The American Left Shamelessly Follow The Principles Behind The French Revolution Instead Of Those Of The American Revolution

It is only fair that I start out by telling you that I am not a fan of the French. Intellectually I know that it is wrong to judge a people and their history because of a handful of distasteful experiences. But, what can I tell you? I’m not totally sure where my angst comes from. I suspect it may have started with World War II movies and learning how General Patton and his troops were ordered to stand aside and allow that pompous ass, General Charles de Gaulle, to lead his French Resistance fighters into Paris as the “liberators”. Then sixteen years later, that same pompous ass, as the French President, used their accumulated dollars (much of which came out of the pockets of American taxpayers to rebuild France after the war) to make a run on America’s gold reserves. Did that play a role in President Richard Nixon’s decision to end the Breton Woods system of international financial exchange and, thereby, ending the last vestiges of the gold backed dollar? Many would say yes. I have other more personal reason for my feelings about the French that I won’t bore you with today. Today I wish to review with you some interesting and important history.

Before getting to that history, I should expose one more of my many short comings. I am regrettably not an American history scholar and much less a scholar of French history. Yes, I took all the requisite courses in highschool and college and passed them with flying colors, but it was a very superficial education in history. Although I have often enjoyed reading historical novels and biographies of some our Founders, it is probably safe to say that I have learned more American history since I started blogging than in all the previous decades.

This past weekend I was reading the most recent post by my friend, Cheryl Pass, at her blog, My Tea Party Chronicle. in which she linked an article titled  The American Vs French Revolutions.  I thought to myself, “that might be an interesting read”. It was. The author of the article, R. J. Rummel, is indeed a scholar of history and political science. Dr. Rummel is a professor at the University of Hawaii. If you go to the above link and click on the “personal” page you can learn of all his credentials.  He is the author of several books and if you click those links you will long summaries and conclusions that are also interesting reading.

In Dr. Rummel’s article, he writes:

The intellectual struggle worldwide today is now between the beliefs encapsulated in the American Revolution and those in the French. It is interests versus reason.

After a short historical background on mankind’s struggle to break free from thousands of years of feudalism, he explains how those efforts bore fruit in the eighteenth century with two revolutions and two very different results:

Then, in the late 18th century two momentous revolutions destroyed this balance, triggered a great battle between the State and Freedom. Freedom emerged victorious in one; the State in the other. The great historical struggle since has been between the principles and conception of these two revolutions, for as the old balance between kings and aristocracies was destroyed, the success of Freedom or advance of the State has depended on the triumph of one of these two sets of principles and conceptions.

The following two paragraphs provide the gist of his view of the American Revolution:

The American Revolution was the first. As a struggle against monarchical and aristocratic power, it was an explicit attempt to establish the greatest possible common Freedom. The leaders were careful historians who knew their political philosophy. Descendents of the English tradition of common law and rights, they were influenced by the great liberal philosophers, such as Sir John Harrington and John Locke. They understood that Freedom would be short-lived, that defeating an imperial State would only unleash a new State at home, unless the power of the State could be shackled. Their efforts, after a short experiment with the Articles of Confederation, were soon enshrined in the Constitution of the United States in 1787. In simple words, the Constitution was a conscious attempt to bound the State and preserve Freedom.


A conception of Freedom as an outcome of contending interests, each guaranteed inalienable Rights, and the three principles of Rights, checks and balances, and limited government, constituted the American Revolution — a revolution that established and preserved Freedom down to modern times.

And then his synopsis of the French revolution:

Unlike the American Revolution, whose philosophical ancestors were the English liberals, the French Revolution was fundamentally fathered by the French radical philosophers, especially Jean Jacques Rousseau, and inherited the faith in reason engendered by The Enlightenment. RenŽ Descartes’ trust in geometric like reasoning and Rousseau’s belief in the common will and sovereignty of the people framed the conception guiding the French Revolution. This conception is mechanical. Government is a machine, fueled by coercive power, and driven by reason; and its destination is Social Justice. Government is thus a tool to reach a future goal — improving man. Those in charge of the State would therefore use reason to apply government to further and create Social Justice.

Two revolutions to break the chains of feudalism. Our revolution led to a limited government and maximum freedom while the French revolution led to an all-powerful state in which the elite know best.

Sadly, it is the spirit of the French revolution that lives on in much of the world today.

They underlie the revolutions of 1848 in Europe, the first stirring of socialism, the writings of Marx and the birth of communism and democratic socialism. The French Revolution was defeated but the Revolution was victorious. Infesting intellectuals everywhere, its ideas eventuated in the successful Russian Revolution.

It is the philosophy of the French revolution that America’s “progressive movement” follows. I wonder if they know that?

What did I learn from professor Rummel¡s lesson? On a personal level, this son of a Scottish immigrant father and a mother whose roots come from Ireland has no interest what so ever of following the French anywhere! On a more serious level, it occurs to me at this late stage in life that our nation would be better served if we had more historians and less lawyers in Washington. Maybe we wouldn’t repeat the mistakes that history is there to teach us.

Well, now you know what I’m thinking. What are your thoughts?

25 thoughts on “The American Left Shamelessly Follow The Principles Behind The French Revolution Instead Of Those Of The American Revolution

  1. You’ve summed it up pretty well. If you’re interested in delving further into the subject of rationalism/reason v. emipricism/tradition, see Hayek’s Constitution of Liberty, Chapter 4.

  2. A very interesting post and topic. I say you are rather modest when judging your expertise of those two historical revolutions. As far as I am concerned, you got them exactly right.

    I share with you the feeling towards the French. In an army, all the cooks should be French but all the guys in the fox holes should be British and Americans.

    Jefferson’s favoritism and approval towards the French and the French Revolution was one of his great faults and led him to oppose Washington and Hamilton often. I’m glad he mostly lost.

  3. Why is “social justice” always unjust to someone? Do “progressives” ever ask themselves that question? In their minds, giving the property of one person who earned it, to another person who didn’t earn it, is somehow “just”, yet it is called “theft” if done by one individual to another without a government intermediary.

    Progressives never seem to take note of the fact that nobody is particularly better off when everyone shares poverty equally. On the other hand, in this weird and wonderful free market capitalist system, some people get very rich, but many others are made much better off as a result of a particular person’s success. It’s not even particularly difficult to understand why, but they don’t seem to get it.

    Good article, Jim.

  4. Like you I also have learned more about American history since I started blogging then in all the years before. I have made it my goal to read as much American history as possible and it has given me a new insight. Interestingly enough founders like Jefferson supported the French revolution because he saw it as a continuation of the American revolution–it ended badly however. Yes these two revolutions had different results and personally I like the results of the American revolution and I can’t understand for the life of me why the left wants America to be more like Europe.

    1. I see the Left as made up of three groups. The sheeple who follow because that is how to get more freebies. The true believers who are convinced that Social Democray is a more moral way for societies to live even if charity is obtained with a badge and a gun. Then there are The Powers That Be who use the others to satisfy their lust for power.

  5. Without French money, there would have been no American Revolution. Let us not forget the Marquis de Lafayette who led many Americans in battle.

    The French Revolution brings up an entirely different avenue of study that will get you dismissed: the Bavarian Illuminati. Their orchestration of the French Revolution was written about in John Robison’s Proofs of a Conspiracy, a book which George Washington read. Also John Quincy Adams spoke on the evils and subversive potential of freemasons. All the founders were not only lovers of freedom, but wise to conspiracy too!

    Circles within circles, that’s how they have subverted us.

  6. Excellent piece and well done Jim. I never thought about it that way.

    An English Captain when asked why the army’s uniform was red, stated that they used the color red to prevent the contrast of colors as blood soaked clothing tends to excite the troops. By wearing red uniforms, he explained, troops were far less likely to panic, retreat, or run away.

    The Captain went on to say that was why the French uniform was brown.

    On Jefferson, the great polymath. With 40 nobel laureates in the house, this was what JFK said.

    I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered at the White House – with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.
    John F. Kennedy

  7. I have taught my history and literature students the truth about the French Revolution. But I know that what I have taught is deliberately not taught in the public schools and at most universities.

  8. Just catching this, Jim. I had been enticed to look into French history because my husband and I just watched a lengthy British production (on dvd now) on Napoleon. And just Sunday, as I went to the theatre to see the latest Atlas Shrugged movie, a preview came up of another NEW film version of Les Miserables. It looks to be quite spectacularly done, with Russell Crowe and lots of well known British actors. But I thought….wait a minute. Why are we bringing out the glorified version of the French Revolution AGAIN. Les Miserables has been sold to the American public (and Europeans) as theatre…the finest act of revolution to rid the world of monarchical tyranny. When in fact, the French Revolution brought on further tyranny, eradicated most of the educated class, and has since turned into European Socialism. Yet the celebration continues.

    I very much appreciated Mr. Rummel’s article and I’m glad you shared it here!!

  9. Another good one, Jim!

    I have three words for you – Reign of Terror.

    That being said, I’m not particularly fond of the French either and find it very disturbing how many lady bloggers (decor and such) are so addlepated about the “French way of living.” In their minds the French are oh so sophisticated, slim, and chic. Bleh!

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