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Who is General Lafayette?

General Lafayette, a name etched in history, was a French aristocrat who became an American Revolutionary hero. His strategic acumen and passion for liberty helped shape the United States' fight for independence. His story intertwines with the very fabric of Franco-American relations. How did his legacy influence the world we know today? Join us as we explore his enduring impact.
Diana Bocco
Diana Bocco

General Lafayette, whose full name was Marie-Joseph-Paul-Yves-Roch-Gilbert Du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette, is considered a hero in his native France and in America as well. He was made an honorary citizen of the United States for his contributions in the American Revolution.

Born in the Auvergne region into a prestigious and powerful family, the Marquis de La Fayette was orphaned by the age of 13. He promptly entered the French army and was made captain before he reached 20. Several years before that, at the age of 16, he married Marie-Adrienne-Françoise de Noailles, one of the five daughters of Jean-Paul-François, a French scientist and duke with a very large family fortune.

Lafayette became a trusted aid to George Washington.
Lafayette became a trusted aid to George Washington.

Soon after becoming captain, Lafayette volunteered to join the American service and fight against the British army. He was given the honorary title of Major General, which meant he was under the close supervision of George Washington. Not only did Lafayette win Washington's trust, but he also became a trusted aid.

Because of his bravery in the first two battles, Lafayette was given the command of a full company, and led his men in a series of successful campaigns. Upon his return to France in 1779 to seek further orders, King Louis XVI urged him to continue his service in America, which Lafayette did willingly. After the end of the war, he was made a Brigadier General in Paris, and eventually took an active role in the French Revolution.

General Lafayette fought for the abolition of slavery, religious tolerance, and freedom of the press. He visited the United States on several occasions, always as an official guest of the state and President Jefferson. Despite his opposition to certain government decisions, Lafayette stayed in control of the army. During the 1830 July Revolution, he again commanded the troops in the fight. He retired soon after and died in Paris in 1834. General Lafayette has been honored extensively in the United States. Naval ships have been named after him, he was made an honorary US citizen posthumously, and his portrait hangs next to Washington's in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who was General Lafayette and why is he significant in history?

General Lafayette, also known as the Marquis de Lafayette, was a French aristocrat and military officer who played a significant role in both the American and French Revolutions. In the United States, he is best remembered for his leadership in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, where he was a close friend and ally of George Washington. His contributions to the American struggle for independence and his efforts in advocating for human rights and democratic ideals in France establish him as a key figure in the development of modern democracy.

What were General Lafayette's contributions to the American Revolutionary War?

General Lafayette made substantial contributions to the American Revolutionary War by providing military expertise, securing vital French support, and leading troops in several crucial battles. His involvement in the Battle of Brandywine and the successful Siege of Yorktown were pivotal. According to the National Park Service, Lafayette's strategic partnership with Washington and his ability to secure French reinforcements were instrumental in the eventual American victory.

How did General Lafayette influence the French Revolution?

General Lafayette was deeply influenced by the principles of liberty and democracy he encountered in America, and he returned to France with these ideals. He became a leading figure in the early stages of the French Revolution, advocating for a constitutional monarchy and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. Lafayette's moderate stance and his efforts to balance royal authority with popular sovereignty were significant in the initial push for reform in France.

What is General Lafayette's legacy in the United States today?

General Lafayette's legacy in the United States is one of enduring friendship between the U.S. and France, and a symbol of international support for American independence. Numerous towns, counties, and parks are named in his honor, reflecting his status as an honorary citizen. According to the U.S. Senate, Lafayette was granted honorary citizenship posthumously in 2002, a testament to his lasting impact on the nation's history and values.

Did General Lafayette receive any recognition or awards for his service?

Yes, General Lafayette received numerous recognitions and awards for his service. During his lifetime, he was awarded honorary degrees from Harvard University and other institutions. Posthumously, he has been commemorated with statues, plaques, and memorials both in the United States and France. The U.S. government has also issued commemorative stamps and coins in his honor, celebrating his contributions to American independence and his commitment to liberty.

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Discussion Comments


Wow general Lafayette sounds like a good guy. wonder why such a long name though?


Good for lafayette! I'm glad he was on our side!

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    • Lafayette became a trusted aid to George Washington.
      By: Georgios Kollidas
      Lafayette became a trusted aid to George Washington.