Skip to comments.History Channel: The French Revolution
Posted on 01/18/2005 9:44:13 AM PST by Borges
Did anyone catch this the other night? The common attempt to link the American revolution and the French was certainly not present here. The differences couldn't be more blunt. Robespierre, Marat and the rest of their gang were nothing less then brutal totalitarian mass murderers.
I HATE THE BLASTED FROGS!!!!!
I've always maintained that the French revolution was the first comunist revolution.
Marx was a latecomer.
One of the historians wrote a book called "In Defense of Marx".
Yes, I've watched about half of it. Excellent, so far. No mention yet of Burke and the founding of modern conservatism -- no doubt this is extensively covered in conjunction with the desciption of the Terror.
Yes, I've watched about half of it. Excellent, so far. No mention yet of Burke and the founding of modern conservatism -- no doubt this is extensively covered in conjunction with the description of the Terror.
The French have always been revolting.
The most famous instrument of the French revolution was the guillotine. The most famous instrument of the US revolution was a piece of paper.
It was very much mentioned. Along with their efforts to change calenders and establish worship of the 'Goddess of Reason'.
"YEh...they stink on ice!" Louis XVI
i think they did an excellent job with it. in addition to the french revolution, watching it gave me the sick feeling that i was witnessing the birth of modern liberalism. they even attempted to start their own religion. the goddess of virtue? yikes! what a screwed up country.
I'm guessing it was to excuse him from the atrocities commited in his name. I'm a big believer in personal responsiblity and don't blame a bitter, cranky journalist for Lenin, Stalin and Mao's crimes. I blame them.
I saw the show and the common links I saw were between todays liberals and Robespierre. Robespierre controlled the press and tried to destroy the church. Sound familiar. He tried to replace the church with the "Supreme Being of Reason", which was himself. What a difference between America and France. How many innocent people were killed between Robespierre and Marat?
"The people love me......PULL!"
I loved the part when Robespierre took power and revoked the "Rights of Man." LOL
Also, one of the historians used language like "advancing the historical process" or some such dialectic codewords and I yelled "Marxist!" at my television. About half-an-hour later, he got a screen credit as author of "In Defense of Marx." LOLOL They're so predictable.
I stumbled accross this document while researching something else: http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/rightsof.htm I am amazed that the French have gotten SOOoooooo far off track from this obviously clear understanding of liberty. Just thought it would make good reading (even though it's from Yale)
Can't hang around 'cause my "bills" are blowing the work whistle.
There were significant phases to the French Revolution. It began moderately as an effort to create the kind of constitutional monarchy (1789-1792) put together (a century earlier) by the English after their civil war, with the death of Cromwell and restoration of Charles II to the throne. The idea was to place limits on the exercise of absolute power by a sovereign monarch and place a portion of that power into the hands of an English-style parliament.
The French Revolution was, in fact, a series of upheavals, perhaps most aptly described as a major revolution followed by a series of coups d'état.
"The Terror" of Robespierre didn't happen until 3 years after the Revolution, when the government moved into a radical mode, declaring a republic and abandoning the legislative/constituent assembly. It lasted 2-3 years.
The Revolution failed in many ways - most notably when it placed Napoleon Bonaparte in power, but it had many successes too. Raymond Betts of Brittanica.com sums it up nicely:
"It is not too much to say that the ideas of the French Revolution became the measure of what later characterized modern European society, both in principle and in institution. Most obviously, the Revolution established the principle of popular sovereignty in the place of absolutism, thus replacing the dynasty with the nation. Providing the first major nation in Europe with a written constitution and a code of political behavior--this was the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen--the revolutionaries, in the summer of the year 1789, had already converted the king's subject into the nation's citizen."
...which was later revealed in a painting commissioned by him to be . . . wait for it . . . Robespierre himself. Unintentionally hilarious.
You are correct. The US Revolution marked the beginning of the greatest free society in the world while the French Revolution marked the beginning of communism and the murder of millions of people simply because they had money or intelligence.
No kidding, I knew there was bloodshed, but good golly. There were killing anyone, left and right. What did they say, it got up to 80 or was it 800 beheadings a month?
Robespierre blew a fuse and became emblamatic of the problems he thought he was solving.
All that bloodshed. And wasn't the American Revolution the Revolution of Revolutions?
The American and French revolutions have a lot more in common than many American conservatives are willing to admit. They were both products of the Enlightenment and, from a contemporary point-of-view, left-wing in their outlook. Of course, royalist and anti-Enlightenment conservatism has never really existed in America.
The ads turned me off--now I wish I had seen it.
Was is a straight documentary or were there actors playing some roles?
What I find upsetting is how some liberal professors think that the Reign of Terror was perfectly okay because it saved the revolution. That is total BS. It was basically executing people and confiscating their possessions.
These same people are against some revolutions though, like the 1994 Republican Revolution or the Reagan Revolution.
Is it possible to give credence to a dialectical approach to history and not be a communist? I think a Hegelian dialectic works well enough (thesis + antithesis = synthesis which becomes a new thesis) and doesn't mean you assume that the end result of that 'historical process' will be communism. I say the end result is a Constitutional Republic!
I failed to read about the American version of mass executions by beheading in Boston public square.
"It's good to be the King."
This is similar to Burkes quote, "Better to be trod on with a satin slipper than a hobnailed boot." (Quote picked up on FR some time ago.)
Later, Jefferson repented and said he was wrong about the French Revolution. Jefferson was wrong in many ways.
Thanks for the link...I believe it safe to say that the rationalism which came out of the French Revolution was an important part of the birth of socialism.
"The American and French revolutions have a lot more in common than many American conservatives are willing to admit. They were both products of the Enlightenment and, from a contemporary point-of-view, left-wing in their outlook. Of course, royalist and anti-Enlightenment conservatism has never really existed in America."
Absolutely, they were products of The Enlightenment, but I don't think "left-wing" is an accurate description of the political component of The Enlightenment. America got a lot of the Blame from the Nobility of Europe for "inspiring" the French Revolution - it was seen as a natural result of "Mob Rule": what happens when the ignorant masses are allowed to run their own lives in selfish ignorance.
I'd argue it had more to do with the English Civil War than the American Revolution.
I should have watched it, since I am woefully under-educated on the matter, beyond reading 'A Tale of Two Cities' and an old Black Adder episode ridiculing the Scarlet Pimpernel. :)
Did they talk about Lafayette's participation?
"Declaration of the Rights of Man - 1789
Approved by the National Assembly of France, August 26, 1789
The representatives of the French people, organized as a National Assembly, believing that the ignorance, neglect, or contempt of the rights of man are the sole cause of public calamities and of the corruption of governments, have determined to set forth in a solemn declaration the natural, unalienable, and sacred rights of man, in order that this declaration, being constantly before all the members of the Social body, shall remind them continually of their rights and duties; in order that the acts of the legislative power, as well as those of the executive power, may be compared at any moment with the objects and purposes of all political institutions and may thus be more respected, and, lastly, in order that the grievances of the citizens, based hereafter upon simple and incontestable principles, shall tend to the maintenance of the constitution and redound to the happiness of all. Therefore the National Assembly recognizes and proclaims, in the presence and under the auspices of the Supreme Being, the following rights of man and of the citizen:
1. Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be founded only upon the general good.
2. The aim of all political association is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man. These rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression.
3. The principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in the nation. No body nor individual may exercise any authority which does not proceed directly from the nation.
4. Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else; hence the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no limits except those which assure to the other members of the society the enjoyment of the same rights. These limits can only be determined by law.
5. Law can only prohibit such actions as are hurtful to society. Nothing may be prevented which is not forbidden by law, and no one may be forced to do anything not provided for by law.
6. Law is the expression of the general will. Every citizen has a right to participate personally, or through his representative, in its foundation. It must be the same for all, whether it protects or punishes. All citizens, being equal in the eyes of the law, are equally eligible to all dignities and to all public positions and occupations, according to their abilities, and without distinction except that of their virtues and talents.
7. No person shall be accused, arrested, or imprisoned except in the cases and according to the forms prescribed by law. Any one soliciting, transmitting, executing, or causing to be executed, any arbitrary order, shall be punished. But any citizen summoned or arrested in virtue of the law shall submit without delay, as resistance constitutes an offense.
8. The law shall provide for such punishments only as are strictly and obviously necessary, and no one shall suffer punishment except it be legally inflicted in virtue of a law passed and promulgated before the commission of the offense.
9. As all persons are held innocent until they shall have been declared guilty, if arrest shall be deemed indispensable, all harshness not essential to the securing of the prisoner's person shall be severely repressed by law.
10. No one shall be disquieted on account of his opinions, including his religious views, provided their manifestation does not disturb the public order established by law.
11. The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law.
12. The security of the rights of man and of the citizen requires public military forces. These forces are, therefore, established for the good of all and not for the personal advantage of those to whom they shall be intrusted.
13. A common contribution is essential for the maintenance of the public forces and for the cost of administration. This should be equitably distributed among all the citizens in proportion to their means.
14. All the citizens have a right to decide, either personally or by their representatives, as to the necessity of the public contribution; to grant this freely; to know to what uses it is put; and to fix the proportion, the mode of assessment and of collection and the duration of the taxes.
15. Society has the right to require of every public agent an account of his administration.
16. A society in which the observance of the law is not assured, nor the separation of powers defined, has no constitution at all.
17. Since property is an inviolable and sacred right, no one shall be deprived thereof except where public necessity, legally determined, shall clearly demand it, and then only on condition that the owner shall have been previously and equitably indemnified.
They stopped with the execution of Robespierre and his bunch. The focus wasn't so much on the wars going on at the time.
"The peasants are revolting!"
"Revolting? They are downright disgusting!" .......History of the World, part III
I'd had it with The History Channel's excess of commercials as well, Smarty, so I went out and got a DVR box from my cable company. It costs about $10 extra per month and it comes with HD capabilities. Now I record the shows I want to watch during their rebroadcast hours of Midnight to 3AM and blow through them later. Makes all the difference. I highly recommend it.
Hard to do the subject justice in two hours. The only real issues I had were the too-favorable treatment of Danton (a more personally likable character than Robespierre or St. Just, but ideologically very near as bad), and the failure to cover the Vendee rising of 17summer '93.
The comments up-thread that this was the first real communist goverment are well taken. Lenin said in so many words that the Bolsheviks had to be "the Jacobins of today".
I only mean to say that I personally have only heard the dialectical buzzwords in the context of Marxism. If other's use it, it's news to me.
Ouch, there goes progressive taxation! I wonder if Eric Engberg would have called the Rights of Man a 'wacky' proposal.
Well Hegel coined the 'dialectic' as far as I know. They call it the 'Hegelian dialectic'. But he meant it only as the progress of ideas. Marx applied it to material world and decided it was not ideas but economic classes that were fighting it out.
Well, I believe the origins of the left-right division are from the time of the French Revolution when the proponents of the Ancien Régime sat on the right side of the French National Assembly while the revolutionaries of the Third Estate sat on the left.
"There are three forms of life on earth.. The highest form of life are the plants becuase they are so attuned to their enviornment, the next lowest form of life are the animals includeing humans becuase of predation, but the lowest form of life on earth is the Frenchmen becuase of the terrible things they have done to their own people.. "
Isn't that the truth. In contrast to the American revolution, the French revolution was a violent absurdity. And isn't it interesting how it led directly to the emperorship of Napoleon? -- a foreshadowing of the Russian "people's" revolution which led to the dictatorship of Lenin and Stalin and the rest of the soviet Czars. This is a pattern that has repeated itself again and again. It reveals a lot about the true nature of socialism, which is elitist and authoritarian.
I hope to catch this History Channel show on rerun.