Skip to comments.Two Revolutions, Two Views of Man
Posted on 07/25/2010 1:37:12 PM PDT by betty boop
TWO REVOLUTIONS, TWO VIEWS OF MAN
By Jean F. Drew
As every American schoolchild has been taught, in Western history there were two great sociopolitical revolutions that took place near the end of the eighteenth century: The American Revolution of 1775; and the French, of 1789. Children are taught that both revolutions were fought because of human rights in some way; thus bloody warfare possibly could be justified, condoned so long as the blood and treasure were shed to protect the rights of man. The American schoolchild is assured that the American and French revolutions were both devoted to the expansion of human rights and thus were equally noble revolutions. Moreover, it is widely believed that the French Revolution was an evolution from the American one.
Rather than simply accept these ideas uncritically, comparison and contrast of the two revolutions can shed some light on what turns out to be their stark differences as to inceptions, ostensible goals, foundational ideology, and respective outcomes.
There is a famous Pythagorean maxim (c. sixth century B.C.): The beginning is the half of the whole. That is to say, inception events have a way of profoundly influencing the course of events that follow from them; and so their analysis can give insight into the character of their development in time, and even of the motivations they configure. Less obviously, an inception event is itself the culmination of a train of social, political, and cultural development that finally erupts, or takes evident shape, as a concrete beginning, or precipitating event of what follows. At that point, a situation of no return has been reached: The fat is in the fire. There is no turning back .
And so, let us take a look at the beginnings of two revolutions:
In London George III and his cabinet, their confidence bolstered by their huge majority in Parliament, moved toward a confrontation with the Americans. On February 2, 1775, [Prime Minister Frederick, Lord] North introduced a motion to declare the province of Massachusetts in a state of rebellion and asked the King to take steps to support the sovereignty of England. The opposition, led by Edmund Burke, decried this move as a declaration of war. But the measure passed by a majority of three to one. George III was immensely pleased .
The King decided to send some 1,000 reinforcements to Boston, far short of the number that Governor General Thomas Gage had wanted.
The King and his ministers still refused to believe Gages assessment of the odds he faced . Colonel James Grant who had served in America, at one point in the same army with George Washington [in the French and Indian Wars] declared he was certain the Americans would never dare to face an English army. In this spirit the King ordered Lord Dartmouth to draft a letter telling Gage that it was time to act.
Gage promptly acted. Thanks to his spies, he knew that the Colonials were accumulating military stores at Concord, including large quantities of gunpowder. So Gage decided that a swift march on Concord to seize the powder as well as the fourteen cannon said to be in the town would have a crippling, even demoralizing impact on the Provincial Congresss plans to form an Army of Observation to pen the British inside Boston.
From this decision ensued, on April 19, 1775, the opening shot the shot heard round the world of the American Revolutionary War, at North Bridge, Concord, Massachusetts at about 8 oclock in the morning.
Although the Colonials already knew the British were coming to Concord and Lexington sooner or later, and for what purpose, and that the incursion would come by a night march (rare in that day) the Americans proved early to be remarkably effective spies what they did not know was the specific date, or whether the British forces would be moving by land over Boston Neck or by sea in longboats across the Back Bay. Hence the famous signal of one if by land, two if by sea posted at the Old North Church, wherein observers were keeping an eye on British troop movements.
It turned out to be two: The British forces, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith, were subsequently debarked at Cambridge across the Charles River, from longboats attached to H.M.S. Somerset then standing guard over the Boston Harbor ferryway. This was a force of some 700 men composed of light infantrymen and fearsome grenadiers. From thence the body proceeded overland, on a much shorter march than would have been the case had they approached Concord via Boston Neck. The route from Cambridge to Concord led straight through the heart of the neighboring town of Lexington.
As soon as the news came that the British were moving, Paul Revere set upon his famous midnight ride on a fast mare, traveling west at high speed to warn the people of Concord and the surrounding towns that the British were coming. Samuel Prescott and William Dawes likewise fanned out on horseback, spreading the alert to all within earshot.
The folks at Concord, having thus been warned, working feverishly overnight, managed to remove all the military stores to safe locations. The locals felt confident they could handle the threat: After all, the town had 600 drilled and trained Minutemen on spot, and there were some 6,000 other Minutemen and Militia a body composed of all able-bodied men between the ages of 15 and 60 within fairly easy reach of Concord town who were already pledged to come to her aid in the event of the outbreak of actual hostilities.
The people of Concord evidently figured a show of force would suffice to deter the British officers from doing anything rash. But really what they were relying on was their expectation based on their understanding of the so-far prevailing rules of engagement, frequently tested that British troops would never open fire on their fellow citizens i.e., the Colonials themselves, who were British subjects also unless they were fired upon first. And the Americans did not intend to fire first.
In this assessment of the situation on the ground, they were sadly mistaken. In the approach to Concord, the Brits had provoked a bloody engagement at Lexington Green in which the British light infantry unquestionably fired the first volleys, killing eight men and wounding ten. Then the British forces continued their march into Concord, to secure the bridges of the town: The British commander Smith had detached four squadrons to visit a prominent local farm to see whether contraband might be stashed there; and feared his troops could not safely return if the North Bridge were under the control of the Colonials. In defense of the bridge, the Brits again fired first. For a moment, the Americans could not believe this was happening. Goddamn it, one man shouted, They are firing ball! Then their commander, Major Buttrick, whirled and shouted, Fire fellow soldiers, for Gods sake fire. The Americans sustained six casualties at North Bridge, all fatal. On the British side, Two privates were killed and a sergeant, four privates and four officers were wounded.
Then the Brits cut their losses and in disorderly retreat high-tailed it back to the security of their barracks in Boston empty-handed. Their mission was a failure: They had not found, let alone confiscated, any military stores.
But the American Revolutionary War was officially ON .
* * * * * * *
History will record, that on the morning of the 6th of October 1789, the king and queen of France, after a day of confusion, alarm, dismay, and slaughter, lay down, under the pledged security of public faith, to indulge nature in a few hours of respite, and troubled melancholy repose. From this sleep the queen was first startled by the voice of the sentinel at her door, who cried out to her, to save herself by flight that this was the last proof of fidelity he could give that they were upon him, and he was dead. Instantly he was cut down. A band of cruel ruffians and assassins, reeking with his blood, rushed into the chamber of the queen, and pierced with an hundred strokes of bayonets and poniards the bed, from whence this persecuted woman had just time to fly almost half naked, and through ways unknown to the murderers had escaped to seek refuge at the feet of a king and husband, not secure of his own life for a moment.
This king and this queen, and their infant children (who once would have been the pride and hope of a great and generous people) were then forced to abandon the sanctuary of the most splendid palace in the world, which they left swimming in blood, polluted by massacre, and strewed with scattered limbs and mutilated carcasses. Thence they were conducted into the capital of their kingdom. Two had been selected from the unprovoked, unresisted, promiscuous slaughter which was made of the gentlemen of birth and family who composed the kings bodyguard. These two gentlemen, with all the parade of an execution of justice, were cruelly and publicly dragged to the block, and beheaded . Their heads were stuck upon spears, and led the procession; whilst the royal captives who followed in the train were slowly moved along, amidst the horrid yells, and shrilling screams, and frantic dances, and infamous contumelies, and all the unutterable abominations of the furies of hell . After they had been made to taste, drop by drop, more than the bitterness of death, in the slow torture of a journey of twelve miles protracted to six hours, they were, under a guard composed of those very soldiers who had thus conducted them through this famous triumph, lodged in one of the old palaces of Paris, now converted into a Bastile for kings .
And thus, the French Revolutionary War was officially ON .
On the question of origins beginnings, inceptions, precipitating events it would appear that the American and French Revolutions do not seem to resemble one another very much. Its difficult to draw a common understanding of what human rights might be on the basis of such disparate evidence.
On the one hand, its possible to see that perhaps human rights had something to do with the defense of Concord: People coming together to protect and defend their lives, liberty, and property against the tyranny of George III, who then was most corruptly usurping the ancient rights of Englishmen not only in America, but also back in the home isles as the Colonials were very well aware.
People today do not appreciate how close was the tie with the mother country at the time, through the printed word: In that day, the London presses were offloading their publications directly onto American ships bound for Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston, as soon as the ink was dry. It was from the London press that the Colonials learned of the usurpations of individual liberty that good King George was perpetrating at home, not to mention in their own backyard. They wanted no part of it.
On the other hand, its difficult to see what human right is implicated in the inception event of the French Revolution unless it be the right to commit regicide. Or maybe the right to agitate and deploy mobs as instruments of social and political change .
In the end, Citizen Louis Capet, formerly known as King Louis XVI of France, was tried and convicted of treason by the National Convention and was guillotined on 21 January 1793 the only French king in history to fall victim to regicide. His queen, Marie Antoinette, was also tried and convicted of treason: She was executed by guillotine on 16 October 1793, nine months after her husband.
It seems clear that the Americans were not seeking to kill the king, or to overthrow the traditions of the British constitutional monarchy. Rather, they were seeking a complete, formal separation from it because they were motivated by the conviction that their historic liberties were being systematically violated by George III.
By 1775, the Americans already had a tradition of local or self-government going back some 150 years. When the king sent in his governors, who ruled autocratically as directed by himself and his council, the Americans were outraged. The maxim no taxation without representation was but one expression of their revulsion for what they perceived as the wholesale destruction of the historic liberties of British subjects in America. The Sons of Liberty at Boston, notably including Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, and John Hancock, eloquently argued for total separation from the British Crown not the most popular idea at first. But the events at Lexington Green and Concord Bridge caused many to reappraise their position on this matter. In the end, complete separation was the idea that prevailed, and which was finally achieved .
So what was this notion of liberty that had the Americans so exercised? John Trenchard and Robert Gordon, writing in Catos Letters serially published in The London Journal in 1721 and after, which was avidly read in America at the time describe human liberty as follows:
All men are born free; Liberty is a Gift which they receive from God; nor can they alienate the same by Consent, though possibly they may forfeit it by crimes....
Liberty is the power which every man has over his own Actions, and the Right to enjoy the Fruit of his Labor, Art, and Industry, as far as by it he hurts not the Society, or any Member of it, by taking from any Member, or by hindering him from enjoying what he himself enjoys.
The fruits of a Mans honest Industry are the just rewards of it, ascertained to him by natural and eternal Equity, as is his Title to use them in the Manner which he thinks fit: And thus, with the above Limitations, every Man is sole Lord and Arbiter of his own private Actions and Property....
These were the ideas that had earlier inspired the Glorious Revolution of 1688, of which the great British philosopher and political activist, John Locke (16321704) a thinker enormously respected in America was the intellectual father. Above all, Lockes ideas constitute a theory of the individual human being. This is the same theory that inspired the American Revolution of 1775: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed . Indeed, it appears the author of the Declaration of Independence (July 4, 1776) was strongly resonating to Lockes essential political ideas in these passages.
Edmund Burke (17291797) the great Anglo-Irish statesman, political theorist, and philosopher (who as already noted was sympathetic to the American cause) also articulated the historic rights of Englishmen, and of all free peoples universally, as follows:
If civil society be made for the advantage of man, all the advantages for which it is made become his right. It is an institution of beneficence; the law itself is only beneficence acting by a rule. Men have a right to live by that rule; they have a right to justice; as between their fellows, whether their fellows are in political function or in ordinary occupation. They have a right to the fruits of their industry; and to the means of making their industry fruitful. They have a right to the acquisitions of their parents; to the nourishment and improvement of their offspring; to instruction in life, and to consolation in death. Whatever each man can separately do, without trespassing on others, he has a right to do for himself; and he has a right to a fair portion of all which society, with all its combinations of skill and force, can do in his favor. But as to the share of power, authority and direction which each individual ought to have in the management of the state, that I must deny to be amongst the direct original rights of man in civil society; for I have in my contemplation the civil social man, and no other. It is a thing to be settled by convention.
If civil society be the offspring of convention, that convention must be its law. That convention must limit and modify all the descriptions of constitution which are formed under it. Every sort of legislative, judicial, or executory power are its creatures. They can have no being in any other state of things; and how can a man claim, under the conventions of civil society, rights which do not so much as suppose its existence?
This last point draws attention to Burkes understanding that the foundational rights of man declared by the French philosophes Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité are purely abstract rights indicating no sign of understanding of, or connection with, the actual development and maintenance of a just civil society. In other words, the philosophes envisioned man abstractly, or to put it another way, as abstracted from both nature and society as if this abstract man stands as a total end in himself, as sacrosanct, beyond any demand of society which nature assigns to him as inescapable part and participant of it. It seems the philosophes first reduce the human being to an abstraction by taking him entirely out of the context of historical experience and traditional understandings of natural law going back millennia. Then, with man having been so abstracted, from there it is easy to dissolve him into an abstract mass: The individual is no longer the natural or even legal bearer of rights; rather, the legal bearer of rights is now the mass, the group mankind at large or however else defined.
There is a further consideration regarding the original American founding that we should remember today: The British colony at Massachusetts was not established by means of military power which is the usual way that states of whatever description acquire new territories. Instead, the Massachusetts Bay Colony was established by religious refugees: They were dissenters from the Church of England, the established church of which the reigning king was titular head.
Beginning with Henry VIII and extending to all his successors, the king of England entirely combined in his own person both the fundamental secular and spiritual authority of British society. But, when religious pilgrims on November 11, 1620, at Provincetown, Massachusetts, ratified what has been described as the first written constitution in human history, the Mayflower Compact, they were acting in resonance to a spiritual authority superior to that of the then-reigning king, James I or of kings in general.
Just by making the voyage to America, the religious refugees were repudiating the authority of the king over their spiritual lives. Once there, the secular authority of the king was of absolutely no help to them. They had to shift for themselves, and basic survival was the highest priority: Almost the majority of the original colony perished during their first New England winter. They were forced to place their reliance entirely on themselves, on each other, and on God. The Mayflower Compact, moreover, made the pilgrims primary reliance on God perfectly explicit. Its first five words are: In the name of God, Amen.
Hold that thought while we turn to the French experience.
For centuries, the foundation of French society, culture, and politics had been the idea of the Etats General, of which there were three estates: the aristocracy, whose head was the King; the Church, whose head was the Pope; and everybody else; i.e., your average, everyday, common, small people .
What is known is that when King Louis XVI was decapitated, the social force of the French aristocracy was effectively decapitated with him. Also it is known that in the four-year period between the invasion of the queens bedchamber and the execution of the king, some 16,000 French men and women were guillotined at Paris mainly aristocrats and other well-off people as enemies of the State. Also all Church lands (probably accounting for some twenty percent of the total French real estate) and property were forcibly confiscated by the State, now reposed in a body called the National Assembly, composed by the Third Estate, the people of France. Thousands of clergy bishops, priests, monks, and nuns were murdered.
In effect the Third Estate utterly destroyed the other two: Thats the French Revolution in a nutshell.
The French Revolution managed to kill off the first two Estates and with that, evidently hoped to extinguish forever all aristocratic and theological ideas, pretensions, and powers regarding questions of the human condition. Indeed, the general expectation then seemed to be the Third Estate, the people, unchained from past superstitions and repressions, had at last come into its own sphere, where it could finally define and exercise true human liberty.
But the people were not some sort of homogeneous mass. Rather, there is a natural hierarchical order within the Third Estate similar to that found in both the aristocratic and theological estates.
In France at the time, at the top of this natural hierarchy were the people with expertise in manufacturing, commerce, banking, and law. They were the beneficiaries of the rising tide of the Enlightenment, as plentifully nourished from the side of Newtonian science.
In the rank immediately below them were the skilled craftsmen. Below this, relatively unskilled laborers. Then, the least of the people, the peasants/serfs who mainly were the impoverished suffering victims of the feudal order then embraced by both the aristocracy and the Church.
Thus within the Third Estate there were marked disparities of wealth, opportunity, education, talent, and ability. Yet the doctrine of Egalité erases all such distinctions: An Einstein and the most ignorant day laborer were considered equal. All were equal in the National Assembly too. On this basis, the doctrine of Fraternité, of the universal brotherhood of mankind, is blind and silent regarding the problem of: how the victims of the revolution become non-brothers in the first place, such that they could be destroyed with impunity by the mob, or condemned as enemies of the state by the National Convention and sent to the guillotine. On this basis, the doctrine of Liberté seems little more than a defense of gratuitous, passionate license that is immensely destructive to society.
Burkes analysis of the situation in France, the condition of the National Assembly, and their combined implications, retains its extraordinary political noteworthiness to defenders of Liberty in our own day:
It is no wonder therefore, that it is with these ideas of everything in their constitution and government at home, either in church or state, as illegitimate and usurped, or, at best as a vain mockery, they look abroad with an eager and passionate enthusiasm. Whilst they are possessed by these notions, it is vain to talk to them of the practice of their ancestors, the fundamental laws of their country, the fixed form of a constitution, whose merits are confirmed by the solid test of long experience, and an increasing public strength and national prosperity.
They despise experience as the wisdom of unlettered men; and as for the rest, they have wrought underground a mine that will blow up at one grand explosion all examples of antiquity, all precedents, charters, and acts of parliament. They have the rights of men. Against these there can be no prescription; against these no agreement is binding; these admit no temperament [modification], and no compromise: anything withheld from their full demand is so much of fraud and injustice. Against these their rights of men let no government look for security in the length of its continuance, or in the justice and lenity of its administration .
Burke again reminds us a few pages later on that there is deep danger in relying on abstract rights when it comes to the organization of a just that is liberal, in the sense of liberty, the root idea of classical liberalism political society:
The moment you abate anything from the full rights of men, each to govern himself, and suffer any artificial positive limitation upon those rights, from that moment the whole organization of government becomes a consideration of convenience. This it is which makes the constitution of a state, and the due distribution of its powers, a matter of the most delicate and complicated skill. It requires a deep knowledge of human nature and human necessities, and of the things which facilitate or obstruct the various ends which are to be pursued by the mechanism of civil institutions. The state is to have recruits to its strength, and remedies to its distempers. What is the use of discussing a mans abstract right to food or medicine? The question is upon the method of procuring and administering them. In that deliberation I shall always advise to call in the aid of the farmer and the physician, rather than the professor of metaphysics.
In Burkes view and I daresay in the view of his contemporary American readers the French Revolution was a
usurpation which, in order to subvert ancient institutions, has destroyed ancient principles, will hold power by arts similar to those by which it has acquired it. When the old feudal and chivalrous spirit of Fealty, which by freeing kings from fear, freed both kings and subjects from the precautions of tyranny, shall be extinct in the minds of men, plots and assassinations will be anticipated by preventive murder and preventive confiscation, and that long roll of grim and bloody maxims which form the political code of all power not standing on its own honor and the honor of those who are to obey it. Kings will be tyrants from policy when subjects are rebels from principle.
Excuse me if I have dwelt too long on this atrocious spectacle of the sixth of October 1789, or have given too much scope to the reflections which have arisen in my mind on occasion of the most important of all revolutions, which may be dated from that day, I mean a revolution in sentiments, manners, and moral opinions. As things now stand, with everything respectable destroyed without us, and an attempt to destroy within us every principle of respect, one is almost forced to apologize for harboring the common feelings of men .
Clearly, Burke understands the French Revolution first and foremost as a revolution in sentiments, manners, and moral opinions that is, it was preeminently a social, not a political revolution. Certainly that was not the case with the American Revolution. Indeed, Bernard Bailyn, eminent professor of Early American History at Harvard, has asked a tantalizing question: Was the American Revolution a revolution, or was it an evolution?
The prevailing American view at the time did not reject the ancient British tradition of natural liberty under natural law; it was rejecting King George as the traducer and usurper of this tradition. They didnt want a king or a pope; they wanted a system of self-government that had already been in long usage in America. Ultimately they wanted a Constitution exclusively devoted to the defense of human liberty under just and equal laws. Which if history was of any guide meant that the action of the State had to be kept minimal in its scope by well-defined authority.
Most colonial Americans, being heirs of the same ancient, natural-law cultural tradition as Edmund Burke, likely would have agreed with him about this:
We are not the converts of Rousseau; we are not the disciples of Voltaire; Helvetius has made no progress amongst us. Atheists are not our preachers; madmen are not our lawgivers. We know that we have made no discoveries; and we think that no discoveries are to be made, in morality; nor many in the great principles of government, nor in the ideas of liberty, which were understood long before we were born, altogether as well as they will be after the grave has heaped its mould on our presumption .
The allusion to Rousseau here is particularly instructive. Rousseau held that man is born perfectly good: He is born the noble savage. But as soon as he is in the world long enough, he becomes subject to a relentless process of corruption that makes him bad because of the bad institutions of society, including churches and states, educational systems, economic organizations, and so forth. Man is victimized by society and powerless against it. Bad institutions are entirely to blame for human misery.
In short, Rousseaus doctrine is directly opposed to the natural law doctrine that human beings are responsible (within limits) for whatever happens to them. Natural law theory holds that individual human beings alone have the ability to choose, decide, act; and that they are responsible for the decisions they make. And this implies the objective existence of good and evil. It also requires a universal (divine) spiritual authority to underwrite the foundational truths of the natural and moral worlds, thus to bring them into correspondence in human reason and experience.
In short, the Americans were not disciples of Rousseau . He stands their theory of man on its very head.
Two Views of Man Then and Now
The two revolutions have theories of man that are diametrically opposed, based on the idea of what constitutes human liberty, of the source of human rights. What Locke and Burke and the Americans held in common was the belief that human rights are the gifts of God, and are therefore inseparable from human nature itself. In other words, these rights inalienably inhere in concrete individual persons, each and every one, equally.
In contrast, on the French revolutionary view, human rights are the province of an abstraction known as mankind. Its doctrine is the Rights of Man not the equal, inalienable rights of actual men. It sets up scope for the idea of group rights, as opposed to the idea of rights divinely vested in the individual person in such a way as to constitute his or her very own human nature. Under the French Revolution, the metaphysicians Burkes term for intellectual elites would guide the rest of us in our understanding of such matters. In short, our rights as human beings ineluctably would be what politically powerful elites tell us they are. There is to be no higher standard of truth than that.
In the so-called post-modern world, the revolution that works overtime to kill truth wants to destroy it at its root at the Logos. Rather than engage in fully free and fair debate, the entire project of the French Revolution seems have been the delegitimation of the idea that there is an objective standard by which Reality can be ascertained and judged, the root criterion for the discernment of good and evil in the actual world, by which human beings, acting according to reason and experience, can guide their lives in fruitful ways or do the opposite. In short, once the concept of good and evil is destroyed, the human being has no firm guide by which to navigate his own personal existence.
Instead of the perennial question of good v. evil, in the post-modern world some metaphysicians tell us there is no objective truth at all which logically follows from the presupposition of the death of God which they have, like Rousseau, already achieved in their own minds. The description of human reality thus boils down to a competition of amoral human narratives, or skilled opinions; but in the end still opinions. And under the principle of Egalité, one mans opinion is just like any other mans, neither good nor bad.
It appears we have among us today metaphysicians who desire, in the words of the great Anglo-American poet T. S. Eliot, to contrive and execute systems so perfect that no one will need to be good. And then to impose them on humanity. To succeed in this project, first they have to discredit the foundational motivating ideas of the American Revolution .
To speak of the Now: The currently sitting American president seems to be an activist of the French model. He is distinctly a post-modernist thinker, as an analysis of his words vis-à-vis his actions will show. Evidently he has no sympathy for the values, principles, and goals of the American Revolution, and has disparaged the Constitution to which he freely swore an Oath of fidelity on grounds that it is a system of negative liberties that has outlived its usefulness.
Indeed, it appears that he is doing everything in his power finally to drive a silver stake through the very heart of American liberty the historic liberty of We the People of the United States of America, and that of our Posterity for which the Constitution originally was ordained and established.
©2010 Jean F. Drew
1 Kenneth Sylvan Guthrie, The Pythagorean Sourcebook and Library, David Fideler, ed., Grand Rapids: Phanes Press, 1988, p. 97.
2 Thomas Fleming, Liberty!: The American Revolution, New York: Viking, 1997, p. 104f.
3 Fleming, p. 105.
5 Fleming, p. 112.
6 Fleming, p. 118.
9 Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France, New York: The Classics of Liberty Library, 1982, p. 105f. Note: Because this edition is a facsimile of the original publication of 1790, Ive taken the liberty of modernizing the spelling and punctuation.
10 John Trenchard and Robert Gordon, Catos Letters, Vol. 1, Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, Inc., 1995, p. 406ff.
11 Burke, p. 8788.
12 Burke, p. 8586.
13 Burke, p. 8990.
14 Burke, p. 116.
15 Burke, p. 119; emphasis added.
16 Burke, p. 127128; emphasis added.
America doesn't have an established church. But she clearly does have a Christian heritage! Indeed, that heritage lies back of the American concept of unalienable individual rights.... This is what makes the American Revolution so utterly unlike the French....
Thanks for the excellent analysis and the historical details. Seems to be right on target.
I’ll have to print and spend a lot more time with it.
Actually there are quite a few factors that made the French Revolution different. For one, the colonists were separating from the mother country, while the revolutionaries were overthrowing their government.
Very interesting and insightful - thanks for posting. I’m currently in the middle of a book that explores the 1790’s from the perspective of France, America and Russia. From my perspective this is “spot on”.
Thank you so much for the insight. Of course you're right about this, wideawake!
It should also be noted that the supremacy of the Pope over the French Church was very controversial in France - the Gallicanist movement was still raging. This is why the revolutionaries demanded that the clergy swear an oath repudiating the Pope and giving their complete allegiance to the state - and why they targeted and martyred the anti-Gallican clergy first. There was no freedom of religion for orthodox Catholics either in revolutionary France or royal England.
I'm so sorry!
Overall, this is a pretty tight article - the quotations are particularly well-chosen.
I’ve gotten to the point where see the French Revolution as kind of an abomination.
Thanks for the beep! Glad you thought of me.
Thanks so much, wideawake, for giving us this wider perspective on the situation in France!
There is no comparison between the American Revolution and the French Revolution. It angers me that children are taught the American and French Revolutions were ideologically parallell.
Me too, Yardstick; me too.
Thanks so much for writing!
Thank you for your kind words, reasonisfaith!
Thank you so much for your kind words, NittanyLion!
I love Burke. I just read through his "French Revolution" just this past month.
The currently sitting American president seems to be an activist of the French model. He is distinctly a post-modernist thinker, as an analysis of his words vis-à-vis his actions will show. Evidently he has no sympathy for the values, principles, and goals of the American Revolution, and has disparaged the Constitution to which he freely swore an Oath of fidelity on grounds that it is a system of negative liberties that has outlived its usefulness.
Negative liberties are the very key to liberty. The fact that Obama rejects them reveals him as a jacobin, who sees your liberty as something to be overcome as he accumulates the power to implement his vision. Protecting your right to build your vision is for him not the purpose of government, as it was for Locke, it is an impediment to Obama implementing Obama's vision.
You have captured the essence of the current mob of vandals who have captured the congress and the White House. They create nothing, they know only how to overturn. Americans do not know the difference between Locke and Rousseau and it is all the difference in the world. It is the difference between a system based on liberty and a system based on the accumulation of power. The jacobins and obamists know only the accumulation of power. They do not love liberty, they smother it in its crib where ever they find it.
Excellent writing, as usual.
I couldn't agree with you more, FrdmLvr! Thanks so much for writing!