Marquis de Lafayette, George Washington at Valley Forge

Marquis de Lafayette, George Washington at Valley Forge

Born Sept. 6, 1757, his father died before he was two years old and his mother died when he was twelve, leaving him to inherit their fortune. At 14-years-old, he joined the French Military and, at age 16, became a captain. He married Marie Adrienne Francoise de Noailles, whose family was related to King Louis XVI. His name was Marquis de Lafayette.

At age 19, against the king’s wishes, Lafayette purchased a ship and persuaded several French officers to accompany him to fight in the American Revolution, arriving June 13, 1777. Trained in the French Military, he was a descendant of one of the oldest French families, with ancestors who fought alongside of Joan of Arc, and previously fought in the Crusades against Muslim occupiers of what had been the Christian Middle East.

Commander-in-Chief George Washington appointed Lafayette a Major General in the Continental Army, though Lafayette paid all his own expenses.

Lafayette was one of several European military leaders who helped in the American Revolution:

  • Baron Von Steuben, Prussian drill master and inspector general
  • Comte de Rochambeau, commander of French Expeditionary Force
  • Michael Kovats, Hungarian co-founding father of U.S. cavalry
  • Casimir Pulaski, Polish co-founding father of U.S. cavalry”
  • Marquis de la Rouerie, French cavalry officer
  • Johann de Kalb, Bavarian-French major general
  • Edward Hand, Irish medical doctor and major general
  • Baron de Weissenfels, German lieutenant colonel
  • Baron de Woedtke, Prussian officer
  • Gustave Rosenthal, ethnic German from Estonia, officer
  • Chevalier de Laumoy, French engineer
  • La Radière, French engineer
  • Louis Lebègue Duportail, French chief engineer
  • Tadeusz Koœciuszko, Polish-Lithuanian engineer who designed West Point
  • Jordi (George) Farragut, Spain, naval lieutenant
  • John George Ryerson, Dutch, light infantry, Lafayette used his farm as headquarters

Marquis de Lafayette endured the freezing winter at Valley Forge, 1777-1778. He was wounded at the Battle of Brandywine on Sept. 11, 1777. Lafayette fought with distinction at the Battles of Gloucester, Barren Hill, Monmouth, Rhode Island and Green Spring.

Returning to France, Lafayette worked with Ben Franklin to persuade King Louis XVI to send General Rochambeau with ships and 6,000 French soldiers to America’s aid. Lafayette led troops against the traitor Benedict Arnold, and commanded at Yorktown, helping to pressure Cornwallis to surrender.

George Washington considered Lafayette like a son. After the war, Washington wrote a belatedly note to Lafayette from Mount Vernon, June 25, 1785: “My Dear Marquis … I stand before you as a culprit: but to repent and be forgiven are the precepts of Heaven: I do the former, do you practice the latter, and it will be participation of a divine attribute. Yet I am not barren of excuses for this seeming inattention; frequent absences from home, a round of company when at it, and the pressure of many matters, might be urged as apologies for my long silence. … I now congratulate you, and my heart does it more effectually than my pen, on your safe arrival in Paris, from your voyage to this Country.”

Lafayette joined the French abolitionist Society of the Friends of the Blacks, which advocated the end of the slave trade and equal rights for blacks. Lafayette’s plan to emancipate all slaves was thought impossible by some. Lafayette replied: “If it be a wild scheme, I had rather be mad in this way, than to be thought wise in the other task.”

Washington encouraged Lafayette, April 5, 1783: “The scheme … which you propose as a precedent, to encourage the emancipation of the black people of this Country from that state of Bondage in which. they are held, is a striking evidence of the benevolence of your Heart. I shall be happy to join you in so laudable a work; but will defer going into a detail of the business, ’till I have the pleasure of seeing you.”

In the last six years of Washington’s life, he attempted to take four of the farms on his plantation and make them into rental properties, thus transitioning away from slavery. On May 10, 1786, George Washington wrote from Mount Vernon to Marquis de Lafayette: “Your late purchase of an estate in the colony of Cayenne, with a view of emancipating the slaves on it, is a generous and noble proof of your humanity. Would to God a like spirit would diffuse itself generally into the minds of the people of this country.”

On Aug. 15, 1787, in a letter from Philadelphia to the Marquis de Lafayette, George Washington wrote: “I am not less ardent in my wish that you may succeed in your plan of toleration in religious matters. Being no bigot myself to any mode of worship, I am disposed to indulge the professors of Christianity in the church with that road to Heaven which to them shall seem the most direct, plainest and easiest, and the least liable to exception.”

On May 28, 1788, George Washington wrote to Marquis de Lafayette regarding the U.S. Constitution: “A few short weeks will determine the political fate of America. … I will confess to you sincerely, my dear Marquis; it will be so much beyond any thing we had a right to imagine or expect eighteen months ago, that it will demonstrate as visibly the Finger of Providence, as any possible event in the course of human affairs can ever designate it.”

When the French Revolution began, President Washington wrote to Marquis de Lafayette, July 28, 1791: “I assure you I have often contemplated, with great anxiety, the danger to which you are personally exposed. … To a philanthropic mind the happiness of 24 millions of people cannot be indifferent; and by an American, whose country in the hour of distress received such liberal aid from the French, the disorders and incertitude of that Nation are to be particularly lamented. We must, however, place a confidence in that Providence who rules great events, trusting that out of confusion He will produce order, and, notwithstanding the dark clouds which may threaten at present, that right will ultimately be established. … On the 6 of this month I returned from a tour through the southern States, which had employed me for more than three months. In the course of this journey I have been highly gratified in observing the flourishing state of the Country, and the good dispositions of the people. Industry and economy have become very fashionable in these parts, which were formerly noted for the opposite qualities, and the labors of man are assisted by the Blessings of Providence.”

King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette were beheaded in 1793. Lafayette tried to maintain order in France as the French Revolution began, but fell out of favor. Lafayette was arrested and imprisoned for five years, with his wife and two daughters choosing to be imprisoned with him. Napoleon negotiated his release.

On June 10, 1792, from Philadelphia, President Washington wrote to Marquis de Lafayette: “And to the Care of that Providence, whose interposition and protection we have so often experienced, do I cheerfully commit you and your nation, trusting that He will bring order out of confusion, and finally place things upon the ground on which they ought to stand.”

Jefferson asked him to be the governor of the Louisiana Territory, but he declined.

Fifty years after the Revolution began, Marquis de Lafayette visited America. He traveled over 6,000 miles to 24 States. On June 17, 1825, Lafayette helped lay the cornerstone for the Bunker Hill Monument.

Daniel Webster spoke to a crowd of 20,000, which included General Marquis de Lafayette: “God has granted you this sight of your country’s happiness ere you slumber in the grave forever. He has allowed you to behold and to partake the reward of your patriotic toils; and He has allowed to us, your sons and countrymen, to meet you here, and in the name of the present generation, in the name of your country, in the name of liberty to thank you!”

Beginning with Fayetteville, North Carolina, numerable cities, counties, streets, parks, and ships were named after him.

When word came to America that Marquis de Lafayette had died, President Andrew Jackson wrote to Congress, June 21, 1834: “The afflicting intelligence of the death of the illustrious Lafayette has been received by me this morning. I have issued the general order inclosed to cause appropriate honors to be paid by the Army and Navy to the memory of one so highly venerated and beloved by my countrymen, and whom Providence has been pleased to remove so unexpectedly from the agitating scenes of life.”

In 1784, just three years after British General Cornwallis’ surrender at Yorktown, a full-length painting of the event was completed, depicting Marquis de Lafayette, General George Washington, and Washington’s trusted aide-de-camp Lieutenant Colonel Tench Tilghman of Maryland. The portrait was painted by artist Charles Willson Peale was placed in the Maryland State House, by approval of the Governor and Samuel Chase.

Samuel Chase was one of the forgotten founding fathers. He signed the Declaration of Independence and was appointed by President George Washington as a Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. Samuel Chase was born April 17, 1741, the son of Anglican clergyman Rev. Thomas Chase, and was homeschooled till age 18. He traveled to Annapolis, Maryland, studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1761.

In 1764, Samuel Chase was elected to the Maryland General Assembly. With a reputation as a firebrand, he founded a Maryland chapter of the Sons of Liberty to protest the Stamp Act of 1765 and the British Government’s usurpation of citizen’s rights.

At the age of 24, Samuel Chase challenged the authority of the English Parliament to tax the Colonists without their consent and forcibly opened the public offices in Annapolis, seized the hated stamps and destroyed them. When Maryland learned that Boston’s harbor had been closed in 1774 to punish the Tea Party colonists, Samuel Chase and four other Marylanders were appointed as delegates to the Continental Congress for: “agreeing on a general plan of conduct, operating on the commercial connection of the colonies with the mother country, for the relief of Boston and preservation of American liberty.”

Samuel Chase served on dozens of committees, and in the spring of 1776, even traveled to Canada with Ben Franklin, Charles Carroll and Rev. John Carroll in an unsuccessful attempt to persuade Canadians to join in the Revolution. Samuel Chase, more than any other, was responsible for persuading Maryland to vote for independence. On Aug. 2, 1776, Samuel Chase was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, along with other Maryland delegates, William Paca, Thomas Stone and Charles Carroll of Carrollton.

At the beginning of the Revolutionary War, political intrigues arose to remove George Washington from being Commander-in-Chief. Samuel Chase staunchly supported Washington.

After the War, at Maryland’s 1788 Convention to decide whether to accept the new United States Constitution, Samuel Chase initially voted against it, as he thought the states were relinquishing too much control. In a letter he signed “Caution,” (Maryland Journal, Oct. 12, 1787), Samuel Chase warned of the rush to adopt the Constitution: “Suspicion should take the alarm. … Questions of consequence … ought not to be hastily decided. … The decision, for or against the plan … involves no less than the happiness or miser of you and all your posterity forever.”

In 1788, Samuel Chase was appointed Chief Justice of Baltimore’s District Criminal Court, and in 1791, he became Chief Justice of the Maryland General Court. In 1796, President George Washington appointed Samuel Chase as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court met in the basement of the U.S. Capitol until it was given its own building in 1935.

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A controversial personality, Samuel Chase had articles of impeachment filed against him in 1804, but he was acquitted of all charges. Samuel Chase was one of the most influential justices on the early Supreme Court, following Chief Justice John Marshall. Samuel Chase served on the U.S. Supreme Court till his death, June 19, 1811.

As was the practice at the time, U.S. Supreme Court Justices also served on lower courts. The Massachusetts Court of Appeals, which was Maryland’s Supreme Court, heard the case of M’Creey’s Lessee v. Allender, 4 H. & Mett. 259, 1799. Justice Samuel Chase was decisive in determining if Irish emigrant Thomas M’Creery had indeed become a naturalized United States citizen and therefore able to leave an estate to a relative. John M’Creey, in Ireland.

“Thomas M’Creery, in order to become…naturalized according to the Act of Assembly … on the 30th of September, 1795, took the oath … before the Honorable Samuel Chase, Esquire, then being the Chief Judge of the State of Maryland … and did then and there receive from the said Chief Judge, a certificate thereof. … ‘Maryland; I, Samuel Chase, Chief Judge of the State of Maryland, do hereby certify all whom it may concern, that … personally appeared before me Thomas M’Creery, and did repeat and subscribe a declaration of his belief in the Christian Religion, and take the oath required by the Act of Assembly of this State, entitled, An Act for Naturalization.'”

Justice Samuel Chase rendered the court’s decision in the Maryland Court of Appeals (Maryland Supreme Court) case of Runkel v. Winemiller, (began in 1796; decided in 1799): “Religion is of general and public concern, and on its support depend, in great measure, the peace and good order of government, the safety and happiness of the people. By our form of government, the Christian religion is the established religion; and all sects and denominations of Christians are placed upon the same equal footing, and are equally entitled to protection in their religious liberty.”

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