(from the website “The
American Friends of Lafayette)
A sampling of his legacy includes:
Serving with distinction at Valley Forge during the terrible
winter of 1777-1778. when General Washington sent him on a reconnaissance
mission to Barren Hill (now Lafayette Hill).
His generosity to his American troops--many of them
Pennsylvanians-- was legendary. He spent $200,000 of his own money to pay for
their much-needed items such as clothing and weapons at a time when the
American economy was on the verge of collapse.
He encouraged the French government to accede to Ben
Franklin's brilliant diplomatic skills that led to the signing of the French
Alliance on February 6,1778.
Realizing Washington's dangerous military dilemma by late
1778 and still awaiting the military and financial help promised the Americans
by his country, he returned to France and argued for a speedy delivery. He
arrived in Paris and Versailles January 1779. Using his diplomatic skills, he
made strong appeals to three influential ministers: Vergennes, Maurepas, and
Montbarey and King Louis XVI himself to send Washington a French Expeditionary
Force complete with all supplies as soon as possible. The king sent him back to
General Washington at Morristown, New Jersey on March 1780 with a secret
message: the Expeditionary Force was on its way. Thousands of crack French
troops, marines, and battleships with massive aid arrived at Newport, Rhode
Island July 1780. All historians agree that without this help, Washington would
have lost the War for Independence. Washington and Franklin credit Lafayette
with the effort behind the delivery of these desperately needed supplies.
Using American style democracy as his moral and political
compass, he thus became a leader in another rebellion: the French Revolution of
1789. Knowing that if taxation without representation was tyranny to Americans,
it was no less tyrannical to Frenchmen and women. He therefore defied the greed
of his fellow noblemen whose riches accumulated over the centuries because they
were seldom required to pay any taxes. Lafayette's Declaration would relieve
this heavy burden on the backs of the common people by requiring everyone,
including all noblemen and royalty, to pay their fair share.
To honor this legendary figure and his visit, Congress, at
the Capitol Building, placed a portrait of Lafayette on the right side of the
rostrum of the House Chamber with Washington's portrait on the left side of the
rostrum.The American flag is displayed between the portraits behind the
Speaker's Chair. No other foreign dignitary has ever been so honored in any of
the two Congressional chambers.
He named his son George Washington Lafayette to honor his
spiritual father and military hero and named his daughter Virginie after
Washington's home state.
An American flag has flown at his graveside since World War
I when General John Pershing visited Lafayette's tomb with a large military
entourage to show continued respect for America's greatest foreign volunteer.
As a result of his American influences such as Washington,
Franklin, and Jefferson, Lafayette had spent the rest of his life in a
political crusade fighting for the rights of man and the rule of law. He
generously gave active financial and moral support to the Poles, Greeks, Irish,
English, Scots, Italians, Portuguese, black slaves, women, South Americans and
anyone else who needed refuge at his place at LaGrange near Paris, and he gave
many speeches at the National Assembly on their behalf. He was especially
vehement in denouncing the persecution of Protestants and Jews in France.
Guided by Lafayette's record in racial equality and civil
rights, Lafayette College set the standards for the integration in Pennsylvania
Colleges by permitting Aaron Huff, an African American who was Lafayette's
first black student, to enroll in 1832.