LAFAYETTE, MARQUIS DE. (1757-1834). French hero of the American and French revolutions. ADS. (“Lafayette”). 2/3p. 4to. Paris, January 19, 1815. In French. Attestation for the French Captain Thouin who had assisted in defending the Tuileries during the French Revolution.

“I certify that Mr. Thouin, Captain of the Battalion of St. Victor in the first years of the Revolution, constantly served there with the most devoted zeal to the maintenance of freedom and public order, that he distinguished himself in several circumstances and particularly at the castle [i.e., palace] of the Tuileries where he happened to be on duty when a seditious movement was suppressed by the national guard. His courageous conduct and the services rendered on this occasion by Mr. Thouin led me to give him a mark of particular confidence to which he responded as one might expect from the patriotic and pure feelings which have always distinguished Mr. Thouin. It is with great pleasure that I take the opportunity to do him this justice. Done in Paris on January 19, 1815…”

Lafayette joined the American revolutionary forces in 1777 and was appointed a major general by Congress. A close friend of George Washington, he shared in the hardships of Valley Forge, and for his role in the American Revolution was made an honorary citizen by several U.S. states in 1784.

Returning to France as the celebrated “hero of two worlds,” Lafayette led the liberal aristocrats, and in 1779 was elected a representative to the States General, whose conversion into the more revolutionary National Assembly, he supported. Lafayette presented the Assembly with a draft of a Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, which was adopted after lengthy revisions.

The day after the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789, Lafayette was chosen head of the National Guard and in October he saved the lives of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette from a mob that had gathered at Versailles. On February 24, 1791, angry protestors gathered at the Tuileries to confront the king after it was rumored that the royal family was planning to flee France. Lafayette managed to disperse the crowd before leaving, four days later, with a part of the National Guard to quell a riot in Vincennes. In his absence, a horde of armed noblemen arrived to protect the king against a perceived Jacobin conspiracy. However, the guardsmen remaining at the palace suspected that the nobles were planning a counter-revolution in an event that came to be known as the Day of the Daggers. Lafayette quickly returned from Vincennes where he and Louis XVI pleaded with the mob to disarm while promising that their weapons would be returned. The next day, Lafayette ordered the nobles banned from the palace grounds and sold off their confiscated weapons. His humiliation of the monarchists gave credibility to the idea that, in fact, there had been a conspiracy by the “chevaliers du poignard,” and strengthened the cause of the Constitutionalists.

Although he resigned his position as head of the National Guard after troops fired into a crowd of protestors at the Champs de Mars in July 1791, Lafayette continued to support the monarchy whose overthrow in 1792 forced him to flee to Austria, where he was arrested and spent five years in prison until released under orders of Napoleon Bonaparte. Upon his return to Napoleonic France in 1799, Lafayette anticipated a quiet retirement, but he became re-involved in French affairs during the 1830 revolution, helping place Louis-Philippe on the throne.

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