This Week's Story

Why would a nineteen year old leave home to fight for another country?

This Week’s Story relives American history and the Bible through brief inspiring stories presented on mp3 audio recordings and text for reading.

Lafayette: Aristocrat and Patriot for the people! part two

Two months had passed since the young Marquis de La Fayette had arrived in America. He was anxious to get into action as a commanding officer of American troops. The Revolutionary War had been going for two years.

At a dinner he met General George Washington, commander-in-chief of the American Continental military. Washington liked Lafayette immediately. The young nineteen-year-old’s enthusiasm for the American cause was appealing.

Lafayette was taken on a tour of the general’s military camp. It lacked supplies and trained soldiers. Washington was embarrassed about the conditions. Lafayette’s humble response was, “I am here to learn, not to teach.”

Initially Lafayette was assigned to Washington’s staff, not to commanding troops.

Who was this surprising French man? History records many surprising facts about Lafayette.

He was commissioned by the French to be a military officer at age 13. At age 19 he was commissioned by the American Congress to be a major general in the Continental Army, to be an honorary role, but not according to what happened.

When Lafayette was almost two, his father died on a battlefield and his mother left him with his paternal grandmother. He was happily married at sixteen. His bride was fourteen. For generations, his family had a reputation for repeated acts of courage and chivalry. One of his ancestors fought with Joan of Arc during the Siege of Orléans.

He was born into one of the oldest, most distinguished and wealthy families in the French aristocracy of the eighteenth century. In his society people were separated or joined by the class into which they were born. Class prejudice was the standard. Lafayette was a strange candidate to be fighting in America for freedom and equality.

The famous author Charles Dickens wrote in A Tale of Two Cities about class hatred during the time of Lafayette. In Dickens’s story a French aristocrat throws a coin at poor peasants. It is thrown back at him and he says, “You dogs!..I would ride over any of you very willingly, and exterminate you from the earth. If I knew which rascal threw at the carriage, and if that brigand were sufficiently near it, he should be crushed under the wheels.

“So cowed was their condition, and so long and hard their experience of what such a man could do to them, within the law and beyond it, that not a voice, or a hand, or even an eye was raised. But the woman who stood knitting looked up steadily, and looked the Marquis in the face.”

That woman like many poor French people plotted or yearned for revenge against aristocrats and the priests. Too many showed no heart for the people’s desperate poverty and lack of opportunity.

Before their revenge exploded Lafayette was fighting to help American patriots. He was convinced as John Locke had written earlier: “The purpose of government is to secure and protect the God-given inalienable natural rights of man.” He was committed to that purpose for the United States.

This is Barbara Steiner anticipating the next episode about Lafayette.

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