La Fayette, Marquis de

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

La Fayette, Marquis de


(Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier). Born Sept. 6, 1757, in Chavaniac; died May 20,1834, in Paris. French political figure. From a wealthy aristocratic family.

Influenced by his communication with B. Franklin, La Fayette set out in 1777 for North America in order to fight in the war of the American colonies for independence from Great Britain. He was commissioned a general in the American Army. Active in the military operations at Yorktown (October 1781), he soon thereafter returned to France. He was a member of the Assembly of Notables in 1787, where he aligned himself with the opponents of C. Calonne’s plan, which would have imposed some of the tax burden on the privileged estates. In 1789, as a deputy elected from the nobility in the Estates General, he supported its transformation into the National Assembly. On the day after the capture of the Bastille (July 14, 1789), he became commander of the National Guard.

In the beginning of the revolution, La Fayette was extremely popular. As the revolution unfolded, he continued to favor a liberal constitutional monarchy and tried to impede further development of the revolution. La Fayette was active in the antidemocratic Society of 1789 and then in the club known as the Feuillants. Forces under his command fired on the anti-monarchical demonstration at the Champ de Mars in Paris (July 17,1791). Appointed commander of one of France’s armies after the outbreak of war with the anti-French coalition in 1792, he intended to use the army for the suppression of the revolution. In June 1792 he turned to the Legislative Assembly with the demand that the Jacobins be “restrained.” A few days after the monarchy had been overthrown by the popular uprising of Aug. 10, 1792, he tried to lead his troops against revolutionary Paris. Failing, he abandoned his army and fled. He had expected to reach the Netherlands but was captured by the Austrians; he remained their prisoner until 1797.

La Fayette returned to France in 1800. During the Napoleonic Consulate and Empire he kept himself out of politics. During the Restoration, he came forth as a leader of the liberal bourgeois opposition; once again he acquired great popularity. In the course of the July Revolution of 1830 he was appointed commander of the National Guard and helped to preserve the monarchy and transfer the crown to Louis Philippe, duke of Orléans.


Latzkó, A. Lafayette. Zürich, 1935.
Loth, D. Lafayette. London, 1952.
Dousset, E. La Fayette. Paris, 1955.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.