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Title: The Boys' Life of Lafayette
Author: Nicolay, Helen
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Boys' Life of Lafayette" ***

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THE BOYS' LIFE OF LAFAYETTE


[Illustration: MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE

From an engraving by Jones]



The Boys' Life of LAFAYETTE

by

Helen Nicolay

Illustrated

Harper & Brothers Publishers

New York and London



CONTENTS

CHAP.                                         PAGE

        Preface...............................  ix
     I. Warriors and Wild Beasts..............   1
    II. Educating a Marquis...................   9
   III. A New King............................  19
    IV. An Unruly Courtier....................  29
     V. Leading a Double Life.................  39
    VI. A Sea-turn............................  48
   VII. An American Pilgrimage................  57
  VIII. An Astonishing Reception..............  64
    IX. Proving Himself a Soldier.............  72
     X. Letters...............................  81
    XI. A Fool's Errand.......................  91
   XII. Farce and Treachery................... 104
  XIII. A Liaison Officer..................... 113
   XIV. Near-mutiny and near-imprisonment..... 122
    XV. Help--and Disappointment.............. 129
   XVI. Black Treachery....................... 139
  XVII. Preparing for the Last Act............ 149
 XVIII. Yorktown.............................. 158
   XIX. "The Wine of Honor"................... 168
    XX. The Passing of Old France............. 180
   XXI. The Tricolor.......................... 191
  XXII. The Sans-culottes..................... 200
 XXIII. Popularity and Prison................. 208
  XXIV. South Carolina to the Rescue!......... 221
   XXV. Volunteers in Misfortune.............. 235
  XXVI. Exiles................................ 246
 XXVII. A Grateful Republic................... 258
XXVIII. Leave-takings......................... 269
  XXIX. President--or King-maker.............. 276
   XXX. Seventy-six Years Young............... 289
        Index................................. 301


ILLUSTRATIONS

MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE................ _Frontispiece_
THE MANOR-HOUSE OF CHAVANIAC........ _Facing p._ 6
FRANKLIN AT THE FRENCH COURT........       "    42
WASHINGTON AND THE COMMITTEE OF CONGRESS
    AT VALLEY FORGE..................      "    94
VALLEY FORGE—WASHINGTON AND LAFAYETTE      "    94
THE BATTLE OF MONMOUTH...............      "   110
THE BASTILLE.........................      "   194
SIEGE OF THE BASTILLE................      "   194
MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE.................      "   262
MADAME DE LAFAYETTE..................      "   262
MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE AND LOUIS-PHILIPPE    "   286



[Pg ix]PREFACE

This is no work of fiction. It is sober history; yet if the bare facts
it tells were set forth without the connecting links, its preface might
be made to look like the plot of a dime novel.

It is the story of a poor boy who inherited great wealth; who ran away
from home to fight for liberty and glory; who became a major-general
before he was twenty years old; who knew every nook and corner of the
palace at Versailles, yet was the blood-brother of American Indians;
who tried vainly to save the lives of his king and queen; who was in
favor of law, yet remained a rebel to the end of his days; who suffered
an unjust imprisonment which has well been called "a night five years
long"; who was twice practically Dictator of France; and who, in his
old age, was called upon to make a great decision.

But it is no work of fiction. It is only the biography of a French
gentleman named Lafayette.



[Pg 1]THE BOYS' LIFE OF LAFAYETTE


I

WARRIORS AND WILD BEASTS


"The Lafayettes die young, but die fighting," was a saying in that part
of France where they had been people of consequence for seven hundred
years before the most famous of them came into the world. The family
name was Motier, but, after the custom of the time, they were better
known by the name of their estate, La Fayette, in Auvergne, a region
which had been called the French Siberia. Although situated in central
southern France, fully three hundred and fifty miles from Paris, it is
a high wind-swept country of plains and cone-shaped hills, among whose
rugged summits storms break to send destruction rushing down into the
valleys. Unexpected, fertile, sheltered spots are to be found among
these same hills, but on the whole it is not a gentle nor a smiling
land.

The history of France during the Middle Ages bears not a little
[Pg 2]resemblance to this region of Auvergne, so full of sharp
contrasts, often of disaster. Through all the turbulent centuries the
men of the house of Lafayette bore their part, fighting gallantly for
prince and king. Family tradition abounded in stories telling how
they had taken part in every war since old Pons Motier de Lafayette,
the Crusader, fought at Acre, in Palestine, in 1250. Jean fell at
Poictiers in 1356. There was a Claude--exception to the rule that they
died young--who took part in sixty-five sieges and no end of pitched
battles. Though most of them fought on land, there was an occasional
sailor to relieve the monotony; notably a vice-admiral of the reign
of Francis First, who held joint command with Andrea Doria when that
soldier of fortune went to the relief of Marseilles, and who sank or
burned four Spanish galleons in the naval battle at the mouth of the
Var.

But the Lafayette who occupied most space in family tradition and
written history was Gilbert, who was head of the family about the
time Columbus discovered America. It was he who took for motto upon
his coat of arms the words, "_Cur non?_" "Why not?" and by energetic
deeds satisfactorily answered his own question. "Seneschal of the
Bourbonnaise," "Lieutenant-General," "Governor of Dauphigny," and
"Marshal of France" were a few of the titles and honors he gathered
in the course of a long life, for he was another exception to the
family rule. He was eighty-two before he passed away, ready to fight
to the last. Although it is not true that he slew the English Duke of
Clarence with his own hands at the battle of Baugé, it is true that he
[Pg 3]fought under the banner of Joan of Arc at Orléans, and that he
had many adventures on many fields. When there was no foreign enemy
to battle against, he worked hard to subdue the bandits who infested
France and made travel on the highroads more exciting than agreeable to
timid souls in the reign of Charles VII.

In time the Motiers de Lafayette divided into two branches, the elder
keeping the estate and name and most of the glory; the younger, known
as the Motiers of Champetières, enjoying only local renown. The women
of the family also made a place for themselves in history. One, who had
beauty, had also courage and wit to oppose the great Cardinal Richelieu
himself. Another, less known in politics than in literature, though
she tried her hand at both, became famous as a novelist. It was her
grand-daughter who inherited part of the property at a time when there
were no more men of the elder branch to carry on the name. In order
that it might not die out, she arranged to have the estates pass back
to the younger branch, which in time inherited the title also.

The Lafayettes went on fighting and losing their lives early in battle.
Thus it happened that a baby born to a young widow in the grim old
manor-house of Chavaniac on the 6th of September, 1757, was the last
male representative of his race, a marquis from the hour of his birth.
His father had been made Chevalier of the Order of Saint-Louis and
Colonel of Grenadiers at the early age of twenty-two, and fell before
[Pg 4]he was twenty-five, leading his men in an obscure engagement of
the Seven Years' War. This was about a month before his son was born.
His family believed that the gallant colonel's life was sacrificed by
the recklessness of his commanding officer.

According to the old parish register, still preserved, "The very high
and puissant gentleman, Monseigneur Marie-Joseph-Paul-Yves-Roch-Gilbert
Dumotier de Lafayette, the lawful son of the very high and very
puissant Monseigneur Michel-Louis-Christophe-Roch-Gilbert Dumotier,
Marquis de Lafayette, Baron de Wissac, Seigneur de Saint-Romain and
other places, and of the very high and very puissant lady, Madame
Marie Louise Julie de la Rivière," was baptized in the little parish
church of Chavaniac twenty-four hours after his birth. Besides this
terrifying name and the title, all the traditions and responsibilities
of both branches of the family descended upon his infant shoulders.
Being such a scrap of a baby, however, he was mercifully ignorant
of responsibilities and ancient names. The one given him in baptism
was shortened for daily use to Gilbert, the name of the old Marshal
of France; but a time came when it was convenient to have a number,
rightfully his, from which to choose. For his signature "La Fayette"
covered the whole ground.

His only near relatives were his young mother, his grandmother (a
stately lady of strong character), and two aunts, sisters of his dead
father, who came to live at Chavaniac. It was by this little group of
[Pg 5]aristocratic Frenchwomen that the champion of liberty was brought
up during those early years when character is formed. That he did not
become hopelessly spoiled speaks well for his disposition and their
self-control. He was not a strong baby, and they must have spent many
anxious hours bending over him as he lay asleep, however much they
concealed their interest at other times for fear of doing him moral
harm.

Until he was eleven they all lived together in the gloomy old château
where he was born. This has been described as "great and rather heavy."
It had been fortified in the fourteenth century. Two round towers with
steep, pointed roofs flanked it on the right and left. Across its front
high French windows let in light to the upper floors. From them there
was a far-reaching view over plain and river, and steep hills dotted
with clumps of trees. But loopholes on each side of an inhospitable
narrow doorway told of a time when its situation had been more prized
for defense than for mere beauty of scenery. It had a dungeon and other
grim conveniences of life in the Middle Ages, which must have stamped
themselves deep on the mind of an impressionable child. The castles of
Wissac and Saint-Romain, of which the boy was also lord, could be seen
higher up among the hills. There were glimpses, too, of peasant homes,
but these were neither neat nor prosperous. Bad laws, and abuse of law
that had been going on for centuries, had brought France to a point
where a few people were growing inordinately rich at the expense of all
[Pg 6]the rest. The king suffered from this as well as the peasants.
The country was overrun by an army of tax-collectors, one for every
one hundred and thirty souls in France, each of them bent on giving up
as little as possible of the money he collected. To curry favor with
the great nobles, who were more powerful than the king himself, their
property was not taxed so heavily as it should have been, while poorer
people, especially the peasants, were robbed to make up the difference.
"The people of our country live in misery; they have neither furniture
nor beds; during part of the year the most of them have no nourishment
except bread made of oats and barley, and even this they must snatch
from their own mouths and those of their children in order to pay the
taxes." That was written about this very region of Auvergne a few years
before Lafayette was born. In self-defense the peasants made their
homes look even more wretched than they really were. On occasion, when
convinced that the stranger knocking at their door was no spy, they
could bring a wheaten loaf and a bottle of wine from their secret store
and do the honors most hospitably.

The La Fayettes were not rich, though they were the great people of
their neighborhood. Only one Frenchman in a hundred belonged to the
nobility, but that one received more consideration than all the other
ninety-nine combined. When the boy marquis rode out with his mother,
or that stately lady his grandmother, the peasants in the little
village which had grown up around the walls of Chavaniac, clinging to
it for protection, bowed down as though the child were a sovereign.
[Pg 7]Some of them knelt in the dust as the coach passed by. Truly it
was strange soil for the growth of democratic ideas. It was well for
the boy's soul that in spite of lands and honor the household was of
necessity a frugal one. The wide acres were unproductive. Men who had
fought so often and so well for their princes had found little leisure
to gather wealth for their children. Besides, it was thought out of the
question for a nobleman to engage in gainful pursuits. The wealth such
men enjoyed came through favor at court; and in this household of women
there was no longer any one able to render the kind of service likely
to be noticed and rewarded by a king.

[Illustration: THE MANOR-HOUSE OF CHAVANIAC

Birthplace of Lafayette]

So the lad grew from babyhood in an atmosphere of much ceremony and
very little luxury. On the whole, his was a happy childhood, though by
no means gay. He loved the women who cherished him so devotedly. In his
_Memoirs_, written late in life, he calls them "tender and venerated
relatives." They looked forward to the day when in his turn he should
become a soldier, dreading it, as women will, but accepting it, as
such women do, in the spirit of _noblesse oblige_, believing it the
one possible calling for a young man of his station. To prepare him
for it he was trained in manly exercises, by means of which he outgrew
the delicacy of his earliest years and became tall and strong for his
age. He was trained also in horsemanship, to which he took kindly, for
he loved all spirited animals. In books, to which he did not object,
[Pg 8]though he was never wholly a scholar, he followed such studies as
could be taught him by the kindly Abbé Feyon, his tutor.

On his rides, when he met the ragged, threadbare people who lived among
the hills, they saluted him and looked upon him almost with a sense of
ownership. Was he not one of their Lafayettes who had been fighting
and dying gallantly for hundreds of years? As for him, his friendly,
boyish eyes looked a little deeper through their rags into their
sterling peasant hearts than either he or they realized. In the old
manor-house his day-dreams were all of "riding over the world in search
of reputation," he tells us; a reputation to be won by doing gallant
deeds. "You ask me," we read in his _Memoirs_, "at what time I felt
the earliest longings for glory and liberty. I cannot recall anything
earlier than my enthusiasm for tales of heroism. At the age of eight
my heart beat fast at thought of a hyena which had done some damage
and made even more noise in the neighborhood. The hope of meeting that
beast animated all my excursions." Had the encounter taken place, it
might have been thrilling in the extreme. It might even have deprived
history of a bright page; for it was nothing less than hunger which
drove such beasts out of the woods in winter to make raids upon lonely
farms--even to terrify villagers at the very gates of Chavaniac.


[Pg 9]II

EDUCATING A MARQUIS


The first period of Gilbert's life came to an end when he was eleven
years old. His mother was by no means ignorant of the ways of the world
and she had powerful relatives at court. She realized how much they
could do to advance her boy's career by speaking an occasional word in
his behalf; and also how much truth there is in the old saying "Out
of sight, out of mind." They might easily forget all about her and
her boy if they remained hidden in the provinces. So they went up to
Paris together, and she had herself presented at court and took up her
residence in the French capital, while Gilbert became a student at the
Collège Du Plessis, a favorite school for sons of French noblemen. His
mother's uncle, the Comte de la Rivière, entered his name upon the army
lists as member of a regiment of Black Mousquetaires, to secure him the
benefit of early promotion. He was enrolled, too, among the pages of
Marie Leszczynska, the Polish wife of King Louis XV, but his duties,
as page and soldier, were merely nominal. He does not say a word about
[Pg 10]being page in his _Memoirs_. Of the regiment he merely says that
it served to get him excused from classes when there was to be a parade.

He remained three years at Du Plessis. He found studying according to
rule decidedly irksome, and very different from the solitary lessons at
Chavaniac, where the few rules in force had been made for his benefit,
if not for his convenience. He tells us that he was "distracted from
study only by the desire to study without restraint," and that such
success as he gained was "inspired by a desire for glory and troubled
by the desire for liberty." Sometimes the latter triumphed. It amused
him, when he was old, to recall how, being ordered to write an essay on
"the perfect steed," he sacrificed a good mark and the praise of his
teachers to the pleasure of describing a spirited horse that threw his
rider at the very sight of a whip.

The Collège Du Plessis must have been almost like a monastery. Each
boy had a stuffy little cell into which he was locked at night. No
member of a student's family might cross the threshold, and the many
careful rules for health and diet were quite the opposite of those
now practised. This period of Lafayette's school-days was a time when
men's ideas on a variety of subjects were undergoing vast change. The
old notion that learning was something to be jealously guarded and
made as difficult and disagreeable as possible died hard. It is true
that the good Fénelon, who believed in teaching children to read from
books printed in French instead of in Latin, and who thought it could
[Pg 11]do them no harm if the books were "well bound and gilded on
the edge," had gone to his reward half a century before; but he had
been writing about the education of girls! When Lafayette was only
five years old one Jean Jacques Rousseau had published a fantastic
story called _Émile_, which was nothing in the world but a treatise on
education in disguise. In this he objected to the doctrine of original
sin, holding that children were not born bad; and he reasoned that they
did not learn better nor more quickly for having knowledge beaten into
them with rods. But this man Rousseau was looked upon as an infidel
and a dangerous character. Probably at Du Plessis the discipline and
course of study belonged to the old order of things, though there
were concessions in the way of teaching the young gentlemen manners
and poetry and polite letter-writing, which they would need later in
their fashionable life at court. History as taught them was hopelessly
tangled up in heraldry, being all about the coats of arms and the
quarrels of nobles in France and neighboring countries. When something
about justice and liberty and the rights of the people did creep into
the history lesson the tall young student from Auvergne fell upon it
with avidity. Perhaps it was because of such bits scattered through
the pages of Roman authors that he learned considerable Latin, and
learned it well enough to remember it forty years later, when he found
it useful to piece out his ignorance of German in talking with his
Austrian jailers.

In spite of queer notions about hygiene, like those which bade him
[Pg 12]shut out fresh air from his room at night and avoid the risk of
eating fresh fruit, he grew in body as well as in mind during the years
at Du Plessis, and he had almost reached his man's height of five feet
eleven inches, when one day in 1770 a messenger came to the college,
bringing the news that his mother had just died. A very few days later
her death was followed by that of her father, who was wealthy and had
made the boy his heir. Thus, almost within a week, he found himself
infinitely poorer than he had ever been before, yet very rich, deprived
of those dearest to him and in possession of a large fortune.

People began to take a sudden lively interest in him. The son of a
young widow studying in the Collège Du Plessis was of consequence only
to himself and his mother. But the young Marquis de Lafayette, of such
old and excellent family, such good disposition, such a record in his
studies, such a very large income--above all, a generous young man with
no near relatives to give meddling advice about how he should spend his
money, became fair prey for all the fortune-hunters prowling around the
corrupt court of old Louis XV.

These were many. The king was bored as well as old. His days were
filled with a succession of tiresome ceremonies. A crowd of bowing
courtiers was admitted to his bedroom before he got up in the morning.
Crowds attended him at every turn, even assisting in his toilet at
night. Frederick the Great had said, "If I were king of France, the
first thing I would do would be to appoint another king to hold court
[Pg 13]in my place"! But indolent old Louis had not the energy even to
break down customs which had come to him from the days of kings long
dead. "He cared for nothing in this life except to hunt, and feared
nothing in the life to come except hell." When not hunting, his one
desire was to be let alone to pursue whatever evil fancy entered his
brain.

The people at court had two desires--to flatter the king and to get
money. The first was the surest means to the second. Everybody, good
and bad, seemed in need of money, for the few rich nobles had set a
style of living which not even the king could afford to follow. It
was all part of the same tangle, the result of accidents and crimes
and carelessness extending through many reigns, which had brought
about ever-increasing visits of the tax-collectors and reduced the
peasants to starvation. One after another important concessions had
been given away as a mark of royal favor, or else had been sold
outright. A clever man in the reign of Louis XIV had remarked that
whenever his Majesty created an office the Lord supplied a fool to buy
it. In the reign of his grandson, Louis XV, things were even worse. A
high-sounding official title, carrying with it a merely nominal duty
and some privilege that might be turned into coin, was the elegant way
of overcoming financial difficulty. Even the wax candles burned in
the sconces at Versailles were sold for the benefit of the official
who had charge of their lighting. He saw to it that plenty of candles
were lighted, and that none of them burned too long before going to
swell his income. What the great nobles did lesser ones imitated; and
[Pg 14]so on, down a long line. No wonder that young Lafayette, having
inherited his fortune, became suddenly interesting.

Of course, not everybody was corrupt, even at court. There were people
who could not possibly be classed as fortune-hunters. Even to these
the fact that the young heir was tall and silent and awkward, not
especially popular at school, and not likely to shine in a society
whose standards were those of dancing-school manners and lively wit,
did not weigh for a moment against the solid attraction of his wealth.
To fathers and mothers of marriageable daughters both his moral and
material qualifications appealed. He was barely fourteen years old
when proposals of marriage began to be made in the careful French
way, which assumes that matrimony is an affair to be arranged between
guardians, instead of being left to the haphazard whim of young people.
An early letter of Lafayette's written about this time was partly
upon this subject. It might have been penned by a world-wise man of
thirty. The Comte de la Rivière appears to have been the person to
whom these proposals were first addressed. He, and possibly the Abbé
Feyon, discussed them with Lafayette in a business-like way; and the
young man, not being in love, either with a maid or with the idea
of matrimony, listened without enthusiasm, suggesting that better
matches might be found among the beauties of Auvergne. New duties and
surroundings engrossed him. He had left Du Plessis for the Military
Academy at Versailles, where there was more army and less cloister in
his training; where he spent part of his money upon fine horses and
[Pg 15]lent them generously to friends; and where, for amusement in his
hours of leisure, he could watch the pageant of court life unrolling at
the very gates of the academy. Matrimony could wait.

Among those more interested in providing a wife for him than he was in
finding one for himself was the lively Duc d'Ayen, a rich and important
nobleman, the father of five daughters. The eldest of these was fully a
year younger than Lafayette, while the others descended toward babyhood
like a flight of steps. Even in that day of youthful marriages it
seemed early to begin picking out husbands for them. But there were
five, and the duke felt he could not begin better than by securing
this long-limbed boy for a son-in-law. He suggested either his eldest
daughter, Louise, or the second child, Adrienne, then barely twelve,
as a future Marquise de Lafayette. He did not care which was chosen,
but of course it must be one of the older girls, since the bridegroom
would have to wait too long for the others to grow up. The match was
entirely suitable, and was taken under favorable consideration by the
bridegroom's family; but when it occurred to the duke to mention the
matter to his wife, he found opposition where it was least expected.
Madame d'Ayen absolutely refused her consent. These two were quite
apt to hold different views. The husband liked the luxury of the
court and chuckled over its shams. His wife, on the contrary, was of
a most serious turn of mind and had very little sense of humor. The
frivolities of court life really shocked her. She looked upon riches as
[Pg 16]a burden, and fulfilled the social duties of her position only
under protest as part of that burden. The one real joy of her life lay
in educating her daughters. She studied the needs of their differing
natures. She talked with them much more freely than was then the
custom, and did all in her power to make of them women who could live
nobly at court and die bravely when and wherever their time came.

She had no fault to find with young Lafayette. Her opposition was a
matter of theory and just a little selfish, for her married life had
not been happy enough to make her anxious to see her girls become wives
of even the best young men. As for this Motier lad, she thought him
particularly open to temptation because of his youth and loneliness and
great wealth. He had lacked the benefit of a father's training. So, for
that matter, had her own children. Their father was almost always away
from home.

The duke's airy manner hid a persistent spirit, and, in spite of his
worldliness, he esteemed the good character of the boy. The discussion
lasted almost a year and developed into the most serious quarrel of
their married life. No wonder, under the circumstances, that the duke
did not, as his daughter expressed it, "like his home." The little
girls knew something was wrong, and shared their mother's unhappiness
without guessing the cause. The duke's acquaintances, on the other
hand, to whom the cause was no secret, looked upon the contest of wills
as a comedy staged for their benefit. One of them said in his hearing
that no woman of Madame d'Ayen's strength of character, who had gone
[Pg 17]so far in refusal, would ever consent to the marriage. At this
the duke warmly rushed to the defense of his wife and answered that a
woman of her character, once convinced that she was wrong, would give
in completely and utterly.

That was exactly what happened. After months of critical observation
she found herself liking Lafayette better and better. The duke assured
her that the marriage need not take place for two years, and that
meantime the young man should continue his studies. She gave her
consent and took the motherless boy from that moment into her heart;
while the little girls, sensitive to the home atmosphere, felt the joy
of reconciliation without even yet knowing how nearly it concerned them.

It was decided among the elders that Adrienne, the second daughter, was
to become Madame Lafayette, because the young Vicomte de Noailles, a
cousin to whom Louise had been partial from babyhood, had made formal
proposals for her hand. This cousin was a friend and schoolfellow of
Lafayette's, and during the next few months the youths were given the
opportunity of meeting their future wives apparently by chance while
out walking, and even under the roof of the duke; but for a year
nothing was said to the girls about marriage. Their mother did not
wish to have their minds distracted from their lessons or from that
important event in the lives of Catholic maidens, their first communion.

Two months before her marriage actually took place Louise was told
that she was to be the bride of Noailles; and at the time of that
wedding Adrienne was informed of the fate in store for her. She found
[Pg 18]nothing whatever to question in this. It seemed altogether
delightful, and far simpler than deciding about the state of her own
soul. The truth was that her heart had already begun to feel that love
for Gilbert de Motier which was to grow and become the controlling
factor of her life. Girl-like, her head was just a little turned by
the momentous news of her engagement. Her mother tried to allay her
excitement, but she also took care to let Adrienne know how much she
liked the young man and to repeat to her all the good things she had
found out about him. And to her joy, Adrienne found that Lafayette felt
for the elder lady "that filial affection" which also grew as the years
went on.

How he felt about marriage as the day approached we do not know;
neither do we know the details of the wedding which must have been
celebrated with some splendor on the 11th of April, 1774. The bride was
not yet fifteen, the groom was sixteen. He was given leave of absence
from his regiment, and the newly wedded pair took up their residence in
the wonderful Paris home of Adrienne's family, the Hotel de Noailles.
Although not far from the Tuileries, in the very heart of the city, it
possessed a garden so large that a small hunt could be carried on in
it, with dogs and all. John Adams is authority for this. He visited the
Lafayettes there some time later, and found it unbelievably vast and
splendid.


[Pg 19]III

A NEW KING


Less than a month after their marriage these young people were dressed
in black, as was all the rest of fashionable Paris. The gay spring
season had been brought to a premature and agitated end by the news
that the king lay dead of smallpox, the loathsome disease he most
dreaded.

Smallpox was distressingly common in those days before vaccination had
been discovered; but courageous people protected themselves against it
even then by deliberately contracting the disease from a mild case and
allowing it to run its course under the best possible conditions. It
was found to be much less deadly in this way, though the patients often
became very ill, and it required real courage to submit to it.

The old king had never been at all brave. He feared discomfort in this
life almost as much as he dreaded hell in the next; so he had fled the
disease instead of courting it, and in time it came to have special
terrors for him. He had been riding through the April woods with a
hunting party and had come upon a sad little funeral procession--a very
[Pg 20]humble one. Always curious, he stopped the bearers and asked
who they were carrying to the grave. "A young girl, your Majesty."
The king's watery old eyes gleamed. "Of what did she die?" "Smallpox,
Sire." In terrified anger the monarch bade them begone and bury the
corpse deep; then he dismissed the hunt and returned to the palace. Two
days later he was stricken. The disease ran its course with amazing
virulence, as though taking revenge for his misspent life. Some of the
courtiers fled from Versailles. Others, to whom the king's displeasure
seemed a worse menace than smallpox, remained. His favorites tried
to keep the truth from the public. Daily bulletins announced that he
was getting better. When it was learned that he might die the people
crowded the church of Ste.-Geneviève, the patron saint of Paris,
kissing the reliquary and raising sobs and prayers for his recovery.
When he died, on the 10th of May, his body was hastily covered with
quicklime and conveyed, by a little handful of attendants who remained
faithful, to St.-Denis, where the kings of France lie buried. It was
done without ceremony in the dead of night. Forty days later his bones
were laid in the tomb of his ancestors with all possible funeral pomp.
There was decorous official mourning for the customary length of time;
but the old king had never been an inspiring figure and most of his
subjects were secretly glad he was out of the way.

During July and August of that year Lafayette was "in service" with
the Black Mousquetaires. In September, when his period of active duty
[Pg 21]was over and he could do as he chose, he had himself exposed to
smallpox, and he and his wife and mother-in-law shut themselves up in a
house at Chaillon, hired for the occasion, where during his illness and
convalescence Madame d'Ayen devoted herself to her new son night and
day.

Even while the rafters of Ste.-Geneviève were echoing to sobs and
prayers for the old king's recovery, people whispered under their
breath what they really thought of him; and by the time Lafayette
and his wife could take their places in the world again Louis XV had
been systematically forgotten. His grandson, the new king, was a
well-meaning young man, only three years older than Lafayette. One of
the king's intimates said that the chief trouble with Louis XVI was
that he lacked self-confidence. Marie Antoinette, his queen, was fond
of pleasure, and for four long years, ever since their marriage, they
had been obliged to fill the difficult position of heirs apparent,
hampered by all the restraints of royalty while enjoying precious few
of its privileges. Like every one else, they were anxious to get the
period of mourning well over and to see the real beginning of their
reign, which promised to be long and prosperous. Nobody realized that
the time had come when the sins and abuses of previous reigns must be
paid for, and that the country was on the verge of one of the greatest
revolutions of history.

To outward appearance it was a time of hope. Population was increasing
rapidly; inventions and new discoveries were being made every day.
[Pg 22]"More truths concerning the external world were discovered in
France during the latter half of the eighteenth century than during all
preceding periods together," says Buckle. Even in the lifetime of the
old king it had been impossible to stem the tide of progress: what more
natural than to believe these blessings would continue, now that his
evil influence was removed?

Not only had discoveries been made; they had been brought within the
reach of more people than ever before. About the time Lafayette was
born the first volume of a great book called the _Encyclopedia_ had
made its appearance in the French language, modeled after one already
produced in England. Priests had denounced it; laws had been made
ordering severe penalties for its use. But it was too valuable to be
given up and volume after volume continued to appear. Voltaire wrote an
audacious imaginary account of the way it was used in the palace. The
king's favorite did not know how to mix her rouge; the king's ministers
wanted to learn about gunpowder. The forbidden book was sent for. A
procession of lackeys staggered into the room, bending under the weight
of twenty huge volumes, and everybody found the information desired.
The bit of audacity hid a great truth. The _Encyclopedia_ had brought
knowledge to the people and all were anxious to profit by it.

"The people," however, were not considered by nobles who lived
in palaces. Indeed, they were only beginning to consider
themselves--beginning dimly to comprehend that their day was dawning.
[Pg 23]Two decades would have to pass before they were fully awake,
but the scene was already being set for their great drama. Paris, the
largest city in France, had increased in size one-third during the past
twenty-five years. The old theory had been that too large a town was a
public menace, both to health and to government. Nine times already in
its history the limits of Paris had been fixed and had been outgrown.
It now held between seven hundred thousand and eight hundred thousand
souls. When viewed from the tower of Notre Dame it spread out ten or
twelve miles in circumference, round as an orange, and cut into two
nearly equal parts by the river Seine.

"One is a stranger to one's neighbor in this vast place," a man wrote
soon after this. "Sometimes one learns of his death only by receiving
the invitation to his funeral." "Two celebrated men may live in this
city twenty-five years and never meet." "So many chimneys send forth
warmth and smoke that the north wind is tempered in passing over the
town." Streets were so narrow and houses so high that dwellers on
the lower floors "lived in obscurity"; while elsewhere there were
palaces like the great house belonging to the De Noailles family with
its garden large enough to stage a small hunt. Such gardens were
carefully walled away from the public. These walled-in gardens and the
high, evil-smelling houses in which people lived "three hundred years
behind the times," crowded together and hungry from birth to death,
were equally prophetic of the awakening to come; for the improvements
[Pg 24]celebrated by this writer in describing old Paris were either
of a kind to let light in upon the people or to make conditions more
intolerable for them.

Advertising signs no longer creaked from iron gibbets, threatening to
tumble and crush the passers-by. Spurs as big as cartwheels and the
huge gloves and giant boots which formerly proclaimed the business
carried on under them had been banished or were now screwed securely
to the walls, which gave the streets a clean-shaven appearance. The
candle lanterns that used to splutter and drip and go out, leaving
Paris in darkness, were replaced, on nights when the moon was off duty,
by lamps burning "tripe-oil" and fitted with reflectors. By means of
this brilliant improvement fashionable quarters were almost safe after
nightfall, whereas in former years there had been danger of attack and
robbery, even within pistol-shot of the grand home where Lafayette
went to live after his marriage. In addition to the lights glowing
steadily under their reflectors--one light to every seventy or one
hundred inhabitants--there were many professional lantern-bearers whose
business in life was escorting wayfarers to and from their homes. Paris
after nightfall was atwinkle, for "to live by candle-light is a sign of
opulence."

There was a fire department, newly installed, ready to come on call,
and, strange to say, "it cost absolutely nothing to be rescued."
That, however, was the only cheap thing in Paris. "The poorer one
is the more it costs to live!" was a cry that rose then, as now,
[Pg 25]in all its bitterness. With money anything could be bought.
Voltaire declared that a Roman general on the day of his triumph never
approached the luxury to be found here. Wares came to the city from
the ends of the earth, and Parisians invented new wares of their own.
Somebody had contrived umbrellas like those used in the Orient, except
that these folded up when not in use. Somebody else had invented the
business of renting them at a charge of two liards to gallants crossing
the Pont Neuf who wished to shield their complexions. There were
little stations at each end of the bridge where the money could be
paid or the umbrella given up. Even seasons of the year set no limit
to extravagance in Paris. "A bouquet of violets in the dead of winter
costs two louis (about nine dollars), and some women wear them!"

Water was delivered daily to the tall houses, from carts, by a force of
twenty thousand men, who carried it as high as the seventh floor for
a trifle more than it cost to cross the Pont Neuf under the shade of
an umbrella. Drivers sent their water-carts skidding over the slime,
for the narrow, cobble-paved streets were black with slippery mud.
Coaches and other vehicles swung around corners and dashed along at
incredible speed, while pedestrians fled in every direction. There were
no sidewalks and no zones of safety. The confusion was so great that
dignified travel by sedan-chair had become well-nigh impossible. King
Louis XV once said, "If I were chief of police I would forbid coaches";
but, being only King Louis, he had done nothing. Pedestrians were often
[Pg 26]run down; then there would be even greater confusion for a few
moments, but only the shortest possible halt to traffic. "When on the
pavements of Paris it is easy to see that the people do not make the
laws," said one who had suffered.

These people who suffered in Paris at every turn were now beginning to
find a cyclopedia of their own in another invention of comparatively
recent date--the cafés, warmed and lighted, where even men who had
not sous enough to satisfy their hunger might cheat their stomachs
with a thimbleful of sour wine or a morsel of food, and sit for hours
listening and pondering the talk of others who came and went. There was
much talk, and in one part of Paris or another it touched upon every
known subject. Each café had its specialty; politics in one, philosophy
in another, science in a third. Men of the same cast of mind gravitated
toward the same spot. Cafés had already become schools. Soon they were
to become political clubs. It was a wonderful way to spread new ideas.

Some of the cafés were very humble, some very expensive, but none were
strictly fashionable. To be seen dining in such a place indicated that
a man had no invitations to dinner, so the eighteen or twenty thousand
fops who, curled and perfumed, went from house to house cared little
for cafés. They ate like grasshoppers, through the welcome of one
host on Monday and another on Tuesday, and so down the week, "knowing
neither the price of meat nor of bread, and consuming not one-quarter
of that which was set before them," while thousands went hungry--which
[Pg 27]is the reason that after a time the men in the cafés rose
and took a terrible revenge. Paris was by no means all France, but
whatever Paris did and felt the other towns were doing also; and slowly
but surely the passions animating them would make their way to the
loneliest peasant hut on the remotest edge of the kingdom.

Thus, while the nobles in their gardens still dreamed pleasantly of
the power that was passing from them, the people were slowly rousing
from torpor to resentment. It is well to linger over these conditions
in order to understand fully all that Lafayette's acts meant in the
society in which he moved. He was not one of the twenty thousand fops,
but he belonged to the fortunate class to whom every door seemed open
during the early years of the new reign. His military duties were
agreeable and light, he had plenty of money, a charming wife, powerful
family connections, and he was admitted to the inmost circle at court.
If he had longings to experiment with the democratic theories set forth
by radical authors like Rousseau, even that was not forbidden him.
Their writings had attracted much attention and had already brought
about increased liberality of manners. While the court at Versailles
and the city of Paris were very distinct, Paris being only a huge town
near at hand, the distance between them was but fourteen miles, and
it was quite possible for young men like Lafayette to go visiting, so
to speak, in circles not their own. Lafayette's friend, the Comte de
Ségur, has left a picture of life as the young men of their circle knew
it.

[Pg 28]"Devoting all our time to society, _fêtes_, and pleasure, ... we
enjoyed at one and the same time all the advantages we had inherited
from our ancient institutions, and all the liberty permitted by new
fashions. The one ministered to our vanity, the other to our love of
pleasure. In our castles, among our peasants, our guards, and our
bailiffs, we still exercised some vestiges of our ancient feudal
power. At court and in the city we enjoyed all the distinctions of
birth. In camp our illustrious names alone were enough to raise us to
superior command, while at the same time we were at perfect liberty to
mix unhindered and without ostentation with all our co-citizens and
thus to taste the pleasures of plebeian equality. The short years of
our springtime of life rolled by in a series of illusions--a kind of
well-being which could have been ours, I think, at no other age of the
world."


[Pg 29]IV

AN UNRULY COURTIER


During the winter after Adrienne's marriage the Duchesse d'Ayen took
her two daughters regularly to the balls given each week by the queen,
and after the balls invited the friends of her sons-in-law to supper,
in a pathetically conscientious effort to make the home of the De
Noailles a more agreeable place for the husbands of her children than
it had been for her own. Adrienne inherited much of her mother's
seriousness, but she was young enough to enjoy dancing, and, feeling
that duty as well as inclination smiled upon this life, she was very
happy. In December of that year her first child was born, a daughter
who was named Henriette.

Lafayette tells us in his _Memoirs_ that he did not feel thoroughly
at ease in the gay society Marie Antoinette drew about her. Nor did
the queen altogether approve of him, because of his silence and an
awkwardness which did not measure up to the standards of deportment
she had set for this circle of intimate friends. "I was silent," he
says, "because I did not hear anything which seemed worth repeating;
and I certainly had no thoughts of my own worthy of being put into
[Pg 30]words." Some of his friends, who knew him better than the queen,
realized that there was plenty of fire in him, in spite of his cold
manner and slow speech. De Ségur was one of these, for at some period
of his youth Lafayette, smitten with sudden and mistaken jealousy, had
spent nearly an entire night trying to persuade De Ségur to fight a
duel with him about a beauty for whom De Ségur did not care at all.

Adrienne's family, wishing to do their best by him, tried to secure a
place for him in the household of the prince who afterward became Louis
XVIII. Lafayette did not want to hurt their feelings; neither did he
fancy himself in the rôle they had chosen for him, where he believed
he would be forced to govern his actions by another man's opinions. He
kept his own counsel,but, "in order to save his independence," managed
to have the prince overhear a remark which he made with the deliberate
purpose of angering him. The office was of course given to some one
else, and another bit of ill will went to swell the breezes blowing
over the terraces at Versailles.

There were bitter court factions. Friends of Louis XV had not relished
seeing power slip out of their hands. The queen was an Austrian who
never fully understood nor sympathized with the French. Neither her
critics nor her partizans ever allowed themselves to forget her foreign
birth. King Louis, not having confidence in himself, chose for his
premier M. de Maurepas, who was over eighty, and should therefore have
been a mine of wisdom and experience. Unfortunately, he was the wrong
[Pg 31]man; he was not universally respected, and his white hairs
crowned a pate that was not proof against the frivolities of society.
The younger men were displeased. It was not customary to give young
men positions of importance, but they were sure they could do quite as
well as he. They had their café club also, a place called the Wooden
Sword, where they discussed the most extravagant theories of new
philosophy, reviled old customs, calling them "Gothic," their favorite
term of reproach, and concocted schemes to amuse themselves and tease
their elders. Having nothing serious to occupy them, they turned their
attention to setting new fashions. A series of pageants and dances gave
them excellent opportunity. The admiration they felt for themselves and
one another in the romantic dress of the time of Henri IV made them
resolve to adopt it and force it upon others for daily wear. That the
capes and plumes and love-knots which became their slender figures so
well made older and stouter men look ridiculous was perhaps part of
their malicious intent.

Age made common cause against them, and the youngsters went too far
when they held a mock session of Parliament, one of those grave
assemblages which had taken place in far-off days in France, but had
been almost forgotten since. There was an increasing demand that the
custom be revived, which was not relished by M. de Maurepas and his
kind. When the old premier learned that a prince of the blood had
played the role of President in this travesty, while Lafayette had
been attorney-general and other sprigs of high family figured as [Pg
32]counsel, barristers, and advocates, it was evident that a storm was
brewing. De Ségur went straight to the king and told him the story in
a way that made him laugh. This saved the participants from serious
consequences, but it was agreed that such trifling must stop; and most
of them were packed off to join their regiments.

Lafayette's regiment was stationed at Metz, and he took his way there
feeling much as he had felt when he wrote his school-boy essay on the
"perfect steed." It was the most fortunate journey of his life, for at
the end of it he met his great opportunity. The Duke of Gloucester,
brother of the King of England, was traveling abroad. He came to
Metz, and the military commander of the place, Comte de Broglie, gave
a dinner in his honor to which he invited the chief officers of the
garrison. It was not the only time that a dinner played an important
part in Lafayette's career. Neither Lafayette's age nor his military
rank quite entitled him to such an invitation; but the count had a
kindly spot in his heart for young men. Besides, Adrienne Lafayette was
a kinswoman of his, and he remembered that the father of this tall,
silent lad had served under him in the Seven Years' War.

The guest of honor was not the kind of loyal subject and brother who
could speak no ill of his sovereign. In fact, he and King George
were not on good terms. He had his own views about the troubles in
America, and thought the king quite wrong in his attitude toward the
Colonists. He had lately received letters, and at this dinner discussed
[Pg 33]them with the utmost frankness, explaining the point of view
of the "insurgents" and expressing his belief that they would give
England serious trouble. Possibly Lafayette had never heard of George
Washington until that moment. Certainly he had never considered the
continent of North America except as a vague and distant part of the
earth's surface with which he could have no personal concern. Yet twice
already the names of his family and of America had been linked. The old
marshal who took _Cur non?_ for his motto had lived when the voyage of
Columbus had set the world ringing; and Gilbert de Motier, Lafayette's
own father, had lost his life in the Seven Years' War, by which England
won from France practically all the land she held in the New World.

Slight and remote as these connections were, who can say that they
did not unconsciously influence a spirit inclined toward liberty? The
conversation of the Duke of Gloucester seemed to bring America from
a great distance to within actual reach of Lafayette's hand. He hung
upon every word. The prince may not have been altogether prudent in
his remarks. It was an after-dinner conversation and in that day the
English drank hard. Even so, the duke's indiscretions made the talk
more interesting and, to Lafayette, more convincing. Every word spoken
strengthened the belief that these American Colonists were brave men,
well within their rights, fighting for a principle which would make
the world better and happier. He realized with a thrill that men three
[Pg 34]thousand miles away were not content with mere words, but
were risking their lives at that very moment for the theories which
philosophers had been preaching for a thousand years; the same theories
that orators in six hundred Paris cafés had lately begun to declaim.

Afterward he got permission to ask some of the questions with which
his brain teemed; but long before the candles of that feast had burned
down in their sockets his great resolution was made to "go to America
and offer his services to a people struggling to be free." From that
time on he could think of little else; but, as so often happens with
quick and generous resolutions, the more he thought about it the more
difficult it seemed to carry out. He had exulted at first that he
was his own master with a fortune to dispose of as he chose. Then he
remembered his wife and her family. He knew he could count upon her
loyalty; but he was equally certain that he would meet determined
opposition from the Duc d'Ayen and all his powerful connection, who had
done their worldly best to make him a member of a prince's household.

And disapproval of "the family" in France was not to be lightly
regarded. No serious step could be undertaken by young people without
their elders feeling it their solemn duty to give advice. Very likely
the king and his ministers would also have something to say. "However,"
he wrote in his _Memoirs_, "I had confidence in myself, and dared adopt
as device for my coat of arms the words _Cur non?_ that they might
serve me on occasion for encouragement, or by way of answer."

[Pg 35]He knew almost nothing about America, and, as soon as military
duties permitted, asked leave to go to Paris to make further inquiries,
opening his heart very frankly to the Comte de Broglie. It happened
that the count had vivid dreams of his own about America--dreams
which centered on nothing less than the hope that with proper hints
and encouragement the rebellious colonies might call him (the Comte
de Broglie, of wide military experience) to take supreme command of
their armies and lead them to victory, instead of trusting them to
the doubtful guidance of local talent in the person of this obscure
Col. George Washington. But De Broglie was not minded to confide such
things to the red-haired stripling who looked at him so pleadingly. He
conscientiously tried to dissuade him. "My boy," he said, "I saw your
uncle die in the Italian wars. I witnessed your father's death.... I
will not be accessory to the ruin of the only remaining branch of your
family." But finding arguments made no impression, he gave him the
coveted permission and also an introduction to a middle-aged Bavarian
officer known as the Baron de Kalb. This man had made a voyage to
America in the secret employment of the French government some years
before, and he was even now acting as De Broglie's agent.

Arrived in Paris, Lafayette found the town full of enthusiasm for the
insurgents, or the Bostonians, as they were called. Already English
whist had been abandoned for another game of cards known as _le
Boston_, and soon the authorities might feel it necessary to forbid
[Pg 36]the wearing of a certain style of head-dress called "_aux
insurgents_" and to prohibit talk about American rebels in the cafés.
Secretly the ministers of Louis wished the audacious rebels well,
being convinced that whatever vexed England served to advance the
interests of France, but officially they were strictly neutral. When
Lord Stormont, the British ambassador, complained that agents of the
American government were shipping supplies from French ports, they
made a great show of activity, asked American vessels to leave, and
forbade trade in contraband articles; but they obligingly shut their
eyes to the presence of Silas Deane, the American envoy, in Paris.
Diplomatically speaking, he did not exist, since Louis had not yet
received him; but everybody knew that people of distinction in all
walks of life went secretly to his lodgings.

Lafayette knew not one word of English. Silas Deane knew little, if
any, French, and it was De Kalb who acted as interpreter when the
young nobleman went to call upon him. Liberty, like misery, brings
about strange companionships. Three men more unlike could scarcely
have been found. Although known as "Baron," Johann Kalb was a man of
mystery who had in truth begun life as a butler and had won his place
in the army through sheer merit. He was middle-aged, handsome, and
grave. Silas Deane, the lawyer-merchant from Connecticut, was not only
imperfectly equipped with French, his manners were so unpolished as to
appear little short of repulsive. Lafayette's usual quiet was shaken by
his new enthusiasm. His bearing, which seemed awkward at Versailles,
[Pg 37]was more graceful than the Yankee envoy thought quite moral,
or than the grave soldier of fortune had been able to achieve. And
he was ridiculously young. Even he realized that. "In presenting my
nineteen-year-old face to Mr. Deane," says the _Memoirs_, "I dwelt more
on my zeal than on my experience; but I did make him comprehend that my
departure would cause some little excitement and might influence others
to take a similar step." He could make the family opposition count for
something on his side!

Whatever Silas Deane may have lacked in manner, his wits were not slow.
He instantly saw the advantage of gaining such a convert to his cause.
The two signed an agreement which was a rather remarkable document.
On his part Silas Deane promised Lafayette the rank of major-general
in the Continental Army. But hardened as Deane was to making lavish
promises in the name of the Continental Congress, he knew that a
major-general only nineteen years of age, who had never heard the sound
of a hostile gun, would be received with question rather than with
joy in America, so he added a few words explaining that Lafayette's
"high birth, his connections, the great dignities held by his family
at the court, his disinterestedness, and, above all, his zeal for the
freedom of our Colonies have alone been able to induce me to make this
promise." One would think Lafayette had been haggling, whereas quite
the reverse appears to have been the truth.

[Pg 38]Lafayette wrote: "To the above conditions I agree; and promise
to start when and how Mr. Deane shall judge it proper, to serve the
said states with all possible zeal, with no allowance for private
salary, reserving to myself only the right to return to France whenever
my family or the king shall recall me," and signed his name. After
which he left the house of the American commissioner feeling that
nothing short of all the king's horses and all the king's men could
turn him from his purpose.


[Pg 39]V

LEADING A DOUBLE LIFE


Lafayette found his brother-in-law De Noailles and De Ségur in Paris,
and, certain of being thoroughly understood by these two friends,
confided his plan to them. As he expected, both expressed a wish to
accompany him. The wish may not have been entirely unselfish. Many
young officers in the French army were chafing at the inaction which
ten years of peace had forced upon them, and this chance to distinguish
themselves in war may have appealed to them at first even more strongly
than the justice of the American cause. It certainly added to the
appeal of justice in Lafayette's own case; but meetings with Silas
Deane and his associates, Arthur Lee and Mr. Carmichael, above all,
with Benjamin Franklin, who came to Paris about this time, soon altered
interest to a warmer and less selfish feeling.

These Americans, with their unfashionable clothes, their
straightforward speech, and their simple bearing, with plenty of pride
in it, presented the greatest possible contrast to the curled and
powdered flatterers surrounding Louis XVI. To meet them was like being
met by a breath of fresh, wholesome air. The young men who came under
[Pg 40]their influence fancied that Franklin might almost be a friend
of Plato himself. "What added to our esteem, our confidence, and our
admiration," wrote De Ségur, "were the good faith and simplicity with
which the envoys, disdaining all diplomacy, told us of the frequent
and oft-repeated reverses sustained by their militia, inexperienced as
yet in the art of war." Merely as a sporting proposition it was a fine
thing that they and their army were doing.

De Ségur and De Noailles quietly entered into an agreement with
the Americans, as Lafayette had done. So did others; and it became
impossible to keep their plans secret. When the families of our three
friends learned of their quixotic plan it was clear they would never
consent. De Noailles played a bold card by applying directly to the
War Office for permission to serve as a French officer in the American
army, hoping in this way to match family opposition with official
sanction, but the War Office refused. After that there was nothing to
do but to submit, since they were not men of independent means like
Lafayette, though both were older than he and held higher military
rank. They were dependent upon allowances made them by their respective
families, who thus had a very effective way of expressing disapproval.
All they could do was to assure Lafayette of their sympathy and keep
his secret, for they knew that the opposition which blocked them would
only make him the more determined. The better to carry out his plan,
however, he also pretended to listen to reason and to give up all
thoughts of crossing the Atlantic.

[Pg 41]De Kalb, meanwhile, almost succeeded in leaving France. But
the French government decided that it would be a breach of neutrality
to allow its officers to fight against England, and he was obliged to
turn back. Knowing more about the secret hopes and plans of the Comte
de Broglie than Lafayette knew, he proposed that they go together
to consult him, and they spent several days at the count's country
home. How much Lafayette learned about his host's American dreams is
uncertain, nor does it make much difference in Lafayette's own story.
The two elder men were quite willing to use his enthusiasm to further
their own ends; but he had great need of their help. It was agreed that
the voyage to America must on no account be given up, and that the
best way would be for Lafayette to purchase and fit out a ship. This,
however, was easier said than done. One cannot buy a ship as casually
as a new pair of gloves.

Not only was his family genuinely opposed and his government officially
opposed to his going; England had spies in Paris. It was jestingly said
that all the world passed at least once a day over the Pont Neuf, and
men were supposed to be on watch there, to ascertain who had and who
had not left the city. England, moreover, had agents at every seaport
in northern France. But Bordeaux in the south seemed very far away in
days of stage-coach travel, and consequently was not so well guarded.
As luck would have it, the Comte de Broglie's secretary had a brother
who knew all about ships and merchants in Bordeaux. He found a vessel
[Pg 42]which would do, though she was not very good. Her name could
not be improved upon, for she was called _La Victoire_. Perhaps, like
her new owner, she was able to choose one to fit the occasion. She was
to cost 112,000 francs, one-quarter down, and the rest within fifteen
months of the date of delivery, which was fixed for the middle of
March, 1777.

Weeks before this time arrived very bad news had come from America. The
report ran that Washington had lost practically everything. He had been
defeated in the battles of Long Island and White Plains; New York was
burned, and he and his troops, reduced now to a ragged mob of two or,
at most, three thousand men, were in full retreat across New Jersey,
pursued by thirty thousand British. It was well known that England
was the most powerful military nation of Europe and that, not content
with her own forces, she was hiring regiments of Hessians to send
overseas. Clearly the triumph of such numbers must come speedily. All
society, from Marie Antoinette down, admired the sturdy, independent
Franklin, with his baggy coat and his homely wit. Portraits of him in
his coonskin cap were to be seen in every home. He was a wizard who had
done things with lightning no other mortal had done before, but even he
could not bring success to a hopeless cause.

[Illustration: FRANKLIN AT THE FRENCH COURT

All society, from Marie Antoinette down, admired the sturdy,
independent Franklin, who was always a welcome guest at court]

The prospect must have appeared black indeed to the envoys themselves.
Honorable men that they were, they felt in duty bound to explain the
changed conditions to Lafayette, and not to allow him to ruin his whole
[Pg 43]future because of a promise enthusiastically given. They sent
him a message asking him to come and see them. He knew he was watched
and dared not meet Franklin openly, but he went at once to Silas Deane
and listened to all he had to tell him. When he finished the young
Frenchman thanked him for his very frank statement of a bad situation
and then made a very frank statement in return. "Heretofore," he said,
"I have been able to show you only my willingness to aid you in your
struggle. The time has now come when that willingness can be put to
effective use, for I am going to buy a ship and take your officers out
in it. Let us not give up our hope yet; it is precisely in the time
of danger that I wish to share whatever fortune may have in store for
you." After that it would have required superhuman unselfishness on the
part of the Americans to dissuade him.

How transactions which covered three months of time, two-thirds of
the length of France, and involved so many individuals remained
undiscovered is a mystery unless we assume that the opposition of the
government was more feigned than real. Officials appear to have closed
their eyes most obligingly whenever possible.

To divert suspicion from himself, Lafayette occupied several weeks
in a visit to England which had been arranged long before. Franklin
and Deane were most anxious to have him carry out this plan to visit
the French ambassador in London. So Lafayette crossed the Channel and
spent three weeks in the smoky city, where he received many social
[Pg 44]courtesies. He appears to have enjoyed this season of gaiety
much better than similar occasions at home. The necessity for hiding
his plans gave zest to meetings and conversations that would otherwise
have been commonplace enough, while the necessity for remaining true to
his ideals of conduct--of continuing to be a guest and not a spy in an
enemy country--exercised his conscience as well as his wit. It became a
humorous adventure to dance at Lord Germain's in the same set with Lord
Rawdon, just back from New York, and to encounter between acts at the
opera General Clinton, against whom he was soon to fight at Monmouth.
When presented to his Majesty George III he replied to that monarch's
gracious hope that he intended to make a long stay in London, with an
answer at once guarded and misleading. The king inquired what errand
called him away, and Lafayette answered, with an inward chuckle, that
if his Majesty knew he would not wish him to remain! Although taking
good care not to betray his plans, he made no secret of his interest
in the Colonists or his belief in the justice of their cause; and he
avoided visiting seaport towns where expeditions were being fitted
out against them, and declined all invitations likely to put him in a
position to obtain information to which, under the circumstances, he
felt he had no right.

Before leaving London he wrote a long letter to his father-in-law, to
be delivered only when he was safely on his way to Bordeaux. Then he
crossed to France, but instead of going to his own home took refuge
[Pg 45]with De Kalb at Chaillot, a suburb of Paris. Here he remained
three days, making final preparations. On one of these days he appeared
very early before the sleepy, astonished eyes of his friend De Ségur,
sent away the servant, closed the door of the bedroom with great care,
and hurled the bombshell of his news: "I am going to America. Nobody
knows it, but I am too fond of you to leave without telling you my
secret." Then he gave him the outline of his plan, including the port
from which he was to sail and the names of the dozen French officers
who were to accompany him. "Lucky dog! I wish I were going with you!"
was the substance of De Ségur's answer, but it had not the usual ring
of sincerity. De Ségur was about to marry a young aunt of Adrienne
Lafayette's and his wedding-day was drawing very near.

Lafayette managed to impart his secret to De Noailles also, but he
left Paris without a farewell to Adrienne. The one hard thing in this
hurried departure was that he did not dare to see or even to write
directly to her. She was not well; and, besides the risk of arrest
involved in visiting her, the interview could only be unnerving and
distressing on both sides. The letter he wrote from London to her
father appears to have been the nearest to a direct message, and that,
it must be confessed, contained no mention of her name and no word
exclusively for her. It was her mother, the upright Madame d'Ayen, who
broke the news of his departure, tempering the seeming cruelty of his
conduct with words of praise for his pluck and for the motive which
[Pg 46]prompted him to act as he did. Madame d'Ayen was the only one
of the immediate family who had a good word for the runaway. The young
wife clung to her, appalled at the anger of her father. The duke was
furious, and once more the worthy pair came to the verge of quarrel
over this well-meaning young man. The count could see only madcap folly
in exchanging an assured position at the French court for the doubtful
honor of helping a lot of English farmers rebel against their king. For
a few days the town buzzed with excitement. Lafayette's acquaintances
were frankly astonished that the cold and indifferent young marquis
had roused himself to such action, and thought it exceedingly "chic"
that he should "go over to be hanged with the poor rebels." They were
indignant at the bitterness of the duke's denunciation. One lady with a
sharp tongue said that if he treated Lafayette so, he did not deserve
to find husbands for the rest of his daughters.

The runaway was safely out of Paris, but by no means out of danger. The
Duc d'Ayen, who honestly felt that he was bringing disgrace upon the
family, bestirred himself to prevent his sailing, and had a _lettre de
cachet_ sent after him. A _lettre de cachet_ was an official document
whose use and abuse during the last hundred years had done much to
bring France to its present state of suppressed political excitement.
It was an order for arrest--a perfectly suitable and necessary document
when properly used. But men who had power, and also had private ends to
gain, had been able to secure such papers by the hundreds with spaces
[Pg 47]left blank wherein they could write whatever names they chose.
It was a safe and deadly and underhand way of satisfying grudges. In
Lafayette's case its use was quite lawful, because he was captain in a
French regiment, leaving the country in disobedience to the wish of his
sovereign, to fight against a nation with whom France was on friendly
terms. Technically he was little better than a deserter. When such
conduct was brought to official notice, only one course was possible.
The _lettre de cachet_ was sent, a general order was issued forbidding
French officers to take service in the American colonies, and directing
that if any of them, "especially the Marquis de Lafayette," reached
the French West Indies on such an errand he should forthwith return to
France. Word was also sent to French seaports to keep a close watch
upon vessels and to prevent the shipment of war materials to North
America. Lafayette's friends became alarmed at all this activity and
feared that it might have serious consequences not only for him, but
for themselves. Officials began to receive letters from them calculated
to shift the blame from their own shoulders, as well as to shield the
young man. The French ambassador to England, whose guest he had been in
London, was particularly disturbed, but felt somewhat comforted when he
learned that a high official in the French army had asked King George
for permission to fight as a volunteer under General Howe. This in a
manner offset Lafayette's act, and England could not accuse France of
partiality if her officers were to be found engaged on both sides.


[Pg 48]VI

A SEA-TURN


Lafayette, meanwhile, was traveling southward with De Kalb. The
government does not appear to have interested itself in De Kalb, who
had a two years' furlough, obtained probably through the influence of
the Comte de Broglie. At the end of three days they reached Bordeaux.
Here they learned about the commotion Lafayette's departure had caused
and that the king's order for his arrest was on the way. That it did
not travel as speedily as the rumor seems to prove that Lafayette's
friends were using all possible official delay to give him ample
warning. He made good use of the time and succeeded in getting _La
Victoire_ out of Bordeaux to the Spanish harbor of Los Pasajes in the
Bay of Biscay, just across the French frontier.

It was in leaving Bordeaux that Lafayette found a use for his many
names. Each passenger leaving a French port was required to carry
with him a paper stating his name, the place of his birth, his age,
and general appearance. The one made out by a port official not
over-particular in spelling described him as "Sr. Gilbert du Mottie,
Chevalier de Chaviallac--age twenty years, tall, and blond." This was
[Pg 49]all true except that his age was made a little stronger and the
color of his hair a little weaker than facts warranted. His age was
nineteen years and six months and his hair was almost red. He was the
Chevalier de Chavaniac, though it is doubtful if one acquaintance in a
hundred had ever heard the title.

When he stepped ashore at Los Pasajes he was confronted by two officers
who had followed from Bordeaux by land with the _lettre de cachet_.
Letters from his family and from government officials also awaited him:
"terrible letters," he called them. Those from his family upbraided
him bitterly; the Ministry accused him of being false to his oath
of allegiance. The _lettre de cachet_ peremptorily ordered him to
Marseilles to await further instructions. He knew that this meant to
await the arrival of his father-in-law, who was about to make a long
journey into Italy and would insist upon Lafayette accompanying him,
that he might keep an eye upon his movements.

He was now in Spain, quite beyond the reach of French law, but he could
not bring himself to actual disobedience while there was the remotest
chance of having these commands modified; so he went back with the
messengers to Bordeaux, and from there sent letters by courier to
Paris, asking permission to return and present his case in person.
De Kalb remained with the ship at Los Pasajes, impatient and not a
little vexed. He foresaw a long delay, if indeed the expedition ever
started. _La Victoire_ could not sail without its owner, or at least
[Pg 50]without the owner's consent. De Kalb thought Lafayette had acted
very foolishly; he should either have given up entirely or gone ahead
regardless of the summons, Also he felt that the young man had not been
quite frank; that in talking with him he had underestimated the family
opposition. "Had he told me in Paris all that he has admitted since,"
De Kalb wrote to his wife, "I would have remonstrated most earnestly
against the whole scheme. As it is, the affair will cost him some
money." Then, having freed his mind of his accumulated impatience, he
added, "But if it be said that he has done a foolish thing, it may be
answered that he acted from the most honorable motives and that he can
hold up his head before all high-minded men."

In Bordeaux Lafayette had presented himself before the commandant and
made declaration that he alone would be answerable for the consequences
of his acts; then he had set himself, with all the patience he could
muster, to wait the return of his messenger. To his formal request he
received no reply. From private letters he learned that he had only
the Duc d'Ayen to thank for the _lettre de cachet_. Officials had been
heard to say that they would have taken no notice of his departure had
it not been for the duke's complaint. This convinced him that there was
nothing to be gained by waiting; so he wrote to M. de Maurepas that
he interpreted his silence to be consent, "and with this pleasantry,"
as he says in the _Memoirs_, disappeared from Bordeaux. He informed
the commandant that he was going to Marseilles in obedience to orders,
[Pg 51]and sent the same message to De Kalb, adding the significant
hint, however, that he had not given up hope, and the request that De
Kalb look after his interests. He, indeed, set out by post-chaise on
the road to Marseilles in company with the Vicomte de Mauroy, a young
officer who like himself held one of Silas Deane's commissions. They
left that road, however, at the first convenient opportunity and turned
their horses directly toward Spain. They also made slight changes in
their traveling arrangements, after which De Mauroy sat in the chaise
alone, while Lafayette, dressed like a postilion, rode one of the
horses. The commandant, having his own suspicions, sent some officers
riding after them.

At a little town near the frontier, called Saint-Jean-de-Luz, it was
necessary to change horses. The masquerading post-boy threw himself
down to rest in the stable while the gentleman in the chaise attended
to the essential business. It was here that an inquisitive daughter
of the innkeeper, who evidently knew a good deal about postilions,
recognized in the youth stretched upon the straw the young gentleman
she had seen riding in state in the other direction only a few days
before. Her eyes and mouth opened in wonder, but a sign from Lafayette
checked the exclamation upon her lips, and when the officers rode up a
very demure but very positive young woman set them on the wrong trail.

On the 17th of April Lafayette rejoined De Kalb at Los Pasajes, and on
Sunday, April 20, 1777, _La Victoire_ set sail for America. In addition
[Pg 52]to the captain and crew, De Kalb, the owner of the vessel, and
De Mauroy, she had on board about a dozen officers of various grades,
all of whom were anxious to serve in the Continental Army. The French
government took no further measures to interfere. Grave matters of
state nearer home claimed its attention; and, since signs of coming
war with England grew plainer every day, it may have been well content
to see this band of officers already enlisted against her. M. de
Vergennes, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, was quoted as saying that
the young man had run away again, and he would take good care this time
not to mention the matter to the king.

After six months of effort Lafayette was at last under way. The ship's
papers had been made out for the West Indies; but inconvenient orders
might be awaiting him there, so he ordered the captain to sail directly
for the mainland. The captain demurred, explaining that an English
cruiser could take them prisoners and confiscate their cargo if their
course and their papers did not agree. As owner of the vessel Lafayette
repeated his orders; he even threatened to depose the captain and put
the second officer in command. But the captain's unwillingness appeared
so extraordinary that he was moved to investigate farther, and found
that the thrifty man had smuggled merchandise aboard to the value of
$8,000 which he hoped to sell at a profit. Lafayette felt that it was
not a time to be over-particular. He promised to make good whatever
loss the captain might sustain, whereupon nervousness about English
cruisers left him and he steered as directed.

[Pg 53]It proved a long voyage. _La Victoire_ was at sea fifty-five
dreary days, and Lafayette speedily fell a victim to the rollers
of the Atlantic; but he wrote to his wife he "had the consolation
vouchsafed to the wicked of suffering in company with many others."
When he recovered he began to study English, in which he made
considerable progress. He also studied military science as something
about which it might be convenient for a major-general to know; and he
wrote interminable pages to Adrienne, full of love, of ennui, and of
whimsical arguments to prove that he had done the wisest thing, not
only for his career, but for his health and safety, in offering his
sword to the Continental Army.

"I have been ever since my last letter to you in the most dismal of
countries," he wrote after he had been out a month. "The sea is so
wearisome, and I believe we have the same doleful influence upon each
other, it and I." "One day follows another, and, what is worse, they
are all alike. Nothing but sky and nothing but water; and to-morrow it
will be just the same." "I ought to have landed before this, but the
winds have cruelly opposed me. I shall not see Charleston for eight or
ten days longer. Once I am there, I have every hope of getting news
from France. I shall learn then so many interesting details, not only
of what I am going to find before me, but above all of what I left
behind me with such regret. Provided I find that you are well, and
that you still love me, and that a certain number of our friends are
in the same condition, I shall accept philosophically whatever else
[Pg 54]may be." "How did you take my second departure? Did you love me
the less? Have you forgiven me? Have you thought that in any event we
should have been separated, I in Italy dragging along a life with no
chance to distinguish myself and surrounded by people most hostile to
my projects and my views?" "Consider the difference.... As the defender
of that liberty which I adore, free myself beyond all others, coming
as a friend to offer my services to this most interesting republic, I
bring ... no selfish interests to serve. If I am striving for my own
glory I am at the same time laboring for its welfare. I trust that for
my sake you will become a good American; it is a sentiment made for
virtuous hearts." "Do not allow yourself to feel anxiety because I am
running great danger in the occupation that is before me. The post of
major-general has always been a warrant of long life--so different
from the service I should have had in France as colonel, for instance.
With my present rank I shall only have to attend councils of war. Ask
any of the French generals, of which there are so many because, having
attained that rank, they run no further risk.... In order to show that
I am not trying to deceive you I will admit that we are in danger at
this moment, because we are likely at any time to be attacked by an
English vessel, and we are not strong enough to defend ourselves. But
as soon as I land I shall be in perfect safety. You see that I tell you
everything in order that you may feel at ease and not allow yourself
to be anxious without cause.... But now let us talk of more important
[Pg 55]things," and he goes on to write about their baby daughter,
Henrietta, and about the new baby, the announcement of whose birth he
expected to receive very soon after landing. "Do not lose a moment in
sending me the joyful news," he commands. "Mr. Deane and my friend
Carmichael will aid you in this, and I am sure they would neglect no
opportunity to make me happy as quickly as possible.... Adieu. Night
coming on obliges me to stop, for I have lately forbidden the use of
lights aboard the ship. See how careful I am!" He could afford to
dwell on perils of the voyage, since these would be safely over before
the missive could start on its way back to France. The danger was by
no means imaginary. One of the letters written at the time Lafayette's
departure was the talk of Paris, by a man who knew whereof he spoke,
had said, "His age may justify his escapade, but I am truly sorry,
not only for the interest you and the Duc d'Ayen have in the matter,
but because I am afraid he may fall in with some English man-of-war,
and, not being distinguished from the mass of adventurers who come
into their hands, may be treated with a harshness not unknown to that
nation."

_La Victoire_ was a clumsy boat armed with only "two old cannon and
a few muskets" and stood small chance if attacked. Lafayette was
perfectly aware of this, and had no intention of being taken alive. He
entered into an agreement with one of the company, a brave Dutchman
named Bedaulx, to blow up the vessel as a last resort, the pleasant
alternative in any case being hanging. So, with a sailor pledged to
[Pg 56]ignite a few powder-kegs and the captain steering the ship by
constraint rather than by desire, the long voyage was not devoid of
thrills. These increased as they neared land. At forty leagues from
shore _La Victoire_ was overhauled by a little vessel. "The captain
grew pale," Lafayette tells us; but the crew was loyal and the officers
were numerous and they put up a show of defense. She proved to be an
American and so much the faster boat that she was soon out of sight,
though _La Victoire_ tried hard to keep up with her. Scarcely was she
gone when the lookout sighted two English frigates. With these they
played a game of hide-and-seek until they were saved by a providential
gale which blew the enemy out of his course long enough to enable _La
Victoire_ to run into shelter near Georgetown, South Carolina.


[Pg 57]VII

AN AMERICAN PILGRIMAGE


The bit of land to which that unneutral north wind had wafted the
travelers was an island about fifteen miles from Georgetown, South
Carolina. Nobody on _La Victoire_ knew the coast, so it was prudently
decided to reconnoiter in a small boat. Lafayette, with De Kalb and
two or three other officers and a few sailors, started off about two
o'clock on the afternoon of June 13th, in the ship's yawl, and rowed
until sunset without encountering a soul. After the sun went down they
continued to row on and on, still in complete solitude, until about ten
o'clock, when they came upon some negroes dredging for oysters.

Thus the first human beings that Lafayette encountered in the land of
the free were slaves; and it was not the least picturesque coincidence
of his picturesque career that these ignorant creatures rendered him a
service, instead of his helping them. Also it is rather amusing that
this knight errant of noble lineage, who had come so far to fight
for freedom, should have made his entry into America in the dead of
[Pg 58]night, in an evil-smelling oyster-boat, instead of with pomp and
ceremony from the ship his wealth had provided.

Neither Frenchmen nor slaves could understand the speech of the others
except in a vague way. The Frenchmen thought the slaves said there was
a pilot somewhere on the island. They seemed to be offering to take
them to the house of their master, an American officer; and as the tide
had fallen and it was impossible to proceed farther in the yawl, they
transferred themselves to the oyster-boat and gave themselves up to
these mysterious guides. For two hours the blacks ferried them through
the darkness. About midnight they saw a light, and soon were put ashore
to make their way toward it. It was evident that their approach caused
excitement. Dogs began to bark and the inmates of the large house from
which the light shone appeared to be making preparations for a siege.
A sharp challenge rang out, which indicated that they were mistaken
for marauders from some British ship. De Kalb replied in his most
polite English, explaining that they were French officers come to
offer their swords to the Continental Army. Then, with the swiftness
of a transformation in a fairy play, they found themselves in a glow
of light, the center of warm interest, and being welcomed with true
Southern hospitality. No wonder that ever after Lafayette had the
kindest possible feelings for African slaves.

Mid-June in Carolina is very beautiful; and it must have seemed a
wonderful world upon which he opened his eyes next morning. Outside
his window was the green freshness of early summer; inside the
[Pg 59]immaculate luxury of a gentleman's bedchamber--both doubly
delightful after seven cramped weeks at sea. That the smiling blacks
who came to minister to his wants were bondmen, absolutely at the mercy
of their masters, and that the filmy gauze curtains enveloping his bed
had been put there to prevent his being eaten alive by those "gnats
which cover you with large blisters," about which he afterward wrote
Adrienne, were drawbacks and inconsistencies he hardly realized in that
first blissful awakening. He was always more inclined to enthusiasm
than to faultfinding, and nothing that ever happened to him in America
effaced the joy of his first impression.

His host proved to be Major Benjamin Huger, of French Huguenot descent,
so he had fallen among people of his own nation. Had Major Huger been
one of his own relatives he could not have been kinder or his family
more sympathetic; and it was a sympathy that lasted long, for in the
group around the French officers was a little lad of five who took
small part in the proceedings at the moment, but lost his heart to
the tall Frenchman then and there, and made a quixotic journey in
Lafayette's behalf after he was grown.

The water was too shallow to permit _La Victoire_ to enter the harbor
at Georgetown, so a pilot was sent to take her to Charleston while
Lafayette and his companions went by land. The reports he received
about vigilant English cruisers made him send his captain orders to
land officers and crew and burn the ship if occasion arose and he had
[Pg 60]time; but another unneutral wind brought _La Victoire_ into
Charleston Harbor in broad daylight without encountering friend or foe.

Major Huger furnished Lafayette and De Kalb with horses for the
ninety miles and more of bad roads that lay between his plantation
and Charleston. The others, for whom no mounts could be found, made
the distance on foot, arriving ragged and worn. But as soon as the
city knew why they had come, its inhabitants vied with one another
in showering attentions upon them. One of his companions wrote that
the marquis had been received with all the honors due to a marshal of
France. Lafayette, who sent a letter to his wife by every ship he found
ready to sail, was eloquent in praise of Charleston and its citizens.
It reminded him of England, he said, but it was neater, and manners
were simpler. "The richest man and the poorest are upon the same social
level," he wrote, "and although there are some great fortunes in
this country, I defy any one to discover the least difference in the
bearing of one man to another." He thought the women beautiful, and
Charlestonians the most agreeable people he had ever met. He felt as
much at ease with them as though he had known them for twenty years;
and he described a grand dinner at which the governor and American
generals had been present, which lasted five hours. "We drank many
healths and spoke very bad English, which language I am beginning to
use a little. To-morrow I shall take the gentlemen who accompany me to
call upon the governor, and then I shall make preparations to leave."

[Pg 61]He hoped to provide funds for the journey to Philadelphia by
selling certain goods he had brought on _La Victoire_. It would have
been easy to do this had not his trustful nature and ignorance of
business played him a sorry turn. He found that his unwilling friend,
the captain, held a note which he had signed in a hurry of departure
without realizing what it contained. It provided that the vessel and
cargo must be taken back to Bordeaux and sold there. This was most
embarrassing, because, in spite of his large possessions in France, he
was a stranger in America and had no other way of providing for the
immediate wants of himself and his companions. It proved even more
embarrassing than at first seemed likely, for the ship never reached
Bordeaux. She was wrecked on the Charleston bar at the very outset of
her homeward voyage.

In his enthusiasm Lafayette had written Adrienne, "What delights me
most is that all citizens are brothers." Here unexpectedly was a chance
to put the brotherly quality to the test. He carried his dilemma to his
new-found friends. They were polite and sympathetic, but ready money
was scarce, they told him, and even before _La Victoire_ came to her
inglorious end he experienced "considerable difficulty" in arranging
a loan. Whatever temporary jolt this gave his theories, his natural
optimism triumphed both in securing money to equip his expedition and
in preserving intact his good will toward the American people.

By the 25th of June everything was ready and his company set out,
[Pg 62]traveling in three different parties, in order not to overcrowd
the inns of that sparsely settled region. The gentlemen who had
been entertained by Major Huger traveled together. One of them, the
Chevalier du Buisson, wrote an account of the journey which explains
the order in which they set forth. "The aide-de-camp of the marquis
undertook to be our guide, although he had no possible idea of the
country.... The procession was headed by one of the marquis's people
in huzzar uniform. The marquis's carriage was a sort of uncovered sofa
on four springs, with a fore-carriage. At the side of his carriage
he had one of his servants on horseback who acted as his squire. The
Baron de Kalb was in the same carriage. The two colonels, Lafayette's
counselors, followed in a second carriage with two wheels. The third
was for the aides-de-camp, the fourth for the luggage, and the rear was
brought up by a negro on horseback."

According to Lafayette's reckoning, they traveled nearly nine hundred
miles through the two Carolinas, Virginia, and the states of Maryland
and Delaware. But only a small part of the progress was made in such
elegance. Roads were rough and the weather was very hot, which was
bad for men and horses alike. Some of the company fell ill; some of
the horses went lame; some of the luggage was stolen; some of it had
to be left behind. Extra horses had to be bought, and this used up
most of the money. On the 17th of July Lafayette wrote to Adrienne
from Petersburg: "I am at present about eight days' journey from
Philadelphia in the beautiful land of Virginia.... You have learned of
[Pg 63]the beginning of my journey and how brilliantly I set out in a
carriage.... At present we are all on horseback, after having broken up
the wagons in my usual praiseworthy fashion; and I expect to write you
in a few days that we have arrived on foot." He admitted that there had
been some fatigue, but as for himself he had scarcely noticed it, so
interested had he been in the great new country with its vast forests
and large rivers; "everything, indeed, to give nature an appearance of
youth and of majesty." "The farther north I proceed the better I like
this country and its people."

There was no regularity about sending mail across the Atlantic, and as
yet he had not heard from home. Doubtless the hope of finding letters
spurred on his desire to reach Philadelphia. From Annapolis he and De
Kalb alone were able to proceed without a halt, leaving the rest of the
party behind for needed repose. They reached Philadelphia on July 27th.
Even with this final burst of speed they had consumed a whole month in
a journey that can now be made in less than twenty-four hours.


[Pg 64]VIII

AN ASTONISHING RECEPTION


All Lafayette's company had been looking forward to their reception
by Congress as full recompense for sufferings by the way. Knowing
that they had come to offer help, and having already experienced the
hospitality of Charleston, they dreamed of a similar welcome increased
and made more effective by official authority. They hastened to present
their letters of introduction and their credentials; and it was a
great blow to find that they were met, not with enthusiasm, but with
coldness. Lafayette said their reception was "more like a dismissal."
We are indebted to the Chevalier du Buisson for an account of this
unexpected rebuff. "After having brushed ourselves up a little we went
to see the President of Congress, to whom we presented our letters
of recommendation and also our contracts. He sent us to Mr. Moose
[Morris?], a member of Congress, who made an appointment to meet us
on the following day at the door of Congress, and in the mean time
our papers were to be read and examined." Next day they were very
punctual, but were made to wait a long time before "Mr. Moose" appeared
[Pg 65]with a Mr. Lovell and told them all communication must be made
through him. Still standing in the street, Mr. Lovell talked with
them and finally walked away and left them, "after having treated us
in excellent French, like a set of adventurers.... This was our first
reception by Congress, and it would have been impossible for any one to
be more stupefied than we were. Would it have been possible for M. de
Lafayette, M. de Kalb, and M. de Mauroy with ten officers recommended
as we had been, and secretly approved, if not openly avowed by the
government of France, to expect such a reception as this?"

One can imagine the varying degrees of resentment and disgust with
which they watched Mr. Lovell disappear. If _La Victoire_ had been
there, ready provisioned for a voyage, very likely not one of them
would have remained an hour longer in America. But _La Victoire_ was
not at hand and Lafayette's sunny optimism was on the spot to serve
them well. "We determined," says Du Buisson, "to wait and to discover
the cause of this affront, if possible, before making any complaint."

They discovered that they had come at the worst possible time. A
number of foreign adventurers had hurried from the West Indies and
Europe and offered their services at the beginning of the war. Being
desperately in need of trained officers, Congress had given some of
them commissions, though their demands for rank and privilege were
beyond all reason. This, coupled with their bad behavior after entering
the army, had incensed officers of American birth, who threatened to
[Pg 66]resign if any more Europeans were taken into the army with rank
superior to their own. The protest had reached almost the proportions
of a strike. At that very moment a French artillery officer named De
Coudray was giving Congress no end of trouble, and indeed continued to
do so until, "by a happy accident," as Franklin cynically put it, he
was drowned in the Schuylkill River a few weeks later.

There was nothing to prove that Lafayette and his friends differed
from the rest. Like them they were foreigners with high-sounding
titles in front of their names and requests for major-generalships
tripping speedily after their offers of help. As for Silas Deane's
contracts--Deane had commissioned some of the very worst of these men.
Congress had reached the point where it proposed to end the trouble by
refusing to honor any more of his agreements. Mr. Lovell told Lafayette
and his companions smartly that French officers had a great fancy for
entering the American army uninvited, that America no longer needed
them, having plenty of experienced men of her own now; and walked away,
leaving them standing there in the street.

Lafayette, not being like the others, determined to make Congress aware
of the fact. He wrote a letter to that august body, stating why and
how he had come to America, and adding: "After the sacrifices that I
have made in this cause I have the right to ask two favors at your
hands. The one is to serve without pay, and the other that I be allowed
to serve first as a volunteer." Congress immediately sat up and took
[Pg 67]notice of the young man, the more readily because of two letters
which arrived from Paris showing that he was of importance in his own
country. The first was signed by Silas Deane and by Benjamin Franklin,
and read:

"The Marquis de Lafayette, a young nobleman of great family connection
here and great wealth, is gone to America on a ship of his own,
accompanied by some officers of distinction, in order to serve in our
armies. He is exceedingly beloved, and everybody's good wishes attend
him. We cannot but hope he may meet with such a reception as will make
the country and his expedition agreeable to him. Those who censure
it as imprudent in him do, nevertheless, applaud his spirit; and we
are satisfied that the civilities and respect that may be shown him
will be serviceable to our affairs here, as pleasing not only to his
powerful relations, and to the court, but to the whole French nation.
He leaves a beautiful young wife ... and for her sake particularly we
hope that his bravery and ardent desire to distinguish himself will be
a little restrained by the general's prudence, so as not to permit his
being hazarded much, but on some important occasion." The other was a
communication from the French government requesting the Congress of the
United States not to give employment to the Marquis de Lafayette. But
Congress took the hint contained in Franklin's letter and regarded this
for just what it was--a bit of official routine.

Mr. Lovell hastened to call upon Lafayette in company with another
gentleman who had better manners, and made an attempt at apology. This
[Pg 68]interview led to a more private talk in which he was offered
a commission of major-general without pay and without promise of a
command, to date from that time, and to have no connection whatever
with Silas Deane's former promises. To this Lafayette agreed.

Some of his friends did not fare so well, but even these felt that he
did everything in his power to further their interests. "If he had had
his way," says Du Buisson, "De Kalb would have been a major-general,
and we should all have had places." The situation was particularly
trying to De Kalb, who was so much older and had seen so much actual
military service. On board _La Victoire_ he had been only Lafayette's
guest, though the guest of honor and, next to the owner, the most
important person aboard. Under such conditions, good manners forced him
to play a subordinate part; and if it be true that he and De Broglie
were using Lafayette's generosity to further their own ends, that was
another reason for circumspect behavior. But after landing it must have
been galling to see this young captain of twenty made a major-general
"on demand," while his thirty-four years of experience were completely
ignored. On the day after Lafayette's appointment De Kalb wrote
Congress a letter in his turn, complaining bitterly and asking either
that he be made a major-general, "with the seniority I have a right to
expect," or that he and the other officers who had come with Lafayette
be refunded the money they had spent on the journey. He said he was
very glad Congress had granted Lafayette's wishes. "He is a worthy
[Pg 69]young man, and no one will outdo him in enthusiasm in your cause
of liberty and independence. My wish will always be that his success
as a major-general will equal his zeal and your expectation." But De
Kalb plainly had his doubts; and he did not hesitate to "confess,
sir, that this distinction between him and myself is painful and very
displeasing to me. We came on the same errand, with the same promises,
and as military men and for military purposes. I flatter myself that
if there was to be any preference, it would be due to me." He hinted
that he might sue Mr. Deane for damages, and he added: "I do not think
that either my name, my services, or my person are proper objects to
be trifled with or laughed at. I cannot tell you, sir, how deeply I
feel the injury done to me, or how ridiculous it seems to me to make
people leave their homes, families, and affairs, to cross the sea under
a thousand different dangers, to be received and to be looked at with
contempt by those from whom you were to expect but warm welcome."

Congress could have answered with perfect justice that it had not
"made" these gentlemen travel one foot toward America or brave a
single danger. But on the basis of Deane's contract it was clearly
in the wrong and it had no wish to insult France, though it could
not afford to anger the American generals. It therefore decided to
thank the French officers for their zeal in coming to America and to
pay their expenses home again. Most of them did return, some by way
of Boston, others from Southern ports. De Kalb meant to accompany
the latter group, but a fever detained him for several weeks in [Pg
70]Philadelphia; and just as he was leaving a messenger brought him
word that he had been made major-general through the influence of
several members of Congress who had made his personal acquaintance and
were more impressed by the man himself than by his petulant letter.
At first he was inclined to refuse, fearing the other French officers
might feel he had deserted them, but on reflection he accepted, and, as
every one knows, rendered great service to the United States.

Lafayette wrote Congress a letter of thanks in English--an excellent
letter, considering the short time he had been using the language,
but neither in wording nor in spelling exactly as a native would have
written it. In this letter he expressed the hope that he might be
allowed to "serve near the person of General Washington till such time
as he may think proper to intrust me with a division of the army."

General Washington's previous experience with the French had been
unfortunate. He had met them as enemies in the neighborhood of Fort
Duquesne before Lafayette was born. They had taken part in the defeat
of General Braddock, and during the present war their actions had not
been of a kind to endear them to him. Probably even after reading
Franklin's letter he did not look forward with the least pleasure to
meeting this young sprig of the French nobility. Still, Washington was
a just man and the first to admit that every man has the right to be
judged on his own merits.

It was at a dinner, one of the lucky dinners in Lafayette's career,
[Pg 71]that the two met for the first time. The company was a large
one, made up of the most distinguished men in Philadelphia; but from
the moment Washington entered the room Lafayette was sure he was the
greatest in the company. "The majesty of his countenance and his figure
made it impossible not to recognize him," while his manners seemed to
Lafayette as affable and kindly as they were dignified. Washington on
his part observed the slim young Frenchman throughout the evening, and
was also favorably impressed. Before the party broke up he drew him
aside for a short conversation and invited him to become a member of
his military family, saying with a smile that he could not offer the
luxuries of a court or even the conveniences to which Lafayette had
been accustomed, but that he was now an American soldier and would of
course accommodate himself to the privations of a republican camp.

Pleased and elated as a boy, Lafayette accepted, sent his horses
and luggage to camp, and took up his residence at Washington's
headquarters. "Thus simply," he wrote in his _Memoirs_, "came about
the union of two friends whose attachment and confidence were cemented
by the greatest of interests." In truth this sudden flowering of
friendship between the middle-aged Washington, who appeared so cool,
though in fact he had an ardent nature, and the enthusiastic Frenchman
twenty-five years his junior, is one of the pleasantest glimpses we
have into the kindly human heart of each. It took neither of them one
instant to recognize the worth of the other, and the mutual regard thus
established lasted as long as life itself.


[Pg 72]IX

PROVING HIMSELF A SOLDIER


The American army as Lafayette first saw it must have seemed a strange
body of men to eyes accustomed to holiday parades in Paris. The memory
of it remained with him years afterward when he wrote that it consisted
of "about eleven thousand men, rather poorly armed, and much worse
clad." There was a great variety in the clothing, some unmistakable
nakedness, and the best garments were only loose hunting-shirts of gray
linen, of a cut with which he had already become familiar in Carolina.
The soldiers were drawn up in two lines, the smaller ones in front,
"but with this exception there was no distinction made as to size." It
was while reviewing these troops that Washington said, "it is somewhat
embarrassing to us to show ourselves to an officer who has just come
from the army of France," to which Lafayette made the answer that won
the hearts of all, "I am here to learn, not to teach." He speedily
learned that in spite of their appearance and their way of marching and
maneuvering, which seemed to him childishly simple, they were "fine
soldiers led by zealous officers," in whom "bravery took the place of
science."

[Pg 73]Judging by what they had accomplished, they were indeed wonders.
It was now August, 1777. Lexington had been fought in April, 1775,
and in that space of more than two years England had been unable to
make real headway against the insurrection which General Gage had at
first thought could be thoroughly crushed by four British regiments.
That mistake had soon become apparent. Large reinforcements had been
sent from England with new generals. At present there were two British
armies in the field. Time and again the ragged Continentals had
been beaten, yet in a bewildering fashion they continued to grow in
importance in the eyes of the world.

The first part of the struggle had all taken place in the neighborhood
of Boston; hence the name "Bostonians" by which the Americans had
been applauded in Paris. But after General Howe was held for a whole
winter in Boston in a state of siege he sailed away for Halifax in
March, 1776, with all his troops and all the Tories who refused to stay
without him. This was nothing less than an admission that he was unable
to cope with the Americans. He sent word to England that it would
require at least 50,000 men to do it--10,000 in New England, 20,000
in the Middle States, 10,000 in the South, and 10,000 to beat General
Washington, who had developed such an uncanny power of losing battles,
yet gaining prestige.

The War Office in London refused to believe General Howe. It reasoned
that New England was, after all, only a small section of country which
[Pg 74]could be dealt with later; so it let it severely alone and
concentrated attention upon New York with a view to getting command
of the Hudson River. The Hudson would afford a direct route up to the
Canadian border, and Canada was already British territory. It ought
not to be difficult to gain control of one Atlantic seaport and one
river. That accomplished, the rebellion would be cut in two as neatly
as though severed with a knife, and it would be easy enough to dispose
of New England and of the South in turn.

So General Howe was ordered back to carry out this plan. He appeared
off Staten Island with twenty-five thousand men on the day after the
Declaration of Independence was signed. In the thirteen months that
elapsed between his coming and the day Lafayette first reviewed the
American army General Washington had been able to keep Howe and all
his forces at bay. He had marched and retreated and maneuvered. He had
lost battles and men. Lost New York, as had been reported in Paris; had
indeed lost most of his army, as the American commissioners admitted
to Lafayette; yet in some mysterious way he continued to fight. By
brilliant strategy he had gained enough victory to rekindle hope after
hope seemed dead; and never, even when the outlook was darkest, had the
British been able to get full control of the Hudson River.

The British government, annoyed by Howe's delay, sent over another army
under General Burgoyne in the spring of 1777, with orders to go down
[Pg 75]from Canada and end the matter. When last heard from, this army
had taken Ticonderoga and was pursuing General Schuyler through eastern
New York. General Howe, meanwhile, appeared to have dropped off the
map. He was no longer in force near New York, nor had Washington any
definite news of his whereabouts. This was the situation when Lafayette
became a member of Washington's military family; a major-general
without pay, experience, or a command.

He took his commission seriously enough to cause his general some
misgiving; for, after all, Washington knew nothing about his ability,
only that he liked him personally. Lafayette frankly admitted his youth
and inexperience, but always accompanied such admissions with a hint
that he was ready to assume command as soon as the general saw fit to
intrust him with it. On the 19th of August Washington wrote to Benjamin
Harrison, a member of Congress, telling him his perplexity and asking
him to find out how matters really stood. If Lafayette's commission had
been merely honorary, as Washington supposed, the young man ought to
be made fully aware of his mistake; if not, Washington would like to
know what was expected of him. The answer returned was that Washington
must use his own judgment; and for a time matters drifted. Lafayette
meanwhile took gallant advantage of every small opportunity that came
his way, both for assuming responsibility and for doing a kindness.
He proved himself ready to bear a little more than his full share of
hardship, and, by constant cheerfulness and willingness to accept
[Pg 76]whatever duty was assigned him, came to be regarded as by far
the best foreigner in the army--though of course hopelessly and forever
a foreigner. In his letters home he often touched upon the discontent
of other men of European birth "who complain, detest, and are detested
in turn. They do not understand why I alone am liked.... For my part I
cannot understand why they are so heartily detested.... I am happy in
being loved by everybody, foreign and American. I like them all, hope
to merit their esteem, and we are well content with each other."

It was on the 21st of August, two days after Washington's letter to
Mr. Harrison, that Lafayette was called to attend the first council of
war--that duty about which he had playfully written to his wife. The
question was what to do next, for General Howe and his army had not
been seen or heard of for weeks. That meant that he was planning some
surprise; but from which direction would it come?

The truth was that General Howe had allowed himself to be lured away
from the Hudson by his ambition to capture Philadelphia, knowing what
a blow it would be to the Americans to lose their chief town where
Congress was sitting. As soon as this was accomplished he meant to
return to his former duty. To the American officers gathered around
the map on the council table his whereabouts was a great mystery, for
they thought ample time had elapsed for him to appear in Chesapeake
Bay if Philadelphia was indeed his objective. Presumably he meant to
attack some other place, and Charleston seemed to be the only other
[Pg 77]place of sufficient importance to merit his attention. As it
was manifestly impossible to get Washington's army that far south in
time to be of assistance, it was determined to leave Charleston to its
fate and to move nearer to New York to guard the Hudson. With Burgoyne
descending from the north and Howe in hiding, it was quite possible
that the river might soon be menaced from two directions. The battle
of Bennington, a severe check for Burgoyne, had in fact occurred three
days before, but it is probable they had not yet heard of it.

The day after the council, ships carrying Howe's army were sighted
in Chesapeake Bay, which proved without doubt that Philadelphia was
his goal. Washington faced his men about, and, in order to cheer
Philadelphians and give his soldiers a realization of what they were
defending, marched the army through the city "down Front Street to
Chestnut, and up Chestnut to Elm," riding, himself, at the head of
his troops, a very handsome figure on his white horse, Lafayette
conspicuous among the staff-officers, and the privates wearing
sprigs of green in their hats as they marched to a lively air. They
were joined as they went along by Pennsylvania militia and by other
volunteers who hastened forward, American fashion, at prospect of a
battle. Thus Washington's force was increased to about fifteen thousand
by the time he neared the enemy. Most of these new arrivals were,
however, worse off for clothing and arms--and discipline--than the
original army, so his force by no means matched either in numbers or
[Pg 78]equipment the eighteen thousand British soldiers, thoroughly
supplied according to the best standards of the day, which were
disembarked by Cornwallis "at the Head of Elk," the inlet of Chesapeake
Bay nearest to the city.

There were several preliminary skirmishes, during which Lafayette
learned that Washington could be as personally reckless as the youngest
lieutenant. On the day the British landed he exposed himself in a
reconnaissance and was forced to remain through a night of storm, with
Lafayette and Gen. Nathanael Greene, in a farm-house very near the
enemy lines.

The main battle for the defense of Philadelphia occurred on the 11th
of September, on the banks of a little stream called the Brandywine,
about twenty-five miles from the city. Washington intrenched his force
upon the hilly ground of its east bank, but, owing to woods which made
it hard to observe the enemy, to the ease with which the stream could
be forded, and to the superior numbers of the British, this position
was turned and his army forced back toward Chester. It was Lafayette's
first battle, and the zeal with which he threw himself into the unequal
contest, the quickness of his perceptions, and the courage he showed in
following up his instinct of the thing to do with the act of doing it,
won the admiration of all who saw him. After that day the army forgot
he was a foreigner and looked upon him as one of themselves. "Never,"
he says, "was adoption more complete."

During the hottest of the fight he had leaped from his horse down
among the men, striving by voice and example to rally them to make
[Pg 79]a stand against Cornwallis's fast-approaching column. Lord
Sterling and General Sullivan had come to his aid and the three had
held their ground until the British were only twenty yards away, when
they took refuge in a wood. Lafayette's left leg had been struck by
a musket-ball, but he was unconscious of this until another officer
called attention to the blood running from his boot. With the help of
his French aide-de-camp, Major de Gimat, who had come with him on _La
Victoire_, he remounted his horse, but remained with the troops and
was borne along in the general retreat toward Chester, which became
very like a rout as night approached; men and guns hurrying on in
ever-increasing confusion. Near Chester there was a bridge, and here,
though Lafayette was weak from loss of blood, he placed guards and,
halting the fugitives as they came up, managed to bring something like
order into the chaos. It was only after Washington and other generals
reached the spot that he consented to have his wound properly dressed.
Washington's midnight report to Congress mentioned the gallantry of the
young Frenchman.

Lafayette's injury was not at all dangerous, but it was quite
serious enough to keep him in bed for a month or more. He was taken
to Philadelphia, and Washington sent his most skilful surgeon to
attend him, with orders to care for him as he would for his own son.
Later, when Howe's continued approach made it certain the city must
pass into British hands, he was sent by water to Bristol on the
[Pg 80]Delaware River, and from that point Mr. Henry Laurens, the new
President of Congress, on the way to join his fleeing fellow-members,
who were to resume their sessions at York, gave him a lift in his
traveling-carriage as far as Bethlehem, where the Moravians nursed him
back to health.

De Kalb and other military friends took a real, if humorously
expressed, interest in his "little wound," and on his part he declared
that he valued it at more than five hundred guineas. He had hastened to
write his wife all about it, not too seriously, "for fear that General
Howe, who sends his royal master rather exaggerated details of his
exploits in America, may report that I am not only wounded, but dead.
It would cost him no more." Reports of Lafayette's death were indeed
circulated in France, but Madame d'Ayen managed to keep them from her
daughter. Lafayette assured his wife that his injury was "only a flesh
wound, touching neither bone nor nerves. The surgeons are astonished at
the rapidity with which it heals, and fall into ecstasies every time
it is dressed, pretending it is the loveliest thing in the world. For
myself, I find it very dirty, very much of a bore, and quite painful
enough; but in truth, if a man wanted a wound merely for diversion's
sake he could not do better than come and examine mine, with a view to
copying it. There, dear heart, is the true history of this thing that I
give myself airs about and pompously call 'my wound' in order to appear
interesting."


[Pg 81]X

LETTERS


Lafayette had plenty of time for thought as he lay in his neat room,
waited upon by the wife of the chief farmer of the Bethlehem Society
and her daughter, Lissel. Much of the time was spent in wondering about
Adrienne, of whom as yet he had received news only once. As this was
brought him by Count Pulaski, who left Paris before the birth of the
expected child, Lafayette did not know whether his new baby was a boy
or a girl, whether it had been born alive or dead, or how his wife
had come through the ordeal. He could only send her long letters at
every opportunity, well knowing "that King George might receive some
of them instead." In these he sent messages to many French friends,
not forgetting his old tutor, the Abbé Feyon, but he did not enlarge
upon all phases of his American Life. "At present I am in the solitude
of Bethlehem, about which the Abbé Raynal has so much to say," he told
her. "This community is really touching and very interesting. We will
talk about it after I return, when I mean to bore every one I love,
you, consequently, most of all, with stories of my travels." He did not
[Pg 82]think it wise to refer in letters to one amusing phase of the
situation in which he found himself at Bethlehem--the visits paid him
by influential members of the Moravian brotherhood, who took a deep
interest in his spiritual welfare and tried their best to convert him
from a warrior into a pacifist.

It was while listening, or appearing to listen, politely to their
sermons upon peace that his mind darted over the earth, here and there,
even to far-distant Asia, planning warlike expeditions for the aid of
his American friends. When his peaceful hosts departed he wrote letters
embodying these plans. As he says in his _Memoirs_, he could "do
nothing except write letters." One, which he addressed to the French
governor of Martinique, proposed an attack on the British West Indies,
to be carried out under the American flag. He had also the temerity to
write to M. de Maurepas, proposing a descent upon the British in India.
The boldness of the idea, and the impudence of Lafayette in suggesting
it while he was still under the ban of the French government, caused
the old man to chuckle. "Once that boy got an idea in his head there
was no stopping him," he said. "Some day he would strip Versailles of
its furniture for the sake of his Americans," and thereafter he showed
a marked partiality for "that boy."

Matters had gone badly for the Americans since the battle of the
Brandywine. General Howe occupied Philadelphia on September 26th; on
October 4th Washington lost the battle of Germantown. Since then the
[Pg 83]army had been moving from camp to camp, seeking a spot not
too exposed, yet from which it could give General Howe all possible
annoyance. Clearly this was no time to be lying in tidy, sunlit rooms
listening to sermons on non-resistance. Before he was able to bear
the weight of his military boot Lafayette rejoined the army. An entry
in the diary of the Bethlehem Congregation, dated October 16, 1777,
reads: "The French Marquis, whom we have found to be a very intelligent
and pleasant young man, came to bid us adieu, and requested to be
shown through the Sisters' House, which we were pleased to grant. He
was accompanied by his adjutant, and expressed his admiration of the
institution. While recovering from his wound he spent much of his time
in reading." Under date of October 18th is another entry, "The French
Marquis and General Woodford left for the army to-day."

On the day between Lafayette's visit of farewell and his actual
departure Gen. John Burgoyne, who had set out confidently from Canada
to open the Hudson River, ended by surrendering his entire army. He
had thought he was pursuing ragged Continental soldiers when in truth
they were luring him through the autumn woods to his ruin. He awoke to
find his communications cut and his army compelled to fight a battle or
starve. It gallantly fought two battles near Saratoga, one on September
19th, the other on October 7th; but both went against him and ten days
later he gave up his sword and nearly six thousand British soldiers to
"mere" Americans.

[Pg 84]Up to that time a puzzled world had been unable to understand
how the American cause continued to gain. The capture of a whole
British army, however, was something tangible that Europe could fully
comprehend, and respect for the Revolution measurably increased. The
victory had even greater effect in Europe than in America, though at
home there was much rejoicing and a marked gain in the value of those
"promises to pay" which Congress issued as a means of getting money for
current expenses.

But Burgoyne's surrender threatened to have very serious effects upon
the personal fortunes of General Washington, and in lesser degree
upon those of Lafayette. People began contrasting the results of the
summer's campaign. Washington, in command of the main army, had lost
Philadelphia, while farther north General Gates, with fewer men, had
not only captured Burgoyne, but cleared the whole region of enemy
troops. There were those who did not hesitate to say that Washington
ought to be deposed and Gates put in his place.

In reality Gates had almost nothing to do with the surrender of
Burgoyne. The strategy which led up to the battles of Saratoga was the
work of General Schuyler, who was forced out of command by intrigue
and superseded by Gates just before the crowning triumph. The battles
themselves had not been fought under the personal orders of the new
commander, but under Benedict Arnold and Gen. Daniel Morgan, with the
help of the Polish General Kosciuszko in planning defenses. It was pure
[Pg 85]luck, therefore, which brought Gates the fame; but, being a
man of more ambition than good judgment, with an excellent opinion of
himself, he was the last person in the world to discourage praise of
his ability.

Discontent against Washington was fanned by born intriguers like the
Irish General Conway and by the more despicable Gen. Charles Lee, a
traitor at heart. Lafayette became involved quite innocently, in the
plot against him, known to history as the Conway Cabal. Two things,
good in themselves, were responsible for it. One was his optimistic
belief in human nature; the other, his increasing military renown. The
latter was the result of a very small engagement in which he took a
very large part shortly after rejoining the army. The main camp was
then about fifteen miles from Philadelphia, but General Greene had
taken his division over into New Jersey, where he was endeavoring to
make life uncomfortable for General Howe. Lafayette obtained permission
to join him as a volunteer, and on the 25th of November went out with
about three hundred men to reconnoiter a position held by the British
at Gloucester, opposite Philadelphia. He could clearly see them
carrying across the river the provisions they had gathered in a raid
in New Jersey, and they might easily have killed or captured him had
they been on the lookout. Some of his men advanced to within two miles
and a half of Gloucester, where they came upon a post of three hundred
and fifty Hessians with field-pieces. What followed is told briefly in
[Pg 86]his own words. "As my little reconnoitering party was all in
fine spirits, I supported them. We pushed the Hessians more than half
a mile from the place where their main body was, and we made them run
very fast." The vigor, of his attack made Cornwallis believe General
Greene's entire division was upon him, and he hurried to the relief of
his Hessians. This was more than Lafayette bargained for, and he drew
off in the gathering darkness with the loss of only one man killed and
five wounded, carrying with him fourteen Hessian prisoners, while twice
that number, including an officer, remained on the field.

General Greene had described Lafayette to his wife as "one of the
sweetest-tempered young gentlemen." Now his soldierly qualities
impressed him. "The marquis is determined to be in the way of danger,"
was the comment he appended to his own account of the affair; and he
ordered Lafayette to make his report directly to Washington, which the
young man did in the boyishly jubilant epistle written in quaint French
English which told how the Hessians "ran very fast." The letter fairly
bubbled with pride over the behavior of his militia and his rifle
corps; and, not content with expressing this to his Commander-in-chief,
he lined them up next morning and made them a little speech, telling
them exactly how he felt about it. An Englishman or an American could
scarcely have done it with grace, but it was manifestly spontaneous on
his part--one of those little acts which so endeared Lafayette to his
American friends both in and out of the army.

[Pg 87]Washington sent on the news to Congress with the intimation
that his young friend had now proved his ability and might be trusted
with the command he so longed for. "He possesses uncommon military
talents," Washington wrote, "is of a quick and sound judgment,
persevering and enterprising without rashness, and, besides these, he
is of conciliating temper and perfectly sober--which are qualities
that rarely combine in the same person." At that moment of bickering
in the army and of popular criticism of himself they must have
seemed exceptionally rare to Washington. Congress expressed its
willingness, and we learn from a long letter written by Lafayette to
his father-in-law and carried across the ocean by no less a personage
than John Adams, when he went to replace Silas Deane at Paris, that
Washington offered him the choice of several different divisions.

He chose one made up entirely of Virginians, though it was weak "even
in proportion to the weakness of the entire army," and very sadly in
need of clothing. "I am given hope of cloth out of which I must make
coats and recruits out of which I must make soldiers in almost the
same space of time. Alas! the one is harder than the other, even for
men more skilled than I," he wrote, just before the army went into
its melancholy winter quarters at Valley Forge. "We shall be in huts
there all winter," Lafayette explained. "It is there that the American
army will try to clothe itself, because it is naked with an entire
nakedness; to form itself, because it is in need of instruction; and to
[Pg 88]recruit its numbers, because it is very weak. But the thirteen
states are going to exert themselves and send us men," he added,
cheerfully. "I hope my division will be one of the strongest, and I
shall do all in my power to make it one of the best."

He was striving to make the most of his opportunity. "I read, I study,
I examine, I listen, I reflect, and upon the result of all this I
endeavor to form my opinion and to put into it as much common sense as
I can. I am cautious about talking too much, lest I should say some
foolish thing; and still more cautious in my actions lest I should do
some foolish thing; for I do not want to disappoint the confidence the
Americans have so kindly placed in me."

There was not much to do after the army went into winter quarters;
and France seemed very far away. "What is the use of writing news in
a letter destined to travel for years and to reach you finally in
tatters?" he wrote Adrienne on November 6th. "You may receive this
letter, dear heart, in the course of five or six years, for I write
by a crooked chance, of which I have no great opinion. See the route
it will take. An officer of the army carries it to Fort Pitt, three
hundred miles toward the back of the continent. There it will embark
on the Ohio and float through a region inhabited by savages. When it
reaches New Orleans a little boat will transport it to the Spanish
Isles, from which a vessel of that nation will take it (Lord knows
when!) when it returns to Europe. But it will still be far from you,
[Pg 89]and only after having passed through all the grimy hands of
Spanish postal officials will it be allowed to cross the Pyrenees.
It may be unsealed and resealed five or six times before reaching
you. So it will be proof that I neglect not a single chance, even the
remotest, to send you news of me and to repeat how much I love you....
It is cruel to think ... that my true happiness is two hundred leagues
distant, across an immense ocean infested by scoundrelly English
vessels. They make me very unhappy, those villainous ships. Only one
letter from you, one single letter, dear heart, has reached me as yet.
The others are lost, captured, lying at the bottom of the sea, to all
appearances. I can only blame our enemies for this horrible privation;
for you surely would not neglect to write me from every port and by
every packet sent out by Doctor Franklin and Mr. Deane."

On his part, he neglected not a single opportunity. On one occasion
he even sent her a letter by the hand of an English officer, a Mr.
Fitzpatrick, with whom he had begun a friendship during his visit to
London. This gentleman had come to Philadelphia with General Howe, and
Lafayette learned in some way that he was about to return to England.
"I could not resist the desire to embrace him before his departure. We
arranged a rendezvous in this town (Germantown). It is the first time
that we have met without arms in our hands, and it pleases us both much
better than the enemy airs we have heretofore given ourselves ... there
is no news of interest. Besides, it would not do for Mr. Fitzpatrick to
[Pg 90]transport political news written by a hand at present engaged
against his army."

It was this friendly enemy, Mr. Fitzpatrick, who lifted his voice in
the British House of Commons in Lafayette's behalf, when the latter was
a prisoner in Germany.


[Pg 91]XI

A FOOL'S ERRAND


The more Lafayette studied Washington the more he was confirmed in
his first swift impression. "Our general is a man really created for
this Revolution, which could not succeed without him," he wrote the
Duc d'Ayen. "I see him more intimately than any one else in the world,
and I see him worthy the adoration of his country.... His name will be
revered in future ages by all lovers of liberty and humanity."

Such admiration seemed unlikely ground upon which to work for
Washington's undoing, but this was what his enemies attempted. Part
of their plan was to win away Washington's trusted friends, and
Lafayette's good will would be particularly valuable, because he
was looked upon in a way as representing France. The winter proved
unusually severe, and when the sufferings of the soldiers at Valley
Forge began to be noised abroad criticism of Washington increased. It
was pointed out that Burgoyne's captured army was being fed at American
expense, that General Clinton's forces were comfortably housed in New
York, while General Howe and his officers were enjoying a brilliant
[Pg 92]social season at Philadelphia; but at Valley Forge there was
only misery. General Conway was there himself, working up his plot.

Lafayette was so kindly disposed that it was hard for him to believe
others evil-minded. Also he was frankly ambitious. Thomas Jefferson
once said of him that he had "a canine appetite" for fame. Conway
played skilfully on both these traits, professing great friendship for
Lafayette and throwing out hints of glory to be gained in service under
General Gates, to whom he knew Lafayette had written a polite note of
congratulation after Saratoga. Lafayette appears to have taken it all
at its face value until an incriminating letter from Conway to Gates
fell into hands for which it was never intended. Then Lafayette went
directly to Washington, meaning to unburden his heart, but the general
was engaged and could not see him. He returned to his quarters and
wrote him a long letter, breathing solicitude in every line. Washington
answered with his usual calm dignity, but in a way to show that the
young man's devotion was balm to his spirit.

Conway had played upon Lafayette's homesickness also. Family news came
to him very slowly. It was not until Christmas was being celebrated at
Valley Forge with such sorry festivities as the camp could afford that
he learned of the birth of his little daughter, Anastasie, which had
occurred in the previous July. All the camp rejoiced with him, but the
news increased his desire to be with his wife and children, if only for
[Pg 93]a short time. If he had really contemplated a journey across the
sea, however, he gave up the idea at once, believing that loyalty to
his friend now made it his duty to "stand by."

"The bearer of this letter will describe to you the attractive
surroundings of the place I have chosen to stay in rather than to enjoy
the happiness of being with you," he wrote Adrienne. "After you know
in detail all the circumstances of my present position ... you will
approve of my course. I almost dare to say you will applaud me....
Besides the reason that I have given you, I have still another which
I should not mention to everybody, because it might appear that I was
assuming an air of ridiculous importance. My presence is more necessary
to the American cause at this moment than you may imagine. Many
foreigners who have failed to obtain commissions, or whose ambitious
schemes after having obtained them could not be countenanced, have
entered into powerful conspiracies; they have used every artifice to
turn me against this Revolution and against him who is its leader; and
they have taken every opportunity to spread the report that I am about
to leave the continent. The British have openly declared this to be so.
I cannot with good conscience play into the hands of these people. If I
were to go, many Frenchmen who are useful here would follow my example."

So he stayed at Valley Forge, which was indeed a place of icy torment.
The men suffered horribly for lack of coats and caps and shoes.
Their feet froze until they were black. Sometimes they had to be [Pg
94]amputated. There was not enough food. Even colonels rarely had
more than two meals a day, often only one, while the rank and file
frequently went for several days without a distribution of rations.
Enlistments ceased, and desertion was very easy with a wide-open
country back of the camp and Howe's sleek, well-fed army only two
marches away down the Lancaster Pike. It was small wonder that
Washington's numbers dwindled until he could count only five or six
thousand. Lafayette called the endurance of the wretched little army
that held on "a miracle which every day served to renew." It was a
miracle explained by the character of the Commander-in-chief, and of
the remarkable group of officers he had gathered around him. As for
Lafayette, he strove to live as frugally and be as self-denying as
any of them. More than forty years later some of his American friends
had proof of how well he succeeded; for an old soldier came up and
reminded him how one snowy night at Valley Forge he had taken a gun
from a shivering sentry and stood guard himself while he sent the man
to his own quarters for a pair of stockings and his only blanket; and
when these things were brought how he had cut the blanket in two and
given him half. Though there was cruel suffering in that winter camp,
there was much of such high-spirited gallantry to meet it; and there
were also pleasant hours, for several of the officers had been joined
by their wives, who did everything in their power to make the dull days
brighter.

[Illustration: WASHINGTON AND THE COMMITTEE OF CONGRESS AT VALLEY FORGE]

[Illustration: VALLEY FORGE--WASHINGTON AND LAFAYETTE]

[Pg 95]Washington's enemies, not yet having exhausted their wiles, hit
upon a clever plan to remove Lafayette from his side. They succeeded
in getting Congress to appoint a new War Board with General Gates at
its head. This body exercised authority, though Washington remained
Commander-in-chief. Without consulting him, the board decided, or
pretended to decide, to send a winter expedition into Canada, with
Lafayette at its head and Conway second in command. Conway had offered
his resignation at the time his letter was discovered, but it had not
been accepted. To emphasize the slight put upon Washington, Lafayette's
new commission was inclosed in a letter to the Commander-in-chief, with
the request that he hand it to the younger man. This Washington did
with admirable self-control, saying, as he gave Lafayette the paper, "I
would rather they had selected you for this than any other man."

It is not often that such important duty falls to a soldier of
twenty-one. Naturally enough, he was elated, and this duty was
particularly tempting because it offered him, a Frenchman, the chance
to go into a French province to reconquer a region which had been
taken from his own people by Britain in the Seven Years' War. But he
also was capable of exercising self-control, and he answered that he
could accept it only on the understanding that he remained subordinate
to Washington, as an officer of his army detailed for special duty,
with the privilege of making reports directly to him and of sending
duplicates to Congress. A committee of Congress happened to be visiting
[Pg 96]Valley Forge that day, and he went impetuously before them and
declared that he would rather serve as a mere aide under Washington
than accept any separate command the War Board could give him. His
conditions being agreed to, he departed happily enough for York,
Pennsylvania, where Congress was still holding its sittings, in order
to receive his instructions.

There, in General Gates's own house, at another dinner memorable in his
personal history, he got his first intimation of the kind of campaign
the War Board wished him to carry on. Toast after toast was drunk--to
the success of the northern expedition--to Lafayette and his brilliant
prospects--and on through a long list, to which he listened in growing
amazement, for he missed the most important of them all. "Gentlemen!"
he cried, finally, springing to his feet, "I propose the health of
General Washington!" and the others drank it in silence.

He refused to have Conway for his second in command, and asked that De
Kalb be detailed to accompany him instead. He proved so intractable, in
short, that even before he set out for Albany, where he was to assume
command, the conspirators saw it was useless to continue the farce; but
they allowed him to depart on his cold journey as the easiest way of
letting the matter end. The four hundred miles occupied two weeks by
sleigh and horseback, a most discouraging sample of what he must expect
farther north. "Lake Champlain is too cold for producing the least bit
of laurel," he wrote Washington. "I go very slowly, sometimes drenched
by rain, sometimes covered by snow, and not entertaining many [Pg
97]handsome thoughts about the projected incursion into Canada."

At Albany he found creature comforts, a bed, for one thing, with a
supply of quilts and blankets that made it entirely possible to sleep
without lying down in his clothes, which was a luxury he had scarcely
enjoyed since leaving Bethlehem; but of preparations for invading
Canada he found not one. The plans and orders that looked so well on
paper, and which he had been assured were well under way, had not been
heard of in Albany, or else had not been executed, for the best of
reasons; because they could not be. General Conway was there ahead of
him to represent the War Board, and told him curtly that the expedition
was not to be thought of. Astounded, the young general refused
to believe him until interviews with General Schuyler and others
experienced in northern campaigning convinced him that this at least
was not treachery, but cold, hard fact.

The discovery was a great blow to Lafayette's pride. Members of
Congress had urged him to write about the expedition to his friends
in France. He was frankly afraid that he would be laughed at "unless
Congress offers the means of mending this ugly business by some
glorious operation." But he was in no mood to ask favors of Congress.
"For you, dear General," he wrote Washington, "I know very well that
you will do everything to procure me the one thing I am ambitious
of--glory. I think your Excellency will approve of my staying on here
until further orders."

[Pg 98]March found him still at Albany, awaiting the orders which the
War Board was in no haste to send, having already accomplished its
purpose. He tried to retrieve something out of the hopeless situation,
but with fewer men than he had been promised, and these clamoring for
pay long overdue, he had little success. "Everybody is after me for
monney," he wrote General Gates, "and monney will be spoken of by me
till I will be enabled to pay our poor soldiers. Not only justice and
humanity, but even prudence obliges us to satisfy them soon." As he
had already done, and would do again, he drew upon his private credit
to meet the most pressing public needs; but he could work against the
enemy only in an indirect way by sending supplies to Fort Schuyler,
where they were sorely needed.

One interesting experience, unusual for a French nobleman, came to
him during this tedious waiting. The Indians on the frontier became
restless, and General Schuyler called a council of many tribes to meet
"at Johnson Town" in the Mohawk Valley. He invited Lafayette to attend,
hoping by his presence to reawaken the Indians' old partiality for the
French. Five hundred men, women, and children attended this council,
and very picturesque they must have looked with their tents and their
trappings against the snowy winter landscape. The warriors were as
gorgeous as macaws in their feathered war-bonnets, nose-jewels, and
brilliant paint, but Lafayette noted that they talked politics with the
skill of veterans, as the pipe passed from hand to hand.

[Pg 99]He appears to have exercised his usual personal charm for
Americans upon these original children of the soil as he had already
exercised it upon the whites who came to supplant them. But he says
of it only that they "showed an equal regard for his words and his
necklaces." Before the council was over he was adopted into one of the
tribes, and returned to Albany the richer by another name to add to his
long collection--"Kayewla," which had belonged to a respected chief of
a bygone day. The new Kayewla was so well liked that a band of Iroquois
followed him south and became part of his military division.

On his return to Albany an unexpected duty awaited him. A new form
of oath of office, forever forswearing allegiance to George III and
acknowledging the sovereignty and independence of the United States,
had come, with the order that all must subscribe to it. So, to use the
picturesque phrase of the Middle Ages, it was "between" his French
hands that the officers of the northern military department swore
fealty to the new United States of America.

As spring advanced the influence of Gates and Conway waned and
Washington regained his old place in public esteem. Conway himself left
the country. Lafayette and De Kalb were ordered back to the main army;
and in doing this Congress took pains to express by resolution its
belief that the young general was in no way to blame for the failure
of the winter expedition to Canada. When he reached Washington's
headquarters in April he found Valley Forge much less melancholy than
[Pg 100]when he left it; a change due not only to the more cheerful
season of the year, but to wonders in the way of improved discipline
that General von Steuben had brought about in a few short weeks.
This officer of much experience had been trained under Frederick the
Great, and, having served as his aide, was equipped in fullest measure
with the knowledge and skill in military routine that Washington's
volunteers so lacked. When he took up his duties he found a confusion
almost unbelievable to one of his orderly military mind. Military terms
meant nothing. A regiment might contain only thirty men, or it might
be larger than another officer's brigade. It might be formed of three
platoons or of twenty-one. There was one company that consisted of
only a single corporal. Each colonel drilled his men after a system of
his own; and the arms in the hands of these go-as-you-please soldiers
"were in a horrible condition--covered with rust, half of them without
bayonets," while there were many from which not a single shot could
be fired. Yet this was the main army of the revolutionists who had
set out to oppose England! Fortunately Baron von Steuben was no mere
drillmaster. He had the invaluable gift of inspiring confidence and
imparting knowledge. Between March, when he began his "intensive"
training, and the opening of the summer campaign, he made of that band
of lean and tattered patriots a real army, though it still lacked much
of having a holiday appearance. The men's coats gave no indication of
their rank, or indeed that they were in the army at all. They were
of many colors, including red, and it was not impossible to see an
[Pg 101]officer mounting guard at grand parade clad "in a sort of
dressing-gown made of an old blanket or woolen bedcover." But the man
inside the coat was competent for his job.

It was a compatriot of Lafayette's, the French Minister of War,
St.-Germain, who had persuaded General Steuben to go to America;
so to France is due part of our gratitude for the services of this
efficient German. Perhaps, going back farther, the real person we
should thank is General Burgoyne, since it was his surrender which
undoubtedly quickened the interest of the French in the efficiency
of our ragamuffin army. French official machinery, which had been
strangely clogged before, began to revolve when news of Burgoyne's
surrender reached Paris early in December, 1777. The king, who had
not found it convenient to receive the American commissioners up to
that time, sent them word that he had been friendly all along; and as
soon as diplomatic formality permitted, a treaty of amity and commerce
was signed between France and America. That meant that France was
now formally an ally, and that the United States might count upon
her influence and even upon her military help. It was a great point
gained, but Franklin refused to allow his old eyes to be dazzled by
mere glitter when he "and all the Americans in Paris" were received by
the king and queen at Versailles in honor of the event. He was less
impressed by the splendor of the palace than by the fact that it would
be the better for a thorough cleaning. After the royal audience was
[Pg 102]over he and the other commissioners hastened to pay a visit of
ceremony to young Madame Lafayette in order to testify to the part her
husband had played in bringing about this happy occurrence.

When news of the signing of this treaty reached America about the 1st
of May, 1778, Lafayette embraced his grave general in the exuberance of
his joy, and even kissed him in French fashion. There was an official
celebration in camp on the 7th of May, with much burning of gunpowder,
reviewing of troops, "suitable" discoursing by chaplains, and many
hearty cheers. Washington's orders prescribed in great detail just when
and how each part of the celebration was to be carried out, and this is
probably the only time in history that an American army _en masse_ was
ordered to cry, "Long live the king of France!"

Lafayette, with a white sash across his breast, commanded the left; but
it was a heavy heart that he carried under his badge that gala-day.
Letters which came to him immediately after news of the treaty had
brought sad tidings. He learned of the death of a favorite nephew,
loved by him like a son, and also that his oldest child, the little
Henriette, to whom he had been sending messages in every letter, had
died in the previous October. "My heart is full of my own grief, and
of yours which I was not with you to share," he wrote Adrienne. "The
distance from Europe to America never seemed so immense to me as it
does now.... The news came to me immediately after that of the treaty,
and while bowed down with grief I had to receive congratulations and
[Pg 103]take part in the public rejoicing." Had the letters come
through without delay they would have arrived at the beginning of
winter, at the moment when General Conway was fanning the flame of his
homesickness. The desire to comfort his wife might have turned the
scale and sent Lafayette across the sea instead of to Albany. Now,
though he longed to go to her, he felt bound to remain for the campaign
which was about to open.


[Pg 104]XII

FARCE AND TREACHERY


Much as the French treaty had done for the Americans, it had by no
means ended the war. There were as many British soldiers as ever on
American soil, and General Howe at Philadelphia and General Clinton
at New York could be trusted to make excellent use of them. Signs of
British activity were already apparent. A large number of transports
had sailed from Philadelphia, but whether they had gone to bring
reinforcements or whether it meant that Philadelphia was being
abandoned and that the Hudson was again to be the main point of attack
Washington did not know. Lafayette was ordered to take some of the best
troops at Valley Forge and find out.

He left camp on the 18th of May with about twenty-two hundred men,
among them six hundred Pennsylvania militia and half a hundred
Iroquois Indians. Crossing the Schuylkill, he established himself on
high ground between that river and the Delaware, twelve miles from
the city, at a hamlet called Barren Hill, whose chief ornament was a
[Pg 105]church with a graveyard. It was an excellent spot for purposes
of observation; for roads ran in various directions, while the abrupt
fall of the land toward the Schuylkill protected his right, and there
were substantial stone buildings in a wood in front which could be used
as forts in case of need. He guarded against surprise on his left,
the direction from which any considerable body of British was likely
to approach, by placing there his large detachment of Pennsylvania
militia. He planted his five cannon in good positions, sent out his
Indian scouts, who wormed themselves several miles nearer the city, had
interviews with promising individuals who were to act as spies, and was
well pleased with himself.

The British were also exceedingly well pleased when their spies brought
in full information of Lafayette's position and numbers. They saw that
he had separated himself from the American army and virtually placed
himself in their hands; and short of Washington himself there was no
officer they would so enjoy capturing. His prominence at home and
his popularity in America made him a shining mark; moreover, he had
fooled them in London before coming to America. It would be a great
satisfaction to take him prisoner gently, without hurting him, treat
him with mock courtesy, and send him back to England, a laughing-stock.

They had force enough to make his capture practically certain, and
set out in great glee, so sure of the result that before leaving town
Generals Howe and Clinton, both of whom were in Philadelphia, sent out
invitations to a reception for the following day "to meet the Marquis
[Pg 106]de Lafayette." Although it was looked upon as something of a
lark, the expedition was deemed sufficiently important for General
Clinton to lead it in person, while General Howe accompanied him,
and the admiral, General Howe's sailor brother, went along as a
volunteer. Taking four men to Lafayette's one, and marching by night,
they approached Barren Hill in a way to cut off the fords across the
Schuylkill and also to intercept any assistance which might be sent
from Valley Forge.

Unconscious that he was in danger, Lafayette was talking, early on the
morning of May 20th, with a young woman who was going into the city as
a spy, when word was brought him that dragoons in red coats had been
seen on the Whitemarsh road. This did not disturb him, for he knew that
among the coats of many colors worn by his Pennsylvania militia some
were red; but he sent out to verify the information, merely as a matter
of routine. Soon the truth was learned--and exaggerated--and his men
set up a cry that they were surrounded by the British.

Fortunately Lafayette had a head which grew steadier in a crisis.
Sending his aides flying in all directions, he found that while the
way to Valley Forge was indeed cut off, one ford still remained open,
though the British were rapidly advancing upon it. He quickly placed a
small number of his men near the church, where the stone wall of the
graveyard would serve as breastworks, stationed a few more near the
woods as if they were heads of columns just appearing, and ordered
[Pg 107]all the rest to drop quietly down the steep side of the hill
until they were out of sight, and then hurry to the ford. The attention
of the enemy was held long enough by the decoy troops to enable the
others to reach the ford or swim across, their heads dotting the water
"like the corks of a floating seine," and Lafayette, who had stayed
behind, brought the last of his men to safety just as two columns of
the British, marching up two sides of Barren Hill, met each other, face
to face, at the top. Lafayette, on the opposite bank of the river,
prepared for defense, but the British were too disgusted to follow.

The real encounter of the serio-comic affair took place between the
most gaudily dressed bands of fighters in the whole Revolution,
Lafayette's Iroquois in their war regalia and Clinton's advance-guard
of Hessian cavalry. As the latter advanced, the Indians rose from their
hiding-places uttering their piercing war-whoops. The horses of the
troopers were terrified by the brilliant, shrieking creatures, and
bolted. But terror was not all upon one side. The Indians had never
seen men like these Hessians, with their huge bearskin shakos and
fierce dyed mustaches. They in their turn were seized with panic and
rushed away, fleeing incontinently from "bad medicine."

Absurd as the affair proved, with little harm done to anything except
the feelings of the British, its consequences might easily have been
serious, both to the Revolution and to Lafayette. The loss of two
thousand of his best men would have dangerously crippled Washington's
[Pg 108]little army; while the capture of Lafayette, on the very first
occasion he was intrusted with a command of any size, must almost
of necessity have ended his military usefulness forever. As it was,
Barren Hill demonstrated that he was quick and resourceful in time
of danger; and these were very valuable qualities in a war like the
American Revolution, which was won largely through the skill of its
generals in losing battles. To realize the truth of this and how well
it was carried out, we have only to recall Washington's masterly work
in the winter campaign in New Jersey, when he maneuvered and marched
and gave way until the right moment came to stand; how General Schuyler
lured Burgoyne to disaster; and how, in a later campaign in the South,
General Greene was said to have "reduced the art of losing battles to a
science." Years afterward, in talking with Napoleon, Lafayette called
our Revolution "the grandest of contests, won by the skirmishes of
sentinels and outposts." About a month after this affair at Barren Hill
the English evacuated Philadelphia and moved slowly northward with a
force of seventeen thousand men and a baggage-train nearly twelve miles
long. The length of this train indicated that it was moving-day for the
British army, which wanted to be nearer the Hudson, but certain other
indications pointed to the opening of an active campaign in New Jersey.
A majority of the American officers, including Gen. Charles Lee, who
was second in command, argued against an attack because both in numbers
and organization the British force was superior to their own. General
[Pg 109]Lee went so far as to say that, instead of trying to interfere
with General Clinton's retreat, it ought to be aided in every possible
way, "even with a bridge of gold." Subsequent developments proved
that it was not fear of a British victory, but sympathy with British
plans, which prompted this view. Several other officers, however,
Washington himself, Gen. Anthony Wayne, who was always ready to fight,
General Greene, General Cadwallader, and Lafayette, were in favor
of following and attacking at the earliest opportunity. It was this
course that Washington chose, in spite of the majority of votes against
it. It seemed to him that the difficulty Clinton must experience in
maneuvering his army over the roads of that region, and the fact that
almost half of his force would need to be employed in guarding the
unwieldy baggage-train, justified the expectation of success. His plan
was to throw out a strong detachment ahead of the main army to harass
the British flanks and rear and to follow this up so closely that the
main army would be ready to go to its support in case Clinton turned to
fight.

The command of the advanced detachment was the post of honor, and to
this Lee was entitled because of his rank. He refused it and Washington
offered it to Lafayette, who accepted joyously. He had already begun
his march when Lee reconsidered and sent Washington word that he
desired the command, after all, appealing at the same time to Lafayette
with the words, "I place my fortune and my honor in your hands; you
are too generous to destroy both the one and the other." Lee was
[Pg 110]one of the few men Lafayette did not like, though he had no
suspicion of his loyalty. He thought him ugly in face and in spirit,
full of avarice and ambition. But Lee was his superior officer, and
Lafayette was a soldier as well as a gentleman. He relinquished the
command at once and offered to serve under Lee as a volunteer.

It would have been better had he found it in his heart and in the
military regulations to refuse, for on that sultry unhappy 28th of
June when the two armies met and the battle of Monmouth Court House
was fought, General Lee's indecision and confusion of orders, to give
his conduct no harsher name, turned the advance of the Americans,
who were in the best of spirits and eager to fight, into what their
generals admitted was "a disgraceful rout." Officer after officer came
to Lee beseeching him to let them carry out their original instructions
and not to give orders to fall back; but he did everything to hinder
success, answering stubbornly, "I know my business."

At Lafayette's first intimation that things were going wrong, he sent
a message to Washington, who was with the main army, some miles in the
rear. Whether he learned the news first from this messenger or from a
very scared fifer running down the road, Washington could not believe
his eyes or his ears. Hurrying forward, he found Lee in the midst of
the retreating troops and a brief but terrible scene took place between
them; Washington in a white heat of anger, though outwardly calm,
[Pg 111]Lee stammering and stuttering and finally bursting out with
the statement that the whole movement had been made contrary to his
advice. Washington's short and scorching answer ended Lee's military
career. Then, turning away from him as though from a creature unworthy
of further notice, the Commander-in-chief took up the serious task at
hand. The soldiers responded to his presence instantly. With those on
the field he and Lafayette were able to make a stand until reserves
came up and a drawn battle was fought which lasted until nightfall. The
conditions had been unusually trying, for the heat was so oppressive
that men died of that alone, without receiving a wound. Both armies
camped upon the field, Washington meaning to renew the contest next
morning; but during the night the enemy retired to continue the march
toward New York.

[Illustration: THE BATTLE OF MONMOUTH, JUNE 28, 1778]

Lee was tried by court martial and suspended from any command in the
armies of the United States for the period of one year. Afterward
Congress dismissed him altogether. The judgment of history is that he
deserved severer punishment and that his sympathies were undoubtedly
with the British. He was of English birth, and from the beginning
of his service in the American army he tried to thwart Washington.
Lafayette was convinced that, though his name does not appear
prominently in the doings of the Conway cabal, it was he and not
General Gates who would have profited by the success of that plot.

Since the British were able to continue their march as planned, they
[Pg 112]claimed Monmouth as a victory. Washington also continued
northward and, crossing the Hudson, established himself near White
Plains, which brought the British and American forces once more into
the relative positions they had occupied two years earlier, after the
battle of Long Island.

Monmouth proved to be the last engagement of consequence fought that
year, and the last large battle of the Revolution to be fought in the
Northern states. Very soon after this the British gave up their attempt
to cut the rebellion in two by opening the Hudson, and substituted for
it the plan of capturing the Southern states one by one, beginning with
Georgia and working northward. They continued to keep a large force
near New York, however, and that necessitated having an American army
close by. These two forces were not idle; some of the most dramatic
incidents of the whole war occurred here, though the main contest raged
elsewhere, and in a larger sense, these armies were only marking time.


[Pg 113]XIII

A LIAISON OFFICER


Lafayette's influence and duties took on a new character about the
middle of July, 1778, when a fleet of twenty-six French frigates and
ships of the line arrived, commanded by Admiral d'Estaing.

These ships had sailed in such secrecy that even their captains did
not know whither they were bound until they had been at sea some
days. Then, while a solemn Mass was being sung aboard the flagship,
the signal was hoisted to break the seals upon their orders. When the
full meaning of these orders dawned upon the sailors and the thousand
soldiers who accompanied the expedition shouts of joy and cries of
_"Vive le Roi!"_ spread from ship to ship. But it was an expedition
fated to ill luck. Storms and contrary winds delayed them five weeks
in the Mediterranean, and seven more in crossing the Atlantic. Food
and water were almost gone when they reached Delaware Bay, where
the disappointing news awaited their commander that the British,
fearing his blockade, had withdrawn to New York, taking the available
food-supplies of the neighborhood with them. That was the explanation
[Pg 114]of Clinton's long wagon-train. He left little behind for hungry
sailors.

D'Estaing landed Silas Deane, and the first minister sent from France
to the United States, who had come over with; him sent messages
announcing his arrival to Congress and to Washington, and proceeded up
the coast. For eleven days he remained outside the bar at Sandy Hook
in a position bad for his ships and worse for his temper; for inside
the bar he could see many masts flying the British flag. But pilots
were hard to find, most of them being in the service of his enemies;
and without pilots he could not enter. When at last they were obtained
it was only to tell him that the largest of his vessels drew too much
water to enter without removing part of their guns, and this he could
not afford to do with English ships lying inside. D'Estaing would not
believe it until he himself had made soundings. "It is terrible to be
within sight of your object and yet unable to attain it," he wrote. To
add to his unhappiness he heard that an English fleet under Admiral
Byron had sailed for American waters, and he knew that its arrival
would raise the number of British ships and guns to a figure far
exceeding his own. He put to sea again, his destination this time being
Newport, where the British had a few ships and about six thousand men.
Washington had suggested a combined attack here in case it was found
impossible to accomplish anything at New York.

Admiral d'Estaing came from Auvergne, as did Lafayette. Indeed,
their families were related by marriage, and to his first official
[Pg 115]communication Lafayette had added, at Washington's request, a
long postscript giving personal and family details that the British
could not possibly know, doing this to prove to the admiral that the
proposed plans were genuine and not an invention of the enemy. The
correspondence thus begun had continued with pleasure on both sides,
and, after the fleet reached Newport, Lafayette spent a happy day on
the flagship as the admiral's honored guest, though he was technically
still a deserter, subject to arrest and deportation.

The American part of the combined attack on Newport was to be made
by a detachment of Washington's army co-operating with state troops
and militia raised by General Sullivan, near by. The command of the
Continentals was offered to Lafayette, who wrote to D'Estaing in boyish
glee: "Never have I realized the charm of my profession, M. le Comte,
as I do now that I am to be allowed to practise it in company with
Frenchmen. I have never wished so much for the ability that I have not,
or for the experience that I shall obtain in the next twenty years if
God spares my life and allows us to have war. No doubt it is amusing
to you to see me presented as a general officer; I confess that I am
forced myself to smile sometimes at the idea, even in this country
where people do not smile so readily as we do at home."

Although scurvy had broken out with considerable violence on his ships,
the French admiral held himself ready to carry out his part of a speedy
attack. It was General Sullivan who had to ask a delay because [Pg
116]so few of the militia responded to his summons. While expressing
polite disappointment that so large a part of the American army was
"still at home," D'Estaing tried to emphasize the need of haste. He
believed in striking sudden, unexpected blows; and he had ever in mind
the approach of that fleet of Admiral Byron's. Nine precious days
passed, which the British commander at Newport utilized in preparing
for defense and in sending messengers to New York.

Meanwhile Lafayette returned to camp and started with his detachment
for Newport. On the march he received a letter from Washington which
must have caused him keen disappointment, since it took away half his
authority. General Greene was a native of Rhode Island, with special
knowledge of the region where the fighting was to take place, and
because of this it had been decided at the last moment to combine the
Continental troops with the militia and to give General Greene joint
command with Lafayette. The young man's answer was a model of cheerful
acquiescence. "Dear General: I have received your Excellency's favor
by General Greene, and have been much pleased with the arrival of a
gentleman who, not only on account of his merit and the justness of
his views, but also by his knowledge of the country and his popularity
in this state, may be very serviceable to the expedition. I willingly
part with half of my detachment, though I had a great dependence upon
them, as you find it convenient for the good of the service. Anything,
[Pg 117]my dear General, you will order, or even wish, shall always
be infinitely agreeable to me; and I will always feel happy in doing
anything which may please you or forward the public good. I am of the
same opinion as your Excellency that dividing our Continental troops
among the militia will have a better effect than if we were to keep
them together in one wing." Only a single sentence, near the end, in
which he referred to himself as being with the expedition as "a man of
war of the third class" betrayed his regret. Washington appears to have
been much pleased and relieved by this reply, for he realized that he
was drawing heavily upon Lafayette's store of patience.

As it turned out, neither Greene nor Lafayette had authority enough to
quarrel over or any glory in the enterprise, for on the 10th of August,
at the moment when the combined attack was about to begin, the relief
expedition of Admiral Howe's ships loomed suddenly out of the fog.
The French vessels had been placed only with a view to an attack upon
land, and most of the sailors had been disembarked to take part in it.
D'Estaing had to get them hurriedly back again and to prepare for a
sea-fight. Before this was over a wind-storm of great fury arose. It
separated the combatants, but left D'Estaing so crippled that he was
obliged to put into Boston for repairs.

Some of these events were of a character no human foresight could
prevent. All of them held possibilities of misunderstanding, and these
misunderstandings were increased tenfold by differences in nationality,
[Pg 118]in temper, and in language. Some of the French thought
General Sullivan deliberately and jealously tried to block success.
He reproached the French admiral for going to Boston after the storm
instead of returning to his aid. Lafayette's very eagerness subjected
him to criticism, yet he was the one man involved who understood
the temperament of both the French and the Americans. The burden of
explaining, of soothing, of trying to arrange the thousand prickly
details of the situation fell upon him. Twice he rode to Boston and
back for conferences with D'Estaing, making the journey of seventy
miles once by night in six and a half hours--unexampled speed for those
days. Such work now would be called the work of a liaison officer. He
had need of all his tact, and even his sweet temper grew acid under the
strain. He was strongly moved to fight a duel with General Sullivan;
and both Washington and Congress had to intervene before the French
admiral was completely assured of America's belief in his "zeal and
attachment," and before Lafayette could be thoroughly appeased.

Fond as he was of America, Lafayette was a Frenchman first of all. He
had assured D'Estaing that he would rather fight as a common soldier
under the French flag than as a general officer anywhere else. The
coming of the French fleet had been to all intents a declaration of
war by his country against England; and when the autumn was far enough
advanced to make it certain there would be no more military activity in
America before the next spring, he asked permission to return to France
and offer his sword to his king.

[Pg 119]Washington, who had more sympathy with the impulses of youth
than we are apt to give him credit for, saw that after the trying
experiences of the past few weeks a leave of absence would be the
best thing for Lafayette and also for his American friends. The young
man's nerves were completely on edge. He had not only wanted to fight
General Sullivan and controlled the desire; he had actually sent a
challenge, against the advice of Washington and Admiral d'Estaing, to
the Earl of Carlisle, an Englishman in America on official business,
because of some words the latter had used which Lafayette regarded as
an insult to the French. Besides these grievances, his imagination
was working overtime on a grand new scheme for the conquest of Canada
which Washington could no more indorse than he could approve the desire
to shed blood in private quarrels. The young man's friendship was too
valuable to make it politic continually to thwart him. Undoubtedly
this was a case where absence would make the heart grow fonder. Very
possibly also the wise general foresaw how much good Lafayette might
do in Paris as an advocate of American interests during the next few
months.

Lafayette did not wish to sever his relations with the Continental
army. All he asked was a leave of absence, and this Congress readily
granted in a set of complimentary resolutions, adding for good measure
a letter "To our great, faithful, and beloved friend and ally, Louis
the Sixteenth, King of France and Navarre," telling what a very wise
[Pg 120]and gallant and patient and excellent young man he was. But it
was weeks after this permission was given before Lafayette left
America. Congress arranged, as a compliment, that he should sail from
Boston on the frigate _Alliance_, one of the best of the nation's
war-vessels. Lafayette made his visits of ceremony, wrote his notes of
farewell, and set out from Philadelphia in a cold rain one day late
in October. Ordinarily he would not have minded such a storm. He had
endured the life at Valley Forge and discomforts of the winter trip
to Canada with apparent ease; but to a year of such campaigning had
been added several months of work and worry in connection with the
French fleet. The two together had told upon his strength, and the
storm added the finishing touch. He became really ill, but, suffering
with fever, rode on, unwilling to delay his journey for mere weather,
and unwilling, too, to fail in courtesy to the inhabitants of the many
towns on his way who wished to do him honor. He fortified himself for
the receptions and functions they had planned by frequent draughts of
tea and spirits, which made his condition worse instead of better.
By the time he reached Fishkill, New York, he was unable to proceed
farther. His fever raged for three weeks, and the news spread that he
would not recover. The concern manifested showed what a firm hold he
had made for himself in American affection. Civilians spoke of him
lovingly and sorrowfully as "the Marquis," while in the army, where
he was known as "the soldier's friend," grief was even more sincere.
Washington sent Surgeon-General Cochran, who had cared for him in
[Pg 121]Bethlehem, to take charge of the case, and rode himself almost
daily the eight miles from headquarters to make inquiries, never
entering the sick-room, and often turning away with tears in his eyes
at the report given him. Lafayette, racked with fever and headache, was
sure he would never live to reach France again. The idea of leaving
the world at the early age of twenty-one did not trouble him; he felt
that he would gladly compromise on three more months of life, provided
he could see his family and be assured of the happy outcome of the
American war.

After the fever left him and he slowly regained his strength he spent a
few happy days as Washington's guest before proceeding on his journey
to Boston. The elder man's farewell was "very tender, very sad," and
Lafayette rode away in company with the good Doctor Cochran, who had
orders to watch him like a hawk until he was safely on the ship. After
this parting the young man was more than ever convinced that Washington
was a great man and his own very warm personal friend. He wondered how
anybody could accuse him of being cold and unsympathetic.


[Pg 122]XIV

NEAR-MUTINY AND NEAR-IMPRISONMENT


When he reached Boston the crew of the _Alliance_ had not been fully
made up. The authorities offered to impress enough men to complete
it, but Lafayette objected on principle to that way of obtaining
sailors. They were finally secured by enlistment, but many of them
were questionable characters, either English deserters or English
prisoners of war. With such a crew the _Alliance_ put to sea on the
11th of January, 1779, upon a voyage short for that time of year, but
as tumultuous as it was brief. Excitement and discomfort began with a
tempest off the Banks of Newfoundland which the frigate weathered with
difficulty. Lafayette, who was always a poor sailor, longed for calm,
even if it had to be found at the bottom of the sea; but that was only
the beginning, the real excitement occurring about two hundred leagues
off the French coast.

Lafayette's own account explains that "by a rather immoral proclamation
his Britannic Majesty encouraged revolt among crews," offering them the
money value of ships captured and brought into English ports as "rebel"
[Pg 123]vessels--"a result which could only be obtained by the massacre
of officers and those who objected." A plot of this nature was entered
into by the English deserters and prisoners among the sailors on the
_Alliance_. A cry of "A sail!" was to bring officers and passengers
hurrying upon deck and shots from four cannon, carefully trained and
loaded beforehand, were to blow them to bits. The time was fixed for
four o'clock in the morning, but, fortunately, it was postponed until
the same time in the afternoon, and in the interval the plot was
disclosed to an American sailor who was mistaken by the conspirators
for an Irishman on account of the fine brogue he had acquired through
much sailing "in those latitudes." They offered him command of the
frigate. He pretended to accept, but was able to warn the captain and
Lafayette only one short hour before the time fixed for the deed. That
was quite enough, however. The officers and passengers appeared upon
deck ahead of time, sword in hand, and gathering the loyal sailors
about them, called up the rest one by one. Thirty-three were put in
irons. Evidence pointed to an even greater number of guilty men, but
it was taken for granted that the rest might be relied upon, though
only the Americans and French were really trusted. A week later the
_Alliance_ sailed happily into Brest floating the new American flag.

The last word Lafayette had received from his family was already eight
months old. He hurried toward Paris, but the news of his arrival
traveled faster, and he found the city on tiptoe to see him. "On my
[Pg 124]arrival," says the _Memoirs_, "I had the honor to be consulted
by all the Ministers and, what was much better, embraced by all the
ladies. The embraces ceased next day, but I enjoyed for a longer
time the confidence of the Cabinet and favor at Versailles, and also
celebrity in Paris." His father-in-law, who had been so very bitter
at his departure, received him amiably, a friendliness which touched
Lafayette. "I was well spoken of in all circles, even after the favor
of the queen had secured for me command of the regiment of the King's
Dragoons." This was no other than the old De Noailles Cavalry in which
he had served as a boy.

Merely as a matter of form, however, he had to submit to a week's
imprisonment because he had left the country against the wishes of
the king. Instead of being shut in the Bastille, his prison was
the beautiful home of his father-in-law, where Adrienne and the
baby awaited him; and during that week its rooms were filled with
distinguished visitors, come ostensibly to see the Duc d'Ayen. But
even this delightful travesty of imprisonment did not begin until the
prodigal had gone to Versailles for his first interview with the king's
chief advisers. After a few days he wrote to Louis XVI, "acknowledging
my happy fault." The king summoned him to his presence to receive "a
gentle reprimand" which ended in smiles and compliments, and he was
restored to liberty with the hint that it would be well for a time to
avoid crowded places where the common people of Paris, who so dearly
loved a hero, "might consecrate his disobedience."

[Pg 125]For the next few months he led a busy life, a favorite in
society, an unofficial adviser of the government, called here and there
to give first-hand testimony about men and motives in far-off America,
making up lost months in as many short minutes with Adrienne, winning
the heart of his new little daughter, assuming command of his "crack"
regiment, so different in appearance from the ragged ranks he had
commanded under Washington; and last, but by no means least in his own
estimation, laying plans to accomplish by one bold stroke two military
purposes dear to his heart--discomfiting the English and securing money
for the American cause.

He had seen such great results undertaken and accomplished in America
with the slenderest means that the recklessness with which Europeans
spent money for mere show seemed to him almost wicked. He used to
tell himself that the cost of a single fête would equip an army in
the United States. M. de Maurepas had once said that he was capable
of stripping Versailles for the sake of his beloved Americans. It was
much more in accordance with his will to seize the supplies for America
from England herself. He planned a descent upon the English coast by
two or three frigates under John Paul Jones and a land force of fifteen
hundred men commanded by himself, to sail under the American flag, fall
upon rich towns like Bristol and Liverpool, and levy tribute.

Lafayette's brain worked in two distinct ways. His tropic imagination
stopped at nothing, and completely ran away with his common sense when
[Pg 126]once it got going, as, for instance, while he lay recovering
from his wound at Bethlehem. Very different from this was the clever,
quick wit with which he could take advantage of momentary chances in
battle, as he had demonstrated when he and his little force dropped
between the jaws of the trap closing upon them at Barren Hill.
Fortunately in moments of danger it was usually his wit, not his
imagination, that acted, and he took excellent care of the men under
him; but when he had nothing in the way of hard facts to pin his mind
to earth, and gave free rein to his desires, he was not practical. In
this season of wild planning he not only invented the scheme for a
bucaneering expedition in company with John Paul Jones; he mapped out
an uprising in Ireland, but decided that the time was not yet ripe for
that.

While his plan for a descent upon the English coast came to nothing, it
may be said to have led to much, for it interested the Ministry, and
was abandoned only in favor of a more ambitious scheme of attacking
England with the help of Spain. That, too, passed after it was
found that England was on the alert; but it had given Lafayette his
opportunity to talk about America in and out of season, and to urge the
necessity for helping the United States win independence as a means of
crippling England, if not for her own sake. As the most popular social
lion of the moment his words carried far, and as the most earnest
advocate of America in France he was indeed what he called himself, the
link that bound the two countries together. The outcome was that after
[Pg 127]the collapse of the project for an expedition against England
nobody could see a better way of troubling his Britannic Majesty than
by following Lafayette's advice; whereupon he redoubled his efforts and
arguments.

Indeed, he exceeded the wishes of the Americans themselves. He wanted
to send ships and soldiers as well as money and supplies, but with the
fiasco of the attack upon Newport fresh in their minds Congress and our
country were chary of asking for more help of that kind. He assured M.
de Vergennes that it was characteristic of Americans to believe that in
three months they would no longer need help of any kind. He wrote to
Washington that he was insisting upon money with such stress that the
Director of Finances looked upon him as a fiend; but he argued also in
France that the Americans would be glad enough to see a French army by
the time it got there.

A plan drawn up by him at the request of M. de Vergennes has been
called the starting-point of the events that led to the surrender of
Cornwallis, because without French help that event could not have
occurred. In this view of the case, the work he did in Paris and at
Versailles was his greatest contribution to the cause of American
independence. Another general might easily have done all that he did in
the way of winning battles on American soil, but no other man in France
had his enthusiasm and his knowledge, or the persistence to fill men's
ears and minds and hearts with thoughts of America as he did.

[Pg 128]After it had been decided to send over another military force
it was natural for him to hope that he might be given command of it,
though nobody knew better than he that his rank did not entitle him
to the honor since he was only a colonel in France, even if he did
hold the commission of a major-general in the United States. Having
become by this time really intimate with M. de Vergennes, he gave
another proof of the sweet reasonableness of his disposition by frankly
presenting the whole matter in writing to him. He worked out in detail
two "suppositions," the first assuming that he was to be given command
of the expedition, the second that he was not, stating in each case
what he thought ought to be done. Quite frankly he announced his
preference for the first supposition, but quite simply and unmistakably
he made it plain that he would work just as earnestly for the success
of the undertaking in one case as in the other.

It was the second of these plans that the Ministry preferred and
adopted practically as he prepared it. After this had been decided he
found himself, early one spring day in 1780, standing before Louis
XVI, in his American uniform, taking his leave. He was to go ahead of
the expedition and announce its coming; to work up a welcome for it,
if he found lingering traces of distrust; and to resume command of his
American division and do all he could to secure effective co-operation;
in short, to take up his work of liaison officer again on a scale
greater than before.


[Pg 129]XV

HELP--AND DISAPPOINTMENT


When Lafayette sailed westward this time he owned two valued
possessions, partly French, partly American, which had not been his
when he landed at Brest. One was a sword, the gift Congress directed
Franklin to have made by the best workmen in Paris and presented
to him in recognition of his services. It was a wonderful sword,
with his motto "_Cur non?_" and no end of compliments worked into
the decorations of its gold-mounted hilt and scabbard. The other
possession was a brand-new baby. "Our next one absolutely must be a
boy!" Lafayette had written Adrienne when assuring her of his joy over
the birth of Anastasie; and obligingly the next one came a boy, born
on Christmas Eve, 1779. He had been immediately christened, as was the
custom, but he was given a name that no man of the house of Motier had
borne in all the seven hundred years of the family's consequential
existence. Even the young mother's tongue may have tripped a bit as she
whispered "George Washington" to the baby cuddled against her breast.
But no other name was possible for that child, and the day came, before
[Pg 130]he was grown, when it served as a talisman to carry him out of
danger.

Sailing westward on the _Hermione_, the father of this Franco-American
baby reached Boston late in April after an uneventful voyage, to
receive the heartiest welcome the staid old town could give him. The
docks were black with people and the streets lined with hurrahing
crowds as he rode to the governor's house where he was to be a guest.

Until the _Hermione_ came to anchor he did not know where Washington
was to be found, but he had a letter ready written to despatch at once,
begging him, if he chanced to be north of Philadelphia, to await his
arrival, since he brought news of importance. It took a week for this
message to reach Washington's headquarters at Morristown, and three
days later Lafayette was there himself, greeting and being greeted
by his chief with a heartiness which showed their genuine delight at
being together again. Having been absent for more than a year, he had
much to learn about the progress of the war; and what he learned was
not reassuring. He knew in a general way how things had gone, but the
details showed how weak the American forces really were.

Most of the fighting had been in the South. Savannah had been taken
before Lafayette sailed for France. The British had followed up this
success by sending a large force to Georgia; Southern Tories had
been roused, and civil war had spread throughout the entire region.
At present the British were advancing upon Charleston. In the [Pg
131]North the two armies still played their waiting game, the British
actually in New York, and Washington in a position from which he could
guard the Hudson, help Philadelphia in case of need, and occasionally
do something to harass the enemy. Frequently the harassing was done
by the other side, however. During the summer of 1779 the British had
ravaged the Connecticut Valley. Washington refused to be tempted away
from the Hudson, and the brightest spot in the annals of that year had
been the capture of Stony Point while the British were thus engaged.
Lafayette's acquaintance, "Mad Anthony" Wayne, had taken it in a most
brilliant assault.

But that was only one episode and the history of the year could be
summed up in eight words--discouragement, an empty treasury, unpaid
troops, dwindling numbers. Washington's own army was reduced to about
six thousand men, with half of these scarcely fit for duty. They were
only partly clothed, and had been only partly fed for a long time.
Their commander said of them, sadly, but with pride, that during their
terms of service they had subsisted upon "every kind of horse-food
except hay." Lafayette expected to find the army weak, but this was a
state of exhaustion of which he had not dreamed. It was very hard to
have to report such things to Paris; in truth, for some time after his
return he avoided reporting details as much as possible.

His coming, with the news that ships and men and money were on the way,
[Pg 132]must have seemed little less than a happy miracle. But would
the help come in time? To make it effective the country must renew its
enthusiasm and meet assistance half-way. Washington frankly told a
committee of Congress that unless this could be done the coming of the
French would be a disaster instead of a benefit. In other words, the
country was so weak that the next effort was almost sure to be the last
one. If it failed, it would be too exhausted to rally again.

Lafayette left headquarters and went to Philadelphia to exert whatever
personal influence he possessed upon Congress; but under the law
Congress could raise neither men nor money. All it could do was to
recommend such action to the thirteen different states. Their thirteen
different legislatures had to deliberate and act, all of which took
time when time was most urgent.

In France the proposed military expedition had roused much enthusiasm.
Young men flocked to enlist, as eager to fight for liberty in America
as our boys of 1918 were eager to reach France on a similar errand.
Every available spot on the transports was crowded. The commanding
general regretfully left behind his two favorite war-horses because
he knew that twenty men could go in the space they would occupy. Even
after the ships had left the harbor recruits came to him on the cutter
that brought the last despatches, begging to be taken aboard, but had
to be sent back because there was literally not room for another man.

Yet the numbers that came to America were, after all, disappointingly
[Pg 133]small: far less than originally planned. That was because
the English managed to blockade all except the first division in the
harbor of Brest. This first division sailed on the 2d of May with
Admiral Ternay in command of the ships, and the gallant, cool-headed
Rochambeau, who was already fighting at the time Lafayette was born,
in command of the soldiers. He had five thousand effective men crowded
into the transports that left Brest with their convoy on a sunny day,
the many white sails filling to a breeze described as _"joli frais."_
But in spite of this auspicious beginning it was a tedious crossing,
longer in point of time than the first voyage of Columbus. The weary
soldiers soon came to call their transports "sabots" (wooden shoes),
and indeed some of them were scarcely larger. As our coast was neared
they crawled along at three knots an hour, with drums beating every
fifteen minutes to keep the ships in touch and prevent their drifting
away from each other in the heavy, persistent fog.

Washington had hoped that before the arrival of the French he could
gather sufficient force to justify him in attacking New York with their
help, for he was convinced that one success here would end the war. His
army was indeed "augmented more than one-half," as Lafayette wrote his
wife, but before the ships made their slow way across the Atlantic the
British had captured Charleston, and Clinton, who assisted Cornwallis
in that undertaking, had returned to New York with a force that raised
his strength there to twelve thousand regulars, in addition to Admiral
[Pg 134]Arbuthnot's fleet and several thousand militia and refugees.
Not all the earnestness of Washington, the efforts of Congress, nor the
enthusiasm of Lafayette had been able to raise men enough to attack
under these circumstances; and the signals displayed on Point Judith
and "the island of Block House" to guide the French directed them to
go to Newport as a convenient place from which the attack might yet be
made if events favored the allies.

Lafayette went to Newport to meet Rochambeau and plan co-operation. By
the time he reached there the situation was still worse, for an English
fleet which left home about the time Rochambeau sailed from France had
appeared, giving the British superior force alike on sea and land.

Admiral Ternay, who was not aggressive by nature, saw a repetition of
D'Estaing's failure looming ahead of him, and sent word to France that
the American cause was doomed. Rochambeau, being a better soldier, did
what he could; landed his men, freeing them from the confinement of the
"sabots;" and, upon a rumor that the British were advancing to attack,
helped several thousand militia prepare for defense. The rumor had a
foundation of truth. An expedition actually left New York, but was no
sooner started than Washington began threatening the city, whereupon
Clinton recalled his men, for there was no doubt that New York was the
more important place.

Having no knowledge of the country, and being thus hurried at the
moment of landing, from the rôle of aggressor which he had expected
[Pg 135]to play to one of defense, the situation seemed very serious
to the French general. Even after the recall of Clinton's expedition
he felt it most unwise to lose touch with his ships, and he had small
patience with Lafayette, who seemed inclined to talk about "advances."
Rochambeau was sure that his duty lay in waiting for the second
division of the French force, keeping strict discipline, meanwhile, in
a model camp, and paying liberally for supplies. This he did so well
that not an apple disappeared from the orchards in which the French
tents were pitched, not a cornstalk was bent in the fields near by,
and, as Lafayette assured Washington, the pigs and chickens of patriots
wandered at will through the French camp "without being deranged." The
French and Americans fraternized enthusiastically. "You would have been
amused the other day," Lafayette reported to his chief, "had you seen
two hundred and fifty of our recruits, who came to Connecticut without
provisions and without tents, mixing so well with the French troops
that each Frenchman, officer or soldier, took an American with him and
amicably gave him a share of his bed and supper."

The French soldiers were anxious to get out of Newport and at the
throats of the enemy, but Rochambeau was firm in his determination. He
desired a personal interview with Washington and felt a little hurt,
perhaps, that a youngster like Lafayette, who might easily have been
his own son, was made the means of communication. There was some doubt
whether Washington could enter into agreements with a representative
[Pg 136]of a foreign power until explicit authority had been given him
by Congress. It was one of those absurd technical questions of no real
importance that may cause a deal of trouble, and it was better not
to have it raised. Lafayette continued, therefore, to be occupied in
Newport with parleys and conferences and incidentally with meeting old
friends. His brother-in-law, De Noailles, was one of the officers who
had come out with the expedition.

Cross-purposes were bound to arise, and there were moments when
Lafayette's optimism got decidedly upon the nerves of Rochambeau. The
two came to the verge of quarrel, but both were too sensible to allow
themselves to be pushed over the edge. The breach was soon healed by a
letter of Rochambeau's in which he referred to himself as an old father
and his "dear Marquis" as an affectionate son. In Lafayette's private
account of this episode to his wife he wrote that "a slight excess of
frankness got me into a little controversy with those generals. Seeing
that I was not persuading them and that the public interest demanded we
be good friends, I admitted at random that I had been mistaken and was
to blame, and asked pardon in proper terms, which had such a magical
effect that we are now better friends than ever." Lafayette's friends
called him determined; his critics said that he was vain. Historians
aver that he was never convinced by argument.

August brought the unwelcome news that there was to be no second
division of the French army that year. This was the more disappointing
[Pg 137]because in addition to all else it meant the continued lack
of arms and ammunition and of clothing for fifteen thousand American
soldiers that Lafayette had caused to be manufactured in France, but
which had been left behind to come with this second division. He
confided to his cousin that the army was reduced to "a frugality, a
poverty, and a nudity which will, I hope, be remembered in the next
world, and counted, to our credit in purgatory." To his wife he wrote
that the ladies of Philadelphia had started a subscription to aid the
soldiers, and that he had put down her name for one hundred guineas;
that he was very well; that the life of an American soldier was
infinitely frugal; that "the fare of the general officers of the rebel
army is very different from that of the French at Newport."

The intelligence that no more French troops could be expected called
manifestly for new plans of campaign, and a conference between the
respective chiefs was finally arranged, which took place at Hartford
with considerable ceremony on the 20th of September. Washington had
with him General Knox and General Lafayette. The French general and
admiral were accompanied by as many subordinate officers as could find
plausible excuse to go along, for all were curious to meet the famous
General Washington.

At this conference the whole situation was discussed in detail, but no
way of winning the war without outside help was discovered. Rochambeau
sent his son, who had come to America with him, back to France with
[Pg 138]a formal account of the proceedings; while Washington and
Lafayette also sent letters to France by the son of that Mr. Laurens
who had offered Lafayette the hospitality of his traveling-carriage
after the battle of the Brandywine.

One chance of help still remained, even if the Ministry should consider
it impossible to despatch aid directly from France. The Comte de
Guichen, who commanded a fleet then in the West Indies, might be
persuaded to sail to the relief of the Americans if the letters could
be made sufficiently persuasive. Washington wrote directly to him as
well as to France, sending this letter through the French minister to
the United States, in order that everything might be diplomatically
correct and aboveboard.


[Pg 139]XVI

BLACK TREACHERY


Washington returned from his conference with the French commanders by
way of West Point to show Lafayette some improvements recently made in
the works. Several little accidents delayed the journey and brought
them to the house of the commander at a critical moment. We have
Lafayette's account, part of it written the very next day to the French
minister to the United States, part of it later to his wife.

"When I left you yesterday, M. le Chevalier, to come here to take
breakfast with General Arnold, we were very far from thinking of the
event which I am about to announce to you. You will shudder at the
danger we have run. You will be astonished at the miraculous chain
of accidents and circumstances by which we were saved.... West Point
was sold, and it was sold by Arnold! That same man who had covered
himself with glory by rendering valuable services to his country had
lately formed a horrid compact with the enemy. And but for the chance
which brought us here at a certain time, but for the chance which by
[Pg 140]a combination of accidents caused the adjutant-general of the
English army to fall into the hands of some countrymen beyond the line
of our own posts, West Point and the North River would probably be in
possession of our enemies.

"When we left Fishkill we were preceded by one of my aides-de-camp and
General Knox's aide, who found General and Mrs. Arnold at table and sat
down to breakfast with them. During that time two letters were brought
to General Arnold giving him information of the capture of the spy. He
ordered a horse to be saddled, went to his wife's room and told her
he was lost, and directed one of his aides-de-camp to say to General
Washington that he had gone to West Point and should return in an hour."

Arnold had been gone only thirty minutes when Washington and Lafayette
rode up.

"We crossed the river and went to look at the works. Judge of our
astonishment when, upon our return, we were informed that the captured
spy was Major André, the adjutant-general of the English army, and that
among the papers found upon him was a copy of a very important council
of war, a statement of the strength of the garrison and of the works,
and certain observations upon the methods of attack and defense, all
in General Arnold's handwriting.... A search was made for Arnold, but
he had escaped in a boat on board the sloop-of-war _Vulture_, and as
nobody suspected his flight, no sentry could have thought of arresting
him.... The first care of General Washington was to return to [Pg
141]West Point the troops whom Arnold had dispersed under various
pretexts. We remained here to insure the safety of a fort which the
English would value less if they knew it better....

"I cannot describe to you, M. le Chevalier, to what degree I am
astounded by this piece of news.... That Arnold, a man who, although
not so highly esteemed as has been supposed in Europe, had nevertheless
given proof of talent, of patriotism, and especially of the most
brilliant courage, should at once destroy his very existence and should
sell his country to the tyrants whom he had fought against with glory,
is an event, M. le Chevalier, which confounds and distresses me, and,
if I must confess it, humiliates me to a degree that I cannot express.
I would give anything in the world if Arnold had not shared our labors
with us, and if this man whom it still pains me to call a scoundrel had
not shed his blood for the American cause. My knowledge of his personal
courage led me to expect that he would decide to blow his brains out.
This was my first hope. At all events, it is probable that he will
do so when he reaches New York, whither the English sloop proceeded
immediately upon receiving Arnold on board....

  "I am not writing to M. le Comte de Rochambeau or to M. le Chevalier
  de Ternay. I beg you to communicate to them this incredible story....
  What will the officers of the French army say when they see a general
  abandon and basely sell his country after having defended it so
  well? You can bear witness, M. le Chevalier, that this is the first
  [Pg 142]atrocity that has been heard of in our army. But if, on the
  one hand, they hear of the infamy of Arnold, they are bound to admire
  the disinterestedness of a few countrymen who happened to meet Mr.
  André with a passport from General Arnold, and on the mere suspicion
  of his being a friend of England made him a prisoner, refusing at the
  same time his horse, his watch, and four hundred guineas which he
  offered them if they would allow him to continue upon his way....

  "I shall conclude my long letter, M. le Chevalier, by referring to a
  subject which must touch every human heart. The unhappy Mrs. Arnold
  did not know a word of this conspiracy. Her husband told her before
  going away that he was flying, never to come back, and he left her
  lying unconscious. When she came to herself she fell into frightful
  convulsions and completely lost her reason. We did everything we
  could to quiet her, but she looked upon us as the murderers of her
  husband.... The horror with which her husband's conduct has inspired
  her, and a thousand other feelings, make her the most unhappy of
  women.

  "P.S.--She has recovered her reason this morning, and, as you know
  I am upon very good terms with her, she sent for me to go up to her
  chamber. General Washington and every one else sympathize warmly with
  this estimable woman whose face and whose youthfulness make her so
  interesting. She is going to Philadelphia, and I implore you, when
  you return, to use your influence in her favor.... Your influence and
  [Pg 143]your opinion, emphatically expressed, may prevent her from
  being visited with a vengeance which she does not deserve. General
  Washington will protect her also. As for myself, you know that I
  have always been fond of her, and at this moment she interests me
  intensely. We are certain that she knew nothing of the plot."

This letter expressed the hope that André would be hanged according to
military law, because, being a man of high rank and influence, his fate
would serve as a warning to spies of lesser degree. Lafayette was one
of the court martial that tried and sentenced him; and we have no proof
that he hesitated for an instant in the performance of his stem duty
or that he ever regretted it. Yet from a letter to Madame Lafayette,
written after André's death, we know that Lafayette felt his charm, as
did every one else who knew the unfortunate young Englishman. "He was
an interesting young man," Lafayette wrote. "He conducted himself in a
manner so frank, so noble, and so delicate that I cannot help feeling
for him infinite sorrow."

Arnold, as everybody knows, did not blow out his brains, but, becoming
literally a turncoat, donned the red of the British uniform, and took
his unwelcome place among the gentlemen officers of King George. In
the following spring he was doing work of destruction in Virginia; but
he was not trusted by his new companions, and two British colonels
supposed to be under his orders were secretly charged with the duty of
keeping an eye on him. It was in Virginia that his path and Lafayette's
crossed once more.

[Pg 144]Lafayette meantime had been a prey to restlessness. Nothing
happened in the North more interesting than camp routine and the
exchange of official visits. During the summer he had been given
command of a special corps of light infantry culled from all branches
of the service, a body of men in which he took infinite pride. "Its
position is always that of advance-guard," he wrote Adrienne. "It is
independent of the main army, and it is far too fine for our present
pacific situation." He lavished training and affection upon it and
pampered it by sending to France for luxuries like sabers and banners
and plumes. While less needed than coats and shoes, such things were
easier to transport. But even in the matter of clothing this favored
corps was better off than the rest of the army. A French officer who
visited Lafayette's camp thought the uniforms of both men and officers
smart. Each soldier wore a sort of helmet made of hard leather, with a
crest of horsehair.

Before the army went into winter quarters many Frenchmen came to "the
camp of the marquis" twenty miles from New York, making the pilgrimage
not so much from love of him or to sample the punch which, according
to the custom of the time, he kept "stationary on the table" for
the benefit of his guests, as out of curiosity to see Washington's
headquarters, which were not far away. Most of them were impressed
by the good horses owned by American generals and astonished at the
simplicity of their other equipment. Some "who had made war as colonels
[Pg 145]long before Lafayette left school" were the least bit jealous
of his youth and influence. Several had entered into an agreement not
to accept service under him; but all were flattered that a Frenchman
held such high place in public esteem. One of them asserted with
complacency that "private letters from him have frequently produced
more effect upon some states than the strongest exhortations of
Congress."

When the army went into winter quarters again he had even more time
upon his hands. He wrote many letters. One went almost every month
to his powerful friend at court, Vergennes, urging speedy aid. The
military needs of the country were never absent from his thoughts, even
while he was taking his French friends, including De Noailles, on a
personally conducted tour of near-by battle-fields and cities. He did
not trust himself far from headquarters, for fear that his chief might
need him or that he might miss some opportunity. When Colonel Laurens
received his instructions before starting for Paris he took care to be
on hand, to give expert advice on court customs and prejudices. He was
a young man who well knew his influence upon two continents, and was
so eager to use it that a man of less winning personality in similar
circumstances might have got himself heartily disliked.

His eagerness to do something was heightened by his belief that Europe
misunderstood, and thought Americans either unready or unwilling to
fight. His vivid imagination got to work again and juggled with facts
and figures until he became convinced that a surprise attack upon New
[Pg 146]York could do no possible harm and might capture the city. He
detailed this plan to Washington, who saw the weakness of his reasoning
and rejected it in a kind letter signed "sincerely and affectionately
yours," reminding Lafayette that "we must consult our means rather than
our wishes" and that "to endeavor to recover our reputation we should
take care not to injure it the more."

After this gentle snub he was torn between a desire to join General
Greene in the South for the winter campaign and his wish to be near New
York when a blow was struck there. With a curiosity that would have
been unpardonable in a less intimate friend, he sought to find out his
chief's plans on this score. Washington's answer was non-committal, but
he pointed out that "your going to the Southern army, if you expect
a command in this, will answer no valuable purpose"; and after this
second gentle snub Lafayette gave up the idea of joining Greene. Then
in February he was sent with a detachment of twelve hundred men to
Virginia, where Arnold was destroying valuable supplies. His orders
bade him travel fast, "not to suffer the detachment to be delayed
for want of either provisions, forage, or wagons," and after he got
to Virginia "to do no act whatever with Arnold that directly or by
implication will screen him from the punishment due to his treason and
desertion; which, if he should fall into your hands, you will execute
in the most summary way." While in Virginia he was to co-operate with
General von Steuben, who was in command of militia there; and if [Pg
147]it should prove impossible to dislodge Arnold, Lafayette was to
bring his men back to rejoin the main army.

He had his force at the Head of Elk, that inlet at the head of
Chesapeake Bay which the English had already used, three days ahead of
schedule time. His campaign lasted about a month, but came to nothing,
because he did not have the co-operation of ships, and in that tangle
of land and water control of Chesapeake Bay was as necessary to success
as ammunition or fodder. The French had been asked to help, and twice
sent ships from Newport to Chesapeake Bay, but in neither case were
they useful to him. He did the best he could from day to day without
them, and even pushed down the bay in a small boat far ahead of his
men, hoping to establish connections; but the ships he saw were British
instead of French. Then he took his men back again to the Head of Elk.

That his failure was not due to lack of persistence letters written
by him to Gov. Thomas Jefferson, asking for transportation, for
provisions, for boats, for wagons, for horses, and, if horses were not
available, even for oxen to draw his guns, amply testify. That he had
his usual resourcefulness at instant command was displayed at Annapolis
on the northward journey when he found two small armed British vessels
blocking his progress. He improvised a temporary navy of his own, armed
two merchant sloops with cannon, manned them with volunteers, and drove
the British away long enough to permit the rest of his force to go on.

[Pg 148]Neither was his usual friendliness lacking. He snatched
time to visit Mount Vernon and to call upon Washington's mother at
Fredericksburg, but he made up for the time lost in these indulgences
by riding at night to overtake his command.


[Pg 149]XVII

PREPARING FOR THE LAST ACT


The British were beginning to be hard pressed in the South. The
struggle had been long and disappointing, and burning and looting and
the horrors of civil war had spread over a large area. Two Continental
armies had been lost in rapid succession, and there had been months
when one disaster seemed to follow upon another; but gradually the
British were being driven away from their ships and bases of supply
on the coast. The heat of summer had brought much sickness to their
camps, and General Greene, next to Washington the most skilful of the
Revolutionary generals, had perfected his "science of losing battles"
to the point where his opponents might claim almost every engagement
as a victory and yet the advantage remained with the Americans.
Recently the British had lost a large part of their light troops. In
March, 1781, Cornwallis decided to leave General Rawdon, with whom
Lafayette had danced in London, to face Greene, while he himself went
to Virginia, joined Benedict Arnold and General Phillips there, and
returned with them to finish the conquest of the South. Washington [Pg
150]learned of the plan and knew that if it succeeded General Greene
might be crushed between two British forces. Arnold and Phillips must
be kept busy in Virginia. Steuben was already on the ground; Anthony
Wayne was ordered to hurry his Pennsylvanians to the rescue; and
Lafayette, being near the point of danger, was turned back. He found
new orders when he reached Head of Elk.

The scene was being set in Virginia, not in New York, for the last act
of the Revolutionary War; but neither he nor his men realized this,
and if Lafayette was disappointed, the men were almost in a state
of panic. They began deserting in large numbers. "They like better
a hundred lashes than a journey to the southward," their commander
wrote. "As long as they had an expedition in view they were very well
satisfied; but the idea of remaining in the Southern states appears
to them intolerable, and they are amazingly averse to the people and
climate." Most of them were New England born. He hastened to put many
rivers between them and the land of their desire; and also tried an
appeal to their pride. In an order of the day he stated that his force
had been chosen to fight an enemy superior in numbers and to encounter
many dangers. No man need desert, for their commander would not compel
one of them to accompany him against his will. Whoever chose to do so
might apply for a pass and be sent back to rejoin his former regiment.
They were part of his beloved light infantry of the previous year, with
[Pg 151]all this implied of friendship and interest on both sides, and
this appeal worked like a charm. Desertion went suddenly and completely
out of fashion; nobody asked for a pass, and one poor fellow who was in
danger of being sent back because he was lame hired a cart to be saved
from this disgrace.

Lafayette's men had once been better dressed than the average; but
their present ragged clothing was entirely unsuited to the work ahead
of them, being fit only for winter wear in the North. As usual, money
and new garments were equally lacking, and as usual this general of
twenty-three came to the rescue. When he reached Baltimore he let
the merchants know that according to French law he was to come into
full control of all his property on reaching the age of twenty-five,
and he promised to pay two years hence for everything he ordered, if
the government did not pay them earlier. On the strength of this he
borrowed two thousand guineas with which to buy overalls, hats, and
shoes; and he smiled upon the ladies of Baltimore, who gave a ball in
his honor, told them confidentially of his plight, and so stirred their
patriotism and sympathy that they set to work with their own fair hands
and made up the linen he bought for shirts.

Phillips and Arnold had joined forces near Norfolk, and, since the
British were in control of Chesapeake Bay, could go where they chose.
Lafayette believed they would soon move up the James River toward
Norfolk to destroy supplies the Americans had collected. He resolved to
get to Richmond before them, though he had twice the distance to [Pg
152]travel. With this in view he set out from Baltimore on the 19th of
April, moving with such haste that his artillery and even the tents for
his men were left to follow at a slower pace. On the day before he left
Baltimore the British, under General Phillips, who outranked Arnold,
began the very march he had foreseen. Steuben's Virginia militia put up
the best defense it could, but, being inferior in numbers and training,
could only retire inch by inch, moving supplies to places of greater
safety as it went. But it retired hopefully, knowing Lafayette to be on
the way.

Continuing to advance, partly by land and partly by water, the British
reached Petersburg, only twenty-three miles from Richmond. They passed
Petersburg and pressed on. On April 30th they reached Manchester on the
south bank of the James, directly opposite Richmond. There, to General
Phillips's amazement, he beheld more than the town he had come to take;
drawn up on the hills above the river was Lafayette's force, which had
arrived the night before. He had only about nine hundred Continentals
in addition to his militia, and the British numbered twenty-three
hundred, but Phillips did not choose to attack. He contented himself
with swearing eloquently and giving orders to retire. Lafayette had the
satisfaction of learning, through an officer who visited the British
camp under flag of truce, that his enemy had been completely surprised.
But the young Frenchman felt it necessary to explain to Washington just
how he had been able to do it. "The leaving of my artillery appears a
[Pg 153]strange whim, but had I waited for it Richmond was lost.... It
was not without trouble I have made this rapid march."

Lafayette was to be under General Greene and expected to find orders
from him waiting at Richmond. Not finding them, he decided he could
best serve the cause by keeping General Phillips uneasy, and followed
him down the James; but, being too weak to attack except with great
advantage of position, he prudently kept the river between them. The
military journal kept by Colonel Simcoe, one of the British officers
charged with the unpleasant duty of watching Arnold, admits that this
was "good policy," though he longed to take advantage of what he called
his French adversary's "gasconading disposition and military ignorance"
and make some counter-move which his own superior officers failed to
approve.

This retreat of the British down the James, followed by Lafayette,
was the beginning of that strange contra-dance which the two armies
maintained for nine weeks. Sketched upon a map of Virginia, the
route they took resembles nothing except the aimless markings of a
little child. The zigzag lines extend as far west as the mountains
at Charlottesville, as far south as Portsmouth, as far north as
Fredericksburg and Culpeper, and end at Yorktown.

Cornwallis had not approved of General Clinton's conduct of the
war, believing the British commander-in-chief frittered away his
opportunity. Cornwallis said he was "quite tired of marching about the
[Pg 154]country in search of adventure." The experiences he was to have
in Virginia must have greatly added to that weariness.

He sent word to Phillips to join him at Petersburg. General Phillips
turned his forces in that direction, but it proved to be his last
order. He was already ill and soon lapsed into unconsciousness and
died. His death placed Arnold again in command until Cornwallis should
arrive. It was during this interval that Arnold took occasion to
write Lafayette about prisoners of war. Mindful of his instructions
to have nothing to do with Arnold except to punish him, Lafayette
refused to receive the letter, saying to the messenger who brought
it that he would gladly read a communication from any other British
officer. Arnold had a keen interest in the treatment of prisoners--for
very personal reasons. A story was current to the effect that one of
Lafayette's command who was taken prisoner was questioned by Arnold
himself and asked what the Americans would do to him in case he was
captured. "Cut off the leg which was wounded in your country's service,
and hang the rest of you!" was the prompt reply. The renegade general
was not popular in either army. Soon after Cornwallis's arrival he was
ordered elsewhere, and his name fades out of history.

Lafayette counted the hours until Wayne should join him, but Cornwallis
reached Virginia first, with troops enough to make Lafayette's
situation decidedly grave. All the Americans could do was to follow the
plan Steuben had adopted before Lafayette's arrival; retreat slowly,
[Pg 155]removing stores to places of safety whenever possible. General
Greene gave Lafayette permission to act independently, but, while
this enabled him to make quick decisions, it increased his load of
responsibility and did not in the least augment his strength.

In the North he had longed for more to do; here it was different.
He wrote Alexander Hamilton, "For the present, my dear friend, my
complaint is quite of the opposite nature," and he went on with a
half-humorous account of his duties, his situation, and the relative
strength of the two armies. The British, he thought, had between four
thousand and five thousand men. "We have nine hundred Continentals.
Their infantry is near five to one, their cavalry ten to one. Our
militia is not numerous, some without arms, and are not used to war."
Wayne's men were necessary even to allow the Americans to be beaten
"with some decency." "But," he added, "if the Pennsylvanians come, Lord
Cornwallis shall pay something for his victory!" The Virginia militia
showed symptoms of deserting as harvest-time approached and the call
of home duties grew strong. Then there was the danger of contagious
disease. "By the utmost care to avoid infected ground, we have hitherto
got rid of the smallpox," Lafayette wrote in another letter. "I wish
the harvest-time might be as easily got over."

Cornwallis was fully aware of his superior numbers and had a simple
plan. "I shall now proceed to dislodge Lafayette from Richmond,
and with my light troops to destroy magazines or stores in the
[Pg 156]neighborhood.... From thence I propose to move to the neck
at Williamsburg, which is represented as healthy ... and keep myself
unengaged from operations which might interfere with your plan for the
campaign until I have the satisfaction of hearing from you," he wrote
Clinton. He was very sure that the "aspiring boy," as he contemptuously
called Lafayette, could not escape him. But the "boy" had no intention
of being beaten--"indecently"--if he could hold out until Wayne
arrived. He knew that one false move would be his ruin and there was
no wild planning. "Independence has rendered me more cautious, as I
know my warmth," he told Hamilton. He knew how to travel swiftly,
and sometimes it was necessary to move as swiftly as possible. Even
so the British advance might come up just as the last of his little
force disappeared. If Cornwallis tried a short cut to head him off, he
changed his direction; and more of those apparently aimless lines were
traced upon the map.

On the 10th of June Wayne joined him about thirty-five miles west of
Fredericksburg. His force was smaller than Lafayette had hoped for,
"less than a thousand men in all"; but from that time the Continental
troops no longer fled. Indeed, Cornwallis no longer pursued them,
but veered off, sending General Tarleton's famous cavalry on a raid
toward Charlottesville, where it made prisoners of several members
of the Virginia legislature and almost succeeded in capturing Gov.
Thomas Jefferson. Another portion of his force turned its attention
[Pg 157]upon Steuben where he was guarding supplies. But gradually
pursuit became retreat and the general direction of the zigzag was
back toward the sea. The chances were still uncertain enough to make
the game exciting. There was one moment when Lafayette's flank was in
imminent danger; his men, however, marched by night along a forgotten
wood road and reached safety. Six hundred mounted men who came to join
him from neighboring counties were warmly welcomed, for he sorely
needed horses. At one time, to get his men forward more speedily for
an attack--attacks were increasingly frequent--each horse was made to
carry double. After he and General Steuben joined forces on the 19th of
June the English and Americans each had about four thousand men, though
in the American camp there were only fifteen hundred regulars and fifty
dragoons.

Weapons for cavalry were even scarcer than horses. Swords could not be
bought in the state; but Lafayette was so intent upon mounted troops
that he planned to provide some of them with spears, "which," he
argued, "in the hands of a gentleman must be a formidable weapon." Thus
reverting to type, as biologists say, this descendant of the Crusaders
drove his enemy before him with Crusaders' weapons down the peninsula
between the York and the James rivers.


[Pg 158]XVIII

YORKTOWN


One of General Wayne's officers, Captain Davis of the First
Pennsylvania, whose military skill, let us hope, exceeded his knowledge
of spelling, kept a diary full of enthusiasm and superfluous capital
letters. By this we learn that the Fourth of July, 1781, was a wet
morning which cleared off in time for a "Feu-de-joy" in honor of
the day. The Americans had by this time forced the British down the
peninsula as far as Williamsburg, and were themselves camped about
fifteen miles from that town. While the "Feu-de-joy" went up in smoke
the British were busy; for Cornwallis had received letters which
decided him to abandon Williamsburg, send a large part of his men
north to reinforce Clinton, and consolidate the rest with the British
garrison at Portsmouth, near Norfolk.

The battle of Green Springs, the most serious encounter of Lafayette's
Virginia campaign, took place on the 6th of July, near Jamestown, when
the British, in carrying out this plan, crossed to the south side of
the river James. Cornwallis was sure that Lafayette would attack, and
[Pg 159]arranged an ambush, meaning to lure him with the belief that
all except the British rear-guard had passed to the other bank. The
ruse only half succeeded, for Lafayette observed that the British
clung tenaciously to their position and replaced the officers American
riflemen picked off one after the other. Riding out on a point of land,
he saw the British soldiers waiting under protection of their guns
and spurred back to warn General Wayne, but by that time the battle
had opened. Wayne's men suffered most, being nearly surrounded. In a
tight place Wayne always preferred "among a choice of difficulties, to
advance and charge"; and this was exactly what he did, straight into
the British lines. The unexpectedness of it brought success; and in the
momentary confusion he fell back to a place of safety. Afterward he had
a word to say about Lafayette's personal conduct. Reporting that no
officers were killed, though most of them had horses shot or wounded
under them, he added: "I will not condole with the Marquis for the loss
of two of his, as he was frequently requested to keep at a greater
distance. His native bravery rendered him deaf to the admonition."

The British retained the battle-field and the Americans most of the
glory, as was the case in so many fights of the Revolution. British
military writers have contended that Lafayette was in mortal danger
and that Cornwallis could have annihilated his whole force if he had
attacked that night. What Cornwallis did was to cross the river next
morning and proceed toward Portsmouth. The affair at Green Springs
[Pg 160]added materially to Lafayette's reputation. Indeed, with the
exception of burning a few American stores, increasing Lafayette's
military reputation was about all the British accomplished in this
campaign. An American officer with a taste for figures gleefully
estimated that Cornwallis's "tour in Virginia" cost King George, one
way and another, more than would have been needed to take all the
British aristocracy on a trip around the world.

Cornwallis got his soldiers safely upon their transports, but it was
written in the stars that they were not to leave Virginia of their own
free will. Orders came from Clinton telling him not to send them north,
and giving him to understand that his recent acts were not approved.
Clinton directed him to establish himself in a healthy spot on the
peninsula between the York and James rivers and to gain control of
a seaport to which British ships could come. He suggested Old Point
Comfort, but Cornwallis's engineers decided that Yorktown, with the
neck of land opposite called Gloucester, was the only place that would
serve. Here Cornwallis brought his army on the 1st of August and began
building defenses.

Following the battle of Green Springs, Lafayette occupied Williamsburg
and gave his men the rest they needed after their many weeks of
marching. He sent out detachments on various errands, but this was a
season of comparative quiet. Soon he began to long for excitement,
and wrote to Washington that he did not know about anything that was
happening in the world outside of Virginia, that he was homesick for
[Pg 161]headquarters, and that if he could not be there to help in the
defense of New York, at least he would like to know what was going on.
The answer only whetted his curiosity. Washington bade him await a
confidential letter explaining his plans.

The military situation as Washington saw it was exceedingly
interesting. Colonel Laurens's mission to the French court had turned
out badly. Perhaps he had not taken sufficiently to heart Lafayette's
advice; but young Rochambeau had not fared much better. In May it
had been learned that there was never to be any second division of
the French army; a blow that was softened by the assurance that
considerable money was actually on the way and that a French fleet,
which had sailed for the West Indies under command of Comte de Grasse,
might visit the coast of the United States for a short time.

It was the approach of this French fleet which caused Clinton
uneasiness in New York and made Cornwallis embark part of his troops
for the North. Washington took good care to let Clinton rest in the
belief that New York was to be attacked, but it became increasingly
evident to him that the greatest blow he could strike would be to
capture Cornwallis's army. He arranged with Admiral de Grasse to sail
to Chesapeake Bay instead of to New York, sent word to Lafayette to
be on the lookout for the French fleet, moved Rochambeau's soldiers
from Newport to the Hudson, left a sufficient number of them there and
started south with all the rest of the army, moving with the greatest
possible speed. Those of us who have read about this merely as long [Pg
162]past history do not realize the risks involved in planning such
far-reaching combinations in days before cables and telegraph lines.

"To blockade Rhode Island, fool Clinton, shut him up in New York,
and keep Cornwallis in Virginia," says a French writer, "it was
necessary to send from the port of Brest and later from the Antilles
to Chesapeake Bay a flotilla destined to take from the English all
hope of retreat and embarkation at the exact instant that Washington,
Rochambeau, and Lafayette should come and force the English in their
last intrenchments. This grand project which decided the outcome of the
war could be conceived only by men of superior talent." Lafayette's
friend, De Ségur, said that "it required all the audacity of Admiral
Comte de Grasse and the skill of Washington, sustained by the bravery
of Lafayette, the wisdom of Rochambeau, the heroic intrepidity of our
sailors and our troops, as well as the valor of the American militia."

Fortunately the geography of the Atlantic coast helped Washington keep
his secret even after he was well started. If De Grasse came to New
York, Washington's logical goal was Staten Island, and the route of the
Continental army would be the same in either case for a long distance.
After Philadelphia had been left behind and Washington's plan became
evident, it was too late for Clinton to stop him.

Thus the net tightened about Cornwallis. French ships in the bay
effectually cut off hope of reinforcement or escape by sea. Lafayette
[Pg 163]stationed Wayne where he could interpose if the British
attempted to go by land toward the Carolinas. He sent his faithful
friend, De Gimat, down the bay to meet the French admiral and give him
information, and disposed his own forces to cover the landing of any
soldiers De Grasse might bring him.

It must have been a fine sight when twenty-eight large ships of the
line and four French frigates sailed up the James River on the 2d of
September and landed three thousand soldiers, "all very tall men" in
uniforms of white turned up with blue. Lafayette's Americans, drawn up
not far from the battleground of Green Springs, donned their ragged
best in their honor. "Our men had orders to wash and put on clean
clothes," a diary informs us.

With this addition to his force Lafayette approached Yorktown. General
Saint-Simon, the commander of the three thousand very tall men, was
much older than Lafayette, besides being a marshal of France, but he
gallantly signified his willingness to serve under his junior; and
officers and privates alike accepted cheerfully the scanty American
fare, which was all Lafayette could get for his enlarged military
family. He found difficulty in collecting even this and wrote
Washington that his duties as quartermaster had brought on violent
headache and fever, but that the indisposition would vanish with three
hours' needed sleep.

In spite of their politeness it was evident that the visitors were
anxious to be through with their task and away. Admiral de Grasse had
a rendezvous for a certain date in the West Indies and insisted from
[Pg 164]the first that his stay in American waters must be short. The
French were scarcely inclined to await the arrival of Washington; yet
with all Washington's haste he had only reached Chester, Pennsylvania,
on the way to Head of Elk when he heard of De Grasse's arrival. Those
who were with him when the news came were more impressed by the way he
received it than by the news itself. His reserve and dignity fell from
him like a garment, and his face beamed like that of a delighted child
as he stood on the river-bank waving his hat in the air and shouting
the glad tidings to Rochambeau.

When Washington reached Williamsburg on the 13th of September he
found both Lafayette and General Wayne the worse for wear. Wayne,
with characteristic impetuosity, had tried to pass one of Lafayette's
sentries after dark and was nursing a slight wound in consequence.
Lafayette's quartermaster headache had developed into an attack of
ague; but that did not prevent his being present at the ceremonies
which marked the official meeting of the allied commanders. There were
all possible salutes and official visits, and, in addition, at a grand
supper a band played a kind of music seldom heard in America in those
days--the overture to a French opera "signifying the happiness of a
family when blessed with the presence of their father."

Washington's arrival of course put an end to Lafayette's independent
command. With the Commander-in-chief present he became again what
he had been the previous summer, merely the commander of a division
[Pg 165]of light infantry, and as such took part in the siege of
Yorktown, which progressed unfalteringly. The night of October 14th
witnessed its most dramatic incident, the taking of two redoubts, one
by French troops, the other by Americans under Lafayette. Among his
officers were Gimat, John Laurens, and Alexander Hamilton. Six shells
in rapid succession gave the signal to advance, and his four hundred
men obeyed under fire without returning a shot, so rapidly that the
place was taken at the point of the bayonet in a very few minutes.
Lafayette's first care was to send an aide with his compliments and
a message to Baron Viomenil, the French commander, whose troops were
still attacking; the message being that the Americans had gained their
redoubt and would gladly come to his assistance if he desired it. This
was a bit of vainglory, for Viomenil had nettled Lafayette by doubting
if his Americans could succeed. On the night of October 15th the
British attempted a sortie which failed. After an equally unsuccessful
attempt to escape by water, Cornwallis felt that there was no more
hope, for his works were crumbling and, in addition to his loss in
killed and wounded, many of his men were sick. He wrote a short note to
Washington asking for an armistice to arrange terms of surrender.

The time of surrender was fixed for two o'clock on the afternoon of
October 19, 1781. Lafayette had suggested that Cornwallis's bands be
required to play a British or a German air when the soldiers marched
to lay down their arms. This was in courteous retaliation for the
[Pg 166]treatment our own troops had received at British hands at the
surrender of Charleston, when they had been forbidden to play such
music. It was to the tune of "The World Turned Upside Down" that they
chose to march with colors cased, between the long lines of French and
Americans drawn up on the Hampton Road, to a field where a squadron
of French had spread out to form a huge circle. The French on one
side of the road under their flag with the golden fleur-de-lis were
resplendent in uniforms of white turned up with blue. The Americans
were less imposing. In the militia regiments toward the end of their
line scarcely a uniform was to be seen, but at their head Washington
and his officers, superbly mounted, stood opposite Rochambeau and the
other French generals. Eye-witnesses thought that the British showed
disdain of the ragged American soldiers and a marked preference for
the French, but acts of discourtesy were few, and the higher officers
conducted themselves as befitted gentlemen. Cornwallis did not appear
to give up his sword, but sent General O'Hara to represent him, and it
was received on Washington's part by General Lincoln, who had given up
his sword to the British at Charleston.

As each British regiment reached the field where the French waited it
laid down its arms at the command of its colonel and marched back to
Yorktown, prisoners of war. The cheeks of one colonel were wet with
tears as he gave the order, and a corporal was heard to whisper to
his musket as he laid it down, "May you never get so good a master!"
[Pg 167]Care was taken not to add to the humiliation of the vanquished
by admitting sightseers, and all agree that there was no cheering or
exulting. "Universal silence was observed," says General "Lighthorse
Harry" Lee, who was there. "The utmost decency prevailed, exhibiting
in demeanor an awful sense of the vicissitudes of human life, mingled
with commiseration for the unhappy." There was more than commiseration;
there was real friendliness. Rochambeau, learning that Cornwallis was
without money, lent him all he needed. Dinners were given at which
British officers were the guests of honor; and we have Lafayette's word
for it that "every sort of politeness" was shown.

Washington's aide, Colonel Tilghman, rode at top speed to Philadelphia
with news of the surrender, reaching there after midnight on the 24th.
He met a watchman as he entered the city, and bade him show him the way
to the house of the president of Congress. The watchman, of course,
learned the great news, and while Tilghman roused the high official,
the watchman, who was a patriot, though he had a strong German accent,
continued his rounds, calling, happily:

"Basht dree o'glock, und Corn-wal-lis isht da-a-ken!"


[Pg 168]XIX

"THE WINE OF HONOR"


About the time that Colonel Tilghman rode into Philadelphia a large
British fleet appeared just outside of Chesapeake Bay, thirty-one
ships one day and twenty-five more the next; but they were too late.
As a French officer remarked, "The chicken was already eaten," and two
days later the last sail had disappeared. The surrender of Cornwallis
cost England the war, but nobody could be quite sure of it at that
time. Washington hoped the French admiral would still help him by
taking American troops south, either to reinforce General Greene near
Charleston or for operations against Wilmington, North Carolina. Two
days after the fall of Yorktown, when Washington made a visit of thanks
to De Grasse upon his flagship, Lafayette accompanied his chief; and
after Washington took leave Lafayette stayed for further consultation,
it being Washington's plan to give Lafayette command of this expedition
against Wilmington in case it should be decided upon. The young general
came ashore in high spirits, sure that two thousand American soldiers
[Pg 169]could sail for North Carolina within the next ten days.
Reflection, however, showed the admiral many obstacles, chief of them
being that he had positive orders to meet a Spanish admiral in the West
Indies on a certain day, now very near. Taking troops to Wilmington
might delay him only a few hours, but on the other hand contrary winds
might lengthen the time to two weeks, in which case he would have to
sail off to the rendezvous, carrying the whole American expedition
with him. After thinking it over, he politely but firmly refused.
Reinforcements for General Greene were sent by land under command
of another officer, the expedition to Wilmington was given up, and
Lafayette rode away to Philadelphia to ask leave of Congress to spend
the following winter in Paris. This was readily granted in resolutions
which cannily combined anticipation of future favors with thanks for
the service he had already rendered.

Once more he sailed from Boston on the _Alliance_. This time the voyage
was short and lacked the exciting features of his previous trip on
her. Wishing to surprise his wife, he landed at Lorient and posted to
Paris with such haste that he arrived quite unexpectedly on the 21st
of January, to find an empty house, Adrienne being at the moment at
the Hotel de Ville, attending festivities in honor of the unfortunate
little Dauphin. When the news of her husband's return finally reached
her on the breath of the crowd she was separated from her home by
streets in such happy turmoil that she could not hope to reach the
Hotel de Noailles for hours. Marie Antoinette hastened this journey's
[Pg 170]end in a lovers' meeting in right queenly fashion by holding
up a royal procession and sending Madame Lafayette home in her own
carriage. Accounts written at the time tell how the husband heard his
wife's voice and flew to the door, how she fell into his arms half
fainting with emotion, and how he carried her inside and the great
doors closed while the crowd in the street applauded. What happened
after that we do not know, except that he found other members of his
family strangely altered. "My daughter and your George have grown
so much that I find myself older than I thought," the father wrote
Washington.

Paris set about celebrating his return with enthusiasm. A private
letter which made much of the queen's graciousness to Madame Lafayette
remarked as of lesser moment that a numerous and joyous band of
"_poissards,_" which we may translate "the rabble," brought branches
of laurel to the Hôtel de Noailles. A prima donna offered him the same
tribute at the opera, but in view of later happenings this homage of
the common people was quite as significant. In vaudeville they sang
topical songs about him; pretty ladies frankly showed him their favor;
the ancient order of Masons, of which he was a member, gave him the
welcome reserved for heroes; and he was wined and dined to an extent
that only a man blessed with his strong digestion could have withstood.
One of these dinners was given by the dissolute old Maréchal de
Richelieu, nephew of the famous cardinal, and to this were bidden "all
[Pg 171]the _maréchals_ of France," who drank Washington's health with
fervor and bade the guest of honor convey to him "their homage."

It had been more than a century since France won a victory over
England comparable to this capture of Cornwallis, and national pride
and exultation were plainly apparent in the honors bestowed upon the
returned soldier. "Your name is held in veneration," Vergennes assured
him. "It required a great deal of skill to maintain yourself as you
did, for so long a time, in spite of the disparity of your forces,
before Lord Cornwallis, whose military talents are well known." And
the new Minister of War, M. de Ségur, father of Lafayette's boyhood
friend, informed him that as "a particular and flattering favor" the
king had been pleased to make him a marshal of France, his commission
dating from the 18th of October. This rank corresponded to that of
major-general in the American army, and Lafayette was to assume it
at the end of the American war. There were officers in the army who
did not approve of this honor. They could not see that Lafayette had
done anything to warrant making a French colonel into a major-general
overnight and over the heads of officers of higher rank. They were
quite sure they would have done as well had the opportunity come their
way. Kings do not often reward subjects for services rendered a foreign
nation; and the part that strikes us as odd is that Lafayette had been
fighting against monarchy, the very form of government his own king
represented. But Lafayette's life abounded in such contradictions.

[Pg 172]His popularity was no nine days' affair. Franklin found it of
very practical use. "He gains daily in public esteem and affection,
and promises to be a great man in his own country," the American
wrote, after Lafayette had been back for some weeks, adding, "he has
been truly useful to me in my efforts to obtain increased assistance."
Before the young hero arrived Franklin had found it difficult to
arrange a new American loan, but with such enthusiasm sweeping Paris it
was almost easy. The town went quite wild. John Ledyard, the American
explorer, who was there at the time, wrote: "I took a walk to Paris
this morning and saw the Marquis de Lafayette. He is a good man, this
same marquis. I esteem him: I even love him, and so do we all, except
some who worship." Then he added, "If I find in my travels a mountain
as much elevated above other mountains as he is above ordinary men, I
will name it Lafayette."

Envoys to discuss peace had already reached Paris, but it was not at
all certain that England would give up the contest without one more
campaign. To be on the safe side it was planned to send a combined
fleet of French and Spanish ships convoying twenty-four thousand
soldiers to the West Indies to attack the English island of Jamaica.
Ships and men were to be under command of Admiral d'Estaing, who
wished Lafayette to go with him as chief-of-staff. After the work was
done in the West Indies D'Estaing would sail northward and detach six
thousand troops to aid a revolution in Canada, a project Lafayette had
never wholly abandoned. The expedition was to sail from Cadiz, and
[Pg 173]Lafayette was already in Spain with part of the French force
when he learned that the preliminary treaty of peace had been signed
at Versailles on January 20, 1782. He longed to carry the news to
America himself, but was told that he could do much in Spain to secure
advantageous trade agreements between that country and the United
States. So he contented himself with borrowing a vessel from the fleet
that was now without a destination, and sending two letters by it.
One, very dignified in tone, was addressed to Congress. The other, to
Washington, was joyously personal. "If you were a mere man like Cæsar
or the King of Prussia," he wrote, "I would almost regret, on your
account, to see the end of the tragedy in which you have played so
grand a role. But I rejoice with you, my dear General, in this peace
which fulfils all my desires.... What sentiments of pride and joy I
feel in thinking of the circumstances which led to my joining the
American cause!... I foresee that my grandchildren will be envied when
they celebrate and honor your name. To have had one of their ancestors
among your soldiers, to know that he had the good fortune to be the
friend of your heart, will be the eternal honor that shall glorify
them; and I will bequeath to the eldest among them, so long as my
posterity shall endure, the favor you have been pleased to bestow upon
my son George."

The ship on which these letters were sent was called, appropriately,
_La Triomphe_; and, as he hoped, it did actually carry the news of
peace to America, reaching port ahead of all others.

[Pg 174]For himself, he remained in Spain, doing what he could for
America. The things he witnessed there made him a better republican
than ever. He wrote to his aunt that the grandees of the court looked
rather small, "especially when I saw them upon their knees." Absolute
power, exercised either by monarchs or subjects, was becoming more and
more distasteful to him. The injustice of negro slavery, for example,
wrung his heart. In the very letter to Washington announcing peace he
wrote: "Now that you are to taste a little repose, permit me to propose
to you a plan that may become vastly useful to the black portion of the
human race. Let us unite in buying a little property where we can try
to enfranchise the negroes and employ them merely as farm laborers."
He did buy a plantation called Belle Gabrielle in Cayenne, French
Guiana, and lavished money and thought upon it. It was an experiment
in which his wife heartily joined, sending out teachers for the black
tenantry and making their souls and morals her special care. The French
Revolution put an end to this, as it did to so many enterprises; and
it seems a bitter jest of fortune that when Lafayette's property was
seized these poor creatures were sold back again into slavery--in the
name of Freedom and Equality.

In March, 1783, Lafayette took his wife to Chavaniac, possibly for the
first time. One of the two aunts who made the old manor-house their
home had just died, leaving the other desolate. While Adrienne won the
affections of the lonely old lady, her husband set about improving
the condition of the peasants on the estate. Bad harvests had brought
[Pg 175]about great scarcity of food. His manager proudly showed his
granaries full of wheat, remarking, "Monsieur le Marquis, now is the
time to sell." The answer, "No, this is the time to give away," left
the worthy steward breathless. Whether Lafayette's philanthropies
would win the approval of social workers to-day we do not know. The
list of enterprises sounds well. During the next few years he built
roads, brought an expert from England to demonstrate new methods in
agriculture, imported tools and superior breeds of animals, established
a weekly market and an annual fair, started the weaving industry and a
school to teach it, and established a resident physician to look after
the health of his tenants. He was popular with them. On his arrival he
was met in the town of Rion by a procession headed by musicians and the
town officials, who ceremoniously presented "the wine of honor" and
were followed by local judges in red robes who "made him compliments,"
while the people cried, "Vive Lafayette!" and danced and embraced,
"almost without knowing one another." A few weeks later the tenants
from a neighboring manor came bringing him a draught of wine from their
town, and expressing the wish that they might come under his rule. This
he was able to gratify a few years later, when he bought the estate.

In May, 1783, Lafayette realized the long-cherished dream of having
a home of his own. The Hôtel de Noailles was very grand and very
beautiful, and while he was away fighting it was by far the best place
[Pg 176]for Adrienne and the children; but it belonged to her people,
not to him. From camps he had written her about this home they were
some day to have together; and now that he had returned to France
to stay they bought a house in the rue de Bourbon and set up their
domestic altar there. They had three children; for a daughter had
been born to them in the previous September. Like George, she was as
American as her father could make her. "I have taken the liberty of
naming her Virginia," he wrote General Washington. Benjamin Franklin,
to whom he also announced the new arrival, hoped he would have children
enough to name one after each state of the Union.

In May, also, something happened which must have pleased Lafayette
deeply. He was given the Cross of Saint-Louis, the military decoration
his father had worn; and the man who received him into the order was
his father-in-law, the Duc d'Ayen, who had so bitterly opposed his
going to America.

With large estates in the country, a new house in town, a list of
acquaintances which included everybody worth knowing in Paris and more
notables in foreign countries than even he could write to or receive
letters from, and a keen interest in the politics, philanthropy, and
commerce of two hemispheres, he might have passed for a busy man.
Yet he found time for an entirely new enthusiasm. A German doctor
named Mesmer had made what he believed to be important discoveries
in a new force and a new mode of healing, called animal magnetism.
Lafayette enrolled himself as a pupil. "I know as much as ever a
[Pg 177]sorcerer knew!" he wrote enthusiastically to Washington. On
paying his initiation fee of a hundred golden louis he had signed a
paper promising not to reveal these secrets to any prince, community,
government, or individual without Mesmer's written consent, but
the disciple was eager to impart his knowledge to his great friend
and hoped to gain permission. Louis XVI was satirical. "What will
Washington think when he learns that you have become first apothecary
boy to Mesmer?" he asked.

Lafayette was planning a visit to America and sent a message to Mrs.
Washington that he hoped "soon to thank her for a dish of tea at Mount
Vernon." "Yes, my dear General, before the month of June is over you
will see a vessel coming up the Potomac, and out of that vessel will
your friend jump, with a panting heart and all the feelings of perfect
happiness." He did indeed make the visit during the summer of 1784,
though a few weeks later than June. Whether they had time during his
ten days at Mount Vernon to talk about Mesmer history does not state.
The hours must have been short for all the things clamoring to be
said. Then Lafayette made a tour that carried him to Portsmouth, New
Hampshire, as far west as Fort Schuyler, for another treaty-making
powwow with his red brothers the Indians, and south to Yorktown.
Everywhere bells pealed and balls and dinners were given. Before he
turned his face toward France he had a few more quiet days at Mount
Vernon with Washington, who accompanied him on his homeward way as far
[Pg 178]as Annapolis. At parting the elder man gave him a tender letter
for Adrienne, and on the way back to Mount Vernon wrote the words of
farewell which proved prophetic: "I have often asked myself, since our
carriages separated, whether that was the last sight I ever should have
of you; and though I wished to say No, my fears answered Yes."

Washington lived fourteen years longer; but in the mean time the storm
of the French Revolution broke and everything that had seemed enduring
in Lafayette's life was wrecked. Until that storm burst letters and
invitations and presents flashed across the see as freely as though
propelled by Mesmer's magic fluid. Mrs. Washington sent succulent
Virginia hams to figure at dinners given by the Lafayettes in Paris.
A picture of the household in the rue de Bourbon has come down to us
written by a young officer to his mother:

"I seemed to be in America rather than in Paris. Numbers of English and
Americans were present, for he speaks English as he does French. He has
an American Indian in native costume for a footman. This savage calls
him only 'father.' Everything is simple in his home. Marmontel and the
Abbé Morrolet were dinner guests. Even the little girls spoke English
as well as French, though they are very small. They played in English,
and laughed with the Americans. This would have made charming subjects
for English engravings."

Lafayette on his part sent many things to that house on the banks
of the Potomac. He sent his friends, and a letter from him was an
[Pg 179]infallible open sesame. He sent his own accounts of journeys
and interviews. He sent animals and plants that he thought would
interest Washington, the farmer. Asses, for example, which were hard to
get in America, and rare varieties of seeds. In time he sent the key of
the Bastille. But that, as romancers say, is "another story," and opens
another chapter in Lafayette's life.


[Pg 180]XX

THE PASSING OF OLD FRANCE


Lafayette took his business of being a soldier seriously, and in the
summer of 1785 made another journey, this time in the interest of his
military education. Frederick II, King of Prussia, was still living.
Lafayette obtained permission to attend the maneuvers of his army,
counting himself fortunate to receive lessons in strategy from this
greatest warrior of his time. He was not surprised to find the old
monarch bent and rheumatic, with fingers twisted with gout, and head
pulled over on one side until it almost rested on his shoulder; or to
see that his blue uniform with red facings was dirty and sprinkled with
snuff. But he was astonished to discover that the eyes in Frederick's
emaciated old face were strangely beautiful and lighted up his
countenance at times with an expression of the utmost sweetness. It
was not often that they transformed him thus from an untidy old man to
an angel of benevolence. Usually they were keen, sometimes mockingly
malicious.

It was certainly not without malice that he seated the young French
[Pg 181]general at his table between two other guests, Lord Cornwallis
and the Duke of York; and in the course of long dinners amused himself
by asking Lafayette questions about Washington and the American
campaigns. Lafayette answered with his customary ardor, singing praises
of his general and even venturing to praise republicanism in a manner
that irritated the old monarch.

"Monsieur!" Frederick interrupted him in such a flight. "I once knew
a young man who visited countries where liberty and equality reigned.
After he got home he took it into his head to establish them in his own
country. Do you know what happened?"

"No, Sire."

"He was hanged!" the old man replied, with a sardonic grin. It was
plain he liked Lafayette or he would not have troubled to give him the
warning.

Lafayette continued his journey to Prague and Vienna and Dresden,
where he saw other soldiers put through their drill. Then he returned
to Potsdam for the final grand maneuvers under the personal direction
of Frederick, but a sudden acute attack of gout racked his kingly old
bones, and the exercises which, in his clockwork military system, could
no more be postponed than the movements of the planets, were carried
out by the heir apparent, to Lafayette's great disappointment. He wrote
Washington that the prince was "a good officer, an honest fellow, a man
of sense," but that he would never have the talent of his two uncles.
As for the Prussian army, it was a wonderful machine, but "if the
resources of France, the vivacity of her soldiers, the intelligence
[Pg 182]of her officers, the national ambition and moral delicacy were
applied to a system worked out with equal skill, we would as far excel
the Prussians as our army is now inferior to theirs--which is saying a
great deal!"

_Vive la France! Vivent_ moral distinctions! He may not have realized
it, but Lafayette was all his life more interested in justice than in
war.

Almost from the hour of his last return from America the injustice with
which French Protestants were treated filled him with indignation.
Though not openly persecuted, they were entirely at the mercy of
official caprice. Legally their marriages were not valid; they could
not make wills; their rights as citizens were attacked on every side.
To use Lafayette's expression, they were "stricken with civil death."
He became their champion.

Everybody knew that very radical theories had been applauded in France
for many years, even by the men who condemned them officially. Dislike
of liberal actions, however, was still strong, as Lafayette found when
he attempted to help these people. His interest in them was treated as
an amiable weakness which might be overlooked in view of his many good
qualities, but should on no account be encouraged. "It is a work which
requires time and is not without some inconvenience to me, because
nobody is willing to give me one word of writing or to uphold me in any
way. I must run my chance," he wrote Washington. He did, however, get
permission from one of the king's ministers to go to Languedoc, where
[Pg 183]Protestants were numerous, in order to study their condition
and know just what it was he advocated. Evidence that he gathered thus
at first hand he used officially two years later before the Assembly
of Notables. So his championship of the French Protestants marks the
beginning of this new chapter in Lafayette's life, his entrance into
French politics.

Outwardly the condition of the country remained much as it had been;
but discontent had made rapid progress during the years of Lafayette's
stay in America. An answer attributed to the old Maréchal de Richelieu
sums up the change. The old reprobate had been ill and Louis XVI, with
good intentions, but clumsy cruelty, congratulated him on his recovery.
"For," said the king, "you are not young. You have seen three ages."
"Rather," growled the duke, "three reigns!" "Well, what do you think of
them?" "Sire, under Louis XIV nobody dared say a word; under Louis XV
they spoke in whispers; under your Majesty they speak loudly."

This education in discontent had proceeded under three teachers:
extravagance, hunger, and the success of America's war of independence.
Louis really desired to see his people happy and prosperous. He had
made an attempt at reforms, early in his reign, but, having neither
a strong will nor a strong mind, it speedily lapsed. Even under his
own eyes at Versailles many abuses continued, merely because they
had become part of the cumbersome court etiquette which Frederick II
had condemned back in the days of Louis's grandfather. Many other
[Pg 184]abuses had increased without even the pretense of reforming
them. There was increased personal extravagance among the well-to-do;
increased extortion elsewhere. Tax-collectors were still going about
shutting their eyes to the wealth of men who had influence and judging
the peasants as coldly as they would judge cattle. In one district they
were fat; they must pay a heavier tax. Chicken feathers were blowing
about on the ground? That meant the people had poultry to eat; the
screw could be given another vigorous turn. Among all classes there
seemed to be less and less money to spend. With the exception of a few
bankers and merchants, everybody from the king down felt poor. The
peasants felt hungry. The poor in cities actually were very hungry;
almost all the nobles were deeply in debt. In short, the forces for
good and ill which had already honeycombed the kingdom when Lafayette
was a boy had continued their work, gnawing upward and downward and
through the social fabric until only a very thin and brittle shell
remained. And, as the Maréchal de Richelieu pointedly reminded his weak
king, people were no longer afraid to talk aloud about these things.

The success of the Revolution in America had done much to remove the
ban of silence. Loans made by France had added to the scarcity of
money; and it was these loans which had brought America success. The
people across the ocean had wiped the slate clean and begun afresh.
Why not follow their example? In the winter of 1782, when Paris was
[Pg 185]suffering from the Russian influenza, a lady with a clever
tongue and the eye of a prophet had said, "We are threatened with
another malady which will come from America--the _Independenza!_"
Thoughtful people were beginning to believe that a change was only a
matter of time; but that it would come slowly and stretch over many
years.

Meanwhile the months passed and the glittering outer shell of the
old order of things continued to glitter. Lafayette divided his time
between Paris, the court, and Chavaniac. He made at least one journey
in the brilliant retinue of the king. He dined and gave dinners. He did
everything in his power to increase commerce with the United States.
He took part in every public movement for reform, and instituted small
private ones of his own. One of these was to ask the king to revoke
a pension of seven hundred and eighty livres that had been granted
him when he was a mere baby, and to divide it between a retired old
infantry officer and a worthy widow of Auvergne. Incidentally people
seemed to like him in spite of his republicanism. It was no secret
to any one that he had come home from America a thorough believer in
popular government.

His fame was by no means confined to France and the lands lying to
the west of it. Catherine II of Russia became curious to see this
much-talked-of person and invited him to St. Petersburg. Learning
that she was soon to start for the Crimea, he asked leave to pay his
respects to her there; but that was a journey he never made. Before he
could set out Louis XVI called a meeting of the Assembly of Notables,
[Pg 186]to take place on February 22, 1787. This was in no true sense
a parliament; only a body of one hundred and forty-four men who held
no offices at court, selected arbitrarily by the king to discuss such
subjects as he chose to set before it. The subject was to be taxation,
how to raise money for government expenses, a burning question with
every one.

Deliberative assemblies were no new thing in France. Several times in
long-past history a king had called together representative men of
the nobles, the clergy, and even of the common people, to consider
questions of state and help bring about needed reforms. Such gatherings
were known as States General. But they had belonged to a time before
the kings were quite sure of their power, and it was one hundred and
seventy years since the last one had been called. Little by little, in
the mean time, even the provincial parliaments, of which there were
several in different parts of France, had been sapped of strength
and vitality. There was a tendency now to revive them. Lafayette had
stopped in Rennes on his way home from Brest after his last trip across
the Atlantic, to attend such a gathering in Brittany, where he owned
estates, his mother having been a Breton. Favoring representative
government as he did, he was anxious to see such assemblages meet
frequently at regular intervals.

The call for the Assembly of Notables had come about in an unexpected
way. Some years before, the Minister of Finance, Necker, had printed
a sort of treasurer's report showing how public funds had been spent.
[Pg 187]This was a great novelty, such questions having been shrouded
in deepest mystery. Everybody who could read read Necker's report.
It was seen on the dressing-tables of ladies and sticking out of the
pockets of priests. Necker had meant it to pave the way for reforms,
because he believed in cutting down expenses instead of imposing more
taxes. It roused such a storm of discussion and criticism that he was
driven from the Cabinet; after which his successor, M. Calonne, "a
veritable Cagliostro of finance," managed to juggle for four years with
facts and figures before the inevitable day of reckoning came. This
left the country much worse off than it had been when he took office;
so badly off, in fact, that the king called together the Assembly of
Notables.

By an odd coincidence it held its first meeting at Versailles on a date
forever linked in American minds with ideas of popular liberty--the 22d
of February. For practical work, it was divided into seven sections or
committees, each one of which was presided over by a royal prince. If
the intention had been to check liberal tendencies among its members,
the effort was vain. The spirit of independence was in it, and it
refused to solve the king's financial riddles for him.

From the beginning Lafayette took an active and much more radical part
than some of his friends wished. He worked in behalf of the French
Protestants. He wanted to reform criminal law; to give France a jury
system such as England had; and he advocated putting a stop to the
abuses of _lettres de cachet_. He was very plain-spoken in favor of
[Pg 188]cutting down expenses, particularly in the king's own military
establishment, in pensions granted to members of the royal family, and
in the matter of keeping up the palaces and pleasure-places that former
monarchs had loved, but which Louis XVI never visited. He believed in
taxing lands and property belonging to the clergy, which had not as yet
been taxed at all. He wanted the nobility to pay their full share, too,
and he thought a treasurer's report should be published every year.
Indeed, he wanted reports printed about all departments of government
except that of Foreign Affairs.

This was worse than amiable weakness, it was rank republicanism; the
more dangerous because, as one of the ministers said, "all his logic is
in action." The queen, who had never more than half liked him, began
to distrust him. Calonne, who was about to leave the treasury in such
a muddle, declared that he ought to be shut up in the Bastille; and a
remark that Lafayette was overheard to make one day when the education
of the dauphin was under discussion did not add to his popularity with
the court party. "I think," he said, "that the prince will do well to
begin his study of French history with the year 1787."

One day he had the hardihood to raise his voice and say, "I appeal
to the king to convene a national assembly." There was a hush of
astonishment and of something very like fear. "What!" cried a younger
brother of the king, the Comte d'Artois, who presided over the section
of which Lafayette was a member. "You demand the convocation of [Pg
189]the States General?" "Yes, Sire." "You wish to go on record? To
have me say to the king that M. de Lafayette has made a motion to
convene the States General?" "Yes, Monseigneur--and better than that!"
by which Lafayette meant he hoped such an assembly might be made more
truly representative than ever before.

That Lafayette realized the personal consequences of his plain speaking
there is no doubt. He wrote to Washington, "The king and his family,
as well as the notables who surround him, with the exception of a few
friends, do not pardon the liberties I have taken or the success I have
gained with other classes of society." If he cherished any illusions,
they were dispelled a few months later when he received a request from
the king to give up his commission as major-general.

As for his appeal for a meeting of the States General, nobody
possessed the hardihood to sign it with him, and it had no immediate
consequences. Before the Assembly of Notables adjourned it advised
the king to authorize legislative assemblies in the provinces, which
he did, Lafayette being one of the five men named by the monarch to
represent the nobility in his province of Auvergne. At the sessions of
this provincial assembly he further displeased the members of his own
class, but the common people crowded about and applauded him wherever
he went. "He was the first hero they had seen, and they were never
tired of looking at him," a local chronicler states, with disarming
frankness.

[Pg 190]The situation grew worse instead of better. The country's debt
increased daily. The Assembly of Notables held another session; but
it was only to arrange details for the meeting of the States General
which the king had at last been forced to call. It was to meet in May,
1789, and was to be made up, as the other had been, of nobles, clergy,
and more humble folk, called the bourgeoisie, or the Third Estate. But
there was one immense difference. Instead of being appointed by the
king, these were to be real representatives, nobles elected by the
nobles, clergy by the clergy, and the common people expressing their
own choice. In addition, people of all classes were invited to draw up
_cahiers_--that is, statements in writing showing the kind of reforms
they desired.

The nobles and clergy held small meetings and elected delegates from
among their own number. The Third Estate elected men of the upper
middle class, or nobles of liberal views. Lafayette found considerable
opposition among the nobles of Auvergne, but the common people begged
him to represent them, promising to give him their unanimous vote if he
would do so. He preferred, however, to make the fight in his own order
and was successful, taking his seat, when the States General convened,
as a representative of the nobility of Auvergne.


[Pg 191]XXI

THE TRICOLOR

When the representatives of the people of France, to the number of
more than twelve hundred, came together in a great hall in the palace
at Versailles on the 5th of May, 1789, the king opened the session,
with the queen and royal princes beside him on a throne gorgeous with
purple and gold. Immediately in front of him sat his ministers, and in
other parts of the hall were the three orders in separate groups. The
nobles were brilliant in ruffles and plumes. The Third Estate was sober
enough in dress, but there were six hundred of them; twice as many in
proportion as had ever been allowed in a similar gathering. Most of
them were lawyers; only forty belonged to the farming class. In the
group of clergy some wore the flaming scarlet robes of cardinals, some
the plain cassocks of village priests; and events proved that these
last were brothers in spirit with the six hundred. The galleries were
crowded with ladies and courtiers and envoys from distant lands. Even
roofs of neighboring houses were covered with spectators bent on seeing
all they could.

[Pg 192]The queen looked anxious. She had no fondness for reforms;
but of the two upon the throne she had the stronger character and was
therefore the better king. She was brave, quick to decide, and daring
to execute. Unfortunately she was also narrow-minded and had little
sympathy with the common people. Louis had already proved himself a
complete failure as a ruler. He was a good husband, a lover of hunting,
and a passable locksmith. It was a bit of tragic irony that his hobby
should have been the making of little, smoothly turning locks. After
his one attempt at reform he had not even tried to govern, but spent
his days in meaningless detail, while the country drifted toward ruin.

Necker, who was once more in charge of the treasury, meant to keep
the States General very busy with the duty for which they had been
convened, that of providing money. But if the Notables had been
refractory, this assembly was downright rebellious. A quarrel developed
at the very outset about the manner of voting. In previous States
General the three orders had held their meetings separately, and in
final decisions each order had cast only one vote. The nobles and
clergy could be counted on to vote the same way, which gave them a safe
majority of two to one. Expecting the rule to hold this time, very
little objection had been raised to the proposal that the Third Estate
elect six hundred representatives instead of three hundred. The people
liked it and it meant nothing at all. Now that the six hundred had been
elected, however, they contended that the three orders must sit in one
[Pg 193]assembly and that each man's vote be counted separately, which
made all the difference in the world. A few liberals among the nobles
and more than a few of the clergy in simple cassocks appeared to agree
with them. The quarrel continued for six weeks, and meanwhile neither
party was able to do any work.

At the end of that time the number favoring the new way of voting had
increased. These declared themselves to be the National Assembly of
France and that they meant to begin the work of "national regeneration"
at once, whether the others joined them or not. Reforms were to be
along lines indicated in the _cahiers_, or written statements of
grievances, that voters had been urged to draw up at the time of the
election. Tens of thousands of these had been received, some written
in the polished phrases of courtiers, some in the earnest, ill-chosen
words of peasants. All expressed loyalty to the king; and almost all
demanded a constitution to define the rights of people and king alike.
Among other things they asked that _lettres de cachet_ be abolished;
that the people be allowed liberty of speech; that the States General
meet at regular intervals; and that each of the three orders pay its
just share of the taxes.

Soon after the liberals declared their intention of going to work
they found the great hall at Versailles closed and were told curtly
that it was being prepared for a royal session. They retired to a
near-by tennis-court, lifted the senior representative from Paris, an
astronomer named Bailly, to a table, elected him president of their
[Pg 194]National Assembly, and took an oath not to disband until they
had given France a constitution. A few days later the king summoned all
the members of the States General to the great hall, scolded them for
their recent acts in a speech written by somebody else, commanded that
each order meet in future by itself, and left the hall to the sound
of trumpets and martial music. The clergy and the nobles obediently
withdrew. The Third Estate and a few liberals from the other orders
remained. The king's master of ceremonies, a very important personage
indeed, came forward and repeated the king's order. Soldiers could be
seen behind him. There was a moment's silence; then Mirabeau, a homely,
brilliant nobleman from the south of France, who had been rejected by
his own order, but elected by the Third Estate, advanced impetuously
toward the master of ceremonies, crying, in a loud voice, "Go tell your
master that we are here by the will of the people, and that we shall
not leave except at the point of the bayonet." Next he turned to the
Assembly and made a motion to the effect that persons laying hands upon
any member of the Assembly would be considered "infamous and traitors
to the nation--guilty of capital crime." The master of ceremonies
withdrew and reported the scene to the king. Louis, weak as water,
said: "They wish to remain? Let them." And they did remain, to his
undoing.


[Illustration: THE BASTILLE

From a contemporary print]

[Illustration: SIEGE OF THE BASTILLE]

Lafayette was in an embarrassing position. He sympathized with the
Third Estate, yet he had been elected to represent the nobles, and
his commission bound him to vote according to their wishes. He [Pg
195]considered resigning in order to appeal again to the voters of
Auvergne; but before he came to a decision the king asked the nobles
and clergy to give up their evidently futile opposition. Lafayette took
his place with the others in the National Assembly, but refrained for a
time from voting. The king and his ministers seemed to have no settled
policy. One day they tried to please the Third Estate; on another it
was learned that batteries were being placed where they could fire upon
the Assembly and that regiments were being concentrated upon Paris. It
was upon a motion of Mirabeau's for the removal of these threatening
soldiers that Lafayette broke his silence and began to take part again
in the proceedings of the Assembly.

On the 11th of July, about a fortnight after the nobles and clergy had
resumed their seats, he presented to the Assembly his Declaration of
Rights, modeled upon the American Declaration of Independence, to be
placed at the head of the French Constitution. Two days later he was
elected vice-president of the Assembly "with acclamations." Toward
evening of the 14th the Vicomte de Noailles came from Paris with the
startling news that people had been fighting in the streets for hours;
that they had gained possession of the Bastille, the gray old prison
which stood in their eyes for all that was hateful in the old regime;
that its commander and several of its defenders had been murdered; and
that their heads were being carried aloft on pikes among the crowds.

[Pg 196]On the 15th the king came with his brothers to the Assembly
and made a conciliatory speech, after which Lafayette hurried away to
Paris at the head of a delegation charged with the task of quieting the
city. They were met at the Tuileries gate and escorted to the Hôtel de
Ville, where the City Council of Paris, a parliament in miniature, held
its meetings. Lafayette congratulated the city on the liberty it had
won, delivered the king's message, and turned to go. As he was leaving
the room somebody cried out saying that here was the man Paris wanted
to command its National Guard, and that Bailly, who accompanied him,
ought to be mayor. It was one of those sudden ideas that seem to spread
like wildfire. Lafayette stopped, drew his sword, and, acting upon that
first impulse which he was so apt to follow, swore then and there to
defend the liberty of Paris with his life if need be. He sent a message
to the National Assembly asking permission to assume the new office,
and on the 25th took, with Bailly, a more formal oath. The force of
militia which he organized and developed became the famous National
Guard of Paris; while this governing body at the Hotel de Ville which
had so informally elected him, enlarged and changing from time to time
as the Revolution swept on, became the famous, and infamous, "Commune."
Lafayette himself, not many days after he assumed the new office,
ordered the destruction of the old Bastille. One of its keys he sent to
Washington at Mount Vernon. Another was made into a sword and presented
by his admirers to the man whose orders had reduced the old prison to a
heap of stones.

[Pg 197]The court party was aghast. The Comte d'Artois and two of his
friends shook the dust of their native land from their feet and left
France, the first of that long army of _émigrés_ whose flight still
further sapped the waning power of the king. Louis was of one mind one
day, another the next. Against the entreaties and tears of the queen he
accepted an invitation to visit Paris and was received, as Lafayette
had been, with cheers. He made a speech, ratifying and accepting all
the changes that had taken place; and to celebrate this apparent
reconciliation between the monarch and his subjects Lafayette added the
white of the flag of the king to red and blue, the colors of the city
of Paris, making the Tricolor. Up to that time the badge of revolution
had been green, because Camille Desmoulins, one of its early orators,
had given his followers chestnut leaves to pin upon their caps. But the
livery of the Comte d'Artois, now so hated, was green, and the people
threw away their green cockades and enthusiastically donned the red,
white, and blue, echoing Lafayette's prediction that it would soon make
the round of Europe.

The passions which had moved the city of Paris spread outward through
the provinces as waves spread when a stone is cast into a pool. One
town after another set up a municipal government and established
national guards of its own. Peasants in country districts began
assaulting tax-collectors, hanging millers on the charge that they were
raising the price of bread, and burning and looting châteaux in their
[Pg 198]hunt for old records of debts and judgments against the common
people. July closed in a veil of smoke ascending from such fires in all
parts of the realm.

All day long on the 4th of August the Assembly listened to reports of
these events, a dismaying recital that went on and on until darkness
fell and the candles were brought in. About eight o'clock, when the
session seemed nearing its end, De Noailles mounted the platform and
began to speak. He said that there was good reason for these fires
and the hate they disclosed. The châteaux were symbols of that kind
of unjust feudal government which was no longer to be tolerated. He
moved that the Assembly abolish feudalism. His motion was seconded by
the Duc d'Aiguillon, the greatest feudal noble in France, with the
one exception of the king. The words of these two aristocrats kindled
another sort of fire--an emotional fire like that of a great religious
revival. Noble after noble seemed impelled to mount the platform and
renounce his special privileges. Priests and prelates followed their
example. So did representatives of towns and provinces. The hours of
the day had passed in increasing gloom; the night went by in this
crescendo of generosity. By morning thirty or more decrees had been
passed and feudalism was dead, so far as law could kill it.

The awakening from this orgy of feeling was like the awakening from any
other form of emotional excess. With it came the knowledge that neither
the world nor human nature can be changed overnight. When the news went
[Pg 199]abroad there were many who interpreted as license what had been
given them for liberty. Forests were cut down. Game-preserves were
invaded and animals slaughtered. Artisans found themselves out of work
and hungrier than ever because of the economy now necessarily practised
by the nobility. Such mighty reforms required time and the readjustment
of almost every detail of daily life. Even before experience made this
manifest the delegates began to realize that towns and bishoprics
and provinces might refuse to ratify the impulsive acts of their
representatives; and some of the nobles who had spoken for themselves
alone did not feel as unselfish in the cold light of day as they had
believed themselves to be while the candles glowed during that strange
night session. The final result was to bring out differences of opinion
more sharply and to widen the gulf between conservatives who clung to
everything which belonged to the past and liberals whose desire was to
give the people all that had been gained and even more.


[Pg 200]XXII

THE SANS-CULOTTES


Lafayette's position as commander of the National Guard of Paris was
one of great importance. "He rendered the Revolution possible by giving
it an army," says a writer of his own nation, who does not hesitate
to criticize him, but who also assures us that from July, 1789, to
July, 1790, he was perhaps the most popular man in France. Being a
born optimist, he was sure that right would soon prevail. If he had
too great belief in his own leadership it is not surprising, since
every previous undertaking of his life had succeeded; and he certainly
had more experience in revolution than any of his countrymen--an
experience gained in America under the direct influence of Washington.
He had gone to America a boy afire with enthusiasm for liberty. He
returned to France a man, popular and successful, with his belief in
himself and his principles greatly strengthened. He was impulsive and
generous, he had a good mind, but he was not a deep thinker, and from
the very nature of his mind it was impossible for him to foresee the
full difficulty of applying in France the principles that had been
[Pg 201]so successful in America. In France politics were much more
complicated than in a new country where there were fewer abuses to
correct. France was old and abuses had been multiplying for a thousand
years. To borrow the surgeon's phrase, the wound made by revolution
in America was a clean wound that healed quickly, "by the first
intention." In France the wound was far more serious and horribly
infected. It healed in time, but only after a desperate illness.

It is interesting that three of Lafayette's most influential American
friends, Washington, Jefferson, and Gouverneur Morris, had misgivings
from the first about the situation in France, fearing that a revolution
could not take place there without grave disorders and that Lafayette
could not personally ride such a storm. Morris, who was then in Paris,
urged caution upon him and advised him to keep the power in the hands
of the nobility. When Lafayette asked him to read and criticize his
draft of The Declaration of Rights before it was presented to the
Assembly, Morris suggested several changes to make it more moderate;
"for," said this American, "revolutions are not won by sonorous
phrases."

Although keen for reform and liking to dress it in sonorous phrases,
Lafayette had no wish to be rid of the king. He did not expect to have
a president in France or the exact kind of government that had been
adopted in the United States. "Lafayette was neither republican nor
royalist, but always held that view half-way between the two which
theorists call a constitutional monarchy," says a French writer. "In
[Pg 202]all his speeches from 1787 to 1792 he rarely used the word
'liberty' without coupling it with some word expressing law and order."

Events proved that he was too thoroughly a believer in order to please
either side. One party accused him of favoring the aristocrats, the
other of sacrificing everything for the applause of the mob. What he
tried to do was to stand firm in the rush of events, which was at first
so exhilarating and later changed to such an appalling sweep of the
furies. If he had been less scrupulous and more selfish he might have
played a greater role in the Revolution--have risen to grander heights
or failed more abjectly--but for a time he would have really guided
the stormy course of events. As it was, events overtook him, carried
him with them, then tossed him aside and passed him by. Yet even so
he managed for three years to dominate that tiger mob of Paris "more
by persuasion than by force." This proves that he was no weakling.
Jefferson called him "the Atlas of the Revolution."

There was opposition to him from the first. Mirabeau and Lafayette
could never work wholeheartedly together, which was a pity, for with
Mirabeau's eloquence to carry the National Assembly and Lafayette's
popularity with the National Guard they could have done much. The
cafés, those people's institutes of his young days, speedily developed
into political clubs of varying shades of opinion, most of which grew
more radical hourly. Marie Antoinette continued to be resentful and
bitter and did all in her power to thwart reform and to influence the
[Pg 203]king. In addition to parties openly for and against the new
order of things there were individuals, both in high and low places,
who strove to spread disorder by underhand means and to use it for
selfish ends. One was the powerful Duc d'Orléans, cousin of the king,
very rich and very unprincipled, whose secret desire was to supplant
Louis upon the throne. He used his fortune to spread discontent through
the Paris mob during the long cold winter, when half the inhabitants of
the town went hungry. His agents talked of famine, complained of delay
in making the Constitution, and gave large sums to the poor in ways
that fed their worst passions, while supplying their very real need for
bread.

Even after the lapse of one hundred and thirty years it is uncertain
just how much of a part he played in the stormy happenings of the early
days of October, 1789. On the night of the 2d of October the king and
queen visited the hall at Versailles where the Garde du Corps, the
royal bodyguard, was giving a banquet. The diners sprang to their feet
and drank toasts more fervent than discreet. In the course of the next
two days rumor spread to Paris that they had trampled upon the Tricolor
and substituted the white of the Bourbons. Out of the garrets and slums
of the city the mob boiled toward the Hôtel de Ville, crying that a
counter-revolution had been started and that the people were betrayed.
Lafayette talked and harangued. On the 5th he held the crowds in check
from nine o'clock in the morning until four, when he learned that a
[Pg 204]stream of malcontents, many of them women, had broken away and
started for Versailles, muttering threats and dragging cannon with them.

Lafayette had confessed to Gouverneur Morris only a few days before
that his National Guard was not as well disciplined as he could wish.
Whether this was the reason or because he felt it necessary to get
express permission from the Hôtel de Ville, there was delay before
he and his militia set out in pursuit. He had sworn to use the Guard
only to execute the will of the people. For what followed he has been
severely blamed, while other witnesses contend just as hotly that
he did all any commander could do. That night he saved the lives of
several of the Garde du Corps; posted his men in the places from
which the palace guard had been withdrawn by order of the king; made
each side swear to keep the peace; gave his personal word to Louis
that there would be no violence; saw that everything was quiet in the
streets near the palace where the mob still bivouacked; then, worn with
twenty hours' incessant labor, went to the house of a friend for a
little sleep.

That sleep was the cause of more criticism than any act of his
seventy-six years of life; for the mob, driven by an instinct for evil
which seems strongest in crowds at dawn, hurled itself against the
palace gates, killed the two men on guard before the queen's door, and
forced its way into her bedchamber, from which she fled, half dressed,
to take refuge with the king. Lafayette hurried back with all possible
haste; made his way to the royal couple; addressed the crowd in the
palace courtyard, telling them the king would show his trust by going
[Pg 205]back with them voluntarily to take up his residence in Paris;
and persuaded the queen to appear with him upon a balcony, where, in
view of all the people, he knelt and kissed her hand. After that he
led out one of the palace guard and presented him with a tricolored
cockade; and, touched by these tableaux, the mob howled delight. That
night, long after dark, the royal family entered the Tuileries, half
monarchs, half prisoners. But discontent had been only partly appeased,
and during the melancholy ride to the city Marie Antoinette gave the
mob its watchword. Seeing a man in the dress of the very poor riding on
the step of her coach she had remarked disdainfully that never before
had a sans-culotte--a man without knee-breeches--occupied so honorable
a position. The speech was overheard and taken up and shouted through
the crowd until "sans-culotte" became a symbol of the Revolution.

The events of that day proved that Lafayette had not the quality of a
great leader of men. How much of his ill success was due to bad luck,
how much to over-conscientiousness in fulfilling the letter of his
oath, how much to physical weariness, we may never know. The royal
family believed he had saved their lives, and the vilest accusations
against him, including the one that he really wished Louis to fall
a victim of the mob, appear to have been manufactured twenty-five
years later in the bitterness of another political struggle. It is
significant that very soon after the king came to Paris Lafayette held
a stormy interview with the Duc d'Orléans, who forthwith left France.

[Pg 206]Since that melancholy ride back to Paris the rulers of France
have never lived at Versailles. Within ten days the National Assembly
followed the king to town, and during the whole remaining period of
the Revolution the mob had the machinery of government in its keeping.
It invaded the legislative halls to listen to the making of the
Constitution, it howled approval of speeches or drowned them in hisses,
and called out from the windows reports to the crowds packing the
streets below.

Political clubs soon became the real censors of public opinion, taking
an ever larger place in the life of the people, until, alas! they began
to take part in the death of many of them. The most influential club
of all was the Jacobins, known by that name because of the disused
monastery where it held its meetings. It began as an exclusive club
of well-to-do gentlemen of all parties, who paid large dues and met
to discuss questions of interest. Then it completely changed its
character, took into its organization other clubs in Paris and other
cities, and by this means became a vast, nation-wide political machine
of such iron discipline that it was said a decree of the Jacobins
was better executed than any law passed by the National Assembly.
When its decrees grew more radical its membership changed by the
simple process of expelling conservative members, until Robespierre
became its controlling spirit. Another club more radical still was
the Cordelières, in which Marat and Danton, those stormy petrels of
the Terror, held sway. This smaller organization influenced even the
[Pg 207]Jacobins and through them every village in France. Several of
the most radical leaders published newspapers of vast influence, like
Marat's _Ami du Peuple_, which carried their opinions farther than the
spoken word could do, out into peaceful country lanes. In the cities
the great power of the theater was directed to the same violent ends.
In vain the more conservative patriots started clubs of their own; the
others had too great headway. The Feuillants, that Lafayette and Bailly
were instrumental in founding, was called contemptuously the club of
the monarchists. All these changes were gradual, but little by little,
as time passed, the aims of the revolutionists altered. What had been
at first a cry for justice became an appeal for liberty, then a demand
for equality, and finally a mad howl for revenge.


[Pg 208]XXIII

POPULARITY AND PRISON


So many local National Guards and revolutionary town governments had
been formed that France was in danger of being split into a thousand
self-governing fragments. Some of these came together in local
federations for mutual benefit; and as the anniversary of the fall
of the Bastile rolled around, Paris proposed a grand federation of
all such organizations as a fitting way to celebrate the new national
holiday. The idea caught popular fancy, and the city made ready for it
with a feverish good will almost as strange as that of the memorable
night when nobles and clergy in the National Assembly had vied with one
another to give up their century-old privileges.

The spot chosen for the ceremonies was the Champs de Mars, where the
Eiffel Tower now stands. It is a deal nearer the center of Paris now
than it was in 1790, when it was little more than a great field on the
banks of the Seine, near the military academy. This was to be changed
into an immense amphitheater three miles in circumference, a work
[Pg 209]which required a vast amount of excavating and building and
civil engineering. Men and women of all classes of society volunteered
as laborers, and from dawn till dark a procession, armed with spades
and every implement that could possibly be used, passed ceaselessly
between the heart of the city and the scene of the coming festivity.
Eye-witnesses tell us that on arriving each person threw down his coat,
his cravat, and his watch, "abandoning them to the loyalty of the
public" and fell to work. "A delicate duchess might be seen filling a
barrow to be trundled away by a fishwife"; or a chevalier of the Order
of Saint-Louis laboring with a hurried, flustered little school-boy;
or a priest and an actor doing excellent team-work together. A hundred
orchestras were playing; workers quitted their labors for a few turns
in the dance, then abandoned that again for toil.

Lafayette encouraged them by his enthusiastic presence, and filled and
trundled a barrow with his own hands; and when the king appeared one
day to view the strange scene he was greeted with extravagant joy.
Though this went on for weeks, the undertaking was so vast and the best
efforts of duchesses and school-boys so far from adequate, that a hurry
call had to be sent out, in response to which it was estimated that
during the last few days of preparation two hundred and fifty thousand
people were busy there. Evil rumors were busy, too, under cover of the
music, and whispers went through the crowd that no provisions were
to be allowed to enter Paris during the entire week of festivities
and that the field had been honeycombed with secret passages and laid
[Pg 210]with mines to blow up the whole great throng. Such rumors
were answered by a municipal proclamation which ended with the words,
"Cowards may flee these imaginary dangers: the friends of Revolution
will remain, well knowing that not a second time shall such a day be
seen."

The miracle was accomplished. By the 14th of July the whole Champs de
Mars had been transformed into an amphitheater of terraced greensward,
approached through a great triumphal arch. But on the day itself not a
single green terrace was visible, so thick were the masses of people
crowding the amphitheater and covering the hills on the other side
of the river. Opposite the triumphal arch a central pavilion for the
king, with covered galleries on each side, had been built against the
walls of the military school. On the level green in the center of the
great Champs de Mars stood an altar to "The Country," reached by a
flight of fifty steps. One hundred cannon, two thousand musicians,
and two hundred priests with the Tricolor added to their vestments,
were present to take part in the ceremonies. A model of the destroyed
Bastile lay at the foot of the altar. Upon the altar itself were
inscriptions, one of which bade the spectators "Ponder the three sacred
words that guarantee our decrees. The Nation, the Law, the King. You
are the Nation, the Law is your will, the King is the head of the
Nation and guardian of the Law."

The multitude was treated first to the spectacle of a grand procession
streaming through the three openings of the triumphal arch. Deputies
from the provinces, members of the National Assembly, and [Pg
211]representatives of the Paris Commune, with Mayor Bailly at their
head, marched slowly and gravely to their places. After them came the
visiting military delegations, the Paris guards, and regular troops
who had been called to Paris from all parts of the kingdom, to the
number of forty thousand or more, each with its distinctive banner.
These marched around the altar and broke into strange dances and mock
combats, undeterred by heavy showers. When the rain fell the ranks
of spectators blossomed into a mass of red and green umbrellas, no
longer the novelty they once had been. When a shower passed umbrellas
were furled and the crowd took on another color. At three o'clock
the queen appeared with the Dauphin beside her. Then the king, in
magnificent robes of state, took his seat on a purple chair sown with
fleurs-de-lis, which had been placed on an exact line and level with
a similar chair upholstered in blue for the president of the National
Assembly.

The king had been named for that one day Supreme Commander of all the
National Guards of France. He had delegated his powers, whatever they
may have been, to Lafayette; and it was Lafayette on a white horse such
as Washington rode who was here, there, and everywhere, the central
figure of the pageant as he moved about fulfilling the duties of his
office. General Thiébault wrote in his _Memoirs_ that the young buoyant
figure on the shining horse, riding through that great mass of men,
seemed to be commanding all France. "Look at him!" cried an enthusiast.
"He is galloping through the centuries!" And it was upon Lafayette,
[Pg 212]at the crowning moment of the ceremony, that all eyes rested.
After the two hundred priests had solemnly marched to the altar and
placed ahead of all other banners their sacred oriflamme of St.-Denis,
Lafayette dismounted and approached the king to receive his orders.
Then, slowly ascending the many steps to the altar, he laid his sword
before it and, turning, faced the soldiers. Every arm was raised and
every voice cried, "I swear!" as he led them in their oath of loyalty;
and as if in answer to the mighty shout, the sun burst at that instant
through the stormclouds. Music and artillery crashed in jubilant sound;
other cannon at a distance took up the tale; and in this way news of
the oath was borne to the utmost limits of France. The day ended with
fireworks, dancing, and a great feast. Lafayette was the center of
the cheers and adulation, admirers pressing upon him from all sides.
He was even in danger of bodily harm from the embraces, "perfidious
or sincere," of a group of unknown men who had to be forcibly driven
away by his aides-de-camp. That night somebody hung his portrait upon
the railing surrounding the statue of France's hero-king, Henri IV; an
act of unwise enthusiasm or else of very clever malignity of which his
critics made the most.

After this, his enemies increased rapidly. The good will and harmony
celebrated at the Feast of the Federation had been more apparent than
real; a "delicious intoxication," as one of the participants called it,
and the ill-temper that follows intoxication soon manifested itself.
The Jacobins grew daily more radical. The club did not expel Lafayette;
[Pg 213]he left it of his own accord in December, 1790; but that was
almost as good for the purposes of his critics.

The task he had set himself of steering a middle course between
extremes became constantly more difficult. Mirabeau was president of
the Jacobin Club after Lafayette left it, and their mutual distrust
increased. Gouverneur Morris thought Lafayette able to hold his own
and that "he was as shrewd as any one." He said that "Mirabeau has the
greater talent, but his adversary the better reputation." In spite of
being president of the Jacobins, Mirabeau was more of a royalist than
Lafayette and did what he could to ruin Lafayette with the court party.
The quarrel ended only with Mirabeau's sudden death in April, 1791.
At the other extreme Marat attacked Lafayette for his devotion to the
king, saying he had sold himself to that side. Newspapers circulated
evil stories about his private life. Slanders and attacks, wax figures
and cartoons, each a little worse than the last, flooded Paris at this
time. Some coupled the queen's name with his, which increased her
dislike of him, and in the end may have played its small part in her
downfall.

The king and queen were watched with lynxlike intensity by all parties,
and about three months after Mirabeau's death they made matters much
worse by betraying their fear, and what many thought their perfidy,
in an attempt to escape in disguise, meaning to get help from outside
countries and return to fight for their power. There had been rumors
[Pg 214]that they contemplated something of this sort, and Lafayette
had gone frankly to the king, urging him not to commit such folly. The
king reassured him, and Lafayette had announced that he was willing to
answer "with his head" that Louis would not leave Paris. One night,
however, rumors were so persistent that Lafayette went himself to the
Tuileries. He talked with a member of the royal family, and the queen
saw him when she was actually on her way to join the king for their
flight. Luck and his usual cleverness both failed Lafayette that night.
He suspected nothing, yet next morning it was discovered that the royal
beds had not been slept in and that the fugitives were already hours
on their way. Lafayette issued orders for their arrest, but clamor was
loud against him and Danton was for making him pay literally with his
head for his mistake.

Almost at the frontier the king and queen were recognized through the
likeness of Louis to his portrait on the paper money that flooded the
kingdom, and they were brought back to Paris, real prisoners this
time. They passed on their way through silent crowds who eyed them
with terrifying hostility. The queen, who was hysterical and bitter,
insisted on treating Lafayette as her personal jailer. Louis, whatever
his faults, had a sense of humor and smiled when Lafayette appeared "to
receive the orders of the king," saying it was evident that orders were
to come from the other side. It is strange that he was not dethroned at
once, for he had left behind him a paper agreeing to repeal every law
[Pg 215]that had been passed by the National Assembly. Dread of civil
war was still strong, however, even among the radicals, and he was
only kept a prisoner in the Tuileries until September, when the new
Constitution was finished and ready for him to sign. After he swore to
uphold it he was again accorded royal honors.

But meantime there had been serious disturbances. Lafayette had felt it
his duty to order the National Guard to fire upon the mob; and for that
he was never forgiven. On that confused day an attempt was made upon
his life. The culprit's gun missed fire, and when he was brought before
Lafayette the latter promptly set him at liberty; but before midnight a
mob surrounded Lafayette's house, crying that they had come to murder
his wife and carry her head to the general. The garden wall had been
scaled, and they were about to force an entrance when help arrived.

After the Constitution became the law of the land, Lafayette followed
Washington's example, resigned his military commission, and retired
to live at Chavaniac. Several times before when criticism was very
bitter he had offered to give up his sword to the Commune, but there
had been no one either willing or able to take his place and he had
been persuaded to remain. Now he felt that he could withdraw with
dignity and a clear conscience. In accepting his resignation the
Commune voted him a medal of gold. The National Guard presented him
with a sword whose blade was made from locks of the old Bastille, and
on his 360-mile journey to Chavaniac he received civic crowns enough to
[Pg 216]fill his carriage. His reception at home was in keeping with
all this. "Since you are superstitious," he wrote Washington, "I will
tell you that I arrived here on the anniversary of the surrender of
Cornwallis." But even in far-away Chavaniac there were ugly rumors and
threats against his life. The local guard volunteered to keep a special
watch; an offer he declined with thanks.

Bailly retired as mayor of Paris soon after this, whereupon Lafayette's
friends put up his name as a candidate. The election went against
him two to one in favor of Pétion, a Jacobin, and from that time the
clubs held undisputed sway. According to law the new Assembly had
to be elected from men who had not served in the old one; this was
unfortunate, since it deprived the new body of experienced legislators.
The pronounced royalists in the Assembly had now dwindled to a scanty
hundred.

Neighboring powers showed signs of coming to the aid of Louis, and
the country did not choose to wait until foreign soldiers crossed its
frontiers. Nobody knew better than Lafayette how unprepared France was
for war against a well-equipped enemy, but the marvels America had
accomplished with scarcely any equipment were fresh in his memory, and
he looked upon foreign war as a means of uniting quarreling factions
at home--a dangerous sort of political back-fire, by no means new, but
sometimes successful. Before December, 1791, three armies had been
formed for protection. Lafayette was put in command of one of them,
his friend Rochambeau of another, and the third was given to General
[Pg 217]Luckner, a Bavarian who had served France faithfully since the
Seven Years' War.

Lafayette's new commission bore the signature of the king. He hurried
to Paris, thanked his sovereign, paid his respects to the Assembly,
and departed for Metz on Christmas Day in a semblance of his old
popularity, escorted to the city barriers by a throng of people and a
detachment of the National Guard. He entered on his military duties
with enthusiasm, besieging the Assembly with reports of all the army
lacked, consulting with his co-commanders, and putting his men through
stiff drill.

By May war had been declared against Sardinia, Bohemia, and Hungary,
but the back-fire against anarchy did not work. Troubles at home
increased. The Paris mob became more lawless, and on the 20th of June,
1792, the Tuileries was invaded and the king was forced to don the
red cap of Liberty; a serio-comic incident that might easily have
become tragedy if Louis had possessed more spirit. Lafayette spoke the
truth about this king when he said that he "desired only comfort and
tranquillity--beginning with his own."

Feeling that his monarch had been insulted, Lafayette hurried off
to Paris to use his influence against the Jacobins. He went without
specific leave, though without being forbidden by General Luckner, his
superior officer, who knew his plan. To his intense chagrin he found
that he no longer had an atom of influence in Paris. The court received
him coldly, the Assembly was completely in the hands of the Jacobins,
[Pg 218]timid people were too frightened to show their real feelings,
and the National Guard, upon whose support Lafayette had confidently
relied, was now in favor of doing away with kingship altogether.

Lafayette could not succor people who refused to be helped, and he
returned to the army, followed by loud accusations that he had been
absent without leave and that he was "the greatest of criminals."
"Strike Lafayette and the nation is saved!" Robespierre had shouted,
even before he appeared on his fruitless mission. "Truly," wrote
Gouverneur Morris, "I believe if Lafayette should come to Paris at
this moment without his army he would be knifed. What, I pray you, is
popularity?"

In July Prussia joined the nations at war, threatening dire vengeance
if Paris harmed even a hair of the king or queen. The mob clamorously
paraded the streets, led by five hundred men from Marseilles, singing a
new and strangely exciting song whose music and whose words, "To arms!
To arms! Strike down the tyrant!" were alike incendiary. In spite of
his recent rebuff, Lafayette made one more attempt to rescue the king,
not for love of Louis or of monarchy, but because he believed that
Louis now stood for sane government, having signed the Constitution.
It is doubtful whether the plan could have succeeded; it was one of
Lafayette's generous dreams, based on very slight foundation. He
wanted to have himself and General Luckner called to Paris for the
coming celebration of July 14th. At that time, making no secret of
it, the king should go with his generals before the Assembly and [Pg
219]announce his intention of spending a few days at Compiègne, as he
had a perfect right to do. Once away from Paris and surrounded by the
loyal troops the two generals would have taken care to bring with them,
Louis could issue a proclamation forbidding his brothers and other
_émigrés_ to continue their plans and could say that he was himself at
the head of an army to resist foreign invasion; and, having taken the
wind out of the sails of the Jacobins by this unexpected move, could
return to Paris to be acclaimed by all moderate, peace-loving men.

There were personal friends of the king who urged him to try this as
the one remaining possibility of safety. Others thought it might save
Louis, but could not save the monarchy. The queen quoted words of
Mirabeau's about Lafayette's ambition to keep the king a prisoner in
his tent. "Besides," she added, "it would be too humiliating to owe
our lives a second time to that man." So Lafayette was thanked for his
interest and his help was refused. On the 10th of August there was
another invasion of the Tuileries, followed this time by the massacre
of the Swiss Guard. The royal family, rescued from the palace, was kept
for safety for three days in a little room behind the one in which
the Assembly held its sessions; then it was lodged, under the cruel
protection of the Commune, in the small medieval prison called the
Temple, in the heart of Paris.

With the Commune in full control, it was not long before an accusation
was officially made against Lafayette. "Evidence" to bear it out was
speedily found; and on August 19th, less than ten days after [Pg
220]the imprisonment of the king, the Assembly, at the bidding of the
Commune, declared Lafayette a traitor. He knew he had nothing to hope
from his own troops, for only a few days before this his proposal that
they renew their oath of fidelity to the Nation, the Law, and the
King had met with murmurs of disapproval, until one young captain,
making himself spokesman, had declared that Liberty, Equality, and
the National Assembly were the only names to which the soldiers could
pledge allegiance.

Lafayette still had faith in the future, but the present offered
only two alternatives--flight, or staying quietly where he was to be
arrested and carried to Paris, where he would be put to death as surely
as the sun rose in the east. This was what his Jacobin friends seemed
to expect him to do, and they assailed him bitterly for taking the
other course. He could not see that his death at this time and in this
way would help the cause of civil liberty. He said that if he must die
he preferred to perish at the hands of foreign tyrants rather than by
those of his misguided fellow-countrymen. He placed his soldiers in the
best position to offset any advantage the enemy might gain through his
flight, and, with about a score of officers and friends, crossed the
frontier into Liège on the night of August 20th, meaning to make his
way to Holland and later to England. From England, in case he could not
return and aid France, he meant to go to America.

Instead of that, the party rode straight into the camp of an Austrian
advance-guard.


[Pg 221]XXIV

SOUTH CAROLINA TO THE RESCUE!


It was eight o'clock at night, a few leagues from the French border.
Their horses were weary and spent. The road approached the village
of Rochefort in such a way that they could see nothing of the town
until almost upon it, and the gleam of this camp-fire was their first
intimation of the presence of the Austrians. It would have availed
nothing to turn back. If they went toward the left they would almost
certainly fall in with French patrols, or those of the _émigrés_ who
were at Liège. To the right a whole chain of Austrian posts stretched
toward Namur. "On all sides there was an equality of inconvenience,"
as Lafayette said. One of the party rode boldly forward to interview
the commandant and ask permission to spend the night in the village
and continue the journey next day. This was granted after it had been
explained that they were neither _émigrés_ nor soldiers on their way to
join either side, but officers forced to leave the French army, whose
only desire was to reach a neutral country.

[Pg 222]A guide was sent to conduct them to the village inn. Before
they had been there many minutes Lafayette was recognized, and it was
necessary to confess the whole truth. The local commander required a
pass from the officer at Namur, and when that person learned the name
of his chief prisoner he would hear nothing more about passports,
but communicated in joyful haste with his superior officer, the Duc
de Bourbon. At Namur Lafayette received a visit from Prince Charles
of Lorraine, who sent word in advance that he wished "to talk about
the condition in which Lafayette had left France." Lafayette replied
that he did not suppose he was to be asked questions it might be
inconvenient to answer, and when the high-born caller entered with his
most affable manner he was received with distant coolness by all the
prisoners.

From Namur they were taken to Nivelles, where they were presented with
a government order to give up all French treasure in their possession.
Lafayette could not resist answering that he was quite sure their
Royal Highnesses would have brought the treasure with them had they
been in his place; and the amusement of the Frenchmen increased as the
messenger learned, to his evident discomfiture, that the twenty-three
of them combined did not have enough to keep them in comfort for two
months. That same day the prisoners were divided into three groups.
Those who had not served in the French National Guard were given
their liberty and told to leave the country. Others were sent to
the citadel at Antwerp and kept there for two months. Lafayette and
[Pg 223]three companions who had served with him in the Assembly,
Latour Maubourg, a lifelong friend, Alexander Lameth, and Bureaux de
Pusy, were taken to Luxembourg. There was only time for a hurried
leave-taking. Lafayette spent it with an aide who was to go to Antwerp.
Feeling sure he was marked for death, he dictated to this officer a
message to be published to the French people when he should be no more.

Before leaving Rochefort he had found means of sending a letter to his
wife, who was at Chavaniac overseeing repairs upon the old manor-house.
It was from this letter that she learned what had befallen him, and
she carried it in her bosom until she was arrested in her turn. The
message to Adrienne began characteristically on a note of optimism.
"Whatever the vicissitudes of fortune, dear heart, you know my soul
is not of a temper to be cast down." He told of his misfortune in a
gallant way, saying the Austrian officer thought it his duty to arrest
him. He hurriedly reviewed the reasons that led up to his flight, said
that he did not know how long his journey "might be retarded," and bade
her join him in England with all the family. His closing words were: "I
offer no excuses to my children or to you for having ruined my family.
There is not one of you who would owe fortune to conduct contrary
to my conscience. Come to me in England. Let us establish ourselves
in America, where we shall find a liberty which no longer exists in
France, and there my tenderness will endeavor to make up to you the
joys you have lost."

[Pg 224]His journey was "retarded" for five years, and for a large
part of that time seemed likely to end only at the grave, possibly by
way of the executioner's block. It is to be hoped that his sense of
humor allowed him to enjoy one phase of his situation. He had been
driven from France on the charge that he favored the king, yet he
was no sooner across the border than he was arrested on exactly the
opposite charge; that of being a dangerous revolutionist, an enemy to
all monarchs. When he demanded a passport he received the sinister
answer that he was to be kept safely until the French king regained
his power and was in a position to sentence him himself. He was sent
from prison to prison. First to Wezel, where he remained three months
in a rat-infested dungeon, unable to communicate with any one, and
watched over by an officer of the guard who was made to take a daily
oath to give him no news. "One would think," said Lafayette, "that
they had imprisoned the devil himself." He was so thoroughly isolated
that Latour Maubourg, a few cells away, learned only through the
indiscretion of a jailer that he was seriously ill. Maubourg asked
permission, in case the illness proved fatal, to be with him at the
last, but was told that no such privilege could be granted. But
Lafayette did not die and even in the worst of his physical ills had
the spirit to reply, "The King of Prussia is impertinent!" when a royal
message came offering to soften the rigors of his captivity in return
for information about France. The message was from that "honest prince"
who in Lafayette's opinion "would never have the genius of his uncle."

[Pg 225]Another answer, equally inconsiderate of royal feelings,
resulted in the transfer of the prisoners to Magdebourg, where they
were kept a year. On these journeys from place to place they served as
a show to hundreds who pressed to see them. There were even attempts
to injure them, but Lafayette believed he saw more pitying faces than
hostile ones in the crowds. Once fate brought them to an inn at the
same moment with the Comte d'Artois and his retinue, all of whom,
with a single exception, proved blind to the presence of their former
friends. We have details of the way in which Lafayette was lodged and
treated at Magdebourg, from a letter he managed to send to his stanch
friend, the Princesse d'Hénin in London.

"Imagine an opening under the rampart of the citadel, surrounded by a
high, strong palisade. It is through that, after opening successively
four doors each guarded with chains and padlocks and bars of iron, that
one reaches, not without some trouble and some noise, my dungeon, which
is three paces wide and five and a half long. The side wall is covered
with mold; that in front lets in light, but not the sun, through a
small barred window. Add to this two sentinels who can look down into
our subterranean chamber, but are outside the palisade so that we
cannot speak to them.... The noisy opening of our four doors occurs
every morning to allow my servant to enter; at dinner-time, that I may
dine in presence of the commandant of the citadel and of the guard; and
at night when my servant is taken away to his cell." The one ornament
[Pg 226]on his prison wall was a French inscription, in which the
dismal words _souffrir_ and _mourir_ were made to rhyme. The one break
in the prison routine had been an execution, upon which, had he chosen,
Lafayette could have looked from his window as from a box at the opera.

After a year of this he was moved again and turned over to the
Emperor of Prussia, his prison journeys ending finally at the gloomy
fortress of Olmütz in the Carpathian Mountains. Something may be said
in defense of the severity with which his captors guarded him. He
steadfastly refused to give his parole, preferring, he said, to take
his liberty instead of having it granted him. This undoubtedly added
a zest to life in prison which would otherwise have been lacking, and
very likely contributed not a little to his serenity and even to his
physical well-being. It transformed the uncomfortable prison routine
into a contest of wits, with the odds greatly against him, but which
left him honorably free to seize any advantage that came his way. He
foiled the refusal to allow him writing materials by writing letters as
he wrote that one to Madame d'Hénin, with vinegar and lampblack in a
book on a blank leaf which had escaped the vigilant eye of his guard.
Knowing very little German, he dug out of his memory forgotten bits of
school-day Latin to use upon his jailers. He took every bit of exercise
allowed him in order to keep up his physical strength. He believed he
might have need of it. He even lived his life with a certain gay zest,
and took particular delight in celebrating the Fourth of July, 1793, in
[Pg 227]his lonely cell by writing a letter to the American minister at
London. He gave his vivid imagination free rein in concocting plans of
escape.

Friends on the outside were busy with plans, too; and though he got
no definite news of them, his optimism was too great to permit him to
doubt that they were doing everything possible for his release. At the
very outset of his captivity he applied to be set free on the ground
that he was an American citizen, though there was small chance of the
request being granted. He was sure Washington would not forget him;
he knew that Gouverneur Morris had deposited a sum of money with his
captors upon which he might draw at need. Madame de Staël, the daughter
of Necker, and the Princesse d'Hénin were in London, busy exercising
feminine influence in his behalf. General Cornwallis and General
Tarleton had interceded for him, and later he learned that Fitzpatrick,
the young Englishman he had liked on their first meeting in London, the
same who afterward carried letters for him from America, had spoken
for him in Parliament. Fox and Sheridan and Wilberforce added their
eloquence; but the cautious House of Commons decided it was none of its
business and voted against the proposal to ask for Lafayette's release,
in the same proportion that the citizens of Paris had rejected him for
mayor.

French voices also were raised in his behalf. One of the earliest
and most courageous was that of Lally Tollendal, who as member of
the French Assembly had quarreled with Lafayette for being so much
[Pg 228]of a monarchist. But later he changed his mind and acted as
go-between in the negotiations for Lafayette's final plan to remove the
royal family to Compiègne. From his exile in London Lally Tollendal now
addressed a memorial to Frederick William II, telling him the plain
truth, that it was unjust to keep Lafayette in jail as an enemy of the
French king, because it was an effort to save Louis which had proved
his ruin. "Those who regard M. de Lafayette as the cause, or even one
of the causes, of the French Revolution are entirely wrong," this
friend asserted. "He has played a great role, but he was not the author
of the piece.... He has not taken part in a single one of its evils
which would not have happened without him, while the good he did was
done by him alone."

Then Lally Tollendal went on to tell how on the Sunday after Louis
was arrested and brought back from Varennes Lafayette by one single
emphatic statement had put an end, in a committee of the Assembly, to
an ugly discussion about executing the king and proclaiming a republic.
"I warn you," he had said, "that the day after you kill the king the
National Guard and I will proclaim the prince royal." Lally Tollendal
expatiated upon how evenly Lafayette had tried to deal out justice to
royalists and revolutionists alike; how in the last days of his liberty
he had said in so many words that the Jacobins must be destroyed; and
that he had with difficulty been restrained from raising a flag bearing
the words, "No Jacobins, no Coblenz," as a banner around which friends
of the king and conservative republicans might rally. But the strict
[Pg 229]impartiality this disclosed had little charm for a king of
Prussia and the appeal bore no fruit.

There were more thrilling efforts to aid him close at hand. "It is
a whole romance, the attempt at rescuing Lafayette," says a French
biographer. The opening scene of this romance harks back to the night
when Lafayette made his first landing on American soil, piloted through
the dark by Major Huger's slaves. The least noticed actor in that
night's drama had been Major Huger's son, a very small boy, who hung
upon the words of the unexpected guests and followed them with round,
child eyes. Much had happened to change two hemispheres since, and even
greater changes had occurred in the person of that small boy. He had
grown up, he had resolved to be a surgeon, had finished his studies in
London, and betaken himself to Vienna to pursue them further. There
in the autumn of 1794 in a café he encountered a Doctor Bollman of
Hanover. They fell into conversation, and before long Bollman confided
to Huger that he had a secret mission. He had been charged by Lally
Tollendal and American friends of Lafayette then in London to find out
where the prisoner was and to plan for his escape. In his search he
had traveled up and down Germany as a wealthy physician who took an
interest in the unfortunate, particularly in prisoners, and treated
them free of charge. For a long time he had found no clue, but at
Olmütz, whose fortifications proved too strong in days past even for
Frederick the Great, he had been invited to dinner by the prison doctor
[Pg 230]and in turn had entertained him, plying him well with wine.
They talked about prisoners of note. The prison doctor admitted that he
had one now on his hands; and before the dinner was over Bollman had
sent an innocent-sounding message to Lafayette. Later he was allowed to
send him a book, with a few written lines purporting to be nothing more
than the names of some friends then in London.

When the book was returned Bollman lost no time in searching it for
hidden writing. In this way he learned that Lafayette had lately
been allowed to drive out on certain days a league or two from the
prison for the benefit of his health, and that his guard on such
occasions consisted of a stupid lieutenant and the corporal who drove
the carriage. The latter was something of a coward. Lafayette would
undertake to look after both of them himself if a rescuer and one
trusty helper should appear. No weapons need be provided; he would
take the officer's own sword away from him. All he wanted was an extra
horse or two, with the assurance that his deliverers were ready. It
was a bold plan, but only a bold plan could succeed. There were too
many bolts and bars inside the prison to make any other kind feasible.
Lameth had been set at liberty; his two other friends, Latour Maubourg
and Bureaux de Pusy, were in full sympathy with the plan, and to make
it easier had refrained from asking the privilege of driving out
themselves. Bollman added that he could not manage the rescue alone
and had come away to hunt for a trusty confederate. Huger had already
[Pg 231]told of his unforgotten meeting with Lafayette, and there was
no mistaking the eagerness with which he awaited Bollman's next word
or the joy with which he accepted the invitation to take part in the
rescue. He was moved by something deeper than mere love of adventure.
"I simply considered myself the representative of the young men of
America and acted accordingly," he said long after.

The two men returned to Olmütz and put up at the inn where Bollman had
stayed before. They managed to send a note to Lafayette. His answer
told them he would leave the prison on November 8th for his next drive,
how he would be dressed, and the signal by which they might know he was
ready. It was a market day, with many persons on the road. They paid
their score, sent their servants ahead with the traveling-carriage and
luggage to await their arrival at a town called Hoff, while they came
more slowly on horseback. Then they rode out of the gray old town.
Neither its Gothic churches, its hoary university, nor the ingenious
astronomical clock that had rung the hours from its tower for three
hundred and seventy years; not even the fortifications or the prison
itself, built on a plain so bare that all who left it were in full view
of the sentinels at the city gates, interested these travelers as did
the passers-by. Presently a small phæton containing an officer and a
civilian was driven toward them, and as it went by the pale gentleman
in a blue greatcoat raised his hand to pass a white handkerchief over
his forehead. The riders bowed slightly and tried to look indifferent,
but that was hard work. Turning as soon as they dared, they saw that
[Pg 232]the carriage had stopped by the side of the road. Its two
passengers alighted; the gentleman in blue handed a piece of money to
the driver, who drove off as though going on an errand. Then leaning
heavily upon the officer, seeming to find difficulty in walking, he
drew him toward a footpath. But at the sound of approaching horsemen,
he suddenly seized the officer's sword and attempted to wrench it from
its scabbard. The officer grappled with him. Bollman and Huger flew to
his assistance. In the act of dismounting Bollman drew his sword and
his horse, startled by the flashing steel, plunged and bolted. Huger
managed to keep hold of his own bridle, while he helped Bollman tear
away the officer's hands that were closing about Lafayette's throat.
The Austrian wrenched himself free and ran toward the town, shouting
with all his might.

Here were three men in desperate need of flight, the alarm already
raised, and only two horses to carry them to safety--one of these
running wild. Huger acted with Southern gallantry and American speed.
He got Lafayette upon his own steed, shouted to him to "Go to Hoff!"
and caught the other horse. Misunderstanding the injunction, Lafayette,
who thought he had merely been told to "Go off," rode a few steps,
then turned back to help his rescuers. They motioned him away and he
disappeared, in the wrong direction. The remaining horse reared and
plunged, refusing to carry double. Huger persuaded Bollman to mount
him, since he could be of far greater use to Lafayette, and saw him
[Pg 233]gallop away. By that time a detachment of soldiers was bearing
down upon him, and between their guns he entered the prison Lafayette
had so lately quitted.

At the end of twenty miles Lafayette had to change horses. He appealed
to an honest-looking peasant, who helped him to find another one, but
also ran to warn the authorities. These became suspicious when they saw
Lafayette's wounded hand, which had been bitten by the officer almost
to the bone. They arrested him on general principles and he was carried
back to a captivity more onerous than before. He was deprived of all
rides, of course, of all news, even of the watch and shoe-buckles which
up to this time he had been allowed to retain. Bollman reached Hoff and
waited for Lafayette until nightfall, then made his way into Silesia.
But he was captured and returned to Austria and finally to Olmütz.

The treatment accorded Lafayette's would-be rescuers was barbarous in
the extreme. Huger was chained hand and foot in an underground cell,
where he listened to realistic descriptions of beheadings, and, worse
still, of how prisoners were walled up and forgotten. Daily questions
and threats of torture were tried to make him confess that the attempt
was part of a wide-spread conspiracy. As his statements and his courage
did not waver, the prison authorities came at last to believe him,
and he was taken to a cell aboveground where it was possible to move
three steps, though he was still chained. He found that Bollman was
confined in the cell just above him. The latter let down a walnut [Pg
234]shell containing a bit of ink and also a scrap of paper. With these
Huger wrote a few lines to the American minister at London, telling of
their plight and ending with the three eloquent words, "Don't forget
us!"--doubly eloquent to one who knew those stories of walled-up
prisoners underground. They bribed the guard to smuggle this out of the
prison, and in time it reached its destination. The American minister
did not forget them. Through his good offices they were released and
told to leave the country. They waited for no second invitation, which
was very wise, because the emperor repented his clemency. He sent an
order for their rearrest, but it arrived, fortunately, just too late to
prevent their escape across the border.


[Pg 235]XXV

VOLUNTEERS IN MISFORTUNE


Lafayette, in his uncomfortable cell, was left in complete ignorance of
the fate of Bollman and Huger, though given to understand that they had
been executed or soon would be, perhaps under his own window. The long,
dreary days wore on until more than a year had passed, with little to
make one day different from another, though occasionally he was able
to communicate with Pusy or Maubourg through the ingenuity of his
"secretary," young Felix Pontonnier, a lad of sixteen, who had managed
to cling to him with the devotion of a dog through all his misfortunes.
Prison air was hard upon this boy and prison officials were harder
still, but his spirits were invincible. He whistled like a bird, he
made grotesque motions, he talked gibberish, and these antics were not
without point. They were a language of his own devising, by means of
which he conveyed to the prisoners such scraps of information as came
to him from the outside world.

His master had need of all Felix's cheer to help him bear up against
the anxiety that grew with each bit of news from France, and grew
greater still because of the absence of news from those he loved [Pg
236]best. For the first seven months he heard not a word from wife and
children, though soon after his capture he learned about the early days
of September in Paris, when the barriers had been closed and houses
were searched and prisons "purged" of those suspected of sympathy with
the aristocracy. Since then he had heard from his wife; but he had
also learned of the trial and death of the king; and rumors had come
to him of the Terror. Adrienne's steadfastness had been demonstrated
to him through all the years of their married life. Where principle
was involved he knew she would not falter; and he had little hope that
she could have escaped imprisonment or a worse fate. He had heard
absolutely nothing from her now for eighteen months. His captivity has
been called "a night five years long," and this was its darkest hour.

Then one day, without the least previous warning, the bolts and bars
of his cell creaked at an unusual hour; they were pushed back--and he
looked into the faces of his wife and daughters. The authorities broke
in upon the first instant of incredulous recognition to search their
new charges; possessed themselves of their purses and the three silver
forks in their modest luggage, and disappeared. The complaining bolts
slid into place once more and a new prison routine began, difficult to
bear in spite of the companionship, when he saw unnecessary hardships
press cruelly upon these devoted women. Bit by bit he learned what had
happened in the outside world: events of national importance of which
[Pg 237]he had not heard in his dungeon, and also little incidents that
touched only his personal history; for instance, the ceremonies with
which the Commune publicly broke the mold for the Lafayette medal, and
how the mob had howled around his Paris house, clamoring to tear it
down and raise a "column of infamy" in its place. He forbore to ask
questions at first, knowing how tragic the tale must be, and it was
only after the girls had been led away that first night and locked into
the cell where they were to sleep that he learned of the grief that had
come to Adrienne about a week before the Terror came to an end--the
execution on a single day of her mother, her grandmother, and her
beloved sister Louise.

In time he learned all the details of her own story: the months she
had been under parole at Chavaniac, where through the kind offices of
Gouverneur Morris she received at last the letter from her husband
telling her that he was well. Her one desire had been to join him, but
there was the old aunt to be provided for, and there were also pressing
debts to settle; a difficult matter after Lafayette's property was
confiscated and sold. Mr. Morris lent her the necessary money, assuring
her that if she could not repay it Americans would willingly assume it
as part of the far larger debt their country owed her husband.

She asked to be released from her parole in order to go into Germany
to share his prison. Instead she had been cast into prison on her
own account. The children's tutor, M. de Frestel, who had been their
father's tutor before them, conspired with the servants and sold their
[Pg 238]bits of valuables that she might make the journey to prison
in greater comfort. He contrived, too, that the mother might see her
children before she was taken off to Paris, and she made them promise,
in the event of her death, to make every effort to rejoin their father.
In Paris she lived through many months of prison horror, confined part
of the time in the old Collège Du Plessis where Lafayette had spent his
boyhood, seeing every morning victims carried forth to their death and
expecting every day to be ordered to mount into the tumbrels with them.
Had she known it, she was inquired for every morning at the prison door
by a faithful maidservant, who in this way kept her children informed
of her fate. George was in England with his tutor. At Chavaniac the
little girls were being fed by the peasants, as was the old aunt, for
the manor-house had been sold and the old lady had been allowed to buy
back literally nothing except her own bed.

At last Robespierre himself died under the guillotine and toward the
end of September, 1794, a less bloodthirsty committee visited the
prisons to decide the fate of their inmates. Adrienne Lafayette was the
last to be examined at Du Plessis. Her husband was so hated that no
one dared speak her name. She pronounced it clearly and proudly as she
had spoken and written it ever since misfortune came upon her. It was
decided that the wife of so great a criminal must be judged by higher
authority; meanwhile she was to be kept under lock and key. James
Monroe, who was now American minister to Paris, interceded for her,
but she was only transferred to another prison. Here a worthy priest,
[Pg 239]disguised as a carpenter, came to her to tell her how on a day
in July the three women dearest to her had been beheaded, and how he,
running beside the tumbrel through the storm that drenched them on
their way to execution, had been able, at no small risk to himself, to
offer them secretly the consolations of religion.

Finally in January, 1795, largely through the efforts of Mr. Monroe,
she was released. Her first care was to make a visit of thanks to Mr.
Monroe and to ask him to continue his kindness by obtaining a passport
for herself and her girls so that they might seek out her husband.
George was to be sent to America, for she felt sure that his father, if
still alive, would desire him to be there for a time under the care of
Washington, and, if he had perished in prison, would have wished his
son to grow up an American citizen.

Getting the passport proved a long and difficult undertaking. When
issued it was to permit Madame Motier of Hartford, Connecticut, and
her two daughters to return to America. It was necessary to begin the
journey in accordance with this, and they embarked at Dunkirk on a
small American vessel bound for Hamburg. There they left the ship and
went to Vienna on another passport, but still as the American family
named Motier. In Vienna the American family hid itself very effectively
through the help of old friends, and Adrienne contrived to be received
by the emperor himself, quite unknown to his ministers. His manner to
her and her girls was so gracious that she came away "in an ecstasy of
joy," though he told her he could not release the prisoner. She [Pg
240]was so sure her husband was well treated and so jubilant over the
emperor's permission to write directly to him if she had reason to
complain, that she was not at all cast down by the warnings and evident
unfriendliness of the prime minister and the minister of war with whom
she next sought interviews.

Leaving Vienna by carriage, she and her daughters traveled all one
day and part of the next northward into the rugged Carpathian country
before an interested postboy pointed out the steeples and towers of
Olmütz. Once in the town, they drove straight to the house of the
commandant, who took good care not to expose his heart to pity by
seeing these women, but sent the officer in charge of the prison to
open its doors and admit them to its cold welcome.

The room in which they found Lafayette did well enough in point of
size and of furnishings. It was a vaulted stone chamber facing south,
twenty-four feet long, fifteen wide, and twelve high. Light entered
by means of a fairly large window shut at the top with a padlock, but
which could be opened at the bottom, where it was protected by a double
iron grating. The furnishings consisted of a bed, a table, chairs, a
chest of drawers, and a stove; and this room opened into another of
equal size which served as an antechamber. The vileness consisted in
the sights and smells outside the window and the dirt within.

The routine that began when the door of this room opened so
unexpectedly to admit Lafayette's wife and daughters continued for
almost two years. Madame Lafayette described it in a letter to her [Pg
241]aunt, Madame de Tessé, an exile in Holstein, with whom she and her
girls spent a few days after leaving the ship at Hamburg. "At last,
my dear aunt, I can write you secretly. Friends risk their liberty,
their life, to transmit our letters and will charge themselves with
this one for you.... Thanks to your good advice, dear aunt, I took the
sole means of reaching here. If I had been announced I would never
have succeeded in entering the domains of the emperor.... Do you wish
details of our present life? They bring our breakfast at eight o'clock
in the morning, after which I am locked with the girls until noon. We
are reunited for dinner, and though our jailers enter twice to remove
the dishes and bring in our supper, we remain together until they
come at eight o'clock to take my daughters back to their cage. The
keys are carried each time to the commandant and shut up with absurd
precautions. They pay, with my money, the expenses of all three, and we
have enough to eat, but it is inexpressibly dirty.

"The physician, who does not understand a word of French, is brought
to us by an officer when we have need of him. We like him. M. de
Lafayette, in the presence of the officer, who understands Latin,
speaks with him in that language and translates for us. When this
officer, a huge corporal of a jailer, who does not dare to speak to
us himself without witnesses, comes with his great trousseau of keys
in his hand to unpadlock our doors, while the whole guard is drawn up
outside in the corridor and the entrance to our rooms is half opened
[Pg 242]by two sentinels, you would laugh to see our two girls, one
blushing to her ears, the other with a manner now proud, now comic,
passing under their crossed sabers; after which the doors of our cells
at once close. What is not pleasant is that the little court on the
same level with the corridor is the scene of frequent punishment of the
soldiers, who are there beaten with whips, and we hear the horrible
music. It is a great cause of thankfulness to us that our children up
to the present time have borne up well under this unhealthy regime. As
for myself, I admit that my health is not good."

It was so far from good that she asked leave to go to Vienna for a
week for expert medical advice, but was told, after waiting long for
an answer of any kind, that she had voluntarily put herself under the
conditions to which her husband was subject, and that if she left
Olmütz she could not return. "You know already that the idea of leaving
M. de Lafayette could not be entertained by any one of us. The good we
do him is not confined to the mere pleasure of seeing us. His health
has been really better since we arrived. You know the influence of
moral affections upon him, and however strong his character, I cannot
conceive that it could resist so many tortures. His excessive thinness
and his wasting away have remained at the same point since our arrival,
but his guardians and he assure me that it is nothing compared to the
horrible state he was in a year ago. One cannot spend four years in
such captivity without serious consequences. I have not been able to
see Messrs. Maubourg and Pusy, or even to hear their voices. Judging
[Pg 243]from the number of years with which their so-called guardians
credit them, they must have aged frightfully. Their sufferings here
are all the harder for us to bear because these two loyal and generous
friends of M. de Lafayette have never for an instant permitted their
case to be considered separately from his own. You will not be
surprised that he has enjoined them never to speak for him, no matter
what may be the occasion or the interest, except in a manner in harmony
with his character and principles; and that he pushes to excess what
you call 'the weakness of a grand passion.'"

So, in mingled content and hardship, the days passed. The young girls
brought a certain amount of gaiety into the gray cell, even of material
well-being. After their arrival their father was supplied with his
first new clothing since becoming a prisoner, garments of rough cloth,
cut out "by guesswork," that his jailer rudely declared were good
enough for him. Out of the discarded coat Anastasie contrived shoes
to replace the pair that was fairly dropping off his feet; and one
of the girls took revenge upon the jailer by drawing a caricature
of him on a precious scrap of paper which was hidden and saved and
had a proud place in their home many years later. Madame Lafayette,
though more gravely ill than she allowed her family to know, devoted
herself alternately to her husband and to the education of the girls;
and in hours which she felt she had a right to call her own wrote
with toothpick and lampblack upon the margins of a volume of Buffon
[Pg 244]that biography of her mother, the unfortunate Madame d'Ayen,
which is such a marvel of tender devotion. In the evenings, before
his daughters were hurried away to their enforced early bedtime,
Lafayette read aloud from some old book. New volumes were not allowed;
"everything published since 1788 was proscribed," says a prison letter
of La tour de Maubourg's, "even though it were an _Imitation of Jesus
Christ_."

Long after she was grown Virginia, the younger daughter, remembered
with pleasure those half-hours with old books. From her account of
their prison life we learn that it was the rector of the university
who enabled her mother to send and receive letters unknown to their
jailers. "We owe him the deepest gratitude. By his means some public
news reached our ears.... In the interior of the prison we had
established a correspondence with our companions in captivity. Even
before our arrival our father's secretary could speak to him through
the window by means of a Pan's pipe for which he had arranged a cipher
known to M. de Maubourg's servant. But this mode of correspondence, the
only one in use for a long time, did not allow great intercourse. We
obtained an easier one with the help of the soldiers whom we bribed by
the pleasure of a good meal. Of a night, through our double bars, we
used to lower at the end of a string a parcel with part of our supper
to the sentry on duty under our windows, who would pass the packet in
the same manner to Messrs. Maubourg and Pusy, who occupied separate
parts of the prison."

[Pg 245]Though they could see no change from day to day, the prisoners
were conscious, on looking back over several weeks or months, that
they were being treated with greater consideration. After every
vigorous expression in favor of Lafayette by Englishmen and Americans,
especially after every military success gained by France, their jailers
became a fraction more polite. When talk of peace between Austria
and France began, Tourgot, the emperor's prime minister, preferred
to have his master give up the prisoners of his own free will rather
than under compulsion. In July, 1797, the Marquis de Chasteler, "a
perfect gentleman, highly educated, and accomplished," came to Olmütz
to inquire with much solicitude, on the emperor's behalf, how the
prisoners had been treated, and to offer them freedom under certain
conditions. One condition was that they should never set foot again on
Austrian territory without special permission. Another stipulated that
Lafayette should not even stay in Europe, but must sail forthwith for
America. To this he replied that he did not wish to stay in Austria,
even at the emperor's most earnest invitation, and that he had often
declared his intention of emigrating to America; but that he did not
propose to render account of his actions to Frederick William II or
to make any promise which seemed to imply that that sovereign had any
rights in the matter. Madame Lafayette and his two friends, Maubourg
and Pusy, whom he saw for the first time in three years when they were
brought to consult with him over this proposal, agreed fully with
Lafayette's stand; and the result was that all of them stayed in prison.


[Pg 246]XXVI

EXILES

But hope grew. On the very day of Chasteler's visit the prisoners
learned that negotiations for peace, already begun, contained a
clause which would set them free. These negotiations were being
directed in part--a very important part--by a remarkable man who had
been only an unknown second lieutenant when the troubles began in
France, but whose name was now on everybody's lips and whose power was
rapidly approaching that of a dictator. The elder De Ségur, father
of Lafayette's friend, had started him on his spectacular career by
placing him in the military academy. His name was Napoleon Bonaparte. A
man even less sagacious than he would have seen the advantage of making
friends rather than enemies of Lafayette's supporters in Europe and
America.

Thus it was partly because of repeated demands for his release coming
from England and France and America, and largely because Napoleon
willed it, that Lafayette was finally set free. Also there is little
doubt that Austria was heartily tired of being his jailer. Tourgot
[Pg 247]said that Lafayette would have been released much earlier if
anybody had known what on earth to do with him, but that neither Italy
nor France would tolerate him within its borders. Tourgot supposed the
emperor would raise no objection to the arrangement he had concluded to
turn over "all that caravan" to America as a means of getting rid of
him; "of which I shall be very glad," he added. The American consul at
Hamburg was to receive the prisoners, and he promised that they should
be gone in ten days. This time Lafayette was not given a chance to say
Yes or No.

On September 18, 1797, five years and a month after he had been
arrested, and two years lacking one month from the time Madame
Lafayette and the girls joined him, the gates of Olmütz opened and
he and his "caravan" went forth: Latour Maubourg, Bureaux de Pusy,
the faithful Felix, and other humble members of their retinue who had
shared imprisonment with them. Louis Romeuf, the aide-de-camp, who
had taken down Lafayette's farewell words to France and who had been
zealous in working for his relief, rode joyously to meet them, but so
long as Austria had authority the military kept him at arm's-length.
The party had one single glimpse of him, but it was not until they had
reached Dresden that he was permitted to join them.

Gradually sun and wind lost their feeling of strangeness on
prison-blanched cheeks. Gradually the crowds that gathered to watch
them pass dared show more interest. Lafayette's face was not unknown to
all who saw him. An Austrian pressed forward to thank him for saving
[Pg 248]his life in Paris on a day when Lafayette had set his wits
against the fury of the mob. When the party reached Hamburg Gouverneur
Morris and his host, who was an imperial minister, left a dinner-party
to go through the form of receiving the prisoners from their Austrian
guard, thus "completing their liberty." The short time spent in Hamburg
was devoted to writing letters of thanks to Huger, to Fitzpatrick, and
the others who had worked for their release.

The one anxiety during this happy journey had been caused by the
condition of Madame Lafayette, who showed, now that the strain was
removed, how very much the prison months had cost her. She did her best
to respond to the demands made upon her strength by the friendliness
of the crowds; but it was evident that in her state of exhaustion a
voyage to America was not to be thought of. From Hamburg, therefore,
the Lafayettes went to the villa of Madame Tessé on the shores of Lake
Ploën in Holstein. Here they remained several weeks in happy reunion
with relatives and close friends; and it was here a few months later
that Anastasie, Lafayette's elder daughter, was married to a younger
brother of Latour de Maubourg, to the joy of every one, though to the
mock consternation of the lively, white-haired Countess of Tessé,
who declared that these young people, ruined by the Revolution, were
setting up housekeeping in a state of poverty and innocence unequaled
since the days of Adam and Eve.

The Lafayettes and the Maubourgs took together a large castle at
[Pg 249]Lhemkulen, not far from Madame de Tessé, where Lafayette
settled himself to wait until he should be allowed to return to France.
It was here that George rejoined his family. He had been a child when
his father saw him last; he returned a man, older than Lafayette had
been when he set out for America. Washington had been very kind to
him, but his years in America had not been happy. Probably he felt
instinctively the constraint in regard to him.

Washington had been much distressed by Lafayette's misfortune and
had taken every official step possible to secure his release. It
was through the good offices of the American minister at London
that Lafayette had learned that his wife and children still lived.
Washington had sent Madame Lafayette not only sympathetic words, but
a check for one thousand dollars, in the hope that it might relieve
some of her pressing necessities. He even wrote the Austrian emperor
a personal letter in Lafayette's behalf. When he heard that George
was to be sent him he "desired to serve the father of this young man,
and to become his best friend," but he did not find the godfatherly
duty entirely easy. It threatened to conflict with his greater duty
as father of his country, strange as it seems that kindness to one
innocent, unhappy boy could have that effect. Washington was President
of the United States at the time and it behooved the young nation to
be very circumspect. Diplomacy is a strange game of many rules and
pitfalls; and it might prove embarrassing and compromising to have
as member of his family the son of a man who was looked upon by [Pg
250]most of the governments of Europe as an arch criminal.

Washington wrote to George in care of the Boston friend to whose house
the youth would go on landing, advising him not to travel farther,
but to enter Harvard and pursue his studies there. But M. Frestel
also came to America, by another ship and under an assumed name, and
George continued his education with him instead of entering college.
He possessed little of his father's faculty for making friends, though
the few who knew him esteemed him highly. The most impressionable
years of his life had been passed amid tragic scenes, and his natural
reserve and tendency to silence had been increased by anxiety about
his father's fate. After a time he went to Mount Vernon and became
part of the household there. One of Washington's visitors wrote: "I
was particularly struck with the marks of affection which the general
showed his pupil, his adopted son, son of the Marquis de Lafayette.
Seated opposite to him, he looked at him with pleasure and listened
to him with manifest interest." A note in Washington's business
ledger shows that the great man was both generous and sympathetic in
fulfilling his fatherly duties. It reads: "By Geo. W. Fayette, gave for
the purpose of his getting himself such small articles of clothing as
he might not choose to ask for, $100." It was at Mount Vernon that the
news of his real father's release came to George. He rushed out into
the fields away from everybody, to shout and cry and give vent to his
emotion unseen by human eyes.

[Pg 251]His father was pleased by the development he noted in him;
pleased by the letter Washington sent by the hand of "your son, who
is highly deserving of such parents as you and your estimable lady."
Pleased, too, that George had the manners to stop in Paris on the
way home long enough to pay his respects to Napoleon, and that, in
the absence of the general, he had been kindly received by Madame
Bonaparte. Natural courtesy as well as policy demanded that the
Lafayettes fully acknowledge their debt to Napoleon. One of Lafayette's
first acts on being set free had been to write him the following joint
letter of thanks with Maubourg and Pusy:

  "CITIZEN GENERAL: The prisoners of Olmütz, happy in owing their
  deliverance to the good will of their country and to your
  irresistible arms, rejoiced during their captivity in the thought
  that their liberty and their lives depended upon the triumphs of
  the Republic and of your personal glory. It is with the utmost
  satisfaction that we now do homage to our liberator. We should have
  liked, Citizen General, to express these sentiments in person, to
  look with our own eyes upon the scenes of so many victories, the army
  which won them, and the general who has added our resurrection to the
  number of his miracles. But you are aware that the journey to Hamburg
  was not left to our choice. From the place where we parted with our
  jailers we address our thanks to their victor.

  "From our solitary retreat in the Danish territory of Holstein, where
[Pg 252]  we shall endeavor to re-establish the health you have saved
  to us, our patriotic prayers for the Republic will go out united with
  the most lively interest in the illustrious general to whom we are
  even more indebted for the services he has rendered liberty and our
  country than for the special obligation it is our glory to owe him,
  and which the deepest gratitude has engraved forever upon our hearts.

  "Greetings and respect.

  "LA FAYETTE,

  LATOUR MAUBOURG,

  BUREAUX DE PUSY."

Lafayette could no more leave politics alone than he could keep
from breathing; and even in its stilted phrases of thanks this
letter managed to show how much more he valued the Republic than any
individual. Perhaps even at that early date he mistrusted Napoleon's
personal ambition.

With the leisure of exile on his hands, and pens and paper once more
within easy reach, he plunged into correspondence and into the project
of writing a book with Maubourg and Pusy to set forth their views of
government. Pens and paper seem to have been the greatest luxuries of
his exile, for the family fortunes were at a low ebb. Two of Madame
Lafayette's younger sisters joined her and the three pooled their
ingenuity and their limited means to get the necessaries of life at
the lowest possible cost. "The only resource of the mistress of the
establishment was to make 'snow eggs' when she was called upon to
[Pg 253]provide an extra dish for fifteen or sixteen persons all dying
of hunger." This state of things continued after they had gone to live
at Vianen near Utrecht in Holland, in order to be a little closer to
France. Lafayette had asked permission of the Directory to return with
the officers who had left France with him, but received no answer.

Since Madame Lafayette's name was not on the list of suspected persons,
she could come and go as she would, and she made several journeys, when
health permitted, to attend to business connected with the inheritance
coming to her from her mother's estate. She was in Paris in November,
1799, when the Directory was overthrown and Napoleon became practically
king of France for the term of ten years with the title of First
Consul. She sent her husband a passport under an assumed name and bade
him come at once without asking permission of any one and without
any guaranty of personal safety beyond the general one that the new
government promised justice to all. This was advice after his own heart
and he suddenly appeared in Paris. Once there he wrote to Napoleon,
announcing his arrival. Napoleon's ministers were scandalized and
declared he must go back. Nobody had the courage to mention the subject
to the First Consul, whose anger was already a matter of wholesome
dread; but Madame Lafayette took the situation into her own hands. She
went to see Napoleon as simply as if she were calling upon her lawyer,
and just as if he were her lawyer she laid her husband's case before
him. The calm and gentle effrontery filled him with delight. "Madame,
[Pg 254]I am charmed to make your acquaintance!" he cried; "you are a
woman of spirit--but you do not understand affairs."

However, it was agreed that Lafayette might remain in France, provided
he retired to the country and kept very quiet while necessary
formalities were complied with. In March, 1800, his name and those of
the companions of his flight were removed from the lists of _émigrés_.
After this visit of Madame Lafayette to the First Consul the family
took up its residence about forty miles from Paris at La Grange near
Rozoy, a château dating from the twelfth century, which had belonged
to Madame d'Ayen. But it was not as the holder of feudal dwellings and
traditions that Lafayette installed himself in the place that was to be
his home for the rest of his life. He had willingly given up his title
when the Assembly abolished such things in 1790. Mirabeau mockingly
called him "Grandison Lafayette" for voting for such a measure. It was
as an up-to-date farmer that he began life all over again at the age
of forty-two. He made Felix Pontonnier his manager, and they worked
literally from the ground up, for the estate had been neglected and
there was little money to devote to it. Gradually he accumulated
plants and animals and machines from all parts of the world; writing
voluminous letters about flocks and fruit-trees, and exchanging much
advice and many seeds; pursuing agriculture, he said, himself, "with
all the ardor he had given in youth to other callings." A decade later
he announced with pride that "with a little theory and ten years of
experience he had succeeded fairly well."

[Pg 255]As soon as Napoleon's anger cooled he received Lafayette
and Latour Maubourg, conversing affably, even jocularly about their
imprisonment. "I don't know what the devil you did to the Austrians,"
he said, "but it cost them a mighty effort to let you go." For a time
Lafayette saw the First Consul frequently and was on excellent terms
with other members of his family. Lucien Bonaparte is said to have
cherished the belief that Lafayette would not have objected to him as
a son-in-law. But in character and principle Lafayette and the First
Consul were too far apart to be really friends. It was to the interest
of each to secure the good will of the other, and both appear honestly
to have tried. The two have been said to typify the beginning and the
end of the French Revolution: Lafayette, the generous, impractical
theories of its first months: Napoleon, the strong will and strong hand
needed to pull the country out of the anarchy into which these theories
had degenerated. Lafayette was too much of an optimist and idealist not
to speak his mind freely to the First Consul, even when asking favors
for old friends. Napoleon was too practical not to resent lectures
from a man whose theories had signally failed of success; and far too
much of an autocrat to enjoy having his personal favors refused. The
grand cross of the Legion of Honor, a seat in the French Senate at a
time when it depended on the will of Napoleon and not on an election of
the people, and the post of minister to the United States were refused
in turn. Lafayette said he was more interested in agriculture than in
[Pg 256]embassies, and made it plain that an office to which he was
elected was the only kind he cared to hold. If Napoleon hoped to gain
his support by appealing to his ambition, he failed utterly.

Gradually their relations became strained and the break occurred in
1802 when Napoleon was declared Consul for life. Lafayette was now an
elector for the Department of Seine and Marne, an office within the
gift of the people, and as such had to vote on the proposal to make
Bonaparte Consul for life.

He cast his vote against it, inscribing on the register of his
Commune: "I cannot vote for such a magistracy until public liberty
is sufficiently guaranteed. Then I shall give my vote to Napoleon
Bonaparte"; and he wrote him a letter carefully explaining that there
was nothing personal in it. "That is quite true," says a French
biographer. "A popular government, with Bonaparte at its head, would
have suited Lafayette exactly."

Napoleon as emperor and autocrat suited him not at all. He continued
to live in retirement, busy with his farm, his correspondence, and
his family, or when his duties as Deputy took him to Paris, attending
strictly to those and avoiding intercourse with Napoleon's ministers.
He made visits to Chavaniac to gladden the heart of the old aunt who
was once more mistress of the manor-house, and he rejoiced in George's
marriage to a very charming girl. In February, 1803, while in Paris, a
fall upon the ice resulted in an injury that made him lame for life.
The surgeon experimented with a new method of treatment whose only
[Pg 257]result was extreme torture even for Lafayette, whose power of
bearing pain almost equaled that of his blood brothers, the American
Indians. It was during this season of agony that Virginia, his youngest
child, was married in a neighboring room to Louis de Lasteyrie, by the
same priest who had followed the brave De Noailles women to the foot of
the scaffold. Instead of the profusion of plate and jewels which would
have been hers before the Revolution, the family "assessed itself"
to present to the bride and her husband a portfolio containing two
thousand francs--about four hundred dollars.

In 1807 the greatest grief of Lafayette's life came to him in the death
of his wife, who had never recovered from the rigors of Olmütz. "It
is not for having come to Olmütz that I wish to praise her here," the
heartbroken husband wrote to Latour Maubourg soon after the Christmas
Eve on which her gentle spirit passed to another life, "but that she
did not come until she had taken the time to make every possible
provision within her power to safeguard the welfare of my aunt and the
rights of my creditors, and for having had the courage to send George
to America." The gallant, loving lady was buried in the cemetery of
Picpus, the secret place where the bodies of the victims to the Terror
had been thrown. A poor working-girl had discovered the spot, and
largely through the efforts of Madame Lafayette and her sister a chapel
had been built and the cemetery put in order--which perhaps accounts
for the simplicity of Virginia's wedding-gift.


[Pg 258]XXVII

A GRATEFUL REPUBLIC


During the long, dark night of Lafayette's imprisonment he had
dreamed of America as the land of dawn and hope, and planned to make
a new home there, but when release came this had not seemed best.
Madame Lafayette's health had been too frail, and La Grange, with its
neglected acres, was too obviously awaiting a master. "Besides, we
lack the first dollar to buy a farm. That, in addition to many other
considerations, should prevent your tormenting yourself about it," he
told Adrienne. One of these considerations was the beloved old aunt
at Chavaniac, who lived to the age of ninety-two and never ceased to
be the object of his special care. Also his young people, with their
marriages and budding families, were too dear to permit him willingly
to put three thousand miles of ocean between them and himself.

But he had never lost touch with his adopted country. At the time he
declined Napoleon's offer to make him minister to the United States
he wrote a correspondent that he had by no means given up the hope of
visiting it again as a private citizen; though, he added, humorously,
[Pg 259]he fancied that if he landed in America in anything except a
military uniform he would feel as embarrassed and as much out of place
as a savage in knee-breeches. After Napoleon sold Louisiana to the
United States, foreseeing he could not profitably keep it, Jefferson
sounded Lafayette about coming to be governor of the newly acquired
territory. That offer, too, he had seen fit to refuse; but his friends
called him "the American enthusiast."

Time went by until almost fifty years had passed since the "Bostonians"
took their stand against the British king. To celebrate the
semi-centennial, America decided to raise a monument to the heroes
of Bunker Hill. Lafayette was asked to lay the corner-stone at the
ceremonies which were to take place on the fiftieth anniversary of the
battle. It became the pleasant duty of President James Monroe, who
had served as a subaltern in the battle where Lafayette received his
American wound, to send him the official invitation of Congress and
to place a government frigate at his disposal for the trip. A turn of
French elections in 1824 had left him temporarily "a statesman out of a
job," without even the duty of representing his district in the Chamber
of Deputies. There was really no reason why he should not accept and
every reason why he might at last gratify his desire to see America and
American friends again.

He sailed on July 12, 1824, not, however, upon the United States
frigate, but on the _Cadmus_, a regular packet-boat, preferring, he
said, to come as a private individual. His son accompanied him, as did
[Pg 260]Col. A. Lavasseur, who acted as his secretary. These, with his
faithful valet, Bastien, made up his entire retinue, though he might
easily have had a regiment of followers, so many were the applications
of enthusiastic young men who seemed to look upon this as some new
sort of military expedition. On the _Cadmus_ he asked fellow-travelers
about American hotels and the cost of travel by stage and steamboat,
and M. Lavasseur made careful note of the answers. He had no idea of
the reception that awaited him. When the _Cadmus_ sailed into New York
harbor and he saw every boat gay with bunting and realized that every
man, woman, and child to whom coming was possible had come out to meet
him, he was completely overcome. "It will burst!" he cried, pressing
his hands to his heart, while tears rolled down his cheeks.

Whether he wished or no, he found himself the nation's guest. The
country not only stopped its work and its play to give him greeting;
it stopped its politics--and beyond that Americans cannot go. It was
a campaign summer, but men forgot for a time whether they were for
Adams or Crawford, Clay or Jackson. Election Day was three months off,
politics could wait; but nobody could wait to see this man who had come
to them out of the past from the days of the Revolution, whose memory
was their country's most glorious heritage. They gave him salutes and
dinners and receptions. They elected him to all manner of societies.
Mills and factories closed and the employees surged forth to shout
[Pg 261]themselves hoarse as they jostled mayors and judges in the
welcome. Dignified professors found themselves battling in a crowd of
their own students to get near his carriage. Our whole hard-headed,
practical nation burst into what it fondly believed to be poetry in
honor of his coming. Even the inmates of New York's Debtors' Prison
sent forth such an effusion of many stanzas. If these were not real
poems, the authors never suspected it. There was truth in them, at any
rate. "Again the hero comes to tread the sacred soil for which he bled"
was the theme upon which they endlessly embroidered. Occasionally the
law sidestepped in his honor. A deputy sheriff in New England pinned
upon his door this remarkable "Notice. Arrests in civil suits postponed
to-day, sacred to Freedom and Freedom's Friend."

Lafayette arrived in August and remained until September of the
following year, and during that time managed, to tread an astonishing
amount of our sacred soil, considering that he came before the day
of railroads. The country he had helped to create had tripled in
population, and, instead of being merely a narrow strip along the
Atlantic, now stretched westward a thousand miles. He visited all the
states and all the principal towns. It was not only in towns that he
was welcomed. At the loneliest crossroads a musket-shot or a bugle-call
brought people magically together. The sick were carried out on
mattresses and wrung his hand and thanked God. Babies were named for
him. One bore through life the whole name Welcome Lafayette. Miles of
[Pg 262]babies already named were held up for him to see--and perhaps
to kiss. Old soldiers stretched out hands almost as feeble as those
of babies in efforts to detain him and fight their battles o'er. With
these he was very tender. Small boys drew "Lafayette fish" out of the
brooks on summer days, and when he came to their neighborhood ran
untold distances to get sight of him. Often he helped them to points
of vantage from which they could see something more than forests of
grown-up backs and legs during the ceremonies which took place before
court-houses and state-houses. Here little girls, very much washed and
curled, presented him with useless bouquets and lisped those artless
odes of welcome. Sometimes they tried to crown him with laurel, a
calamity he averted with a deft hand. Back of the little girls usually
stood a phalanx of larger maidens in white, carrying banners, who were
supposed to represent the states of the Union; and back of the maidens
was sometimes a wonderful triumphal arch built of scantling and covered
with painted muslin, the first achievement of its kind in local history.

The country was really deeply moved by Lafayette's visit. It meant to
honor him to the full, but it saw no reason to hide the fact that it
had done something for him as well. "The Nation's Guest. France gave
him birth; America gave him Immortality," was a statement that kept
everybody, nations and individuals alike, in their proper places. In
short, the welcome America gave Lafayette was hearty and sincere.
Whether it appeared as brilliant to the guest of honor, accustomed from
[Pg 263]youth to pageants at Versailles, as it did to his hosts we may
doubt. It was occasionally hard for M. Lavasseur to appear impressed
and not frankly astonished at the things he saw. Lafayette enjoyed it
all thoroughly. The difficult rôle fell to his son George, who had
neither the interest of novelty nor of personal triumph to sustain
him. He already knew American ways, and it was equally impossible for
him to join in the ovation or to acknowledge greetings not meant for
himself. He made himself useful by taking possession of the countless
invitations showered upon his father and arranging an itinerary to
embrace as many of them as possible.

[Illustration: MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE IN 1824

From a painting by William Birch]

[Illustration: MADAME DE LAFAYETTE

After a miniature in the possession of the family]

To those who have been wont to think of this American triumphal
progress of Lafayette's as steady and slow, stopping only for
demonstrations of welcome and rarely if ever doubling on its tracks,
it is a relief to learn that Lafayette did occasionally rest. He
made Washington, the capital of the country, his headquarters, and
set out from there on longer or shorter journeys. The town had not
existed, indeed had scarcely been dreamed of, for a decade after
his first visit. What he thought of the straggling place, with its
muddy, stump-infested avenues, we shall never know. He had abundant
imagination--which was one reason the town existed; for without
imagination he would never have crossed the ocean to fight for American
liberty. Among the people he saw about him in Washington during the
official ceremonies were many old friends and many younger faces
mysteriously like them. To that striking sentence in Henry Clay's
[Pg 264]address of welcome in the House of Representatives, "General,
you find yourself here in the midst of posterity," he could answer,
with truth and gallantry, "No, Mr. Speaker, posterity has not yet begun
for me, for I find in these sons of my old friends the same political
ideals and, I may add, the same warm sentiments toward myself that I
have already had the happiness to enjoy in their fathers."

His great friend Washington had gone to his rest; but there were
memories of Washington at every turn. He made a visit to Mount Vernon
and spent a long hour at his friend's tomb. He entered Yorktown
following Washington's old campaign tent, a relic which was carried
ahead of the Lafayette processions in that part of the country, in
a spirit almost as reverent as that the Hebrews felt toward the Ark
of the Covenant. At Yorktown the ceremonies were held near the Rock
Redoubt which Lafayette's command had so gallantly taken. Zachary
Taylor, who was to gain fame as a general himself and to be President
of the United States, presented a laurel wreath, which Lafayette turned
from a compliment to himself to a tribute to his men. "You know, sir,"
he said, "that in this business of storming redoubts with unloaded
arms and fixed bayonets, the merit of the deed lies in the soldiers
who execute it," and he accepted the crown "in the name of the light
infantry--those we have lost as well as those who survive."

Farther south, at Camden, he laid the corner-stone of a monument to his
friend De Kalb; and at Savannah performed the same labor of love for
[Pg 265]one erected in honor of Nathanael Greene and of Pulaski. At
Charleston, also, he met Achille Marat, come from his home in Florida
to talk with Lafayette about his father, who met his death at the hands
of Charlotte Corday during the French Revolution. There were many
meetings in America to remind him of his life abroad. Francis Huger
joined him for a large part of his journey; he saw Dubois Martin, now
a jaunty old gentleman of eighty-three. It was he who had bought _La
Victoire_ for Lafayette's runaway journey. In New Jersey he dined with
Joseph Bonaparte, brother of Napoleon, who was living there quietly
with his daughter and son-in-law.

Both on the Western frontier and at the nation's capital he met Indian
chiefs with garments more brilliant and manners quite as dignified
as kings ever possessed. In a time of freshet in the West he became
the guest of an Indian named Big Warrior and spent the night in his
savage home. On another night he came near accepting unwillingly the
hospitality of the Ohio River, for the steamboat upon which he was
traveling caught fire, after the manner of river boats of that era,
and "burned a hole in the night" and disappeared. He lost many of his
belongings in consequence, including his hat, but not his serenity or
even a fraction of his health, though the accident occurred in the
pouring rain.

Everywhere, particularly in the West, he came to towns and counties
bearing his own name. In the East he revisited with his son spots made
memorable in the Revolution. On the Hudson he rose early to point out
[Pg 266]to George the place where André had been taken and the house
to which he and Washington had come so soon after Arnold's precipitate
flight. At West Point he reviewed the cadets, slim and straight and
young, while General Scott and General Brown, both tall, handsome
men, looking very smart indeed in their plumes and dress uniforms,
stood beside their visitor, who was almost as tall and military in his
bearing and quite as noticeable for the neatness and plainness of his
civilian dress.

Lafayette was broader of shoulder and distinctly heavier than he had
been forty years before. Even in his youth he had not been handsome,
though he possessed for Americans the magnetism his son so sadly
lacked. His once fair complexion had turned brown and his once reddish
hair had turned gray, but that was a secret concealed under a chestnut
wig. He carried a cane and walked with a slight limp, which Americans
attributed enthusiastically to his wound in their service, but which
was really caused by that fall upon the ice in 1803. Despite his
checkered fortunes his sixty-eight years had passed lightly over his
head. Perhaps he did not altogether relish being addressed as Venerable
Sir by mayors and town officials, any more than he liked to have laurel
wreaths pulling his wig awry, but he knew that both were meant in
exquisite politeness.

And, true Frenchman that he was, he never allowed himself to be outdone
in politeness. Everywhere incidents occurred, trivial enough, but very
charming in spirit, that have been treasured in memory and handed down
to this day. In New London two rival congregations besought him to [Pg
267]come to their churches and listen to their pastors. He pleased
them both. He led blind old ladies gallantly through the minuet. He
held tiny girls in his arms and, kissing them, said they reminded him
of his own little Virginia. He chatted delightfully with young men
who accompanied him as governors' aides in turn through the different
states; and if he extracted local information from these talks to use
it again slyly, with telling effect, in reply to the very next address
of welcome, that was a joke between themselves which they enjoyed
hugely. "He spoke the English language well, but slower than a native
American," one of these young aides tells us. He was seldom at a loss
for a graceful speech, though this was a gift that came to him late in
life. And his memory for faces seldom played him false. When William
Magaw, who had been surgeon of the old First Pennsylvania, visited him
and challenged him for recognition, Lafayette replied that he did not
remember his name, but that he knew very well what he had done for
him--he had dressed his wound after the battle of the Brandywine!

The processions and celebrations in Lafayette's honor culminated in
the ceremony for which he had crossed the Atlantic, the laying of the
corner-stone at Bunker Hill. Pious people had said hopefully that
the Lord could not let it rain on such a day; and their faith was
justified, for the weather was perfect. We are told that on the 17th of
June "everything that had wheels and everything that had legs" moved in
the direction of the monument. Accounts tell of endless organizations
[Pg 268]and of "miles of spectators," until there seemed to be not room
for another person to sit or stand. The same chaplain who had lifted up
his young voice in prayer in the darkness on Cambridge Common before
the men marched off to battle was there in the sunlight to raise his
old hands in blessing. Daniel Webster, who had not been born when the
battle was fought, was there to make the oration. He could move his
hearers as no other American has been able to do, playing upon their
emotions as upon an instrument, and never was his skill greater than
upon that day. He set the key of feeling in the words, "Venerable men,"
addressed to the forty survivors of the battle, a gray-haired group,
sitting together in the afternoon light. Lafayette had met this little
company in a quiet room before the ceremonies began and had greeted
each as if he were in truth a personal friend. After his part in the
ceremony was over he elected to sit with them instead of in the place
prepared for him. "I belong there," he said, and there he sat, his
chestnut wig shining in the gray company.

While Webster's eloquence worked its spell, and pride and joy and pain
even to the point of tears swept over the thousands of upturned faces
as cloud shadows sweep across a meadow, Lafayette must have remembered
another scene, a still greater assembly, even more tense with feeling,
in which he had been a central figure: that fête of the Federation on
the Champs de Mars. Surely no other man in history has been allowed to
feel himself so intimately a part of two nations in their moments of
patriotic exaltation.


[Pg 269]XXVIII

LEAVE-TAKINGS


Though the celebration at Bunker Hill was the crowning moment of
Lafayette's stay in America, he remained three months longer, sailing
home in September, 1825. The last weeks were spent in and near
Washington. Here he had fitted so perfectly into the scheme of life
that his comings and goings had ceased to cause remark, except as a
pleasant detail of the daily routine. Perhaps this is the subtlest
compliment Americans paid him. One of the mottoes in a hall decorated
in his honor had read, "_Où peut-on être mieux qu'au sein de sa
famille?_" "Where can a man feel more at home than in the bosom of his
family?"--and this attitude of Washingtonians toward him showed how
completely he had been adopted as one of themselves.

He had made himself one in thought and spirit with the most
aggressively American of them all. A witty speech of his proves this.
A bill had been introduced in Congress to present him with two hundred
thousand dollars in money and "twenty-four thousand acres of fertile
land in Florida" to right a wrong unintentionally done him years
[Pg 270]before. He had been entitled at the time of our Revolution to
the pay of an officer of his rank and to a grant of public land to be
located wherever he chose. He refused to accept either until after the
Revolution in France had swept away his fortune. Then his agent in the
United States chose for him a tract of land near New Orleans which
Jefferson thought would be of great value. Congress was not informed
and granted this same land to the city. Lafayette had a prior claim,
but flatly refused to contest the matter, saying he could have no
quarrel with the American people. Everybody wanted the bill concerning
this reparation in the way of money and Florida land to pass, and it
was certain to go through, but there were twenty-six members of the
House and Senate who, for one reason and another, felt constrained
to vote against it. Some voted consistently and persistently against
unusual appropriations of any kind; some argued that it was an insult
to translate Lafayette's services into terms of cold cash. The struggle
between private friendship and public duty was so hard that some of
them came to make a personal explanation. "My dear friends!" he cried,
grasping their hands, "I assure you it would have been different had
I been a member of Congress. There would not have been twenty-six
objectors--there would have been twenty-seven! " During this American
visit he renewed old ties with, or made the acquaintance of, nine
men who had been or were to become Presidents of the United States:
John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe,
[Pg 271]William Henry Harrison, Andrew Jackson, Zachary Taylor, and
Franklin Pierce. Perhaps there were others. He broke the rules of the
Puritan Sabbath by driving out to dine on that day with the venerable
John Adams at his home near Boston; but there was only one white horse
to draw his carriage instead of the customary four, and not a hurrah
broke the orderly quiet. Had it been a week-day the crowds would have
shouted themselves hoarse. Jefferson, ill and feeble, welcomed him
on the lawn at Monticello, the estate so dear to him which had been
ravaged by the British about the time Lafayette began his part in
driving Cornwallis to Yorktown.

As was quite fitting, Lafayette was the guest of President John Quincy
Adams at the White House during the last days of his stay. One incident
must be told, because it is so very American and so amusing from
the foreign point of view. He expressed a desire to make a visit of
farewell to his old friend James Monroe, who had been President the
year before. He was now living on his estate of Oak Hill, thirty-seven
miles away. President Adams offered to accompany him, and on an August
day they set out by carriage after an early dinner. Mr. Adams, both
Lafayettes, and a friend rode in the presidential carriage. Colonel
Lavasseur and the son of the President followed in a "tilbury," a
kind of uncovered gig fashionable then on both sides of the Atlantic.
Servants and luggage brought up the rear.

Lafayette had been passed free over thousands of miles of toll-road
[Pg 272]since he landed in the United States, but when they reached the
bridge across the Potomac the little procession halted and Mr. Adams
paid toll like an ordinary mortal. Scarcely had his carriage started
again when a plaintive, "Mr. President! Mr. President!" brought it to
a standstill. The gatekeeper came running up with a coin in his hand.
"Mr. President," he panted, "you've done made a mistake. I reckon yo'
thought this was two bits, but it's only a levy. You owe me another
twelve and a half cents." The President listened, gravely examined
the coin, counted the noses of men and horses, and agreed that he was
at fault. He was just reaching down into the presidential pocket when
he was arrested by a new exclamation. The gatekeeper had recognized
Lafayette and was thoroughly crestfallen. "I reckon the joke's on me,"
he said, apologetically. "All the toll-roads has orders to pass the
general free, so I owe you something instid of you owin' me money. I
reckon I ought to pass you-all as the general's bodyguard." But to
this Adams demurred. He was not anybody's bodyguard. He was President
of the United States, and, though it was true that toll-roads passed
the guest of the nation free, General Lafayette was riding that day in
his private capacity, as a friend of Mr. Adams. There was no reason
at all why the company should be cheated out of any of its toll. The
gatekeeper considered this and acknowledged the superiority of Yankee
logic. "That sounds fair," he admitted. "I reckon you-all do owe me
twelve and a half cents." In the tilbury young Adams grinned and
[Pg 273]Colonel Lavasseur chuckled his appreciation. "The one time
General Lafayette does not pass free over your roads," he said, "is
when he rides with the ruler of the country. In any other land he could
not pay, for that very reason."

When the day of farewell came Washington streets were filled with men
and women come out to see the last of the nation's guest. Stores and
public buildings were closed and surrounding regions poured their
crowds into the city. Everybody was sad. The cavalry escort which for a
year had gathered at unholy hours to speed Lafayette on his way or to
meet him on his return, whenever he could be persuaded to take it into
his confidence, met for the last time on such pleasant duty, taking its
station near the White House, where as many citizens as possible had
congregated. The hour set for departure was early afternoon. Officials
had begun to gather before eleven o'clock. At noon the President
appeared and took his place with them in a circle of chairs in the
large vestibule, whose outside doors had been opened wide to permit all
who could see to witness the public leave-taking.

After a brief interval of silence an inner door opened and Lafayette
came forward with the President's son and the marshal of the District.
Mr. Adams rose and made a short address. Lafayette attempted to reply,
but was overcome with feeling, and it was several moments before he
regained control of his voice. At the end of his little speech he
cried, "God bless you!" and opened his arms wide with a gesture that
included everybody. Then the crowd pressed forward and surrounded him
[Pg 274]until he retired to Mrs. Adams's sitting-room for the real
farewell with the President's household. After that Mr. Adams and he
appeared upon the portico. Lafayette stepped into a waiting carriage.
Flags dipped, cannon boomed, and the procession took up its march to
the wharf where a little steamer waited to carry the travelers down the
Potomac to the new government frigate Brandywine, on which they were
to sail. At the river's edge he reviewed the militia of the District
of Columbia, standing with some relatives of Washington's during
this final ceremony. It is said that a cheer that was like a cry of
bereavement rose from the crowd and mingled with the last boom of the
military salute as the boat swung out into the stream.

The sun had dropped below the horizon when they neared Mount Vernon.
The company was at dinner, everybody, even George Lafayette, working
hard to overcome the sadness that threatened to engulf the company.
The marshal came and bent over Lafayette, who pushed back his plate
and bowed his head upon his breast. Then he rose and hurried to the
deck for a parting look, at the home of his friend most of the company
following him. The eyes of both father and son sought out the stately
house set on a hill, which held so many associations for both of them.
The younger man had found the beautiful place less well cared for than
during the lifetime of its owner. Lafayette had returned to it only to
visit a tomb.

The trees near the mansion were already beginning to blur in the short
[Pg 275]September twilight. Silently, with his head a little bent and a
little turned to the right, as was his habit, he watched it as the boat
slipped by. The afterglow behind the house had deepened to molten gold
when a bend in the river blotted it from his sight. He turned like a
man coming out of a dream and hurried to his cabin without a word.

"Only then," says Lavasseur, "did he fully realize the sacrifice made
to France in leaving America."


[Pg 276]XXIX

PRESIDENT--OR KING-MAKER?


The ocean was no kinder than usual to Lafayette on his homeward voyage
and the reception he met in Havre lacked enthusiasm. Louis XVIII, who
was king when he went away, had died during his absence and another
brother of the ill-fated Louis XVI had mounted the throne, with the
title of Charles X. He was no other than the Comte d'Artois who had
presided over Lafayette's section in the Assembly of Notables and
had been blind to his presence when the two reached the same inn at
the same moment in Austria. His ministers were no more friendly to
liberals of Lafayette's way of thinking than those of his brothers had
been; but the liberals of France showed a distinct desire to notice
the home-coming of Lafayette. Police could and did disperse young men
on horseback who gathered under his windows at the inn in Rouen for a
serenade; but there were other ways of paying respect. One took the
form of a contest of poets "to celebrate a voyage which history will
place among the great events of the century." There were eighty-three
[Pg 277]contestants, and Béranger, who had already paid his tribute,
acted as a judge. In due time the victor was ceremoniously given a
prize. Lafayette must have been reminded of the burst of rhyme in
America quite as much by contrast as by similarity.

His children came to meet him, which more than compensated for official
neglect; and the welcome of several hundred neighbors when he reached
La Grange convinced him that his local popularity was not impaired.
On the whole he had reason to be well content. He brought home ruddy
health, knowledge of the love in which he was held by twelve million
warm-hearted Americans, and, a lesser consideration, doubtless, but one
for which to be properly grateful, the prospect of speedily rebuilding
the family fortunes. The grant of land voted by Congress was for
thirty-six sections of six hundred and forty acres each, "east of and
adjoining the city of Tallahassee in Leon County, Florida." So far
as the writer has been able to learn, it never greatly benefited him
or his heirs; but that fact was mercifully hidden in the future. In
addition to the land there was a goodly sum of money to his credit in a
Philadelphia bank.

He had stood the fatigues of the trip wonderfully. His cousin who
went to see him soon after his return marveled to find him "big, fat,
fresh, and joyous," showing not the least ill effects from having "gone
several months practically without sleep, in addition to talking,
writing, traveling, and drinking for all he was worth (_pour tout de
bon_) ten hours out of the twenty-four." And he brought home from
[Pg 278]across the sea another gift: an ease in public speaking which
astonished the friends who remembered the impatient scorn his silences
roused in Marie Antoinette and how seldom he made speeches in the
Assembly of Notables. During his command of the National Guard of Paris
his utterances had of necessity been more frequent and more emphatic,
but they betrayed none of the pleasure in addressing audiences that he
now evidently felt. It was as though the friendliness of the American
people had opened for him a new and delightful channel through which he
could express his good will toward all the world. His voice lent itself
well to public speaking; it could be soft or sonorous by turns, and
he had the art of using plain and simple words. His physician, Doctor
Cloquet, tells how some workmen were seen puzzling over a newspaper
and criticizing it rather severely until they came to a speech by
Lafayette. "Good!" said the reader, his face clearing. "At least we can
understand what this man says. He speaks French."

Delighting workmen was not a gift to ingratiate him with a Bourbon
king whose government was growing less popular every day. Lafayette
retired to La Grange among its vineyards and orchards in the flat
region of La Brie and took up life there again; cultivating his estate;
carrying on an immense correspondence in that small, well-formed script
of his which is yet so difficult to read; rejoicing in his family
and receiving many visitors. It was a cosmopolitan procession that
made its way up the Rozoy road to the château whose Norman towers had
[Pg 279]been old before the discovery of the New World. Some in that
procession were old friends, members of the French nobility, who came
in spite of Lafayette's politics; others were complete strangers drawn
to him from distant parts of the earth by these same opinions. French,
English, Americans, Austrians, Algerian sheiks, black men from the West
Indies--all were welcome.

In his study, an upper room in one of his five towers, he was literally
in the center of his world. From a window overlooking the farm-yard he
could direct the laborers by megaphone if he did not choose to go down
among them. His "speaking-trumpet," as Charles Sumner called it, still
lay on his desk when this American made his pious pilgrimage years
after Lafayette's death. On the walls of the library and living-room
hung relics that brought vividly to mind the history of two continents
during momentous years. The American Declaration of Independence and
the French Declaration of Rights hung side by side. A copy in bronze
of Houdon's bust of Washington had the place of honor. A portrait
of Bailly, a victim of the Revolution, hung over the fireplace in
Lafayette's study. There were swords presented by French admirers and
gifts from American cities and Indian chiefs. There was one room which
was entered only by Lafayette and his children, and that but once a
year, on the anniversary of his wife's death. It had been hers and was
closed and kept just as she left it.

Her death marked a distinct period in his life. There were those who
said that when she died Lafayette lost more than a loved companion;
[Pg 280]that he lost his conscience. In proof of this they pointed out
how in the later years of his life, after her steadying influence was
removed, he veered about in the troubled sea of French politics, like a
ship without a rudder. It is true only in a superficial sense; but it
is true that he was never quite the same after she died.

For seven years immediately after this loss he took no active part in
public affairs; partly because of his private sorrow, partly because
of his opposition to the emperor. He had been disappointed in Napoleon
and the latter distrusted him. "All the world is reformed," Napoleon
grumbled, "with one exception. That is Lafayette. He has not receded
from his position by so much as a hair's breadth. He is quiet now, but
I tell you he is ready to begin all over again." George and Lafayette's
son-in-law suffered from this displeasure in their army careers.
"These Lafayettes cross my path everywhere!" Napoleon is said to have
exclaimed when he found the names of the young men on an army list
submitted for promotion, and promptly scratched them off.

Then fortune began to go against the emperor and invading armies came
marching into France. Lafayette offered his sword and his experience
to his country, but the advice he gave appeared too dangerous and
revolutionary. What he desired was to force the abdication of Napoleon
at that time. He was in Paris on March 31, 1814, when foreign soldiers
entered the city. Powerless to do anything except grieve, he shut
himself up in his room. Napoleon retired to Elba and the brother of
[Pg 281]Louis XVI was summoned to take the title of Louis XVIII.
This was the prince Lafayette had intentionally offended when he was
scarcely more than a boy.

After he was made king, however, Lafayette wrote him a note of
congratulation and appeared in uniform at his first royal audience
wearing the white cockade. That certainly seemed like a change of
front, but Lafayette thought it a necessity. "It had to be Napoleon
or the Bourbons," he wrote Jefferson. "These are the only possible
alternatives in a country where the idea of republican executive power
is regarded as a synonym for excesses committed in its name." He
accepted the government of Louis XVIII as more liberal than that of the
emperor. Time and again after this he aided in the overthrow of one man
or party, only to turn against the new power he had helped create. He
even tried to work with Napoleon again after Louis XVIII fled to Ghent
and Bonaparte returned from Elba to found his "new democratic empire,"
known as the Hundred Days. Waterloo came at the end of it; then
Lafayette voiced the demand for the emperor's abdication and pressed it
hard.

"What!" he cried in answer to Lucien Bonaparte's appeal to the Chamber
of Deputies not to desert his brother, because that would be a
violation of national honor, "you accuse us of failing in duty toward
honor, toward Napoleon! Do you forget all we have done for him? The
bones of our brothers and of our children cry aloud from the sands of
Africa, from the banks of the Guadalquivir and the Tagus, from the
[Pg 282]shores of the Vistula and the glacial deserts of Russia. During
more than ten years three million Frenchmen have perished for this man
who wants to-day to fight all Europe. We have done enough for him. Our
duty now is to save our country!"

Lafayette was one of the deputation sent by the Chamber to thank the
ex-emperor after his abdication, and admired Napoleon's self-possession
during that trying scene. He thought Napoleon "played grandly the role
necessity forced upon him." Lafayette was also one of the commission
sent to negotiate with the victorious allies. It was there that he gave
his spirited answer to the demand that Napoleon be given up. "I am
astonished you should choose a prisoner of Olmütz as the person to whom
to make that shameful proposal."

Louis XVIII returned to power and soon Lafayette was opposing him.
So it went on for years. He said of himself that he was a man of
institutions, not of dynasties; and that he valued first principles so
much that he was very willing to compromise on matters of secondary
importance. He cared nothing for apparent consistency and did whatever
his erratic republican conscience dictated, without a thought of how
it might look to others. He was a born optimist, but a poor judge of
men; and in spite of repeated disappointments believed the promises
of each new ruler who came along. Liberal representative government
was of supreme importance in his eyes. If France was not yet ready
for a president, she could have it under a king. Each administration
[Pg 283]that promised a step in this direction received his support,
each lapse from it his censure. That appears to be the key to the many
shifting changes of his later life.

His popularity among the people waxed and waned. Usually it kept him
his seat in the Chamber of Deputies. From 1818 to 1824 he represented
the Sarthe; from 1825 to the close of his life the district of Meaux.
It was in the interval between that he made his visit to America. He
returned to find Charles X king. As that monarch lost popularity his
own influence gained. Charles's ministers thought their sovereign
showed ill-placed confidence and esteem when he freely acknowledged
that this liberal leader had rendered services to his family that no
true man could forget. "I know him well," Charles said. "We were born
in the same year. We learned to mount a horse together at the riding
academy at Versailles. He was a member of my division in the Assembly
of Notables. The fact is neither of us has changed--he no more than I."
That was just the point. Neither had changed. Charles X was a Bourbon
to the bone, and Lafayette had come back from America with renewed
health, replenished means, and all the revolutionary impetuosity of
youth. He had not one atom of that willingness to put up with "things
as they are" which grows upon many reformers as their hair turns gray.
John Quincy Adams divined this and advised Lafayette to have nothing
more to do with revolutions. "He is sixty-eight years old, but there is
fire beneath the cinders," the President of the United States confided
to his diary in August, 1825.

[Pg 284]The cinders glowed each time Charles X emphasized his
Bourbonism; and caught fire again when the king made the Prince de
Polignac prime minister in defiance of all liberal Frenchmen. That
happened in 1829. Lafayette took occasion to visit Auvergne, the
province of his birth, in company with his son, and was received with
an enthusiasm rivaling his most popular days in America. The journey
was prolonged farther than strict necessity required and did much
to unite opposition to the king, for leaders of the liberal party
profited by banquets and receptions in Lafayette's honor to spread
their doctrines. More than one official who permitted such gatherings
lost his job in consequence. Lafayette returned to La Grange; but in
the following July, when the storm broke, he called for his horses
and hurried to Paris. The Chamber of Deputies was not in session; he
thought it ought to be; and he started as soon as he had read a copy
of the Royal Ordinances which limited the freedom of the press and
otherwise threatened the rights of the people.

Before he reached Paris blood had been shed and barricades had been
thrown across the streets. Alighting from his carriage, he told the
guards his name, dragged his stiff leg over the obstructions, and
joined the little group of legislators who were striving to give this
revolt the sanction of law. Having had more experience in revolutions
than they--this was his fourth--he became their leader, and on July
29, 1830, found himself in the exact position he had occupied forty
[Pg 285]years before, commander of the National Guard and practically
dictator of France. An unwillingly admiring biographer says that he had
learned no wisdom in the interval; that he "pursued the same course
with the same want of success." This time he held the balance of power
for only two days, but it was actual concentrated power while it
lasted. It was he who sent back to Charles the stern answer that his
offers of compromise came too late, that the royal family had ceased to
reign. And it was he who had to choose the next form of government for
France.

It was a dramatic choice. He was frankly ambitious; and quite within
his reach lay the honor he would have preferred above all others. The
choice lay between becoming himself President of France or, making a
new king. It was put to him fairly and squarely: "If we have a republic
you will be president. If a monarchy, the Duc d'Orléans will be king.
Will you take the responsibility of a republic?" A man with "a canine
appetite for fame" and nothing more could have found but one answer,
and that not the answer Lafayette gave. In his few hours of power he
had talked with men from all parts of France. These confirmed his
belief that the country was not yet ready for the change to a republic.
It would be better to have a king for a while longer, provided he was a
liberal king, pledged to support a constitution. The Duc d'Orléans gave
promise of being just such a king. He was son of the duke Lafayette had
banished from Paris after the mob attacked Versailles in 1789; but he
[Pg 286]had fought on the liberal side. The people knew him as Philippe
Égalité--"Equality Philip"--and during recent years he had given
evidence of being far more democratic than any other member of his
family. To choose him would please liberals and conservatives alike,
because he was next in line of succession after the sons of the deposed
king.

Being by no means devoid of ambition, the duke was already in Paris,
awaiting what might happen. The Deputies sent him an invitation to
become lieutenant-general of the kingdom. Accounts vary as to the
manner in which it was accepted. One has him walking with ostentatious
humility through the streets to the Hôtel de Ville, preceded by a
drummer to call attention to the fact that he was walking and that
he wore a tricolored scarf. Another has him on horseback without the
scarf. It matters little; they agree that he was not very well received
and that shouts of "No more Bourbons!" betrayed the suspicion that the
duke's liberality, like the scarf, if he wore one, could be put on for
the occasion. Accounts agree, too, that it was Lafayette who swung
popular feeling to his side. He met him at the foot of the stairs and
ascended with him to the Chamber of Deputies; and in answer to the
coolness with which he was greeted and the evident hostility of the
crowd outside, thrust a banner into the duke's hand and drew him to a
balcony, where he publicly embraced him. Paris was easily moved by such
spectacles. Carried away by the sight of the two enveloped in the folds
of the same flag, and that the Tricolor, which had been forbidden for
[Pg 287]fifteen years, they burst into enthusiastic shouts of "Vive
Lafayette!" "Long live the Duc d'Orléans!" Chateaubriand says that
"Lafayette's republican kiss made a king," and adds, "Singular result
of the whole life of the hero of two worlds!"

[Illustration: MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE AND LOUIS PHILIPPE

After the Revolution of 1830, it was Lafayette who swung popular
feeling to the side of Louis Philippe]

Louis Philippe, the new king, promised to approve certain very liberal
measures known as the program of the Hôtel de Ville; Lafayette saw
to that. The king even agreed in conversation with Lafayette that
the United States had the best form of government on earth. He
had spent some years in America and probably knew. He was called,
enthusiastically or mockingly, as the case might be, the Bourgeois
King; but the suspicion that his sympathies with the people were only
assumed proved well founded. As time wore on it became manifest that he
was as eager for arbitrary power as ever Louis XIV had been, without
possessing Louis XIV's great ability. At first, however, everything was
rose-colored. A few days after the new king had ascended the throne
Lafayette wrote: "The choice of the king is good. I thought so, and I
think so still more since I know him and his family. Things will not go
in the best possible way, but liberty has made great progress and will
make still more. Besides, I have done what my conscience dictated; and
if I have made a mistake, it was made in good faith."

That belief at least he could keep to the end. Two weeks after Louis
Philippe became king Lafayette was appointed general in command of the
National Guards of the kingdom, a position he held from August until
Christmas. Then a new law abolished the office in effect but not in
[Pg 288]appearance. Lafayette sent the king his resignation and refused
to reconsider it or even to talk the matter over, as the king asked
him to do. "No, my dear cousin, I understand my position," Lafayette
wrote Philip de Ségur. "I know that I weigh like a nightmare on the
Palais Royal; not on the king and his family, who are the best people
in the world, and I love them tenderly, but on the people who surround
them.... Without doubt I have been useful in his advancement. But if I
sacrificed for him some of my personal convictions, it was only on the
faith of the program of the Hôtel de Ville. I announced a king basing
his reign on republican institutions. To that declaration, which the
people seem to forget, I attach great importance; and it is that which
the court does not forgive.... From all this the conclusion follows
that I have become bothersome. I take my stand. I will retain the same
friendliness for the royal family, but I have only one word of honor,
and I cannot change my convictions."

So once again, near the close of his life, he found himself in
opposition to a government he had helped to create.


[Pg 289]XXX

SEVENTY-SIX YEARS YOUNG


Although he had resigned the office to which the king had appointed
him, Lafayette continued to hold his place in the Chamber of Deputies;
the office to which the people had elected him. Here he worked in
behalf of the oppressed of his own and other nations; the Irish, for
example, and the Poles, in whose struggles for liberty he was deeply
interested.

When the Chamber of Deputies was in session he lived in Paris.
Vacations were spent at La Grange, where he pursued the varied
interests of his many-sided life, particularly enjoying, in his
character of farmer, the triumph of his beasts and fruits in
neighborhood fairs. In the winter of 1834 he was as usual in Paris, and
on the 26th of January made the speech in behalf of Polish refugees
then in France which proved to be his last public address. A few days
later he attended the funeral of one of the Deputies, following the
coffin on foot all the long distance from the house to the cemetery,
as was the French custom, and standing on the damp ground through the
[Pg 290]delivery of the funeral discourses. The exposure and fatigue
were too much for even his hardy old body.

He was confined to his room for many weeks, but carried on a life as
normal as possible, having his children around him, receiving visits
of intimate friends, reading journals and new books, and dictating
letters. One of these was to Andrew Jackson about his fight with the
United States Senate. The inactivity of the sick-chamber was very
irksome to him, and by the 9th of May he was so far improved that
his physicians allowed him to go for a drive. Unfortunately a storm
came up, the weather turned suddenly cold, and he suffered a chill,
after which his condition became alarming. When it was known that
he was a very sick man, friends and political enemies--he had no
personal enemies--hastened to make inquiries and to offer condolences.
Occasionally George Lafayette was able to answer that his father
seemed better; but the improvement was not real. On the 20th of May he
appeared to wake and to search for something on his breast. His son put
into his hands the miniature of Adrienne that he always wore. He had
strength to raise it to his lips, then sank into unconsciousness from
which he passed into the sleep of death.

He was laid to rest in the cemetery of Picpus beside the wife who had
awaited him there for more than a quarter of a century; but his grave
was made in earth from an American battle-field that he had brought
home with him after his last visit. Fifteen natives of Poland bore the
coffin to the hearse. There were honorary pall-bearers representing the
[Pg 291]Chamber of Deputies, the National Guard, the Army, the United
States, Poland, and his own electoral district of Meaux. It was purely
a military funeral. His party friends hotly declared that it was not a
funeral at all, only a monster military parade. The government feared
that his burial might be made the occasion for political demonstrations
and ordered out such an immense number of troops that "the funeral car
passed almost unseen in the midst of a battalion whose bayonets ...
kept the people from rendering homage to their liberator." "He was
there lifeless, but not without honor," wrote an indignant friend.
"The French army surrounded him in his coffin as relentlessly as the
Austrian army had held him a prisoner at Olmütz." Even the cemetery
was guarded as if to withstand a siege. "Only the dead and his family
might enter.... One would say that the government looked upon the
mortal remains of this friend of liberty as a bit of prey which must
not be allowed to escape." The liberals resented this fancied attitude
of the government so bitterly that a cartoonist drew Louis Philippe
rubbing his hands together with satisfaction as the procession passed
and saying, gleefully, "Lafayette, you're caught, old man!" Only one
incident occurred to justify so many precautions. In the Place Vendome
a few score young men carrying a banner tried to break through the line
of soldiers, but were repulsed. Elsewhere people looked on in silence.

Lafayette's political friends complained that not one of the king's
[Pg 292]ministers was to be seen in the procession. The ministers
answered that politics were out of place at the funeral of such
a distinguished man; and that the government rendered its homage
regardless of party. While friends and foes wrangled thus over the
coffin, Nature did her beautiful consoling best. Chateaubriand,
standing in the silent crowd, saw the hearse stop a moment as it
reached the top of a hill, and as it stopped a fugitive ray of sunlight
came to rest upon it, then disappeared, gilding the guns and military
trappings as it passed.

In spite of all this recrimination Lafayette's death passed
comparatively unnoticed in France, for it occurred during a season of
political turmoil and he had retired several years before from active
affairs. Three thousand miles away the news produced far greater
effect. He was mourned in America with universal sorrow. All over the
country flags floated at half-mast. The House and Senate of the United
States passed resolutions which were sent to George Lafayette, while
the members wore crape upon their arms for thirty days and the Senate
Chamber and Hall of Representatives remained draped in black until the
end of the session. Our army and navy wore a tribute of crape upon
their sleeves also, and on a given day every city in the Union heard
the mourning salute of twenty-four guns, and after that at half-hour
intervals until sunset the booming of a single cannon. "Touching
honors," says a French writer, "rendered by a great people to the
memory of a stranger who had served them sixty years before."

       *       *       *       *       *

[Pg 293]Lafayette lived to hold his great-grandchild in his arms, yet
the period of his life seems very short if measured by the changes
that came about while he walked the earth. It was a time when old
men dreamed dreams and young men saw visions, and during Lafayette's
seventy-six years some of the visions became realities, some of his
dreams he saw well on the way to fulfilment.

The French regard Lafayette's American career as only an episode in
his life; while Americans are apt to forget that he had a career in
France. He lived in three distinct periods of history, so different
that they might have been centuries apart. He saw medieval Europe; the
stormy period of change, and something very like the modern world we
know to-day. Peasants knelt in the dust before the nobles, after he
was a grown man; yet, in his old age, railroads and republicanism were
established facts. "To have made for oneself a rôle in one or another
of these periods suffices for a career," says his French biographer
Donoil; "very few have had a career in all."

Lafayette played an important part in all three. Not only that; it
was his strange good fortune to hold familiar converse with two of
the greatest figures in history--the two very greatest of his own
age--Washington and Napoleon. That he seems even measurably great in
such company shows his true stature. Washington was his friend, who
loved him like a son. Napoleon appears to have been one of the very few
men Lafayette could never quite bring himself to trust, though Napoleon
[Pg 294]rendered him an immense service and did everything in his great
power to win his support.

If, as certain French historians say, Lafayette and Napoleon were
dictators in turn, Lafayette's task was in a way the harder of the two;
for Napoleon's turn came after the fury had spent itself and men were
beginning to recover, sobered by their own excesses. It was in the
mounting delirium of their fever that Lafayette's middle course brought
upon him first distrust, then enmity from both sides.

If an Austrian prison had not kept him from destruction he must have
perished during the Revolution, for he was never swerved by fear of
personal danger. One of his eulogists asserts that he was "too noble
to be shrewd." Another says that he judged men by his own feelings and
was "misled by illusions honorable to himself." After his experience in
America he undoubtedly expected to play a great part in the uprising
in France, and, not realizing the strength of selfishness and passion,
helped to let loose forces too powerful to control. One of his critics
has asserted that he never made a wise or a correct decision; but
critics and eulogists alike agree that he was upright and brave. They
are justified in saying he was vain. His vanity took the form of
believing himself right.

He was not self-seeking, and the lack of that quality caused him to
be regarded with puzzled surprise by men who could not understand his
willingness to step aside in favor of some one else, when he thought
the cause demanded it. "It seemed so foolish," said Madame de Staël
[Pg 295]in her sympathetic portrait, "to prefer one's country to
oneself... to look upon the human race, not as cards to be played for
one's own profit, but as an object of sacred devotion." Chateaubriand
said that forty years had to pass after Lafayette's death before people
were really convinced that he had been an idealist and not a fool. The
fact was brought home to them, little by little, as records scattered
to the four winds during the Revolution gradually saw the light of
print; here a public document, there a private letter, there again a
bit of personal reminiscence. Fitting together like a puzzle, they
showed at last how one single idea had inspired all Lafayette's acts,
even when they seemed most erratic. "Fortunately for him," says one
of his French biographers, "it was the idea of the century--political
liberty."

In his lifetime he arranged his papers for publication and dictated
occasional bits of comment; but these were only fragmentary, as many of
his papers were lost. Besides, it was a task for which he had no great
zest. He said it seemed ungracious to accuse men of persecuting him who
afterward died for the very principles he upheld. He was sure history
would accord to each his just deserts. Madame de Staël said that his
belief in the final triumph of liberty was as strong as the belief of a
pious man in a future life. He said himself that liberty was to him a
love, a religion, a "geometric certainty."

To his last day he pursued this ideal of his wherever it led him. His
failure to learn worldly wisdom irritated many. It was incongruous,
like the contrast between his polished old-time manners and the rash
[Pg 296]utterances that fell from his lips. It must be confessed that
in his latter years he was not always clear-sighted as to the means he
employed. Once he descended to methods better suited to Italy in the
Middle Ages than to political reformers in 1822. There were times, too,
when he seemed bent on self-destruction. Those near him were convinced
that he would like to lose his life provided he could thereby add to
the luster of his reputation. "I have lived long," was his answer to
intimate friends who gave him counsels of prudence. "It seems to me
that it would be quite fitting to end my career upon the scaffold, a
sacrifice to liberty."

Napoleon's estimate of him was short and severe. "Lafayette was another
of the fools; he was not cut out for the great rôle he wanted to play."
When some one ventured to remind the ex-emperor of Lafayette's spirited
refusal to give him up on the demand of the allied powers, Napoleon
answered dryly that he was not attacking Lafayette's sentiments or
his good intentions, but was merely complaining of the mess he made
of things. Lafayette's estimate of the former emperor was even more
severe. He thought Napoleon's really glorious title had been "Soldier
of the Revolution" and that the crown was for him "a degradation."
American history would have been the loser if either of these men
had not lived. Lafayette helped win us our country. By selling us
Louisiana, Napoleon almost doubled its extent. Napoleon's heart rarely
led him into trouble; personal ambition seldom led Lafayette far
[Pg 297]astray. The two can be contrasted, but not compared. There is
food for thought in the fact that a statue of Lafayette, modeled by an
American sculptor and given by five million American schoolchildren to
France, should have been erected in the Louvre on the spot once set
apart for a statue of the French emperor.

Madame de Staël thought Lafayette more like the English and Americans
than like the French, even in his personal appearance. Another French
estimate, that he had "a cold manner, masking concentrated enthusiasm,"
is quite in keeping with American character, as was his incorrigible
dash of optimism. It was to America, a country of wide spaces and few
inhabitants, that he followed his vision of liberty in early manhood,
and there where the play and interplay of selfish interests was far
less complicated than in France he saw it become a practical reality.
Later he championed many noble causes in many parts of the world. Next
to political freedom and as a necessary part of it, he had at heart
the emancipation of the negroes. This he tried himself to put into
practice. He was shocked when he returned to our country in 1824 to
find how much race prejudice had increased. He remembered that black
soldiers and white messed together during the American Revolution.

Religious liberty for Protestants, civil rights for Jews and
Protestants; suppression of the infamous _lettres de cachet_; trial
by jury; a revision of French criminal law to allow the accused
the privilege of counsel, of confronting witnesses, and of free
[Pg 298]communication with his family--benefits, by the way, which were
all enjoyed by the accused in the state trials which took place while
Lafayette was in power; abolition of the death penalty and freedom of
the press were some of the measures most ardently championed by this
believer in liberty and law.

He remained a man of visions to the end. After his death one of the
men who wrote in praise of him said that if he had lived during the
Middle Ages he would have been the founder of a great religious order,
one which had a profound moral truth as its guiding principle. Another
compared him to a Knight of the Round Table fighting for the lady of
his adoration, whose name was Liberty. Possibly no knight-errant,
ancient or modern, can seem altogether sane, much less prudent, to the
average unimaginative dweller in this workaday world. Yet what would
the workaday world be without its knights-errant of the past; the good
their knight-errantry has already accomplished; the courage it inspires
for to-day; the promise it gives us for the future?

If we dwell on the few times that Lafayette did not choose wisely, the
times when the warm impulses of his heart would have carried farther
had his head taken a more masterful part in directing his acts, we are
tempted to echo the criticism made upon the unfortunate Louis XVI,
"What a pity his talents did not equal his virtues!" But when we think
of the generous, optimistic spirit of Lafayette, and how that spirit
remained unchanged through good fortune and ill from boyhood to old
age; of his fearless devotion to right as he saw the right; of his
[Pg 299]charm, and of the great debt our country owes him, his mistakes
fade away altogether and we see only a very gallant, inspiring figure
uniting the Old World with the New.

There can be no better eulogy for this brave gentleman, beloved of
Washington, than the few words he wrote in all simplicity after he had
been called upon to make his great decision between Louis Philippe and
himself:

"I did as my conscience dictated. If I was mistaken, the mistake was
made in good faith."

[Pg 300]

[Pg 301]INDEX

A

Adams, Charles Francis, 271, 272.
Adams, John, 87, 270, 271.
Adams, John Quincy, 260, 270, 271-274, 283.
Adams, Mrs. John Quincy, 274.
Aiguillon, Duc d', 198.
André, Major John, 140-143, 265.
Arbuthnot, Adm. Marriot, 133.
Arnold, Gen. Benedict, 84, 139-143, 146, 147, 149, 151-154, 266.
Arnold, Mrs. Benedict, 140-143.
Ayen, Marshal de Noailles, Duc d', 15-17, 29, 44-46, 49, 50, 55,
91, 124.
Ayen, Duchesse d', 15-18, 21, 29, 45, 46, 80, 237, 239, 243, 244, 254.

B

Bailly, Jean Sylvain, 193, 196, 207, 211, 216, 279.
Bedaulx, Captain de, 55.
Béranger, Pierre Jean de, 276, 277.
Big Warrior, 265.
Bollman, Dr. Justis Eric, 229-235.
Bonaparte, Joseph, 265.
Bonaparte, Lucien, 255, 281.
Bonaparte, Napoleon, 108, 246, 251, 252, 255, 256, 258, 259,
265, 280-282, 293, 294, 296.
Bourbon, Duc de, 222.
Braddock, Gen. Edward, 70.
Broglie, Comte de, 32, 35, 41, 48, 68.
Brown, Gen. Jacob, 266.
Buckle, Henry Thomas, 22.
Buisson, Chevalier du, 62, 64, 65, 68.
Burgoyne, Gen. John, 74, 77, 83, 84, 91, 101, 108.
Byron, Adm. John, 114.

C

Cadwallader, Gen. John, 109.
Calonne, Charles Alexandre de, 187, 188.
Carmichael, William, 39, 42, 43, 55.
Catherine II of Russia, 185.
Charles, Prince of Lorraine, 222.
Charles VII of France, 3.
Charles X of France (Comte d'Artois), 188, 197, 225, 276, 283-285.
Chasteler, Marquis de, 245, 246.
Chateaubriand, François, 287, 292, 295.
Clarence, Duke of, 2.
Clay, Henry, 260, 263, 264.
Clinton, Gen. Sir Henry, 44, 91, 104-107, 109, 114, 133-135, 153, 156, 160-162.
Cloquet, Dr. Jules Germain, 278.
Cochran, Surgeon-General John, 79, 120, 121.
Conway Cabal, 84, 85, 91-99, 103, 111.
Conway, Gen. Thomas, 85, 92, 95-97, 99, 103.
Corday, Charlotte, 265.
Cornwallis, Gen. Charles:
  Operations against Philadelphia, 78, 79, 85, 86.
  Capture of Charleston, 133.
  Virginia campaign, 149, 153-165, 271.
  Surrender, 127, 165-168, 171, 216.
  Guest of Frederick the Great, 181.
  Intercedes for Lafayette, 227.
Coudray, Philip C. J. B. T. de, 66.
Crawford, William Harris, 260.

D

Danton, Georges Jacques, 206.
Davis, Capt. John, 158.
Deane, Silas, 36, 37, 43, 55, 66-69, 87, 89, 114.
Desmoulins, Camille Benoit, 197.
Donoil, Henri, 293.
Doria, Andrea, 2.

E

Estaing, Adm. Charles Hector, Comte d', 113-119, 134, 172.

F

Fénelon, Francois de Salignac, 10, 11.
Feyon, Abbé, 8, 14, 81.
Fitzpatrick, Mr., 89, 90, 227.
Fox, Charles James, 227.
Francis I of France, 2.
Franklin, Benjamin, 39, 40, 42, 43, 67, 70, 89, 101, 129, 171, 172, 176.
Frederick the Great, 12, 100, 173, 180, 181, 183, 229.
Frederick William II of Prussia, 181, 224, 226, 228, 229, 239, 245, 249.
Frestal, M. de, 237, 238.

G

Gage, Gen. Thomas, 73.
Gates, Gen. Horatio, 84, 85, 92, 95, 98, 111.
George III of England, 32, 44, 47, 80, 81, 99, 127, 143, 160, 259.
Germain, Lord George, 44.
Gimat, Major de, 79, 163, 165.
Gloucester, William Henry, Duke of, 32, 33.
Grasse, Adm. Francois J. P., Comte de, 161-163, 168, 169.
Greene, Gen. Nathanael, 78, 85, 86, 108, 109, 116, 117, 146, 149,
153, 155, 168, 169, 265.
Guichen, Adm. Comte de, 138.

H

Hamilton, Alexander, 155, 156, 165.
Harrison, Benjamin, 75.
Harrison, William Henry, 270, 271.
Hénin, Princesse d', 225-227.
Henri IV of France, 31, 212.
Howe, Adm. Richard, 106, 117.
Howe, Gen. William, Viscount, 47, 73-77, 79, 80, 82, 83, 85, 89, 91, 94, 104-106.
Huger, Maj. Benjamin, 59, 60, 62, 229.
Huger, Francis Kinloch, 59, 229-235, 265.

J

Jackson, Andrew, 260, 271, 290.
Jefferson, Thomas, 92, 147, 156, 201, 202, 270, 271.
Joan of Arc, 3.
Jones, John Paul, 125, 126.

K

Kalb, Johan, Baron de:
  Accompanies Lafayette to America, 35, 36, 41, 44, 48-51, 57, 58, 60, 62, 63.
  Treatment by Congress, 65, 68-70.
  Interest in Lafayette's wound, 80.
  With Lafayette at Albany, 96, 99.
  Monument, 264.
Knox, Gen. Henry, 137, 140.
Kosciuszko, Gen. Tadensz, 84.

L

Lafayette, Marie-Joseph-Paul-Yves-Roch-Gilbert-Dumotier, Marquis de:
  Birth, 3, 4.
  Boyhood, 5-12.
  Marriage, 14-18.
  Life at Court, 19, 27-31.
  With his regiment, 20, 32-35.
  Smallpox, 21.
  Resolves to go to America, 34.
  Efforts to leave France, 35-47.
  Departure and voyage, 48-56.
  Lands: goes to Philadelphia, 57-63.
  Reception by Congress, 64-69.
  Enters American Army, 70-72, 74, 75.
  Battle of the Brandywine, 77-80.
  At Bethlehem: rejoins army, 80-83.
  Intrigues against, 84, 85, 91-98.
  Skirmish near Gloucester, 85-87.
  Conduct, in army, 88, 89, 94.
  Attends Indian council, 98, 99.
  Returns to Valley Forge, 99, 102.
  At Barren Hill, 104-107.
  Votes to attack Clinton, 109.
  Battle of Monmouth Court House, 109-111.
  Liaison officer, 113-116, 118.
  Joint command with General Greene, 116-117.
  Challenges Earl of Carlisle, 119.
  Granted leave of absence, 119.
  Illness and homeward voyage, 120-123.
  Winter in France, 124-128.
  Rejoins Washington, 130.
  Again liaison officer, 134-138.
  West Point, and André, 139-143.
  French officers' attitude toward, 144, 145.
  First campaign in Virginia, 146-148.
  Second campaign in Virginia, 150-165.
  At Yorktown, 165-169.
  Popularity in France, 169-172, 175, 176, 196, 200, 212, 283.
  In Spain, 172-174.
  Plan to free slaves, 174.
  Improvements at Chavaniac, 174, 175.
  Paris home, 175, 176, 178.
  Interest in Mesmer, 176, 177.
  Visit to America, 1784, 177, 178.
  Sends gifts to Washington, 179, 196.
  Visits Frederick the Great, 180-182.
  Champion of reforms, 182-183, 185, 187-190, 297.
  Member Assembly of Notables, 185-190.
  Vice-President National Assembly, 195.
  Commands Paris National Guard, 196-215, 284, 285, 298.
  Invents the Tricolor, 197.
  Neither Republican nor Royalist, 201, 202, 213.
  Blamed for attack on Versailles, 203, 205.
  At fête of Federation, 209-212.
  Slanders and attacks upon, 213.
  Arrests king and queen, 214.
  Defeated for mayor of Paris, 216.
  Commands army of defense, 216-220.
  Last effort to save Louis XVI, 218, 219.
  Flight and arrest, 219-221.
  Imprisonment, 222-247.
  Attempted escape, 229-233.
  Exile, 248-253.
  Returns to Paris, 253.
  Life at La Grange, 254, 278, 279, 289.
  Death of his wife, 257, 279, 280.
  Relations with Napoleon, 251, 255, 256, 280-282.
  Member, Chamber of Deputies, 256, 259, 283, 284, 286, 289.
  Revisits America, 259-275.
  Lays corner-stone at Bunker Hill, 267-269.
  Welcome in France, 276, 277.
  Relations with Louis XVIII, 280-282.
  Relations with Charles X, 283-285.
  Relations with Louis Philippe, 285-288.
  Illness and death, 289-290.
  Character, 10, 29, 30, 82, 86, 87, 92, 119, 125, 126, 136,
  145, 159, 200, 254, 255, 282, 283, 294-296, 298, 299.
  Correspondence with:
    Bollman, 230.
    Mlle. de Chavaniac, 14.
    Congress, 66, 173.
    d'Estaing, 114, 115.
    Fitzpatrick, 248.
    French Minister, 139-143.
    Governor of Martinique, 82.
    Hamilton, 155, 156.
    Mme. d'Hénin, 225, 226.
    Huger, 248.
    Jefferson, 281.
    Louis XVI, 124.
    Maubourg, 257.
    Napoleon, 251, 252.
    Nelson, 155.
    Relatives, 137, 174.
    Vergennes, 145.
    Washington, 85, 86, 96, 97, 116, 117, 127, 135, 146, 150, 152,
    153, 160, 161, 170, 173, 174, 176, 177, 181, 182, 189.
    His wife, 53-55, 59-63, 76, 80, 81, 88-90, 93, 102, 129, 133,
    137, 143, 144, 223, 237, 258.
  Opinion of Washington, 71, 91.
  Opinion of the American Revolution, 108.
  Family of:
    Ancestors, 2-4, 33.
    Aunts, 4, 5, 7, 174, 238, 256, 257.
    Children:
      Anastasie, 92, 125, 129, 170, 175, 176, 178, 236, 238-244, 247, 248.
      George Washington, 129, 130, 170, 173, 175, 236, 238, 239, 249-251,
      256, 259, 263, 265, 271, 274, 280, 284, 290, 292.
      Henriette, 29, 102.
      Virginia, 175, 176, 178, 236, 238-244, 247, 257, 267.
    Cousin, 277.
    Father, 3, 4, 33, 35.
    Granchildren, 258, 293.
    Mother, 3-9, 12.
    Uncles, 9, 14, 35.
    Wife:
      Marie Adrienne Françoise de Noailles.
      Marriage, 15-18.
      Before the French Revolution, 19, 29, 45, 46, 102, 129, 169, 170, 174-176, 178.
      Experiences during the Terror, 237, 238.
      At Olmütz, 236, 240-245.
      Release and exile, 247, 248.
      Visits Napoleon, 253, 254.
      Inherits La Grange, 254.
      Death, 257.
      Influence over her husband, 279, 280.
      Mentioned, 32, 53, 59-63, 67, 80, 81, 88, 93, 102, 103, 129, 133, 143,
      144, 169, 178, 215, 223, 258, 290.
Lally Tollendal, Trophime Gerard, Marquis de, 227, 228.
Lameth, Alexandre, 223, 230.
Lasteyrie, Louis du Saillant, Marquis de, 257.
Laurens, Henry, 79, 80, 138.
Laurens, Col. John, 138, 145, 161, 165.
Ledyard, John, 172.
Lee, Arthur, 39, 42, 43.
Lee, Gen. Charles, 85, 108-111.
Lee, Gen. "Lighthorse Harry," 167.
Leszczynska, Marie, 9.
Levasseur, Col. A., 260, 271-273, 275.
Lincoln, Gen. Benjamin, 166.
Louis XIV of France, 13, 183.
Louis XV of France, 5, 6, 9, 12, 13, 19-22, 25, 30, 183.
Louis XVI of France:
  Lacks confidence, 21, 30, 194.
  Orders Lafayette's arrest, 47.
  Receives American commissioners, 101.
  Letter to, from Congress, 119.
  Interviews with Lafayette, 124, 128, 177, 214.
  Makes Lafayette marshal of France, 171.
  Talk with Richelieu, 183.
  Convenes Assembly of Notables, 185.
  Opens States General, 191.
  Contests with National Assembly, 193-196.
  Cheered and attacked, 197, 203-205.
  Attempt to escape, 213, 214.
  Signs Constitution, 215.
  Last weeks of reign, 217-219.
  Death of, 236.
  Mentioned, 32, 34, 36, 39, 52, 188, 189, 198, 201-206, 216,
  224, 228, 280-281.
Louis XVIII of France, 30, 276, 280-282.
Louis Philippe (Philippe Égalité), 285-288, 291.
Lovell, James, 64-67.
Luckner, General, 217.

M

Madison, James, 270.
Magaw, William, 267.
Marat, Achille, 265.
Marat, Jean Paul, 206, 207, 213.
Marie Antoinette:
  Character, 21, 192, 202, 278.
  Court of, 29, 30, 101, 169, 170, 191.
  Admires Franklin, 42.
  Opposes visit of Louis to Paris, 197.
  Attacked at Versailles, 203-205.
  At fête of Federation, 211.
  Name coupled with Lafayette's, 213.
  Refuses Lafayette's help, 219.
  Arrest of, 219.
Marmontel, Jean Frangois, 178.
Martin, Dubois, 41, 265.
Maubourg, Charles Latour, 248.
Maubourg, Latour, 223, 224, 230, 235, 242, 245, 247, 251, 252, 257.
Maurepas, Jean F. P., Comte de, 30, 31, 50, 82, 125.
Mauroy, Vicomte de, 51, 52, 65.
Mesmer, Friedrich Anton, 176, 177.
Mirabeau, Gabriel Honors Riquetti, Comte du, 194, 195, 202, 213, 219, 254.
Monroe, James, 238, 259, 270, 271.
Morgan, Gen. Daniel, 84.
Morris, Gouverneur, 64, 201, 213, 218, 227, 237, 248.
Morrolet, Abbé, 178.

N

Necker, Jacques, 186, 187, 227.
Noailles, Louis de, 15-17, 29, 237, 239, 257.
Noailles, Madame de, 237, 239, 257.
Noailles, Marquis de, ambassador to England, 43, 47.
Noailles, Vicomte de, 17, 29, 39, 40, 45, 136, 145, 195, 198.

O

O'Hara, Gen. James, 166.
Orléans, Louis Philippe Joseph, Duc d', 203, 205.

P

Pétion, Jerôme, 216.
Phillips, Gen. William, 149-154.
Pierce, Franklin, 271.
Polignac, Prince de, 284.
Pontonnier, Félix, 235, 244, 247, 254.
Pulaski, Count Casimir, 81, 265.
Pusy, Bureaux de, 223, 230, 235, 242-244, 247, 251, 252.

R

Rawdon, Francis, Marquis of Hastings, 44, 149.
Raynal, Abbé, 81.
Richelieu, Cardinal, 3.
Richelieu, Maréchal Louis F. A. du Plessis, Duc de, 170, 183, 184.
Rivière, Comte de la, 9, 14.
Robespierre, Maximilian, M. I., 218, 238.
Rochambeau, Col. Donatien M. J. de V., Vicomte de, 137, 161.
Rochambeau, Jean Baptiste D. de V., Comte de, 133-137, 141, 161, 162, 166, 167, 216.
Romeuf, Louis, 223, 247.
Rousseau, Jean Jacques, 11.

S

Saint-Germain, Claude Louis, Comte de, 101.
Saint-Simon, Gen. Claude Henri, Comte de, 163.
Schuyler, Gen. Philip, 84, 97, 98, 108.
Scott, Gen. Winfield, 266.
Ségur, Louis Philippe, Comte de, 27, 30, 32, 39, 40, 45, 162, 171, 288.
Ségur, Philippe Henri, Marquis de, 171, 246.
Sheridan, Richard Brinsley Butler, 227.
Simcoe, Col. John G., 153.
Staël, Madame de, 227, 294, 297.
Sterling, Lord, 79.
Steuben, Gen. Friedrich W. A. H. F., Baron von, 100, 101, 146, 152, 154, 157.
Stormont, Lord, 36.
Sullivan, Gen. John, 79, 115, 118, 119.
Sumner, Charles, 279.

T

Tarleton, Gen. Sir Banastre, 156, 227.
Taylor, Zachary, 264, 271.
Temay, Admiral, 133, 134, 141.
Tessé, Madame de, 241, 248, 249.
Thiébault, General, 211.
Tilghman, Col. Tench, 167, 168.
Tourgot, Austrian Prime Minister, 245-247.

V

Vergennes, Charles Gravier, Comte de, 52, 127, 128, 145, 171.
Viomenil, Baron Charles J. H. du H., 165.
Voltaire, François Marie Arouet, 22, 25.

W

Washington, George:
  Friendship for Lafayette, 71, 75, 91, 97, 119-121, 146, 176-179.
  His military skill, 72-74.
  Battle of the Brandywine, 78, 79.
  Sends his surgeon to Lafayette, 79.
  Battle of Germantown, 82.
  Conway Cabal, 84, 85, 91, 92, 94-96.
  Recommends Lafayette to Congress, 87.
  Orders cheers for King of France, 102.
  At Monmouth, 109-112.
  Intercourse with French allies, 114, 118, 135-138, 144.
  Meeting with Lafayette, 130.
  Threatens New York, 134.
  Visits West Point, 139-143.
  Letters to Lafayette, 146, 161, 251.
  Orders Lafayette back to Virginia, 149, 150.
  Takes his own army to Virginia, 161-164.
  Siege and surrender of Yorktown, 164-167.
  Visits French admiral, 168.
  Kindness to George Lafayette, 249-250.
  Mentioned: 33, 35, 42, 86, 100, 105, 114, 125, 127, 135, 137, 149,
  160, 163-167, 170, 176-178, 181, 182, 200, 201, 227, 249-251, 264,
  274, 279, 293.
Washington, Martha, 177, 178.
Washington, Mary, 148.
Wayne, Gen. Anthony, 109, 131, 150, 154-156, 159, 162-164.
Webster, Daniel, 268.
Wilberforce, William, 227.
Woodford, Gen. William, 83.

Y

York, Frederick Augustus, Duke of 181.


THE END





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