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 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
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