By what right do you dare accuse the nation of ... want of perseverance in the emperor's interest? The nation has followed him on the fields of Italy, across the sands of Egypt and the plains of Germany, across the frozen deserts of Russia. ... The nation has followed him in fifty battles, in his defeats and in his victories, and in doing so we have to mourn the blood of three million Frenchmen.
Lafayette's lineage was likely one of the oldest and most distinguished in Auvergne and, perhaps, in all of France. Males of the Lafayette family enjoyed a reputation for courage and chivalry and were noted for their contempt for danger. One of Lafayette's early ancestors, Gilbert de Lafayette III, a Marshal of France, had been a companion-at-arms of Joan of Arc's army during the Siege of Orléans in 1429. According to legend, another ancestor acquired the crown of thorns during the Sixth Crusade. His non-Lafayette ancestors are also notable; his great-grandfather (his mother's maternal grandfather) was the Comte de La Rivière, until his death in 1770 commander of the Mousquetaires du Roi, or Black Musketeers, King Louis XV's personal horse guard. Lafayette's paternal uncle Jacques-Roch died on 18 January 1734 while fighting the Austrians at Milan in the War of the Polish Succession; upon his death, the title of marquis passed to his brother Michel.
Lafayette was born on 6 September 1757 to Michel Louis Christophe Roch Gilbert Paulette du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette, colonel of grenadiers, and Marie Louise Jolie de La Rivière, at the château de Chavaniac, in Chavaniac-Lafayette, near Le Puy-en-Velay, in the province of Auvergne (now Haute-Loire).
Lafayette's father likewise died on the battlefield. On 1 August 1759, Michel de Lafayette was struck by a cannonball while fighting a British-led coalition at the Battle of Minden in Westphalia. Lafayette became marquis and Lord of Chavaniac, but the estate went to his mother. Perhaps devastated by the loss of her husband, she went to live in Paris with her father and grandfather, leaving Lafayette to be raised in Chavaniac-Lafayette by his paternal grandmother, Mme de Chavaniac, who had brought the château into the family with her dowry.
In 1768, when Lafayette was 11, he was summoned to Paris to live with his mother and great-grandfather at the comte's apartments in Luxembourg Palace. The boy was sent to school at the Collège du Plessis, part of the University of Paris, and it was decided that he would carry on the family martial tradition. The comte, the boy's great-grandfather, enrolled the boy in a program to train Future Musketeers. Lafayette's mother and great-grandfather died, on 3 and 24 April 1770 respectively, leaving Lafayette an income of 25,000 livres. Upon the death of an uncle, the 12-year-old Lafayette inherited a handsome yearly income of 120,000 livres.
In May 1771, aged less than 14, Lafayette was commissioned an officer in the Musketeers, with the rank of sous-lieutenant. His duties, which included marching in military parades and presenting himself to King Louis, were mostly ceremonial and he continued his studies as usual.
After the marriage contract was signed in 1773, Lafayette lived with his young wife in his father-in-law's house in Versailles. He continued his education, both at the riding school Versailles (his fellow students included the Future Charles X) and at the prestigious Académie de Versailles. He was given a commission as a lieutenant in the Noailles Dragoons in April 1773, the transfer from the royal regiment being done at the request of Lafayette's father-in-law.
At this time, Jean-Paul-François de Noailles, Duc d'Ayen was looking to marry off some of his five daughters. The young Lafayette, aged 14, seemed a good match for his 12-year-old daughter, Marie Adrienne Françoise, and the duc spoke to the boy's guardian (Lafayette's uncle, the new comte) to negotiate a deal. However, the arranged marriage was opposed by the duc's wife, who felt the couple, and especially her daughter, were too young. The matter was settled by agreeing not to mention the marriage plans for two years, during which time the two spouses-to-be would meet from time to time in Casual settings and get to know each other better. The scheme worked; the two fell in love, and were happy together from the time of their marriage in 1774 until her death in 1807.
In September 1775, when Lafayette turned 18, he returned to Paris and received the captaincy in the Dragoons he had been promised as a wedding present. In December, his first child, Henriette, was born. During these months, Lafayette became convinced that the American Revolution reflected his own beliefs, saying "My heart was dedicated."
The year 1776 saw delicate negotiations between American agents, including Silas Deane, and Louis XVI and his foreign minister, Comte Charles de Vergennes. The king and his minister hoped that by supplying the Americans with arms and officers, they might restore French influence in North America, and exact revenge against Britain for the loss in the Seven Years' War. When Lafayette heard that French officers were being sent to America, he demanded to be among them. He met Deane, and gained inclusion despite his youth. On 7 December 1776, Deane enlisted Lafayette as a major general.
Lafayette, when captured, had tried to use the American citizenship he had been granted to secure his release, and contacted william Short, United States minister in The Hague. Although Short and other U.S. envoys very much wanted to succor Lafayette for his services to their country, they knew that his status as a French officer took precedence over any claim to American citizenship. Washington, who was by then President, had instructed the envoys to avoid actions that entangled the country in European affairs, and the U.S. did not have diplomatic relations with either Prussia or Austria. They did send money for the use of Lafayette, and for his wife, whom the French had imprisoned. Secretary of State Jefferson found a loophole allowing Lafayette to be paid, with interest, for his services as a major general from 1777 to 1783. An act was rushed through Congress and signed by President Washington. These funds allowed both Lafayettes privileges in their captivity.
D'Estaing moved his ships north to Boston for repairs. When the fleet arrived, it faced an angry demonstration from Bostonians who considered the French departure from Newport a desertion. John Hancock and Lafayette were dispatched to calm the situation. Lafayette then returned to Rhode Island to prepare the retreat made necessary by d'Estaing's departure. For these actions, Lafayette was cited by the Continental Congress for "gallantry, skill, and prudence". Lafayette wanted to expand the war to fight the British elsewhere in North America and even, under the French flag, in Europe, but found little interest in his proposals. In October 1778, he requested permission of Washington and of Congress to go home on leave. They agreed, with Congress voting to give Lafayette a ceremonial sword, to be presented to him in France. His departure was delayed by illness, and he sailed for France in January 1779.
Lafayette pushed for an invasion of Britain, with himself to have a major command in the French forces. Spain was now France's ally against Britain, and sent ships to the English Channel in support. The Spanish ships did not arrive until August 1779, to be met by a faster squadron of British ships that the combined French and Spanish fleet could not catch. In September, the idea of an invasion was abandoned, and Lafayette turned his hopes to a return to America.
Lafayette left Boston for France on 18 December 1781. On arrival he was welcomed as a hero, and on 22 January 1782 he was received at Versailles. He witnessed the birth of his daughter, whom he named Marie-Antoinette Virginie upon Thomas Jefferson's recommendation. He was promoted to maréchal de camp, skipping numerous ranks. He was made a Knight of the Order of Saint Louis. In 1782, with no treaty yet signed ending the war, Lafayette helped prepare for a combined French and Spanish expedition against the British West Indies. The Treaty of Paris signed between Great Britain and the U.S. in 1783 made the expedition unnecessary—Lafayette took part in the negotiations.
Lafayette worked with Jefferson to establish trade agreements between the U.S. and France. These negotiations aimed to reduce the U.S. debt to France. He joined the French abolitionist group Society of the Friends of the Blacks, which advocated the end of the slave trade and equal rights for free blacks. In 1783, in correspondence with Washington, a slave owner, he urged the emancipation of slaves and their establishment as tenant farmers. Although Washington declined to free his slaves (though expressing interest in the young man's ideas), Lafayette purchased land in French Guiana for a plantation to house the project.
In 1784, Lafayette visited America, where he enjoyed an enthusiastic welcome; he visited all the states except Georgia. The trip included a visit to Washington's farm at Mount Vernon on 17 August. Lafayette addressed the Virginia House of Delegates, where he called for "liberty of all mankind" and urged emancipation of slaves. Lafayette urged the Pennsylvania Legislature to help form a federal union (the states were then bound by the Articles of Confederation). He visited the Mohawk Valley in New York to participate in peace negotiations with the Iroquois, some of whom he had met in 1778. Lafayette received an honorary degree from Harvard, a portrait of Washington from the city of Boston, and a bust from the state of Virginia. Maryland's legislature honored Lafayette by making him and his male heirs "natural born Citizens" of the state, which made him a natural born citizen of the United States after the 1789 ratification of the new national Constitution. Lafayette later boasted that he had become an American citizen before the concept of French citizenship existed. Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Virginia also granted him citizenship.
On 29 December 1786, King Louis XVI called an Assembly of Notables, in response to France's fiscal crisis. The king appointed Lafayette to the body, which convened on 22 February 1787. In speeches, Lafayette decried those with connections at court who had profited from advance knowledge of government land purchases; he advocated reform. He called for a "truly national assembly", which represented the whole of France. Instead, the king chose to summon an Estates General, to convene in 1789. Lafayette was elected as a representative of the nobility (the Second Estate) from Riom. The Estates General, traditionally, cast one vote for each of the three Estates: clergy, nobility, and commons, meaning the much larger commons was generally outvoted.
Lafayette returned to France, and in 1787 was appointed to the Assembly of Notables, which was convened in response to the fiscal crisis. He was elected a member of the Estates-General of 1789, where representatives met from the three traditional orders of French society—the clergy, the nobility, and the commoners. After the forming of the National Constituent Assembly, he helped write the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, with Thomas Jefferson's assistance; inspired by the United States Declaration of Independence, this document invoked natural law to establish basic principles of the democratic nation-state. In keeping with the philosophy of natural liberty, Lafayette also advocated for the end of slavery. After the storming of the Bastille, Lafayette was appointed commander-in-chief of the National Guard and tried to steer a middle course through the French Revolution. In August 1792, the radical factions ordered his arrest. Fleeing through the Austrian Netherlands, he was captured by Austrian troops and spent more than five years in prison.
As the author of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, written in 1789, Lafayette was a staunch opponent to the concept of slavery. His work never specifically mentioned slavery; however, he made clear his position on the controversial topic through letters addressed to friends and colleagues, such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Lafayette proposed that slaves not be owned but rather work as free tenants on the land of plantation owners. In 1785, Lafayette bought a plantation in the French colony of Cayenne to begin putting his experimental ideas into practice. He ordered that none of his slaves be bought or sold. He spent his lifetime as an abolitionist, proposing slaves be emancipated slowly, recognizing the crucial role slavery played in many economies. He hoped his ideas would be adopted by George Washington in order to free the slaves in the United States of America and hopefully spread from there. His efforts were not in vain, as George Washington eventually began implementing Lafayette's practices in his own plantation in Mount Vernon. Also, following Lafayette's death in 1834, his grandson, Gustave de Beaumont released a novel discussing the issues of racism. Lafayette's role in the eventual abolition of slavery in 1794 in France was monumental, as riots in Saint Domingue erupted because of the circulation of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen in 1792.
As leader of the National Guard, Lafayette attempted to maintain order and steer a middle ground, even as the radicals gained increasing influence. On 12 May 1790, he instituted, along with Jean Sylvain Bailly (mayor of Paris), a political club called the Society of 1789. The club's intention was to provide balance to the influence of the radical Jacobins. On 14 July 1790, Lafayette, before a huge assembly at what came to be known as the Fête de la Fédération, took the civic oath on the Champs de Mars, vowing to "be ever faithful to the nation, to the law, and to the king; to support with our utmost power the constitution decreed by the National Assembly, and accepted by the king." That oath was taken as well by Lafayette's troops, and also by the king.
Through the latter half of 1791, Lafayette's standing continued to decline. On 17 July, the radical Cordeliers organized an event at the Champ de Mars to gather signatures on a petition to the National Assembly that it either abolish the monarchy or allow its fate to be decided in a referendum. The assembled crowd, estimated at up to 10,000, hanged two men believed to be spies after they were found under the platform. At the head of his troops, Lafayette rode into the Champ de Mars to restore order; they were met with gunshots and thrown stones. When a dragoon went down, the Soldiers fired on the crowd, wounding or killing dozens. Martial law was declared, and the Leaders of the mob, such as Danton and Marat, fled or went into hiding. In September, the Assembly finalized a constitution, and in early October, with a semblance of constitutional law restored, Lafayette resigned from the National Guard. Immediately after the massacre, a crowd of rioters attacked Lafayette's home, attempting to harm his wife. His reputation among the Common people suffered dramatically after the massacre as they believed he sympathized with royal interests.
Lafayette became an American icon in part because he was not associated with any particular region of the country: he was of foreign birth, did not live in America, and had fought in New England, the Mid-Atlantic states, and the South. Thus, he was a unifying figure. His role in the French Revolution, in which he was seen by Americans as steering a middle course, enhanced this popularity. Americans were naturally sympathetic to a republican cause, but also remembered Louis XVI as a friend of the nascent United States. When Lafayette fell from power in 1792, Americans tended to blame factionalism for the ouster of a man who was, in their eyes, above such things.
Frederick william decided that he could gain little by continuing to battle the unexpectedly successful French forces, and that there were easier pickings for his army in the Kingdom of Poland. Accordingly, he stopped armed hostilities with the Republic and turned the state prisoners back over to his erstwhile coalition partner, the Habsburg Austrian monarch Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor. Lafayette and his companions were initially sent to Neisse (today Nysa, Poland) in Silesia. On 17 May 1794, they were taken across the Austrian border, where a military unit was waiting to receive them. The next day, the Austrians delivered their captives to a barracks-prison, formerly a college of the Jesuits, in the fortress-city of Olmütz, Moravia (today Olomouc in the Czech Republic).
Once Adrienne was released from prison in France, she, with the help of U.S. Minister to France James Monroe, obtained passports for her and her daughters from Connecticut, which had granted the entire Lafayette family citizenship. Her son Georges Washington had been smuggled out of France and taken to the United States. Adrienne and her two daughters journeyed to Vienna for an audience with Emperor Francis, who granted permission for the three women to live with Lafayette in captivity. Lafayette, who had endured harsh solitary confinement since his escape attempt a year before, was astounded when Soldiers opened his prison door to usher in his wife and daughters on 15 October 1795. The family spent the next two years in confinement together.
Through diplomacy, the press, and personal appeals, Lafayette's sympathizers on both sides of the Atlantic made their influence felt, most importantly on the post-Reign of Terror French government. A young, victorious general, Napoleon Bonaparte, negotiated the release of the state prisoners at Olmütz, as a result of the Treaty of Campo Formio. Lafayette's captivity of over five years thus came to an end. The Lafayette family and their comrades in captivity left Olmütz under Austrian escort early on the morning of 19 September 1797, crossed the Bohemian-Saxonian border north of Prague, and were officially turned over to the American consul in Hamburg on 4 October.
In the United States, President Jackson ordered that Lafayette receive the same memorial honors that had been bestowed on Washington's death in December 1799. Both Houses of Congress were draped in black bunting for thirty days, and members wore mourning badges. Congress urged Americans to follow similar mourning practices. Later in 1834, former President John Quincy Adams gave a eulogy of Lafayette that lasted three hours, calling him "high on the list of the pure and disinterested benefactors of mankind".
Bonaparte restored Lafayette's citizenship on 1 March 1800, and he was able to recover some of his properties. The ruler offered to make Lafayette minister to the United States, but was met with a firm refusal, as Lafayette would not have anything to do with Napoleon's government. In 1802, Lafayette was part of the tiny minority that voted no in the referendum that made Bonaparte consul for life. Bonaparte offered to appoint Lafayette to the Senate and to bestow the Legion of Honor upon him, but Lafayette declined, though he stated he would gladly have taken the honors from a democratic government.
In 1804, Bonaparte was crowned the Emperor Napoleon after a plebiscite in which Lafayette did not participate. The retired general remained relatively quiet, although he made Bastille Day addresses. After the Louisiana Purchase, Jefferson, by then President, asked if he would be interested in the governorship. Lafayette declined, citing personal problems and his Desire to work for liberty in France. During a trip to Auvergne in 1807, Adrienne became ill, suffering from complications stemming from her time in prison. She became delirious but recovered enough on Christmas Eve to gather the family around her bed and to say to Lafayette: "Je suis toute à vous" ("I am all yours"). She died the next day.
In 1814, the coalition that opposed Napoleon invaded France and restored the monarchy; the comte de Provence (brother of the executed Louis XVI) took the throne as Louis XVIII. Lafayette was received by the new king, but the staunch republican opposed the new, highly restrictive franchise for the Chamber of Deputies that granted the vote to only 90,000 men in a nation of 25 million. Lafayette did not stand for election in 1814, remaining at La Grange.
On 22 June 1815, four days after Waterloo, Napoleon abdicated. Lafayette arranged for the former emperor's passage to America, but the British prevented this, and Napoleon ended his days on the island of Saint Helena. The Chamber of Representatives, before it dissolved, appointed Lafayette to a peace commission that was ignored by the victorious allies who occupied much of France, with the Prussians taking over La Grange as a headquarters. Once the Prussians left in late 1815, Lafayette returned to his house, a private citizen again.
Lafayette's homes, both in Paris and at La Grange, were open to any Americans who wished to meet the hero of their Revolution, and to many other people besides. Among those whom Irish Novelist Sydney, Lady Morgan met at table during her month-long stay at La Grange in 1818 were the Dutch Painter Ary Scheffer and the Historian Augustin Thierry, who sat alongside American tourists. Others who visited included Philosopher Jeremy Bentham, American scholar George Ticknor, and Writer Fanny Wright.
During the first decade of the Bourbon Restoration, Lafayette lent his support to a number of conspiracies in France and other European countries, all of which came to nothing. He was involved in the various Charbonnier plots, and agreed to go to the city of Belfort, where there was a garrison of French troops, and assume a major role in the revolutionary government. Warned that the royal government had found out about the conspiracy, he turned back on the road to Belfort, avoiding overt involvement. More successfully, he supported the Greek Revolution beginning in 1821, and by letter attempted to persuade American officials to ally with the Greeks. Louis' government considered arresting both Lafayette and Georges Washington, who was also involved in the Greek efforts, but were wary of the political ramifications if they did. Lafayette remained a member of the restored Chamber of Deputies until 1823, when new plural voting rules helped defeat his bid for re-election.
In 1824, Lafayette returned to the United States at a time when Americans were questioning the success of the republican experiment in view of the disastrous economic Panic of 1819 and the sectional conflict resulting in the Missouri Compromise. Lafayette's hosts considered him a judge of how successful the experiment had been. According to cultural Historian Lloyd Kramer, Lafayette (as well as a later visitor to America, Alexis de Tocqueville) "provided foreign confirmations of the self-image that shaped America's national identity in the early nineteenth century and that has remained a dominant theme in the national ideology ever since: the belief that America's Founding Fathers, institutions, and freedom created the most democratic, egalitarian, and prosperous society in the world".
In March 1825, Lafayette began to tour the southern and western states. The general pattern of the trip was that he would be escorted between cities by the state militia, and he would enter each town through specially constructed arches to be welcomed by local politicians or dignitaries, all eager to be seen with Lafayette. There would be special events, visits to battlefields and historic sites, celebratory dinners, and time set aside for the public to meet the legendary hero of the Revolution.
While Lafayette was returning to France, Louis XVIII died, and Charles X took the throne. As king, Charles intended to restore the absolute rule of the monarch, and his decrees had already prompted protest by the time Lafayette arrived. Lafayette was the most prominent of those who opposed the king. In the elections of 1827, the 70-year-old Lafayette was elected to the Chamber of Deputies again. Unhappy at the outcome, Charles dissolved the Chamber, and ordered a new election: Lafayette again won his seat.
On 25 July 1830, the king signed the Ordinances of Saint-Cloud, removing the franchise from the middle class and dissolving the Chamber of Deputies. The decrees were published the following day. On 27 July, Parisians erected barricades throughout the city, and riots erupted. In defiance, the Chamber continued to meet. When Lafayette, who was at La Grange, heard what was going on, he raced into the city, and was acclaimed as a leader of the revolution. When his fellow deputies were indecisive, Lafayette went to the barricades, and soon the royalist troops were routed. Fearful that the excesses of the 1789 revolution were about to be repeated, deputies made Lafayette head of a restored National Guard, and charged him with keeping order. The Chamber was willing to proclaim him as ruler, but he refused a grant of power he deemed unconstitutional. He also refused to deal with Charles, who abdicated on 2 August. Many young Revolutionaries sought a republic, but Lafayette felt this would lead to civil war, and chose to offer the throne to the duc d'Orleans, Louis-Philippe, who had lived in America and had far more of a Common touch than did Charles. Lafayette secured the agreement of Louis-Philippe, who accepted the throne, to various reforms. The general remained as commander of the National Guard. This did not last long—the brief concord at the king's accession soon faded, and the conservative majority in the Chamber voted to abolish Lafayette's National Guard post on 24 December 1830. Lafayette went back into retirement, expressing his willingness to do so.
Lafayette grew increasingly disillusioned with Louis-Phillippe, who backtracked on reforms and denied his promises to make them. The retired general angrily broke with his king, a breach which widened when the government used force to suppress a strike in Lyon. Lafayette used his seat in the Chamber to promote liberal proposals, and in 1831 his neighbors elected him mayor of the village of La Grange and to the council of the département of Seine-et-Marne. The following year, Lafayette served as a pallbearer and spoke at the funeral of General Jean Maximilien Lamarque, another opponent of Louis-Phillippe. Despite Lafayette's pleas for calm, there were riots in the streets and a barricade was erected at the Place de la Bastille. The king forcefully crushed this June Rebellion, to Lafayette's outrage. Lafayette returned to La Grange until the Chamber met in November 1832. He condemned Louis-Phillippe for introducing censorship, as Charles X had.
On 20 May 1834, Lafayette died on 6 rue d'Anjou-Saint-Honoré in Paris (now 8 rue d'Anjou in the 8th arrondissement of Paris) at the age of 76. He was buried next to his wife at the Picpus Cemetery under soil from Bunker Hill, which his son Georges Washington sprinkled upon him. King Louis-Philippe ordered a military funeral in order to keep the public from attending. Crowds formed to protest their exclusion.
Historian Gilbert Chinard wrote in 1936: “Lafayette became a legendary figure and a symbol so early in his life, and successive generations have so willingly accepted the myth, that any attempt to deprive the young hero of his republican halo will probably be considered as little short of iconoclastic and sacrilegious.” That legend has been used politically: the name and image of Lafayette were repeatedly invoked in 1917 in seeking to gain popular support for America's entry into World War I, culminating in the famous phrase, "Lafayette, we are here". This occurred at some cost to Lafayette's image in America: veterans returned from the front singing "We've paid our debt to Lafayette, who the hell do we owe now?" A longer-term threat was the increasing sophistication of Americans and the lessened need for symbols of patriotism; by 1971, according to Anne C. Loveland, "Lafayette no longer served as a national hero-symbol." In 2002, however, Congress voted to grant Lafayette honorary citizenship.
After Bunker Hill, Lafayette went to Maine and Vermont, thus visiting all of the states. He met again with John Adams, then went back to New York and then to its rival city, Brooklyn, where he laid the cornerstone for its public library. Lafayette celebrated his 68th birthday on 6 September at a reception with President John Quincy Adams at the White House, and departed the next day. He took with him, besides the soil to be placed on his grave, other gifts. Congress, at Monroe's request, had voted him $200,000 in gratitude for his services to the country, and a large tract of public lands in Florida. The passage back to France was aboard a ship that was originally called the Susquehanna, but was renamed the USS Brandywine in honor of the battle where the Marquis de Lafayette shed his blood for the United States.
Lafayette's reputation in France is more problematic. Thomas Gaines, in his book about Lafayette, noted that the response to Lafayette's death was far more muted in France than in America, and suggested that this may have been because Lafayette was the last surviving hero of America's only revolution, whereas the evolution of the French government has been far more chaotic. Lafayette's role, especially in the French Revolution, created a more nuanced picture of him in French historiography. To the 19th-century Historian Jules Michelet, Lafayette was a "mediocre idol", lifted by the mob far beyond what his talents deserved. In their Histoire et dictionnaire de la Révolution française, Jean Tulard, Jean-François Fayard, and Alfred Fierro noted Napoleon's deathbed comment about Lafayette that, if Napoleon had had Lafayette's place during the French Revolution, "the king would still be sitting on his throne". They called Napoleon's comment "not too excessive" and deemed Lafayette "an empty-headed political dwarf [and] one of the people most responsible for the destruction of the French monarchy". Gaines disagreed, and noted that liberal and Marxist historians have also dissented from that view of Lafayette. As Lloyd Kramer related in a survey of the French public, just before the Revolution's bicentennial in 1989, 57 percent deemed Lafayette the figure from the Revolution they most admired, with Marat and Saint-Just tying for second with 21 percent each: "he [Lafayette] clearly had more French supporters in the early 1990s than he could muster in the early 1790s".
Lafayette visited General Jackson at his home, The Hermitage, in Tennessee. While he was traveling up the Ohio River by steamboat, Lafayette's vessel sank beneath him. He was put in a lifeboat by his son and secretary, then taken to the Kentucky shore and rescued by another steamboat. Although it was going the other direction, its captain insisted on turning around and taking Lafayette to Louisville. From there, he went generally northeast, viewing Niagara Falls, and taking the Erie Canal—considered a modern marvel—to Albany. Again in Massachusetts in June 1825, he laid the cornerstone of the Bunker Hill Monument after hearing an oration by Daniel Webster. From Bunker Hill, Lafayette took home soil that would, at his death, be sprinkled on his grave.