Skip to comments.French vs American Revolutions -- Vive La Différence!
Posted on 07/19/2012 3:29:55 PM PDT by Aspenhuskerette
The French celebrated Bastille Day last week, 219 years after beheading Marie Antoinette in the French Revolution's Reign of Terror. To this day, she's the poster child for upper-class excess, entitlement and insensitivity the ultimate 1 percenter.
However, Think Again before believing every demonization you hear. In fact, though a privileged aristocrat, Marie Antoinette was not only a faithful Good Samaritan, she actually never uttered the notorious catchphrase Let them eat cake. Never mind social justice was at stake!
French revolutionaries declaring liberty, equality and fraternity ushered in an anti-democratic period of unlimited governmental power, civil strife and economic despair, though eventually Enlightenment principles transformed France into a vibrant democracy.
Today, France has Europe's most state-directed economy
(Excerpt) Read more at aspentimes.com ...
More like “La Difference’ Delenda Est”.
To be perfectly fair to the French revolutionaries, something I’m not particularly fond of being, America had it easy.
The French had to put their Revolution through in the teeth of massive foreign invasion and armed domestic resistance. We were at peace when we worked up our Constitution.
That said, I basically agree with the author. Every bad political notion of the last 200 years was given a road show tryout in the French Revolution.
I would also object to the author’s contention that the eventual triumph of democracy in France was due to Enlightenment principles. The problem here is that every single one of the French revolutionaries thought he was implementing the Enlightenment, and ready to kill anyone who had a different opinion on how to go about it. This was the French Enlightenment. Voltaire, Rousseau and that bunch.
The American Revolution, OTOH, was largely based on English and Scottish Enlightenment principles. Two very different kettles of fish.
Our revolution was led by different men, particularly, George Washington, who was twice offered great power, and twice turned it down.
Ann Barnhardt has something to say about the French Revolution, and it’s not flattering.
liberty, equality and fraternity became
liberty, equality and fraternity or death
French Revolution= epic failure. 5 republics, interspersed with several dictatorships. And winding up with socialism to boot.
They didn’t heed Nadison’s warning:
In framing a system which we wish to last for ages, we should not lose sight of the changes which ages will produce. An increase of population will of necessity increase the proportion of those who will labor under all the hardships of life, and secretly sigh for a more equal distribution of its blessings. These may in time outnumber those who are placed above the feelings of indigence. According to the equal laws of suffrage, the power will slide into the hands of the former. No agrarian attempts have yet been made in this country, but symptoms of a leveling spirit, as we have understood, have sufficiently appeared in a certain quarters to give notice of the future danger.
Their revolution was not the creation of something new, as ours was, but a mere redistribution of the existing feudal wealth and powers.
As all systems but ours are.
good story at that link
Think I`m gonna put the Scarlet Pimpernel in the player
And after all that French revolutionary bloodshed, eleven years later they were back to an emperor named Napoleon. That is completely bizarre...
The American colonies seceded from England, but the elite in the colonies remained elite and the elite in England also remained the elite. Thus it was not a Revolution at all.
Theirs was in the 1700’s...
Ours is next year!
Thousands of loyalists would disagree. And even some of those elites who remained would be ruined as time went on.
It doesn’t appear people commenting actually read the column. It’s really about how French statist policies have been adopted in the US over the last 100 years and how they’re coming to a head now in the US. Also, the parallel between Marie-Antoinette and Mitt Romney (both wealthy and unfairly demonized) is key.
It was such a disaster Napolean Bonaparte was a breath of fresh air.
The article does become more interesting as it comtinues and turns topical.
“French revolutionaries declaring liberty, equality and fraternity ushered in an anti-democratic period of unlimited governmental power, civil strife and economic despair.”
‘Anti-democratic’? Nothing’s more democratic than a mob- a mob is the epitome of democracy. And unfettered democracy always, always produces dictatorship to provide a countering order in society so it can function and individuals have ‘rights’. Rights are exceptions to the ‘leveling spirit’ of democracy.
The belief that democracy is good in itself is a fallacy, it is ‘good’ as part of a mixed system.
(Yes I’m very irritated when the terrible aspects of democracy are denied as in the quote. Democracy is a mob where the strong in numbers take from the few.)
The French needed to tear down their feudal society and they never did- though they certainly tried!
We did not have to tear down what we had, we had only to grow on new ways to what we had, which was pretty good.
The statist policies we’ve adopted in the past generation are indeed the consequence of the increased democratization of our government. Naturally.
‘parallel between Marie-Antoinette and Mitt Romney ‘
didn’t catch that. Nice subliminal touch.
Yes, the modern political tragedy started in France.
Got to fly - see tagline.
And what is even more bizarre is that the French think that he is the greatest Frenchman who ever lived.
Seen the edifice they built for him?
You are approximately correct with regard to local effect. Although a great many of the colonial elite remained Loyal to the King, and for them presonally it certainly was a revolution.
Our Revolution was, however, most definitely a “revolution” from a world history POV. As can be seen from its defining language, the most revolutionary statement in human history. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, etc.”
From a purely provincial POV our Revolution was more or less a continuation and completion of the Glorious Revolution of 1688, which turned Britain into a constitutional monarchy. Our revolt was a conservative revolution to protect the threatened principles of the 1688 revolution.
Give the last word to Washingtons great adversary, King George III. The king asked his American painter, Benjamin West, what Washington would do after winning independence. West replied, They say he will return to his farm.
If he does that, the incredulous monarch said, he will be the greatest man in the world.
The king was right.
Depends on your definition of "great."
The most objective definition is determined by the person's impact on history, not their goodness.
By that definition all the "great" monsters of history were great men. Alexander, Atilla, Hitler, Mao, Stalin, Lenin, etc.
Napoleon was not a good man, by any definition I can think of. But he most definitely was a great man, with great accomplishments in multiple fields. Military, law, civil administration, armed robbery, looting, etc.
And he was probably the greatest soldier of all time. France had for centuries been fighting with its neighbors over a few square miles of borderland. Under Napoleon it conquered all of Europe. Were it not for 10 miles of saltwater, he might have conquered the entire world.
Though to be fair the revolutionary regime had already performed astonishing military feats before Napo came along.
“The American ‘Revolution’ wasn’t really a Revolution “
That’s the way the Marxists like to portray it.
But, to the contrary, it was much more a revolution than those that exchange one absolute power elite for another, as did the French and Russian, it put in place a Constitution that based tenure on election, rather than accident of birth, and that was a revolutionary idea in the 18th century.
One crucial difference between the French and American revolutions is that the French revolutionaries killed their wealthy aristocrats, and then fought over the division of the loot. In the American revolution, it was property owners (even a small farmer was a property owner) who wanted to prevent the Crown from taxing them dry.
“Were it not for ten miles of salt water....”
You seem to forget the Russian winter.
As in WWII, had the continental tyrant been able to eliminate all opposition on the western front before turning to the eastern front, things might have turned out very differently.
It is generally accepted among historians that the British were the most effective opponents of Napoleon, that indeed the Continental System he attempted to force on his “allies” was the main cause of the war with Russia.
Not so much. The Glorious Revolution of the previous century had given ultimate power to the electorate in Britain. The electorate, to be sure, was a rather small subset of the population, but the principle was obviously one that would be expanded. And Britain was more or less the only country where it applied, the rest of Europe being absolutist.
Our revolution was essentially an attempt to maintain these principles against what the colonists saw as threats.
The truly revolutionary idea was that "all men are created equal." Not just a privileged electorate.
Revolutions often start out with those principles, but devolve into civil war and military dictatorship. Ours could have gone that way, and a lesser man in charge would have staged a military coup when his officers demanded it of him.
Our revolutionaries included some radicals, called at the time levellors, but, cooler heads prevailed, and we had George Washington in charge of the army.