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Prisoner of State

Paul S. Spalding

A harrowing account of how a champion of liberty became the world's most famous political prisoner

Lafayette: Prisoner of State is the first book-length study of the five-year captivity of Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, by a coalition of Austrian and Prussian forces during the French Revolution, including international efforts to win his release. Paul S. Spalding constructs this original history of Lafayette's imprisonment by drawing in part on extensive manuscript collections in America and Europe, some of which have only recently been made available to researchers.

The "hero of two worlds," Lafayette is widely known as the French marquis who fought alongside the colonials in the American Revolution and then played a leading role in the early stages of the French Revolution. He is much less remembered for having spent five years as a political prisoner, but his incarceration was a matter of great notoriety at the time. In August 1792 radical Jacobins overturned the young French constitution and began massacring opponents. While fleeing for his life, Lafayette fell into the hands of Austrian and Prussian troops intent on invading France and restoring the monarchy. A special tribunal decided that Lafayette was too dangerous to release and declared him a prisoner of state. Thereafter he was moved through a series of prisons in western and central Europe from 1792 to 1797. During this time Lafayette's supporters on both sides of the Atlantic actively campaigned for his release, eventually championing his cause before the British Parliament, the U.S. Congress, France's Directory and Councils, and European peace talks in northern Italy. Lafayette's imprisonment became a cause of international debate, moving France to demand his release as a condition of European peace.

Using firsthand accounts, police and military records, and private correspondence, Spalding delineates both public and covert efforts to gain Lafayette's release by negotiation or force, including the prominent role of South Carolinians Thomas Pinckney, for a time the dean of America's ambassadors, and Francis Kinloch Huger, a medical student turned secret agent. Spalding's research also provides a case study in how dedicated men and women, most without political office, can frustrate statesponsored efforts to suppress dissent and dissenters.

author Paul SpaldingPaul S. Spalding is the Joel Scarborough Professor of Religion at Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois, and an officer of the American Friends of Lafayette. He is the author of Seize the Book, Jail the Author: Johann Lorenz Schmidt and Censorship in Eighteenth-Century Germany.




"In the grand tradition of Louis Gottschalk-Lafayette's greatest twentieth-century biographer- Spalding has produced an extensively sourced, virtually day-by-day account of Lafayette's imprisonment in Germany and Austria from 1792 to 1797. In this tour de force, we get to follow Lafayette as he flees Jacobin France only to be imprisoned by royalist Europe lest he infect it with his radical ideas. Spalding touches all the bases-the flight, the imprisonment, the botched escape, the arrival of Madame Lafayette, the propaganda campaign waged by Lafayette's friends and, finally, the release. Moreover, he captures Lafayette, who had lived an almost frenetically activist life, as he heroically copes with mind-numbing and body-weakening confinement from which he emerges principles intact and completely unbowed. As Lafayette himself said in Philadelphia during his Farewell Tour of America nearly thirty years after his release, he was imprisoned for wanting to revolutionize the people against despotism and aristocracy, he spend his imprisonment dreaming of this, and he emerged unimproved in this regard."—Alan. R. Hoffman, president, Massachusetts Lafayette Society

"This carefully researched book provides a definitive account of the least-known period in Lafayette's long life, but Spalding's extraordinary knowledge of eighteenth-century documents also shows how a transnational "Fayettist" network in the 1790s created a new political model for modern campaigns to free political prisoners. Spalding persuasively argues that the international movement to liberate Lafayette from an Austrian prison became a well-publicized component of broader, revolutionary-era struggles for human rights. This excellent history of Lafayette thus offers new perspectives on the meaning and legacy of the French Revolution as well as fascinating stories about the specific campaign to help a famous victim of political repression."—Lloyd Kramer, author of Lafayette in Two Worlds: Public Cultures and Personal Identities in an Age of Revolutions

"This is a well-crafted work of history framed as a dramatic story played out across an international stage. Based on archival research in eight countries, Spalding gives a spirited account of the imprisonment for political reasons, the bungled escape, and the eventual liberation of colonial America's favorite Frenchman. The book shows how hard it was to keep the Marquis de Lafayette isolated. He and his fellow prisoners whistled and secretly wrote their way around the elaborate efforts of old-style monarchies to block their communication with each other and with the world beyond their prison cells."—Frederik Ohles, president, Nebraska Wesleyan University




6 x 9
392 pages
30 illustrations
ISBN 978-1-57003-911-9
hardcover, $59.95s
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