Lafayette on slavery Essay

Lafayette on slavery

            French man Marquis de Lafayette was only nineteen when he came to America in 1777 to help win its independence.  He returned in 1824 as an honored “Guest” of a grateful nation.  He was overwhelmed by the warm reception of the American people that he felt it inappropriate to speak against slavery in public.  What he did instead was to meet with African Americans to show his deep concern for them.  He visited Blacks schools, Black war veterans of the American Revolution and the American Colonization Society of which he was made permanent vice-president.  The American Colonization Society was established to repatriate freed slaves to Africa.  In his fourteen months of travel to 24 states of the union, called the “Farewell Tour,” he took the occasion to meet in private with Thomas Jefferson and James Madison and seriously discuss the issue of slavery.  Lafayette was strongly for liberty, emancipation and equality of every man that made him remarked that he “would never have drawn my sword in the cause of America if I could have conceived that thereby I was founding a land of slavery.”

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            Lafayette saw that there was no strong opposition to slavery.  White Americans did not believe in equality because they considered the African slaves from a far inferior race.  In order not to create trouble with slaveholders the non-slaveholders did not help the Africans out of slavery.  Slaves continue to endure beatings and branding to force docility among them.  The 1st Article “that all men are born free and equal” in the Declaration of Rights ran contrary to the reality of slavery.  Of the 24 states, only 13 had abolished slavery.  There was no hope for Africans to ever become free under those circumstances of prejudice.  Slave owners did not give the children of the slaves an education to improve their lives and prepare them for a life away from slavery.  Southern states laws did not intend to end slavery in any certain and definite time.  More than harsh treatment that they suffered, their continued ignorance almost sealed their future to a life of slavery.  The Blacks were continued to be discriminated upon because of their color and were not given credit for the value of the work they did for their owners and to the progress of society.

            Slavery in the United States had evolved from the time slaves were imported from Africa to work in plantations that produced crops like sugar, tobacco, coffee and cotton.  A few Native Americans were made slaves but they managed to escape as they were familiar with the terrain.  Indentured servants from Europe made their way to America for better work opportunities.  Slaves were made to clear forests, hunt for food, guard properties, and work in plantations.  They also worked as nurses, as servants in slave owners’ homes and engage in furniture making and carpentry.  Slaves in the US formed a great minority and shared living quarters with up to 50 other slaves.  They experienced a population growth that in time local labor demand had no need to import slaves from Africa.  With the rise of egalitarianism in America, slavery was slowly abolished.  In some places like Delaware, there was an immediate abolition of slavery, in Pennsylvania emancipation was done gradually, in the Northwest Territories slavery was completely banned, in the Constitutional Convention importation of slaves was outlawed.  Several laws and emancipation acts were enacted that ultimately freed slaves.

            With the sharp demand for cotton in the world market 1 million slaves worked in cotton plantations.  Those in the coastal states, slaves worked on a task-basis, where they had to work on a daily task until completion.  They were free to use the time, after job completion, to their desire.  The children, the elderly and the weak were assigned with light tasks mostly in the home of the owners.

            Slavery was so entrenched in the American way of life at that time that owners acted as guardians and provided for their slaves’ food, clothing, housing and medical care.  The owners also took it upon themselves to meddle in the affairs of the slaves, including decisions to get married.  Slaves were not allowed to live their lives in the way they saw fit.


Levasseur, Auguste.  “Lafayette in America in 1824 and 1825.”  Journal of a Voyage

            to the United States.  Book accessed online.  Available on Google Book Search

            Accessed November 13, 2008 at

Kolchin, Peter.  “Slavery in the United States.”  Microsoft Encarta® Online Encyclopedia

2008.    Accessed on November 13, 2008 at