Lafayette, Citizen of America

Foreign male heirs of Marquis de Lafayette, the French military officer who led the colonies in Revolutionary War battles, were to be granted Maryland citizenship in perpetuity by a 1784 state law. Would that stand in the federal government’s eyes?

In 1919, when this New York Times article was written, the answer was still unclear — but it was clarified soon enough, based on two cases in 1936 and 1955.

The first was Count René de Chambrun, whose claim was rejected on an individual basis by the State Department. The second was Count Edward Perrone di San Martino, where the State Department officially ruled that any foreign male heir of Lafayette could be only granted honorary citizenship, which didn’t officially count for legal purposes.

Of course, modern audiences know Lafayette best from the insanely fast-rapping portrayal by Daveed Diggs in Hamilton:

Lafayette, Citizen of America: Maryland Legislature Conferred Franchise Upon Him and His Male Heirs Forever — He Rests in American Soil

Published: Sunday, September 7, 1919

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