This memorial commemorates the Marquis Gilbert de Lafayette, a French nobleman who at the age of twenty crossed the Atlantic to fight for American Independence, despite a royal decree prohibiting French officers from joining the Continental Army. Lafayette was commissioned as a Major General and he became a member of General George Washington's staff. During his return to France in 1779, Lafayette helped secure 6,000 French troops for the American cause. Lafayette returned to the colonies in 1780, and in 1781, Lafayette and his men fought in the Battle of Yorktown, which led eventually to the British surrender and the end of the Revolutionary War.
Created by sculptors Jean Alexandre Joseph Falquière and Marius Jean Antonin Merci and architect Paul Pujol, this elaborate monument is composed of a statue of Lafayette surrounded by four additional bronze figural groups placed lower down on the marble pedestal. The standing portrait statue of Lafayette depicts him civilian dress, but carrying a sword, petitioning the French National Assembly for assistance for the Americans. On the south pedestal face, a draped nude bronze figure, symbolizing America, turns toward him and imploringly lifts up a sword. The standing figures on the east and west faces of the pedestal represent French military leaders, including Comte d'Estaing and Comte de Grasse who commmanded the French naval forces, and the Comte de Rochambeau and the Chevalier du Portail who led the French Army in America. On the north face of the pedestal, two bronze cherubs point to a cartouche bearing the inscription of commemoration.
The monument was erected by Congress at the cost of $50,000 under an Act approved March 3, 1885 (23 Stat. 508). Work on the memorial finished in April 1891. Now owned by the National Park Service, the monument is located in Lafayette Park at the corner of Pennsylvania Ave. and Madison Place, N.W.