Marquis de Lafayette Collection
Held at: Princeton University Library: Manuscripts Division [Contact Us]
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Princeton University Library: Manuscripts Division. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
The Marquis de Lafayette was a French general and political leader born of a distinguished family. Enthusiastic over the news of the American Revolution, he left France to join George Washington's army. He arrived in Philadelphia in 1777, where Congress appointed him a major general. After a trip to France in 1779-80, where he negotiated for French aid, he returned to America and served with distinction in the Virginia campaign that ended with the surrender of the British general Lord Charles Cornwallis at Yorktown in 1781. After returning to France in 1782 and allying himself with the revolutionary bourgeoisie, he became one of the most powerful men during the first few years of the French Revolution. His prestige was largely responsible for the installation of Louis Philippe as king of the French. Lafayette's unswerving courage, integrity, and idealism made him a popular symbol of the bond between France and the United States. Lafayette was made an honorary Doctor of Laws by the Trustees of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) in 1790 in recognition of his contribution to the American cause of independence. The Marquis named his son George Washignton Lafayette. His direct descendants, members of the Chambrun family, are honorary U.S. citizens. The modern French flag was created by Lafayette in July, 1789, by combining the royal white with the blue and red of Paris.
The collection consists of selected correspondence and documents of the Marquis de Lafayette, both original and facsimiles in English and French, some of which are related to his appointment with the Continental Army. Correspondents include Mr. Eymery, William S. Hart (the French minister of justice), Edward Livingston (Princeton Class of 1781), "Mr. Nipier," Benjamin Silliman, and Bushrod Washington. Included is a letter from Lafayette to Thomas Jefferson, dated 27 March 1781, regarding the American navy and the arrival of the French fleet and troops in Virginia, and a copy of a letter to George Washington about the vocabulary of Indian names. A letter (1829) to Lafayette from William S. Hart is written on a prospectus for a new literary institution in Philadelphia to be called the Jefferson Classical Institute. Other documents include a copy of an invitation (1824) to a ball in honor of Lafayette celebrating the surrender of Cornwallis and his army, and a printed invitation (1824) from Colonel Muir and officers with special autographed invitation to General Nicholas Fish to attend a ceremony honoring the Marquis of Lafayette with a presentation of a sword and belt in recognition of his services.
The collection was formed as a result of a Departmental practice of combining into one collection material of various accessions relating to a particular person, family, or subject.
Letter to Thomas Jefferson and invitation to a ball were a gift of Stuart W. Jackson, Princeton Class of 1882, on January 8, 1954..
Letters to Mr. Nipier and the minister of justice were a gift of Charles A. D. Burke in 1909.
Letter to Prof. Silliman and regimental order from Col. Muir were a gift of Cyrus H. McCormick in March, 1947.
Letter from William S. Hart was a gift of Alan Wolfe, Princeton Class of 1912, on May 4, 1961.
Letter to Edward Livingston was purchased in November 1989.
Letter to "My Dear Warner", Letter arranging a meeting, Letter from Patick Henry to Robert Carter are a gift of David S. Elkind in 2006.
Folder inventory added by Nicholas Williams '2015 in 2012.
No appraisal information is available.
- Hart, William Sherman
- Jefferson, Thomas, 1743-1826
- Lafayette, Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert Du Motier, marquis de, 1757-1834
- Livingston, Edward, 1764-1836
- Manuscripts Division
- Finding Aid Date
- Access Restrictions
The collection is open for research.
- Use Restrictions
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. No further photoduplication of copies of material in the collection can be made when Princeton University Library does not own the original. Inquiries regarding publishing material from the collection should be directed to RBSC Public Services staff through the Ask Us! form. The library has no information on the status of literary rights in the collection and researchers are responsible for determining any questions of copyright.