What do you know about Georges Washington de Lafayette
All sources from Lafayette by Harlow Giles Unger:
Georges Washington de Lafayette was born on December 24th, 1779. Adrienne wrote to her husband rather icily at his army camp. She offered sarcastic recognition of her husband’s many responsibilities in the military, she scolded him or not being with her and their new child. The baby’s full name wsa Georges Louis Gilbert Washington de Motier Marquis de Lafayette, he would always call himself George Washington Lafayette. The one he was named after, George Washington, became his godfather.
May 1781, Adrienne wrote that Georges “nearly died teething” and left her “weakened by anxieties”. During Gilbert de Lafayette’s second-to-last visit to America in 1784-1785, his returning ship ran aground and repairs delayed his departure home for a week. General Greene and Henry Knox had come to see him off, and the three spent long hours together reminiscing with Alexander Hamilton. Lafayette urged Greene, Hamilton and Knox to send their boys to him in Paris for several years of European education. He promised in turn, he would send his own boy, George Washington to them. Lafayette said he wanted his son educated at Harvard.
Unlike other European parents, Adrienne and Gilbert did not keep their children at a distance with tutors; they adored their children openly, embraced them spontaneously and showed them off to all their guests. Benjamin Franklin listened with a smile as seven-year-old Anastasie and five-year-old George sang children’s songs in English. Georges used to also help his father attach his sheathed sword and other military trappings.
When Georges was ten years old, one guard unit sought to make him an honorary second lieutenant, his father turned the honor into theater: “Gentlemen,” he proclaimed to the assembled militiamen, “my son is no longer mine; he belongs to you and to our nation.”–and the troops roared as Georges stepped forward and stood at attention in his snappy-looking new uniform in the Paris guards. Felix Frestel was his tutor, starting when he was eleven years of age; he was a principal of the College de Plessis, his father’s secondary school, the Lafayettes retained him to tutor their son privately until he was old enough to enroll in classes.
During the Reign of Terror, while Gilbert de Lafayette was in prison and Adrienne was just being arrested. The police nearly to their home, Adrienne ordered a governess to flee with ten year old Virginie to a nearby farmer’s house, while thirteen year old Georges and his tutor Frestel rushed into the woods and fifteen year old Anastasie hid in a secret in cubby in one of the towers. Unaware of her husband’s fate, Adrienne (on house arrest) grew fearful for the survival her only son–the only person who could inherit his father’s name and fortune. Every once and a while, Frestel would descend from the mountain hideaway late at night and report on her son’s health and his future. They agreed on a plan to obtain a false license and passport as a merchant and go to the port at Bordeaux with Georges, who would feign the role of his apprentice.
When Adrienne was released by Elizabeth Monroe’s manipulation, James and Elizabeth Monroe both aided Adrienne in acquiring a fake passport, ID and changed Georges name in order for him to be able to travel to the United States undeterred. Monroe obtained government counterstamps on their passports for them to go to America, with the boy traveling as “George Motier.” Adrienne gave Frestel a letter for president Washington written in French, which she hoped the American president would be able to read and understand:
[Translated French-English] “Sir, I send you my son… It is deep and sincere confidence that I entrust this dear child to the protection of the United States (which he had long regarded as his second country and which I have long regarded as our sanctuary), and to the particular protection of their president, whose feelings towards the boy’s father I well know. The bearer of this latter, sir, has, during our troubles, been our support, our resource, our consolation, my son’s guide. I want him to continue in that role… I want them to remain inseparable until the day we have the joy of reuniting in the land of liberty. I owe my own life and those of my children to this man’s generous attention… My wish is for my son to live in obscurity in America; that he resume the studies that three years of misfortune have interrupted, and that far from lands that might crush his spirit or arouse his violent indignation, he can work to fulfill the responsibilities of a citizen of the United States… I will say nothing here about my own circumstances, nor those of one for whom I feel far greater concern than I do for myself. I leave it to the friend who will present this letter to you to express the feelings of a heart which has suffered too much to be conscious of anything but gratitude, of which I owe much to Mr. Monroe… I beg you, Monsieur Washington, to accept my deepest sense of obligation, confidence, respect and devotion.”
At Olmutz prison, Adrienne coaxed the prison commander to let her write to specific family members, whom she had identified with each letter obtain approval. He read every word she wrote and rejected a letter written to her son. The received occasional news from the outside, the rest of the Lafayette family heard Georges arrived safely in Boston in September of 1795. Adrienne did not know was that her son’s arrival plunged his godfather, the American president, into a potentially embarrassing political and diplomatic situation that posed dangers to the Lafayette family. George Washington was unable to publicly offered sanctuary to Georges in the America because the French might consider it a threat to their neutrality. Washington decided to leave the boy in New England until the government recessed later in the year and he could move to Mount Vernon. Washington asked Massachusetts senator George Cabot to enroll young Lafayette incognito at Harvard college, “the expense of which as also of every other means for his support, I will pay.” Washington also wrote to his godson: “to begin to fulfill my role of father, I advise you to apply yourself seriously to your studies. Your youth should be usefully employed, in order that you may deserve in all respects to be considered as the worthy son of your illustrious father.”
In America, Georges studied at Harvard, was a house guest of George Washington at the presidential mansion in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and at the Washington family home in Mount Vernon, Virginia. Young Lafayette chose to make his way to New York where he waited in hopes to join Washington in Philadelphia and lived with the Washington’s for the next two years. He also stayed with Alexander Hamilton in his New York home.
The Lafayette family, Georges’s two sisters, his mother and his father were released from prison in 1797, but it wasn’t until 1798 that Georges was able to return to France. In February, on a sunny day, Georges–who had just turned nineteen–arrived back in Europe to the embrace of his family; he also brought with him a letter from George Washington. His father had not seen him in six years. Initially at Cambridge, then a few weeks with Alexander Hamilton in New York, before going to the Washingtons in Mount Vernon after the president’s retirement. On his return to France, George first went to Paris, where he found only blackened stone shell of his beautiful boyhood home on the rue de Bourbon. George’s arrival in Holstein revived the spirits of all exiled families.
“He is perfect physically: tall, with a noble and charming face. His temperament is all that we could wish is all that we could wish. He had the same kind heart that you remember, and his mind is far more mature than is usual for his age.” Lafayette wrote to his Aunt. Virginie wrote to her as well, “My brother is grown so tall, that when he arrived we could scarcely recognize him, but we have found all those qualities in him that we always knew. He is just as good a brother as he was at Chavaniac. He is so like Papa that people in the streets can see immediately that his his son.” While attempting to retain the family land that the Lafayette’s lost when it was all confiscated, Adrienne returned to Paris for a second time to try at negotiation–this time she brought Georges with her, who, she believed might intimidate government clerks more than Virginie.
Georges also was a prod at his father, who was writing his Memoires and who would grow impatient when Georges wasn’t there to coax him to write it. Mid-1799, Gilbert grew impatient with Adrienne’s constant absences, “It is two years today, dear Adrienne, since we left the prison to which you came, bringing me consolation and life… How can we arrange our spending the winter together?”
In the Spring of 1802, George Washington de Lafayette married Emilie de Tracy, the daughter of Destutt de Tracy, a renowned philosopher who had served in the Constituent Assembly with Lafayette and as a cavalry commander under him at the frontier in 1792, just before Lafayette fled France. Pere Carrichon, the priest who had blessed three of Adrienne’s family members as they marched up to the guillotine, performed the ceremony. After the wedding, the Lafayette’s and the de Tracy’s went south together for a long visit to the Chavaniac–”to share our new found happiness with our old aunt, who still had all her faculties,” according to Virginie.
Italy rebelled against French rule and Georges and his brother-in-law were called to military service. His mother and his father were responsible for caring for his wife, she had just given birth to a little baby girl. He served as a second lieutenant in the French Army under Napoleon Emperor Napoleon blocked every promotion for Gilbert’s son and sons-in-law, prevented them from ranking up in the army despite the highest recommendations of their commanders. During one battle, George suffered a minor wound saving the life of General Grouchy to whom he was an aide-de-comp for and had given up his horse for during battle.
1805, Russia and Austria joined Britain in a new coalition against France, but French armies swept northward through Austria and crushed a combined Austro-Russian army at the decisive battle of Austerlitz in Moravia (now eastern Czech Republic). Two days later Austria sued for peace, and the Russian army limped home to Mother Russia to lick its wounds. In 1806, Napoleon destroyed the Prussian army at Lena and extended the French empire eastward to Warsaw. With peace at hand, with no chance for promotion, and with their military commitments complete, Georges Washington and his two brother-in-laws resigned their commissions. Although his father grumbled at the emperor’s pettiness, Adrienne rejoiced to have the boys home safely; she wanted no more knights in the family and reveled in the presence of the three young couples and their children, all of whom made La Grange their permanent home.
August 1807, Georges and his father went to visit the elder Lafayette’s Aunt Charlotte and inspect the Chavaniac properties. In their absence, Adrienne developed terrible pains and high fever; she began vomiting uncontrollably, unable to retain any food or liquid. They moved near Paris and Lafayette and George raced up from Chavaniac from La Grange. Both refusing to leave her bedside.
In March 1814, George introduced his father to the young duc d’Orleans. 1821, they both returned to their home on the rue d’Anjou. In his father’s later years Georges was always hovering at his side. Georges helped him with his Memoires and his voluminous correspondence. At six each evening, the courtyard bell sounded dinner, and as many as thirty people poured into the huge dining room–Lafayette’s children and grandchildren. Virginie and Anastasie sat opposite their father as hostesses, Georges always sat beside him. 1820, thirty nine year old Georges and Lafayette organized a group of young liberals into a new political club, Les Amis de la Liberte de la Presse. In the Autumn of 1821, King Louis XVIII posted spies outside La Grange, considering arresting Lafayette and Georges.
On Gilbert de Lafayette’s last trip to America, Georges accompanied him. “My brave light infantry!” his father cried out once, “That is exactly how their uniforms looked. What courage! How I loved them!” In an accident, a boat they were taking sunk and they were assured into lifeboats and rowed to shore. At bunker hill, Lafayette gathered soil from the ground, placing it into a tiny flask and told Georges to sprinkle the soil across his grave when he passed so that he would be apart of two countries when he was buried. Throughout most of the trip, he stayed close company with his father’s secretary, Auguste Levasseur. They visited Mount Vernon again and Georges got to meet Thomas Jefferson at Monticello. 1826, Lafayette and his son thought of America and sailed away towards home.
In 1832, Lafayette sent Georges back to La Grange to help Anastasie and Virginie cope with the needs of the family and the villagers,while he remained in Paris to help the government deal with the emergency. During the battle of the Bastille, Georges managed to hustle his father from the fighting and blood. After the death of his father, Georges Washington covered his father’s coffin with the dirt they gathered at bunker hill.
Georges Washington de Lafayette had five children total with his wife, Emilie de Tracy:
Oscar Thomas Gilbert Motier de Lafayette (1815–1881) was educated at the École Polytechnique and served as an artillery officer in Algeria. He entered the Chamber of Deputies in 1846 and voted with the extreme Left. After the revolution of 1848, he received a post in the provisional government; as a member of the Constituent Assembly, he became secretary of the war committee. After the dissolution of the Legislative Assembly in 1851, he retired from public life, but emerged on the establishment of the third republic, becoming a life senator in 1875.
Edmond Motier de Lafayette (1818–1890) shared his brother’s political opinions and was one of the secretaries of the Constituent Assembly and a member of the senate from 1876 to 1888.
Natalie de Lafayette who married Adolphe Périer, a banker and nephew of Casimir Pierre Périer.
Matilde de Lafayette who married Maurice de Pusy (1799–1864, son of Jean-Xavier Bureau de Pusy).
Clementine de Lafayette who married Gustave de Beaumont.
None can direct agnatic claim to the Lafayette name. It disappeared after Georges sons both died before having a male son. He spent the remaining years immediately following his father’s death organizing Lafayette’s letters, speeches and papers and compiling together his Memoires and more of his writing which was published in a six volumes in Paris in 1837-1838 he retained is seat in the Chamber of Deputies until the summer of 1849, remaining a loyal member of the ultra liberal minority his father had organized to oppose the restrictive dicta of King Louis Philippe. He lived to see the third French revolution of his life in 1848. 1848, Georges won reelection to his old seat in the Chamber of Deputies, but he failed to win the following year. He died in November 1849, never achieving the celebrity of his father.