|Influences on the Marquis
It is not known exactly when Lafayette’s sympathies for “the black part of mankind” were first aroused. His earliest encounters with slaves were on American soil when he arrived to take part in the American Revolution in 1777 at the age of nineteen. Although he more than once suggests using black troops in the conflict, it is clear that he considers them “property,” at least as late as 1781. By 1783, however, he makes his remarkable proposal to Washington that they consider a joint venture for gradual emancipation. From that point onward, Lafayette’s definitions of liberty and equality extend to all men. In the years before the French Revolution, Lafayette was very active in the cause, joining various anti-slavery societies, corresponding with other advocates, and reading everything he could get his hands on, including works by the Marquis de Condorcet and noted British abolitionists Granville Sharp and Thomas Clarkson.
Skillman & Kirby Libraries · Lafayette College
· Easton, PA 18042
Last updated 9 August 2002