Did you know that Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette was born today in 1757? He was a French military officer and aristocrat that fought for the American cause during the Revolutionary War. He was close friends with George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John and Abigail Adams, and many more people. One of his nicknames is “The Hero of the Two Worlds”.
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Gilbert du Motier’s full name was: Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette
Lafayette was only 19 years old when he travelled to the New World to support the American cause. He served as an officer and travelled back and forth between America and France lobbying for support from the government of France. He was part of the Battle of Brandywine, Battle of Rhode Island, the Siege of Yorktown, and more.
The Maryland, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Virginia honored Lafayette and his family by making him and all his male heirs natural born Citizens of those states, which made them also natural born citizens of America once the new Constitution was ratified in 1789.
Lafayette also had a role in the French Revolution. He was appointed to the 1786 Assembly of Notables and the Estates General. He wrote the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen with Thomas Jefferson.
When he was imprisoned for his role in the French Revolution, the American government did what it could for Lafayette and his family. The United States government did not have diplomatic ties with Prussia or Austria, where Lafayette was held. But, the Thomas Jefferson found a way to ‘pay’ Lafayette for his military service during the American Revolution. These funds helped to lessen some of the deprivations of captivity. Other Americans tried to organize escape attempts. James Monroe helped Lafayette’s wife gain permission to join him during his captivity. After 5 years of diplomacy and personal appeals, Lafayette’s release from prison was negotiated by a young Napoleon Bonaparte.
In 1824, President James Monroe and Congress invited Lafayette to visit the United States to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the country. He met with old friends including Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and John Adams. He visited George Washington’s grave site. In every city he visited or passed through there were grand and elaborate celebrations and massive crowds of citizens cheering and waiting for a glimpse of this Revolutionary War hero. Initially his trip was scheduled to just visit the original 13 colonies and was to last just 4 months. The trip lasted for 16 months and he visited all 24 of the states in existence at the time.
During his last visit to the United States, Lafayette collected some of the soil from Bunker Hill. That soil was sprinkled on his grave site after his burial.