“Old Bill” Suggests—
M. Le Marquis de Lafayette, who might be called one of the godfathers of the American revolution, is a classic of brilliant beginning gone astray.
At 19 he was a captain of French cavalry, married to a wife of 17 and a man able to talk with his enemies in the gate. According to some modern views on protracted education, of course, he should still have been in school, but, fortunately, he didn’t know that.
As a soldier looking for a job, he went where there was a war. An enthusiastic congress made him (empty honor) a major general on Washington’s staff. Moving toward the sound of guns, Lafayette acquired respect, a wound, and presently a command in the field.
Back in France he was an oustanding liberal, sat in the “Notables,” was made commandant general of the Paris national guard in 1791—an eligble position if there ever was one. A ruthless realist, dominating the troops that could dominate the mob that shortly would dominate Paris, might have had anything.
But Lafayette was neither ruthless nor realist. He could be gallant and loyal—had been loyal to Washington—but in Paris in 1791 there was not much for a man to be loyal to except himself.
The idealist passed, and a sallow, egotistical young Corsican, who could see his own interests through a stone wall at midnight, rounded out and finally botched the structure reared on the foundation of the Terror.
In pathos that might stand for the fate of all dreamers, the man who was wounded at Brandywine bringing liberty to our country, had ultimately to flee across the frontiers from liberty in his own.
ROYAL F. MUNGER.