Princeton University

Publication: A Princeton Companion

Lafayette, Marquis de

Lafayette, Marquis de, French soldier, statesman, and liberal leader, who was a general in the American Revolutionary army and a close friend of George Washington, was made an honorary Doctor of Laws by the Trustees of the College in 1790 in recognition of his contribution to the American cause of independence. His full name, as recorded in the official list of honorary graduates, was Marie Jean Paul Joseph Roche Yves Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette.

Its honorary degree having been conferred in absentia, the College took the occasion of a visit by Lafayette thirty-four years later to award him his diploma. He stopped at Princeton, on the way from New York to Washington, in September 1824, at the beginning of the triumphal American tour he made on the invitation of Congress. Soon after arrival (according to John Maclean, Jr., the Professor of Mathematics), the Marquis, his son George Washington Lafayette, and members of his escort were entertained at a ``very bountiful'' breakfast in the gaily decorated college refectory, ``then the largest room in town.'' Later, the Marquis was escorted to a circular canopy, which had been erected near the central gate of the front campus. Here, before a throng of students and people from the town and neighboring countryside, President Carnahan presented to Lafayette the doctor of laws diploma, which President Witherspoon had signed in 1790, in ceremonies at which the College's Peale portrait of Washington was conspiculously displayed.

From Alexander Leitch, A Princeton Companion, copyright Princeton University Press (1978).