Adonis Diaries

Hero in two continents and of three revolutions: General Gibert de La Fayette (1757-1834)

Posted on: November 5, 2014

Hero in two continents and of 3 revolutions: General Gibert du Motier de La Fayette (1757-1834)

Marie Joseph Paul Roch Yves Gilbert Motier de La Fayette.

Born in the castle of Chavarin, at the Velay in Haute-Loire in the mountains of Auvergne.

The story of another kid orphaned at an early age. La Fayette was 2 when his father was killed at the battle of Minden and 13 when his mother died.

Ï blame anyone who has not even 50% of Fayettism in his heart” Joseph Delteil

At the age of 13, both his mother and grand father Marquis de la Riviere (his mother side) died and he inherited a fortune of a yearly income of $500,000 from rent and dividends on properties and wealth.

Gilbert was tall, strong, svelte, blue-eyed, red-headed, a cold exterior, looking serious and kind of a typical Scots.

He married at an early age of 16 with Adrienne, aged 14, and daughter of Duke of Ayen (Vergenne) who will become France foreign minister under king Louis 16.

In 1775, he is assigned as officer of the grenadiers at Metz and was initiated to Franc Masonry in Paris in the same year and he stayed an active member all his life, as were George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, and established a couple centres himself with his own money.

In that year, Duke of Gloucester, brother of England king George III, stayed overnight in Metz on his journey to Italy. Marshal de Broglie through a sumptuous dinner in his honor. The Duke talked frankly and candidly of the insurgencies taking place in America and the Tea Party revolt. Captain La Fayette was bold and contrary to protocol, asked plenty of questions.

Later, La Fayette wrote: “That night I fell in love with America and knew that my mission was to come to aid to the insurgents in America

Go figure, how circumstances oriented the destiny of a person.

In 1777, La Fayette, barely 19, purchased a ship with his own fund, equipped it and sailed  surreptitiously to Charleston (South Carolina) via a Spanish port against the orders of the king and his father-in-law.

He joined the commander of the insurgents Gen. George Washington by land because the British ships were patrolling the coast. Gilbert and his companion volunteers needed 15 days by bad roads to reach destination up north and by August 1777, he lived in the entourage of Washington, who became his spiritual father during his life and both had abundant letters exchanged.

The US insurgents were initially successful adopting the guerrilla tactics, but they quickly suffered defeat after defeat as they tried to confront the British troops in regular conventional formations.

When La Fayette joined Washington, the British were getting ready to attack Philadelphia, the Capital of the insurgents, and they did enter this city on Sept. 16 after the British Gen. Burgoyne descended from Canada and defeated Horatio Gates at Ticonderoga.

To make matters worse, the British navy was amassing troops in Chesapeake Bay and the insurgents were about to be encircled by Gen. Howe.

The battle of Brandywine was a success story in orderly retreat to Valley Forges, close to Philadelphia, thanks to the intervention and organization of La Fayette.

La Fayette was now commanding the 9,000 insurgent troops of Virginians, rough, brutal, uncouth, ready to fight with one another, and lacking every thing in cloth and footwear. This troop quickly constructed a large camp of tents and civilians flocked into it for the harsh winter season.

La Fayette was to take command in Albany (NY State) of 3,000 troop to capture Canada. Instead, he was given 1,000 insurgents and little ammunition and foodstuff. And he turned down the mission.

The alternative action was for him to meet with the Indian tribes who were meeting all together at their annual ceremony. He was successful in rallying the 6 tribes to the cause of the American insurgency. The Oneidas, Cayuga, Mohawks, Tuscarora, Seneca and Iroquois.

The Indian tribes gave him the name of Gen. Kayewla  (Intrepid Knight)

Luckily, in May 1778, France recognized the independence of the US after the insurgent victory of Saratoga

When La Fayette returned to Paris, the kind restricted his movement in a castle for 10 and all Paris noble people flocked to see him and pay their respect.

La Fayette was adulated and loved as a hero at the age of 20 by the French and the Americans, even before he participated in the victory of Yorktown 4 years later.

France sent twice its navy to support the insurgents. The first mission was a failure and barely engaged the British. The second fleet was crucial in forcing the surrender of the British in Yorktown as the 26 British ships were chased out of the area.

The French Gen, Rochambeau managed to convince Washington and his staff to change their strategy of attacking New York and to get instead focused moving the troops to the weaker soft flank of the British down south.

La Fayette was commanding the Virginian troops down south and avoided any frontal attack with the regular British troops and even vacated Richmond in order not to be trapped.  He figured out that the US strategy has changed and he met the descending insurgent troops, strong with 8,000 French soldiers.

Until the British Gen. Clinton ordered from New York for the southern British commander Cornwallis to concentrate their forces in Yorktown.

La Fayette was the first commander to attach a forward fort and insured close bombardment of Yorktown in 1783.

In 1789, La Fayette was appointed by the National Assembly as general in chief of the National Guards. That was a hard task insuring the safety of the royal family from the mob and he managed to lead the royal family back to Paris where it was held practically locked in by the insurgents for a couple of years.

He again insured their safety after the royal family escaped from Paris and were captured. The rumors spread that La Fayette knew of this escape and he lost the confidence of many patriots.

In 1790, La Fayette was the main figure who was honoured during the historic Federation Day in the Champ-de-Mars where the King swore to defend the new Constitutional monarchy.  In that day, La Fayette had no enemies but Marat and Mirabeau if he had any plans to take over power.

La Fayette speech said: “I swear to be always loyal to the nation, the law and the king. To uphold the constitution of the national Assembly which was accepted by the king. To protect the security of people, their properties, the free circulation inside France of substances and the collection of taxes. To stay united with the French in their indissoluble links of the Fraternity

In 1791, the king appointed La Fayette to head the East Army against the advances of the Prussian and Austrian armies

In 1792, the Convention ordered Gen. Dumouriez to apprehend and detain La Fayette in order to bring him to trial. In these years of terror, Gilbert decided to go to the next down occupied by the Prussian troops and flee to a neutral nation. He was captured and the Austrian monarch Francois II opted to consider Gilbert as war prisoner. La Fayette was the most hated French by all European’s monarchs but adulated by the people.

While La Fayette was incarcerated The French army won the critical battle of Valmy. Apparently, the Prussian monarch Frederic-Guillome ordered his Marshal Duke of Brunswick to retreat against any rational logic, as Napoleon later stated.

La Fayette wrote: If I was leading this army at Valmy, this victory would have surpassed all my military campaigns, including the surrender of Cornwallis in Yorktown.

It was in his prison at Olmutz where he suffered abject indignities that La Fayette learned of the horrible reign of terror during Robespierre. Most of the revolutionary leaders whom he had no esteem for have been decapitated at the guillotine, the new instrument of quick death. Among these personalities were Brissot, Desmoulin (best friend of Robespierre), Danton, Herault de Sechelles, Andre Chenier, the king and the queen Marie-Antoinette, and most members of his wife’s family.

La Fayette spent the worst incarceration for 5 years. When his wife decided to join him in the prison of Olmutz, she and her two daughters succumbed to the harshest treatments, humiliation and indignities.

In 1797, Napoleon had defeated the Austrian troops in many battle and a peace agreement was being considered. Napoleon demanded the release of La Fayette who went into exile to Germany and the Netherlands.

Napoleon was not excited for any quick return of La Fayette and George Washington refused permit for La Fayette to find refuge in the American territories, although La Fayette was a US citizen and wore the US military tunic in all his displacement as the best representative of US interests overseas. The US was not in good terms with France in that period.

Although Napoleon refused La Fayette to return to France, he did return to Paris in 1799 and Bonaparte had to swallow his fury and try to bribe him to side completely with him.

In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson asked La Fayette to become Governor of the Louisiana Territories. La Fayette declined. He must have been furious with Napoleon who sold this vast territory to the US with British loans. The British didn’t want France to stay in America as they were kicked out of it.

In this year, Napoleon was amassing his troops and navy in Bois de Boulogne on the assumption that he was getting ready to invade England and he needed money very badly. Obviously the British were not taking this threat seriously. The British had already convinced and bribed 3 European monarch (Prussia, Austria and Russia) to attack Napoleon by land.

Napoleon defeated the armies of the 3 monarchs who were participating in person at the battle of Austerlitz. Bonaparte said to his soldiers after the victory:

You have already gained glory for the remainder of your life. All you have to say is “Ï participated in Austerlitz

Napoleon won an important battle that humiliated 3 monarchs but had lost the prize colony in America that changed the course of history.

Adrienne died in 1807 and La Fayette was inconsolable of losing the most steadfast ally to his principles and decisions.

In 1815, La Fayette was appointed by the National Assembly to receive the abdication of Napoleon after the French defeat at Waterloo. Napoleon knew that it was La Fayette who was behind the steadfast decision of the Assembly.

La Fayette is elected deputy of the Sarthe in 1818.

In that period, France was flush with all kinds of secret and cultist movements trying to usurp King Charles 10 power. La Fayette was appointed by the Carbonari movement to be one of its highest leaders. This secret movement was inherited from Naples and implanted in France by Joubert and Dougier.

The armed insurrection called Saumur and Belfort failed and La Fayette accepted the invitation of President James Monroe to visit the US and arrived in a US commercial ship Cadmus at the largest port of New York. No dignitary ever got this massive acclamation at the port.

He had a triumphal return to the USA in 1824 and the crowd that came to welcome him in every city was the biggest in all US  history.

La Fayette stayed an entire year and was invited and honoured in 132 municipalities, met with Thomas Jefferson twice, met with four former presidents and was officially invited by Congress and the Senate. He visited the battle fields and brought with him a ton of dirt from Brandywine to be thrown over his tomb.

Napoleon offered La Fayette many positions to gain him over, but La Fayette turn them all down because Napoleon was not serious in extending Liberty to the citizens and allow free press.

During the battle of Marengo in 1800 against the over-numbered Austrian army in Italy, Napoleon was about to be defeated when Gen. Desaix came to the rescue at the nick of time and changed the course of the battle. Napoleon had confided in these dark hours: “I  can see but Carnot or La Fayette to succeed me in ruling France“. Carnot was the mastermind in equipping and organizing the French army and was minister of war, and he opposed Napoleon dictatorship as was La Fayette.

Napoleon said in 1812: “Everyone in France has been corrected (totally agreeing with him), except La Fayette. He has Not retreated from a single principle. La Fayette acts as a private citizen and looks tranquil, but I know that he is ready to pounce and start all over again at the first opportunity

Since 1803, when Napoleon was appointed Consul for life, La Fayette stopped any contact with him. La Fayette will see Napoleon again in 1815 to accept his abdication after the disaster of Waterloo.

After Napoleon fled from the Island of Elba in 1814 and retook power, La Fayette refused the new reforms of having two kinds of representations, one elected and one appointed by peers. Only universal voting system by all the citizens suited his principles of democracy and liberty.

He aided Louis-Phillip to accede to the throne in 1830. La Fayette was appointed chief of the National guard and was the leader in the National Assembly and the only person to give credibility to any acceding to power. Apparently, the American ambassador didn’t encourage La Fayette to proclaim the Republic since it was 40 years late and Europe was not ready for another upheaval.

La Fayette had no rival if he decided to gain power and declare the Republic: He was more interested in popular glory than in power.  La delicieuse sensation du sourire de la multitude.

La Fayette was the staunch enemy of intolerance and violence. He fought for Liberty, the emancipation of the slaves, universal education, and universal election by all the citizens.

Nothing is constitutional and democratic unless elected by the people and universally.

Let’s summarize:

1. La Fayette was orphaned as kid

2. He was a tall, attractive and strong guy. And a Nature Boy to boot it.

3. Was filthy rich and inherited the millions of his grand father marquis de la Riviere from his mother side

4. He was well politically connected. His father-in-law, Duke of Ayne was the closest friend of the previous king Louis 15, and he was a respected military man (later Marshale) and the foreign minister during king Louis 16 and organized two expedition campaign to aid the American insurgents

We are how we are born. It is up to us to act according to our potentials.

Note 1: After la Fayette died, many illustrious personalities had statements on that occasion.

Madame de Stael wrote: “La Fayette spent all his fortune on his opinions with the utmost generous indifference. He was unshakable in his principles during the best and worst moments

President John Quincy Adams wrote: We will always look up to you as one of us

Stendhal, author of La Chartreuse de Parme and Black and Red wrote: La Fayette is a hero of Plutarque.  A very high esteem and admiration

Odilon Barrot said:

If we may reproach anything to La Fayette are his exaggerated qualities. If he lived in the Middle Ages he would have instituted a religious cult based on his fixated moral ideals

Chateaubriand  (a monarchist) who loathed La Fayette in his life as he despised Napoleon had this to say:

It took me 40 years to recognize the many qualities of La Fayette, qualities that we obstinately refused him. He was fluent as an orator in the assembly and no dirt were attached to his life

Their said:

The factions accused La Fayette for lack of cunning simply because they could not touch his character and incorruptible nature.

Rivarol was the most brutal of all critics:

La Fayette (Philarete) managed to convince himself as the author of 2 revolutions. He takes noise for glory, an event for a success, a sword for a movement, a compliment for immortal title, graces for recompenses and valor for heroism

Note 2: La Fayette humbly said to Napoleon relating to his victory in Yorktown: “Ce furent les plus grand interets de l’univers, decide par des rencontres de patrouille”An accurate historical account for events.

Note 3: In the US, 40 cities, 7 counties and even a mountain bear his La Fayette name. The US embassy maintains his castle in France and renovate it on a yearly basis.

La Fayette defined democracy as election by universal voting, and any institution of peers appointment is an oligarchic system.

Note 4: In a letter to his spiritual father George Washington, La Fayette who fought for a Constitutional monarchy wrote:

Our king Louis 16 enjoys Oriental power: he has the means to restrict, punish and corrupt…

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