Lafayette was born on September 6, 1757 in Auvergne, France. He attended the Collège du Plessis and a military academy, in keeping with his aristocratic heritage. Seeking adventure, he Lafayette was born on September 6, 1757 in Auvergne, France. He attended the Collège du Plessis and a military academy, in keeping with his aristocratic heritage. Seeking adventure, he joined the Continental Army in 1777. He funded his own ship for the transatlantic passage. In America, he served without pay and provided for his troops out of his own pocket. He fought at Brandywine and Gloucester, wintered at Valley Forge, and accompanied the Monmouth and then the southern campaigns, fighting at Yorktown, where the British surrendered.
After the Revolution, Lafayette encouraged the tenets of republicanism in his home country. He wrote the Declaration of the Rights of Men (which he equated with the Declaration of Independence) and presented it to the National Assembly. However, the combination of his aristocratic heritage and his republican politics made him suspect both to the growing revolutionary faction in France and to traditional monarchists. In 1792, he and his family were imprisoned (which probably saved them from the guillotine). They spent the next five years outside of France. During Napoleon's reign in 1799, Lafayette secured his family's release. He retired to his home near Paris, where he continued to write in support of countries engaged in political reform.
Lafayette returned to America in 1824 on the eve of the Revolution's 50th anniversary. He toured the U.S. for several months. He was hailed as the triumphant hero of the Revolution and the fond companion of Washington. In gratitude for his support during the Revolution, the U.S. government gave him $200,000 and a large tract of land in Florida. Returning to France, he spent the next decade speaking publicly about liberty. He died near Paris on May 20, 1834 and was buried under a mound of earth that he had brought to France from Bunker Hill.