Lloyd Kramer
Lloyd Kramer
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Lafayette in Two Worlds: Public Cultures and Personal Identities in an Age of Revolutions
ISBN: 0807822582
Lafayette in Two Worlds
Mr. Kramer talked about his book, "Lafayette in Two Worlds: Public Cultures and Identities in an Age of Revolutions," published by the University of North Carolina Press. He talked about the Marquis de Lafayette as a public and private figure, including his role in shaping early U.S. nationalism and his relationship with many female intellectuals in his later life.
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Lafayette in Two Worlds
Program Air Date: September 15, 1996

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Lloyd Kramer, author of "Lafayette in Two Worlds," why do you think they made the name Lafayette so prominent by making a Lafayette Park right across from the White House?
LLOYD KRAMER (Author, "Lafayette in Two Worlds: Public Cultures and Personal Identities in an Age of Revolutions"): Well, I think because Lafayette was a unique figure in American history. He was a foreigner who had come to America during the Revolution and convinced the Americans that they were on the right track. And he had given generously of his time and his money and become a hero for Americans. And there were very few Europeans of his status or his visibility that embraced the American cause. And so they honored him by making him a hero and naming a park for him.
LAMB: How old was he when he first came here, and what year was it?
KRAMER: He was about 19 years old when he came to the United States, and he came, well, it wasn't the United States till the American Revolution in 1777. And he came on his own initiative. He bought a ship after receiving a commission from Silas Deane, the American representative in Paris. And with his own money, he bought a ship and made his way to Charleston, South Carolina, and headed north to rendezvous with Washington's army.
LAMB: Got a commission. Is that a military commission?
KRAMER: He got a kind of a promise of a commission by Silas Deane. It had to be confirmed by the Continental Congress. When he got there, the Congress was uncertain about what to do. There was discussion. It was held up for a while. Washington finally told them that this man was important; they ought to give him the commission. And he became an officer in the Continental Army, a general.
LAMB: What was his rank?
KRAMER: He was a major general in the Continental Army. And it was quite unprecedented in a sense that someone would be given that rank, and so quickly. But he had established himself as someone who could help the Americans in the sense that he was from a very prominent family. He was connected to the Noailles family in France. And Washington and other people wrote to the Congress and said, "This man might be able to do us some good. We need all the help we can get." They were trying to develop an alliance with the French, and Lafayette was seen perhaps as a go-between, even though he was only 19 years old when he arrived.
LAMB: And he went on to name two of his kids, one of them George Washington...
KRAMER: That's ...
LAMB: ...Lafayette, and the other one Virginie Lafayette. Why?
KRAMER: Well, because he immediately became a great admirer of George Washington. He thought George Washington was a brilliant leader. He was almost a father figure for Lafayette. Lafayette's own father died when he was 2 years old when Lafayette was 2 years old, so he had never really had a father. And when he came to the United States, when he met Washington, Washington sort of stepped into that role for him and became an adviser and a kind of father figure, as well as a commanding general. So when he had his own children, the first son was named George Washington Lafayette.
LAMB: How do you get to be a major general when you're 19?
KRAMER: Well, I think, again, it's because of his connections and his prestige of being from France. But I think more generally, people in the 18th century went through the ranks of politics in the military at a younger age in many cases than we think of now. Many of the officers were younger than would be the case today.
LAMB: How long was he here in this country the first time?
KRAMER: He was here for about two or three years, and then he went back in 1779 to try to see if he could encourage the French to send more troops and supplies. By then, the French had signed an alliance with the colonies, the revolutionaries. He went back to France and spent about -- several months there, and then came back in 1780 with the announcement the French were sending an expeditionary force to join the American army. And that's the force that then worked with Washington at the Battle of Yorktown.
LAMB: How many total did the French send to this country? Do you know?
KRAMER: Not very many. That expeditionary force was a little over 5,000 men. And one of the frustrations that Lafayette and the Americans had was that the French would not send more troops, because they had expected more. But that army arrived at Newport and basically sat there for about a year or more. And finally, their only campaign was to march from Newport, Rhode Island, to Yorktown, Virginia, and that's all it took.
LAMB: What did he do for us when he was here in the military that was important?
KRAMER: Well, I think he did a couple of things. He -- most importantly perhaps -- he became a mediator, or a kind of go between, sending information about what was going on here to his friends in France, urging them to take an interest in the American cause, representing the American cause to influential Europeans. Militarily, he became a commander of a light brigade in the first place, and tried to play a role in offensive strikes around New York that never came to very much. He was wounded in the Battle of Brandywine early in his career. That made him sort of a hero. But the most important military contribution was in the Virginia campaign of 1781, when Washington made him commander of the detachment, the Continental Army detachment in Virginia that was charged with capturing Benedict Arnold, who was maneuvering in Virginia, and then against Cornwallis. Cornwallis was, of course, based in Virginia, and Lafayette's job was to try to hem him in along the coast, which he ultimately did, leading up to the Battle of Yorktown. And then Washington and Rochambeau arrived with troops from the North, and the English were trapped. And that was the decisive battle.
LAMB: Why did the French care about us then?
KRAMER: Why did they care about America?
LAMB: Yes. Why were they involved?
KRAMER: The most common explanation is that they were eager to get back at the English for their humiliating loss in the Seven Years' War of the French and Indian War. And since the French had lost most of their territory in North America, in all of the Canadian area, they were looking for an opportunity to humiliate the English and undercut some of their power in North America. So I think the most immediate reason was simply the desire to get back at the English.
LAMB: Where do you live?
KRAMER: I live in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
LAMB: What do you do?
KRAMER: I teach history in the history department at the University of North Carolina, and I teach European history, basically.
LAMB: Where is home, originally?
KRAMER: Well, I was born in east Tennessee in a little town called Maryville, Tennessee. And I grew up in Tennessee and Arkansas and Indiana, sort of moving around that part of the country.
LAMB: And where did you go to college?
KRAMER: I went back to Maryville to a small college there called Maryville College, which is near Knoxville in the Smoky Mountains.
LAMB: And how did you get interested in Lafayette?
KRAMER: Well, it was sort of a coincidence. I ended up in graduate school at Cornell University in the late 1970s. And they were involved in a large editorial project there at which they were editing the letters of Lafayette. And one of the editors there was injured in a terrible accident and they were looking for somebody who could help edit those letters, and I got a job as an editor of these letters. And then that led me into a whole series of projects about Lafayette.
LAMB: If you were going to find a place in the United States where the most things Lafayette were located, in other words, the archives and stuff, where would you go?
KRAMER: Well, actually, Cornell has a very large collection of Lafayette papers, correspondence, that were purchased by a wealthy contributor to Cornell back in the 1960s, a man named Arthur Dean. But there are other collections. Many of his letters are in "The Adams Papers" in Massachusetts because of all of his correspondence with the Adamses. Other papers are at Lafayette College, which was named for Lafayette in the 1820s. And there are other archival collections at the National Archives in Washington.
LAMB: Have you been to France, where he used to live?
KRAMER: I have, yes. I did some research in Paris, looking through a lot of the archives there, especially the police files on Lafayette. And I've also been to the home where he lived in the countryside in his later years, at La Grange, which is about 40 miles outside of Paris.
LAMB: Why police files?
KRAMER: Well, because all during his later career and, in fact, much of this book actually deals with the years after 1800 during his later career, he was very much an object of interest from the police, during the period between 1815 and 1830 in particular, because he was a critic of the monarchical regime, the conservative Restoration government. So the police followed him wherever he went and filed reports on what he was doing and who he was talking to and who his friends were, which is great for historians, because then we can go back and find out what people were saying about him. It's not always accurate, but it's a good source.
LAMB: Can you -- do you speak French?
KRAMER: Yes.
LAMB: So you can read it and understand it.
KRAMER: I read it, yes, in the French.
LAMB: Is there something new in here?
KRAMER: Well, I think so. I think there are several things that are new. One of the interesting things about Lafayette is that although he's been a hero in America for a couple of centuries, especially in the 19th century, he's very controversial in France and many people in France don't like him very much, especially historians, because he was a kind of moderate during the French Revolution who alienated both the conservatives and the radicals. And therefore, the histories of Lafayette tend to repeat the political perspectives of the French Revolution. And he's dismissed as a kind of insignificant, vacillating person who didn't really understand what was going on. So what I think is new here is an attempt to focus on Lafayette and take him seriously in his later career, particularly the period during and after the French Revolution in France.
LAMB: How long did he live?
KRAMER: He lived until 1834, at which point he was 77 years old. So in fact, the great majority of his career came long after he had left the American Revolution.
LAMB: How tall was he?
KRAMER: He was pretty tall, close to around 6 feet, which was pretty tall in that era.
LAMB: How heavy?
KRAMER: I -- you know, I'm not exactly sure. The sources talk about him getting heavier as the years go on, which I guess is a common enough problem. He was a fairly stout in his later years.
LAMB: This is in the book, and it's a portrait of Adrienne?
KRAMER: Adrienne, yes. His wife.
LAMB: How long was he married to her?
KRAMER: He was married to her about 34 years. Although she died at a young age, she was only 48 when she died, she was only 14 when she married him, so they were married as teenagers, basically. He was 16 and she was 14. But this was a fairly common pattern in the 18th century, among the aristocracy particularly, because these relationships were kind of arranged to benefit the families. And the Noailles family, which was Adrienne's family, was one of the most influential families in France. And so for Lafayette, this was a very prestigious marriage.
LAMB: By the way, because I'm going to mispronounce all of the names in -- I'm just going to give you the English pronunciation and you pick up the French if it's OK.
KRAMER: That's fine.
LAMB: How many kids did they have?
KRAMER: Well, they had three who grew to maturity. One, I think, died as an infant, but two daughters and a son.
LAMB: Are their descendants today still alive?
KRAMER: There are not direct descendants. There are sort of in laws and descendants like that. But over the 19th century, the grandchildren and the grandchildren of the Lafayette did not continue to produce. But there is a man named Rene de Chateaubriand who lives in La Grange, but he married into a family that was related in some way to the Lafayettes.
LAMB: And recently, there's been some letters transmitted back and forth and other material. What is that?
KRAMER: A very important collection of letters that were basically in the attic of La Grange, this country home, have been microfilmed and brought to the National Archives here. Well, actually, I think they're going to be in the Library of Congress in Washington.
LAMB: Have you looked at them yet?
KRAMER: No, I haven't seen them, and I wrote this book without access to those documents. Although I found more than enough letters to do what I wanted to do, I think there are probably some other things to be written about Lafayette based on those documents that have never been seen.
LAMB: Now again, the date after he came back in 1780, he went back to France in what year?
KRAMER: He went back very shortly after Yorktown. He was back by 1782. And then he came back for a short visit in 1784 to sort of see how things were going. And then he didn't come back again until 1824.
LAMB: And what was that about?
KRAMER: Well, that was Lafayette's great triumphal tour. In 1824, the president, James Monroe, invited Lafayette to come and make a kind of goodwill tour, visit the United States, and receive the thanks of the American people for what he had done. And he agreed to come. And he arrived in August of 1824 and he was in the United States for 13 months. And he went to every state in the Union, all 24 states, and had a great, triumphal reception everywhere he went. It was a remarkable thing. It would be even more than a rock star might get at the end of the 20th century.
LAMB: And what kind of things did the Americans do?
KRAMER: Well, they welcomed him in each city. They would often build an arch, like with various kinds of greenery. He would be escorted into the city. For example, into the city of Philadelphia, there was a tremendous parade, as if it was like Charles Lindbergh coming back from Paris in the 1920s. He was escorted in by carpenters and other workers and then by all the dignitaries. It was a great honor to be with Lafayette. And so every politician wanted to get up next to Lafayette and be seen standing beside him. So he would go into a city like Philadelphia or any other city. And there would be a group of dignitaries that would welcome him, give a speech about how wonderful he was, how America had progressed since the Revolution. And then he would reciprocate by giving a speech saying, you know, "America has made a great achievement. I am so impressed with the fruits of liberty and democracy, and I only wish that the people of the old world would emulate what you have done." And then the people would cheer and say, "This is the greatest man in the world because he understands what we've accomplished here."
LAMB: In 1824 and 1825, when he was here, what was his status in France?
KRAMER: Well, at the very time he came here, he had just lost an election to be a member of the Chamber of Deputies. During the period between 1818 and 1830, most of that time, he was a deputy in the French Parliament in the Chamber of Deputies. But at that particular time, he had been defeated in an election, and so he didn't have an official position. And, in fact, one of his motives for making the trip was to try to publicize the liberal cause, which is to say a more constitutional government and so forth publicize the liberal cause in Europe by showing that the Americans took these ideas seriously.
LAMB: You have a subchapter of a chapter of a very young woman that came with him...
KRAMER: Yes.
LAMB: ...over to America. And it seemed to be a problem inside the family and all that. Can you explain that?
KRAMER: Yes. That's his relationship with Fanny Wright. Frances Wright was a young Scottish woman who was born in 1795, on Lafayette's birthday, ironically enough. But as a young woman in her early 20s, she had published a book about America. And Lafayette got interested in her, invited her to visit him in France. They became close friends and he became extremely interested in her. She was a very radical thinker. She became an early feminist and an abolitionist. And in France, their relationship was complicated by the fact that she sort of moved into the family home in La Grange. And other members of the family were uncomfortable with this and even jealous of the attention that he was giving to her. They finally asked her to leave in various ways, and she went back to Britain. And then, when Lafayette was invited to go to America, he was so anxious about being separated from Fanny Wright that he finally, with the help of the family, negotiated an arrangement that she would follow him on another ship. And she came two weeks after he did and arrived in New York and accompanied him during the first part of his trip. It was kind of an ambiguous situation for the Americans, who were greeting the hero of their American Revolution, and here he was with this younger woman. And they didn't quite know how to fit her in.
LAMB: Have you gone back and looked at the newspapers of those days, of that day?
KRAMER: I have. I've spent a lot of time reading the newspapers from the period of that tour and what the Americans said about him.
LAMB: Where do you find them?
KRAMER: Well, there -- it's a very useful thing. Somebody went back and collected all of the newspaper stories about that tour and published them in a three volume work back in the 1950s. So, I have to say, for a historian, it's an enormous advantage. It's still a lot of reading to go through all of these works, but it's not necessary to go and track down all the newspapers. It was a man in Ohio who had a passion for Lafayette's tour, and this is what he published.
LAMB: Was there a thread that ran through that? I mean, he must have given how many speeches as...
KRAMER: He, oh, he gave hundreds, thousands, maybe of speeches. Well, there was a thread, because wherever he went, he reiterated the same message. Whether he was speaking at the joint session of the US Congress or to the local patriots of Biloxi, Mississippi, or Natchez, Mississippi, he always stressed that the American Revolution was a unique revolution, that it had achieved something that no other revolution had achieved. And he was usually welcomed by some veterans of the Revolution. So he always stressed the distinctive achievement of the American Revolution. He always stressed that the Americans had established better government institutions than other societies, that they actually defended what he called the natural rights of man in their political institutions.

And he said America had achieved something that other countries hadn't. And thirdly, he stressed that the evidence for all of this was the economic prosperity of America and the growth of the country since the 1780s to the 1820s. And these three themes he reiterated. And I think they were extremely popular with Americans because this confirmed their own image of themselves. And one of the arguments I make in the book again and again is that Lafayette was important precisely because he helped Americans understand their own national identity by coming in as an outsider and saying, `These are the characteristics of your country.' And it was extremely important to the Americans to understand themselves in this way and to have it confirmed by someone from the outside.
LAMB: There's a famous American portrait here in the book, and you also write about his relationship with James Fenimore Cooper.
KRAMER: Yes. Cooper lived in Paris for about seven years from the late 1820s until about 1833, I think. And he and Lafayette became close friends during that period. Cooper was very interested in trying to get the Europeans to understand what the Americans had achieved. He felt Europeans were too dismissive of the American political achievements. And so he became an ally of Lafayette in representing American politics and society to European readers. And then Cooper also wrote a book about Lafayette's tour of 1824 25, a fictional account in which he has an imaginarydialogues of people talking about Lafayette.
LAMB: Where does he get the name Marquis de Lafayette?
KRAMER: Well, the marquis is a kind of rank in the French aristocratic hierarchy. And his father had been a marquis, so he would inherit that rank. So to be called a marquis, it's sort of like a duke in England or something like that. It's an aristocratic title.
LAMB: What was going on in France from I don't know if you want to go through all of it, but say from about 1870, I'm sorry, 17 -- what was his first year here, 1776?
KRAMER: 1777.
LAMB: '77 through, you know, most of his lifetime, how many revolutions did they have?
KRAMER: In France? Through the whole course of his life? Well, there were two main revolutions. There was the Revolution of 1789, to the late 1790s. That one he was very heavily involved in the first three years. And then the other main revolution of his lifetime was in 1830 when the Bourbon monarchy was overthrown again in 1830. And Lafayette, in both of these revolutions, became the commander of the national guard, which gave him great influence within French society as the sort of guardian of law and order in Paris.
LAMB: Did he have troops?
KRAMER: He had troops. In fact, thousands and thousands of troops. And in after the Revolution of 1830, he was the commander of the national guard for the whole nation, which probably had a million troops at that point who were informally, these were not regular line troops; they would be like militia or national guard troops. But he had major influence as a commander.
LAMB: What was his relationship to the kings then, and who were the main kings while he was alive?
KRAMER: Well, in the first revolution, 1789, the king was Louis XVI, and he tried to make Louis XVI a strong supporter of constitutional monarchy. Basically, Lafayette was not a republican in the sense of wanting a republic without a king. He favored a regime in which the king would have certain authority as the executive of the government. And he had a kind of tense relationship with the king in 1789, 1790, '91, because the nobles around the king felt the king was giving up too much power, the monarchy was losing its influence. And yet, for the people who were hostile to the king, he was seen as too sympathetic to the king. And so he was attacked by people the republicans on the left and he was attacked by the monarchists on the right. He had a very tense relationship.

But he tried to defend the king in 1792 when the king was under a very strong attack from the Jacobeans, from the radical party. And, in fact, when the king was overthrown in August of 1792, Lafayette saw that his position was doomed. And he fled the country, whereupon he was captured and imprisoned. In 1830, he was much closer to the king, Louis Philippe, who was made king after the revolution. And Lafayette played a major role in confirming the choice of the Chamber of Deputies to make Louis Philippe the king of the French after 1830.
LAMB: When was the last year the French had a king?
KRAMER: Well, I think the last year would be when they really had a king, was 1848. Louis Philippe was overthrown then in the Revolution of 1848. Then they had the second empire, so they had emperor Napoleon III, but he wasn't really a king, so I think Louis Philippe was the last one.
LAMB: And what were the years of Napoleon I?
KRAMER: Napoleon I's coup d'etat was in the very end of 1799, and then he was overthrown in 1814 and came back for 100 days in 1815 and then was overthrown again. So, basically, 1799 to 1815.
LAMB: Lafayette was in prison for how many years?
KRAMER: He was in prison for five years from 1792 to 1797, because after he fled this radical phase of the revolution, he was hoping to get away and get to America, where he thought he could maybe wait out the revolution. But he was captured by the Austrians and the Austrian army and taken off to Austria and then to Prussia and put in a prison at a place called Omnutz, where he was in confinement for five years, solitary confinement most of the time. But at the end of that period, his wife Adrienne and their two daughters came to this prison and demanded permission to go in there. And they s spent a great deal of time with him at the very end.
LAMB: So roughly how old would he have been when he was in prison?
KRAMER: He would have been in his late 30s. He was born in 1757, so he got out in 1797, the year he turned 40.
LAMB: What impact did the prison experience have on him?
KRAMER: I think it had a major impact, because he had been a been a very active person, obviously. He had been involved in the military and revolutions and so forth, and here he was in isolation. And one of the things I think it forced him to do was stop and think about what had gone wrong. And he had to think about why the revolution had failed; and, of course, in a sense it confirmed his point of view that the revolution should not have become so radical. I mean, he was very alienated by the terror, which followed after his exile, his imprisonment. So I think the imprisonment altered his life in that it made him more reflective, and more of a reader and a writer, even though that didn't bear fruit until after he got back to France.
LAMB: Do you teach Lafayette in your courses?
KRAMER: Not really, because I I actually teach courses on European intellectual history, on great writers and original thinkers for the most part. People like Voltaire, and Rousseau, and Hegel, and Tocqueville. And Lafayette doesn't really come in except as an example sometimes during the French Revolution of an alternative to the Jacobins and the Monarchists.
LAMB: Are your students -- are they electing to take your course, or is it a requirement?
KRAMER: Yes. In that case, they usually are electing to take it. It's an upper level course. I also teach some, I always teach an introductory survey on the history of Western civilization, which many people teach, and those students are often taking it because they're required to take it.
LAMB: At what point do you find students getting interested? What -- is there a moment where they -- you can tell who's serious?
KRAMER: Well, even in the introductory courses, you can begin to tell because, for example, I always give a lot of readings from authors like Plato, or maybe Descartes toward the end, or something, or other writers like that. And if the student is really interested, you can tell pretty quickly whether they're doing the reading or not, and they develop their own incentives for working.
LAMB: What's the difference between your introductory course and your advanced course, in the attitude?
KRAMER: Well, the advanced courses, I always require more reading, I guess you could say the students complain about the reading load no matter what it is, but the advanced course is more reading and more sophisticated authors, I would say.
LAMB: Who do they like?
KRAMER: As -- I think the introductory courses, they're fascinated by, well, they're interested in Plato. I always have them read Plato's "Symposium," for example. It's a debate about love in the ancient world. And it's very surprising to students to find that people were debating these issues, you know, over 2,000 years ago, in ways that are not altogether different from the kind of debates today. You know, what is the relationship between physical love and spiritual love and things like that? But when I get into the modern period, I find that they love Voltaire. They're fascinated by Voltaire. I always or often use writers like Virginia Woolf, or novelists, Balzac, people like that. And I find students very much respond to that.
LAMB: You mentioned Tocqueville, and you have a whole chapter of the relationship between Tocqueville and Lafayette, Chapter 6.
KRAMER: Yes. One of things that fascinated me about Lafayette's tour, as I mentioned before, was the way it was used by the Americans to confirm their images of themselves. And, of course, Lafayette's tour was the great celebrated public event, but then five years, six years later, Tocqueville made another tour, and Tocqueville went to many of the same cities that Lafayette went to, many of the same parts of the country. And then Tocqueville, of course, wrote this famous book, "Democracy in America," which became for Americans, in fact, to this day for Americans, is one of the most important books for Americans defining who they are. Here's an account of democracy in America. And what interested me was the way Lafayette's account has developed in the popular events, parades, speeches, provided that account of America for the general public, for workers, for newspaper writers and journalists and whatnot, and politicians. Whereas Tocqueville provided an account that was picked up by intellectuals. And what I tried to do was to compare the account of Tocqueville with the account of Lafayette, and suggest how they overlapped.
LAMB: Check the dates again. In 1824 and '25 when the marquis came over here, he was how old?
KRAMER: At that point, he was 67 years old.
LAMB: So as he ran around to the 24 states in the Union then and celebrated his revolutionary efforts, he was 67 years old?
KRAMER: Sixty seven years old, yes. An exhausting trip.
LAMB: When Tocqueville and Beaumont came here a couple years later, they were how old?
KRAMER: At that point they were, well, in their 20s, I think. I think Tocqueville was born about 1806, so he was not quite 30 years old. And I think Beaumont was about the same age.
LAMB: But you say in here as they went around as the Tocqueville Beaumont twosome went around, that they were always, they didn't like him, and that they were having to toast to him, the Americans wanted to toast to Lafayette.
KRAMER: That's right.
LAMB: Tell that story.
KRAMER: Tocqueville was not as liberal as Lafayette and Tocque...
LAMB: What does that word mean, by the way?
KRAMER: When I say liberal, that is to say, in that context, in the 19th century, that is to say he was less eager to have a wider franchise, more people voting in the elections in France. He was less sympathetic to the overthrow of the Bourbon Regime in 1830. And Tocqueville had been working in the government of the Bourbon Monarchy as a legal official, and had Beaumont. And when the regime was overthrown in the Revolution of 1830, it was a very difficult position for them because most of their family opposed this revolution. And Lafayette, of course, was the great leader of the Revolution of 1830. So for Tocqueville and Beaumont, Lafayette represented the danger of this new, more liberal, more democratic theme in French society. And one of the things that Tocqueville wanted to understand, of course, about America was how they were able to have democracy without instability. But when they came to America, everywhere they went, Americans thought, "Oh, another Frenchman." The only French person they knew was Lafayette. So they would get up to honor Tocqueville, and they would lift their glass and say, `In honor of our great friend Lafayette,' and Tocqueville writes in his letters and diaries that they cringed because he didn't agree with Lafayette politically. And they even write home to their family, Tocqueville and Beaumont do, saying, you know, "Some of the respectable people here don't really like Lafayette, and were glad to know that it's only the kind of political riff-raff who are more attracted to Lafayette."
LAMB: Did they know each other?
KRAMER: Lafayette and Tocqueville? Very little. When Tocqueville was planning to come here, he approached Lafayette and asked for letters of recommendation to introduce him to key figures in America. And Lafayette wrote some letters introducing him to people in Philadelphia and New York and so forth. And they were sort of in overlapping social and political circles, but they were never really friends.
LAMB: How about money for all of these folks? Where'd they get their money?
KRAMER: Well, Lafayette, their money was basically based in agriculture. Lafayette, as a young man, controlled a number of large estates. His family had large estates. And these were managed by, basically, managers who would send him the receipts. He didn't really run the farms, the estates. He lost a lot of his lands during the French Revolution, but then his wife maintained control of this farm at La Grange, and he had income from that. Tocqueville's family also had money from estates in the western part of France.
LAMB: Lots?
KRAMER: I think they had quite a bit. Yeah, I don't know the full account of how much land Tocqueville's family had, but they were a wealthy family.
LAMB: You make a statement, "It seems unlikely that any other foreign public figure has ever traveled to as many places or personally greeted as many Americans as Lafayette met along the route of his 13 month tour." Still? To this day?
KRAMER: Well, you know, this is one of those speculative generalizations, but it would be very hard for me to imagine that any other public figure would ever go around the United States visiting every single state, spend 13 months I just don't think any -- I'm sure lots of, you know, private people have made trips like this, but someone who would be received in each town and celebrated in every city. And, of course, there weren't cities everywhere that there are now. For example, Chicago wasn't yet there. And, of course, Lafayette never went to Chicago or other big cities like that, but he went to lots of places. And I don't think anyone has ever duplicated such a tour.
LAMB: Would America be different if either Lafayette or Tocqueville hadn't been in our lives?
KRAMER: Well, that's a difficult question, and it's a kind one of those counter factual questions, what would it have been like? I think America would have been able to define itself as a nation. Obviously, it didn't need to have Lafayette or Tocqueville to play that role, but Lafayette and Tocqueville did play the role. That is, I think, especially a new country, and, you know, it's sort of hard for us to remember sometimes what America was like in the very early 19th century. But a new country that feels insecure about its own status and standing in the world is especially sensitive to the views of outsiders, to the perception that outsiders have of their country and to the way outsiders view them. And I think if it hadn't been Lafayette and Tocqueville, I think for the nation to define itself, it needed someone on the outside to say, "This is what America is," and to confirm what Americans thought about themselves.
LAMB: What would Lafayette be like, do you think, just to talk to?
KRAMER: Well, it's interesting. There are accounts by people like James Fenimore Cooper, for example, you know -- "What was it like at La Grange over the dinner table?" I think Lafayette was a kind of pleasant person. That is, he wasn't confrontive. He didn't like to alienate people. He would talk politely to people. Some people complained that, you know, as he got older, he had only the same ideas. That is to say, he would tell the same stories and he would, you know, his ideas never evolved. This is a very familiar critique. So that people would say, "Well, what was it like, you know, to be with George Washington in 1777?" or something. So he was always telling the same stories; and I think, as he got older, some people tired of that. But he was generous in his openness to people, and he welcomed people to his home and he was very eager to be accommodating.
LAMB: You wrote that, "For the cynical participants or observers in Western democracies, Lafayette and his political allies offer the reminder that politics can and should be a sphere for implementing ideals such as freedom, justice and democratic participation, rather than a sphere of manipulated fears, big money, favors and media gossip."
KRAMER: Well, that's in my very concluding epilogue. I have an epilogue in the book on Lafayette and what I call "post revolutionary culture," sort of what does Lafayette mean to us today, at the end of the 20th century? And one of the points I was trying to make, particularly at the very end, was that Lafayette and his friends believed that politics could be a sphere in which reforms could be made; that people could act with integrity; that politics was essential to the good life; that to be a part of a public culture is important to living a full life. And they didn't see politics as simply the manipulation of people or as an attempt to reward people for having money or insider influence. And so what I was really trying to get at the end, the very end of the book, was that maybe at the end of our century, in our kind of fin de siecle irony and cynicism, there's something to be gained from coming back to the people in the early 19th century, the end of the 18th century, and seeing how they conceived of politics and public life and democracy.
LAMB: You mentioned several times that he had memoirs. And...
KRAMER: Yes.
LAMB: ...six volumes. And they weren't published till after he was dead.
KRAMER: That's right. His -- well, they weren't really memoirs in the sense of someone sitting down and writing "my autobiography," you know. It wasn't like that. What those memoirs were, they were a collection of miscellaneous notes and comments that he had written in later years, and then there are lots and lots of letters in there that his family collected and published after his death in 1837 and '38. So it's not really a memoir in the sense...
LAMB: Have you...
KRAMER: ...of an autobiography.
LAMB: Have you read them?
KRAMER: I have. I went -- that was one of the places I went to look for a lot of comments he made about people and colleagues.
LAMB: What did you learn from and are they hard to read? Are they interesting or what?
KRAMER: Well, they're a little tedious, I would say. You know, some, many of them are speeches, also, that he gave in the Chamber of Deputies, for example. And although I think he often expressed the case for human rights quite eloquently, you know, political speeches, no matter how many times one reads them, can get epetitious, you know. You come to it and he's repeating himself or so, I think the memoirs are not the best way to get at Lafayette. I think a more interesting way to read about Lafayette is to read his other letters that there's actually been an editorial project recently publishing his letters, published by Cornell University Press. And I think that's a more interesting way to read his letters.
LAMB: Here is a portrait of Lafayette and Louis Philippe. It says, the credit's given to Lafayette College. Can you go to Lafayette College and see these portraits?
KRAMER: Yes, you can. They have an excellent collection of images from Lafayette's career, Lafayette's friends. They even have caricatures of Lafayette, and this is one of those caricatures, in fact. And there are lots of political commentaries that took the form of images and political cartoons, including some Daumier prints that are very interesting.
LAMB: Where is Lafayette College?
KRAMER: It's in a small town in eastern Pennsylvania called Easton, Pennsylvania, just near New Jersey, on that border.
LAMB: And do you know anything about the history of how it got started?
KRAMER: I don't know a great deal about Lafayette College. I actually went there once to go to a conference and talk to people there. It was started right after his tour, though, to honor him, and that's why it's named Lafayette College. And so it is named in honor of his visit to America.
LAMB: What do you think, I counted something like 13 towns in America named Lafayette, some counties are named Lafayette. There are other -- you know, you see statues. What do you think he would think if he came back today about, number one, democracy, and number two, did he have a big ego and would he like to see his name on all these streets and parks?
KRAMER: Lafayette Park across from the White House, for example, yeah. I think he would have been flattered to see the towns that were named for him. Of course, when he made that tour, for example, there was already a Fayetteville, North Carolina, for example, and he made a point of going there to see the people of Fayetteville that had named after hi...
LAMB: Named after him?
KRAMER: Yes. All these towns named Fayette or Fayette County or Fayetteville, they're named for Lafayette. And I think he would be would he would like that. He liked to be praised. He liked to be honored and acknowledged. In fact, that's one of the criticisms of him also, that he was too concerned with what people thought of him and, you know, he wanted to be praised. As for his view of democracy, I think he would be a little concerned about the cynicism and the hostility actually, for government, in that he believed in the kind of classical mode that to be involved in political life is the highest good, you know. That the people he most admired from Washington to Jefferson to his own French colleagues, famous French political and thinker, political theorist and thinker, Benjamin Constant. These were all people who were involved in politics; and for him, politics was the highest human good, sort of like the Aristotelian idea of human beings as political animals.
LAMB: Was he a dumbbell?
KRAMER: A dumbbell?
LAMB: And what does that mean?
KRAMER: I actually entitled one of my chapters, the chapter on the French Revolution, "Was Lafayette a dumbbell or a shredded text?" And what I meant by that was when I was in Paris doing my research, I met an historian, an American historian, who said, I told him I was working on Lafayette and he said, "Oh, Lafayette, the dumbbell of the French Revolution." And that just stuck in my mind. And I think it's a sort of shorthand way of saying he was not very clever, he was not very aware of what was going on, he was naive. And what I tried to do in using that term "dumbbell," was to call it into question and say, well, what if we try to understand him not as a dumbbell, but as a kind of text? And I used the term `text' to mean, like, he was constantly telling his story, and he was seen as someone who was telling a story about politics, about his career. And in the end, the story was rejected by his contemporaries in 1792. So I argue in that chapter that he wasn't a dumbbell, but he definitely, by 1792, was a shredded text.
LAMB: Relate, what, if you go to France and you keep asking the question, if I walked around saying, "What do you think of Lafayette," compared to the name here, how would it track in France?
KRAMER: Well, it's interesting. There's a kind of difference between scholarly opinion, elite opinion in the universities, and popular opinion. He was very popular still in France and in the sort of public domain. They did a poll at the time of the French the bicentennial of the French Revolution: "What French leader of the revolution do you most admire?" And Lafayette came out on top, well ahead of the second and third place finishers, Danton and Saint Just, I think. But anyway, he's fairly well regarded in sort of popular culture. Among intellectuals and historians, he's much less well regarded. In fact, he's often taken as a lightweight, you know, and not really worth serious attention, which is part of what I was arguing against in this book. I was trying to say what if we go back and rather than looking at him ironically or dismissively, what if we take this man seriously and try to understand why his contemporaries took him so seriously?
LAMB: What's the "great man theory" of world affairs and history?
KRAMER: Well, the "great man theory" really comes, I guess, ultimately, from Thomas Carlyle in the 19th century, the idea that history in any particular era is dominated by a few great figures, and these figures embody the whole spirit of the age and bring forward, pull the whole society to a higher level of politics or culture or understanding. And the "great man theory" of history basically argues that the way we should study history is to follow great men from generation to generation. So we'll study Cromwell in the 17th century or Napoleon in the 19th century or Winston Churchill in the 20th century. It's a kind of historical analysis that's not popular today among people in the university, because they're much more interested in structures of economy and society and culture and politics,rather than the isolated "great man."
LAMB: The tri-color cock-hat?
KRAMER: Cockade.
LAMB: Cockade? What was it?
KRAMER: It's the red, white and blue, like on the French flag. And what it was created during the revolution. And during the revolution, all of the revolutionaries wore this on their lapel. And then, of course, it became the tri color flag, which is the flag today in France. And it was developed by linking the colors of the monarchy, white traditionally, with the color of Paris, which was red, and then the blue was added.
LAMB: Did he actually ride a white horse?
KRAMER: He did. He rode around, when he was the commander of the national guard, he had a great interest in how to represent himself, and he had a white horse. He was a man on a white horse, not necessarily a great man on a white horse, but definitely a man on a white horse.
LAMB: You write a lot about his relationship to writers...
KRAMER: Yes.
LAMB: ...and artists. Why?
KRAMER: Well, I think this is because I'm trying to bring a new perspective to the career of Lafayette. Insofar as people know about Lafayette in this country at least, he's known, of course, as a general in the American revolution. And insofar as people talk about him later, he's seen as a political and military leader, and not a very effective one, in France. As I said, I'm trying to counter this traditional image, so one of the things I wanted to do was show that he had an enormous number of friendships with serious thinkers and writers and was part of a wider intellectual culture, people, both within France and outside of France. And many of these thinkers were very important figures, like Benjamin Constant, who I mentioned, Jeremy Bentham, Germaine de Stael. He was a good friend of Madame de Stael, who was a major figure at the time, and other writers who came to know him.
LAMB: Here's a portrait of Madame...
KRAMER: De Stael.
LAMB: ...de Stael. Who was she?
KRAMER: Madame de Stael was the daughter of Jacques Necker, who was an important official in the French government on the eve of the revolution, and she was connected to elite circles in Paris on the eve of the revolution and during the revolution. But she had to flee for her life, basically, in 1792, like Lafayette, and she went to Switzerland where her family was originally from. And she had an estate at a place called Coppet, outside of Geneva. And this was a center for writers and artists who came there from Germany and other parts of Europe, England, France. And she became a brilliant interpreter of German culture to the French. And she wrote novels, and she was a great critic of Napoleon. And she is now seen as, in many ways, the most influential literary critic of Napoleon during the period he was in power. He banned her, some of her writings, in Paris and France, and continually complained about her criticisms of him.
LAMB: Woven throughout this, including earlier when we were talking about Fanny Wright and others, periodically you'll see a sentence that you'll say, and I wrote in the margins here, "no evidence of being lovers." When did his wife die in his life? Again, what was the age, how old was he?
KRAMER: He was about 50 when his wife died. She died in 1807.
LAMB: Did he ever remarry?
KRAMER: He never remarried.
LAMB: And he was 50, and he lived to be...
KRAMER: Seventy seven. So he had another 27 years in which he was unmarried.
LAMB: And did you find in the literature that they kept referring to whether or not there was any relationships that he had with all these women in his life?
KRAMER: In the historical literature very rarely discusses these relationships with women. This is something else that I was trying to bring to the attention of readers, that these relationships are ignored. the question of lovers, he had an affair with a woman in the 1780s, 1790s, Madame de Simeon, was her name. She was a prominent figure in French society. But somehow this did not alienate his wife. And, in fact, Madame de Simeon and Adrienne de Lafayette became friends, and eventually this affair sort of cooled. But these later relationships with Madame de Stael, Fanny Wright, and another very influential woman named Cristina Belgioioso, an Italian exile, at the very end of his life became one of his close friends. And I could never find any evidence that they were lovers. What I did find was that there was a great deal of emotional passion in these relationships, but it was more like a father daughter relationship with Fanny Wright and Cristina Belgioioso. And with Germaine de Stael, it was more like a big brother and a younger sister who were allies and friends, rather than lovers.
LAMB: Who do you want to read this book? Mr.
KRAMER: Well, I think I have sort of two ideal audiences in mind. One, of course, is the historians who have not had an interest in Lafayette or have tended to dismiss him or not to take him seriously. And I want them to take another look at this and try to understand what's new about the book in terms of Lafayette's career. But more generally, I'm interested in readers who are not part of the formal historical community, simply to bring to them some insights about why Lafayette was such a significant figure in the later years of his life, not just in the period of the American Revolution, but in the 19th century. So I'd like people, both inside and outside universities to get a new understanding of what made Lafayette influential.
LAMB: You say he was a deist?
KRAMER: Yes.
LAMB: What does that mean?
KRAMER: He was a deist in that he believed there was a god, but not a personal god in the sense that, a god who intervenes in people's daily lives. And deism was a very popular theological position in the 18th century which basically held that God had set up the world and got it going like a great watchmaker, that was the common image, but God no longer intervened directly in the world. And Lafayette was a kind of deist, he would refer to God, but not very often. And he certainly was not a religious man in the traditional sense. His passion was for politics and liberty, not for God.
LAMB: In your chapter on Tocqueville and Lafayette, you mention a couple of times that they both found that Americans liked praise when they came here. Is that still the case, do you think? And why did they, how did they find that? How did they see that when they were here?
KRAMER: That Americans like religion, you mean?
LAMB: No, they like praise.
KRAMER: Praise, oh, praise.
LAMB: Their desire for being praised all the time about being the best and the greatest and all.
KRAMER: They, wherever they went, they found that Americans would say, "What do you think about America? How, you know, how are we doing? What do you think?" And what they found was that these people loved it when they would say, you know, "America has really made an important contribution." And I think this is a very characteristic need, particularly for new countries. This is what I'm saying, it was something distinctive about that period, the feeling that people from an old, established European community, French aristocracy, were looking at America and saying, "You have really achieved a lot. You are a --" you know, "you're an important country."

And the Americans just loved it. And whereas many of the foreign visitors, especially from England, who came in these years were very critical of America, there was a woman, Frances Trollope, who wrote a book about America in 1831, "Domestic Manners of America," and she just criticized Americans. Oh, they're rude, they spit, they use profanity, they have no manners, and you know, this really upset the Americans. Whereas Tocqueville and Lafayette said, "This country has really made a breakthrough." Tocqueville is more critical than Lafayette, but...
LAMB: Frances Trollope was the mother of Anthony Trollope?
KRAMER: That's right.
LAMB: That book is always mentioned. You see people refer to it, they don't say much about it except that she didn't like it.
KRAMER: Yeah, it's not read. See, people like to read "Democracy in America," but they don't read "Domestic Manners of the Americans."
LAMB: Put Tocqueville in perspective. We talk about him a lot here because he's mentioned so often in American political books and analysis. What's your take on him?
KRAMER: Tocqueville's importance for American culture or his career in general and...
LAMB: Why did he survive? And when you teach him, do the students care?
KRAMER: They are interested in Tocqueville. And he is someone I almost always teach when I teach 19th century European history. I think Tocqueville was important in the French context because he became known as a strong critic of Napoleon III during the period of the second empire. He wrote a very famous book about the French Revolution and tried to explain how it was less of a break from the old regime than people thought. He was an important thinker in France, but interestingly enough, he was never as important in France in the late 19th century as he was in America. He was kind of lost to sight because the French were not particularly interested in a book that talked about how America had made great political achievements. The French sort of thought, "Hey, you know, we're the ones that we're doing all right over here. We're making our breakthrough." So interestingly, Tocqueville's status in French culture is much higher in the late 20th century than it was, say, in the late 19th century when he was not as influential. Whereas Lafayette, for example, in 1830, had a lot of prominence and status, and then gradually lost status in the 20th century.
LAMB: How long did it take you to write this book?
KRAMER: Well, I've been working on it off and on for many years. I first started working on it in the late, the very late 1970s, so I would say 17 years, maybe.
LAMB: How many books is this for you?
KRAMER: This is the second monograph. I've edited a couple of other books, the second book of this kind that is not an edited collection.
LAMB: This is the second book we've done on this show in a couple of weeks on the University of North Carolina Press. What's going on here?
KRAMER: Well, I don't know. I think their press is eager to publish history books and books that engage issues from the past.
LAMB: How hard is writing for you?
KRAMER: Well, I find writing is always difficult. It, you know, I think everybody finds it challenging, especially when you have all of this massive material, like with Lafayette, there are just hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of letters. So then the problem is how do you decide what you want to emphasize, what you want to build your argument around and develop as your theme? And so I find writing is inevitably a challenging process.
LAMB: I haven't asked you directly, so define exactly what the title means, "Lafayette in Two Worlds."
KRAMER: Well, the title is actually a play on the title he had in his own life and which was always used for him; he was called "The hero of two worlds." "Lafayette, the hero of two worlds." One still hears this. And it was a term given to him in the early years of the French Revolution, because he had been a hero in America and a hero in France. So he was the hero of two worlds, but in my own use of the term, I'm referring not only to the two worlds of Europe and America, but I'm referring to the public world and the private world; the world of men, the world of women; the world of literature, the world of politics; the world of aristocracy,the world of democracy; two worlds in many different levels.
LAMB: And you dedicated this to Gwynne Pomeroy. Who's that?
KRAMER: That's my wife. And she has been a very tolerant recipient of lots of information about Lafayette. And when I was getting ready to publish the book, I decided she was the person it should be dedicated to.
LAMB: Where did you meet her?
KRAMER: Well, I met Gwynne, actually, in Arizona on a river trip, running a river in southern Utah many years ago.
LAMB: Do you have children?
KRAMER: Two children, yes.
LAMB: How old?
KRAMER: I have a son who's eight and a daughter who's five.
LAMB: Lloyd Kramer's our guest, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Here is his book "Lafayette in Two Worlds." We thank you.


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