The Expatriate Patriot

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Steven L. Harrison, PM, FMLR

     Sometimes known as the forgotten hero, the Marquis de La Fayette (September 6, 1757 – May 20, 1834) was, among other things, an honorary Missouri Freemason.  Here are a few facts about this Frenchman who secured his country's assistance during the American Revolution, an act which very possibly ensured the defeat of the British and the birth of a new nation.  He was so taken by this new country and its concepts of democracy and equality, he once remarked, "From the moment I heard the name America, I loved it."

  • His full name is Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette.
  • It is unclear where he was initiated, but it is certain he was a Freemason.  He may have been a member of Loge La Candeur of Paris, and may have been a "Lewis" Mason.
  • More than 50 towns in the US are named after him.
  • He was married at the age of 16; his bride Adrienne was 14.
  • Marie Antoinette mocked him when she first met him.
  • He was only 19 when he became a major-general.
  • He commanded colonial troops in 1777 under conditions so poor, they  resorted to eating their shoes.
  • He warned General Washington that opposing forces in congress wanted to remove him, gaining Washington's trust for a lifetime.
  • Washington had no son; Lafayette had no living father; Washington considered Lafayette a surrogate son.
  • He named his son Georges Washington de La Fayette (1779–1849) in honor of his friend.
  • Using the slave Armistead to infiltrate Cornwallis' camp he outsmarted and defeated the general.
  • When he took the fort at Yorktown, his troops guns were empty. He used only fixed bayonets to win the battle.
  • He ordered his band to play Yankee Doodle at Yorktown while the British surrendered their arms.
  • When the slave James Armistead was freed he changed his name to James Armistead Lafayette.
  • He urged Washington to make the experiment in democracy complete by removing the taint of slavery from the United States.
  • He also asked the French ministry to free the slaves of Guyana.
  • With Thomas Jefferson, he drafted the Declaration of the Rights of Man.
  • Imprisoned during the French Revolution, he gained his release as a result of the pleadings of George Washington.
  • James Monroe invited him back to the US to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the American Revolution. Eighty thousand people (2/3 the population of New York) greeted him.
  • In the US, he visited all 24 states declaring, "Someday America will save the world."
  • He stopped his parade in Virginia when he recognized James Armistead Lafayette in the crowed and the two had a tearful reunion.
  • On his trip to America, he was made an honorary member of the Grand Lodge of Missouri, as well as many other Masonic bodies.  He is said to have more Masonic honors than any Freemason before or since.
  • When he died, they found a locket around his neck carrying a picture of Adrienne, who had preceded him in death.
  • He removed soil from a spot near Washington's tomb and took it with him back to France.  Today, his body rests in that American soil.

     The Marquis de La Fayette was such a strong advocate of human rights and the democratic principles embodied by the new United States that the French writer, politician and historian François-René de Chateaubriand said of his legacy, "Monsieur de Lafayette had only one idea; happily, it was the idea of the century."


Steve Harrison, 32° KCCH, is a Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri.  He is the editor of the Missouri Freemasonmagazine, author of the book Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, a Fellow of the Missouri Lodge of Research and also its Senior Warden.  He is a dual member of Kearney Lodge #311, St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite, Moila Shrine and is a member of the DeMolay Legion of Honor.

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