Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette
Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette (September 6 1757 – May 20 1834), often referred to simply as Lafayette, was a French and American military officer and aristocrat who participated in the American Revolution as a general and served in the Estates General and the subsequent National Constituent Assembly in the early phases of the French Revolution.
- I read, I study, I examine, I listen, I reflect, and out of all of this I try to form an idea into which I put as much common sense as I can. I shall not speak much for fear of saying foolish things; I will risk still less for fear of doing them, for I am not disposed to abuse the confidence which they have deigned to show me. Such is the conduct which until now I have followed and will follow.
- Letter to his father-in-law, the Duc d'Ayan (4 December 1776), as quoted in George Washington's Generals and Opponents: Their Exploits and Leadership (1994) by George Athan Billias, p. 219
- An irresistible passion that would induce me to believe in innate ideas, and the truth of prophecy, has decided my career. I have always loved liberty with the enthusiasm which actuates the religious man with the passion of a lover, and with the conviction of a geometrician. On leaving college, where nothing had displeased me more than a state of dependance, I viewed the greatness and the littleness of the court with contempt, the frivolities of society with pity, the minute pedantry of the army with disgust, and oppression of every sort with indignation. The attraction of the American revolution transported me suddenly to my place. I felt myself tranquil only when sailing between the continent whose powers I had braved, and that where, although our arrival and our ultimate success were problematical, I could, at the age of nineteen, take refuge in the alternative of conquering or perishing in the cause to which I had devoted myself.
- Humanity has gained its suit; Liberty will nevermore be without an asylum.
- Letter to friends (1780), published in Memoirs de La Fayette Vol. II, p. 50, quoted in Martin's History of France : The Decline of the French Monarchy (1866) by Henri Martin, Vol. II, p. 418
- Variant translations:
- Humanity has gained its suit : Liberty will never more be without an asylum.
- As quoted in Oration on the Hundredth Anniversary of the Surrender of Lord Cornwallis to the Combined Forces of America and France: At Yorktown, Virginia, 19th October, 1781: Delivered at Yorktown, 19th October, 1881 (1881), by Robert Charles Winthrop, p. 53
- Humanity has won its battle. Liberty now has a country.
- As quoted in French Contributions to America (1945) by Edward Fecteau
- Humanity has won its suit and liberty will never more want an asylum.
- As quoted in Journal of Proceedings and Addresses (1891) by National Educational Association, p. 107
- Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else; hence the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no limits except those which assure to the other members of the society the enjoyment of the same rights.
- Declaration of the Rights of Man (1789)
- When the government violates the people's rights, insurrection is, for the people and for each portion of the people, the most sacred of the rights and the most indispensable of duties.
- Speech to the Constituent Assembly (20 February 1790), as quoted in Famous Sayings and their Authors (1906) edited by Edward Latham
- This has sometimes been misquoted without qualifying context as "Insurrection is the holiest of duties."
- True republicanism is the sovereignty of the people. There are natural and imprescriptible rights which an entire nation has no right to violate, just as national sovereignty is above the secondary agreements of the government.
- Speech (3 January 1834), quoted in Lafayette in Two Worlds: Public Cultures and Personal Identities in an Age of Revolutions (1999), p. 256
- I would never have drawn my sword in the cause of America, if I could have conceived that thereby I was founding a land of slavery.
- As quoted in a letter by Thomas Clarkson (3 October 1845), published in The Liberty Bell (1846), p. 64
Quotes about La Fayette
- He devoted himself, his life, his fortune, his hereditary honors, his towering ambition, his splendid hopes, all to the cause of liberty. He came to another hemisphere to defend her. He became one of the most effective champions of our Independence; but, that once achieved, he returned to his own country, and thenceforward took no part in the controversies which have divided us.
- John Quincy Adams in an address to the US Congress (31 December 1834)
- Till the hour when the trump of the Archangel shall sound to announce that Time shall be no more, the name of Lafayette shall stand enrolled upon the annals of our race, high on the list of the pure and disinterested benefactors of mankind.
- John Quincy Adams in an address to the US Congress (31 December 1834)
- Lafayette avoided the factions jealous of Washington because he recognized that Washington was the Revolution and that should he be reduced in power or replaced, the whole cause would collapse. … Washington was a shrewd judge of character and never would have warmed to Lafayette if he had been only a superficial ingratiating romantic.
Lafayette scrupulously looked after his men, spending his own money when Congress failed to provide them necessities. Nor was he backward in suggesting to Washington certain changes and innovations from French military practice.
- George Athan Billias, in in George Washington's Generals and Opponents : Their Exploits and Leadership (1994), p. 219 - 220
- Ambition, as that passion is generally understood,— a strong desire to rise above others, to occupy the first place, — formed no part of Lafayette's character. In him the passion was nothing more than a constant and irresistible wish to do good.
- Jules Germain Cloquet, in Recollections of the Private Life of General Lafayette (1836), Vol. I, p. 23
- Lafayette valued reputation and glory, but cared little for the power that generally results from them. Having one day been asked who was in his opinion the greatest man of this age: "In my idea," replied he, "General Washington is the greatest man, for I look upon him as the most virtuous."
- Jules Germain Cloquet, in Recollections of the Private Life of General Lafayette (1836), Vol. I, p. 24
- No one deserves more than he the esteem which he enjoys here. He is a prodigy for his age, full of courage, spirit, judgment, good manners, feelings of generosity and of zeal for the cause of liberty on this continent.
- Lafayette is a young man of royal birth, with liberal politics and what Jefferson later called "a canine appetite for fame." Someone said he was "a statue in search of a pedestal." But he was intoxicated with, [had] a rather theoretical love of, liberty. It was theoretical because liberty wasn't known to many Europeans. [Lafayette] was a great romantic and he fell in love with America, the concept of America that the French had. This wild new world where you could start the world over, to use Tom Paine's phrase.
- Lafayette, nous voilà!
- Lafayette, we are here!
- Charles E. Stanton, an aid to General John J. Pershing in an address before the tomb of Lafayette (4 July 1917). Pershing is often credited with the remark, sometimes upon arriving in France with the American Expeditionary Force, but he himself stated: "Many have attributed this striking utterance to me and I have often wished that it could have been mine, but I have no recollection of saying anything so splendid. I am sure that those words were spoken by Colonel Stanton and to him must go the credit for coining so happy and felicitous a phrase."
- Lafayette, we are here!
- Despite all of his face-smashing asskicking prowess, perhaps the Marquis de Lafayette's greatest contribution to the American Revolution was his ability to get the French Crown off its ass to help bail our shit out. … The Marquis de Lafayette is probably one of the only Frenchmen to ever be declared a national hero in the United States — a statistic that is badass in and of itself. Roughly 40 cities in America are named after him, he has numerous statues across the country, and he is fondly remembered as a motherfucker who helped us gain our independence from our oppressive British masters. He was also a goddamned badass who kicked nuts, refused to let anybody stand in the way of his mission to bring freedom to the common man, and bravely fought for liberty and equality — even when it didn't pay dick.
- The Marquis de Lafayette is extremely solicitous of having a command equal to his rank. I do not know in what light Congress will view the matter, but it appears to me, from a consideration of his illustrious and important connexions, the attachment which he has manifested for our cause, and the consequences which his return in disgust might produce, that it will be advisable to gratify him in his wishes; and the more so, as several gentlemen from France, who came over under some assurances, have gone back disappointed in their expectations. His conduct with respect to them stands in a favorable point of view; having interested himself to remove their uneasiness, and urged the impropriety of their making any unfavorable representations upon their arrival at home; and in all his letters he has placed our affairs in the best situation he' could. Besides, he is sensible; discreet in his manners; has made great proficiency in our language; and, from the disposition he discovered at the battle of Brandywine, possesses a large share of bravery and military ardor.
- George Washington, in a letter to Congress (1 November 1777), as quoted in Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States Vol. 23, Issue 2 (1835), p. 665
- Works by Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette at Project Gutenberg
- The Cornell University Library Lafayette Collection
- The Marquis de Lafayette collection, Cleveland State University
- Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette Collection, Library of Congress
- Lafayette College, The Marquis de Lafayette Collections
- Martha Joanna Lamb, Lafayette letters from prison, The Magazine of American History with Notes and Queries, pp. 353-376