The Marquis de Lafayette was heavily involved in three Revolutions in his lifetime, the American Revolution in which he risked losing his lands and fortune in France, the French Revolution, in which he did lose them for a time, and the July Revolution of 1830. He was one of the writers of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, with the assistance of Thomas Jefferson, who was in Paris when the French Revolution began. Following the fall of the Bastille Lafayette was placed in command of the National Guard in Paris. The National Guard was essentially a police force and militia, also serving as a reserve for the army.
Lafayette was as much a hero in France as he was in America when the French Revolution began. This was largely because he had so clearly served in support of the common man in the American Revolution. But he was also a nobleman and member of the aristocracy. This caused him to be viewed with suspicion by both sides throughout the turmoil of the Revolution. As head of the National Guard he was responsible for the protection of the King and his family after the monarchy was abolished, which as time and events piled up became more and more an incarceration. When the King and his family attempted to flee to Varennes (Lafayette had ordered the Guard not to hinder them) he was condemned by the revolutionaries as a traitor to the people. Lafayette’s role in the near escape of the Royal Family led to his condemnation by many as well.
After serving with the French Army in command of an Army opposing the Austrians Lafayette returned to Paris where he argued against the growing excesses of the Revolutionary government. He was condemned as a traitor by Robespierre and an order for Lafayette’s arrest was issued. He fled to the Austrian Netherlands (Belgium today) and attempted to gain passage to America. Instead he was imprisoned by the Austrians. The monarchies of the coalition considered Lafayette a dangerous revolutionary and held him for trial. Lafayette used his American citizenship to contact Jefferson and arrange for sufficient funds to allow him to survive.
Jefferson managed to get him some money and Lafayette attempted to escape, failed, and was imprisoned in solitary confinement in Vienna. His wife and two daughters were imprisoned in France. Once again American diplomats intervened, acquiring American passports for his wife Adrienne and their daughters, as well as permission for them to join Lafayette in Vienna. American influence helped, but it was General Bonaparte who negotiated freedom for Lafayette after five years of imprisonment as part of the Treaty of Campo Formio.
The French government demanded a loyalty oath from Lafayette, to the government not to France, and he refused. They confiscated and sold his remaining estates. Lafayette was thus impoverished and stateless, and the French refused to allow him to leave for the United States. When Bonaparte achieved complete control of the government he returned some of Lafayette’s former estates, though Lafayette wanted nothing to do with the government created by Bonaparte. The American Revolution covered Lafayette with glory, the French cost him all he had originally risked to participate in the former.