Sunday, September 7, 2008

Lafayette born

Marquis de La Fayette

On this date in 1757 Gilbert du Motier, the Marquis de La Fayette (Lafayette), was born. Two years later, during the Seven Years War, his father was killed fighting the British at the Battle of Minden. With the death of his mother and an uncle a few years later he came into his family inheritance. As a young man Lafayette became a Mason and was introduced to the concepts of the "rights of man". Becoming enamored of the American colonists fight for independence he sought out a way to join the American cause.

Hiring and outfitting his own ship Lafayette sailed to America. The Continental Congress on 31 July of 1777 commissioned Lafayette as a Major General in the American Army. After meeting with Gen. George Washington, he was taken into Washington's "family" and made an aide-de-camp. The two men became extremely close, becoming almost like a father and son.

Lafayette went on to give proof of his own merit and fought in several actions and battles during America's War for Independence. He was wounded at the Battle of Brandywine and played a vital role in the final military victory at Yorktown.

After the war Lafayette returned to France. He played an important role in pre-revolutionary France helping to maintain order. When the radical Jacobites came to power Lafayette was commanding a French Army on the Austrian border. Knowing he was a likely candidate for the guillotine he attempted to flee the country, but was captured by the Austrians. He spent several years in military prisons. In later years Lafayette would again serve his native country in many important positions.

In 1824 Lafayette was invited back to come to America. Lafayette was feted as a returning hero and was everywhere treated as an honored guest as he traveled through all 24 states. President James Monroe issued a proclamation giving Lafayette honorary U.S. citizenship. All over the country the name Lafayette was memorialized as city's, towns, streets and parks were named in his honor.

Lafayette died on 20 May 1757. On 6 August 2002, by an official act of the U.S. Congress, Lafayette was posthumously granted honorary U.S. Citizenship.

On 4 July 1917 American soldiers of the 1st Army Division, coming to the aid of France in the First World War, paid a ceremonial visit to Lafayette's tomb in Paris. During the ceremonies Col. Charles E. Stanton gave a speech whose haunting final words will long be remembered: "Lafayette, we are here."

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