LAFAYETTE, Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de (1757-1834). Document signed ("Lafayette"), Paris, [France], 23 December 1806. 2 pages, folio, integral blank, WITH A CLEAR, INTACT IMPRESSION OF LAFAYETTE'S OVAL SEAL IN RED WAX, embossed seal of U.S. Commercial agent in Paris.
LAFAYETTE AUTHORIZES JAMES MADISON TO SELL HIS LANDS IN THE LOUISIANA TERRITORY
A fascinating handwritten document in which the Marquis de Lafayette grants James Madison, Secretary of State, power of attorney in the matter of his lands in America. Lafayette served admirably as a general in Washington's Army during the Revolutionary War, and his advocacy of American interests in France during and after the war was an equally valuable service to the nation. He refused a wartime salary, but in 1794 Congress awarded him $24,500 compensation. As a further expression of the nation's gratitude, Lafayette was granted 11,520 acres of land in the newly acquired Louisiana territory in 1803. Here Lafayette officially authorizes Madison to "sell, lien, transfer, convey, confirm and make over all the rights, title, interest and property that I now have in all and every of the lands granted to me by the Congress of the United States, and which have been or are to be located in Louisiana, in whole or by separate portions, to any person or persons whatever, as the price and upon the conditions he, my said attorney will deem most advantageous or expedient." He further authorizes Madison "to do or cause to be done in the premises all and every thing I would myself do, were I personally present, promising and obliging myself by these presents to approve, acknowledge and ratify the same."
Lafayette spent nearly $200,000 of his substantial fortune in support of the American Revolution. However, his great wealth was lost during the radical phase of the French Revolution when he was exiled from France and endured a five-year imprisonment in Prussia. His freedom brought various offers of political office from Napoleon and Thomas Jefferson (who promised him the governorship of Louisiana) all of which he refused. Unfortunately, his efforts to rebuild his shattered finances through the sale of his Louisiana lands failed to produce results until 1815.