Memoirs, Correspondence and Manuscripts of General Lafayette

Part 2 out of 9

of Boston, and his opinion was unanimously adopted. Before they
separated, the admiral offered his two battalions to M. de Lafayette,
and appeared to feel great pleasure in being thus enabled to secure him
his rank in the French army; but these troops were useful on board, and
were not necessary on the island, and M. de Lafayette would not expose
them to danger for his own private interest. At the departure of the
vessels, there was but one unanimous feeling of regret and indignation.
Their lost time, extinguished hopes, and embarrassed situation, all
served to increase the irritation of the militia, and their discontent
became contagious. The people of Boston already spoke of refusing the
fleet admission into their port; the generals drew up a protestation,
which M. de Lafayette refused to sign. Carried away by an impulse of
passion, Sullivan inserted in an order "that our allies have abandoned
us." His ill humour was encouraged by Hancock, a member of congress,
formerly its president, and who then commanded the militia of
Massachusets stationed on the island. To him M. de Lafayette first
declared his intentions, and then, calling upon Sullivan, he insisted
upon the words used in the order of the morning being retracted in that
of the evening. Some hours after, the general returned his visit, and,
drawing him aside, a very warm altercation took place; but although
totally indifferent to the peril of a duel, Sullivan was neither
indifferent to the loss of the intimacy of M. de Lafayette, nor to the
influence this young Frenchman possessed at head-quarters, and over
congress and the nation; and in the numerous letters which M. de
Lafayette wrote on this occasion, he made ample use of his influence
over those three important powers.

Dr. Cooper, a presbyterian minister, was extremely useful at Boston;
and Hancock himself ended by repairing thither to receive the squadron.
Rather than yield to the public torrent, M. de Lafayette had risked his
own popularity; and in the fear of being guided by private interest, he
had gone to the extreme in the opposite line of conduct. He lived in
complete retirement, in his own military quarter, and was never seen
but at the trench or the council, in which latter place he would not
allow the slightest observation to be made against the French squadron.
As hopes were still entertained of obtaining assistance from the
latter, it was resolved to retreat to the north of the island; and M.
de Lafayette was sent on an embassy to M. d'Estaing. After having
travelled all night, he arrived at the moment when the general and his
officers were entering Boston. A grand repast, given by the town, was
followed by a conference between the council, the admiral, and himself,
at which M. d'Estaing, while he clearly demonstrated the insufficiency
of his naval force, offered to march himself with his troops. Every
word was submitted to M. de Lafayette, and the admiral remarked this
deference without appearing hurt by it. That same day, the 29th August,
Sullivan retreated from his post; and although the discontent which the
militia experienced had diminished the number of his troops, he
conducted this movement, and the attack which it occasioned, with great

The next morning, at the same time that M. de Lafayette was informed
of the event, he learnt also that the two armies were in close contact
at the north of the island, and that Clinton had arrived with a
reinforcement. Traversing then eighty miles in less than eight hours,
he repaired to Howland's Ferry, arriving there just as the army was
re-crossing it. A corps of a thousand men had been left on the
island, surrounded with divisions of the enemy: M. de Lafayette
undertook the charge of them, and succeeded in withdrawing them
without losing a single man. When congress returned thanks to him for
his conduct during this retreat, they likewise expressed their
gratitude for his journey to Boston, at the very period when he might
so rationally have expected an engagement.~[33] Sullivan returned to
Providence, and left M. de Lafayette in the command of the posts
around the island: the post of Bristol, in which his principal corps
was placed, was exposed to an attack by water; he announced this to
General Washington, to whom, Sullivan said, he thought the same idea
had also occurred. It was at this place he learnt the affair of
Ouessant, which he expected to celebrate as an important victory; but
the welfare of the squadron recalled him to Boston, where he felt he
could be useful to his countrymen. The general dissatisfaction was
soon appeased; and although M. de Saint Sauveur had been killed
accidentally in a tumult, the French had nevertheless full cause to
acknowledge the kindness and moderation of the Bostonians. During a
walk which he took with the Count d'Estaing, M. de Lafayette pointed
out to him the remains of the army of Burgoyne: two soldiers of
militia, stationed at each wing, alone constituted its guard. Feeling
that his presence was no longer necessary to the squadron, and
believing that it was his duty to return to France, M. de Lafayette
set out to rejoin the principal corps of the army at Philadelphia.

During that time, the commissioners had made many addresses and
proclamations. By endeavouring to gain over one member, Johnstone had
displeased the congress, who refused to treat with him. In a public
letter, signed Carlisle, the French nation was taxed with a _perfidy
too universally acknowledged to require any new proof_. With the
effervescence of youth and patriotism, M. de Lafayette seized this
opportunity of opposing the commission; and the first impulse of M.
d'Estaing was to approve of his conduct. A haughty challenge was sent
from head-quarters to Lord Carlisle: the answer was an ill-explained
refusal; and the impetuosity of M. de Lafayette was attended with a
good result, whilst the prudence of the president was ridiculed in
every public paper.~[34]

Soon afterwards, during M. de Lafayette's residence at Philadelphia,
the commission received its death-blow; whilst he was breakfasting
with the members of congress, the different measures proper to be
pursued were frankly and cheerfully discussed. The correspondence
which took place at that time is generally known; the congress
remained ever noble; firm, and faithful to its allies: secretary
Thomson, in his last letter to Sir Henry Clinton, informs him, that
"_the congress does not answer impertinent letters_." To conceal
nothing from the people, all the proposals were invariably printed;
but able writers were employed in pointing out the errors they
contained. In that happy country, where each man understood and
attended to public affairs, the newspapers became powerful instruments
to aid the revolution. The same spirit was also breathed from the
pulpit, for the Bible in many places favours republicanism. M. de
Lafayette, having once reproached an Anglican minister with speaking
only of heaven, went to hear him preach the following Sunday, and the
words, _the execrable house of Hanover_, proved the docility of the

M. de Lafayette addressed a polite letter to the French minister, and
wrote also to the congress, that, "whilst he believed himself free, he
had supported the cause under the American banner; that his country
was now at war, and that his services were first due to her; that he
hoped to return; and that he should always retain his zealous interest
for the United States." The congress not only granted him an unlimited
leave of absence, but added to it the most flattering expressions of
gratitude. It was resolved that a sword, covered with emblems, should
be presented to him, in the name of the United States, by their
minister in France; they wrote to the king; and the _Alliance_, of
thirty-six guns, their finest ship, was chosen to carry him back to
Europe. M. de Lafayette would neither receive from them anything
farther, nor allow them to ask any favour for him at the court of
France. But the congress, when proposing a co-operation in Canada,
expressed its wish of seeing the arrangement of the affair confided to
him: this project was afterwards deferred from the general's not
entertaining hopes Of its ultimate success. But although old
prejudices were much softened,--although the conduct of the admiral
and the squadron had excited universal approbation,--the congress, the
general, and, in short, every one, told M. de Lafayette that, in the
whole circuit of the thirteen states, vessels only were required, and
that the appearance of a French corps would alarm the nation. As M. de
Lafayette was obliged to embark at Boston, he set out again on this
journey of four hundred miles; he hoped, also, that he should be able
to take leave of M. d'Estaing, who had offered to accompany him to the
islands; and whose friendship and misfortunes affected him as deeply
as his active genius and patriotic courage excited his admiration.
Heated by fatiguing journeys and over exertion, and still more by the
grief he had experienced at Rhode Island; and having afterwards
laboured hard, drank freely, and passed several sleepless nights at
Philadelphia, M. de Lafayette proceeded on horseback, in a high state
of fever, and during a pelting autumnal rain. Fetes were given in
compliment to him throughout his journey, and he endeavoured to
strengthen himself with wine, tea, and rum: but at Fishkill, eight
miles from head-quarters, he was obliged to yield to the violence of
an inflammatory fever. He was soon reduced to the last extremity, and
the report of his approaching death distressed the army, by whom he
was called _the soldier's friend_, and the whole nation were unanimous
in expressing their good wishes and regrets for _the marquis_, the
name by which he was exclusively designated. From the first moment,
Cockran, director of the hospitals, left all his other occupations to
attend to him alone. General Washington came every day to inquire
after his friend; but, fearing to agitate him, he only conversed with
the physician, and returned home with tearful eyes, and a heart
oppressed with grief.~[35] Suffering acutely from a raging fever and
violent head-ache, M. de Lafayette felt convinced that he was dying,
but did not lose for a moment the clearness of his understanding:
having taken measures to be apprised of the approach of death, he
regretted that he could not hope again to see his country and the
dearest objects of his affection. Far from foreseeing the happy fate
that awaited him, he would willingly have exchanged his future chance
of life, in spite of his one and twenty years, for the certainty of
living but for three months, on the condition of again seeing his
friends, and witnessing the happy termination of the American war. But
to the assistance of medical art, and the assiduous care of Dr.
Cockran, nature added the alarming though salutary remedy of an
hemorrhage. At the expiration of three months, M. de Lafayette's life
was no longer in danger: he was at length allowed to see the general,
and think of public affairs. By decyphering a letter from M.
d'Estaing, he learnt that, in spite of twenty-one English vessels, the
squadron had set out for la Martinique. After having spent some days
together, and spoken of their past labours, present situations, and
future projects, General Washington and he took a tender and painful
leave of each other. At the same time that the enemies of this great
man have accused him of insensibility, they have acknowledged his
tenderness for M. de Lafayette; and how is it possible that he should
not have been warmly cherished by his disciple, he who, uniting all
that is good to all that is great, is even more sublime from his
virtues than from his talents? Had he been a common soldier, he would
have been the bravest in the ranks; had he been an obscure citizen,
all his neighbours would have respected him. With a heart and mind
equally correctly formed, he judged both of himself and circumstances
with strict impartiality. Nature, whilst creating him expressly for
that revolution, conferred an honour upon herself; and, to show her
work to the greatest possible advantage, she constituted it in such a
peculiar manner, that each distinct quality would have failed in
producing the end required, had it not been sustained by all the

In spite of his extreme debility, M. de Lafayette, accompanied by his
physician, repaired, on horseback, to Boston, where Madeira wine
effectually restored his health. The crew of the _Alliance_ was not
complete, and the council offered to institute a press, but M. de
Lafayette would not consent to this method of obtaining sailors, and
it was at length resolved to make up the required number by embarking
some English deserters, together with some volunteers from among the
prisoners. After he had written to Canada, and sent some necklaces to
a few of the savage tribes, Brice and Nevil, his aides-de-camp, bore
his farewell addresses to the congress, the general, and his friends.
The inhabitants of Boston, who had given him so many proofs of their
kindness and attention, renewed their marks of affection at his
departure; and the _Alliance_ sailed on the 11th of January. A winter
voyage is always boisterous in that latitude; but on approaching the
banks of Newfoundland, the frigate experienced a violent storm: her
main-top mast torn away, injured by a heavy sea, filling with water,
during one long dark night she was in imminent danger; but a still
greater peril awaited her, two hundred leagues from the coast of
France. His British Majesty, encouraging, the mutiny of crews, had
issued a somewhat immoral proclamation, promising them the value of
every _rebel_ vessel that they should bring into an English port;
which exploit could only be performed by the massacre of the officers
and those who opposed the mutiny. This proclamation gave rise to a
plot which was formed by the English deserters and volunteers, who had
most imprudently been admitted, in great numbers, on board the ship:
not one American or Frenchman (for some French sailors had been found
at Boston, after the departure of the squadron) took part in this
conspiracy. The cry of _Sail_! was to be raised, and when the
passengers and officers came on deck, four cannon, loaded with
canister shot, prepared by the gunner's mate, were to blow them into
atoms. An English serjeant had also contrived to get possession of
some loaded arms. The hour first named was four in the morning, but
was changed to four in the afternoon. During that interim, the
conspirators, deceived by the accent of an American who had lived a
long time in Ireland, and traded on its coast, disclosed the plot to
him, and offered him the command of the frigate: the worthy man
pretended to accept it, and was only able to inform the captain and M.
de Lafayette of the conspiracy one hour before the time fixed for its
execution. They rushed, sword in hand, upon deck, followed by the
other passengers and officers, called upon their own sailors to assist
them, and, seized thirty-one of the culprits, whom they placed in
irons. Many others were accused in the depositions, but it was judged
expedient to appear to rely upon the rest of the crew, although real
confidence was only placed in the French and Americans. Eight days
afterwards, the _Alliance_ entered safely the port of Brest, February,

When I saw the port of Brest receive and salute the banner which
floated on my frigate, I recalled to mind the state of my country and
of America, and my peculiar situation when I quitted France. The
conspirators were merely exchanged as English prisoners, and I only
thought of rejoining my family and friends, of whom I had received no
intelligence during the last eight months. When I repaired to a court
which had hitherto only granted me _lettres de cachet_, M. de Poix
made me acquainted with all the ministers. I was interrogated,
complimented, and exiled, but to the good city of Paris; and the
residence of the Hotel de Noailles was selected, instead of according
me the horrors of the Bastille, which had been at first proposed. Some
days afterwards, I wrote to the king to acknowledge an error of which
the termination had been so fortunate: he permitted me to receive a
gentle reprimand in person; and, when my liberty was restored to me, I
was advised to avoid those places in which the public might consecrate
my disobedience by its approbation. On my arrival, I had the honour of
being consulted by all the ministers, and, what was far better,
embraced by all the ladies. Those embraces lasted but one day; but I
retained for a greater length of time the confidence of the cabinet,
and I enjoyed both favour at the court of Versailles, and popularity
at Paris. I was the theme of conversation in every circle, even after
the queen's kind exertions had obtained for me the regiment of the
king's dragoons. Times are widely changed; but I have retained all
that I most valued--popular favour and the affection of those I love.

Amidst the various tumultuous scenes that occupied my mind, I did not
forget our revolution, of which the ultimate success still appeared
uncertain. Accustomed to see great interests supported by slender
means, I often said to myself that the expense of one _fete_ would
have organized the army of the United States; and to clothe that army
I would willingly, according to the expression of M. de Maurepas, have
unfurnished the palace of Versailles. In the meantime, the principal
object of the quarrel, American independence, and the advantage our
government and reputation would derive from seizing the first
favourable opportunity, did not appear to me sufficiently promoted by
those immense preparations for trifling conquests, and those projects
conceived in the expectation of peace; for no person seriously
believed in war, not even when it was declared, after the _hundredth
injury_ had induced Spain to enter into those co-operations which
finally terminated in nothing more than noisy exercises.


1. Note by M. de Lafayette upon the _Memoirs written by himself and
his American correspondence_.--Many papers relating to the first years
of my public life have been destroyed during the reign of terror. An
imperfect copy of these memoirs has been saved: this ought to have
been re-written; I have preferred copying it precisely as it was
originally composed.

Several letters written from America had been copied by my wife for
Dr. Dubrucil, (physician to the king and to _la Charite_, at St.
Germain-en-laza, deceased 1785,) whose friendship was the pride of
one portion of my life, and who has filled the remainder of it with a
deep and tender recollection. Those papers have been preserved; it
would be necessary to suppress some repetitions and insignificant
details, but I have left them almost all untouched, because, whilst
forming this collection, I felt pleasure in recalling the sentiments
that had animated me at various periods of my existence.

The Duke d'Ayen, my father-in-law, was not one of the least hasty and
severe censurers of my departure for America but he restored to me his
favour with all the kindness and sincerity which characterized him:
his affectionate congratulations deeply touched my heart. The same
feeling induces me at the present moment to repeat some details
contained in the letters I addressed to him.

2. Michel-Louis-Christophe-Roch-Gilbert de Motier, Marquis de
Lafayette, colonel of the grenadiers of France, Chevalier de St.
Louis, killed at the battle of Minden before the age of twenty-five.

3. The college du Plessis.

4. Marie-Louise-Julie de la Riviere, died at Paris the 12th of April,
1770, some days before her father Joseph-Yves-Thibauld-Hyacinthe,
Marquis de la Riviere.

5. Previous to the marriage of M. de Lafayette, we have only one
letter written by him at fourteen years of age, the 8th of February,
1772, which will be read perhaps with some curiosity. It is addressed
to his cousin, Mademoiselle de Chavaniac.

"I have just received, my dear cousin, your letter, and the good
account you give me of my grandmother's health. After that, which was
what first touched my heart, I was much interested by the account of
the hunt of the proprietor of the forests of Lata. I should like very
much to know whether those dogs that neither walk nor bark contributed
to the success of the expedition? The details of that hunt would have
amused me very much; if I had been speaking to you of a new-fashioned
cap, I should have thought it my duty to have described to you its
figure and proportions, with a compass in my hand.

"Our cousin's marriage is broken off; there is another one on the
carpet, but they are obliged to lower their tone exceedingly.
Mademoiselle de Roucherolles, a place with Madame de Bourbon, of a
thousand crowns a-year, and five thousand small livres a-year--that is
the whole amount. You see that this is a very short abridgment of the
other intended matches. My uncle, who came to see me the other day,
consents to the marriage, on condition that the Prince de Conde will
promise one of his regiments of cavalry to the cousin. Madame de
Montboissier thinks this is asking too much, and told M. le Marquis de
Canillic that, in truth, if he were so difficult, her husband would no
longer take any part in his affairs; this offended him and some high
words passed on both sides. The nephew does not care much about the
marriage. He said, there were in his own province far better matches,
which he named, that would not be refused him.

"I thought I had written you word that the Cardinal de Le Roche-Aimon
was abbe de St. Germain. It is said that M. de Briges has the barony
de Mercoeur. M. de la Vauguyon has died, little regretted either by
the court or by the town. The ball of last Thursday is put off to the
15th, that is to say, for week hence. I dined, the day before
yesterday, Thursday, with M. de la Tour d'Auvergne, who is on a
complimentary footing with M. de Turenne, now Duke de Bouillon. He
told us he should lose perhaps a million from politeness. You will
recognise him by that phrase.

"Adieu, dear cousin; my respects, if you please, to all the family; M.
de Fayon presents his to you, and I remain your obedient servant,


6. A place in the household of a prince of royal blood. The Marshal de
Noailles wished for this arrangement. To prevent it without openly
opposing the will of those he loved, M. de Lafayette took an
opportunity of displeasing, by a few words, the prince, to whose
person they were desirous of attaching him, and all negotiations on
the subject were thus broken off. We do not believe that since that
period a reconciliation has ever taken place between him and Louis

7. In 1828, Mr. Jared Sparks, a distinguished American author,
intending to form a collection of the writings of Washington, which he
is at present publishing at Boston, made a voyage to France to
converse with M. de Lafayette, and consult the archives of foreign
affairs. He obtained from the general many anecdotes, letters, and
documents, of which extracts have enriched his publication. At the
close of vol. v., he has placed an appendix, containing the account of
the departure of M. de Lafayette from France, and his arrival in
America. We doubt not but that the details of that narration were
related, nay, perhaps even written, by the general himself. We shall
therefore quote some extracts from it without hesitation, which,
placed as notes, will completely elucidate the text of these memoirs.

"In the summer of 1776," says Mr. Sparks, "M. de Lafayette was
stationed on military duty at Metz, being then an officer in the
French army. It happened at this time that the Duke of Gloucester,
brother to the King of England, was at Metz, and a dinner was given to
him by the commandant of that place. Several officers were invited,
and among others Lafayette. Despatches had just been received by the
duke from England, and he made their contents the topic of
conversation; they related to American affairs, the recent declaration
of independence, the resistance of the colonists, and the strong
measures adopted by the ministry to crush the rebellion.

"The details were new to Lafayette; he listened with eagerness to the
conversation, and prolonged it by asking questions of the duke. His
curiosity was deeply excited by what he heard, and the idea of a
people fighting for liberty had a strong influence upon his
imagination; the cause seemed to him just and noble, from the
representations of the duke himself; and before he left the table, the
thought came into his head that he would go to America, and offer his
services to a people who were struggling for freedom and independence.
From that hour he could think of nothing but this chivalrous
enterprise. He resolved to return to Paris and make further inquiries.

When he arrived in that city, he confided his scheme to two young
friends, Count Segur and Viscount de Noailles, and proposed that they
should join him. They entered with enthusiasm into his views; but as
they were dependent on their families, it was necessary to consult
their parents, who reprobated the plan and refused their consent. The
young men faithfully kept Lafayette's secret: his situation was more
fortunate, as his property was at his own disposal, and he possessed
an annual revenue of nearly two hundred thousand livres.

"He next explained his intentions to the Count de Broglie who told him
that his project was so chimerical, and fraught with so many hazards,
without a prospect of the least advantage, that he could not for a
moment regard it with favor, nor encourage him with any advice which
should prevent him from abandoning it immediately. When Lafayette
found him thus determined, he requested that at least he would not
betray him for he was resolved to go to America. The Count de Broglie
assured him that his confidence was not misplaced; 'But,' said he, 'I
have seen your uncle die in the wars of Italy; I witnessed your
father's death at the battle of Minden; and I will not be accessary to
the ruin of the only remaining branch of the family: He then used all
his powers of argument and persuasion to divert Lafayette from his
purpose, but in vain. Finding his determination unalterable, the Count
de Broglie said, as he could render him no aid, he would introduce him
to the Baron de Kalb, who he knew was seeking an opportunity to go to
America, and whose experience and counsels might be valuable.--(The
Writings of George Washington, vol. v. Appendix, No. 1, p. 445.)

8. M. du Boismartin was the person sent to Bourdeaux to secure the
purchase and equipment of the ship that M. de Lafayette intended for
the United States.--(Sparks, loc. cit.)

9. It is a singular coincidence that, at the same time that General
Washington, who had never left America, reduced to corps of two
thousand men, did not despair of the common cause, the same sentiment
was animating, two thousand leagues from thence, the breast of a youth
of nineteen, who was destined to become one day his intimate friend,
partake with him the vicissitudes and happy termination of that
revolution, and afterwards carry back to another hemisphere the
principles of liberty and equality which formed its basis.

10. With the Prince de Poix. This journey lasted three weeks.

11. The Marquis de Noailles, brother to the Duke d'Aven, and uncle to
Madame de Lafayette.

12. M. de Lafayette learnt, at Bordeaux, that his intended departure
was known at Versailles, and that the order to prevent it had been
already issued. After having taken his ship to the common port of the
Passage, he returned himself to Bordeaux, and wrote to the ministers,
to his family and friends. Amongst the latter was M. de Coigny, to
whom he sent a confidential person, and who bade him entertain no
hopes of obtaining the permission he wished for. Pretending to repair
to Marseilles, where he had received an order to join his
father-in-law, who was going into Italy, he set off in a postchaise
with an officer named Mauroy, who was desirous of going to America.
Some leagues from Bordeaux he got on horseback, disguised as a
courier, and rode on before the carriage, which took the road to
Bayonne. They remained two or three hours in that town, and whilst
Mauroy was arranging some necessary affairs, M. de Lafayette remained
lying on some straw in the stable. It was the postmaster's daughter
who recognised the pretended courier Saint Jean de Luz, from having
seen him when returning from the Passage harbour to Bordeaux. (Sparks,
loc. cit.)

13. These memoirs, written until now in the first person, change here
to the third person, in spite of the kind of engagement taken in the
first page to continue them in the former manner. We are ignorant of
the cause of the inconsistency thus offered by the manuscript, which
is, however, completely written in the general's own hand.

14. See, at the end of these memoirs, amongst the various fragments,
fragment A.

15. The court of France despatched orders to the Leeward and Windward
Islands to stop him on his road, because the ship, not being able to
take out papers for North America, was to have stopped in the Spanish
islands. (Manuscript No. 1.) Mr. Sparks relates that M. de Lafayette
declared to the captain that the ship belonged to him, and that if he
offered the slightest resistance, he would take from him the command
and give it to the mate. But as he soon discovered that the real
motive of the captain's resistance was a cargo belonging to him of
8000 dollars, M. de Lafayette secured to him its full value upon his
own private fortune, and thus succeeded in overcoming all his
scruples. (Washington's writings, loc. cit.)

16. When they landed, says Mr. Sparks, a distant light served to guide
them. As they approached the house from whence it issued, the dogs
barked, and the people took them for a band of marauders landing from
an enemy's ship. They were asked who they were, and what they wanted.
Baron Kalb replied and all suspicions vanished. The next morning the
weather was beautiful. The novelty of all that surrounded him,--the
room, the bed covered with mosquito nets, the black servant who came
to ask his commands, the beauty and foreign aspect of the country
which he beheld from his windows, and which was covered by a rich
vegetation,--all united to produce on M. de Lafayette a magical
effect, and excite in him a variety of inexpressible sensations.
(Sparks, appendix.)

17. An American, who must not be confounded with the two brothers of
that name who commanded the one the English army, the other the
English fleet.

18. When he arrived at Philadelphia, M. de Lafayette delivered his
letters to Mr. Lovell, president of the committee for foreign affairs.
The next day he proceeded to congress: Mr. Lovell came out of the
meeting, and told him there was but little hope of his request being
acceded to. Suspecting that his letters had not been read, M. de
Lafayette wrote the note which will be found in the text. The
resolution of the congress concerning him, deliberated the 31st of
July, is expressed in the following manner: "Seeing that the Marquis
de Lafayette, on account of his great zeal in the cause of liberty in
which the United States are engaged, has quitted his family and
country, and has come to offer his services to the United States,
without demanding either pay or private indemnity, and that he desires
to expose his life in our cause,--resolved, that his services be
accepted, and that, on account of his zeal, illustrious family and
connexions, he shall have the rank and commission of major-general in
the army of the United States." The real intention of this resolution
was to give a rank to M. de Lafayette, and to leave to General
Washington the right and care of confiding to him a command in unison
with that rank. (Letters of Washington, 2nd part. V, p. 10, 35, and
128, and appendix No. I.)

19. He was presented, for the first time, to Washington, says Mr.
Sparks, at a dinner, at which several members of congress were
present. When they were separating, Washington drew Lafayette aside,
expressed much kindness for him, complimented him upon his zeal and
his sacrifices, and invited him to consider the headquarters as his
own house, adding, with a smile that he could not promise him the
luxuries of a court, but that as he was become an American soldier, he
would doubtless submit cheerfully to the customs and privations of a
republican army. The next day Washington visited the forts of the
Delaware, and invited Lafayette to accompany him. (Sparks, ibid.)

20. See fragment B.

21. From Bethlehem he wrote to M. de Boulle, governor of the Windward
Islands, to propose to him to attack the English islands under
American colours. That general approved of the project, and forwarded
it to the court, who would not, however, accept it. At the same
period, M. de Lafayette, although in disgrace himself at court, wrote
to the Count de Maurepas, to propose to him a still more important
enterprise against the English factories, but also under American
colours. The old minister, from prudential motives, did not adopt this
project, but he spoke publicly in praise of it, and expressed, ever
after, a great partiality for Lafayette. "He will end, one day," said
he, smiling, "by unfurnishing the palace of Versailles to serve the
American cause; for when he has taken anything into his head, it is
impossible to resist him."--(Note by M. de Lafayette.)

22. This name is very illegible in the manuscript.

23. The celebrated Alexander Hamilton, one of the authors of the

24. Journal of Congress, 1st December, 1777.

25. See fragment C, at the end of the Memoirs.

26. After having thus declared himself, he wrote to congress that "he
could only accept the command on condition of remaining subordinate to
General Washington, of being but considered as an officer detached
from him, and of addressing all his letters to him, of which those
received by congress would be but duplicates." These requests, and all
the others he made, were granted. (Manuscript No. 2.)

27. He had the discretion to renounce an expedition which, undertaken
without proper means, would have produced fatal effects upon the whole
northern part of the United States. At Georgetown, the present
residence of congress, some anxiety was experienced, because they
feared that M. de Lafayette had trusted himself upon the lakes in the
season of the year when the ice begins to melt. The counter orders
that were sent him would have arrived too late; and when it became
known that he had himself renounced the expedition, he received the
thanks of congress and of the minister of war, General Gates, who, in
spite of the line of conduct Lafayette had pursued during his quarrel
with General Washington, had always expressed great respect and esteem
for him. (Manuscript No. 1.)

28. It is singular that the oath of renunciation to Great Britain and
her king, which every one employed in the continental service was
obliged to take at that time, should have been administered in one
half of the United States by a Frenchman of twenty years of age.
(Manuscript No. 2.)

29. See, after these Memoirs, fragment D.

30. The two battalions formed to arrest the enemy's march were placed
by General Washington himself. When, after having expressed his own
feelings of dissatisfaction, he wished to give himself time to form
his army on the heights behind the passage, he left there
Major-General Lafayette, Brigadier-General Knox, commanding the
artillery, and some officers of his staff. The colonels were good
officers, and the battalions conducted themselves perfectly well. When
the army was ranged in order of battle, General Greene commanded the
right of the first line, Lord Stirling the left, and Lafayette the
second line. (Manuscript No. 2.)

31. General Washington was never greater in battle than this action.
His presence stopped the retreat; his arrangements secured the
victory. His graceful bearing on horseback, his calm and dignified
deportment, which still retained some trace of the displeasure he had
experienced in the morning, were all calculated to excite the highest
degree of enthusiasm. (Manuscript No. 2.)

32. See, after these Memoirs, the fragment E.

33. See fragment F.

34. The following was written by M. de Lafayette twenty years after
the presumed date of the memoirs:--"Lord Carlisle refused,--and he was
right. The challenge, however, excited some jokes against the
commission and its president, which, whether well or ill founded, are
always disadvantageous to those who become their objects."--(Manuscript
No. 1.) "Lord Carlisle was right: but the challenge appearing the
result of chivalric patriotism, party spirit took advantage of the
circumstance, and the feeling which had inspired this irregular step
was generally approved."--(Manuscript No. 2.)

35. General Washington--who, when Lafayette was wounded at Brandywine,
said to the surgeon, "_Take care of him as if he were my son, for I
love him the same_"--expressed for him, during this illness, the most
tender and paternal anxiety.--(Manuscript No. 1.)




1. We have already mentioned these manuscripts. The one we
term _Manuscript No. 1_, consists of a rapid sketch of the American
life of General Lafayette; the other one, or _Manuscript 2_, is
entitled, _Observations on some portion of the American History, by a
Friend of General Lafayette_. Both appear to have been written about
the period of the empire. Fragment A is drawn from the Manuscript No.

* * * * *



The histories of the American war and revolution are, generally
speaking, very favourable to M. de Lafayette; the life of Washington,
by Mr. Marshall, is especially so. There is one phrase, however, (page
410 of the third volume of the London edition,) which requires some
explanation. "_He left France ostensibly in opposition to his
sovereign_." This circumstance is treated in a more lucid and exact
manner in the following works:--_The History, etc., by William Gordon,
D.D._, vol. ii., pages 499 and 500. _London_, 1788.--_The History of
the American Revolution, by Dr. Ramsay_, vol. ii., page 11.
_Philadelphia_, 1789.

The importance of this step was increased by a peculiar circumstance.
The preparations for the purchase and equipment of the vessel had
delayed Lafayette's departure until the period which had been long
previously fixed upon for an excursion of some weeks into England; this
enabled him to conceal his departure; the American commissioners were
well pleased to take advantage of this accident. Lafayette refused the
proposals which were made him in London to visit the ports, or to do
anything which could be construed into an abuse of confidence. He did
not conceal his partiality for the American insurgents; but he
endeavoured to profit by the parade with which, from political motives,
the king and his ministry received at that period all persons coming
from the court of France, and the attention which was paid them. The
Marquis de Noailles, the ambassador, was his uncle. Lafayette felt no
scruple in compromising the diplomatic character of this representation
of the King of France, so that the _maximum_ of the favourable effect
that his departure could produce was obtained in England.

The same result took place in France. It would be difficult at this
period to imagine into what a state of political and military
insignificance the nation and government had been reduced during the
war of seven years, and, above all, after the partition of Poland. The
French ministry had personally, at that period, the reputation of great
circumspection; the few indirect relations it permitted itself to hold
with the agents of the insurgent colonies were only managed through the
medium of unacknowledged agents, and were discovered the moment the
ambassador pretended to become acquainted with them, or that the
Americans could have drawn any advantage from them. Amongst the
departures on which the ministers were kind enough to close their eyes,
there were only four engineers for whom this toleration was in truth a
secret mission.~[1] One word from Lord Stormont was sufficient to
procure the detention, discharge, and sometimes imprisonment of the
Americans admitted into our ports: their liberty or property was only
restored to them surreptitiously, and as if escaping from the vigilance
of a superior.

Amidst this labyrinth of precautions, feebleness, and denials, the
effect may be conceived that was produced at Versailles by the bold
step taken by a youth of distinguished birth and fortune, allied to one
of the first families of the court, by whom the King of England and his
ministers would fancy themselves braved and even laughed at, and whose
departure would leave no doubt as to the connivance of the ambassador
and government of France. The displeasure of the rulers was roused to
the highest pitch: a portion of Lafayette's family shared in this
displeasure. He had secretly traversed France. Having met near Paris
with Carmichael, secretary of the American agents, he had urged the
immediate departure of his vessel from Bordeaux, preferring to complete
the necessary arrangements at the Spanish port of Passage. He returned
himself to Bordeaux, in the hope of obtaining a consent which he
considered would be useful to his cause. The return of his courier
having informed him that they would not condescend to give an answer to
such an indiscreet request, he hastened to quit France himself in the
disguise of a courier, and lost no time in setting sail.

The government, to appease as far as possible, the English ambassador,
despatched two light vessels to the Leeward and Windward Islands to
stop Lafayette. At that period, the French navigators did not risk
steering straight towards the American continent; they first repaired
to the West Indies, and, taking out papers for France, they ranged as
close as possible to the American coast, and endeavoured to seize a
favourable moment or pretext to steal into a harbour. Lafayette's
vessel had followed the common course of all expeditions; but its
youthful owner, who had several officers with him, and had won the
affection of the crew, obliged the captain to take a straightforward
direction. A lucky gale of wind drove off the frigates that had been
cruising on the preceding day before Georgetown, and he sailed into
that port, having been protected by fate against the various obstacles
which had been opposed to his enterprise.

But whilst the French government thus seconded the views of the English
government, the departure of young Lafayette produced, in Paris, in the
commercial towns, in all societies, and even at court, a sensation that
was very favourable to the American cause. The enthusiasm it excited
was in a great measure owing to the state of political stagnation into
which the country had so long been plunged, the resentment excited by
the arrogance of England, her commissioner at Dunkirk, her naval
pretensions, and the love inherent in all mankind of bold and
extraordinary deeds, especially when they are in defiance of the
powerful, and to protect the weak in their struggle for liberty. To
these peculiar circumstances may be imputed the increased interest and
attention, the strong national feeling, and the constantly augmenting
force of public opinion to which the French government at length
yielded, when, in its treaties with the United States, it formed
engagements with them, and commenced a war with England, which were
both equally opposed to its real character and inclination.


1: MM. de de Gouvion, Duportail, Laradiere, and Laumoy.



The appearance of the two brothers Howe before the capes of the
Delaware had given rise to the supposition that it was upon that side
they intended to land. General Washington repaired with his army
towards the neighbourhood of Philadelphia. That army had been
recruiting during the winter. Washington went to Philadelphia to attend
a public dinner given in honour of him. It was then Lafayette was
introduced to him. This young foreigner had travelled by land over the
southern states, and had made a direct application to the congress,
requesting to serve at first as volunteer, and to serve at his own
expense. The members were much struck with two requests differing so
widely from those of several other officers, and of one in particular,
an officer of artillery, who had made great pretensions on his arrival,
and had soon afterwards drowned himself in the Schuylkill. The rank of
major-general (the highest in the American army) was given to
Lafayette. Washington received the young volunteer in the most friendly
manner, and invited him to reside in his house as a member of his
military family, which offer Lafayette accepted with the same frankness
with which it was made.

He remained there until he was appointed to the command of a division.
The court of France had required that the American envoys should write
to America to prevent Lafayette from being employed in their army. They
did not hasten to despatch that letter, and, when its contents became
known, the popularity of Lafayette was so great that it could not
produce any effect. It is thus evident, that from the first moment of
his embracing the American cause every obstacle was thrown in his way;
all of which, however, he encountered and surmounted. (Manuscript No.



Amongst the various means employed to deprive the general-in-chief of
his friends, attempts were made to awaken the ambition of Lafayette,
who already enjoyed much popularity in the army and in the country, and
who besides appeared to the enemies of Washington, from his relations
with Europe, one of the men whom it was most important to draw into
their party. They fancied they should gain him over by offering him the
government of the north, which Gates had just quitted, and by the hope
of an expedition into Canada. General Washington received a packet from
the minister of war, enclosing a commission for Lafayette as an
independent commander-in-chief, with an order to repair to the congress
to receive instructions. The general placed it in his hands, without
allowing himself any observation on the subject. Lafayette immediately
declared to three commissioners of congress, who happened to be at that
moment in the camp, "that he would never accept any command independent
of the general, and that the title of his aide-de-camp appeared to him
preferable to any other that could be offered him." When General
Washington received the order of congress, he only said to his young
friend, whilst placing the letter in his hand, "I prefer its being for
you rather than for any other person."

The military commands, during the winter of 1777-1778, were distributed
in the following manner:--General Washington assembled in some huts at
Valley-Forge what was termed the principal army, reduced at that time
to four or five thousand half-clothed men. General Mac-Dougal had the
direction of a station at Peekskill. Lafayette commanded what was
called the northern army, that is to say, a handful of men; his
head-quarters were at Albany. The enemy made a few incursions, but of
slight importance; and by the exercise of great vigilance, and a
judicious choice of stations, the winter passed away tranquilly.
Lafayette had under his orders two general officers, who had been
engaged in the service of France, namely, General Kalb, a German by
birth, who came over in the same vessel with himself; and General
Conway, an Irishman, who had been a major in a regiment of that nation,
also in the service of France. Besides the four engineers who have been
before named, and these two officers, we must also mention, amongst the
foreigners employed in the service of the United States, Pulaski, a
Polish nobleman, who had taken a conspicuous part in the confederation
of his own country, and who, after the success of the Russians, had
arrived in America with letters of introduction to the congress,
General Washington, and General Lafayette; Kosciuszko, his countryman,
who was a colonel of engineers in America, and who afterwards acted
such a grand and noble part during the last revolutions in Poland;
Ternant, by birth a Frenchman, who has served the United States,
Holland, and France with great ability; La Colombe, aide-de-camp to
Lafayette, who has been subsequently so usefully employed in the French
revolution; the Marquis de la Royerie, whom disappointed love brought
to the United States, and who has since taken part in the
counter-revolution; Gimat, aide-de-camp to Lafayette, who has since had
the command in the French islands; Fleury, who distinguished himself in
the defence of Fort Mifflin, and in the attack of the fort of
West-Point, and who afterwards died a field-marshal in France;
Mauduit-Duplessis, an extremely brave officer of artillery, who has
since taken part against the French revolution, and was massacred at
Saint Domingo; Touzard, an officer of artillery, who lost his arm at
Rhode Island, where he was acting as aide-de-camp to Lafayette; Major
Lenfant, employed as engineer; Baron Steuben, a Prussian officer, a
good tactician, who arrived at the commencement of 1778, and was of
essential service in disciplining the American troops. These officers,
and several others, obtained employment in America. The greatest
number, however, of those who presented themselves were refused
service, and returned to France, with some few exceptions, to bear
thither their own prejudices against the Americans. Some of those who
remained appear to have written home likewise in the same spirit.
General Washington therefore observes very justly in one of his
letters, that Lafayette, in his correspondence, by destroying the
unfavourable impressions that were given of the Americans, and seeking,
on the contrary, to excite the feelings of the French in their favour,
rendered a new and very important service to their cause. (Manuscript
No. 1.)



As the English army was preparing to evacuate Philadelphia, Lafayette
was sent, with a detachment of two thousand chosen men, and five pieces
of cannon, to a station half-way betwixt that city and Valley-Forge;
this was Barren-hill. A corps of militia under General Porter had been
placed on Lafayette's left wing; but he retired farther back, and the
English took advantage of that movement to surround Lafayette's
detachment. General Grant, with seven thousand men and fourteen pieces
of cannon, was behind him, and nearer than himself to the only ford by
which it was possible for him to pass the Schuylkill. General Grey,
with two thousand men, arrived on his left at Barren-hill church;
whilst the remainder of the English army, under the command of Generals
Clinton and Howe, prepared to attack him in front. It is said that
Admiral Lord Howe joined the army as a volunteer. The English generals
felt so certain of the capture of Lafayette, that they sent to
Philadelphia several invitations to a _fete_, at which they said
Lafayette would be present. If he had not, in truth, manoeuvred rather
better than they did, the whole corps must inevitably have been lost.
Alarm-guns were fired by the army; General Washington felt additional
anxiety from the fact that, those troops being the flower of his army,
their defeat would, he knew, have discouraged the rest. Lafayette
instantly formed his plan of operation: he threw some troops into the
churchyard, to check those of General Grey. He made a false attack upon
General Grant, 'shewing him the heads of columns; and whilst the latter
halted, and formed his troops to receive him, he caused his detachment
to file off. By these manoeuvres he gained the ford, and passed it in
presence of the enemy, without losing a single man. Two English lines
met, and were on the point of attacking each other, for there was no
longer anything between them; the Americans had been for some time in
safety at the other side of the Schuylkill. The English then returned
to Philadelphia, much fatigued and ashamed, and were laughed at for
their ill success. (Manuscript No. 1.)



The treaty with France became known a short time before the opening of
the campaign. The national enthusiasm for the Americans had much
increased, but the ministry was afraid of war. Necker, in particular,
did all he could to prevent the court of France from espousing the
American cause, which may serve as an answer to the accusations of
revolutionary ardour that were made against him by the aristocrats in
France. Maurepas was very timid, but the news of the taking of Burgoyne
inspired him with some courage. The Count de Vergennes flattered
himself that he should succeed in avoiding war. The court of France
shewed little sincerity in its proceedings with England. The treaty was
at length concluded. Dr. Franklin, Silas Deane, and John Adams,
accompanied by many other Americans then in Paris, were presented to
the King and royal family. They repaired afterwards to the young Madame
de Lafayette, who was at Versailles, wishing to testify by that public
act how much they thought themselves indebted to Lafayette for the
happy direction which their affairs had taken. The news of the treaty
excited a great sensation in America, and, above all, in the army.
Lafayette had long since returned from his command in the north to the
head-quarters of General Washington. The manifesto of the French
government to the British cabinet contained this expression: "The
Americans having become independent by their declaration of such a
day." "That," said Lafayette, smiling, "is a principle of national
sovereignty which shall one day be recalled to them." The French
revolution, and the part which he took in it, have doubly verified this
prediction. (Manuscript No. 1.)

Mr. Marshall's work contains a curious dissertation upon the
declaration of war between France and England, and gives also the
extract of a memorial of M. Turgot, which it would be interesting to
verify. It would then be seen what opinions were supported at that
time, concerning the colonies in general, and the quarrel with the
English colonies in particular, by one of the most liberal and
enlightened men in regard to political and commercial questions. The
idea that the queen supported the war party is not correct; her social
tastes were rather of the Anglomania kind; her politics were completely
Austrian, and the court of Vienna did not wish that France should have
any pretext for refusing to fulfil the conditions of the treaty made
with it, which were soon afterwards exacted; but the queen, like a true
woman of the world, followed the impulse given by Paris, the commercial
towns, and the public.

Dr. Ramsay alludes to the happiness which Lafayette must have
experienced when, upon learning the happy news of the French alliance,
he, with tears of joy, embraced his illustrious general. Several
persons present have since recollected that when the message of the
court of Versailles to that of London was read aloud, with all the
justifications which dwelt upon the right of the American nation to
give themselves a government, Lafayette exclaimed,--"That is a great
truth which we will recall to them at home." (Manuscript No. 2.)



The history of Dr. Gordon, that of Ramsay, and of Mr. Marshall, give a
detailed account of the arrival of Count d'Estaing at the entrance of
the Delaware, his arrival at Sandyhook, and the expedition against
Rhode Island. Lafayette conducted thither, from White Plains, two
thousand men of the continental troops. He made that journey (two
hundred and forty miles) very rapidly, and arrived before the remainder
of the troops under Sullivan were in readiness. It is to be lamented
that the latter general persuaded Count d'Estaing to await the
cooperation of the Americans, whilst, had he encouraged him to force
the passage between, Rhode Island and Cannanicut Island, he would have
had time, at the first moment of his arrival, to have captured fifteen
hundred Hessians who were upon the last-mentioned island. On the other
hand, M. d'Estaing was wrong in being displeased with General Sullivan
for effecting his passage and taking possession of the forts on the
north of the island, as soon as he learnt that they had been abandoned
by the enemy, and without having concerted any plan of operations with
the admiral. Everything, however, went on extremely well. The Americans
had twelve thousand men upon the island; their right was composed of
the half of the continentalists brought by Lafayette from White Plains,
and of five thousand militia, and was under the command of General
Greene; the left consisted also of five thousand militia, with the
other half of the continentalists, and was commanded by M. de
Lafayette. On the 8th of August the American army proceeded to
Howland's ferry, whilst the squadron forced the passage. The English
set fire to three of their own frigates; they had six frigates, and
several other vessels, burnt during this expedition. In the afternoon
of the day that Sullivan's army landed, they were expecting the
battalions of Foix and Hainaut, and the marines, which were to have
joined Lafayette's corps, when Admiral Howe suddenly hove in sight, and
took possession of the anchorage that Count d'Estaing had quitted, in
order to force his passage between the islands. The French sailors
feared that the enemy, would take advantage of their situation,
enclosed as they were between the islands, or that some reinforcements
would at least be thrown upon the southern part of the island; but the
wind having changed during the night, Count d'Estaing sailed out
gallantly through the fire of the English batteries, and Lord Howe,
cutting his cables, fled before him. This skilful admiral would have
paid dearly for his bold manoeuvre, if the storm had not come most
opportunely to his aid.

Mr. Marshall, who had the letters of Washington and Lafayette before
him, states the manner in which Lafayette, on the one side, exposed
himself, without reserve, to the loss of his popularity, and on the
other, zealously exerted himself in defending the honour of the French
from the accusations that the dissatisfaction of the Americans had
universally excited, especially at Rhode Island and Boston, against the
officers of the squadron; and also to prevent that dissatisfaction from
breaking into open disputes. Sullivan, the senior of the three majors-
general, was commander-in-chief. It was after an explanation with
Lafayette, his friend and comrade, that he softened, by a subsequent
order of the day, the expressions which he had imprudently used in the
one preceding. General Greene, a man of superior merit, contributed
much to the reconciliation. The ex-president, Hancock, who had at first
loudly expressed his displeasure, consented to repair to Boston to
endeavour to calm the public mind, and to obtain provisions for the
squadron. The popularity of Lafayette was usefully employed during his
short visit to that town. The congress, and General Washington also,
thought that this quarrel could not he too speedily appeased; but they
were at a distance, and a proper mixture of firmness and persuasion was
required from the first moment. Such a perfect understanding, however,
was now established, that it was not even disturbed by the unfortunate
event which, some time afterwards, cost M. de Saint Sauveur his life.
Much was also due to Dr. Cooper, a distinguished minister of the
Presbyterian church. (Manuscript No. 2.)




London, March 9,1777.

You will be astonished, my dear father, at the news I am on the point
of giving you: it has cost me far more than I can express not to
consult you. My respect and affection for you, as well as my great
confidence in you, must convince you of the truth of this assertion;
but my word was given, and you would not have esteemed me had I broken
it; the step I am now taking will at least prove to you, I hope, the
goodness of my intentions. I have found a peculiar opportunity of
distinguishing myself, and of learning a soldier's trade: I am a
general officer in the army of the United States of America. The
frankness of my conduct, and my zeal in their service, have completely
won their confidence. I have done, on my side, all I could do for them,
and their interest will ever be dearer to me than my own. In short, my
dear father, I am at this moment in London, anxiously awaiting letters
from my friends; upon receiving them, I shall set off from hence, and,
without stopping at Paris, I shall embark in a vessel that I have
myself purchased and chartered. My travelling companions are the Baron
de Kalb, a very distinguished officer, brigadier in the King's service,
and major-general, as well as myself, in the United States' army; and
some other excellent officers, who have kindly consented to share the
chances of my fate. I rejoice at having found such a glorious
opportunity of occupying myself, and of acquiring knowledge. I am
conscious that I am making an immense sacrifice, and that to quit my
family, my friends, and you, my dearest father, costs me more than it
could do any other person,--because I love you all far more tenderly
than any other person ever loved his friends. But this voyage will not
be a very long one; we see every day far longer journeys taken for
amusement only; and I hope also to return more worthy of all those who
are kind enough to regret my absence. Adieu, my dear father, I hope I
shall soon see you again. Retain your affection for me; I ardently
desire to merit it--nay, I do merit it already, from my warm affection
towards you, and from the respect that, during the remainder of his
life, will be felt for you by,

Your affectionate son,


I have arrived, for one moment, at Paris, my dear father, and have only
time to bid you again farewell. I intended writing to my uncle~[2]
and to Madame de Lusignem, but I am in such haste that I must request
you to present to them my respectful regards.


1. Jean Paul Francois de Noailles, Duke d'Ayen, afterwards Duke de
Noailles, died a member of the House of Peers, in 1824, and was, as is
well known, father-in-law to M. de Lafayette, who had been, we may say,
brought up in the hotel de Noailles, and who looked upon all his wife's
family as his own. It was at that time divided into two branches. The
Marshal de Noailles, governor of Roussillon, and captain of the guards
of the Scotch company, was the head of the eldest branch. He bad four
children: the Duke d'Ayen, the Marquis de Noailles, and Mesdames de
Tesse and de Lesparre. The Duke d'Ayen, a general officer, captain of
the guards in reversion, married Henriette Anne Louise Daguesseau, by
whom he had daughters only. The eldest, who died in 1794, on the same
scaffold as her mother, had married her cousin, the Viscount de
Noailles. The second, Marie Adrienne Francoise,--born the 2nd November,
1759, died the 24th December, 1807,--was Madame de Lafayette. The three
others, unmarried at the time this letter was written, married
afterwards MM. de Thesan, de Montagu, and de Grammont.

The head of the younger branch of the familv of Noailles was the
Marshal de Mouchy, brother of the Marshal de Noailles, whose children
were, the Prince de Poix, who died peer of France, and captain of the
guards under the restoration; the Duchess de Duras; and the same
Viscount de Noailles, member of the constituent assembly, who died of
his wounds in the expedition to St. Domingo, in 1802.

2. M. de Lusignem, an uncle by marriage of M. de Lafayette.


On board the _Victory_, May 30th, 1777.

I am writing to you from a great distance, my dearest love, and, in
addition to this painful circumstance, I feel also the still more
dreadful uncertainty of the time in which I may receive any news of
you. I hope, however, soon to have a letter from you; and, amongst the
various reasons which render me so desirous of a speedy arrival, this
is the one which excites in me the greatest degree of impatience. How
many fears and anxieties enhance the keen anguish I feel at being
separated from all that I love most fondly in the world! How have you
borne my second departure? have you loved me less? have you pardoned
me? have you reflected that, at all events, I must equally have been
parted from you,--wandering about in Italy,~[1] dragging on an
inglorious life, surrounded by the persons most opposed to my projects,
and to my manner of thinking? All these reflections did not prevent my
experiencing the most bitter grief when the moment arrived for quitting
my native shore. Your sorrow, that of my friends, Henrietta,~[2] all
rushed upon my thoughts, and my heart was torn by a thousand painful
feelings. I could not at that instant find any excuse for my own
conduct. If you could know all that I have suffered, and the melancholy
days that I have passed, whilst thus flying from all that I love best
in the World! Must I join to this affliction the grief of hearing that
you do not pardon me? I should, in truth, my love, be too unhappy. But
I am not speaking to you of myself and of my health, and I well know
that these details will deeply interest you.

Since writing my last letter, I have been confined to the most dreary
of all regions: the sea is so melancholy, that we mutually, I believe,
sadden each other. I ought to have landed by this time, but the winds
have been most provokingly contrary; I shall not arrive at Charlestown
for eight or ten days. It will be a great pleasure to me to land, as I
am expecting to do, in that city. When I am once on shore, I shall hope
each day to receive news from France; I shall learn so many
interesting, things, both concerning the new country I am seeking, and,
above all, that home which I have quitted with so much regret! Provided
I only learn that you are in good health, that you still love me, and
that a certain number of my friends entertain the same feelings towards
me, I can become a perfect philosopher with respect to all the
rest,--whatever it may be, or whatever land it may concern. But if my
heart be attacked in its most vulnerable part, if you were to love me
less, I should feel, in truth, too miserable. But I need not fear
this--need I, my dearest love? I was very ill during the first part of
my voyage, and I might have enjoyed the pleasure of an ill-natured
person, that of knowing that I had many fellow sufferers. I treated
myself according to my own judgment, and recovered sooner than the
other passengers; I am now nearly the same as if I were on shore. I am
certain that, on my arrival, I shall be in a perfect state of health,
and continue so for a long time. Do not fancy that I shall incur any
real dangers by the occupations I am undertaking. The post of general
officer has always been considered like a commission for immortality.
The service will be very different from the one I must have performed
if I had been, for example, a colonel in the French army. My attendance
will only be required in the council. Ask the opinion of all general
officers,--and these are very numerous, because, having once attained
that height, they are no longer exposed to any hazards, and do not
therefore yield their places to inferior officers, as is the case in
other situations. To prove that I do not wish to deceive you, I will
acknowledge that we are at this moment exposed to some danger, from the
risk of being attacked by English vessels, and that my ship is not of
sufficient force for defence. But when I have once landed, I shall be
in perfect safety. You see that I tell you everything, my dearest love;
confide therefore in me, and do not, I conjure you, give way to idle
fears. I will not write you a journal of my voyage: days succeed each
other, and, what is worse, resemble each other. Always sky, always
water, and the next day a repetition of the same thing. In truth, those
who write volumes upon a sea voyage must be incessant babblers; for my
part, I have had contrary winds, as well as other people; I have made a
long voyage, like other people; I have encountered storms; I have seen
vessels, and they were far more interesting for me than for any other
person: well! I have not observed one single event worth the trouble of
relating, or that has not been described by many other persons.

Let us speak of more important things: of yourself, of dear Henriette,
and of her brother or sister. Henriette is so delightful, that she has
made me in love with little girls. To whichever sex our new infant may
belong, I shall receive it with unbounded joy. Lose not a moment in
hastening my happiness by apprising me of its birth. I know not if it
be because I am twice a father, but my parental feelings are stronger
than they ever were. Mr. Deane, and my friend Carmichael, will forward
your letters, and will, I am sure, neglect nothing to promote my
happiness as soon as possible. Write, and even send me a confidential
person, it would give me such pleasure to question any one who has seen
you: Landrin, for example; in short, whom you please. You do not know
the warmth and extent of my affection, if you fancy that you may
neglect anything relating to yourself. You will be, at first, a long
time without hearing from me; but when I am once established you will
receive letters constantly, and of a very recent date. There is no
great difference of time between letters from America and letters from
Sicily. I own that Sicily weighs heavily on my heart. I fancied myself
near seeing you again! But let me break off at the word Sicily. Adieu,
my dearest love; I shall write to you from Charlestown, and write to
you also before I arrive there. Good night, for the present.

7th June.

I am still floating on this dreary plain, the most wearisome of all
human habitations. To console myself a little, I think of you and of my
friends: I think of the pleasure of seeing you again. How delightful
will be the moment of my arrival! I shall hasten to surprise and
embrace you. I shall perhaps find you with your children. To think,
only, of that happy moment, is an inexpressible pleasure to me; do not
fancy that it is distant; although the time of my absence will appear,
I own, very long to me, yet we shall meet sooner than you can expect.
Without being able myself to fix the day or the month of our reunion,
without being aware even of the cause of our absence, the exile
prescribed by the Duke d'Ayen, until the month of January, appeared to
me so immeasurably long, that I certainly shall not inflict upon myself
one of equal length. You must acknowledge, my love, that the occupation
and situation I shall have are very different from those that were
intended for me during that useless journey. Whilst defending the
liberty I adore, I shall enjoy perfect freedom myself: I but offer my
service to that interesting republic from motives of the purest kind,
unmixed with ambition or private views; her happiness and my glory are
my only incentives to the task. I hope that, for my sake, you will
become a good American, for that feeling is worthy of every noble
heart. The happiness of America is intimately connected with the
happiness of all mankind; she will become the safe and respected asylum
of virtue, integrity, toleration, equality, and tranquil happiness.

We have occasionally some slight alarms, but, with a little skill and
good luck, I am certain of reaching the port in safety. I am more
pleased with this prospect, because I feel that I am becoming, every
day, extremely reasonable. You know that the viscount~[3] has the habit
of repeating, that "_travelling forms young men_;" if he said this but
once every morning and once every evening, in truth it would not be too
much, for I am constantly more strongly impressed with the justice of
the observation. I know not where the poor viscount is at this present
moment, nor the prince,~[4] nor all my other friends. This state of
uncertainty is a very painful one. Whenever you chance to meet any one
whom I love, tell him a thousand and ten thousand things from me.
Embrace tenderly my three sisters, and tell them that they must
remember me, and love me; present my compliments to Mademoiselle
Marin;~[5] I recommend, also, poor Abbe Fayon to your care. As to the
Marshal de Noailles, tell him that I do not write to him, for fear of
tiring him, and because I should have nothing to announce to him but my
arrival; that I am expecting his commissions for trees or plants, or
whatever else he may desire, and that I should wish my exactness in
fulfilling his wishes to be a proof of my affection for him. Present,
also, my respects to the Duchess de la Tremoille,~[6] and tell her that
I make the same offer to her as to the Marshal de Noailles, either for
herself or her daughter-in-law, who has such a beautiful garden. Tell
my old friend Desplaus,~[7] also, that I am well. As to my aunts,
Madame d'Ayen and the viscountess, I am myself writing to them.

These are my little commissions, my love; I have also written to
Sicily. We have seen, to-day, several kinds of birds, which announce
that we are not far from shore. The hope of arriving is very sweet, for
a ship life is a most wearisome one. My health, fortunately, allows me
to occupy myself a little; I divide my time between military books and
English books. I have made some progress in this language, which will
become very necessary to me. Adieu; night obliges me to discontinue my
letter, as I forbade some days ago, any candles being used in my
vessel: see how prudent I have become! Once more, adieu; if my fingers
be at all guided by my heart, it is not necessary to see clearly to
tell you that I love you, and that I shall love you all my life.

15th June--At Major Hughes's.~[8]

I have arrived, my dearest love, in perfect health, at the house of an
American officer; and, by the most fortunate chance in the world, a
French vessel is on the point of sailing; conceive how happy I am. I am
going this evening to Charlestown, from whence I will write to you.
There is no important news. The campaign is opened, but there is no
fighting, or at least, very little. The manners in this part of the
world are simple, polite, and worthy in every respect of the country in
which the noble name of liberty is constantly repeated. I intended
writing to Madame d'Ayen, but I find it is impossible. Adieu, adieu, my
love. From Charlestown I shall repair, by land, to Philadelphia, to
rejoin the army. Is it not true that you will always love me?


1. At the moment when M. de Lafayette's project of departure
was taking place, he had been desired to join the Duke d'Ayen, and
Madame de Tesse, his sister, who were setting out for Italy and

2. The first-born of M. de Lafayette, which died during his
voyage. (See letter 16th June, 1778.)

3. The Viscount de Noailles, brother-in-law to M. de Lafayette.

4. The Prince de Poix, son of the Marshal de Mouchy, and consequently
uncle, according to the mode of Bretagne, to Madame de Lafayette.

5. Mademoiselle Marin was governess to Mesdemoiselles de Noailles; and
the Abbe Fayon was tutor to M. de Lafayette.

6. Madame de Lafayette, author of the _Princess de Clever_, had only
one daughter, who became Madame de la Tremoille, and heiress to the
property of the Lafayette family; and who cheerfully consented to
restore to her cousins, who inhabited the province, those estates
which a love of their family might make them wish to conserve to the
heritors of the name of Lafayette. Since that period, the members of
that branch, of which M. de Lafayette was the last scion, have
constantly kept up feelings, not only of relationship, but of
friendship, with the family of la Tremoille.

7. An old valet de chambre.

8. The father of him who so generously devoted himself to save
Lafayette from the prisons of Olmutz--(Note of M. de Lafayette.)


June 19th, 1777, Charlestown.

If my last letter, my dearest love, written five or six days ago, was
closed hastily, I hope at least that the American captain, whom I then
believed to be a French one, will remit it to you as soon as possible.
That letter announced to you that I had landed safely in this country,
after having suffered a little from sea-sickness during the first weeks
of my voyage; that I was staying with a very kind officer, in whose
house I was received upon my arrival; that I had been nearly two months
at sea, and was anxious to continue my journey immediately; that letter
spoke of everything which interests my heart most deeply, of my regret
at having quitted you, of your pregnancy, and of our dear children; it
told you, also, that I was in perfect health. I repeat this extract
from it, because the English may very possibly amuse themselves by
seizing it on its way. I place, however, so much confidence in my lucky
star, that I hope it will reach you safely. That same star has
protected me to the astonishment of every person; you may, therefore,
trust a little to it in future, my love, and let this conviction
tranquillize your fears. I landed after having sailed for several days
along a coast swarming with hostile vessels. On my arrival here every
one told me that my ship must undoubtedly be taken, because two English
frigates had blockaded the harbour. I even sent, both by land and sea,
orders to the captain to put the men on shore, and burn the vessel, if
he had still the power of doing so. Well! by a most extraordinary piece
of good fortune, a sudden gale of wind having blown away the frigates
for a short time, my vessel arrived at noon-day, without having
encountered friend or foe. At Charlestown I have met with General Howe,
a general officer, now engaged in service. The governor of the state is
expected this evening from the country. All the persons with whom I
wished to be acquainted have shewn me the greatest attention and
politeness (not European politeness merely); I can only feel gratitude
for the reception I have met with, although I have not yet thought
proper to enter into any detail respecting my future prospects and
arrangements. I wish to see the congress first. I hope to set out in
two days for Philadelphia, which is a land journey of more than two
hundred and fifty leagues. We shall divide into small parties; I have
already purchased horses and light carriages for this purpose. There
are some French and American vessels at present here, who are to sail
out of the harbour in company to-morrow morning, taking advantage of a
moment when the frigates are out of sight: they are numerous and armed,
and have promised me to defend themselves stoutly against the small
privateers they will undoubtedly meet with. I shall distribute my
letters amongst the different ships, in case any accident should happen
to either one of them.

I shall now speak to you, my love, about the country and its
inhabitants, who are as agreeable as my enthusiasm had led me to
imagine. Simplicity of manner, kindness of heart, love of country and
of liberty, and a delightful state of equality, are met with
universally. The richest and the poorest man are completely on a level;
and although there are some immense fortunes in this country, I may
challenge any one to point out the slightest difference in their
respective manner towards each other. I first saw and judged of a
country life at Major Hughes's house: I am at present in the city,
where everything somewhat resembles the English customs, except that
you find more simplicity here than you would do in England. Charlestown
is one of the best built, handsomest, and most agreeable cities that I
have ever seen. The American women are very pretty, and have great
simplicity of character; and the extreme neatness of their appearance
is truly delightful: cleanliness is everywhere even more studiously
attended to here than in England. What gives me most pleasure is to see
how completely the citizens are all brethren of one family. In America
there are none poor, and none even that can be called peasants. Each
citizen has some property, and all citizens have the same rights as the
richest individual, or landed proprietor, in the country. The inns are
very different from those of Europe; the host and hostess sit at table
with you, and do the honours of a comfortable meal; and when you
depart, you pay your bill without being obliged to tax it. If you
should dislike going to inns, you may always find country houses in
which you will be received, as a good American, with the same attention
that you might expect in a friend's house in Europe.

My own reception has been most peculiarly agreeable. To have been
merely my travelling companion, suffices to secure the kindest welcome.
I have just passed five hours at a large dinner given in compliment to
me by an individual of this town. Generals Howe and Moultrie, and
several officers of my suite, were present. We drank each other's
health, and endeavoured to talk English, which I am beginning to speak
a little. I shall pay a visit to-morrow, with these gentlemen, to the
governor of the state, and make the last arrangements for my departure.
The next day, the commanding officers here will take me to see the town
and its environs, and I shall then set out to join the army. I must
close and send my letter immediately, because the vessel goes to-night
to the entrance of the harbour, and sails to-morrow at five o'clock. As
all the ships are exposed to some risk, I shall divide my letters
amongst them. I write to M M. de Coigny, de Poix, de Noailles, de
Segur, and to Madame d'Ayen.~[1] If either of these should not receive
my letter, be so kind as to mention this circumstance.

From the agreeable life I lead in this country, from the sympathy which
makes me feel as much at ease with the inhabitants as if I had known
them for twenty years, the similarity between their manner of thinking
and of my own, my love of glory and of liberty, you might imagine that
I am very happy: but you are not with me, my dearest love; my friends
are not with me; and there is no happiness for me when far from you and
them. I often ask you if you still love, but I put that question still
more often to myself and my heart ever answers, yes: I trust that heart
does not deceive me. I am inexpressibly anxious to hear from you; I
hope to find some letters at Philadelphia. My only fear is that the
privateer which was to bring them to me should have been captured on
her way. Although I can easily imagine that I have excited the especial
displeasure of the English, by taking the liberty of coming hither in
spite of them, and landing before their very face, yet I must confess
that we shall be even more than on a par if they succeed in catching
that vessel, the object of my fondest hopes, by which I am expecting to
receive your letters. I entreat you to send me both long and frequent
letters. You are not sufficiently conscious of the joy with which I
shall receive them. Embrace, most tenderly, my Henriette: may I add,
embrace our children? The father of those poor children is a wanderer,
but he is, nevertheless, a good, honest man,--a, good father, warmly
attached to his family, and a good husband also, for he loves his wife
most tenderly. Present my compliments to your friends and to mine; may
I not say _our_ friends? with the permission of the Countess Auguste
and Madame de Fronsac.~[2] By _my friends_, you know that I mean my own
dear circle, formerly of the court, and which afterwards became the
society of _the wooden sword_;~[3] we republicans like it the better
for the change. This letter will be given you by a French captain, who,
I think, will deliver it into your own hands; but I must confide to you
that I have an agreeable anticipation for to-morrow, which is to write
to you by an American, who will sail on the same day, but at a later
hour. Adieu, then, my dearest love; I must leave off for want of time
and paper; and if I do not repeat ten thousand times that I love you,
it is not from want of affection, but from my having the vanity to hope
that I have already convinced you of it. The night is far advanced, the
heat intense, and I am devoured by gnats; but the best countries, as
you perceive, have their inconveniences. Adieu, my love, adieu.


1. The Viscount de Coigny, son of the last marshal of that name, was
the intimate friend of M. de Lafayette in his youth. He died young,
perhaps even during this voyage.--(See the letters of January the 6th,
and February 13th, 1778.) The Count de Segur, who had married the
sister of the Duchess d'Ayen, and who was, therefore, the uncle of M.
de Lafayette, continued, to the last, his friend--(See the memoirs
published before his death, which occurred in 1830.)

2. The Countess Auguste d'Aremberg, the wife of Count de Lamark, the
friend of Mirabeau, and the Duchess de Fronsac, daughter-in-law to the
Marshal de Richelieu.

3. A society of young men, who first assembled at Versailles, and
afterwards at an inn at Paris.--(Note by M. de Lafayette.)


Petersburg, July 17th, 1777.

I am very happy, my dearest love, if the word happiness can truly be
applied to me, whilst I am separated from all I love; there is a vessel
on the point of sailing for France, and I am enabled to tell you,
before setting out for Philadelphia, that I love you, my dearest life,
and that you may be perfectly tranquil respecting my health. I bore the
fatigue of the journey without suffering from it; although the land
expedition was long and wearisome, yet the confinement of my melancholy
ship was far more so. I am now eight days' journey from Philadelphia,
in the beautiful state of Virginia. All fatigue is over, and I fear
that my martial labours will be very light, if it be true that General
Howe has left New York, to go I know not whither. But all the accounts
I receive are so uncertain, that I cannot form any fixed opinion until
I reach my destination; from thence, my love, I shall write you a long
letter. You must already have received four letters from me, if they
have not fallen into the hands of the English. I have received no news
of you, and my impatience to arrive at Philadelphia to hear, from you
cannot be compared to any other earthly feeling. Conceive the state of
my mind, after having passed such an immense length of time without,
having received a line from any friend! I hope all this will soon end,
for I cannot live in such a state of uncertainty. I have undertaken a
task which is, in truth, beyond my power, for my heart was not formed
for so much suffering.

You must have learnt the particulars of the commencement of my journey:
you know that I set out in a brilliant manner in a carriage, and I must
now tell you that we are all on horseback,--having broken the carriage,
according to my usual praiseworthy custom,--and I hope soon to write to
you that we have arrived on foot. The journey is somewhat fatiguing;
but although several of my comrades have suffered a great deal, I have
scarcely myself been conscious of fatigue. The captain who takes charge
of this letter will, perhaps, pay you a visit; I beg you in that case
to receive him with great kindness.

I scarcely dare think of the time of your confinement, and yet I think
of it every moment of the day. I cannot dwell upon it without the most
dreadful anxiety. I am, indeed, unfortunate, at being so distant from
you; even if you did not love me, you ought to pity me; but you do love
me, and we shall mutually render each other happy. This little note
will be short in comparison to the volumes I have already sent you, but
you shall receive another letter in a few days from me.

The farther I advance to the north, the better pleased am I with the
country and inhabitants. There is no attention or kindness that I do
not receive, although many scarcely know who I am. But I will write all
this to you more in detail from Philadelphia. I have only time to
intreat you, my dearest love, not to forget an unhappy man, who pays
most dearly for the error he committed in parting from you, and who
never felt before how tenderly he loved you.

My respectful compliments to Madame d'Ayen, and my affectionate regards
to my sisters. Tell M. de Coigny and M. de Poix that I am in good
health, in case some letters should miscarry which I shall send by
another opportunity, by which I shall also send a line to you, although
I do not consider it so secure as this one.


July 23rd, 1777.

I am always meeting, my dearest love, with opportunities of sending
letters; I have this time only a quarter of an hour to give you. The
vessel is on the point of sailing, and I can only announce to you my
safe arrival at Annapolis, forty leagues from Philadelphia. I can tell
you nothing of the town, for, as I alighted from my horse, I armed
myself with a little weapon dipt in invisible ink. You must already
have received five letters from me, unless King George should have
received some of them. The last one was despatched three days since; in
it I announced to you that my health was perfectly good, and had not
been even impaired by my anxiety to arrive at Philadelphia. I have
received bad news here; Ticonderoga, the strongest American post, has
been forced by the enemy; this is very unfortunate, and we must
endeavour to repair the evil. Our troops have taken, in retaliation, an
English general officer, near New York. I am each day more miserable
from having quitted you, my dearest love; I hope to receive news of you
at Philadelphia, and this hope adds much to the impatience I feel to
arrive in that city. Adieu, my life; I am in such haste that I know not
what I write, but I do know that I love you more tenderly than ever;
that the pain of this separation were necessary to convince me how very
dear you are to me, and that I would give at this moment half my
existence for the pleasure of embracing you again, and telling you with
my own lips how well I love you. My respects to Madame d'Ayen, my
compliments to the viscountess, my sisters, and all my friends: to you
only have I time to write. O! if you knew how much I sigh to see you,
how much I suffer at being separated from you, and all that my heart
has been called on to endure, you would think me somewhat worthy of
your love! I have left no space for Henriette; may I say for my
children? Give them a hundred thousand embraces; I shall most heartily
share them with you.


Philadelphia, September 12th, 1777.

I write you a line, my dearest love, by some French officers, my
friends, who embarked with me, but, not having received any appointment
in the American army, are returning to France. I must begin by telling
you that I am perfectly well, because I must end by telling you that we
fought seriously last night, and that we were not the strongest on the
field of battle. Our Americans, after having stood their ground for
some time, ended at length by being routed: whilst endeavouring to
rally them, the English honoured me with a musket ball, which slightly
wounded me in the leg,--but it is a trifle, my dearest love; the ball
touched neither bone nor nerve, and I have escaped with the obligation
of lying on my back for some time, which puts me much out of humour. I
hope that you will feel no anxiety; this event ought, on the contrary,
rather to reassure you, since I am incapacitated from appearing on the
field for some time: I have resolved to take great care of myself; be
convinced of this, my love. This affair, will, I fear, be attended with
bad consequences for America. We will endeavour, if possible, to repair
the evil. You must have received many letters from me, unless the
English be equally
ill-disposed towards my epistles as towards my legs. I have not yet
received one letter, and I am most impatient to hear from you. Adieu; I
am forbidden to write longer. For several days I have not had time to
sleep. Our retreat, and my journey hither, took up the whole of last
night; I am perfectly well taken care of in this place. Tell all my
friends that I am in good health. My tender respects to Madame d'Ayen.
A thousand compliments to the viscountess and my sisters. The officers
will soon set out. They will see you; what pleasure! Good night, my
dearest life! I love you better than ever.


October 1st, 1777.

I wrote to you, my dearest love, the 12th of September; the twelfth was
the day after the eleventh, and I have a little tale to relate to you
concerning that eleventh day. To render my action more meritorious, I
might tell you that prudent reflections induced me to remain for some
weeks in my bed, safe sheltered from all danger; but I must acknowledge
that I was encouraged to take this measure by a slight wound, which I
met with I know not how, for I did not, in truth, expose myself to
peril. It was the first conflict at which I had been present; so you
see how very rare engagements are. It will be the last of this
campaign, or, in all probability, at least, the last great battle; and
if anything should occur, you see that I could not myself be present.

You may, therefore, my love, feel perfectly secure. I have much
pleasure in thus reassuring you. While I am desiring you not to be
alarmed on my account, I repeat to myself that you love me; and this
little conversation with my own heart is inexpressibly delightful to
me, for I love you more tenderly than I have ever done before.

My first occupation was to write to you the day after that affair: I
told you that it was a mere trifle, and I was right; all I fear is that
you should not have received my letter. As General Howe is giving, in
the meantime, rather pompous details of his American exploits to the
king his master, if he should write word that I am wounded, he may also
write word that I am killed, which would not cost him anything; but I
hope that my friends, and you especially, will not give faith to the
reports of those persons who last year dared to publish that General
Washington, and all the general officers of his army, being in a boat
together, had been upset, and every individual drowned. But let us
speak about the wound: it is only a flesh-wound, and has neither
touched bone nor nerve. The surgeons are astonished at the rapidity
with which it heals; they are in an ecstasy of joy each time they dress
it, and pretend it is the finest thing in the world: for my part, I
think it most disagreeable, painful, and wearisome; but tastes often
differ: if a man, however, wished to be wounded for his amusement only,
he should come and examine how I have been struck, that he might be
struck precisely in the same manner. This, my dearest love, is what I
pompously style my wound, to give myself airs, and render myself

I must now give you your lesson, as wife of an American general
officer. They will say to you, "They have been beaten:" you must
answer,--"That is true; but when two armies of _equal number_ meet in
the field, old soldiers have naturally the advantage over new ones;
they have, besides, had the pleasure of killing a great many of the
enemy, many more than they have lost." They will afterwards add: "All
that is very well; but Philadelphia is taken, the capital of America,
the rampart of liberty!" You must politely answer, "You are all great
fools! Philadelphia is a poor forlorn town, exposed on every side,
whose harbour was already closed; though the residence of congress lent
it, I know not why, some degree of celebrity. This is the famous city
which, be it added, we will, sooner or later, make them yield back to
us." If they continue to persecute you with questions, you may send
them about their business in terms which the Viscount de Noailles will
teach you, for I cannot lose time by talking to you of politics.

I have delayed writing your letter till the last, in the hope of
receiving one from you, answering it, and giving you the latest
intelligence of my health; but I am told, if I do not send immediately
to congress, twenty-five leagues from hence, my captain will have set
out, and I shall lose the opportunity of writing to you. This is the
cause of my scrawl being more unintelligible than usual; however, if I
were to send you anything but a hurried scrawl, I ought, in that case,
to beg your pardon, from the singularity of the case. Recollect, my
dearest love, that I have only once heard of you, from Count Pulaski. I
am much provoked, and am very miserable. Imagine how dreadful it is to
be far from all I love, in this state of suspense and almost despair;
it is impossible to support it; and I feel, at the same time, that I do
not deserve to be pitied. Why was I so obstinately bent on coming
hither ? I have been well punished for my error; my affections are too
strongly rooted for me to be able to perform such deeds. I hope you
pity me; if you knew all I suffer, especially at this moment, when
everything concerning you is so deeply interesting! I cannot, without
shuddering, think of this. I am told that a parcel has arrived from
France; I have despatched expresses on every road and in every corner;
I have sent an officer to congress; I am expecting him every day, and
you may conceive with what feelings of intense anxiety. My surgeon is
also very anxious for his arrival, for this suspense keeps my blood in
a state of effervescence, and he would fain require that it should flow
calmly. O, my dearest life, if I receive good news from you, and all I
love,--if those delightful letters arrive to-day, how happy I shall
be!--but with what agitation, also, I shall open them!

Be perfectly at ease about my wound; all the faculty in America are
engaged in my service. I have a friend, who has spoken to them in such
a manner that I am certain of being well attended to; that friend is
General Washington. This excellent man, whose talents and virtues I
admired, and whom I have learnt to revere as I know him better, has now
become my intimate friend: his affectionate interest in me instantly
won my heart. I am established in his house, and we live together like
two attached brothers, with mutual confidence and cordiality. This
friendship renders me as happy as I can possibly be in this country.
When he sent his best surgeon to me, he told him to take charge of me
as if I were his son, because he loved me with the same affection.
Having heard that I wished to rejoin the army too soon, he wrote me a
letter full of tenderness, in which he requested me to attend to the
perfect restoration of my health. I give you these details, my dearest
love, that you may feel quite certain of the care that is taken of me.
Amongst the French officers, who have all expressed the warmest
interest for me, M. de Gimat, my aide-de-camp, has followed me about
like my shadow, both before and since the battle, and has given me
every possible proof of attachment. You may thus feel quite secure on
this account, both for the present and for the future.

All the foreigners who are in the army,--for I do not speak only of
those who have not been employed, and who, on their return to France,
will naturally give an unjust account of America, because the
discontented, anxious to revenge their fancied injuries, cannot be
impartial,--all the foreigners, I say, who have been employed here are
dissatisfied, complain, detest others, and are themselves detested:
they do not understand why I am the only stranger beloved in America,
and I cannot understand why they are so much hated. In the midst of the
disputes and dissensions common to all armies, especially when there
are officers of various nations, I, for my part, who am an easy and a
good-tempered man, am so fortunate as to be loved by all parties, both
foreigners and Americans: I love them all--I hope I deserve their
esteem; and we are perfectly satisfied the one with the other. I am at
present in the solitude of Bethlehem, which the Abbe Raynal has
described so minutely. This establishment is a very interesting one;
the fraternity lead an agreeable and a very tranquil life: we will talk
over all this on my return; and I intend to weary those I love,
yourself, of course, in the first place, by the relation of my
adventures, for you know that I was always a great prattler. You must
become a prattler also, my love, and say many things for me to
Henriette--my poor little Henriette! embrace her a thousand
times--talk of me to her, but do not tell her all I deserve to suffer;
my punishment will be, not to be recognised by her on my arrival; that
is the penance Henriette will impose on me. Has she a brother or a
sister?--the choice is quite indifferent to me, provided I have a
second time the pleasure of being a father, and that I may soon learn
that circumstance. If I should have a son, I will tell him to examine
his own heart carefully; and if that heart should be a tender one, if
he should have a wife whom he loves as I love you, in that case I shall
advise him not to give way to feelings of enthusiasm, which would
separate him from the object of his affection, for that affection will
afterwards give rise to a thousand dreadful fears.

I am writing, by a different opportunity, to various persons, and also
to yourself. I think this letter will arrive first; if this vessel
should accidentally arrive, and the other one be lost, I have given the
viscount a list of the letters I have addressed to him. I forgot to
mention my aunts;~[1] give them news of me as soon as this reaches you.
I have made no _duplicata_ for you, because I write to you by every
opportunity. Give news of me, also, to M. Margelay,~[2] the Abbe Fayon,
and Desplaces.

A thousand tender regards to my sisters; I permit them to despise me as
an infamous deserter--but they must also love me at the same time. My
respects to Madame la Comtesse Auguste, and Madame de Fronsac. If my
grandfather's letters should not reach him, present to him my
respectful and affectionate regards. Adieu, adieu, my dearest life;
continue to love me, for I love you most tenderly.

Present my compliments to Dr. Franklin and Mr. Deane; I wished to write
to them, but cannot find time.


1. Madame de Chavaniac and Madame de Motier, sisters of General
Lafayette's father.

2. An ancient officer, to whom M. de Lafayette was confided, on leaving
college, as to a governor.



Whitemarsh Camp, October 24, 1777.

SIR,--You were formerly annoyed, much against my wish, by the part you
were called upon to take in my first projects; you will, perhaps, also
feel annoyed by the attention I take the liberty of requesting you to
give to the objects I have at present in view. They may appear to you
as little worthy as the first of occupying your valuable time; but in
this case, as in the previous one, my good intentions (even should they
ill-directed) may serve as my apology. My age might also, perhaps, have
been one, formerly; I only request now that it may not prevent you from
taking into consideration whether my opinions be rational.

I do not permit myself to examine what succour the glorious cause we
are defending in America may have received; but my love for my own
country makes me observe, with pleasure, under how many points of view
the vexations of the family of England may be advantageous to her.
There is, above all, one project which, in every case, and _at all
events_, would present, I think, rational hopes of attaining any useful
end, in exact proportion to the means employed in its execution; I
allude to an expedition of greater or less importance against the East
Indies; and I should fear to injure the cause by proposing myself to
take charge of it.

Without pretending to the art of prophecy in relation to present
events, but convinced in the sincerity of my heart that to injure
England would be serving (shall I say revenging?) my country, I believe
that this idea would powerfully excite the energy of each individual
bearing the honourable name of Frenchman. I came hither without
permission; I have obtained no approbation but that which may be
implied by silence; I might also undertake another little voyage
without having been authorized by government: if the success be
uncertain, I should have the advantage of exposing only myself to
danger,--and what should, therefore, prevent my being enterprising? If
I could but succeed in the slightest degree, a flame kindled on the
least important establishment of England, even if part of my own
fortune were to be consumed also, would satisfy my heart by awakening
hopes for a more propitious hour.

Guided by the slight knowledge which my ignorance has been able to
obtain, I shall now state in what manner, Sir, I would undertake this
enterprise. An American patent, to render my movements regular, the
trifling succours by which it might be sustained, the assistance I
might obtain at the French islands, the speculations of some merchants,
the voluntary aid of a few of my fellow comrades,--such are the feeble
resources which would enable me to land peacefully on the Isle of
France. I should there find, I believe, privateers ready to assist me,
and men to accompany me in sufficient numbers to lie in wait for the
vessels returning from China, which would offer me a fresh supply of
force, sufficient perhaps to enable me to fall upon one or two of their
factories, and destroy them before they could be protected. With an
aid, which I dare scarcely hope would be granted me, and, above all,
with talents which I am far from having yet acquired, might not some
advantage be taken of the jealousy of the different nabobs, the hatred
of the Mahrattas, the venality of the sepoys, and the effeminacy of the
English? Might not the crowd of Frenchmen dispersed at present on that
coast be employed with advantage in the cause? As to myself personally,
in any case, the fear of compromising my own country would prevent my
acknowledging the pride I feel in being her son, even as the nobility
in some provinces occasionally lay aside their marks of distinction to
reassume them at a later period.

Although by no means blind as to the imprudence of the step, I would
have hazarded this enterprise alone, if the fear of injuring the
interests I wish to serve, by not sufficiently understanding them, or
of proving a detriment to some better-concerted expedition, had not
arrested my intended movements; for I have the vanity to believe that a
project of this kind may one day be executed on a grander scale, and by
far abler hands, than mine. Even now it might be executed in a manner
that would, I think, insure success, if I could hope to receive from
the government, not an order, not succours, not mere indifference,--but
I know scarcely what, which I can find no language to express with
sufficient delicacy.

In this case, an order from the king, should he deign to restore me for
some time to my friends and family, without prohibiting my return
hither, would give me a hint to prepare myself with American
continental commissions; some preparations and instructions from France
might also precede that pretended return, and conduct me straight to
the East Indies: the silence which was formerly perhaps an error, would
then become a sacred duty, and would serve to conceal my true
destination, and above all the sort of approbation it might receive.

Such, Sir, are the ideas that, duly impressed with a sense of my
incapacity and youth, I presume to submit to your better judgment, and,
if you should think favourably of them, to the various modifications to
which you may conceive them liable; I am certain, at least, that they
cannot be deemed ridiculous, because they are inspired by a laudable
motive--the love of my country. I only ask for the honour of serving
her under other colours, and I rejoice at seeing her interest united to
that of the republicans for whom I am combating; earnestly hoping,
however, that I shall soon be allowed to fight under the French banner.
A commission of grenadier in the king's army would, in that case, be
more agreeable to me than the highest rank in a foreign army.

I reproach myself too much, Sir, for thus offering you my undigested
ideas regarding Asia, to heighten my offence by presumptuously tracing
a plan of America, embellished with my own reflections, which you do
not require, and have not asked for: the zeal which led me hither, and,
above all, the friendship which unites me to the
general-in-chief, would render me liable to the accusation of
partiality, from which feeling I flatter myself I am wholly free. I
reserve till my return the honour of mentioning to you the names of
those officers of merit whom the love of their profession has led to
this continent. All those who are French, Sir, have a right to feel
confidence in you. It is on this ground that I claim your indulgence; I
have a second claim upon it from the respect with which I have the
honour to be, Sir,

Your very humble and obedient servant,


If this letter should weary you, Sir, the manner in which it will reach
you may be deemed perhaps but too secure. I entrust it to M. de
Valfort, captain of the regiment of Aunis, with the commission of
colonel in our islands, whom his talents, reputation, and researches,
have rendered useful in this country, and whom the wishes of General
Washington would have detained here, if his health had not rendered it
absolutely necessary for him to return to France. I shall here await
your orders, (which cannot, without difficulty, enter an American
harbour,) or I shall go myself to receive them, as future circumstances
may render proper; for, since my arrival, I have not received one order
which could regulate my movements.


The Camp near Whitemarsh, Oct. 29th, 1777.

I send you an open letter, my dearest love, in the person of M. de
Valfort, my friend, whom I entreat you to receive as such. He will tell
you at length everything concerning me; but I must tell you myself how
well I love you. I have too much pleasure in experiencing this
sentiment not to have also pleasure in repeating it to you a thousand
times, if that were possible. I have no resource left me, my love, but
to write and write again, without even hoping that my letters will ever
reach you, and I endeavour to console myself, by the pleasure of
conversing with you, for the disappointment and anguish of not
receiving one single line from France. It is impossible to describe to
you how completely my heart is torn by anxiety and fear; nor should I
wish to express all I feel, even if it were in my power to do so; for I
would not disturb, by any painful impressions, the happiest moments of
my exile--those in which I can speak to you of my tenderness. But do
you, at least, pity me? Do you comprehend all that I endure? If I could
only know at this moment where you are, and what you are doing! but in
the course of time I shall learn all this, for I am not separated from
you in reality, as if I were dead. I am expecting your letters with an
impatience, from which nothing can for an instant divert my thoughts:
every one tells me they must soon arrive; but can I rely on this?
Neglect not one opportunity of writing to me, if my happiness be still
dear to you. Repeat to me that you love me: the less I merit your
affection, the more necessary to me are your consoling assurances of
it. You must have received so many accounts of my slight wound, that
all repetitions on the subject would be useless; and if you ever
believed it was anything serious, M. de Valfort can undeceive you. In a
very short time I shall not even be lame.

Is it not dreadful, my love, to reflect that it is by the public, by
English papers, by our enemy's gazettes, that I should receive
intelligence concerning you? In an unimportant article relating to my
arrival here, they ended by speaking of yourself, your situation, and
approaching confinement; that source of all my fears, agitations,
hopes, and joy. How happy I should feel if I could learn that I had
become a second time a father, that you are in good health, that my two
children and their mother are likely to constitute the felicity of my
future life! This country is delightful for the growth of filial and
paternal love: these feelings may even be termed passions, and give
rise to the most assiduous and unremitting care. The news of your
confinement will be received with joy by the whole army, and above all
by its commander.

I shall find my poor little Henriette very amusing on my return. I hope
she will deliver a long sermon of reproof, and that she will speak to
me with all the frankness of friendship; for my daughter will be
always, I trust, my most intimate friend; I will only be a father in
affection, and paternal love shall unite in my heart with friendship.
Embrace her, my love,--may I say embrace _them?_--for me! But I will
not dwell upon all I suffer from this painful uncertainty. I know that
you share all the sorrows of my heart, and I will not afflict you. I
wrote by the last opportunity to Madame d'Ayen; since my wound I have
written to everybody; but those letters have perhaps been lost. It is
not my fault; I wish to return a little evil to those wicked letter-
stealers when they are on land, but on the sea I have only the
consolation of the weak, that of cursing heartily those of whom I
cannot be revenged. A thousand tender respects to your mother; my kind
regards to your sisters. Do not forget my compliments to the Marshal de
Noailles, and to your paternal and maternal relations. I have received
four foolish lines from the Marshal de Mouchy, who does not say one
word of you; I swore at him in every language. Adieu, my love, adieu;


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