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Marquis de Lafayette

Biography >> History >> American Revolution
Portrait of Marquis de Lafayette
Marquis de Lafayette
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Where did Marquis de Lafayette grow up?

Gilbert de Lafayette was born in Chavaniac, France on September 6, 1757. He came from a very wealthy aristocratic family. Gilbert's relatives had a long history of military service with France. This included his father who died fighting in the Seven Years' War against the British when Gilbert was just two. Gilbert never met his father.

Education and Early Career

Growing up, Lafayette attended some of the best schools in France. He was forced to grow up quickly when his mother died when he was thirteen. A year later, Lafayette began his military career as a member of the Black Musketeers while also attending France's most prestigious military academy.

Going to America

With no wars going on in France, Lafayette began to look for a country where he could gain some real fighting experience. He learned about the revolution against the British in America. He decided he would travel to America and help the United States against Britain.

At the young age of nineteen, Lafayette traveled to America and presented himself before the Continental Congress. He didn't ask for money or a high rank, he just wanted to help fight. The Congress saw Lafayette as a good contact with France, who they hoped would become their ally. They agreed to let him join the army.

American Revolution

Lafayette first served as an assistant to General George Washington. The two men got along well and became good friends. After fighting bravely at the Battle of Brandywine Creek, Washington promoted Lafayette to field commander. Lafayette performed well as commander. He also pushed for France to ally with the United States.

After the French signed a treaty with the United States, Lafayette returned to France to convince the King to provide more troops. He was received as a hero in France. He then returned to America to continue his command under Washington. He led troops in several battles including the final victory at Yorktown. He then returned to France where he was promoted to major general in the French army.

French Revolution

Not long after the American Revolution, the French people began to want freedom from their king. Lafayette agreed that the people should have more power and say in government. He lobbied for changes in the government to help the people.

In 1789, the French Revolution began. Although a member of the aristocracy, Lafayette was on the side of the people. He wrote and presented the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the of the Citizen to the French National Assembly. When the revolution began he led the National Guard to try and maintain order.

As the revolution progressed, more radical members saw Lafayette only as an aristocrat. They didn't care whose side he was on. Lafayette had to flee France. Members of his family, however, were unable to escape. His wife was put into prison and some of his relatives were executed.

Later Life

In 1800, Lafayette was pardoned by Napoleon Bonaparte and was able to return to France. He continued to fight for the rights and freedoms of the people over the coming years. In 1824, he returned the United States and was treated like a true hero. He even visited the city of Fayetteville, North Carolina which had been named after him.

Death and Legacy

Lafayette died on May 20, 1834 at the age of 76. Today, he is considered a true hero of both France and the United States. For this reason he earned the nickname "The Hero of Two Worlds." There are many streets, cities, parks, and schools named after him across the United States.

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    Biography >> History >> American Revolution

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