Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Value of Humility

Lafayette had two other qualities that recommended him to Washington and his fellow officers, qualities that were not often found in combination: a conscientious devotion to his success and reputation, and the willingness to acknowledge his limits and mistakes. ...

About a week after he met Washington, Lafayette [then only 19 years old] was invited to a review of the troops. There he saw what he later described as "eleven thousand men poorly armed and even more poorly clothed." Washington must have seen his army through Lafayette's eyes that day, because as they reviewed the troops together he said, "we should be embarrassed to show ourselves to an officer who has just left the French army." Lafayette later wrote that his response to this observation cemented their relationship. "I am here to learn," he told Washington, "not to teach."

James B. Gaines, For Liberty and Glory: Washington, Lafayette, and Their Revolutions (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2007), pp 69-70.

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