“Lafayette, we are here,” said General John Pershing when the American Expeditionary Force landed in France during World War 1. He was referring to a 140 year-old debt to France for the services of one of their generals, who we salute on
NATIONAL LAFAYETTE DAY!
Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier de La Fayette, better known as Marquis de Lafayette, was just 20 years old when he landed in the war-torn British Colonies on June 13, 1777 and offered his services to the rebellion.
He was initially turned down as one more “French glory seeker” until he offered to work for free, so the Continental Congress decided the price was right and gave him a commission as a general on George Washington’s staff.
Lafayette earned his salary, ably commanding divisions in many battles, returning briefly to France to enlist more help for the Revolution, and being instrumental in blocking a British retreat at Yorktown, ensuring America’s victory and independence.
He was accorded honors by Congress for his meritorious service before he returned to France, where he was given a promotion in the French Royal Army. He was also received at Versailles by King Louis the XVI, and named his daughter after his queen, Marie Antoinette, but the Marquis liked revolution so much that he helped overthrow them both in the French Revolution, and held the distinction of being one aristocrat who didn’t get his head chopped off.
When the French Revolution went to shit he was accused by Robespierre of being a royalist and imprisoned, as was his wife. He was freed by Napoleon but he refused to serve his government, and also refused an offer by Thomas Jefferson to be governor of the vast Louisiana Territory, preferring to stay and work for liberty in France.
In 1824, President James Monroe brought Lafayette to America for a Grand Tour of all 24 states of the nation he helped create, and he was received as a hero. Lafayette died in France at age 76 from pneumonia, and is buried next to his wife at the Picpus Cemetery in Notre Dame, under soil taken from Bunker Hill.
•Suggested Activities: Figuring out the Marquis De Lafayette – Sandy Koufax connection.