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FrRevol_151-200.indd 32 3/16/12 1:04 PM CHAPTER III General La Fayette. M. de Ia Fayette, having fought from his early youth for the cause of America, had early become imbued with the principles of liberty which form the basis of that government. If he made mistakes in regard to the French Revolution, we are to ascribe them all to his admiration of the American institutions, and of Washington, the hero citizen who guided the first steps of that nation in the career of independence. La Fayette, young, affiuent, of noble family, and beloved at home, relinquished all these advantages at the age of nineteen to serve beyond the ocean in the cause of that liberty, the love ofwhich has decided every action ofhis life. Had he had the happiness to be a native of the United States, his conduct would have been that ofWashington: the same disinterestedness, the same enthusiasm, the same perseverance in their opinions, distinguished each of these generous friends of humanity. Had General Washington been, like the Marquis de Ia Fayette, commander of the national guard ofParis, he also might have found it impossible to control the course of circumstances ; he also might have seen his efforts baffied by the difficulty ofbeing at once faithful to his engagements to the King, and ofestablishing at the same time the liberty of his country. M. de Ia Fayette, I must say, has a right to be considered a true republican ; none of the vanities of his rank ever entered his head; power, the effect of which is so great in France, had no ascendancy over him; the desire of pleasing in drawing-room conversation did not with him influence a single phrase; he sacrificed all his fortune to his opinions with the most generous indifference. When in the prisons of Olmiitz,1 as when at r. After his surrender to the Austrians (August 19, 1792), La Fayette was imprisoned at Olmiitz from May 1794 to October '797ยท z82 FrRevol_151-200.indd 33 3/16/12 1:04 PM CHAPTER I I I. General La Fayette the height of his influence, he was equally firm in his attachment to his principles. His manner of seeing and acting is open and direct. Whoever has marked his conduct may foretell with certainty what he will do on any particular occasion. His political feeling is that of a citizen of the United States, and even his person is more English than French. The hatred of which M. de la Fayette is the object has never embittered his temper, and his gentleness ofsoul is complete; at the same time nothing has ever modified his opinions, and his confidence in the triumph ofliberty is the same as that of a pious man in a future life. These sentiments, so contrary to the selfish calculations ofmost ofthe men who have acted a part in France, may appear pitiable in the eyes of some persons-"It is so silly," they think, "to prefer one's country to oneself, not to change one's party when that party is vanquished; in short, to consider mankind not as cards with which to play a winning game, but as the sacred objects of unlimited sacrifices ." If this is to form the charge of silliness, would that it were but once merited by our men of talents! It is a singular phenomenon that such a character as that of M. de la Fayette should have appeared in the foremost rank of French nobles; but he can neither be censured nor exculpated with impartiality, withoutbeing acknowledged to be such as I have described him. It then becomes easy to understand the different contrasts which naturally arose between his disposition and his situation. Supporting monarchy more from duty than taste, he drew involuntarily toward the principles ofthe democrats whom he was obliged to resist; and a certain kindness for the advocates of the republican form was perceptible in him, although his reflection forbade the admission of their system into France. Since the departure ofM. de Ia Fayette for America, now forty years ago,2 we cannot quote a single action or a single word of his which was not direct and consistent; personal interest never blended itself in the least with his public conduct. Success would have displayed such sentiments to advantage; but they deserve all the attention of the historian, in spite of circumstances, and in spite even of faults which might serve as weapons for opponents. 2...


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