The Marquis de Lafayette and George Washington by Christine H. Messing | Articles
By Lynn H. Miller. The Marquis de Lafayette first met George Washington in Philadelphia in the summer of At 19, the marquis had left his. Lafayette greeted the Comte de Rochambeau and fifty-five hundred French infantrymen in Rhode Island in The following year George Washington. The Marquis de Lafayette and George Washington by Christine H. Messing on trace Lafayette's impact on America and his relationship with the Washington.
Like other founding fathers of this new world, Washington and Lafayette started out by striving to be seen as the men they wished to be.
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If their motives for doing so were mixed, their commitment was not, and somewhere along the way, in a kind of moral and political alchemy, the urgings of fame and glory were transmuted into finer stuff, and their lives became enactments of high principle. This transformation hardly happened overnight—indeed, it was incomplete even at the end of their lives—but it began not long at all after they met.
Washington always said that the book from which he learned most about training an army was Instructions to His Generals by Frederick the Great, the ultimate handbook for the management of an army with officer-aristocrats. In such an army, soldiers were cannon fodder.
Officers were expected to work for the love of glory and out of loyalty to the king, but their men—mostly mercenaries, criminals and ne'er-do-wells—were not to think about the cause they were fighting for or about much of anything else, for that matter because thought led to insubordination. Maintaining sharp social distinctions was considered essential for an army whose men would go to battle only if they feared their officers more than they feared the enemy.
Not surprisingly, Frederick's manual begins with 14 rules for preventing desertion. From the beginning of the Revolutionary War, Washington adopted Frederick's proscriptions. This attitude began to change only at Valley Forge, in earlywith the arrival of one Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, a veteran of Frederick's officer corps but a man who clearly saw beyond his own experience.
Washington appointed him inspector general of the Continental Army in the hope that Steuben would shape his ragtag mass into a fighting force, and so he did, but not at all in the way that Washington had expected.
In the manual Steuben wrote for this American army, the most remarkable theme was love: Steuben obviously intuited that a people's army, a force of citizen-soldiers fighting for freedom from oppression, would be motivated most powerfully not by fear but, as he put it, by "love and confidence"—love of their cause, confidence in their officers and in themselves.
You say to your soldier, 'Do this,' and he does it; but I am obliged to say, 'This is the reason why you ought to do that,' and then he does it. Under Steuben's influence, though, Washington began to soften his attitude. The change was reflected in a new policy announced six weeks after Steuben began his training: With less danger of desertion, the Continental forces could be broken into the smaller units necessary for guerrilla fighting.
It also encouraged longer enlistments. During inspections, one of Steuben's instructors would ask each man his term of enlistment. When the term was limited, he would continue his usual inspection, but when a soldier exclaimed, "For the war! This was a new concept for a new kind of military. Two years later, in the run-up to Yorktown, Washington ordered the troops of "Mad Anthony" Wayne and Lafayette to move south to defend Virginia.
Both men immediately faced mutinies, Wayne because his men had not been paid for months, Lafayette because his had been told they would be on the march for only a few days.
Wayne responded by holding an immediate court-martial, executing six of the mutiny's ringleaders and making the rest file past the corpses—which they did, "mute as fish," a witness would recall—on their way to Virginia. Lafayette told his men they were free to go. Ahead of them, he said, lay a hard road, great danger and a superior army determined on their destruction. He, for one, meant to face that army, but anyone who did not wish to fight could simply apply for leave to return to camp, which would be granted.
Given the option of fighting or declaring themselves to be unpatriotic cowards, Lafayette's men stopped deserting, and several deserters returned. Lafayette rewarded his men by spending 2, pounds of his own money to buy desperately needed clothing, shorts, shoes, hats and blankets.
But it was his appeal to their pride that mattered most. The idea would not have occurred to Lafayette even a year before, in the spring ofwhen he had proposed a foolishly intrepid attack on the British fleet in New York. The Comte de Rochambeau, commander of French forces in America, told Lafayette it was a rash bid for military glory as it was.
Lafayette learned the lesson well. In the summer ofhe managed to corner British forces in Yorktown precisely because he did not attack, while Lord Cornwallis painted himself into the corner from which there would be no escape. When the admiral of the French fleet arrived in the Chesapeake Bay off Yorktown, he insisted that his forces and Lafayette's were sufficient to defeat Cornwallis by themselves.
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He was probably right. Lafayette, several ranks and decades the admiral's junior, was well aware that he would gain more glory by not waiting for the forces of Washington and Rochambeau, and equally aware that he would be just a third-tier officer once they arrived. But he rebuffed the admiral and waited. Confessing "the strongest attachment to those troops," he asked Washington only to leave him in command of them.
He recognized that there was more at stake than his personal glory and that glory was a more complex alloy than he had known before. After Washington assumed the presidency of his new nation, his goal was the emergence of a uniquely American character, of a distinctive and respected Americanism that was respected as such at home and abroad. Lafayette, returning to France after Yorktown, began advocating American principles with the fervor of a convert. But at the end of Washington's life, the relationship between the two men nearly foundered on an issue that, two centuries later, would divide France and America over the war in Iraq: The France of Napoleon was making that experiment, and while Lafayette despised Bonaparte's authoritarianism, he was thrilled with France's victories in the field.
Washington, who exhorted his country never to "unsheath the sword except in self-defense," was furious with France's military adventurism, coming as it did at the expense of American shipping the "family spat," Napoleon had called it. His letter excoriating France for such behavior was the last to Lafayette he ever wrote.
Lafayette's defensive reply was Lafayette's last to Washington. When Washington died, inhis refusal to let America be drawn into the sanguinary politics of Europe stood as one of his most important legacies. As much as he believed American principles worthy of export, he recoiled at the idea as a matter of principle as well as pragmatism. His policy of neutrality toward England and France—which was widely interpreted as favoring our enemy at the expense of our ally and monarchic rule over egalitarian government—robbed him of the universal acclaim he had long enjoyed and led to the severest criticism he was ever to endure.
Benjamin Franklin Bache's Aurora, Washington's fiercest critic, called him everything from a weak-minded captive of his cabinet to a traitor. Thomas Paine, famously, said: Still, his policy of neutrality saved Americans not only from involvement in the war between Britain and France but also from supporting either of them as models of government. In the course of years, Washington had found a greater glory, or something greater than glory, that allowed him to achieve his final victory in a campaign for peace, without which American independence might never have been secured.
In time, Napoleon's misadventures would bring Lafayette closer to Washington's view about exporting revolution by force, but he never gave up support for liberation movements around the world. At home he was an early leader of the pre-revolutionary reform movement, and he was named commandant-general of the National Guard of Paris on July 15, The preeminent leader of the "moderate" first two years of the French Revolution, he wrote the first draft of France's Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen and invented the tricolor cockade, which combined the colors of Paris with Bourbon white to create the symbol of France's republican revolution.
But he never changed his view that the government best suited to France was a constitutional monarchy, which put him at odds with Robespierre and eventually contributed to his conviction in absentia for treason. At the time, he was the general of one of three French armies arrayed against an invasion by Austrian and Prussian forces. Lafayette had already returned to Paris twice to denounce Jacobin radicalism before the National Assembly, and rather than return a third time to meet certain death at the guillotine, he crossed into enemy territory and served the next five years in prison, followed by two more in exile.
Lafayette returned to France in but stayed out of politics untilwhen he was elected to the National Assembly in time to put the weight of his revolutionary-era credentials behind the call for Napoleon to abdicate after Waterloo. When the emperor's brother, Lucien Bonaparte, came before the assembly to denounce the attempt as that of a weak-willed nation, Lafayette silenced him. The nation has followed him in fifty battles, in his defeats and in his victories, and in doing so we have to mourn the blood of three million Frenchmen.
Some younger members of the gallery were surprised that Lafayette was still alive. They would not forget him again. Fifteen years later, at the head of yet another revolution at age 72, he installed the "republican monarchy" of Louis-Philippe by the simple act of wrapping him in a tricolor flag and embracing him—"coronation by a republican kiss," as Chateaubriand called it. Soon he would oppose what he saw as a return of authoritarianism, for which Louis-Philippe never forgave him.
Posted on November 7, by Feather Schwartz Foster George Washington, General of the Continental Army George Washington had no children of his own, although he raised two step-children, and was considered a responsible and affectionate parent. He was appointed General, and sent to take command of a ragtag army forming in Massachusetts. Forty-three was considered well into middle-age at that time. A new generation was now approaching adulthood — and enlisting as soldiers.
And at his own expense. He saw in the American Revolution a cause he believed in, as well as a chance for glory, something vitally important in the 18th century. Other Frenchmen had enlisted and had been sent to America, but Lafayette was of the highest nobility and outranked them all.
At his own expense, which was huge since it included purchasing his own ship and soldiers, he parted from his young wife and sailed for America, arriving in the summer of After offering to serve without pay, Congress made him a Major General. He was not yet twenty. Many illustrations were made in retrospect of George Washington meeting Lafayette. They sent him to George Washingtonand the two men of different generations, bonded quickly.
It did not hurt that Lafayette was a Freemason, as was Washington. Nevertheless, Washington did not know exactly what to do with the young French officer of high nobility. In time, George Washington would learn that the young Frenchman was indeed intelligent, capable and a fine commander.
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He was given increasing responsibilities. His filial devotion was sincere, and contagious. The austere Washington grew to love the French aristocrat like a son.
Alexander Hamilton was instrumental as well. They would never see each other again, although they corresponded and exchanged gifts. Washington is known to have sent a barrel of Mt. As events in France morphed into the French Revolution and Reign of Terror, Washington was deeply concerned for the safety of his dear young friend, but as the President of a small country just beginning to get underway, he needed to steer a neutral course.