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Lafayette, the Thinker


Between 1775 and 1834, the Marquis de Lafayette played a role in the ongoing development of both the American and French Revolutions. Most previous scholarship about Lafayette highlights his military activities as a major-general in the American Revolution and as General of the National Guard of Paris in the French Revolution. This paper examines Lafayette’s draft of the Declaration of the Rights of the Man and of the Citizen, a list of enslaved peoples that were chosen for Lafayette’s experimental plantation in French Guiana, Lafayette’s membership in the Society of the Friends of Blacks, and letters between Lafayette and America’s Founding Fathers to suggest that Lafayette was deeply concerned with questions of liberty and slavery. Overall, this paper demonstrates that the Marquis de Lafayette played a far larger role than as a military general, instead he acted as one the greatest thinkers of the Revolutionary Era.

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