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The Marquis de La Fayette He was one of the most prominent figures of the period between the American War of Independence and the Revolutions of 1830. He stood out for being a staunch defender of democratic and liberal values throughout his life. Not only in the political arena, but also in the military, as he did not hesitate to sacrifice his integrity to fight for what he considered correct.
He was born under the name of Marie-Joseph Gilbert du Motier on September 6, 1757 in Chaviniac (France) in the bosom of a noble family. His primary education was carried out by Abbot Fayon, but his mother chose to enroll him in the "Collège du Plessis", a school for young people belonging to the aristocracy. At the age of 13, La Fayette was orphaned and went on to inherit a considerable fortune.
He perfected his education in Versailles Academy, where he studied Military Arts. On April 9, 1771 he was appointed second lieutenant of the Musketeers Corps. Thanks to his marriage to Marie Adrienne Françoise de Noailles, he obtained a dowry of 400,000 pounds, the rank of captain and the command of a company in the Regiment of Dragoons of Noailles.
In 1777, against the wishes of the French king, La Fayette sailed for America, where he fought alongside the North American insurgents. George Washington appointed him major general and gave him control of various divisions. Although he was wounded in the Battle of Brandywine, he was able to organize a successful retreat. In the battle of Rhode Island he served prominently and was warmly welcomed by all the insurgents, who recognized him as colonel of cavalry.
But his role as a military man was interrupted for 6 months, when Washington sent him to negotiate with the King of France a possible increase in the French contingent in the country. In 1780 he returned and the rebel leader appointed La Fayette commander of the Virginia troops. It was then that he participated in the decisive battle of Yorktown, in which Charles Cornwallis had to capitulate and in which the troops sent by France fought under the command of the Earl of Rochanbeau. Since then he was considered by all Americans as a hero.
In 1782, La Fayette returned to France with the rank of Field Marshal. The Assembly of Notables summoned him in 1788 to analyze the serious situation in the country. The nobleman suggested convening the Estates General of France, where he was deputy of Riom and joined the revolutionary cause.
La Fayette was actively involved in shaping the new France. He proposed adding white between blue and red to the national flag and presented a draft of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. The fact that in his past he defended freedom in the War of Independence of the United States was what led him to obtain command of the National Guard in Paris. He presented himself as the leader of the liberal nobility and aspired, with Mirabeau, to reconcile the monarchy with the Revolution.
Thanks to his successes, he was proclaimed commander of the northern army, a position in which he did not have many triumphs. His opposition to the Jacobins and rumors of having participated in the Massacre on the Champ de Mars were key to Robespierre's accusation of treason. La Fayette fled in 1791, but was captured by the Austrians and spent five years in prison.
The Napoleon's intercession it was vital so that in 1797 he was released. But the future emperor forbade him to return to Paris, so he had to remain retired from public life until the Hundred Days. At that time, he was a deputy and called for Napoleon's abdication in June 1815.
Although he welcomed the return of the Bourbons, he was against Louis XVIII. La Fayette was elected Liberal MP from 1818 to 1824 and, beginning in 1827, played an essential role during the revolution of 1830, where La Fayette made brilliant speeches and proposals to defend civil rights and end the absolutism of Charles X. That was the reason why the members of the Assembly offered him the possibility of presiding over a republic. Although he was grateful, he declined the offer and proposed to Louis Philippe I as constitutional king.
The new monarch appointed him commander of the National Guard, a position he held together with that of a member of the dynastic left for a short time, since he moved away from politics. Even so, La Fayette fought against the privileges of the nobility, against hereditary charges and against the death penalty. The United States government awarded him the title of “honorary american”As thanks to all the work carried out in the defense of freedom and individual rights.
Finally, On May 20, 1834, La Fayette passed away. He was buried in Paris underground from the Bunker Hill battlefield, sent by the US government. He went down in history on both sides of the ocean for being a staunch defender of the values raised by the French Revolution and the American War of Independence.
Passionate about History, he has a degree in Journalism and Audiovisual Communication. Since he was a child he loved history and ended up exploring the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries above all.