Lafayette & Two Revolutions

“When the government violates the people’s rights, insurrection is, for the people and for each portion of the people, the most sacred of the rights and the most indepensible of duties.”

Marquis de Lafayette.

 

The River Seine

The River Seine

Today, in 1777, a young Marquis de Lafayette set foot on the shores of South Carolina with the intent to serve as General George Washington’s second-in command.  He was nineteen years old, an aristocrat and military officer from France.  Known simply as Lafayette, he was the critical link between the American and the French Revolutions.  A passionate advocate for the constitutional principles of the United States, he called for all nations to embrace the underlying democratic philosophy.

Versailles

Versailles

Not everyone agreed with his lofty aspiration to join the American Revolution. King Louis XVI, fearing Britain’s wrath, would not allow him to leave France.  Lafayette was arrested and his ship seized to placate an enraged British ambassador.  He managed to escape, set sail and avoid two British ships sent to bring him back.   In America, Congress viewed his youth as a disadvantage and was reluctant to promote him over those more experienced. Nevertheless, Lafayette served with distinction as a major-general in the Continental Army under George Washington.  Upon his return to France, he was faced with a revolution in his own country, in which he struggled to maintain order.  Throughout his life, he was true to his ideals.  His nickname was “The Hero of the Two Worlds, Le Héros des Deux Mondes

“True republicanism is the sovereignty of the people…There are natural and imprescriptible rights which an entire nation has no right to violate.”

Marquis de Lafayette

17 thoughts on “Lafayette & Two Revolutions

  1. My goodness he was young but I suppose those late teens, early twenties are the times when we are often the most passionate and sure that we can change the world..immediately.

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    • I confess that at 19, I would have never had the courage or resolve of Lafayette! But it proves that we can never, ever underestimate youth’s ability to change the world. I agree wholeheartedly about the strength, commitment and determination of youth. Looking back, change has always come from the early years. I am very happy to let a new generation take over! I will applaud from the sidelines…

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      • Yes! The Dalai Lama, in his talk last Sunday in our city, reminded us that the 21st Century is for our youth; it is for them to make a difference and make this century one of peace. For those of us of a certain age, including the Dalai Lama, the 20th Century was our time. Now we must move over. Food for thought!

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      • Oh, what a wonderful day of saying what so many of us know to be our new reality. Many do not want to transfer the decision-making to the new generation, simply because of fear. We want to protect and by doing so, we stifle. Thank you for adding these comments – we need to let go and participate by supporting rather than leading.

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    • I agree – very brave. I am just starting David McCullough’s “The Greater Journey” which is the story of the adventurous American artists, writers, doctors, and politicians that travelled to Paris starting in 1830. Lafayette was there to greet them and welcome them to his country. He seemed to see the future, even at a young age. One thing I am certain of – travel opens our lives to new possibilities.

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  2. Brave and courageous young man, Lafayette. He took risks to back up his convictions, sometimes this is risky–glad he was able to avoid capture and accomplish what he wished to do. I am also reading “The Greater Journey” by D. McCullough. What an interesting story and an absolutely captivating author.

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    • I agree – brave and courageous pretty well sums up his whole life. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on “The Greater Journey.” Everyone came to see Lafayette!

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  3. Oh, that first quote. These days, it seems that the government can violate the people’s rights with abandon, while the people are too busy screaming at each other to join forces and say “enough”. Lafayette is proof that a person’s age is not a factor in intelligence, bravery, and valor.

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    • You are so right about age! I think we misunderstand the power of youth – they are a force to be reckoned with. I found it interesting that Thomas Jefferson and Lafayette were close friend until the very end. They held the same beliefs about governments.

      “I predict future happiness for Americans, if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.”
      ― Thomas Jefferson

      I also agree that we need to listen more, and seek to understand rather than engage in useless “clamoring.” 🙂

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    • I agree wholeheartedly. I can only imagine what his mother and father were feeling when he escaped and left for an unknown fate. They probably thought that that they would never see him again. It is interesting that Lafayette’s thoughts at such a young age, especially as an aristocrat, were focused on increasing the rights of ordinary citizens. In his later years, he fought for these same rights in his political life. He lived an extraordinary life – I am going to look for a good biography to read.

      “In Peace, Sons bury their Fathers. In War, Fathers bury their Sons.”
      ― Herodotus

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