The other day I was reading about Lafayette, the famous French general who directly assisted the American colonies in their struggle for political independence. He is whom Lafayette Street in Neosho is named for.

The other day I was reading about Lafayette, the famous French general who directly assisted the American colonies in their struggle for political independence. He is whom Lafayette Street in Neosho is named for.
Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette – or just Lafayette for short – was born Sept. 6, 1757 to a wealthy family in south-central France. As a young man of 19, with some military background, he became inspired by the struggle for American independence and traveled to the English colonies to lend personal assistance to the rebels, even before France officially directly intervened as a nation. Commissioned as a major-general of France, he found his way on the staff of General George Washington.
Although technically simply an observer and staff officer, Lafayette nevertheless got into the thick of the fighting, getting himself wounded in the process, and eventually commanding a division of American rebel troops. He was in several battles against the British and American crown loyalist forces before he returned to France - which by then had formally recognized American independence - where he advocated for French military support of the American independence cause.
Lafayette returned to North America a year later and was again given command of a division of troops. He took an active role in the siege of Yorktown, Va. which resulted in the surrender of the largest British army and was the last major land battle of the war - which would nevertheless last another two years before ending with the Treaty of Paris on September 3, 1783. Meanwhile, Lafayette went back to France to continue to advocate for more military support. He was still there when hostilities ceased and the 13 colonies were finally recognized by Great Britain as free and independent states.
After the American Revolution – during which Lafayette became personal friends with many of the major players, including Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and others – Lafayette continued to work for better American-French relations and assisted with American relations in Europe. He was made an official natural-born citizen of several American states, which he also visited.
When the French Revolution broke out in 1789, Lafayette played a role both in spurring reforms and in keeping public order – which earned him the distrust of both sides. Throughout the bloody upheaval he attempted to stay on middle ground. With the help of his American friend Thomas Jefferson, he wrote Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, but he also tried, unsuccessfully, to keep the radicals at bay. King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette were ultimately beheaded and the monarchy was toppled. Lafayette fled France to escape arrest by the radical revolutionaries, and was captured and held prisoner in Belgium out of the belief that he would incite revolution there. Danged if you do, danged if you don't, it seemed.
Lafayette was in captivity for five years before the government of Napoleon Bonaparte negotiated for his release. However, when Lafayette wouldn't swear loyalty to the new French republican government, which he felt was unconstitutional, he was stripped of his citizenship and all of his assets seized, leaving him penniless, and he was not allowed to return to France. He couldn't go to the United States either, where he technically held citizenship, because of a dispute going on between the two countries over war debts. Ultimately, Lafayette was allowed back into France, and his citizenship was restored.
He lived a relatively quiet life in France for many years after that, turning down several lucrative government appointments as a matter of principle, but also declining then-American President Jefferson's offer of governor of newly purchased Louisiana (which at that time was a huge land area that also included present-day Missouri).
Lafayette visited his beloved United States for a final time in 1824, going on a grand tour of all of the states, taking part in countless public events, and visiting old, and famous, American friends from days gone by.
In his final years he participated in one more revolution – in 1830 – and remained a steadfast voice of liberty all of his days. When Lafayette died on May 20, 1834, at age 76, dirt from Boston's famous Bunker Hill was sprinkled on his grave in Paris.
Think of him next time you drive on Lafayette Street in Neosho.

Wes Franklin writes a column for the Neosho Daily News.