Lloyd Kramer offers a new interpretation of the cultural and political significance of the career of the Marquis de Lafayette, which spanned the American Revolution, the French Revolutions of 1789 and 1830, and the Polish Uprising of 1830-31. Moving beyond traditional biography, Kramer traces the wide-ranging influence of Lafayette's public and personal life, including his contributions to the emergence of nationalist ideologies in Europe and America, his extensive connections with liberal political theorists, and his close friendships with prominent writers, many of them women. Kramer places Lafayette on the cusp of the two worlds of America and France, politics and literature, the Enlightenment and the Romantic movement, public affairs and private life, revolution and nationalism, and men and women. He argues that Lafayette's experiences reveal how public figures can symbolize the aspirations of a society as a whole, and he stresses Lafayette's important role in a cultural network of contemporaries that included Germaine de Stael, Benjamin Constant, Frances Wright, James Fenimore Cooper, and Alexis de Tocqueville. History/Biography
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About the Author
Lloyd Kramer is Dean Smith Distinguished Term Professor and chair of the history department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His books include Threshold of a New World: Intellectuals and the Exile Experience in Paris, 1830-1848 and Nationalism: Political Cultures in Europe and America, 1775-1865.
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A EUROPEAN AND THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION
America's Revolution became the first significant public event in Lafayette's long career. His prominent role in this successful revolutionary struggle made him famous on both sides of the Atlantic, set the direction for his future political actions, and created a public, symbolic identity that attracted wide attention from both his contemporaries and latter-day historical interpreters. Americans took to him more warmly than to any other foreigner during the Revolution, and he remained their favorite European throughout his lifetime and during most of the nineteenth century.(1) Indeed, few outsiders have ever achieved such popularity or played such a vital role in the revolution of another country. Lafayette recognized that the American War for Independence was a new kind of conflict, different from the politics and wars of Europe. An eager student of American affairs, he quickly learned that in America politics and military strategy were connected in ways that most other Europeans did not understand. Lafayette accepted the new style of republican warfare, mastered its political techniques, praised its revolutionary practitioners, and was rewarded as the outsider made insider. This chapter examines the early connections between America and Lafayette, stressing the political, cultural, and military aspects of this relationship in the era of the Revolution. The purpose here is to explain briefly how this enduring link was established, how it developed, and why Lafayettearistocrat, Frenchman, cosmopolitanwas so successful in the new nation.
interests.(5) When Lafayette returned to America in 1780 with the news that a French army and fleet would soon be added to the Continental forces, Washington hastened to inform Congress that Lafayette had shown great "zeal" for the patriot cause and that he had been "upon all occasions an essential friend to America."(6) This appreciation for Lafayette's service to the alliance surely contributed to his initial acceptance and continuing popularity.
Lafayette was also useful to Americans for reasons unrelated to any influence he may have had with the French government. His presence in the Continental army lent an aura of legitimacy and of European support to the American struggle. Although Americans felt morally superior to the corruption of the Old World, they often felt painfully inferior to the European standards of culture and achievement by which they still measured their accomplishments.(7) Thus from the beginning and throughout the early decades of the new nation, Americans were enchanted and flattered by the story of a European nobleman who left family and fortune, suffered hardships at his own expense, and joined the American forces, motivated by love of a virtuous people and a righteous cause. Here was a compliment of the highest order, for it came unsolicited from one who knew intimately the values and comforts of European society but nevertheless chose to cast his lot with the New World.
It is significant that Americans in this early period almost always called Lafayette "the Marquis" and that they seemed to find considerable satisfaction in having someone of that high social rank among them. Lafayette provided cosmopolitan confirmation of the provincials' cause, serving as an eminent "other" whose praise and support pointed to the wider historical significance of their Revolution. Lafayette quickly recognized the revolutionaries' desire for respectability and lost no chance to act upon it. His advice for the French force that came to America in 1780, for example, succinctly summarized his well-developed sensitivity to New World concerns:
We must show more respect to the uniform of an American general officer and to the dignity of a state governor than we might show in a similar case to Prussians and emperors. The Americans are very responsive to these signs of regard.... All the officers of the French navy must be advised to treat the American naval officers well, to welcome any civilians who come aboard, and to imagine, for example, that an American pilot's self-perception is proportionate to the part he plays in the government and that individual rudenesses are capable of doing us irreparable harm.(8)
Lafayette followed his own advice to the letter. As a result, he was soon known to every leading American political figure and welcomed with praise wherever he went. The presence of the marquis showed that America mattered to important people and perhaps reassured the American social elite that their republican revolution was also a conservative one on behalf of sensible political ideas and social order. The president of the American Philosophical Society, Timothy Matlack, may have expressed this best when he informed Lafayette that his election to the society would "add a dignity which will make it truly honorable."(9) In a more general sense, for the nation as for Matlack's society, Lafayette's name added a certain dignity that was not easily acquired by a country making its first appearance in international politics or by leaders trying to establish credibility at home and abroad.
Yet usefulness and respectability, important as they were to the popularity of America's Lafayette, only begin to account for the great affection he inspired. There were, after all, many Europeans who rendered useful service to the Revolution, and there was no shortage of Frenchmen willing to add their rank and respectability to the American colors. What most endeared Lafayette to his American friends and earned him a place among the nation's founding heroes was his personal style. He was much more than a distinguished European-he was a disinterested one. The word "disinterested" was first used to describe Lafayette in Deane's promise of a commission in 1776, and it remained his adjective throughout the correspondence, official resolutions, newspaper accounts, eulogies, and biographies concerning him for at least a century (until the rise of modern critical scholarship).(10) To his contemporaries, disinterestedness meant that Lafayette participated in the Revolution because of his genuine enthusiasm for the cause itself, irrespective of any personal reward. His service was in fact costing him thousands of livres, a sacrifice likely to impress Americans then and later. "Disinterested" also suggests something less tangible, however, something that was perhaps even more significant.
Lafayette acquired a reputation for disinterestedness because he played his part in the Revolution on America's terms, learning English quickly and well, adapting to the conventions of a more egalitarian society, and respecting the aspirations of the new nation. For some reasonperhaps his youth, his wealth, his personal tact, or his political ideasLafayette did not try to impose European expectations on America's leaders. This was exceptional enough to earn their trust in a very short time. Washington, who lost patience with the "outsiders" streaming into his camp in search of high rank and money, emphasized Lafayette's uniqueness. "I do most devoutly wish that we had not a single Foreigner among us," he once wrote in exasperation, "except the Marquis de la Fayette who acts upon very different principles than those which govern the rest."(11) The most important of these principles for Washington may well have been Lafayette's willingness to listen receptively when he was told about the goals for which Americans were fighting and about the methods by which they fought.
Lafayette's friendship with Washington owed much of its enormous success to the young Frenchman's ability to learn from and sympathize with the American commander without becoming a sycophant. Recounting their initial meeting two years after the event, Lafayette remembered that Washington apologized for the appearance of his ragged army, whereupon Lafayette replied that he had come "to learn, and not to teach." That produced a "good effect," he noted, "because it was unusual for a European."(12) From that moment to the end of the war he showed the greatest inclination to hear Washington's ideas on all matters. "I schall conduct myself entirely by your advices," he explained to the commander in chief, "and if You say that some thing is proper I'll do it directlyI desire only to know your opinion."(13) These were the words of a listener, couched so respectfully that Washington could not help but listen himself.
Lafayette once remarked that American soldiers were his "Masters" and teachers, not his students, and he was exceptionally open to their instruction.(14) He learned from them the language and conduct of republicanism that characterized American culture in the revolutionary era and set it apart from upper-class European culture. Indeed, much of Lafayette's popularity among Americans can be traced to the way in which he overcame the predilections of eighteenth-century nobility and adopted the attitudes of a republican revolution. Testimony to this comes from a fellow French nobleman, the comte d'Estaing, who watched Lafayette operate in New England during the unsuccessful campaign against Newport in 1778.(15) Recognizing that Lafayette's success with Americans was no accident, d'Estaing tried to explain it in a letter to the French naval minister: "Always a steadfast admirer of the American leaders, he [Lafayette] proposed his ideas to them only as doubts, insisted only as much as necessary, and sacrificed his views to opinions that are accepted solely on the American continent and that anywhere else would at least be called very false prejudices."(16) This was Lafayette the listener; but d'Estaing also described Lafayette's sympathetic response to America's customs:
One becomes accustomed to using a knife as a spoon, doing without napkins, drinking to the health of ten persons with each drop one swallows, quenching one's thirst with grog . . ., keeping the most somber table in the world, eating nothing more for the next three hours, and drinking from the same enormous goblet from which many have just wet their uninviting lips. But one must also fawn, to the height of insipidity, over every little republican who regards flattery as his sovereign right . . .. hold command over captains who are not good enough company to be permitted to eat with their general officers . . ., and have some colonels who are innkeepers at the same time. It is his knowing how to turn all that to advantage, to put it in its place and remain in his own that has most impressed me in the difficulties that M. le Marquis de Lafayette has overcome.... He adds to all that a national sensibility and a little enthusiasm for the ancient chivalry which seems to me perfectly well-suited to the circumstances in which he finds himself.(17)
D'Estaing's voice is that of a French aristocrat, barely concealing his distaste for American behavior and yet impressed that one of his own kind could thrive amid such conditions.
This was Lafayette's achievement. He understood, practiced, and praised the American republican mannerand did so with the dignity of a European aristocrat. It is no wonder that he became an American hero before the Revolution ended and even before he made his greatest military contribution in the Virginia campaign of 1781. Americans believed their new nation was based on the morally superior principles of republicanism, and they had found a marquis to prove it!
Lafayette's relationship with America was by no means a one-sided affair; Americans meant as much to him as he meant to them, and he returned their affection in kind. The American Revolution was the definitive experience of his life. It ended with greater political and military success than any other cause he ever embraced, and it followed, guided, and perhaps even haunted him during subsequent revolutions and political conflicts in Europe. Lafayette's America would become almost as enduring and symbolic as America's Lafayette.
Like many late-eighteenth-century Europeans, Lafayette had grown sympathetic to an ideal image of America before he set foot on its coast. He seems to have believed wholeheartedly in what Durand Echeverria has called the "Mirage in the West": a new world whose people possessed virtues that had disappeared or never existed in Europe.(18) In fact, Lafayette's optimistic faith in this image of the New World almost surely shaped much of his desire to join the American causethough modern scholars (most notably Louis Gottschalk) have described Lafayette's departure from France as the flight of an adventure-seeking, unhappy youth who wanted to escape his personal problems.(19) "The welfare of America is intimately connected with the happiness of all mankind," he wrote his wife as he crossed the Atlantic for the first time: "she will become the respectable and safe asylum of virtue, integrity, tolerance, equality, and a peaceful liberty."(20) Upon reaching Charleston, he sent off immediate confirmation that the dream was true: "The manners of the people here are simple, honest, and in every way worthy of this land where everything proclaims the beautiful name of liberty."(21) Another early letter stressed the "simplicity of manners," the "love of country and liberty," the "easy equality," the "cleanliness," and the fraternal citizenship that prevailed in America, judgments that obviously owed a great deal to the "mirage" and popular stereotypes that had shaped Lafayette's expectations.(22)
Although the most idealized images of American virtue disappeared from Lafayette's writings as he encountered the realities of a divided people quarreling over difficult political problems, he continued to believe that America's Revolution was a major world event"the final struggle of liberty," as he described it in 1779.(23) In 1781 he assured Matlack that the American cause reflected the "Progress of Philosophy" and promoted the "Rights of Mankind" on a "More Liberal Bazis" than anywhere else.(24) Lafayette's idealism about America, though tempered by experience, survived the Revolution and lasted throughout his life. The ideal may have continued to function for him long after other Europeans stopped believing in it because he saw enough virtue and simplicity in America to sustain the image after he left. His own frustrated attempts to establish liberal institutions at home during and after the French Revolution may also have fostered nostalgic recollections of American politics.(25) Finally? in spite of all the mythmaking on both sides of the Atlantic, there were real differences between America and the Old World that enabled Lafayette to define and defend the distinctive political meaning of his American experience.
There were of course the obvious differences in behavior, manners, and appearance that distinguished a new republican society from Old World culture. Lafayette tended to accept the dichotomy of American innocence and European corruption, or what might now be called provincialism versus sophistication. He warned in 1778 that French volunteers in America could have a "pernicious" effect on native troops and that the French should be kept separate. "They have seen the world," he explained, "and bring among them all the vices [and] corruptions they have taken in the way."(26) Yet the virtue-and-corruption theme, whatever its moral attractions, was less crucial to Lafayette's view of America than the difference between the American conception of equality and the European conception of birth and rank. Equality (in the sense of equal legal and political rights) was for Lafayette a central principle of the Revolution, as important as independence in the objectives of the war, and one of the "virtues, so precious in a republican state."(27) It was, moreover, a virtue that contrasted starkly with the hierarchies of the Old World. Though Lafayette benefited enormously from the social order of France's ancien regime, it is clear that he understood the vital difference in principle between legal equality and inherited privilege, and that he sympathized entirely with American republican attitudes.
Lafayette recognized the peculiarity of his position. To Franklin he once suggested somewhat self-consciously that his high social standing might be of use to America in diplomatic affairs. "As from our European prejudices, Birth is a thing much thought off, on such occasions," he wrote in reference to possible negotiations for independence. "I am the only one of My Rank (tho' I Can't help laughing in mentionning these Chance-Ranks Before an American Citizen) who is Acquainted with American Affairs."(28) He acknowledged a contradiction between noble rank and modern revolution. In the fall of 1779, when Irish nobles were seeking greater commercial and political independence from Britain, he complained that dukes and lords were the wrong leaders for such a movement and then added a comment that might have been even more relevant to his own experience in France ten years later: "Nobility is But an insignificant kind of people for Revolutions. They have no notions of Equality Between men, they want to govern, they have too much to loozegood Presbiterian farmers would go on with more spirit than all the Noblemen of Ireland."(29) The contrast with America, though not drawn explicitly, was obvious. America was having a true revolution, with farmers and Presbyterians defending the cause of liberty and equality.
But Lafayette also knew very well that not all Americans, not even all farmers or Presbyterians, were fighting for liberty and equality. Many of them were fighting one another, and many were not fighting at all. Lafayette did not need much time in America to learn that the political realities of the Revolution were often quite unlike the "mirage" he had heard about in France. He soon discovered that many Americans were firm loyalists and that many others were divided by bitter quarrels. The actions of politicians and generals alike rapidly convinced him that, as he confided to the French king's first minister, Maurepas, "the individuals who constitute the body of a republican administration have the passions, viewpoints, and prejudices of private persons."(30)
Nor was the public at large steadfast in devotion to the cause. Lafayette saw how quickly American enthusiasm in victory turned to despair and bitterness in defeat and how fickle republican public opinion could be. The harshly critical response to d'Estaing's unsuccessful cooperation in the Rhode Island campaign of 1778 shocked Lafayette and revealed what he called the "ungenerous sentiments in American hearts."(31) He also learned that the states were unable or unwilling to provide the necessary manpower and supplies to fight the war. Wherever he went with Continental troops, he was compelled to rely on civilian leaders who furnished only the most meager resources after the most insistent solicitations.(32) Finally, he came to see that America's fate depended more upon how Europeans perceived the new nation's situation than on America's actual military strength and political prospects; he saw, in short, that political images shaped political realities. Since French aid and ultimate British withdrawal were both contingent on the apparent positions of the combatants, Lafayette never doubted that, as he once told Washington, "the american interest has alwais been since the beginning of this war to let the world believe that we are stronger than we can ever expect to be."(33) These political considerations significantly affected the conduct of the war as well as Lafayette's activity in it. Firsthand experience brought home to him, as to other European participants, the importance of such issues, but Lafayette's response was distinctive: he concluded that military strategy must be determined by political circumstances. In this new kind of revolutionary war, battles became popular politics, and political considerations that were much broader than dynastic interests, royal prestige, or careers for noblemen became the decisive aspect of warfare. Lafayette's ability to understand these developments better than any other French soldier who served in America explains much of his popularity and success.
The French army that came to America in 1780 was a microcosm of old-regime society, "a citadel of privilege and tradition" in which professional soldiers did their duty according to strict regulations and the dictates of established policy. This was the outlook of its commander, the comte de Rochambeau, whose careful adherence to official military wisdom of the era determined the French army's behavior throughout its stay. This wisdom stressed the superiority of defensive strategy, favored offensive maneuvers only after the most thorough calculations, and preferred the formal rules of military science over anything as unorthodox as an attack with weaker forces or a winter campaign.(34)
Rochambeau was indifferent to the political issues of the war. For him and his staff, the American Revolution was a war like other warsa job to be done in conformity with instructions from the court. Local political considerations could not alter the accepted patterns of military strategy or the necessity of awaiting orders from Versailles. The main concern for a military man, Rochambeau told Lafayette, was to keep the confidence and trust of his troops; and that trust would be given only to a cautious commander.(35) He was unmoved by political inducements for a campaign.(36) Furthermore, he was unimpressed by the training, appearance, and numbers of the Continental troops. A condescending tone colored his reports about American soldiers and even at times his communications with Washington, who, in any case, felt that his control over the French auxiliary force was more symbolic than real.(37) Rochambeau believed that no significant campaign could be undertaken without major reinforcements from France.(38) His arguments for delaying military action in 1780 and much of 1781 rested on the assumption that war was an exclusively military affair and that, as such, it was the affair of trained professionals who could come only from Europe.
American views on military strategy were significantly different. To be sure, military historians emphasize that Washington and his generals wanted a conventional European-style army that would be able to fight battles in the conventional European manner.(39) Yet these same historians agree that American military leaders were greatly influenced by the political, even civilian character of the war.(40) They had to deal with temporary soldiers, congressional factions, and a quartermaster system that lacked both the centralized power and the transportation network of European states. Under these circumstances, a general who ignored politics might soon find himself without troops or supplies. Public opinion and participation mattered a great deal, and for this reason the war was quite foreign to the experience of European generals who were accustomed to professional wars.
Nobody comprehended this more fully than Lafayette. Of course he, too, wanted a proper, Old Worldstyle army, but unlike Rochambeau he was more than willing to use the New World army he had. Lafayette believed that nonprofessional soldiers could fight as well as any European and that they would endure physical hardship far longer than the most seasoned Old World veteran. He knew, however, that American troops, the militia in particular, must seem very odd to other Frenchmen. Describing to a friend in France the first encounters between the French and Americans, he noted how strange it was for the Europeans to meet officers who were farmers or merchants, most of whom had "not even read a book on military matters."(41) But he assured his French friends and the Americans, too, chat appearances were deceiving. "In the fighting way they [the French] shall see that we are equal to anything," he told one American general. "But for what concerns dress, appearance &c. we must cheat a little."(42)
Lafayette traced the virtues of this ragged rebel army to one striking quality: motivation. The fact chat "no European army would suffer a tenth part of what these troops have," he wrote to his wife in early 1781, proved "chat one must have citizens to endure the nakedness, hunger, labors and complete lack of pay chat make up the lot of our soldiers, the most hardened . . . and the most patient in the world."(43) His letters to French ministers struck the same note of praise, along with complaints chat Rochambeau's low opinion of Continental forces was unjustified.(44) He informed the foreign minister, Vergennes, for example, chat Rochambeau had a "few prejudices" on some points, "but knowing neither the language, the army, nor even the country, it is quite understandable that his ideas are not always accurate."(45) The French commander's insistence on more French troops was for Lafayette a typical miscalculation. The war must be fought by Americans with a French auxiliary force; it could not be fought by French soldiers with an American auxiliary.(46) An army whose major advantage was superior motivation had to act prominently in order to maintain its morale and the base of civil support upon which it depended. Lafayette's position on such issues reflected his deep appreciation of American public opinion and political sensitivities. This appreciation was the dominant factor in his military strategy, and it led to arguments with Rochambeau in the summer of 1780.
Lafayette was convinced that decisive offensive strokes were politically essential after the French forces arrived at Newport in 1780. The Americans had gone to great lengths to prepare for military action, he argued, and a successful campaign would prevent them from becoming discouraged. The Tories had to be shown that allied forces could operate against even the strongest British posts, and the uncommitted had to be shown that patriot victory was inevitable. Military boldness would spur the states to furnish more provisions, encourage recruits to join the Continental army, unite the popular will, and make a favorable impression on negotiators in Europe. Lafayette tried hard to convince the French commanders of these political truths: "From an intimate knowledge of our situation," he wrote in August 1780, "I assure you gentlemen . . . that it is important to act during this campaign. All of the troops that you may expect from France next year, as well as all of the plans for which you may hope, will not make up for the fatal harm of our inaction. Without American resources, no amount of foreign aid can accomplish anything in this country."(47) Rochambeau reacted angrily to this advice, refused to consider the political issues, and did not move his army from Newport for nearly a year.(48) Meanwhile, Lafayette consulted with Washington on ways to use American troops in operations around New York and in the South, stressing at all times the political advantages of military initiative.(49) Given control of his own campaign in Virginia during the spring and summer of 1781, Lafayette calculated every move according to political effect. He took great care to cultivate the civilian population of the state, to work closely with political leaders, and to gather supplies in the most conciliatory way.(50) Above all, he hoped that an expedition against Benedict Arnold at Portsmouth in February and March (which was unsuccessful) and his opposition to the operations of Lord Cornwallis between May and September (which was highly effective) might carry great symbolic meaning at home and abroad. He wanted to show the world that the British could in no way claim to have "pacified" Virginia, and he attributed all his tactical maneuvering to these "political motives."(51) Summarizing the strategy in a letter to Washington, he explained that he had been "much directed by political views. So long as Mylord [Cornwallis] wished for an action, not one gun has been firedthe moment he declined it we have been scarmishing. But I took care never to commit the Army.... I had an eye upon European negotiations and made it a point to give his Lordship the disgrace of a retreat."(52) By the time Washington and Rochambeau arrived, Lafayette had closed off Cornwallis's escape from Yorktown, thereby assuring the military victory that achieved the war's most important political goal. Lafayette's actions in the climactic Virginia campaign were the culmination of four years of social, political, and military experience in the New World. That experience had given him insights that few European soldiers had yet acquired and provided the basis for his American successes, though it also created disagreements with French commanders and began to transform him into a political outsider in his own country and social class.
Lafayette's America was thus not only a symbol of republican virtue; it was also an education in new principles of politics and warfare. Many of Lafayette's critics in later years charged that he never properly understood the differences between America and France, and so he failed to win acceptance for his political ideas during the French Revolution, under Napoleon, or in the Revolution of 1830. The criticism cannot adequately account for his failures in France, where he was caught up in much more complex social changes than his American experience entailed. But it makes an important point by suggesting that society and revolution in a new nation were bound to be different from society and revolution in a very old one. Lafayette succeeded in America because he understood and accepted that distinction (and its political and military implications) better than any other European who fought in this first modern war for national independence. It was this understanding and acceptance, combined with America's desire for respectability and outside confirmation of its emerging republican society, that made Lafayette the most popular outsider in the American Revolution and one of the most successful foreign participants in the history of modern revolutions.
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By Janice A. Radway
Copyright © 1997 The University of North Carolina Press. All rights reserved.
Table of Contents
Lafayette and the History of Two Worlds 1
Chapter One: America's Lafayette and Lafayette's America: A European and the American Revolution 17
Chapter Two: Was Lafayette a Dumbbell or a Shredded Text?: Political Conflict and Symbolic Meanings in the French Revolution 31
Chapter Three: Lafayette and Liberal Theorists: Intellectuals, Politics, and the Legacy of the French Revolution 53
Chapter Four: Lafayette and Romantic Culture, 1815-1834 89
Chapter Five: Lafayette and Women Writers: Germaine de Stael, Fanny Wright, and Cristina Belgiojoso
Chapter Six: Lafayette, Tocqueville, and American National Identity 185
Chapter Seven: Lafayette in 1830: A Center That Could Not Hold 227
Chapter Eight: The Rights of Man: Lafayette and the Polish National Revolution, 1830-1834 253
Epilogue. Lafayette and Postrevolutionary Political Culture 275
What People are Saying About This
A first-rate piece of provocative scholarship.
An intriguing effort to rescue the image of the quintessential traditional historical subject, the 'great man,' has come from a self-consciously postmodern historian. Kramer achieves his goal by creating a 'cubist' biography of Gilbert du Motier de Lafayette. . . . Kramer has provided not only a work useful to French and intellectual historians, but also a methodology that others will find attractive.Choice
This is a fascinating, well-written book, well-researched, based on copious manuscript and printed primary sources and while grounded in the recent work in cultural history, it wears its learning lightly and is remarkably free of jargon.Canadian Review of American Studies
Kramer's sophisticated interpretation is highly readable as well as suggestive of ways in which important individuals both reflect and illuminate the cultures of their times.The Historian
Lloyd Kramer's innovative study is neither a biography nor the history of a symbol. . . . He examines the hero of two worlds as both a life and a text, and he finds in the relationship between the two some missing links in the history of the age of revolutions.Journal of American History
This book . . . successfully mixes the biography of one of Europe's most colorful figures with an insightful and gracefully written analysis of political culture during one of European history's most exciting epochs.Literature and Culture
Lloyd Kramer's methodology is as interesting as his subject: Lafayette as a representative and symbol of major forces of his age. The book is far more than a biography, but it may also be read as an imaginative effort to create a new biographical modea kind of historical cubism, which differs from a chronologically unbroken analytic life the way Picasso's Demoiselles d'Avignon differs from Monet's Ladies in a Garden.Peter Paret, Institute for Advanced Study
Lafayette certainly had political enemies, but Lloyd Kramer shows that few of the great historical personalities of his era were so widely and deeply admired as was the 'hero of two worlds.'. . . This book makes an important contribution to our understanding of the transition between the Enlightenment and Romanticism, of Lafayette's life and intellectual milieu, and of the concrete processes of translation and mediation by which identities are forged.Journal of Southern History
[A] valuable book.Journal of the Early Republic
A first-rate piece of provocative scholarship. Kramer situates Lafayette at the confluence of two major political revolutions and at a major turning point in the cultural and social transformation of the Western World. He makes a fine case for viewing Lafayette as a central figure in these processes, as symbol, as mediator, or as actor.Seymour Drescher, University of Pittsburgh