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Go Back   Armchair General and HistoryNet >> The Best Forums in History > Historical Events & Eras > American Age of Discovery, Colonization, Revolution, & Expansion > American Revolution

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American Revolution 1763-1789 The birth of a new nation - to commence at the Proclaimation of 1763 to the end of the Articles of Confederation.

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  #1  
Old 04 Mar 12, 09:24
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Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette

How good a general was he? What role did he play in the American Revolution? Was he crucial to the revolutionaries winning the war? How was he later received in France? Why do you think he was apprehensive about the French Revolutionaries, Napoleon, and the Revolutionary government?



I've become recently interested in this fellow and from what I've read, the lot of you might have much to contribute here. Enjoy!
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  #2  
Old 04 Mar 12, 10:00
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He was a very young man. In spite of that, he displayed great both personal courage and battlefield leadership in his first major battle (Brandywine). Even wounded in the leg yet continued bravely along. He quickly became a favorite of Washington and was granted more and more responsibility as the war went on. During the 1781 VA campaign Lafayette displayed a good understanding of tactics and how to work without getting trapped into a battle he would not win. Smart, not rash.
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Old 04 Mar 12, 11:43
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He was a very young man. In spite of that, he displayed great both personal courage and battlefield leadership in his first major battle (Brandywine). Even wounded in the leg yet continued bravely along. He quickly became a favorite of Washington and was granted more and more responsibility as the war went on. During the 1781 VA campaign Lafayette displayed a good understanding of tactics and how to work without getting trapped into a battle he would not win. Smart, not rash.
I'm struggling to understand why he had such trouble with the revolutionaries when he came back to France. You'd think he would be sort of their champion. But quite the contrary occurred from what I've read...
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Old 04 Mar 12, 12:20
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I'm struggling to understand why he had such trouble with the revolutionaries when he came back to France. You'd think he would be sort of their champion. But quite the contrary occurred from what I've read...
I don't know details of his post-AR life but I do know he was French nobility that managed to keep his head in the French revolution. They must have liked him a little bit.
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Old 04 Mar 12, 13:25
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I don't know details of his post-AR life but I do know he was French nobility that managed to keep his head in the French revolution. They must have liked him a little bit.
Begrudgingly though. I think he was imprisoned for a while during that time.
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Old 04 Mar 12, 15:01
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He was acting in France's interest and he was a Marquis, why would he turn on his King?
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Old 08 Mar 12, 05:21
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Well, as a fan of pictures, here's a few:





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Old 08 Mar 12, 07:58
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I'm struggling to understand why he had such trouble with the revolutionaries when he came back to France. You'd think he would be sort of their champion. But quite the contrary occurred from what I've read...
Ah the great mysteries of the incomprehensible French Revolution...
I'll come back on this later mate and try to give you a comprehensible answer.

First of all, you must realize that the American Revolution and French Revolutions were both REVOLUTIONS, yet as different from each other as the day is from the night.



Greets,
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Old 08 Mar 12, 20:30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stratego View Post
Ah the great mysteries of the incomprehensible French Revolution...
I'll come back on this later mate and try to give you a comprehensible answer.

First of all, you must realize that the American Revolution and French Revolutions were both REVOLUTIONS, yet as different from each other as the day is from the night.



Greets,
Stratego
Indeed. I look forward to your comprehensible answer with great anticipation haha!
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Old 08 Mar 12, 22:16
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Lafayette was generally chief author of the original Rights of Man & the Citoyen. He had learned much from his experience in our Revolution & was inspired to it. Liberte, Egalite & Fraternite's very real compulsive interest to most people when they were personally compelled to ponder... what individual natural rights really meant & could allow a people to become when guaranteed them was something not lost on him. You get a small glimpse into him in its original form. (What you see in the Guillotine game is the next version adopted in 1793 that has been enhanced by other French thinkers.) I think some people are mistaken when they say that it was inspired by The American Documents, but if you put yourself in the time it is much more certain that the man was inspired & his own works later merely reflect it to a certain degree. The French Rights of Man & The Citoyen are quite significant in & of themselves & any similarities are more a result of the fact that they are founded on Universal Natural Rights. Any sort of significant document based upon them would be sommat as similar in their tone & chorus.

He was an interesting man throughout his life.

Certainly no angel, but no devil, either.


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Old 09 Mar 12, 16:47
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Exclamation France was NOT America!

In answering your question, you will automatically see why the American and the French Revolution turned out so completely different from each other.

Firstly, the most obvious: Lafayette came from the nobility, he was an aristocrat. He became a hero in the American Revolution because all French fighting on the side of the Americans were considered allies and like the Americans, they were therefore the ‘Sons of Freedom and Liberty’ – no matter if you were a French commander, a French midshipman or a French soldier.
Contrary to the French Revolution, the American revolutionaries all had the same goal to struggle for: ‘No taxation without representation’ first and then, by the time France got involved, complete independence from King George and his British Empire. Clear and simple.

LaFayette as an aristocrat felt himself right at home in the New World, just because he was surrounded by wealthy landowners, merchants, traders and shopkeepers. In America there were no dirty, foul-mouthed, hungry and extremists populace as in France . America was booming economically, it was not bankrupt like France. There was no misery in America. In America the middle class of merchants, master craftsmen and landholding farmers was a much larger percentage of the population – not of poor people as was the case in France.

The problem with Lafayette when he appeared on the stage of France is that he, like so many other French aristocrats, had no idea of how great the misery was of the common people. Like Marie-Antoinette in her Petit Trianon, La Fayette had not grasped what the peasants had gone through in the last centuries. He, like so many others, could not understand the extremist views of the populace. As hero of the American Revolution, he was convinced that simply offering a constitutional monarchy, getting rid of some titles and allowing people of the middle class a voice in the railing and sailing of the country would be enough to allow yet another Revolution to succeed. But it was much more complex. America was not France.

In the French Revolution, there was the problem of the many hungry and overtaxed people. The commoners – a majority - had no say in France, they were the servants of their local lord and were robbed of their hard earned money by heavy taxes in order to stave of the approaching bankruptcy caused by the monarchy that spent more than it could afford. This was NOT the case in America.

While in America everybody had the same goal, in France there were different classes all with their own goal (as you have seen in ‘Shadow of the Guillotine’). The Feuillants wanted a Constitutional Monarchy as was the case in England, the Girondins were the provincials fighting against the growing centralization occurring in Paris politics, wanting the provinces to have a say in French affairs. They were the supporters of merchants and commerce. The Jacobins wanted a democracy limited to the bourgeoisie and the Hébertists wanted all the power to the people.

In France, the revolution - faced by a class struggle and bankruptcy – was a totally new experiment, never seen before in the history of the world. All was destroyed, but how to you build it up again? The Americans new which way to go, they had experience in self-government as they had done for over 100 years prior to American Revolution. The French did not as they were used to the old monarchical absolutism.

At first, La Fayette WAS popular in France, as was Mirabeau and Bailly. They wanted law and order and they wanted change BUT not too much change! La Fayette and his colleagues got involved in class struggles, they were against a Republic, against the War, against the power of the people…and as the French Revolution became more and more radical, the power of La Fayette and the rest of the Feuillants waned. They were too conservative.

La Fayette and many others would be surprised by the power of the common people – the mob - and its important role in the French Revolution. He, like so many, didn’t completely understand what was wrong with France and that was his downfall.
He had hoped to become ‘a hero on two continents’, but failed.

Hope this answers some of your questions



Greets,
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Old 11 Mar 12, 14:04
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Much has been made of Lafayette's service during the War of the American Revolution. He was a favorite of Washington's, but his service was not as valuable or as distinguished as other foreign officers, such as von Steuben, de Kalb, Duportail, Kozciuszko, Fleury or Gimat. Both Rochambeau and Berthier did as much or more, especially in the case of Rochambeau, than Lafayette did.

During the French Revolution Lafayette was a proponent of a constitutional monarchy, and when that failed went over to the allies and was imprisoned by them. Napoleon later secured his release in 1797, gave him a generous pension, and got little thanks from Lafayette for his efforts. Interestingly, Latour-Maubourg went over to the Austrians with Lafayette and was freed with him. He would serve Napoleon loyally as a cavalry commander, losing a leg at Leipzig in 1813.

Lafayette did remark during the first restoration, and the hash the Bourbons made of it, that the Bourbons by their actions (such as their refusal to pay Napoleon's pension on Elba, which they were bound by treaty to do) that 'hoped to drive Napoleon into some act of dispair.'

lafayette was used by Fouche and Talleyrand as a tool against Napoleon's continued rule after Waterloo, Fouche remarking about Lafayette that he was nothing but 'an old imbecile whom one can use like a...ladder which one throws down after one has used it.'

John Elting remarked on Lafayette succinctly in Swords Around A Throne, that he was a 'strange blend of liberalism, hauteur, obtuseness, ambition, and frustration' and that 'The Lafayette in American schoolbooks is mostly an imaginary creature.' In American Army Life, Col Elting refers to Lafayette as being 'charming' and 'in a class by himself' in that he was 'a useful friend and sometimes an overambitious nuisance.

Sincerely,
M
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Old 14 Mar 12, 17:45
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I had to go back to my book diary for this one. In 2008 I read a book entitled Forgotten Allies: The Oneida Indians and the American Revolution by Joseph T. Glatthaar, James Kirby Martin

The authors told how Lafayette had led the Oneidas in some skirmishes around Valley Forge and how much they had liked him and he had liked them. When Lafayette returned to visit in 1824 he had made a point of visiting the tribe in NY. Also an Oneida man had visited Lafayette in France in 1788.

I just ran a search Lafayette+Oneida Indians and found out that Lafayette had been adopted into the tribe in NY in 1778 and had participated at Barren Hill with them in a skirmish.
https://www.google.com/search?source...Oneida+Indians

I also know that he was an ardent abolitionist. See a post I made in 2009.

http://www.armchairgeneral.com/forum...4&postcount=27

George Washington supposedly loved him like a son and Lafayette named a son for Washington.

The little I have read about him seems to indicate that he would have been a wonderful fellow to have known personally.

Wellington, I know this does not answer any of your questions about him, but I thought it was so interesting about the Oneidas that I had to comment.
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Old 29 Apr 12, 18:47
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Much has been made of Lafayette's service during the War of the American Revolution. He was a favorite of Washington's, but his service was not as valuable or as distinguished as other foreign officers, such as von Steuben, de Kalb, Duportail, Kozciuszko, Fleury or Gimat. Both Rochambeau and Berthier did as much or more, especially in the case of Rochambeau, than Lafayette did.

John Elting remarked on Lafayette succinctly in Swords Around A Throne, that he was a 'strange blend of liberalism, hauteur, obtuseness, ambition, and frustration' and that 'The Lafayette in American schoolbooks is mostly an imaginary creature.' In American Army Life, Col Elting refers to Lafayette as being 'charming' and 'in a class by himself' in that he was 'a useful friend and sometimes an overambitious nuisance.

Sincerely,
M
This would be the list of foreign officers I was thinking of. Having had opportunity of late to review the Virginia events, I am having a very difficult time understanding how these little known officers contributed more than Lafayette did. But, am listening.
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Old 30 Apr 12, 08:01
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Baron Johan De Kalb

Here are some links concerning Baron De Kalb's time in the American Revolution. He arrived with Lafayette but was not accepted immediately. Instead, he was held back until he threatened to sue the Congress for false promises. De Kalb was then granted a commission as Major-General. His first field command was to take reinforcements south to relieve Charleston. He was too late for that but did take part in the battle of Camden. He fought well but was wounded several times and died as a captive of the British.

http://www.ushistory.org/valleyforge/served/dekalb.html

http://www.nps.gov/museum/exhibits/r...mg/dekalb.html

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/...80/Johann-Kalb

I see a record indicating De Kalb to be a brave man and we should be grateful for his contribution. However, equal to Lafayette? Not in my opinion. However, as the question is only one of opinion, I would love to hear more.
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