Note: This column is adapted from “Demonic: How the Liberal Mob Is Endangering America.”
It has become fashionable to equate the French and American revolutions, but they share absolutely nothing in common beyond the word “revolution.” The American Revolution was a movement based on ideas, painstakingly argued by serious men in the process of creating what would become the freest, most prosperous nation in world history.
The French Revolution was a revolt of the mob. It was the primogenitor of the horrors of the Bolshevik Revolution, Hitler’s Nazi Party, Mao’s Cultural Revolution, Pol Pot’s slaughter and America’s periodic mob uprisings from Shays’ Rebellion to today’s dirty waifs in the “Occupy Wall Street” crowd.
The French Revolution is the godless antithesis to the founding of America.
One rather important difference is that Americans did win freedom and greater individual rights with their revolution, creating a republic. France’s revolution consisted of pointless, bestial savagery, followed by Napoleon’s dictatorship, followed by another monarchy, and then finally something resembling an actual republic 80 years later.
Both revolutions are said to have come from the ideas of Enlightenment thinkers, the French Revolution informed by the writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the American Revolution influenced by the writings of John Locke. This is like saying presidents Reagan and Obama both drew on the ideas of 20th-century economists – Reagan on the writings of Milton Friedman and Obama on the writings of Paul Krugman.
Locke was concerned with private property rights. His idea was that the government should allow men to protect their property in courts of law, in lieu of each man being his own judge and police force. Rousseau saw the government as the vessel to implement the “general will” and to create more moral men. Through the unchecked power of the state, the government would “force men to be free.”
As historian Roger Hancock summarized the theories of the French revolutionaries, they had no respect for humanity “except that which they proposed to create. In order to liberate mankind from tradition, the revolutionaries were ready to make him altogether the creature of a new society, to reconstruct his very humanity to meet the demands of the general will.”
Contrary to the purblind assertions of liberals, who dearly wish our Founding Fathers were more like the godless French peasants skipping around with human heads on pikes, our Founding Fathers were God-fearing descendants of Puritans and other colonial Christians.
As Steven Waldman writes in his definitive book on the subject, “Founding Faith,” the American Revolution was “powerfully shaped by the Great Awakening,” an evangelical revival in the colonies in the early 1700s that was led by the famous Puritan theologian Jonathan Edwards, among others. Aaron Burr, the third vice president of the United States, was Edwards’ grandson.
There are books of Christian sermons encouraging the American Revolution. Indeed, it was the very irreligiousness of the French Revolution that would later appall sensible Americans and British alike, even before the bloodletting began.
Americans celebrate the Fourth of July, the date our written demand for independence from Britain based on “Nature’s God” was released to the world.
The French celebrate Bastille Day, a day when a thousand armed Parisians stormed the Bastille, savagely murdered a half-dozen guards, defaced their corpses and stuck their heads on pikes – all in order to seize arms and gunpowder for more such tumults. It would be as if this country had a national holiday to celebrate the L.A. riots.
Among the most famous quotes from the American Revolution is Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death!”
Among the most famous slogans of the French Revolution is that of the Jacobin Club, “Fraternity or death,” recast by Nicolas-Sebastien de Chamfort, a satirist of the revolution, as “Be my brother or I’ll kill you.”
Our revolutionary symbol is the Liberty Bell, first rung to herald the opening of the new Continental Congress in the wake of the Battle of Lexington and Concord, and rung again to summon the citizens of Philadelphia to a public reading of the just-adopted Declaration of Independence.
The symbol of the French Revolution is the “National Razor” – the guillotine.
Of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, all died of natural causes in old age, with the exception of Button Gwinnett of Georgia, who was shot in a duel unrelated to the revolution.
Of all our Founding Fathers, only one other died of unnatural causes: Alexander Hamilton. He died in a duel with Aaron Burr because as a Christian, Hamilton deemed it a greater sin to kill another man than to be killed. Before the duel, in writing, Hamilton vowed not to shoot Burr.
President after president of the new American republic died peacefully at home for 75 years, right up until Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865.
Meanwhile, the leaders of the French Revolution all died violently, guillotine by guillotine.
The Fourth of July also marks the death of two of our greatest Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, who died on the same day, exactly 50 years after the Declaration of Independence was signed.
We made it for nearly another 200 years, before the Democrats decided to jettison freedom and make us French.