the national prejudices of the Americans against his countrymen for the purpose of overcoming them. Love and respect for the name of Frenchmen animated his letters and speeches, and he wished the affection that was granted to him individually to become completely national. On the other side, when writing to Europe, he denied the reports made by discontented adventurers, by good officers who were piqued at not having been employed, and by those men who, serving themselves in the army, wished to be witty or amusing by the political contrasts they described in their letters. But, without giving a circumstantial account of what private influence achieved, it is certain that enthusiasm for the cause, and esteem for its defenders, had electrified all France, and that the affair of Saratoga decided the ministerial commotion. Bills of conciliation passed in the English House of Parliament, the five commissioners were sent to offer far more than had been demanded until then. No longer waiting to see how things would turn out, M. de Maurepas yielded to the public wish, and what his luminous mind had projected the more unchanging disposition of M. de Vergennes put in execution. A treaty was generously entered into with Franklin. Deane, and Arthur Lee, and that treaty was announced with more [300] confidence than had been for some time displayed. But the war was not sufficiently foreseen, or at least sufficient preparations were not made. The most singular fact is that, at the very period when the firm resistance of the Court of France had guided the conduct of two courts, America had fallen herself into such a state of weakness that she was on the very brink of ruin. The 2d of May the army made a bonfire; and M. de Lafayette, ornamented with a white scarf, proceeded to the spot, accompanied by all the French. Since the arrival of the conciliatory bills he had never ceased writing against the commission, and against every commissioner. The advances of these men were ill-received by Congress; and, foreseeing a French co-operation, the enemy began to think of quitting Philadelphia.

[Here follows the account of the battle of Monmouth, after which Lafayette and Washington “passed the night lying on the same mantle, talking over the conduct of Lee” ; and the account of the Rhode Island campaign.]

Soon afterwards, during M. de Lafayette's residence at Philadelphia, the commission received its death-blow. Whilst he was breakfasting with the members of Congress, the different measures proper to be pursued were frankly and cheerfully discussed. The correspondence which took place at that time is generally known. The Congress remained ever noble, firm, and faithful to its allies. Secretary Thomson, in his last letter to Sir Henry Clinton, informs him that “the Congress does not answer impertinent letters.” To conceal nothing from the people, all the proposals were invariably printed; but able writers were employed in pointing out the errors they contained. In that happy country, where each man understood and attended to public affairs, the newspapers became powerful instruments to aid the revolution. The same spirit was also breathed from the pulpit, for the Bible in many places favors republicanism. M. de Lafayette, having once reproached an Anglican minister with speaking only of heaven, went to hear him preach the following Sunday, and the words the execrable house of Hanover proved the docility of the minister.

M. de Lafayette addressed a polite letter to the French minister, and wrote also to the Congress that, “whilst he believed himself free, he had supported the cause under the American banner; that his country was now at war, and that his services were first due to her; that he hoped to return; and that he should always retain his zealous interest for the United States.” The Congress not only granted him an unlimited leave of absence, but added to it the most flattering expressions of gratitude. It was resolved that a sword, covered with emblems, should be presented to him, in the name of the United States, by their minister in France: they wrote to the King; and the Alliance, of thirty-six guns, their finest ship, was chosen to carry him back to Europe. M. de Lafayette would neither receive from them anything farther, nor allow them to ask any favor for him at the Court of France. But the Congress, when proposing a co-operation in Canada, expressed its wish of seeing the arrangement of the affair confided to him. This project was afterwards deferred from the general's not entertaining hopes of its ultimate success; but, although old prejudices were much softened—although the conduct of the admiral and the squadron had excited universal approbation—the Congress, the general, and, in short, every one, told M. de Lafayette that, in the whole circuit of the thirteen States, vessels only were required, and that the appearance of a French corps would alarm the nation. As M. de Lafayette was obliged to embark at Boston, he set out again on this journey of 400 miles. He hoped, also, that he should be able to take leave of M. d'estaing, who had offered to accompany him to the islands, and whose friendship and misfortunes affected him as deeply as his active genius and patriotic courage excited his admiration.

Heated by fatiguing journeys and overexertion, and still more by the grief lie had experienced at Rhode Island, and having afterwards labored hard, drunk freely. and passed several sleepless nights at Philadelphia, M. de Lafayette proceeded on horseback, in a high state of fever, and during a pelting autumnal rain. Fetes were given in compliment to him [301] throughout his journey, and he endeavored to trengthen himself with wine, tea, and rum; but at Fishkill, 8 miles from headquarters, he was obliged to yield to the violence of an inflammatory fever. He was soon reduced to the last extremity, and the report of his approaching death distressed the army, by whom he was called the soldier's friend; and the whole nation were unanimous in expressing their good wishes and regrets for the marquis, the name by which he was exclusively designated. From the first moment, Cockran, director of the hospitals, left all his other occupations to attend to him alone. General Washington came every day to inquire after his friend; but, fearing to agitate him, he only conversed with the physician, and returned home with tearful eyes, and a heart oppressed with grief. Suffering acutely from a raging fever and violent headache, M. de Lafayette felt convinced that he was dying, but did not lose for a moment the clearness of his understanding. Having taken measures to be apprised of the approach of death, he regretted that he could not hope again to see his country and the dearest objects of his affection. Far from foreseeing the happy fate that awaited him, he would willingly have exchanged his future chance of life, in spite of his one-and-twenty years, for the certainty of living but for three months, on the condition of again seeing his friends and witnessing the happy termination of the American war. But to the assistance of medical art and the assiduous care of Dr. Cockran nature added the alarming, though salutary, remedy of an hemorrhage.

At the expiration of three months, M. de Lafayette's life was no longer in danger: he was at length allowed to see the general, and think of public affairs. After having spent some days together, and spoken of their past labors, present situations, and future projects, General Washington and he took a tender and painful leave of each other. At the same time that the enemies of this great man have accused him of insensibility, they have acknowledged his tenderness for M. de Lafayette; and how is it possible that he should not have been warmly cherished by his disciple, he who, uniting all that is good to all that is great, is even more sublime from his virtues than from his talents? Had he been a common soldier, he would have been the bravest in the ranks; had he been an obscure citizen, all his neighbors would have respected him. With a heart and mind equally correctly formed, he judged both of himself and circumstances with strict impartiality. Nature, whilst creating him expressly for that revolution, conferred an honor upon herself; and, to show her work to the greatest possible advantage, she constituted it in such a peculiar manner that each distinct quality would have failed in producing the end required, had it not been sustained by all the others.

In spite of his extreme debility, M. de Lafayette, accompanied by his physician, repaired on horseback to Boston, where Madeira wine effectually restored his health. The crew of the Alliance was not complete, and the council offered to institute a press; but M. de Lafayette would not consent to this method of obtaining sailors, and it was at length resolved to make up the required number by embarking some English deserters, together with some volunteers from among the prisoners. After he had written to Canada, and sent some necklaces to a few of the savage tribes, Brice and Nevil, his aides-de-camp, bore his farewell addresses to the Congress, the general, and his friends. The inhabitants of Boston, who had given him so many proofs of their kindness and attention, renewed their marks of affection at his departure; and the Alliance sailed on the 11th of January. . .3

When I saw the port of Brest receive and salute the banner which floated on my frigate, I recalled to mind the state of my country and of America, and my peculiar situation when I quitted France.

[Here follows the account of his warm welcome at Paris.]

Amidst the various tumultuous scenes that occupied my mind, I did not forget our revolution, of which the ultimate success still appeared uncertain. Accustomed to sec great interests supported by slender means. I often said to myself that the expense of one fete would have organized the army of the United States; and, to [302] clothe that army, I would willingly, according to the expression of M. de Maurepas, have unfurnished the palace of Versailles.

Eulogy by John Quincy Adams.

On Dec. 31, 1834, ex-President Adams delivered the following oration on the life and services to America of Lafayette, in Washington, D. C.:

On the 6th of September, 1757, Lafayette was born. The kings of France and Britain were seated upon their thrones by virtue of the principle of hereditary succession, variously modified and blended with different forms of religious faith, and they were waging war against each other, and exhausting the blood and treasure of their people for causes in which neither of the nations had any beneficial or lawful interest.

In this war the father of Lafayette fell in the cause of his King, but not of his country. He was an officer of an invading army, the instrument of his sovereign's wanton ambition and lust of conquest. The people of the electorate of Hanover had done no wrong to him or to his country. When his son came to an age capable of understanding the irreparable loss that he had suffered, and to reflect upon the causes of his father's fate, there was no drop of consolation mingled in the cup, from the consideration that he had died for his country. And when the youthful mind was awakened to meditation upon the rights of mankind, the principles of freedom, and theories of government, it cannot be difficult to perceive, in the illustrations of his own family records, the source of that aversion to hereditary rule, perhaps the most distinguishing feature of his political opinions, and to which he adhered through all the vicissitudes of his life.

In the same war, and at the same time, George Washington was armed, a loyal subject, in support of his King; but to him that was also the cause of his country. His commission was not in the army of George II., but issued under the authority of the colony of Virginia, the province in which he received his birth. On the borders of that province, the war in its most horrid forms was waged—not a war of mercy, and of courtesy, like that of the civilized embattled legions of Europe—but war to the knife; the war of Indian savages, terrible to man, but more terrible to the tender sex, and most terrible to helpless infancy. In defence of his country against the ravages of such a war, Washington, in the dawn of manhood, had drawn his sword, as if Providence, with deliberate purpose, had sanctified for him the practice of war, all detestable and unhallowed as it is, that he might, in a cause, virtuous and exalted by its motive and its end, be trained and fitted in a congenial school to march in after times the leader of heroes in the war of his country's independence.

At the time of the birth of Lafayette, this war, which was to make him a fatherless child, and in which Washington was laying broad and deep, in the defence and protection of his native land, the foundations of his unrivalled renown, was but in its early stage. It was to continue five years longer, and was to close with the total extinguishment of the colonial dominion of France on the continent of North America. The deep humiliation of France, and the triumphant ascendency on this continent of her rival, were the first results of this great national conflict. The complete expulsion of France from North America seemed to the superficial vision of men to fix the British power over these extensive regions on foundations immovable as the everlasting hills.

Let us pass in imagination a period of only twenty years, and alight upon the borders of the River Brandywine. Washington is commander-in-chief of the armies of the United States of America; war is again raging in the heart of his native land; hostile armies of one and the same name, blood, and language, are arrayed for battle on the banks of the stream; and Philadelphia, where the United States are in Congress assembled, and whence their decree of independence has gone forth, is the destined prize to the conflict of the day. Who is that tall, slender youth, of foreign air and aspect, scarcely emerged from the years of boyhood, and fresh from the walls of a college; fighting, a volunteer, at the side of Washington, bleeding, unconsciously to himself, and rallying his men to secure [303] the retreat of the scattered American ranks? It is Gilbert Motier de Lafayette, the son of the victim of Minden; and he is bleeding in the cause of North American independence and of freedom.

We pause one moment to inquire what was this cause of North American independence, and what were the motives and inducements to the youthful stranger to devote himself, his life, and fortune to it.

The people of the British colonies in North America, after a controversy of ten years duration with their sovereign beyond the seas, upon an attempt by him and his Parliament to tax them without their consent, had been constrained by necessity to declare themselves independent—to dissolve the tie of their allegiance to him—to renounce their right to his protection, and to assume their station among the independent civilized nations of the earth. This had been done with a deliberation and solemnity unexampled in the history of the world; done in the midst of a civil war, differing in character from any of those which for centuries before had desolated Europe. The war had arisen upon a question between the rights of the people and the powers of their government. The discussions, in the progress of the controversy, had opened to the contemplations of men the first foundations of civil society and of government. The war of independence began by litigation upon a petty stamp on paper, and a tax of threepence a pound upon tea; but these broke up the fountains of the great deep, and the deluge ensued. Had the British Parliament the right to tax the people of the colonies in another hemisphere, not represented in the imperial legislature? They affirmed they had; the people of the colonies insisted they had not. There were ten years of pleading before they came to an issue; and all the legitimate sources of power, and all the primitive elements of freedom, were scrutinized, debated, analyzed, and elucidated before the lighting of the torch of Ate, and her cry of havoc upon letting slip the dogs of war.

When the day of conflict came, the issue of the contest was necessarily changed. The people of the colonies had maintained the contest on the principle of resisting the invasion of chartered rights—first by argument and remonstrance, and finally, by appeal to the sword. But with the war came the necessary exercise of sovereign powers. The Declaration of Independence justified itself as the only possible remedy for insufferable wrongs. It seated itself upon the first foundations of the law of nature, and the incontestable doctrine of human rights. There was no longer any question of the constitutional powers of the British Parliament, or of violated colonial charters. Thenceforward the American nation supported its existence by war; and the British nation, by war, was contending for conquest. As, between the two parties, the single question at issue was independence—but in the confederate existence of the North American Union, Liberty—not only their own liberty, but the vital principle of liberty to the whole race of civilized man was involved.

It was at this stage of the conflict, and immediately after the Declaration of Independence, that it drew the attention, and called into action the moral sensibilities and the intellectual faculties of Lafayette, then in the nineteenth year of his age.

The war was revolutionary. It began by the dissolution of the British government in the colonies; the people of which were, by that operation left without any government whatever. They were then at one and the same time maintaining their independent national existence by war, and forming new social compacts for their own government thenceforward. The construction of civil society; the extent and the limitations of organized power; the establishment of a system of government combining the greatest enlargement of individual liberty with the most perfect preservation of public order, were the continual occupations of every mind. The consequences of this state of things to the history of mankind, and especially of Europe, were foreseen by none. Europe saw nothing but the war; a people struggling for liberty, and against oppression; and the people in every part of Europe sympathized with the people of the American colonies.

With their governments it was not so. The people of the American colonies were [304] insurgents; all governments abhor insurrection. They were revolted colonists; the great maritime powers of Europe had colonies of their own, to which the example of resistance against oppression might be contagious. The American colonists were stigmatized in all the official acts of the British government as rebels; and rebellion to the governing part of mankind is as the sin of witchcraft. The governments of Europe, therefore, were at heart, on the side of the British government in this war, and the people of Europe were on the side of the American people.

Lafayette, by his position and condition in life, was one of those who, governed by the ordinary impulses which influence and control the conduct of men, would have sided in sentiment with the royal cause.

Lafayette was born a subject of the most absolute and most splendid monarchy of Europe: and in the highest rank of her proud and chivalrous nobility. He had been educated at the college of the University of Paris, founded by the royal munificence of Louis XIV., or Cardinal Richelieu. Left an orphan in early childhood, with the inheritance of a princely fortune, he had been married at sixteen years of age to a daughter of the house of Noailles, the most distinguished family of the kingdom, scarcely deemed in public consideration inferior to that which wore the crown. He came into active life, at the change from boy to man, a husband and a father, in the full enjoyment of everything that avarice could covet, with a certain prospect before him of all that ambition could crave. Happy in his domestic affections, incapable, from the benignity of his nature, of envy, hatred, or revenge, a life of “ignoble ease and indolent repose” seemed to be that which nature and fortune had combined to prepare before him. To men of ordinary mould this condition would have led to a life of luxurious apathy and sensual indulgence. Such was the life into which, from the operation of the same causes, Louis XV. had sunk, with his household and Court, while Lafayette was rising to manhood surrounded by the contamination of their example. Had his natural endowments been even of the higher and nobler order of such as adhere to virtue even in the lap of prosperity and in the bosom of temptation, he might have lived and died a pattern of the nobility of France, to be classed, in after times, with the Turennes and the Montausiers of the age of Louis XIV., or with the Villars or the Lamoignons of the age immediately preceding his own.

But, as in the firmament of heaven that rolls over our heads there is, among the stars of the first magnitude, one so preeminent in splendor as, in the opinion of astronomers, to constitute a class by itself, so in the 1,400 years of the French monarchy, among the multitudes of great and mighty men which it has evolved, the name of Lafayette stands unrivalled in the solitude of glory.

In entering upon the threshold of life a career was to open before him. He had the option of the court and the camp. An office was tendered to him in the household of the King's brother, the Count de Provence, since successively a royal exile and a reinstated King. The servitude and inaction of a court had no charms for him; he preferred a commission in the army, and at the time of the Declaration of Independence was a captain of dragoons in garrison at Metz.

There, at an entertainment given by his relative, the Marechal de Broglie, the commandant of the place, to the Duke of Gloucester, brother to the British King, and then a transient traveller through that part of France, he learns, as an incident of intelligence received that morning by the English prince from London, that the Congress of rebels at Philadelphia had issued a declaration of independence. A conversation ensues upon the causes which have contributed to produce this event, and upon the consequences which may be expected to flow from it. The imagination of Lafayette has caught across the Atlantic tide the spark emitted from the Declaration of Independence, his heart has kindled at the shock, and, before he slumbers upon his pillow, he has resolved to devote his life and fortune to the cause.

You have before you the cause and the man. The self-devotion of Lafayette was twofold. First to the people, maintaining a bold and seemingly desperate struggle against oppression, and for [305] national existence. Secondly, and chiefly, to the principles of their declaration, which then first unfurled before his eyes the consecrated standard of human rights. To that standard, without an instant of hesitation, he repaired. Where it would lead him, it is scarcely probable that he himself then foresaw. It was then identical with the stars and stripes of the American Union, floating to the breeze from the Hall of Independence, at Philadelphia. Nor sordid avarice, nor vulgar ambition, could point his footsteps to the pathway leading to that banner. To the love of ease or pleasure nothing could be more repulsive. Something may be allowed to the beatings of the youthful breast, which make ambition virtue, and something to the spirit of military adventures imbibed from his profession, and which he felt in common with many others. France, Germany, Poland, furnished to the armies of this Union, in our revolutionary struggle, no inconsiderable number of officers of high rank and distinguished merit. The names of Pulaski and De Kalb are numbered among the martyrs of our freedom, and their ashes repose in our soil side by side with the canonized bones of Warren and of Montgomery. To the virtues of Lafayette, a more protracted career and happier earthly destiny were reserved. To the moral principle of political action, the sacrifices of no other man were comparable to his. Youth, health, fortune; the favor of his King; the enjoyment of ease and pleasure; even the choicest blessings of domestic felicity—he gave them all for toil and danger in a distant land, and an almost hopeless cause; but it was the cause of justice, and of the rights of humankind.

The resolve is firmly fixed, and it now remains to be carried into execution. On Dec. 7, 1776, Silas Deane, then a secret agent of the American Congress at Paris, stipulates with the Marquis de Lafayette that he shall receive a commission, to date from that day, of major-general in the army of the United States: and the marquis stipulates, in return, to depart when and how Mr. Deane shall judge proper, to serve the United States with all possible zeal, without pay or emolument, reserving to himself only the liberty of returning to Europe, if his family or his King should recall him.

Neither his family nor his King were willing that he should depart; nor had Mr. Deane the power, either to conclude this contract, or to furnish the means of his conveyance to America. Difficulties rise up before him only to be dispersed, and obstacles thicken only to be surmounted. The day after the signing of the contract, Mr. Deane's agency was superseded by the arrival of Dr. Benjamin Franklin and Arthur Lee as his colleagues in commission; nor did they think themselves authorized to confirm his engagements. Lafayette is not to be discouraged. The commissioners extenuate nothing of the unpromising condition of their cause. Mr. Deane avows his inability to furnish him with a passage to the United States. “The more desperate the cause,” says Lafayette, “the greater need has it of my services; and, if Mr. Deane has no vessel for my passage, I shall purchase one for myself, and will traverse the ocean with a selected company of my own.”

Other impediments arise. His design becomes known to the British ambassador at the Court of Versailles, who remonstrates to the French government against it. At his instance, orders are issued for the detention of the vessel purchased by the marquis and fitted out at Bordeaux, and for the arrest of his person. To elude the first of these orders, the vessel is removed from Bordeaux to the neighboring port of Passage, within the dominion of Spain. The order for his own arrest is executed; but, by stratagem and disguise, he escapes from the custody of those who have him in charge, and, before a second order can reach him, he is safe on the ocean wave, bound to the land of independence and of freedom.

The war of American Independence is closed. The people of the North American Confederation are in union, sovereign and independent. Lafayette at twenty-five years of age has lived the life of a patriarch, and illustrated the career of a hero. Had his days upon earth been then numbered, and had he then slept with his fathers, illustrious as for centuries their names had been, his name, to the end of time, would have transcended [306] them all. Fortunate youth! fortunate beyond even the measure of his companions in arms with whom he had achieved the glorious consummation of American Independence. His fame was all his own; not cheaply earned; not ignobly won. His fellow-soldiers had been the champions and defenders of their country. They reaped for themselves, for their wives, their children, their posterity to the latest time the rewards of their dangers and their toils. Lafayette had watched, and labored, and fought, and bled, not for himself, not for his family, not, in the first instance, even for his country. In the legendary tales of chivalry we read of tournaments at which a foreign and unknown knight suddenly presents himself, armed in complete steel, and, with the vizor down, enters the ring to contend with the assembled flower of knighthood for the prize of honor, to be awarded by the hand of beauty; bears it in triumph away, and disappears from the astonished multitude of competitors and spectators of the feats of arms. But where in the rolls of history, where in the fictions of romance, where but in the life of Lafayette, has been seen the noble stranger, flying, with the tribute of his name, his rank, his influence, his ease, his domestic bliss, his treasure, his blood, to the relief of a suffering and distant land, in the hour of her deepest calamity—baring his bosom to her foes; and not at the transient pageantry of a tournament, but for a succession of five years sharing all the vicissitudes of her fortunes; always eager to appear at the post of danger—tempering the glow of youthful ardor with the cold caution of a veteran commander; bold and daring in action; prompt in execution; rapid in pursuit; fertile in expedients; unattainable in retreat; often exposed, but never surprised, never disconcerted; eluding his enemy when within his fancied grasp; bearing upon him with irresistible sway when of force to cope with him in the conflict of arms? And what is this but the diary of Lafayette, from the day of his rallying the scattered fugitives of the Brandywine, insensible of the blood flowing from his wounds, to the storming of the redoubt at Yorktown?

Henceforth, as a public man, Lafayette is to be considered as a Frenchman, always active and ardent to serve the United States, but no longer in their service as an officer. So transcendent had been his merits in the common cause, that, to reward them, the rule of progressive advancement in the armies of France was set aside for him. He received from the minister of war a notification that from the day of his retirement from the service of the United States as a majorgeneral, at the close of the war, he should hold the same rank in the armies of France, to date from the day of the capitulation of Lord Cornwallis.

Henceforth he is a Frenchman, destined to perform in the history of his country a part as peculiarly his own, and not less glorious, than that which he had performed in the war of independence. A short period of profound peace followed the great triumph of freedom. The desire of Lafayette once more to see the land of his adoption and the associates of his glory, the fellow-soldiers who had become to him as brothers, and the friend and patron of his youth, who had become to him as a father; sympathizing with their desire once more to see him—to see in their prosperity him who had come to them in their affliction—induced him, in the year 1784, to pay a visit to the United States.

On Aug. 4, of that year, he landed at New York, and, in the space of five months from that time, visited his venerable friend at Mount Vernon, where he was then living in retirement, and traversed ten States of the Union, receiving everywhere, from their legislative assemblies, from the municipal bodies of the cities and towns through which he passed, from the officers of the army, his late associates, now restored to the virtues and occupations of private life, and even from the recent emigrants from Ireland, who had come to adopt for their country the self-emancipated land, addresses of gratulation and of joy, the effusions of hearts grateful in the enjoyment of the blessings for the possession of which they had been so largely indebted to his exertions; and, finally, from the United States of America, in Congress assembled, at Trenton.

On Dec. 9 it was resolved by that body that a committee, to consist of [307] one member from each State, should be appointed to receive and, in the name of Congress, take leave of the marquis. That they should be instructed to assure him that Congress continued to entertain the same high sense of his abilities and zeal to promote the welfare of America, both here and in Europe, which they had frequently expressed and manifested on former occasions, and which the recent marks of his attention to their commercial and other interests had perfectly confirmed. “That, as his uniform and unceasing attachment to this country has resembled that of a patriotic citizen, the United States regard him with particular affection, and will not cease to feel an interest in whatever may concern his honor and prosperity; and that their best and kindest wishes will always attend him.”

And it was further resolved that a letter be written to his most Christian Majesty, to be signed by his Excellency, the president of Congress, expressive of the high sense which the United States, in Congress assembled, entertain of the zeal, talents, and meritorious services of the Marquis de Lafayette, and recommending him to the favor and patronage of his Majesty.

The first of these resolutions was, on the next day, carried into execution. At a solemn interview with the committee of Congress, received in their hall, and addressed by the chairman of their committee, John Jay, the purport of these resolutions was communicated to him. He replied in terms of fervent sensibility for the kindness manifested personally to himself, and, with allusions to the situation, the prospects, and the duties of the people of this country, he pointed out the great interests which he believed it indispensable to their welfare that they should cultivate and cherish. In the following memorable sentences the ultimate objects of his solicitude are disclosed in a tone deeply solemn and impressive:

May this immense temple of freedom,

said he, “ever stand, a lesson to oppressors, an example to the oppressed, a sanctuary for the rights of mankind! and may these happy United States attain that complete splendor and prosperity which will illustrate the blessings of their government, and for ages to come rejoice the departed souls of its founders.”

Fellow-citizens, ages have passed away since these words were spoken; but ages are the years of the existence of nations. The founders of this immense temple of freedom have all departed, save here and there a solitary exception, even while I speak, at the point of taking wing. The prayer of Lafayette is not yet consummated. Ages upon ages are still to pass away before it can have its full accomplishment; and, for its full accomplishment, his spirit, hovering over our heads, in more than echoes talks around these walls. It repeats the prayer which from his lips fifty years ago was at once a parting blessing and a prophecy; for, were it possible for the whole human race, now breathing the breath of life, to be assembled within this hall, your orator would, in your name and in that of your constituents, appeal to them to testify for your fathers of the last generation, that, so far as has depended upon them, the blessing of Lafayette has been prophecy. Yes! this immense temple of freedom still stands, a lesson to oppressors, an example to the oppressed, and a sanctuary for the rights of mankind. Yes! with the smiles of a benignant Providence, the splendor and prosperity of these happy United States have illustrated the blessings of their government, and, we may humbly hope, have rejoiced the departed souls of its founders. For the past your fathers and you have been responsible. The charge of the future devolves upon you and upon your children. The vestal fire of freedom is in your custody. May the souls of its departed founders never be called to witness its extinction by neglect, nor a soil upon the purity of its keepers!

With this valedictory Lafayette took, as he and those who heard him then believed, a final leave of the people of the United States. He returned to France, and arrived at Paris on Jan. 25, 1785.

Such, legislators of the North American Confederate Union, was the life of Gilbert Motier de Lafayette, and the record of his life is the delineation of his character. Consider him as one human being of 1,000,000,000, his contemporaries on the surface of the terraqueous globe. [308] Among that 1,000,000,000 seek for an object of comparison with him; assume for the standard of comparison all the virtues which exalt the character of man above that of the brute creation; take the ideal man, little lower than the angels; mark the qualities of mind and heart which entitle him to his station of pre-eminence in the scale of created beings, and inquire who, that lived in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries of the Christian era, combined in himself so many of those qualities, so little alloyed with those which belong to that earthly vesture of decay in which the immortal spirit is enclosed, as Lafayette.

Pronounce him one of the first men of his age, and you have not yet done him justice. Try him by that test by which he sought in vain to stimulate the vulgar and selfish spirit of Napoleon: class him among the men who, to compare and seat themselves, must take in the compass of all ages; turn back your eyes upon the records of time; summon from the creation of the world to this day the mighty dead of every age and every clime —and where, among the race of merely mortal men, shall one be found, who, as the benefactor of his kind, shall claim to take precedence of Lafayette?

There have doubtless been, in all ages, men, whose discoveries or inventions, in the world of matter or of mind, have opened new avenues to the dominion of man over the material creation; have increased his means or his faculties of enjoyment; have raised him in nearer approximation to that higher and happier condition, the object of his hopes and aspirations in his present state of existence.

Lafayette discovered no new principles of politics or of morals. He invented nothing in science. He disclosed no new phenomenon in the laws of nature. Born and educated in the highest order of feudal nobility, under the most absolute monarchy of Europe, in possession of an affluent fortune, and master of himself and of all his capabilities, at the moment of attaining manhood, the principle of republican justice and of social equality took possession of his heart and mind, as if inspired from above. He devoted himself, his life, his fortune, his hereditary honors, his towering ambition, his splendid hopes, all to the cause of liberty. He came to another hemisphere to defend her. He became one of the most effective champions of our independence; but, that once achieved, he returned to his own country, and thenceforward took no part in the controversies which have divided us. In the events of our Revolution, and in the forms of policy which we have adopted for the establishment and perpetuation of our freedom, Lafayette found the most perfect form of government. He wished to add nothing to it. He would gladly have abstracted nothing from it. Instead of the imaginary republic of Plato, or the Utopia of Sir Thomas More, he took a practical existing model, in actual operation here, and never attempted or wished more than to apply it faithfully to his own country.

It was not given to Moses to enter the promised land: but he saw it from the summit of Pisgah. It was not given to Lafayette to witness the consummation of his wishes in the establishment of a republic, and the extinction of all hereditary rule in France. His principles were in advance of the age and hemisphere in which he lived. A Bourbon still reigns on the throne of France, and it is not for us to scrutinize the title by which he reigns. The principles of elective and hereditary power, blended in reluctant union in his person, like the red and white roses of York and Lancaster, may postpone to aftertime the last conflict to which they must ultimately come. The life of the patriarch was not long enough for the development of his whole political system. Its final accomplishment is in the womb of time.

The anticipation of this event is the more certain, from the consideration that all the principles for which Lafayette contended were practical. He never indulged himself in wild and fanciful speculations. The principle of hereditary power was, in his opinion, the bane of all republican liberty in Europe. Unable to extinguish it in the revolution of 1830, so far as concerned the chief magistracy of the nation. Lafayette had the satisfaction of seeing it abolished with reference to the peerage. A hereditary crown, stripped of the support which it may derive from an hereditary [309] peerage, however compatible with Asiatic despotism, is an anomaly in the history of the Christian world, and in the theory of free government. There is no argument producible against the existence of an hereditary peerage but applies with aggravated weight against the transmission from sire to son of an hereditary crown. The prejudices and passions of the people of France rejected the principle of inherited power in every station of public trust, excepting the first and highest of them all; but there they clung to it, as did the Israelites of old to the savory deities of Egypt.

This is not the time or the place for a disquisition upon the comparative merits, as a system of government, of a republic and a monarchy surrounded by republican institutions. Upon this subject there is among us no diversity of opinion, and if it should take the people of France another half-century of internal and external war, of dazzling and delusive glories, of unparalleled triumphs, humiliating reverses, and bitter disappointments, to settle it to their satisfaction, the ultimate result can only bring them to the point where we have stood from the day of the Declaration of Independence—to the point where Lafayette would have brought them, and to which he looked as a consummation devoutly to be wished.

Then, too, and then only, will be the time when the character of Lafayette will be appreciated at its true value throughout the civilized world. When the principle of hereditary dominion shall be extinguished in all the institutions of France; when government shall no longer be considered as property transmissible from sire to son, but as a trust committed for a limited time, and then to return to the people whence it came; as a burdensome duty to be discharged and not as a reward to be abused; when a claim, any claim, to political power by inheritance shall, in the estimation of the whole French people, be held as it now is by the whole people of the North American Union—then will be the time for contemplating the character of Lafayette, not merely in the events of his life, but in the full development of his intellectual conceptions, of his fervent aspirations, of the labors and perils and sacrifices of his long and eventful career upon earth; and thenceforward, till the hour when the trump of the archangel shall sound to announce that Time shall be no more, the name of Lafayette shall stand enrolled high on the list of the pure and disinterested benefactors of mankind. See Ireland, John.

1 Lafayette here changes his narrative from the first to the third person.

2 After having thus declared himself, he wrote to Congress that “he could only accept the command on condition of remaining subordinate to General Washington, of being but considered as an officer detached from him, and of addressing all his letters to him, of which those received by Congress would be but duplicates.” These requests and all the others he made were granted.

3 The first person is here resumed.

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