Thomas Jefferson, the Marquis de Lafayette, and the Friendship that Helped Forge Two Nations
by Tom Chaffin
Pub Date 26 Nov 2019
In a narrative both panoramic and intimate, Tom Chaffin captures the four-decade friendship of Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de Lafayette.
Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de Lafayette shared a singularly extraordinary friendship, one involved in the making of two revolutions—and two nations. Jefferson first met Lafayette in 1781, when the young French-born general was dispatched to Virginia to assist Jefferson, then the state’s governor, in fighting off the British. The charismatic Lafayette, hungry for glory, could not have seemed more different from Jefferson, the reserved statesman. But when Jefferson, a newly-appointed diplomat, moved to Paris three years later, speaking little French and in need of a partner, their friendship began in earnest.
As Lafayette opened doors in Paris and Versailles for Jefferson, so too did the Virginian stand by Lafayette as the Frenchman became inexorably drawn into the maelstrom of his country's revolution. Jefferson counseled Lafayette as he drafted The Declaration of the Rights of Man and remained a firm supporter of the French Revolution, even after he returned to America in 1789. By 1792, however, the upheaval had rendered Lafayette a man without a country, locked away in a succession of Austrian and Prussian prisons. The burden fell on Jefferson and Lafayette's other friends to win his release. The two would not see each other again until 1824, in a powerful and emotional reunion at Jefferson’s Monticello.
Steeped in primary sources, Revolutionary Brothers casts fresh light on this remarkable, often complicated, friendship of two extraordinary men.