An examination of the strong bonds and rewarding exchanges between the Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson.
Their friendship was primarily based on correspondence, beginning in 1781. Chaffin (Giant’s Causeway: Frederick Douglass’s Irish Odyssey and the Making of an American Visionary, 2014, etc.) capably traces their parallel stories, presenting a wealth of information, personal and historical, not often included in biographies. Stories of Jefferson’s governorship of Virginia, which represented the extent of his Revolutionary War activity after the Declaration of Independence, shows a man wholeheartedly devoted to Virginia. As the author clearly shows, Jefferson had little interest in military matters and generally stayed aloof from the war. Because he was unsure of what a 19-year-old Lafayette could bring to the table, George Washington accepted his offer to serve with great reservations. What Lafayette did have was enormous wealth, royal connections, and, in 1777, a ship loaded with men and materiel. He was determined to emulate his father, who died in the Seven Years’ War, and become a great general. Furthermore, the American fight was a chance for Lafayette—and France—to get revenge for their horrible loss to England in that war. It was not until 1779 that France actually entered the war, bringing the fleet and support that turned the tide of the Revolution. Lafayette welcomed Jefferson’s term in France as minister and (unofficial) consultant to Lafayette and his supporters. At the same time, he opened doors for Jefferson and helped him learn the ways of diplomacy. Lafayette’s strength was in taking a middle road, protecting the king while aiming for something between the U.S. Constitution and Britain’s arrangement by which the monarch and subject united into a single polity. Sifting through mountains of research material in both the U.S. and France, Chaffin has emerged with a text packed with facts and insights into both men as well as the tumultuous times in which they lived.
A must-have in the libraries of those who love this period and/or admire these two iconic historical figures.