Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
Lafayette, a French aristocrat, made important contributions to the success of the Revolutionary War, including his role as a strategist for the Yorktown campaign and his diplomatic work in securing French aid for the struggling American forces.
On this date, the Marquis de Lafayette, the French general and Revolutionary War hero, became the first foreign dignitary
to address the House of Representatives in its chamber. This is often considered to be the first address by a foreign dignitary before a Joint Meeting of Congress, however, Lafayette met with the House and Senate separately a day apart during his visit to Washington, D.C. Lafayette’s relationship with the U.S. Congress traced back to the war for independence. In 1777, the Continental Congress granted Lafayette a military commission. “Whereas, the Marquis de la Fayette, out of his great zeal to the cause of liberty, in which the United States are engaged, has left his family and connexions, and, at his own expence, come over to offer his service to the United States, without pension or particular allowance, and is anxious to risque his life in our cause,” the legislation read, “Resolved, That his service be accepted . . . [and that he] have the rank and commission of major general in the army of the United States.” Lafayette forged a lasting friendship with General George Washington
and remained highly regarded by the Congress. On the occasion of the centennial of his death in 1934, Congress honored the memory of its friend with a Joint Session
at which President Franklin D. Roosevelt presided.