Eaton’s biography of the young Lafayette’s involvement with the American Revolution is significant for young readers in several ways: It presents a picture of a young person of great wealth and high ideals, introduces the social and political life of eighteenth century Europe and America, and details the sacrifices made by many in the struggle of the American colonies for independence from Great Britain.
Lafayette’s boyhood in the rural Auvergne region of France made him aware of the great disparity between the lives of the peasants and the lives of the nobles. During the years of his adolescence in Paris, he was insulated from contact with the poor, but his introduction to the works of Voltaire and Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais strengthened his egalitarian beliefs. In 1775, after hearing of the American Revolution and meeting with Silas Deane, who was sent from America to seek aid from France, Lafayette determined to live his ideals in supporting this cause. Eaton shows that, while Lafayette certainly was seeking adventure, he also had a sense of honor and responsibility toward his family that checked his actions and made him mature for his years. She cites an example of his sense of honor when he visited England shortly before sailing for America. As a young military officer, he was invited to Portsmouth to observe the details of a new expedition being sent to fight in America. He refused the invitation, not wishing to abuse the hospitality of his hosts, who did not know he would soon be joining Washington’s staff, and not wishing to be accused later of spying.
Eaton describes the...
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Eaton’s smoothly written narrative offers the young reader an understanding of some of the people and events that shaped a new nation. The book is valuable for providing an understanding of the important role that the French played in lending financial and military support to the colonists in their struggle against Great Britain. In particular, it helps to explain why Lafayette was so greatly admired by the Americans. He was a brave soldier who enjoyed success on the battlefield, most notably in the battles at Brandywine, Barren Hill, and Yorktown.
Eaton makes clear, however, that his most important contribution was his total dedication of his fortune and his energies to establishing a country whose ideals he shared and whose commander in chief he venerated. Washington embodied Lafayette’s idea of a noble individual, and Lafayette’s devotion to the American cause was inextricably linked to his devotion to Washington. A bond was forged that would never be broken. Lafayette named a son “George Washington” and a daughter “Virginia,” and in 1784, during his visit to the United States, Virginia and Maryland made him an honorary citizen. This biography demonstrates emphatically how much the young United States owed to the young Lafayette.