Marquis De Lafayette: The Idealist General
George Washington met the nineteen-year-old Marquis de Lafayette on August France to try to smooth out recently strained relations between the two nations. An icon of American—and French—history, the Marquis de Lafayette's was born into an future presidents: Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe And Lafayette came to look at George Washington as his surrogate father. to try to smooth out recently strained relations between the two nations. Lafayette named his only son after George Washington. Three years later, at the suggestion of Thomas Jefferson, Lafayette named his.
Washington and Lafayette shared one characteristic of overriding importance, however: Both men were in this sense raised to be courtiers rather than patriots.
Washington's flattery in his early letters to the royal governor of Virginia and other high officials is sometimes painful to read, and though Lafayette spurned one offer to take a place at court and complained of the cringing, fawning behavior he saw there, that was his world and background. In their time, the notion of equality was almost literally unthinkable.
Distinctions of rank were implicit in the unspoken language of everyday life, embedded too deep to be much remarked on even when they were pointedly felt, as they often were. Freedom, too, was a strange concept. In both the Colonies and in France, the word "liberty" usually referred to a traditional or newly granted privilege, such as an exemption from tax.
The model of "independence" that Washington held before him was that of the Virginia gentleman, whose property and wealth liberated him from dependence on anyone, even powerful friends.
To declare one's independence was to declare oneself an aristocrat. In the 18th century—in America, France and Britain alike—the ultimate test of personal success was called "fame," "glory" or "character," words that signified neither celebrity nor moral courage but referred to a person's reputation, which was also called his "honor.
Fame and its synonyms meant an illustrious eminence, a stature accrued from having led a consequential life. The pursuit of fame was not particularly Christian—it called for self-assertion rather than self-abnegation, competition rather than humility—but neither Washington nor Lafayette nor most of their fellow revolutionaries were serious Christians in fact, even if they were by denomination.
Asked why the Constitution failed to mention God, Hamilton supposedly said, "We forgot. Discredited along with faith and metaphysics was the certainty of an afterlife, and without the prospect of spiritual immortality, the best hope of defying oblivion was to secure a place in history. In the world in which Washington and Lafayette lived, fame was the closest thing to heaven. Finding themselves leading the struggle for the right to become something other than what birth ordained, Washington and Lafayette, in very different ways, had to win their own independence; and to watch them as they did so—making their way from courtier-subjects to patriot-citizens—is one way to see a radically new world being born, one in which the value of a life is not extrinsic and bestowed but can be earned by one's own effort.
Like other founding fathers of this new world, Washington and Lafayette started out by striving to be seen as the men they wished to be. If their motives for doing so were mixed, their commitment was not, and somewhere along the way, in a kind of moral and political alchemy, the urgings of fame and glory were transmuted into finer stuff, and their lives became enactments of high principle.
This transformation hardly happened overnight—indeed, it was incomplete even at the end of their lives—but it began not long at all after they met. Washington always said that the book from which he learned most about training an army was Instructions to His Generals by Frederick the Great, the ultimate handbook for the management of an army with officer-aristocrats.
In such an army, soldiers were cannon fodder. Officers were expected to work for the love of glory and out of loyalty to the king, but their men—mostly mercenaries, criminals and ne'er-do-wells—were not to think about the cause they were fighting for or about much of anything else, for that matter because thought led to insubordination.
Maintaining sharp social distinctions was considered essential for an army whose men would go to battle only if they feared their officers more than they feared the enemy. Not surprisingly, Frederick's manual begins with 14 rules for preventing desertion. From the beginning of the Revolutionary War, Washington adopted Frederick's proscriptions.
This attitude began to change only at Valley Forge, in earlywith the arrival of one Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, a veteran of Frederick's officer corps but a man who clearly saw beyond his own experience. Washington appointed him inspector general of the Continental Army in the hope that Steuben would shape his ragtag mass into a fighting force, and so he did, but not at all in the way that Washington had expected.
Washington & Lafayette
In the manual Steuben wrote for this American army, the most remarkable theme was love: Steuben obviously intuited that a people's army, a force of citizen-soldiers fighting for freedom from oppression, would be motivated most powerfully not by fear but, as he put it, by "love and confidence"—love of their cause, confidence in their officers and in themselves. You say to your soldier, 'Do this,' and he does it; but I am obliged to say, 'This is the reason why you ought to do that,' and then he does it.
Under Steuben's influence, though, Washington began to soften his attitude. The change was reflected in a new policy announced six weeks after Steuben began his training: With less danger of desertion, the Continental forces could be broken into the smaller units necessary for guerrilla fighting.
It also encouraged longer enlistments. During inspections, one of Steuben's instructors would ask each man his term of enlistment. When the term was limited, he would continue his usual inspection, but when a soldier exclaimed, "For the war!
This was a new concept for a new kind of military. Two years later, in the run-up to Yorktown, Washington ordered the troops of "Mad Anthony" Wayne and Lafayette to move south to defend Virginia. Both men immediately faced mutinies, Wayne because his men had not been paid for months, Lafayette because his had been told they would be on the march for only a few days. Wayne responded by holding an immediate court-martial, executing six of the mutiny's ringleaders and making the rest file past the corpses—which they did, "mute as fish," a witness would recall—on their way to Virginia.
Lafayette told his men they were free to go. Ahead of them, he said, lay a hard road, great danger and a superior army determined on their destruction. He, for one, meant to face that army, but anyone who did not wish to fight could simply apply for leave to return to camp, which would be granted.
Given the option of fighting or declaring themselves to be unpatriotic cowards, Lafayette's men stopped deserting, and several deserters returned. The division he commanded had played a critical role in the Franco-American action that brought the surrender of Cornwallis. With the fighting ended, Lafayette again returned home, but not before addressing another billet-doux to Washington. I more than ever feel the strength of those friendly ties that for ever bind me to you.
Lafayette visited him there during his own triumphal tour of American towns and cities. I often asked myself, as our carriages separated, whether that was the last sight I should have of you? And though I wished to say no, my fears answered yes.
The Marquis de Lafayette and George Washington by Christine H. Messing | Articles
My whole soul revolts at the idea—and could I harbour it an instant, indeed, my dear General, it would make me miserable.
Sixty-seven years old, a living symbol of the birth of a nation, he came as reminder to the Americans of the ideals and struggles of their independence and their continuing need for unity.
Vernon to pay his respects at the tomb of his adopted father. He sent everyone else away, including his son George. When Lafayette heard that French officers were being sent to America, he demanded to be among them. He met Deane, and gained inclusion despite his youth.
On 7 DecemberDeane enlisted Lafayette as a major general. Lafayette's father-in-law, de Noailles, scolded the young man and told him to go to London and visit the Marquis de Noaillesthe ambassador to Britain and Lafayette's uncle by marriage, which he did in February In the interim, he did not abandon his plans to go to America. On his return to France, he went into hiding from his father-in-law and superior officerwriting to him that he was planning to go to America.
De Noailles was furious, and convinced Louis to issue a decree forbidding French officers from serving in America, specifically naming Lafayette. Vergennes may have persuaded the king to order Lafayette's arrest, though this is uncertain. The response, including letters from his wife and other relatives, threw Lafayette into emotional turmoil.
Soon after departure, he ordered the ship turned around and returned to Bordeaux, to the frustration of the officers traveling with him. The army commander there ordered Lafayette to report to his father-in-law's regiment in Marseilles. De Broglie, who hoped to become a military and political leader in America, met with Lafayette in Bordeaux and convinced him that the government actually wanted him to go.
Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette - Wikipedia
This was not true, though there was considerable public support for Lafayette in Paris, where the American cause was popular. Lafayette wanted to believe it, and pretended to comply with the order to report to Marseilles, going only a few miles east before turning around and returning to his ship. Victoire set sail for the United States on 20 April Franco-American alliance and France in the American Revolutionary War On arrival, Lafayette met Major Benjamin Hugera wealthy landowner, with whom he stayed for two weeks before going to Philadelphia.
The Continental Congress had been overwhelmed by French officers recruited by Deane, many of whom could not speak English or lacked military experience. Lafayette had learned some English en route he became fluent within a year of his arrivaland his Masonic membership opened many doors in Philadelphia. After Lafayette offered to serve without pay, Congress commissioned him a major general on 31 July By Currier and Ives. General George Washingtoncommander in chief of the Continental Armycame to Philadelphia to brief Congress on military affairs.
Lafayette met him at a dinner on 5 August ; according to Leepson, "the two men bonded almost immediately. Congress regarded his commission as honorary, while he considered himself a full-fledged commander who would be given control of a division when Washington deemed him prepared.
Washington told Lafayette that a division would not be possible as he was of foreign birth, but that he would be happy to hold him in confidence as "friend and father". Upon his arrival, Lafayette went with the Third Pennsylvania Brigade, under Brigadier Thomas Conwayand attempted to rally the unit to face the attack.
The British and Hessian forces continued to advance with their superior forces, and Lafayette was shot in the leg. During the American retreat, Lafayette rallied the troops, allowing a more orderly pullback, before being treated for his wound.
When Lafayette arrived in Albany, he found too few men to mount an invasion. He wrote to Washington of the situation, and made plans to return to Valley Forge. Before departing, he recruited the Oneida tribewho referred to Lafayette as Kayewla fearsome horsemanto the American side.
The Marquis de Lafayette and George Washington
The Continental Congress agreed, and Gates left the board. Washington dispatched Lafayette with a 2,man force on 18 May to reconnoiter near Barren HillPennsylvania. The next day, the British heard that he had made camp nearby and sent 5, men to capture him.