The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

The French Vs. American Revolution

Posted on | September 8, 2012 | 6 Comments

by Smitty

Interesting piece at Ladd Ehlinger’s blog on the French Revolution. In particular:

My opponent, on the other hand, made the curious observation that the Reign of Terror was a necessary step in rooting out the French monarchy. I don’t recall the exact wording, but it had something to do with the French having to be a bit more brutal than the Colonials because the French monarchy was right there, and the British monarchy was so far away from America.

The French never had a Magna Carta; the notion that the Monarch was less than absolute was not in circulation when the French hit that “gotta let ‘im go” moment.  Certainly, the distance, relative peace and prosperity of North America built upon the British tradition of liberty throughout the 18th century. But credit George Washington: the American Revolution wasn’t a completely smooth ride:

A notice was circulated inviting all field-grade and company level officers to a meeting on March 10 to consider these issues. As this meeting was against regulations, it implied a casting-off of Washington’s leadership and the taking of drastic action. A further message suggested that the officers should not disband until they had obtained “justice” and also implied that Gen. Washington was secretly in favor of such an act, but because of his position could not take an open stand. Thus, the officers should not worry about disregarding Washington’s public stance and acting independently. It further hinted that the time had come to employ swords, not words. This inflammatory letter concluded, “If you have sense enough to discover and spirit to oppose tyranny, whatever garb it may assume, awake to your situation. If the present moment be lost, your threats hereafter will be as empty as your entreaties now. Appeal from the justice to the fears of government, and suspect the man who would advise to longer forbearance.”

Read the whole thing. The more you investigate George Washington, the more you realize that he exemplifies American Exceptionalism, by which I mean our emphasis on the individual and liberty. There is a reason that #OccupyResoluteDesk has compared himself to just about every other President, save Washington.

But the French, for all they had helped birth the United States, lacked a Washington. There was not the time, space, and Divine Providence to put a Washington in France. The lack of that providential thread made the Terror about as close to Hell as imaginable under the sun.

While the two were close temporally, the American Revolution is unique, I will argue. The French Revolution is closer to the recent messes in Libya, Egypt, and Syria than any of them are to the American Revolution. America in the 18th century was about an ideal laboratory to grow a population of educated leaders to birth these United States, warts and all. Godless Commies and useful idiots will be quick to emphasize their racial- and gender-uniformity, while never offering any counter-argument for how the Founders were supposed to overcome their situation, other than by doing what they did.

I submit that contrasting the American revolution against the French or any other will emphasize:

  • How blessed these United States are in every way, and
  • How foolish it is to think you can just randomly “throw liberty” at people who lack any tradition of such, and expect the liberty to flower.

Let us ponder our blessings, and reject those who’d trivialize them.


6 Responses to “The French Vs. American Revolution”

  1. Evi L. Bloggerlady
    September 8th, 2012 @ 1:01 pm

    George Washington was the greatest American. That is fact.

  2. JeffS
    September 8th, 2012 @ 1:49 pm

    Not to detract from the French citizens who volunteered for the American Revolution (notably, Marquis de Lafayette), but the French monarchy supported the American Revolution largely because it suited their national strategy (i.e., it diverted English resources into North America, thereby messing with British plans to mess with the French).

    So it was realpolitk, not any support of the then-novel ideas of American liberty and American Exceptionalism, in their aid in the birth of the United States.

    As further evidence, note that Lafayette’s initial efforts to support the Continental Army were forbidden by the French Crown. And he himself practiced American Exceptionalism in several forms.

    Not that I’m complaining, of course. I’m just pointing out that the American Revolution was indeed unique, and did not match the values of the French government of that era.

    And I’d go one step further: the American Revolution inspired the French Revolution, save that it should be known as the “French Retribution“, given the excesses of the French nobility and royalty, and the subsequent payback from the French populace. And that the subsequent and frequent changes of the French government were generally not peaceful.

    In one regards, at least, you are entirely correct: The French didn’t have Washington. They could have used Jefferson or Franklin, but I suspect most French citizens viewed the then-new United States of America as an experiment, and didn’t need any help from those roughshod colonials on the other side of the Atlantic. If Americans could do it, Europeans can do it better.

    (What? You think that the Euroweenie attitude towards the United States is new? Haw! I say again, HAW!)

  3. Stogie Chomper
    September 8th, 2012 @ 3:13 pm

    Good article, but where is Stacy? I am beginning to get worried about his long silence.

  4. smitty
    September 8th, 2012 @ 4:12 pm

    He put up something in the wee hours. There is an extended piece he’s working ATM.

  5. Stogie Chomper
    September 8th, 2012 @ 6:56 pm

    Anxious to read it.

  6. Bob Belvedere
    September 9th, 2012 @ 6:58 pm

    In their salons, the French Aristocracy flirted with ‘the then-novel ideas’ and exerted some pressure on the government, but they were, per usual, ignored. Of course, it was very easy for them to sit in their perfumed palaces and discuss republicanism rather than have to live through the messiness that accompanies it’s Real World implementation.