This week I became a resident of Lafayette, Colorado. When I moved to Colorado in 1993, I figured this day was only a matter of time. In 1985 and 1986, during my senior year at the University of Georgia, I wrote my Senior History Thesis on "Marquis de Lafayette as an Example of a Moderate in a Revolution".
Okay I realized I lost anyone who happened to be reading this. Hang with me. It's a long post but hopefully interesting.
So that fall quarter of 1985, I had a "French Revolution and Napoleon" class taught by Dr. Warren Spencer. Dr. Spencer, who the year before was awarded the department honor of History Professor of the year and was notoriously a difficult professor, was also my Senior Seminar Professor. Senior Seminar was a class I had all year where all the History majors would sit in a seminar room and discuss theories of history and research. We had to write this major thesis and then we would read everyone's and critique their scholarly worth. The thesis would be like a scale below a Master's Thesis but pretty major not like a normal term paper.
Anyway in the French Rev. class, I remember one day Dr. Spencer mentioned that Marquis de Lafayette, the hero of the American Revolution, had a role in some of the intial reforms that snowballed into the French Revolution and the chaos that followed. I was intrigued because somehow I wasn't aware of his role in the French Revolution so I wrote my term paper for that class on "Marquis de Lafayette's role in the French Revolution".
I got an "A" in the class... one of only three people, I might add. I went one day to Dr. Spencer's office to discuss a topic for my senior seminar thesis. I was thinking of writing on some obscure person who lead some reforms in England but he suggested I extend the paper I had already written. He went on to say that through reading my term paper that he had learned some things that he didn't know before about Lafayette's role in the French Revolution. I was floored. This top History professor at Georgia had learned something from my research. (Okay I realized this whole paragraph is boasting but its part of the story.)
So Dr. Spencer gives me this book by someone who I have long forgotten who theorized that all revolutions go through certain stages and basically that they begin when a moderate from the ruling class sides with the oppressed class. It transitions into a republican (people empowered) form of government but then radicals take over and the revolution can become chaotic. So for example someone like Gorbachev in Soviet Union would be a moderate. He brought about Perostroka (economic restructing) and Glasnost (political openness) but it snowballed and low and behold the Soviet Union broke up, Yeltsin took power etc.
Anyway I lived Lafayette my senior year. I read his memoirs (translated to English from French of course), and countless other books about him. Some books were only on microfiche or rare manuscripts. I skipped other classes to study Lafayette. I lived at the library. I wish I could remember all the reforms he helped bring about. I remember he was the first to speak for the emancipation of the black man in France, though a Catholic was the first to bring a Huguenot pastor before the Estates General (Congress) to pray, was the author of the French equivalent of the Declaration of Independence, etc.
So back to being a new residence of Lafayette, Colorado. As Gen. Black Jack Pershing
said when he landed in France in WWI, "Lafayette, Here I am!" A number of towns in America are named in his honor. Though inexplectiablly in Georgia they pronounce it wrong. I figured of course Lafayette, Colorado is named after him....
Nope. It was named after Lafayette Miller
- the dead husband of the town founder - Mary Miller. Turns out Lafayette, CO was named after a butcher not a marquis.