July 14, 1789

This was the day the French Revolution started, a revolution born out of atheism and materialism, bathed in blood for a decade until Napoleon began his own blood-bath, it began the socialist revolutionary thought that swept through the world for two centuries, and the legacy of which we still witness today on our sad little island to the south.

Thank God above that our founders were not the same kind of men that reveled in the chaos that we still live with today. Thank you France!

12 thoughts on “July 14, 1789”

  1. Not exactly the case mon frere. Recall that the French revolution had its origins in our revolution and had such supporters as Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson. In fact the major political crises in our young republic in the 1790’s was between the federalists (Washington, Adams, Hamilton) vs. the republicans (Jefferson, Madison) over whether to support France or Britain. Jefferson and his followers were strong supporters of France and wanted to form an alliance with them against Britain.

    On the opposite side, the federalists wanted to maintain relations with Britain.

    Things got more difficult during the Adams administration when we were close to having war with France which was diffused through brilliant diplomacy on behalf of Adams and his envoy.

    Despite the bloody revolution that it was, Jefferson justified the deaths as the price to pay of liberty.

    In fact, from the federalist side, what they saw in France as the masses ran amok, caused folks like Hamilton to want to establish even greater power on behalf of the federal government. The federalists feared the masses and the common folks and maintained the philosphy that the government should be run by disinterested gentlemen (the 18th century definition not the modern one).

    While I support the principles of the French revolution and its philosophers which included Thomas Paine, Rousseau, and others, I feel that the blood and gore was unnecessary and like Adams thought, demonstrates the lows and dangers of mob violence. And the irony, is that their revolution culminated in tyranny by Napoleon and his quest for empire.

    So, as history has shown us with Napoleon, Cromwell, and later like Lenin, Mao, and Castro, we were blessed and are so fortunate that our greatest leader, George Washington, was the man of charachter that he was.

    Washington was the only man in history who voluntarily relinquished his dictatorial powers he was given as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army and who voluntary stepped down as President of our republic after serving two terms. History shows that had Washington not been a man of such character, that he could have assumed the role of dictator or Emperor after the American Revolution with full public support.

    So the difference in our revolutions wasn’t that the French revolution was “born out of atheism and materialism” just as ours was not born out of religiosity and total disinterest.

    Our revolution was born out of the character of 18th century gentlemen who resented the fact that they were not accorded the same rights of their counter-parts in Britain. The rights of an English Citizen in Britain were not those of the rights of a colonist. The British constitution in place at that time was quite advanced. Remember that in Britain, slavery was abolished and all British subjects were entitled to due process. The error of Britain is that they chose to govern the colonies with an iron fist.

    They did not allow the colonists the right to self determination and looked upon them as second class citizens. Washington wanted nothing more than to be a British Officer. Franklin was a loyalist until 1774.

    Our founders never envisioned a government by the common folks. Rather, they envisioned that the common folks would elect gentlemen to represent them in a government. As history shows, that original view went by the wayside in the 1790’s and was clearly dead by the time Andrew Jackson was elected President.

    But I digress. 😉

    So in sum, while I am not so keen of France today, we owe our victory in the American Revolution in part to their assistance, especially naval. And we can see through their revolution of how high ideals can degenerate into tyranny when people of low character and morals assume control.

  2. That period in France from 1789 to Napoleon’s ascension is riveting. It just shows how nutty people with seemingly good intentions can get, and the consequences when they fire other people up. We are paying for that till this day – and Latin America is too because the French thinkers were much better propagandists, than the Americans. And that comes down to the very nature of the debate, the framers ultimately were wrestling with how much restrictions should be placed on government. Anytime you start from that premise, it doesn’t make for cool slogans. In contrast when the project being debated is to fundamentally remake society from the individual up, just about everything is on the table, and everyone around you and make a lot of noise.

    For a short history I recommend “Robespierre and the French Revolution”, by J.M. Thompson, for history.

  3. Not so fast, silly rabbit. You can trace the French Revolution directly to the writings of Rousseau, a vile man who laid the foundation for France to rebel in the way it did. I know that the revolutionaries in France were influenced by the fact that we freed ourselves from Britain; however, their revolution did not have the philosophical underpinnings of ours. That was my point. We had John Locke, they had Rousseau. Hence, they reaped a whirlwind because, although their grievances were real, their methods in dealing with them were diametrically opposed to ours.

  4. BTW, we owe the French royalty a debt for helping us in the Revolution because they hated the British. “The enemy of my enemy…” and all that.

  5. George, it’s not wabbit season, it’s duck season.

    Well, we can thank Mr. Bonaparte for his shortsidedness by selling us the Louisiana territory. Without that purchase, American would not have ever reached its greatness. (Also he did inspire Beethoven’s 3rd symphony, one of my favs).

    Also, Boli-Nica is correct in how the revolution deteriorated into that reign of terror such that they ended up locking up Thomas Paine when Paine criticized the execution of royalty. The spirit of the french revolution which had origins in the age of reason degenerated into the abyss of terror.

    Of course Mr. Jefferson felt that the ends justified the means as he once wrote in pertinenet part:

    “It was necessary to use the arm of the people, a machine not quite so blind as balls and bombs, but blind to a certain degree. A few of their cordial friends met at their hands, the fate of enemies. But time and truth will rescue and embalm their memories, while their posterity will be enjoying that very liberty for which they would never have hesitated to offer up their lives. The liberty of the whole earth was depending on the issue of the contest, and was ever such a prize won with so little innocent blood? My own affections have been deeply wounded by some of the martyrs to this cause, but rather than it should have failed, I would have seen half the earth desolated.”

    Fortunately, the Jeffersonians did not get their way by choosing France over Britain in the 1790’s or I am pretty sure that the French would have turned on us and invaded us (we had no standing army or navy until President Adams got authorization and funding for one to fight France) and we’d be speaking francias aujourdui.

  6. A lot of it has a lot to do with geography, and historical accidents.

    The British got to develop in relative peace. The Romans had pretty much put the infraestructure down and built towns in convenient places, the Vikings taught them to sail, the Church gave everyone a common religion and consistent institutions, the Normans were able to conquer the country and create a unified nobility.
    The rural peoples had their own Viking or Anglo-Saxon rules and customs, The Norman Kings, busy with wars and not trusting local nobles, sent judges out to settle disputes all over the land. They were invested with the power and authority of the King, and when they spoke it was like the King ruling. And they ruled based on a blend of Roman, Canon, and Norman laws, and when in a remote village applying whatever local rule or custom was used to settle the dispute. So little by little , you had a body of law emerging that was at least equal to the King,
    With limited land, even many landowners became merchants as well. Commerce grew, many took to the sea. The Kings needed cash to play crusader, the Nobles were able to get concessions and cut a deal limiting the monarchy’s powers versus them. With the nobles more or less happy, no need to keep huge armies, navies were less labor intensive. Uniform laws everywhere, means that nobles can’t be total jerks all the time, and also meant that common people knew that they rule their own destiny RELATIVELY.
    The monarchy was so far off from Rome, he could use manipulate their educated hierarcy, and blow off Roman direction, and when the King got fed up, he booted the Church out, made himself Pope.
    When the royals started fighting between themselves over the issue, nobles and middle class types, became major players in the fight. And they cut the monarchy to size even more, at one stage ruling directly through parliament. That was a whole century before France. But there was the constant of the law that was seen as having authority over the King and Parliament.

    But, the French had to deal with living with some pretty hyper Germans on one side, Nutty Brits across the Ocean, Jihadists and Iberians to the South, and 20 million Italian Kingdoms with their intrigue and Popes.
    They paid a huge price to become a unified kingdom much longer and bloodier than the English. Centuries of succession issues frisky neighbors, keeping huge militaries. Monarchs who depended on the loylaty of nobles with big country estates to hold territory, and supply peasants to fight, which is always potential rivals. The Kings needed the Church, gave everyone a central belief system (where King ruled on earth), and was a consistent presence in the Kingdom. But it also grew too powerful, and the Pope’s were always another power player to worry about.
    So when the Reformation kicks in, the French get stuck right in the middle, and have to play everyone against everyone.
    The Kings had to become absolutist, needed a strong modern state which could control its territories, and not be beholden to church and provincial nobles, and it needed to modernize to feed people – because angry peasants kill kings.
    And the French Kings, reasonably think that they need science and knowledge could help take care of the details. So to make that happen, you give free reign to thinkers, scientists, and artists. It wasn’t sophistry there was a purpose to it all. Rousseau (at his worst)came out of this mess, but so did Descartes whose contributitions to the scientific methods no doubt have made everyones life better.
    The British intelligentsia completely picked up on what was going across the Channel,The Americans did them one better, from a more distant perspective they were able to cherry pick the best of the British and French ideas, within the context of the Anglo system, with its common law and self-rule habits – which they had themselves modified according to the necessities of the new world, and was already by then pretty different to what was going on in England, where everything was beginning to become more centralized.

    –The French in many ways were SOL. The monarchy could not play the balance and modernize the country effectively, it was rotted inside in many ways. There was little outside of top-down absolutist uthority or archy started collapsing from the inside and outside,it could not sustain itself, too many people wanted to reinvent the wheel. They were impatient, wanted to be modern then and there, and there were little institutions they could trust.

  7. The French Enlightenment thinkers are not the only source of the atheism of the French Revolution. It’s important to note that many French saw the Roman Catholic Church as the nobility as allies and the cause their oppression. Since many did not make a distinction between the church and a belief in God, it became an issue of being free or being a believer. This was not the only problem with the French Revolution, but it did make an impact.

    The French Revolution substituted the church and God with freedom and equality. In the name of the new gods, freedom and equality, nothing was off limits; not human life, or private property. They destroyed their own aspirations with extremism because freedom and equality were not for people, but above them and to be worshiped.

    The American Revolution was supported by the idea that freedom and equality were gifts from God. They were priceless gifts worth giving your life for. In the end, not everyone got freedom and equality. However a foundation was laid for a society that would one day end slavery, give women the vote, and finally deal with the injustice of segregation and Jim Crow laws.

    Perhaps it also explains in part why France sees us as a country whoes government is to religious. They have little historical reference for faith and freedom co-existing.

  8. Interestingly enough in a great book I just read, “American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation”, By: Jon Meacham, the God described by the founding fathers was based on the concept of a natural God or creator and not based on any one religion. Of the founders, perhaps Adams was the most religious. But Washington, Hamilton, Franklin, Jefferson and Madison believed in natural rights derived from a supreme being. It is evident in most of their writings. To them, religion had an important place in society just not in the government. Similar thoughts were expressed by Lincoln nearly a century later.

    Of course Paine in the Age of Reason had deep criticism of religion and he was cast off as an atheist trouble maker, and he was actually the most religious of them all. The irony.

    Which is I guess why our constitution has endured as long as it did.

  9. It’s not so much that Washington and others did not think religion should influencegovernment, but that government could not establish a state church or tell you where and how to worship. Likewise, no church could tell the government what laws to pass, how to enforce them, or who to punish. This was a radical difference from Europe in that time.

  10. “…government could not establish a state church…”

    It’s worth noting the now completely forgotten federalist principles underlying the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. When it says “no law respecting an establishment of religion,” it means not only not creating a federal church, but also not passing legislation that would affect the preexisting ESTABLISHED churches that still existed in many of the states, the last of which was not disestablished until the Connecticut Constitution of (I believe) 1818.

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