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Hero of Two Worlds: The Marquis de Lafayette in the Age of Revolution

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From the bestselling author of The Storm Before the Storm and host of the Revolutions podcast comes the thrilling story of the Marquis de Lafayette’s lifelong quest to defend the principles of liberty and equality A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER A #1 ABA INDEPENDENT BOOKSTORE BESTSELLER   Few in history can match the revolutionary career of the Marquis de Lafayette. Over fifty From the bestselling author of The Storm Before the Storm and host of the Revolutions podcast comes the thrilling story of the Marquis de Lafayette’s lifelong quest to defend the principles of liberty and equality A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER A #1 ABA INDEPENDENT BOOKSTORE BESTSELLER   Few in history can match the revolutionary career of the Marquis de Lafayette. Over fifty incredible years at the heart of the Age of Revolution, he fought courageously on both sides of the Atlantic. He was a soldier, statesman, idealist, philanthropist, and abolitionist.   As a teenager, Lafayette ran away from France to join the American Revolution. Returning home a national hero, he helped launch the French Revolution, eventually spending five years locked in dungeon prisons. After his release, Lafayette sparred with Napoleon, joined an underground conspiracy to overthrow King Louis XVIII, and became an international symbol of liberty. Finally, as a revered elder statesman, he was instrumental in the overthrow of the Bourbon Dynasty in the Revolution of 1830.   From enthusiastic youth to world-weary old age, from the pinnacle of glory to the depths of despair, Lafayette never stopped fighting for the rights of all mankind. His remarkable life is the story of where we come from, and an inspiration to defend the ideals he held dear.


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From the bestselling author of The Storm Before the Storm and host of the Revolutions podcast comes the thrilling story of the Marquis de Lafayette’s lifelong quest to defend the principles of liberty and equality A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER A #1 ABA INDEPENDENT BOOKSTORE BESTSELLER   Few in history can match the revolutionary career of the Marquis de Lafayette. Over fifty From the bestselling author of The Storm Before the Storm and host of the Revolutions podcast comes the thrilling story of the Marquis de Lafayette’s lifelong quest to defend the principles of liberty and equality A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER A #1 ABA INDEPENDENT BOOKSTORE BESTSELLER   Few in history can match the revolutionary career of the Marquis de Lafayette. Over fifty incredible years at the heart of the Age of Revolution, he fought courageously on both sides of the Atlantic. He was a soldier, statesman, idealist, philanthropist, and abolitionist.   As a teenager, Lafayette ran away from France to join the American Revolution. Returning home a national hero, he helped launch the French Revolution, eventually spending five years locked in dungeon prisons. After his release, Lafayette sparred with Napoleon, joined an underground conspiracy to overthrow King Louis XVIII, and became an international symbol of liberty. Finally, as a revered elder statesman, he was instrumental in the overthrow of the Bourbon Dynasty in the Revolution of 1830.   From enthusiastic youth to world-weary old age, from the pinnacle of glory to the depths of despair, Lafayette never stopped fighting for the rights of all mankind. His remarkable life is the story of where we come from, and an inspiration to defend the ideals he held dear.

30 review for Hero of Two Worlds: The Marquis de Lafayette in the Age of Revolution

  1. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    Review of Duncan's other book, The Storm before the Storm I received this book as a Goodreads Giveaway, so yay for me For the non-Pod Heads out there, Mike Duncan is a titan in the history podcast field. First with his The History of Rome podcast, one of the first history podcasts produced and an immensely influential one and then with his current running but soon to end (tear) series on political Revolutions . Both are fantastic series and I highly recommend you, my dear reader, check them out. It Review of Duncan's other book, The Storm before the Storm I received this book as a Goodreads Giveaway, so yay for me For the non-Pod Heads out there, Mike Duncan is a titan in the history podcast field. First with his The History of Rome podcast, one of the first history podcasts produced and an immensely influential one and then with his current running but soon to end (tear) series on political Revolutions . Both are fantastic series and I highly recommend you, my dear reader, check them out. It is from the latter series that Hero of Two Worlds draws inspiration in the figure of the Marquis de Lafayette, a pivotal figure in not one, not two, but three significant political revolutions. Duncan chronicles Lafayette's life from his privileged, but tragic, childhood in rural France to the international mourning that followed his passing in 1834 and everything in between. While I think it is clear Duncan admires Lafayette, this work is by no means a hagiography. On multiple occasions Lafayette screws up or is cripplingly naïve and Duncan does not soften or argue away these shortcomings. For instance Lafayette, a great lover of liberty, comes to the Americas with stars and idealism in his eyes. He effectively becomes the surrogate son of George Washington and befriends many of the key figures of the American revolution. But as anyone with a modicum of understanding of the time can tell you (much to the chagrin of anti-history nationalists) the blessings of liberty fought for did not extend to the population of enslaved Africans. Lafayette never directly or strongly confronts his American friends about the gap between the Revolutionary rhetoric and the real world results. While he would fund and support several abolitionist causes, when push came to shove Lafayette did not extend his neck for the liberty of the enslaved like he did for other causes. What is interesting about Duncan's approach to this story is how much Lafayette dips in and out of the wider historical narrative. He'll spend time in America when important things are happening but also head back to France, taking the book's focus away from the American Revolutionary War to follow Lafayette. Likewise much of the more popularly know portions of the French Revolution (reign of terror, Napoleon's rise and fall) are only briefly mentioned and given a cursory explanation because when these events were occurring Lafayette was rotting (possibly literally for a while) away in a Prussian of Austrian prison and completely cut off form the outside world. And that is fine by me. If I wanted to learn about the American or French Revolutions there are scads of books and other resources (like the Revolutions podcast :-P) I can reference. This is a book about Lafayette and I appreciated understanding that even great, influential figures in history can be sidelined and insulated from major world events. But what a life Lafayette lived when he was not in jail: hero of the American revolution, head of the National Guard during the French Revolution, opponent of Napoleon's corrupt and absolutist turn, revolutionary conspirator during the restoration of the Bourbons, and the bestower of a republican kiss that ushered in a new French King (though a kiss he would later regret). He collected influential and notable friends by the dozens and kept up a correspondence with many of them through till the end. He was a staunch proponent of liberty in spite of a hostile European atmosphere to such ideals. Duncan does an excellent job guiding the reader through all these momentous events and noteworthy figures, providing an easy to follow narrative augmented by primary source quotations to drive home important points and themes. The book read smooth while painting a nuanced and accessible view of this influential and oft overlooked hero of two worlds. What stands out most to me about the life of Lafayette is just how little his political views changed over the course of his life. Deepened and fleshed out from his idealistic youth, certainly, but his bedrock belief in liberal ideals (free press, equality under the law, freedom of worship, popular governments to name a few core tenants) remained with him his entire life. Within the context of the French revolution he rapidly changed from being viewed as a radical liberal to a reactionary counter-revolutionary old guard in a span of a few years ("Like Saturn, the revolution devours its children) even as his fundamental beliefs remained unchanged. I can think of no better way to end this review than to borrow a quote at the end of the book:He [Lafayette] is a tower amid the waters, his foundation is upon a rock, he moves not with the ebb and flow of the stream. The storm may gather, the waters may rise and even dash above his head, or they may subside at his feet... still he stands unmoved. We know his sight and his bearings, and with the fullest confidence we point to where he stood six and fifty years ago. He stands there now. The winds have swept him, the waves have dashed around him, the snows of winter lighted upon him, but still he is there.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Faith

    Lafayette had one of the more impactful and interesting lives of any person. As a teenager, he fought in the American Revolution. When he returned to France he was instrumental in the French Revolution. His life was full of contradictions. He was an abolitionist, but also a close friend of the slave owners George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. He fought for liberty and equality, while remaining loyal to French nobility. He was devoted to his wife and children, while having successive mistresse Lafayette had one of the more impactful and interesting lives of any person. As a teenager, he fought in the American Revolution. When he returned to France he was instrumental in the French Revolution. His life was full of contradictions. He was an abolitionist, but also a close friend of the slave owners George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. He fought for liberty and equality, while remaining loyal to French nobility. He was devoted to his wife and children, while having successive mistresses. This book is excellent and does his life justice. I knew more about his life in America from reading about the American Revolution, but I haven’t read much French history. Fortunately, this book goes into that in detail. Lafayette remained true to his principles, but didn’t break with the kings and wound up being mistrusted by both sides of the French Revolution. The story of the time he spent in prison (where he was voluntarily joined by his wife and daughters) was compelling. He bounced back and forth from opposing the French government, to being a part of it, to being excluded from it. On the other hand, in America he was, and is, revered and made a triumphal tour of all 24 states in 1825. The audiobook is read by the author. He does a better job of narrating than most author’s do. I received a free copy of this audiobook from the publisher.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    Mike Duncan could make the phone book an interesting read, so given a topic as fascinating as the Lancelot of the Revolutionary Set, it was impossible to put this down at times. Many many thanks to Hachette for the ARC! I'm coming back to revise my review a bit; it was written in haste, and now that it seems people are actually seeing my review, I want to stress this one point: if your only opinion of Lafayette is based on anything related "Hamilton," please do yourself the favor of reading this. Mike Duncan could make the phone book an interesting read, so given a topic as fascinating as the Lancelot of the Revolutionary Set, it was impossible to put this down at times. Many many thanks to Hachette for the ARC! I'm coming back to revise my review a bit; it was written in haste, and now that it seems people are actually seeing my review, I want to stress this one point: if your only opinion of Lafayette is based on anything related "Hamilton," please do yourself the favor of reading this. Lafayette was so much more than a costar in the American Revolution, and I actually feel kind of bad for referencing the play in my initial review. It doesn't pay him or his legacy proper tribute. This telling of his life story held my attention all the way through, and I'll be honest, I was crying as I read the last pages. Even if you're not a big history/biography reader (like me), this is absolutely worth your time.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Liviu

    Compelling and interesting especially for someone who while quite interested in the period under consideration here never really read that much about the Marquis per se.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Brittany

    My second biography on Lafayette, and definitely my favorite of the two I've read. Structure/Formatting 4.5/5 I love a chronological history book, and the structure and flow of this worked very well for me. One thing I was sad about was the lack of photos! I love seeing what photos are chosen to be included in books (and which artist's depictions), but this gave me none of that. Thoroughness of Research 4.5/5 I would have loved a new record set or new deep-dive into an old record set, but otherwis My second biography on Lafayette, and definitely my favorite of the two I've read. Structure/Formatting 4.5/5 I love a chronological history book, and the structure and flow of this worked very well for me. One thing I was sad about was the lack of photos! I love seeing what photos are chosen to be included in books (and which artist's depictions), but this gave me none of that. Thoroughness of Research 4.5/5 I would have loved a new record set or new deep-dive into an old record set, but otherwise this was very well researched and used a lot of primary sources. I also have some new history books to check out to learn more about the period. Storytelling 5/5 This was such a great, easy read. Even for the parts where I knew what was going to happen next, I needed to keep reading to find out. Enjoyment 5/5 This was such a fun one. I would recommend this to anyone who wants to learn more about "America's favorite fighting Frenchman." Prior Knowledge Needed 4/5 I am fairly well read on the American Revolution at this point, but my knowledge on the French Revolution is fairly minimal. This book did a fantastic job of breaking down the pieces of the war relevant to Lafayette in a way that, while I may still not understand the whole war, I understood his role in it. If you've seen Hamilton, you probably know enough of the American Revolution to understand the pieces mentioned in that section of the book. :-)

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jess

    I have been anxiously awaiting this book ever since I finished Duncan’s Revolutions podcast season on The French Revolution! While listening to that podcast I kept finding myself saying ‘I wish someone would write a really good book about Lafayette. Mike Duncan would do a great job!’ Only to find he was in Paris researching and doing just that! Before this book I don’t remember much being said about Lafayette and his massive contributions to the American Revolution during my school years. Perhaps I have been anxiously awaiting this book ever since I finished Duncan’s Revolutions podcast season on The French Revolution! While listening to that podcast I kept finding myself saying ‘I wish someone would write a really good book about Lafayette. Mike Duncan would do a great job!’ Only to find he was in Paris researching and doing just that! Before this book I don’t remember much being said about Lafayette and his massive contributions to the American Revolution during my school years. Perhaps another reason to go back and listen to Duncan’s podcast season on the topic. Lafayette was an incredible man and so was his journey. Seeing the humble beginnings of a boy who lost so much at such a young age to the full fledged man of honor defending the rights of many. To think he was a teenager when he eagerly signed up to travel across the world and fight in a war that had nothing to do with him, only to preserve and solidify the rights of everyone having freedom and Liberty is incredible. Duncan did an astounding job of chronicling the larger than life accounts of The Marquis De Lafayette. His attention to detail and research poured into this novel has not gone unnoticed. I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who wanted to learn more about not only American History but French and world History.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kahlia

    I’m a big fan of Mike Duncan’s podcasts (as, I imagine, are many of the people who will pick up this book), and it didn’t disappoint. Part of that is the subject matter - it’s hard to think of anyone who had more of a front row seat to witness this era of history than Lafayette. But Duncan has really found his groove as a historian here, in terms of being able to tell a story about someone who he clearly finds personally interesting and inspiring, while also knowing when to take a longer view of I’m a big fan of Mike Duncan’s podcasts (as, I imagine, are many of the people who will pick up this book), and it didn’t disappoint. Part of that is the subject matter - it’s hard to think of anyone who had more of a front row seat to witness this era of history than Lafayette. But Duncan has really found his groove as a historian here, in terms of being able to tell a story about someone who he clearly finds personally interesting and inspiring, while also knowing when to take a longer view of history and acknowledge Lafayette’s flaws. There are obviously many, but: dude, you really should have spent more time with your wife (though I’m very glad you came round on slavery relatively quickly). I knew a reasonable amount about the American and French revolutions heading into this book, but Duncan includes a lot of details about Lafayette’s specific role that I wasn’t aware of, and knows when to ruminate in detail and when to skip over large swathes of someone’s life. I knew less about France in the 1820s-1830s, so there was plenty to learn there. The primary sources are well blended, rather than clunkily referenced, which always helps. There were a few issues with audio quality that I expect may have been down to this being an ARC (including some excessively long silences between chapters that made me think my wireless earphones had suddenly died), but anyone who has listened to Duncan’s work will also know him as an excellent narrator - energetic and lively. I’m not sure what Duncan has planned next, but I’ll be keeping an eye out.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    HERE IS MY DITTY ABOUT LAFAYETTE.....Please forgive me, Lin Manuel Maria. 🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼 Lafeyette, do you know him yet? This great book is a sure bet. He does not sing, he does not dance ...this dude was all the way from France. 🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼 Date reviewed/posted: May 22, 2021 Publication date: August 24, 2021 When life for the entire galaxy and planet has turned on its end, you are continuing to #maskup and #lockdown to be in #COVID19 #socialisolation as the #thirdwave (#f HERE IS MY DITTY ABOUT LAFAYETTE.....Please forgive me, Lin Manuel Maria. 🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼 Lafeyette, do you know him yet? This great book is a sure bet. He does not sing, he does not dance ...this dude was all the way from France. 🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼 Date reviewed/posted: May 22, 2021 Publication date: August 24, 2021 When life for the entire galaxy and planet has turned on its end, you are continuing to #maskup and #lockdown to be in #COVID19 #socialisolation as the #thirdwave (#fourthwave #fifthwave?) is upon us, superspeed readers like me can read 300+ pages/hour, so yes, I have read the book … and many more today. Plus it is hot as all heck and nothing is more appealing than sitting in front of a fan with a kindle! I requested and received a temporary digital Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley, the publisher and the author in exchange for an honest review. From the publisher, as I do not repeat the contents or story of books in reviews, I let them do it as they do it better than I do 😸. From the massively popular podcaster and New York Times' bestselling author comes the story of the Marquis de Lafayette's lifelong quest to protect the principles of democracy, told through the lens of the three revolutions he participated in: the American Revolution, the French Revolution, and the Revolution of 1830. Few in history can match the breadth and depth of the revolutionary career of the Marquis de Lafayette. Over fifty incredible years at the heart of the Age of Revolution, he fought as one with righteous revolutionaries on both sides of the Atlantic. As an idealistic and courageous teenager serving in the American Revolution, he used his considerable wealth and savvy to help the Americans defeat the British. Then he returned home and was a principal player in the French Revolution. And in his final act, at seventy years old, he was instrumental in the dramatic overthrow of the Bourbon Dynasty during the Revolution of 1830. All the while, he never wavered from the principles he had written into the Declaration of the Rights of Man in 1789: That men are born and remain free and equal, deserving of liberty, property, safety, freedom of speech, and the ability to resist oppression. Through this age of upheaval, Lafayette remained unshakably committed to the principles he had outlined. From the time that he was an enthusiastic 19-year-old to the time, he was a world-weary 74-year-old, his resolve never wavered. As the saying goes, if we don't learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it. Today, the values codified and practiced by Lafayette are increasingly taken for granted. His life is thus the story of where we came from and what we stand to lose if we abandon the ideals for which he fought. Most people these days know who Le Marquis was based on his appearance in the broadway's phenomenon Hamilton but there is more...much more to the man. This biography was well constructed and it will appeal to lovers of history and good books as it brings up so many points to ponder on. (we don't study US history in Canada so my knowledge of him and what he did in the US is Hamilton-related and Hamilton-related only!) I do not listen to podcasts or the radio but I will try to find the author's podcast online for hubby to listen to. I will highly recommend this excellent book to friends, patrons and book clubs alike as it will appeal to so many of them. As always, I try to find a reason to not rate with stars as I simply adore emojis (outside of their incessant use by "🙏-ed Social Influencer Millennials/#BachelorNation survivors/Tik-Tok and YouTube Millionaires/snowflakes / literally-like-overusers etc. " on Instagram and Twitter... Get a real job, people!) so let's give it 🥧🥧🥧🥧🥧 (no one does pastry like the French!)

  9. 4 out of 5

    James Penny

    i bonded more with the marquis de lafayette than i have with my family, 5/5

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ozymandias

    There are many books about the Marquis de Lafayette. He has been a popular subject of American biographers almost since his death. The man was a national hero, a beloved icon of the Revolutionary generation. And best of all, he was one who didn’t have to be there – a foreigner who tied his flag to the American colonies solely to further the cause of liberty. But perhaps because people found him so appealing he’s always seemed a bit of an enigma to me. The natural desire to remove all a hero’s fa There are many books about the Marquis de Lafayette. He has been a popular subject of American biographers almost since his death. The man was a national hero, a beloved icon of the Revolutionary generation. And best of all, he was one who didn’t have to be there – a foreigner who tied his flag to the American colonies solely to further the cause of liberty. But perhaps because people found him so appealing he’s always seemed a bit of an enigma to me. The natural desire to remove all a hero’s faults (think Washington and his mythic cherry tree) leaves nothing but an empty font of virtuous deeds. Whitewashing leaves one colorless. Which is why I was so excited when I heard Mike Duncan was writing a biography on the dear Marquis. And one written in Paris making full use of the archives there. That last point is important because it emphasizes a key strength here that proved to be a failing in every biography I’ve seen: it focuses on Lafayette’s whole life and not just the few formative years he spent in America. The man had a long and fascinating career in his native France, but all we ever hear about is his time serving with Washington. I understand the reasons for it – Lafayette’s a clear hero in America, but really a bit player in France. And a controversial one at that who left enemies on all sides as he tried to chart a middle way. That plus the complexity and confusion of the French Revolution means it’s much simpler for a biographer to just focus on his period as an unambiguous hero. But Duncan has of course already unraveled the French Revolution as part of his Revolutions podcast. He understands the broader context and how Lafayette fit into it. And more importantly he understands just how important the revolution was to Lafayette’s life. Duncan is exceptionally good at detailing motives and shifting opinions in a way that seems founded in fact and not pop psychology. He has a keen instinct for what Lafayette cared about and when he doesn’t have the evidence to know for sure he doesn’t just guess. Lafayette’s privileged upbringing is portrayed here much as he must have seen it: as a gilded cage trapping him in a setting where he would never fit in. He may have been rich, but that had come as a surprise to his minders who kept having to increase the privilege of his schooling to match. The country son of a soldier, he was suddenly thrust into the upper reaches with no real training. One can easily understand how someone with modest military ambitions would resent being pushed towards a life at court where his rustic manners and awkwardness would be endlessly mocked. You can also understand why he’d jump at the chance to join in a revolution overseas, even aside from all that liberty and justice. Which brings up another point Duncan does very well – trace the evolution of Lafayette’s liberal ideals. The Young Marquis’s understanding of what liberty meant was naturally very simplistic at first. He had an ideal with no real practical sense of how to achieve it. When he said he was there to learn not to teach that was what he meant. But when it solidified over time it became the rock that would define his career. And I found it pretty astounding both how early in his life this occurred and how seriously he took it. His political ideals didn’t really change in fifty years, which suggests a pretty dogged determination as well as perhaps a certain lack of imagination. At a minimum the man was stunningly naïve in some things and tried to play the role of Washington without realizing that, in politics even more than war, compromise and coalitions are necessary. But what really impressed me was the utter seriousness with which he took his convictions. Once Lafayette defined a principle he followed it through to the bitter end. Many of the Founding Fathers had moral objections to slavery, but when it came down to actual actions they quailed. Slavery was an evil but one they couldn’t purge without losing their wealth and power, and that they’d never do. Alone among the leading Revolutionary War generals Lafayette actually put into action a plan to bring an end to slavery. We might consider it a relatively modest one but it was practical – he bought a plantation complete with slaves with the express purpose of freeing them to show by example that freed blacks made better workers than enslaved ones. The tragic disrupting of this plan (technically a cruel commentator could point out they were freed only when he lost ownership and his first act on regaining them was to sell them) was hardly his fault and the fact that he tried at all is astounding. As was his effort to promote the cause of abolition wherever he could. Once the man discovered a principle he never let it go. It was never Lafayette’s brilliance or intellect that drove his success but his sheer dogged determination. Which was probably why he peaked so young. Speaking of peaking young, his revolutionary career in France is explored in an immensely satisfying way. I’ve read quite a bit on the French Revolution and I know how hard it is to know what’s going on if you lack the background on it. But the book always explains exactly what it needs to and passes over all that is superfluous to Lafayette’s life. It always seemed odd to me that a man of his principles would be entirely absent during the key early moments of the revolution, but the compromises he found himself making to assume such a role in his homeland seem an early example of how he struggled to adapt Washingtonian virtue to a more fluid situation. There was an air of naivete about Lafayette that ultimately limited his rise. While understanding the overall flow of the Revolution isn’t necessary, for those who are familiar with it there is a lot that is clarified by following an individual life amidst the storm. The Declaration of the Rights of Man for example has often been criticized for being an aspiration rather than a law, as the American Bill of Rights was. But Duncan explains this by locating it in time – Lafayette expected martyrdom at any moment. The king was sure to call in the army and forcibly close the National Assembly. Imprisonment was not unlikely. He wanted a clear statement of ideals so that future revolutionaries would know what they stood for when they tried to pick up the pieces. Seen in that light it’s not surprising the document lacked legal force. It’s closer to the Declaration of Independence in that sense. One thing I did miss though was Lafayette’s views on the whole active/passive citizen divide. I got the impression from this that (contrary to what I thought) he was not pleased with this, but it was never really stated definitively. Another interesting fact I didn’t know: Noailles, who stood up in the National Assembly to propose the complete abolishment of noble privilege, was Lafayette’s oldest friend and brother-in-law. No reason to mention that unless your book is about Lafayette. It was good to see that the book dedicated as much time to Lafayette’s third and final act as the first two. This was the section I knew little about, for if most biographies rush through his time in the French Revolution they positively leap through everything after, and it proved to be far more interesting than I expected. Napoleon considered him a rival of sorts! The lone unrepentant and uncompromising revolutionary in France. Admittedly Napoleon saw this as something of a joke, but if a man is judged by his enemies Lafayette chose well. He even played an important role in Napoleon’s Hundred Days by forcing the emperor to resign a second time. Even the restoration of the Bourbons wasn’t enough to dampen his enthusiasm for revolution. He immediately got himself elected to the assembly and tried to push through a liberal agenda. But after years of waiting and plotting with carbonari groups he finally got to play the starring role in the Revolution of 1830. The result was not all that he could have hoped for. His naivete was on full display when he chose Louis-Philippe as the next King of France without securing his terms in writing. And then offering his resignation to apply pressure. To the end he believed selfless displays of virtue could sway men to display virtue of their own. Which… wasn’t exactly what usually happened. At the end of his life (which came not long after) he was unquestionably the elder statesman of the revolutionary movement – one of the few leaders to survive and possibly the only one to come through with ideals intact. He really deserves to be better remembered in France, particularly when everyone knows those snakes Robespierre and Danton. So I liked this. Not sure what more there is to say. The understanding of who Lafayette was is first rate, as is the general understanding of the period he lived through. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it as someone’s introduction to the period since there’s much you’ll miss out, but if you read it unprepared you won’t be at a loss either. And that’s tough to manage with a period as fastmoving and complicated as this one. The writing is generally excellent. I hadn’t planned to read this right away but I couldn’t put it down once I picked it up (be warned). The essential argument of the book, exemplified by the Hero of Two Worlds title, is that Lafayette’s career can’t be understood without looking at his career as a whole. I consider that proved quite effectively.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kyle Erickson

    Mike Duncan's a great disseminator of the most interesting parts of a historical story and how to put those parts together in a compelling way. His voice is also great for listening to, so after listening to his Rome stuff and the Revolutions podcast, listening to the audiobook for everyone's favorite fighting Frenchman (LAFAYETTE! I'mTakingThisHorseByTheReignsMakinRedCoatsRedderWithBloodStains!....sorry) was a no-brainer. I didn't know much about Lafayette before this book, despite taking an en Mike Duncan's a great disseminator of the most interesting parts of a historical story and how to put those parts together in a compelling way. His voice is also great for listening to, so after listening to his Rome stuff and the Revolutions podcast, listening to the audiobook for everyone's favorite fighting Frenchman (LAFAYETTE! I'mTakingThisHorseByTheReignsMakinRedCoatsRedderWithBloodStains!....sorry) was a no-brainer. I didn't know much about Lafayette before this book, despite taking an entire course on the French Revolution and getting a B in it. Why, you ask? Because my professor and the textbooks I read were BORING, and so I've spent YEARS thinking the French revolution was a complete snoozefest. Duncan proves me wrong here, making every element of Lafayette's life very compelling. He was a complex man, involved in many important events on two continents, and Duncan paints a vivid picture of the man himself and the situations he found himself continously involved in. Small note, the Netgalley copy of the audiobook I received (thanks, Netgalley + publisher!) cut off in the middle of the final chapter, which was very frustrating. So I have no idea how this book ends. But, that's not the fault of the book obviously, so it doesn't affect my rating or review.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Alexander

    This was a fantastic biography. It worked for me on two reasons 1) Duncan makes no apologies for outdated beliefs Lafayette held but thoughtfully traces his evolution towards democracy and abolition. 2) I was only familiar with Lafayette - “America’s favorite fighting Frenchman” and not his subsequent life during the French Revolution, imprisonment and life navigating Napoleonic/post-Napoleonic France. I would argue Lafayette in France was the most interesting part of the book. Far from laudator This was a fantastic biography. It worked for me on two reasons 1) Duncan makes no apologies for outdated beliefs Lafayette held but thoughtfully traces his evolution towards democracy and abolition. 2) I was only familiar with Lafayette - “America’s favorite fighting Frenchman” and not his subsequent life during the French Revolution, imprisonment and life navigating Napoleonic/post-Napoleonic France. I would argue Lafayette in France was the most interesting part of the book. Far from laudatory this biography, it felt like a very human portrait of a rather favorable historical figure. His machinations on behalf of his beliefs—democratic rights for the French, abolition of slavery both in France and the US are both admirable and disappointing. As a skilled politician he navigated the turmoil in France quite well but deeply influenced by Washington it’s clear his view of himself (the hero riding upon a white horse) polarized many contemporaries. One wonders what important allies could’ve joined his cause had that not been the case. Duncan has a wonderful line about when reading history one doesn’t need to admire the person to admire their ideals. Hero of Two Worlds illustrates the important reminder today that you can admire politicians’ ideas rather than deifying the individual.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Funes

    Wow, I knew this was going to be great book and expected that Mike Duncan would not have a sophomore slump. I only had high level knowledge of Marquis de Lafayette but as I read the book it made me want to meet and talk with him. But alas, its been nearly 187 years since his death. This is the first book I listened with audible which enhanced the book since it was Mike Duncan himself who read it. Mike Duncan is not only a great writer but his reading performance elevated the book. I felt I was w Wow, I knew this was going to be great book and expected that Mike Duncan would not have a sophomore slump. I only had high level knowledge of Marquis de Lafayette but as I read the book it made me want to meet and talk with him. But alas, its been nearly 187 years since his death. This is the first book I listened with audible which enhanced the book since it was Mike Duncan himself who read it. Mike Duncan is not only a great writer but his reading performance elevated the book. I felt I was with Lafayette every step of the way. From orphan to young man in the American revolution to the French revolution to dying peacefully in 1830. Mike Duncan you beautiful bastard you did it again! So like Samuel B Morse's toast to Lafayette "I ask you therefore ... to drink with me in honor of General Lafayette".

  14. 5 out of 5

    Julio A.

    5/5 What can I say? Mike Duncan has done it again!!!! This book was an amazing look into Lafayette, there were so many new things that I learned about him and obviously the book has the Mike Duncan flair that we all know and love! The audiobook was fantastic and Mike did a great job with his narration. There is so much to to love about this but all I will say is go read it yourself!!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Michael Mullady

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I’m not sure many people in history can be so glamorized in one country and so mixed in another. But what an amazing life and experience. He could have ruled France at least twice and said no. But yet was blind to how the monarchy would never let a full republic be born. I would love to go back to witness Lafayette’s tour of the 24 states and all the celebrations that it entailed. Another great book by Mike Duncan. Bravo

  16. 5 out of 5

    Deborah

    Fascinating presentation of someone whom I'd always heard about but never really known. So interesting to view the period of 1780s - 1830s in the States and France through the perspective of a stalwart champion of liberty. Perhaps the author is very much a fan, but he makes a great case. Fascinating presentation of someone whom I'd always heard about but never really known. So interesting to view the period of 1780s - 1830s in the States and France through the perspective of a stalwart champion of liberty. Perhaps the author is very much a fan, but he makes a great case.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Niver

    Mike Duncan does it again!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Hero of Two Worlds by Mike Duncan is a great nonfiction/historical biography of the fascinating figure, the Marquis de Lafayette. I loved this one. I have always been fascinated by Lafayette, heck I have even stumbled upon several societies that revolve around his history and legacy and all of this research has only poured fuel onto that fire. Obviously, I was super excited to be able to read more about this complicated, intricate, and fascinating larger than life historical figure. The author cl Hero of Two Worlds by Mike Duncan is a great nonfiction/historical biography of the fascinating figure, the Marquis de Lafayette. I loved this one. I have always been fascinated by Lafayette, heck I have even stumbled upon several societies that revolve around his history and legacy and all of this research has only poured fuel onto that fire. Obviously, I was super excited to be able to read more about this complicated, intricate, and fascinating larger than life historical figure. The author clearly has done his research, and it most certainly shows in his presentation. Lafayette was so many things for so many groups/causes. He has incredible highs and lows in his life, contributed to many ideals and causes, and placed himself into many a precarious situation during these revolutions. Was he perfect? Nope. But despite his flaws, imperfections, and mistakes, he believed in what he supported, and the world was forever altered and changed because of it. An excellent biography for an excellent figure. 5/5 stars Thank you NG and Public Affairs/Perseus Books for this wonderful arc and in return I am submitting my unbiased and voluntary review and opinion. I am posting this review to my GR and Bookbub accounts immediately and will post it to my Amazon, Instagram, and B&N accounts upon publication.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kit Wren

    A lovely bit of pop-history that follows all of Lafayette's life instead of just his time with the continental army, the only unquestionable success in a complicated life led by principles first. Mike Duncan, the host of the Revolutions podcast, smartly chose a subject that lets him touch on three of the revolutions he covers in audio form, as Lafayette is an important part of the American Revolution and two separate French revolutions (the big one, and the July revolution that deposed Charles X A lovely bit of pop-history that follows all of Lafayette's life instead of just his time with the continental army, the only unquestionable success in a complicated life led by principles first. Mike Duncan, the host of the Revolutions podcast, smartly chose a subject that lets him touch on three of the revolutions he covers in audio form, as Lafayette is an important part of the American Revolution and two separate French revolutions (the big one, and the July revolution that deposed Charles X). The writing is plainspoken but wry, and if you're familiar with Duncan's speaking voice you can hear the pregnant pauses and foreshadowing namedrops; you're almost half-waiting for the Casper ads to pop up in the text. Though filled with fondness for Lafayette, there's also a clear-eyed look at what I guess one could call his naivete and disregard for situational strategy, and the Founding Fathers, in their admiration for and equivocation in the face of Lafayette's abolitionism, sound not like the cruel twisted people the word slaveowner implies, but a lot like the modern moderate, content to hashtag and show sympathy but taking issue with words like defund. A solid, relevant, thorough history, easy to read and easy to make leaps from.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Mshelton50

    Mike Duncan has done a fine job telling the story of the Marquis de Lafayette. Unlike other biographies I have read, Duncan doesn't focus solely on the earlier, "revolutionary," phase of Lafayette's life, but also explores Lafayette's role in the Napoleonic period, the Bourbon Restoration, and the July Monarchy. What I found very helpful was Duncan's emphasis on the Marquis's Classical education--being fed a steady diet of the Roman Republic, young Gilbert du Motier questioned an absolutist mona Mike Duncan has done a fine job telling the story of the Marquis de Lafayette. Unlike other biographies I have read, Duncan doesn't focus solely on the earlier, "revolutionary," phase of Lafayette's life, but also explores Lafayette's role in the Napoleonic period, the Bourbon Restoration, and the July Monarchy. What I found very helpful was Duncan's emphasis on the Marquis's Classical education--being fed a steady diet of the Roman Republic, young Gilbert du Motier questioned an absolutist monarchy from his early days. Duncan also makes the point that Lafayette--unlike a Napoleon or a Talleyrand--was no schemer; indeed, because he tended to view others as being as virtuous as himself, he almost never saw the intrigues swirling around him. Highly recommend.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ian Williamson

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. One of the historical figures that seems to pop up in every single historical event in his era. Raised like Bruce Wayne, rich orphan style, then running from France to fight under Washington in American revolution as a teen. Then comes back to France to help spark the French Revolution. Imprisoned and barely surviving the Reign of Terror, he is broken out of prison by a young Napoleon. He then again opposes the French throne both king and emperor, in favor of a constitutional government. Fails a One of the historical figures that seems to pop up in every single historical event in his era. Raised like Bruce Wayne, rich orphan style, then running from France to fight under Washington in American revolution as a teen. Then comes back to France to help spark the French Revolution. Imprisoned and barely surviving the Reign of Terror, he is broken out of prison by a young Napoleon. He then again opposes the French throne both king and emperor, in favor of a constitutional government. Fails again, returns to America to try to help with the abolishment of slavery. Returns to France for yet another coup and replacement of the throne. 60+ years fighting in every theatre of the revolutionary era. Mike Duncan makes history seem so real, favorite nonfiction author by far.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Fin Quinlan

    An amazingly well-written book. It's a coon theme I have noticed in which all I can write for a book is that it has 'good prose' but this has jumped out at me. Almost impossible to put down Duncan keeps you desperate to read on what could have very easily been a dense hardback history textbook. I have come out of this book at a loss of what to read next because I have been so overwhelmed by the brilliance of this. An amazingly well-written book. It's a coon theme I have noticed in which all I can write for a book is that it has 'good prose' but this has jumped out at me. Almost impossible to put down Duncan keeps you desperate to read on what could have very easily been a dense hardback history textbook. I have come out of this book at a loss of what to read next because I have been so overwhelmed by the brilliance of this.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    As always with Mike Duncan, his work is full of wit and brio. The subject was somewhat challenging, as someone not from either France or USA, Lafayette barely registered, apart from placenames in USA. This well researched and engaging book brought together both countries revolutions and their aftermaths, weaving in a cat of characters from Washington and the patriots, through Danton and Marat to Napoleon onto Metternich and Talleyrand covering nearly a century of significant history on two contin As always with Mike Duncan, his work is full of wit and brio. The subject was somewhat challenging, as someone not from either France or USA, Lafayette barely registered, apart from placenames in USA. This well researched and engaging book brought together both countries revolutions and their aftermaths, weaving in a cat of characters from Washington and the patriots, through Danton and Marat to Napoleon onto Metternich and Talleyrand covering nearly a century of significant history on two continents via a character I only know as peripheral. I now know a much more significant character, with some very high highs and low lows and look forward to both Mike Duncan's next podcast series and hopefully next book

  24. 5 out of 5

    Andy Efting

    I love the story of the Marquis de Lafayette. This is the third biography of his that I have read, and the story never grows old. Mike Duncan's treatment is very easy to read and quite enjoyable. We as Americans owe a great debt to this man, who basically used his fortune to embrace the American cause and eventually bring France to our aid in winning the war of independence. The most fascinating part of his life, though, is how his quest for that same liberty he helped secure in America, never q I love the story of the Marquis de Lafayette. This is the third biography of his that I have read, and the story never grows old. Mike Duncan's treatment is very easy to read and quite enjoyable. We as Americans owe a great debt to this man, who basically used his fortune to embrace the American cause and eventually bring France to our aid in winning the war of independence. The most fascinating part of his life, though, is how his quest for that same liberty he helped secure in America, never quite played out as he wished in France. The complexities of the French Revolution and subsequent developments are hard for me to grasp fully, but I felt that Duncan did a great job in explaining the events and what caused them.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kyle

    While I knew the outlines of the Marquis de Lafayette's life before reading this book, this volume did an excellent job of filling in the details. I knew of Lafayette mostly from US history (though I knew a bit of his history in France thanks to Duncan's podcast series on revolutions), and I thought the book did a great job of explaining how Lafayette stayed true to his principles, as he saw them, throughout his life without overly lionizing the "Hero of Two Worlds." Duncan leads you through the While I knew the outlines of the Marquis de Lafayette's life before reading this book, this volume did an excellent job of filling in the details. I knew of Lafayette mostly from US history (though I knew a bit of his history in France thanks to Duncan's podcast series on revolutions), and I thought the book did a great job of explaining how Lafayette stayed true to his principles, as he saw them, throughout his life without overly lionizing the "Hero of Two Worlds." Duncan leads you through the American and French Revolutions through the life of Lafayette (and Lafayette's wife Adrienne, whom I had no real knowledge of before this book). He points out the hypocrisies and flaws of Lafayette when they appear, but is mostly sympathetic to Lafayette throughout (and while Lafayette was not perfect, he was clearly a man ahead of his time on issues of freedom and slavery). If you'd like to know more about an interesting life that spanned two important revolutions and about the person who had important contributions to both, then this will be a good volume. The prose is easy to read and the story goes along at a good pace but not so fast that you feel that details are missing. I also didn't think it read as too academic/dry, but I have a high tolerance for such writing. I very much enjoyed this biography.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jan

    This man of principles at every age was shaped by his environment as well as his choices. The publisher's blurb is a good overview of this *warts and all* biography. I found the writing style to be quite engaging and not at all the dry (and often misogynistic) manner commonly used regarding historical personages. Shame on me as a former American Rev War re-enactor that I had not known the man's first name before now (Gilbert) nor had any notion of what the man did after leaving the western hemis This man of principles at every age was shaped by his environment as well as his choices. The publisher's blurb is a good overview of this *warts and all* biography. I found the writing style to be quite engaging and not at all the dry (and often misogynistic) manner commonly used regarding historical personages. Shame on me as a former American Rev War re-enactor that I had not known the man's first name before now (Gilbert) nor had any notion of what the man did after leaving the western hemisphere. Of course I learned a lot, but I am surprised to relate that I really enjoyed reading this book! I requested and received a free ebook copy from Perseus Books, PublicAffairs via NetGalley. Thank you!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Nathan

    One of my favourite experiences when reading history is a book on a topic that holds no interest for me initially, which completely pulls me in and makes me an obsessive about that particular topic. This is certainly a shining example of exactly such a book. Delivered with Duncan's marvelous conversational tone, the book contains a riveting story about a fascinating man. Our world is lacking in heroes, and as society is occupied with pulling every hero they can from a pedestal, it was a delightf One of my favourite experiences when reading history is a book on a topic that holds no interest for me initially, which completely pulls me in and makes me an obsessive about that particular topic. This is certainly a shining example of exactly such a book. Delivered with Duncan's marvelous conversational tone, the book contains a riveting story about a fascinating man. Our world is lacking in heroes, and as society is occupied with pulling every hero they can from a pedestal, it was a delightful change to read the story of a man who, while he has his stains, can be placed in position of hero. The title, indeed, is apt. Tone is perfect, research is expansive and detailed, and the subject is enthralling. Read this book!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Brian Mikołajczyk

    Gilbert du Motier, the Marquis de Lafayette, was a hero of the American Revolution, the French Revolutions of 1789 and 1830, and a world-renown proponent of Liberty everywhere and slave abolition. Raised in the milieu of the French aristocracy, Lafayette was an outcast. He didn't fit into the balls and dances of his contemporaries. He decided to join the army to make something of himself. After being laid-off by the King from the army along with many other aristocrat officers, he joined an expedi Gilbert du Motier, the Marquis de Lafayette, was a hero of the American Revolution, the French Revolutions of 1789 and 1830, and a world-renown proponent of Liberty everywhere and slave abolition. Raised in the milieu of the French aristocracy, Lafayette was an outcast. He didn't fit into the balls and dances of his contemporaries. He decided to join the army to make something of himself. After being laid-off by the King from the army along with many other aristocrat officers, he joined an expedition to America to help in the American Revolutionary War. After being appointed a General, Lafayette showed his skills in the Battle of Brandywine and solidified his position as a hero of the revolution. He didn't stop there, though, after this battle he successfully lead the coalition to have France join the war against Britain on the side of the Colonies which ultimately won the war for the Americans. After the American revolution, he returned to France with honor and was seen by the aristocracy as a formidable power. He used this power to spread the message of liberty and egalitarianism in a country still ruled by a monarch. This eventually led to the start of the French Revolution which Lafayette guided and participated in. He survived Madame Guillotine, the Napoleonic Wars, and a five-year stint in an Austrian prison only to return to France and continue politicking (sometimes against his own will to retire) to ultimately participate in the revolution of 1830 culminating in the abolition of the monarchy. Truly a Hero of Two Worlds. An excellent read!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Stacy

    Hero of Two Worlds is a biography of Gilbert du Motier, better known as the Marquis de Lafayette, hero of the American Revolution who went on to try to bring similar ideals to France. As the title might suggest, the biography focuses more on Lafayette's influences on the American and French Revolutions and how the public of both countries viewed the man, less on his personal life. Mike Duncan, the author did a phenomenal job of researching this book, providing an objective look at Lafayette's li Hero of Two Worlds is a biography of Gilbert du Motier, better known as the Marquis de Lafayette, hero of the American Revolution who went on to try to bring similar ideals to France. As the title might suggest, the biography focuses more on Lafayette's influences on the American and French Revolutions and how the public of both countries viewed the man, less on his personal life. Mike Duncan, the author did a phenomenal job of researching this book, providing an objective look at Lafayette's life, and narrating the audiobook. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about Lafayette. Many thanks to NetGalley for providing me an ARC of this book.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Denson

    "Most of life is out of our hands. Both the road ahead and the road behind set by accident, fate, or luck. Lafayette's ancestors elevated themselves to noble status in the deep mists of the medieval past. This allowed a boy born eight hundred years later to have opportunities, privileges, and comforts denied his closest neighbors, those peasants over whom he legally reigned thanks to a prevailing social ideology planted deep in the minds of everyone." "Lafayette's ability to foresee the direction "Most of life is out of our hands. Both the road ahead and the road behind set by accident, fate, or luck. Lafayette's ancestors elevated themselves to noble status in the deep mists of the medieval past. This allowed a boy born eight hundred years later to have opportunities, privileges, and comforts denied his closest neighbors, those peasants over whom he legally reigned thanks to a prevailing social ideology planted deep in the minds of everyone." "Lafayette's ability to foresee the direction of events and positions himself as a leader well ahead of the herd was a hallmark of his early career. His prescience and foresight were unerring. Right up until the moment they weren't." The marquis de Lafayette is one of the best examples of a historical figure that lived during "interesting times." Being personally involved in three revolutions, from his ventures as a teenager in the continental army during the American War of Independence to his influential position during the July Revolution when he was in his 70's. In between those were also his years involved in the varying stages of the French Revolution, and Napoleon's reign. Mike Duncan could not have chosen a better figure for a book that functions essentially as a companion to his Revolutions podcast. The style of Duncan's biography is notable for two reasons. The first is the refusal to devolve into a "great man" narrative that so many biographies descend into. Lafayette was, after all, only able to carry out his initial ventures due to the historical accident of having being born to a bloodline that was elevated to noble status centuries prior. Duncan also points out the young Lafayette's acceptance of slavery, which Lafayette himself would come to see as an embarrassing view in his later years as he evolved into an ardent abolitionist. Likewise, there is his lifelong ignorance of (or refusal to accept) the harm that American colonists were already doing to the indigenous populace. Lafayette's hypocrisies, and contradictions, are not shied away from. Even the ending pages, where the news of Lafayette death is greeted by sorrow and touching eulogies from many on both continents, are complimented by harsh words by his critics from Napoleon himself to Lafayette's dissonance with a new generation of revolutionaries. This intriguingly crafts a more realistic picture of the man, rather than merely lionizing him. Even the Hero of Two Worlds was never universally adored, nor free from enemies. The other stylistic feature is the attention paid to the routes not taken for one reason or another. Thus, the reader will learn of nebulous plans to incite a rebellion in Ireland or disrupt British holdings in the Caribbean during the American Revolution, which never came to fruition, but were options being considered at the time. Similarly, Lafayette's hopes for the course of the French Revolution at differing points are set forth, usually being comically misguided with how events actually unfolded. This aspect of speaking of such historical dead ends, and false predictions against the backdrop of what actually happened crafts a narrative that is relentlessly in tune with much of the contemporary feelings of these years. Lafayette, as with all other figures, was entirely ignorant of the future course of events, and so it only makes logical sense to write history in a manner that is flavored by such possibilities, rather than the dry tact of only describing what did actually happen. Overall, Duncan's biography of Lafayette makes for entertaining, and insightful read. The characteristically detailed, but easy to understand, and lighthearted tone of Duncan's podcasts is evident throughout this work. Although it is a biography, Duncan goes to great lengths to contextualize Lafayette within his era. In doing so, the book simultaneously offers up a fragmentary picture of life during these decades. This seems another intentional aspect of the book, as it refuses to give way to another pitfall of the biographic genre: the myopic focus on only the historical figure in question. The principal subject is, of course, the life of Lafayette. Yet, that life, as with every other human life, was shaped both by the forces of internal personal inclination, and external historical, cultural, and sociological forces. Both elements are woven together here, though with a particularly attention to the latter as an excellent reminder against individualistic assumptions about one's life being solely in their own hands. After all, various events and decisions reveal the degree to which Lafayette own personal inclinations were influenced, and molded by such forces beyond his control. He was both a product of his age, and a maverick in equal measures.

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