Lafayette vs. Napoleon: True Revolutionary
Like many revolutionaries, Napoleon and Lafayette were both beloved by their followers and were forever praised for their accomplishments. There were different angles taken by each individual to reach their goal. As we find out in Lafayette in Two Worlds by Lloyd Kramer, Lafayette’s influence on America and how his legacy in both the American and French revolutions assisted one another to make him a important figure in both societies. In Felix Markham’s Napoleon, Napoleon is a revolutionary at heart, beginning in his childhood days. He wants the fame and power of a revolution and achieves it by climbing up the political ladder. It is important to understand that while both Lafayette and Napoleon contributed to the revolution, that the way they went about donating to the cause was in their own individual manor. This potentially can skew people’s view of how revolutionary each individual was. Lafayette’s main focus was achieving his goal on helping out the cause until it was a success. He was known as the “hero of two worlds,” because of his “unique status as a surviving symbol of both the American and French Revolutions” (Kramer 2). Lafayette was a leader to almost everybody and was an “important figure for a remarkably diverse group of military leaders, political activists, revolutionaries, intellectuals, writers, artists, and early feminists” (Kramer 6).
When Lafayette traveled across the Atlantic to assist the Americans with their revolution, he brought over an expertise and guidance that would help the Americans win the war. “His presence in the Continental army lent an aura of legitimacy and European support to the American struggle” (Kramer 18). The American army felt that they were behind in battle techniques and felt that a superior officer from Europe would help the cause tremendously. While assisting the American army, Lafayette was very courteous and modest when it came to engaging himself with the troops and his fellow general, George Washington. “Lafayette remembered that Washington apologized for the appearance for his ragged army, whereupon Lafayette replied that he had come ‘to learn, and not to teach’” (Kramer 21). Lafayette’s modesties came out again when he said the American soldiers were “his ‘Masters’ and teachers, not his students, and he was exceptionally open to their instruction” (Kramer 21). The Americans were given respect right away from Lafayette, which gave them confidence in him and assisted him in being so well liked. America meant a lot to Lafayette. He was one of the main reasons why America is America today. He made it possible for American to be free and to have the life it has now. This can be all summed up by a banner that was at the Female Seminar in Troy, New York that said, “WE OWE OUR SCHOLS TO FREEDOM, FREEDOM TO LAFAYETTE” (Kramer 206).
Lafayette had won America over with his military skills and his modesty. In France he did the same, but he added another dynamic to his arsenal, politics.
Although Lafayette was a military man by training and experience, his extraordinary fame developed always upon his use of language and his ability to transform his life into political imagery. This was true in America, where he had learned how to play the public role in the Continental army; and it was true in France, where he flourished for many months as one of the most popular public figures while also playing an important military role in the organization of the Parisian National Guard. (Kramer 32)
He became a symbol that represented what was good, mostly thoughts that were related to revolutions. Lafayette saw himself materialized to this throughout his political career. Kramer states that he defined himself as “a representative of American constitutional values and as an advocate of inalienable natural rights…and a mediator between social groups and as a unifying figure who reconciled all strands of the Revolution and nation within...
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