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Series III. Correspondence [series]:
Correspondence to and from Lafayette constitutes by far the largest portion of the collection, and reveals the scope of Lafayette's public and private interests and commitments as well as the extent of his popularity. There are letters to or from members of the Lafayette and Noailles families, friends, public figures, old comrades in arms, political constituents, strangers petitioning or paying tribute, business agents, estate managers and officials. Although all phases of Lafayette's life are represented, correspondence increases after Lafayette's release from prison in 1797. The correspondence spans four generations of the Lafayette family, beginning with letters from Lafayette's mother and father and extending into the 1880's with the correspondence of his grandchildren. Some groups of letters have been transcribed and bound into books.

One of Lafayette's chief correspondents was his wife Adrienne, from whom he was frequently separated. Lafayette began his American adventure with a letter to her which he started on board of "La Victoire" and finished at the house of Major Huger. He wrote sixteen letters to Adrienne from different cities in the United States. Lafayette also wrote to his brother-in-law the Vicomte de Noailles and to his father-in-law the duc d'Ayen. The correspondence with Jared Sparks also provides information on the American Revolution. Also dating from this period are letters from d'Estaing and Vergennes, and letters (1783 and 1785) to George Washington from Adrienne and her daughter Anastasie Lafayette (located with the family papers). Lafayette's continuing interest in American politics and trade after his return to France is evidenced by six letters to the President of Congress during the period 1782-1787, as well as correspondence with presidents Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe, and with former officers in the Revolutionary Army. Lafayette received letters from veterans of the American war throughout his life.

Correspondence dating from the period of the French Revolution is relatively sparse. Correspondence from Masclet to Masson and Madame de Staël comment retrospectively on the Revolution and Napoleon. Many French soldiers also wrote to Lafayette in the years after the Revolution. From 1789 to 1791 Lafayette received a number of letters, mostly about the Netherlands, from his cousin, the marquis de Bouille, who was the governor of Guadelupe and the Windward Islands in 1789. The Brabant had its own revolt in 1789, and Lafayette corresponded with the involved parties: Vandernoot, van Hoëy, Dumouriez and Semonville, a French agent in Belgium. Lafayette's imprisonment from 1792 to 1797 drastically limited his correspondence, particularly with France. His primary correspondents during these years were Adrienne (before she joined him in 1795), his friend the Princesse d'Henin and other French exiles in Britain, and international officials such as Thomas Pinckney, the American ambassador in London. The political climate of this period is exemplified in a 1799 letter from the minister of the republican police to the ambassador in Spain concerning the surveillance of French emigres . Lafayette's two years in exile in Vianen, Holland (1797-1799) produced a rich correspondence. That it was a period of reflection and relative leisure is suggested by the existence of a forty five page letter to a M. Hennings that discusses the American and French Revolutions and Lafayette's political philosophy.

Lafayette returned to France in 1799. Much of his correspondence after 1800 is written from La Grange or, as he became more politically active again, Paris. During the first years of his "retirement" at La Grange, Lafayette wrote several hundred letters to Philippe Beauchet, his agent in Paris, concerning business matters, family affairs, and instructions of all sorts. These letters present a daily picture of Lafayette's private life from 1800-1807. Correspondence from this period also reflects Lafayette's preoccupation with the debts he accrued during the revolutions, and his efforts to reduce them through loans from the United States and by selling the lands in Louisiana which the United States government had granted him in 1804. Lafayette seeks advice about his Louisiana lands in letters to Jefferson. Although he had withdrawn from the political arena at this point, Lafayette's letters express his views of the new French government and Napoleon.

With the Restoration in 1815, Lafayette was gradually drawn again into political life. His letters from 1815-1824 touch on the events of the time: a long letter to the Princesse d'Henin provides a narrative of the events of 1815; letters from 1818 concern his re-election as deputy of Meaux. His correspondence in the 1820s also documents his ongoing concern with political events and liberation movements in other parts of the world: revolutionaries wrote to Lafayette from Central and South America, and from Greece, Spain and Africa. Lafayette corresponded in these years with Boyer, the new president of southern Haiti, also struggling for independence as a republic. In 1823, Lafayette wrote to President James Monroe expressing enthusiasm for his December 1823 message to Congress, which sketched out what would ultimately be the "Monroe Doctrine." Also during these years, Lafayette received letters from Bonapartiste exiles in the United States: Bernard, Grouchy, Lakanal and others. Between 1815 and 1831 General Simon Bernard wrote about 30 letters to Lafayette from the United States on politics, American property holdings, and the 1830 revolution.

While in America (1824-5), Lafayette received many letters of petition and tribute from individuals, schools and societies. Some tried to interest Lafayette in economic, democratic and social enterprises. Others address temperance and prison reform (American debtors' prisons are described as "hundreds of Bastilles"). A substantial portion of Lafayette's correspondents -- primarily American, French and British sympathizers -- address liberal social causes ranging from education reform to religious toleration to the abolition of slavery: Americans Jared Sparks and Emma Willard, for example, and Frances Wright from Scotland. Lafayette also corresponded with many famous Americans, including diplomats (William Rives, James Barbour), writers, and Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Jackson, Hamilton, Van Buren, John Adams and John Quincy Adams. In 1826, Lafayette received a letter reporting the simultaneous death of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. Literary American correspondents include James Fenimore Cooper, Margaret Fuller and Stephen Longfellow, who wrote to Lafayette in 1826 introducing his son Henry Wadsworth.

Lafayette's role in the "bloodless" revolution of 1830, though seeming to some to renege on his commitment to constitutional government and "republican values", inspired a fresh wave of congratulation, including letters from James Fenimore Cooper, British liberals and radicals such as William Cobbett, Mary Shelley, Jeremy Bentham, Robert Owen and Lord Holland, and American leaders Andrew Jackson and James Madison. Closer to home, a letter to Lafayette from a former soldier contains a fourteen page diary account of the last days of the 1830 revolution. Among the substantial group of letters from 1830-1831 between Lafayette and Louis-Philippe.

In the years between 1830 and his death in 1834, Lafayette corresponded frequently with his daughter-in-law, Emilie Destutt de Tracy. He also received many letters in French and Italian from Italian liberals and members of the Carbonari on the question of Italian liberation. The extensive correspondence associated with Lafayette's activities in aid of the Polish Revolution and its refugees appears in a separate series.

The death of Lafayette in 1834 brought letters of condolence, many from America, including the official letter from the United States Congress signed by Andrew Jackson: these appear with the family papers in Series IV.