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 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 another monarchy, followed by Napoleon’s dictatorship 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 twentieth 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 Stephen 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 1700’s, 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.