full text File Size: 2155 K bytes | Add this to my bookbag

Contents List

   Container / Location    Title
 
Series I. Manuscripts [series]:
This series consists of notes and commentary by Lafayette and other prominent people; transcribed extracts from newspapers, books and letters; drafts of Lafayette's addresses and speeches; newspaper articles about Lafayette; poems, songs and addresses written as tributes to Lafayette; and papers dealing with family finances and properties. In "Note relative à ma fortune personelle," possibly written while he was in prison, Lafayette takes stock of the financial and property losses he had incurred in the Revolution. There are copies of the 16 letters, transcribed and bound with pink silk ribbon by Adrienne, which Lafayette wrote to her from America. Copies of Lafayette's letters from prison form a 44 page booklet. Papers associated with Lafayette's domain near Cayenne, French Guiana, provide information about colonial law, administration, labor and economic production and reflect Lafayette's interest in the cause of emancipation. Lafayette purchased the property in 1785 intending to make his plantation the site of an experiment in the "gradual emancipation" of the blacks who worked there. Related items include a list of the names, ages and families of the black people brought in to work on the plantation, a description of slave ships, a "Plan for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery in the U.S.", a proposal for a model settlement in French Guiana which was submitted to the National Assembly, and an ambitious and idealistic prospectus for La Societe de Grandes Cultures Coloniales , which outlines in detail the establishment of large plantations for coffee, cocoa, indigo and cotton. In contrast to prospecti, an 1815 "expose" by Geneste, Lafayette's agent in French Guiana, criticizes in detail the actual operations and productivity of plantations in Cayenne. Other topics covered include: the abdication of Napoleon; the 1824 American Tour; membership of the Society of the Cincinnati, etc.

 
Series II. Documents [series]:
This series contains many forms of printed and handwritten official documents that record the routine business of a professional soldier and member of the landed aristocracy, and the disruption of that routine by revolutionary historical events. These documents deal chiefly with Lafayette's military career, his financial affairs, and his landed property and estates. The affairs of Lafayette's family and ancestors are also represented here, although to a lesser extent. The older pieces in this series date primarily from the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, but extend as far back as the thirteenth century in a set of land deeds for the seignory of Langeac.In addition to land titles and deeds, family documents include birth, death and baptismal certificates, articles of marriage, wills and other inheritance-related material.

Much of Lafayette's considerable fortune went to support the American and French Revolutions, and he was burdened by debts for many years thereafter. In 1793, Lafayette's first year in prison, his financial plight was assessed in "Etat general des Biens et des Dettes de M. de la Fayette". In this same year Lafayette drew a draft on the United States for "a sum of secret monney" meant to help him escape. Also dating from this period are documents associated with the arrest and imprisonment of Lafayette and his wife, and with the confiscation of much of their property. For example, in 1793, the French government produced a fifty-page appraisal, complete with atlas, of confiscated lands near Chavaniac, lands they sold in 1794. The attitude of the revolutionary government towards the nobility is suggested by another document which restricts the movement of particular individuals and limits their association with each other. Several documents announce the removal of various persons from the list of emigres, and there are numerous passports for members of the Lafayette and Tesse families.

This series also contains papers generated by the transactions and legal problems attendant upon Lafayette's acquisition of properties in Louisiana and Florida. These include records of Lafayette's sale of land to his creditors (notably Coghill, Parish and Seymour), and counterclaims to land by prior French and Spanish settlers. A substantial amount of material is concerned with the finances, government and workforce of Lafayette's experimental plantation in French Guiana.

Other noteworthy documents include: a report proposing that a committee be created to disseminate information about the vaccine for small pox and to encourage vaccinations for all children; from 1848, monthly minutes of the Commission of National Recompense of which Lafayette's son, George Washington Lafayette, was a member, and which was responsible for compensating family of wounded or killed veterans; a standard form for determining military pensions for widows, evaluating the late duc d'Ayen's military career and character.

 
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.

 
Series IV. Family Papers [series]:
This series contains manuscripts, documents and letters associated with members of the Lafayette family besides the General. The papers and correspondence of General Lafayette's wife, Adrienne, and his son, George, form the greater part of the material, but there are also letters and documents from Lafayette's father Gilbert du Motier de Lafayette, his uncle Jacques de Lafayette, his grandfathers Edouard Lafayette and the marquis de la Riviere, among others. There are documents connected with financial matters, property, and inheritance.

Adrienne's primary correspondents were her children (especially George while he was in America), her aunt Madame Chavaniac and the Beauchets (their business manager and his wife). While in the provinces during the early days of the Revolution, she wrote regularly to Madame Beauchet, who was formerly her maid. She wrote two letters to George Washington. Notes from her daughters Virginie and Anastasie often accompany Adrienne's letters. Other documents connected to Madame Lafayette concern her imprisonment and the confiscation of their property during the revolution; she wrote many letters to French officials in her attempts to regain their goods and property. From prison at Olmütz, Adrienne corresponded frequently with Masson and Pilet of Hamburg on such matters as the political events affecting their imprisonment, financial affairs, and communications between them and their friends and supporters. There is also a letter in 1797 from Olmütz to Madame Staël reporting their imminent release.

 
Series V. Estates, Landed Property, and Supplementary Material [series]:
(a) Estates in France

This series contains documents and some correspondence pertaining to various estates belonging to the Lafayette family, including Chavaniac, Langeac, Francieres, and La Grange, with Chavaniac by far the most well-represented of the estates. Also included are documents relating to two mills, the Moulin de LaFont and the Moulin de Langeac. Much of the material takes the form of bound ledgers and registers and dates from the first half of the nineteenth century, although there are documents from as early as the sixteenth century. Documents include financial papers (accounts, bills, receipts), deeds and other legal papers, maps, surveys, and inventories. There is correspondence with bailiffs, managers and tenants. A series of bound registers from Chavaniac contains records of meetings of the council of Brioude. There are letters written by, and notes and records kept by George Washington Lafayette, Antoine Destutt de Tracy and Madame Chavaniac, as well as by General Lafayette.

Examples of documents: a list of rooms and occupants at La Grange (there were over sixty "chambres"); a bound ledger, kept by Lafayette, which records financial and other details of the agricultural "exploitation" of La Grange in the year 1828: there is a personal slant to this book as Lafayette writes about the development of his interest in farming, the provenance of his livestock and machines, his views on the latest theories about agriculture, etc.

(b) Poussin papers

Also included [?] in this series are the papers of Guillaume Tell Poussin, who served as a topographical engineer with the American Army from 1817, was an aide-de-camp to General Bernard, and sat on the Board of Engineers for Internal Improvements. He wrote published works on railroads in the United States. In 1848 he was appointed French Ambassador to the United States. Letters, documents and reports concern family and political affairs, as well as commentary on the growth of railroad systems in the United States and France, Bonapartiste exiles in American and the political upheavals in France in 1848.

(c)Tesse papers

The papers of the comte and comtesse de Tesse, the aunt and uncle of Adrienne, and friend of prominent Americans such as Thomas Jefferson, illuminate the lifestyle and sensibility of representatives of the Old Regime. In addition to correspondence, there are many documents dealing with estate management (bills, inventories, accounts), including ledgers recording in detail monthly expenditures during 1789. There is also correspondence concerning the Tesses attempt to regain property confiscated during the revolution. Manuscripts include the comte's journal of a trip to Italy in 1777, papers concerning the emigration of the de Tesses and the confiscation of their property during the Revolution, seven letters from Madame de Staël to Madame de Tesse written during the Empire while she was exiled by Bonaparte (1802-1810), and "novelistic" letters between Madame de Tesse written during their emigration. Other correspondents include Madame Lafayette, Madame de Chavaniac, the comte de Stolberg and George Washington Lafayette. The papers range in date from as early as the 15th century to 1814, the year of the de Tesses' death, many of the papers dating from the first half of the 18th century.

(d) Florida

On the fourth of July, 1825 the United States gave Lafayette 200,000 dollars and a tract of land in Florida as compensation and reward for his role in the American Revolution (the Letters Patent of the United States of America making this gift known is preserved elsewhere in the collection). The related documents in this collection constitute a complete history of the "Lafayette Township" and include general documents, correspondence, maps, surveys, printed pamphlets, reports, plans for colonization (including the cultivation of grapes), and sale agreements. A prospectus entitled "Colony of Free Land in West Florida, on the lands ceded to General Lafayette by the Congress of the United States of America . . . First survey of the bases of colonization" is accompanied by a page of commentary in Lafayette's hand. The majority of the correspondence consists of letters from and to Lafayette's agents George Graham (1825-1830) (also the Director of the Land Office in Washington), John Skinner (1830-1850) and a sub-agent in nearby Tallahassee, R.W. Williams.

 
Series VI. Polish Revolution [series]:
The French people overwelmingly supported the Poles when, in 1831, Polish patriots rose up against Imperial Russia. When they lost the war, many took refuge in France. As the president of the most important of these committees, La Comite en Faveur de la Cause Polonaise , Lafayette was the recipient of most of these subscriptions, which came from individuals and societies alike. Lafayette corresponded with supporters and with Polish leaders such as Niemjowski, Niemciewicz and Ostrowski.

 
Series VII. Ephemera: broadsides and memorabilia [series]:
This series contains Lafayette memorabilia, broadsides, bound manuscripts, and other assorted manuscripts. Lafayette's American Tour of 1824 inspired some of the memorabilia, which include commemorative fans, ribbons, medals and a commemorative mug.

 
Series VIII. Prints and Graphics [series]:
Many of the items listed below originally were part of the Blancheteau collection, a constituent part of the Lafayette collection. Several of these items were described in the catalog of the exhibit of the Blancheteau collection, mounted in Paris in 1934. Whenever a match was found between an item in the Lafayette collection and the description of an item in the Blancheteau catalogue, a note has been added with the catalog number. Please consult the volume by Marcel Blancheteau, Le General La Fayette; catalogue des livres, estampes, autographes et souvenirs composant la collection de M. Blancheteau exposee à l'occasion du centenaire de la mort du General La Fayette, 20 mai 1834 (Paris: Pershing Hall, 1934). RMC Z8470 .A8

Some items, not included in the Blancheteau collection, have been matched with items described in the catalog: Images de la Revolution Française. Catalogue du videodisque (Paris: Bibliotheque national and Pergamon Press, 1990) RMC DC141.B58 I3 ++.

 
Series IX. Commemorative Medals, Coins, Badges, and Plaques Depicting Lafayette. [series]:
Half of our medals come from the private collection of Cornell first president, A.D. White [from now on referred to as "White", who acquired them from Henry Chapman, a noted numismatist from Philadelphia . The other half was acquired by Cornell Library in 1966 from the Parisian antiquarian Marcel Blancheteau ["referred to as "Blancheteau"]. "O" stands for "obverse", "R" for "reverse". "Olivier" stands for a catalog issued in 1932 with the title "Iconographie metallique du general Lafayette; essai de repertoire des medailles, medaillons et jetons frappes à son nom ou à son effigie tant en France qu'en Amerique, par le dr P. Olivier". Its records most of the medals coined in the honor of Lafayette between 1781 and 1931 (RMC, DC146.L16 O49 +.)

The collection is available only by appointment with the head of the division, or the curator of the French collections.