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MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE.
MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE, a major-general in the army of the United States.
The name and character of this illustrious French nobleman, will occupy a conspicuous place in our biographic annals, and be honoured by posterity no less for his enthusiastic love of liberty, than for his heroism and military renown.
In the year 1776, at the immature age of nineteen, he espoused the cause of the Americans, and nobly resolved to afford our country all possible assistance by his personal services and influence. At this era, the affairs of America were bordering on despair, and were represented in France as so deplorable, that it might be supposed sufficient to repress the most de termined zeal. Reports were propagated in that country, that our army, reduced to a mere rabble, was flying before an army of 30,000 regulars; nor was this very wide from the reality. In consequence of this, our commissioners found it impossible
procure a vessel to convey the marquis and their own despatches to Congress; they could not therefore feel justified in encouraging his bold contemplated enterprise. This embarrassment, however, had the effect of increasing, rather than of restraining his youthful ardour and heroism.
He at length imparted to the commissioners his determination to purchase and fit out a vessel to convey himself and their despatches to America. This project was deemed so extraordinary and important, that it did not fail to engage universal attention. The French court had not then declared even a friendly intention towards America, but, on the contrary, was extremely cautious of giving offence to the British government. Orders were therefore given, prohibiting the departure of this nobleman, and vessels were even despatched to the West Indies to intercept him, in
case he should take that route. The marquis was well apprized that he exposed himself to the loss of his fortune by the laws of France; and that, should he fall into the hands of the English, on his passage, he would be liable to a confinement of uncertain duration, and without a prospect of being exchanged.
These considerations, however, did not deter him from the attempt; and bidding adieu to his amiable consort, and numerous endeared connexions, and trusting to good fortune to favour his elopement, he embarked, and in due time arrived safe in Charleston, in the summer of 1776. He landed soon after the noble defence made by General Moultrie, at the fort on Sullivan's island. Charmed with the gallantry displayed by that general and his brave troops, the marquis presented him with clothing, arms, and accoutrements, for one hundred men. He met with a cordial reception from our Congress, and they immediately accepted his proffered services. He insisted that he would receive no compensation, and that he would commence his services as a volunteer.
This noble philanthropist was received into the family of the commander-in-chief, where a strong mutual attachment was contracted, and he has often been called the adopted son of Washington. July 31, 1777, Congress resolved, that, "whereas the Marquis de Lafayette, out of his great zeal to the cause of liberty in which the United States are engaged, has left his family and connexions, and at his own expense come over to offer his services to the United States without pension or particular allowance, and is anxious to risk his life in our cause- -Resolved, that his service be accepted, and that in consideration of his zeal, illustrious family, and connexions, he have the rank and commission of major-general in the army of the United States.” At the battle of Brandywine, September, 1777, the marquis exhibited full proof of his undaunted bravery and military character, and received a wound in his leg. In May, 1778, with a select corps of 2300 men, he crossed the Schuylkill and took post about twelve miles in front of our army at Valley Forge; while at this place the enemy formed a design of surprising him, but fortunately the marquis gained intelligence of their approach, and by a prompt decision effected his retreat, and recrossed the river in season to defeat their design.
In August, 1778, the marquis repaired to Rhode Island to assist in the expedition under General Sullivan, in conjunction with the French fleet, and he received the particular approbation and applause of Congress for his judicious and highly important services. In January, 1779, the marquis embarked at Boston, on a voyage to France.
He returned again in May, 1780, bringing the joyful intelligence that a French fleet and army would soon arrive on our coast.
Through his great zeal for the cause of the United States, he had exerted his influence with his government, no longer fearful of giving offence to the English, to afford money and troops, and other important
He was soon put at the head of a select corps of light infantry for the service of the campaign. This afforded him a new opportunity for the display of his munificence. He presented to every officer under his command an elegant sword, and his soldiers were clothed in uniform principally at his expense. He infused into this corps a spirit of pride and emulation, viewing it as one formed and modelled according to his own wishes, and as deserving his highest confidence. They were the pride of his heart, and he the idol of their regard; constantly panting for an opportunity of accomplishing some signal achievement worthy of his and their character. In December, 1780, he marched with 1200 light infantry for Virginia, to counteract the devastations of Arnold and Phillips. He made a forced march of 200 miles, and prevented General Phillips possessing himself of Richmond, and secured the stores of that place. At one period there was not a single pair of shoes in his whole command, and such was his zeal and generous spirit, and such the confidence and respect of the people, that he was enabled to borrow of the merchants of Baltimore 2000 guineas on his own credit, with which he purchased shoes and other necessary articles for his troops:
He was afterwards employed in watching the motions of Lord Cornwallis in Virginia, with an inferior force; in this arduous duty he displayed the judge ment, skill, and prudence of a veteran, with the ardour of youth.
Lord Cornwallis, having encamped near Jamestown, the marquis sent General Wayne with the Pennsylvania troops, to take their station within a small diss tance of the British army and watch their motions. The two advanced parties were soon engaged, and General Wayne drove that of the enemy back to their lines, and without stopping there, attacked the whole British army drawn up in order of battle, and charged them with bayonets. The action was extremely severe for the little time it lasted, but the disproportion of numbers was so great, that the enemy was on the point of surrounding our troops, when the marquis arrived in person just time enough to order a retreat, by which they were rescued from their hazardous situation, after suffering considerable loss.
Great encomiums were passed on the marquis, for his humanity and good ness, in visiting and administering to the relief of the wounded soldiers.
During the siege of Lord Cornwallis, at Yorktown, the marquis was among the most active and intrepid of the general officers, and he commanded a detachment of our light infantry, which successfully assaulted the British redoubt, on the right of our lines.
During his military career in America, the marquis displayed that patriotism, integrity, humanity, and every other virtue, which characterize real greatness of soul. The most affectionate attachment subsisted between him and the illustrious chief, under whose banners it was his delight to serve, and whose language was—" This nobleman unites to all the military fire of youth, an uncommon maturity of judgment." His very soul burned with the spirit of enterprise, and he manifested a disinterestedness and devotion in the cause of freedom, ever to be admired and applauded by a grateful people.
In December, 1784, when the marquis was about to take his final departure from America, Congress appointed a committee, consisting of one member from each state, to receive him, and in the name of Congress to take leave of him, in such a manner as might strongly manifest their esteem and regard for him. The marquis, on this occasion, made a very respectful and affectionate reply, and thus concluded his address : “May this immense temple of freedom ever stand as a lesson to oppressors, an example to the oppressed, a sanctuary for the rights of mankind; and may these happy United States attain that complete splendour and prosperity which will illustrate the blessings of their government, and for ages to come, rejoice the departed souls of its founders. Never can Congress oblige me so much as when they put it in my power, in every part of the world, to the latest day of my life, to gratify the attachment which will ever rank me among the most zealous and respectful servants of the United States."
In the same year, the university of Cambridge, and Princeton college, conferred on him the honorary degree of doctor of laws. He was also elected a member of the American academy of arts and sciences, and of the American philosophical society.
At length, after a lapse of forty years, this illustrious hero again isited our shores. His reception was splendid beyond description, and language fails to represent the spontaneous burst of feeling it created. History presents no parallel. From one extremity of this great republic to the other, every pen was occu