If we are smart we can learn from our past, if not, we will feel the pain of repeating the past until the lesson is learned. We can learn from the economic pain we are feeling today before the pain leads to a terminal condition. Similar conditions to ours existed during the period leading up to and after the French Revolution. Most of us know a little of the American Revolution, but still fewer know anything about the French Revolution.
Leading up to the French Revolution were emotions of anger and fear. Look over the conditions throughout the Western Civilization today and you will see these similar emotion’s ramping up. We haven’t gotten to the shortage of bread yet, but we have witnessed price gouging and government ineptitude. Up to the time of The French Revolution, the Monarchy had lasted three hundred years and survived years of war. Coming out of the Seven Years War and aiding the American Revolution, the Crown faced bankruptcy. Do you see any similarities with our current condition? In Europe, do we see the bale out to prevent the bankruptcy of Greece and Italy? Throughout revolutionary France, working people, shopkeepers, working house wives, traders, journeyman, all talked about who would lead the revolution.
The siege and collapse of the Bastille state prison in 1789, July 14th, lead to the collapse of the royal authority. During this bloody affair, hundreds were killed or wounded. This ramped up quickly to a state of violent revolution to what is called the ‘Reign of Terror’. Political conflict became murderous. The National Assembly that was supposed to create order was replaced by a Convention that ultimately led to the trial and execution of Louis the XVI. Radicals such as the Montagnards and the Jacobins, which included Maximilien Robespierre, championed the people’s rights to cheap and plentiful bread. Robespierre was in historian Simon Schama’s words, “the Manifest leader of the revolutionary left.” These factions led followers of opposing groups to the guillotine. There was a revolution within a revolution. Terror became the system of government. More than a half a million people were arrested and tens of thousands were executed. Extremists took over and battled for power. No stabilizing force remained. The people’s hopes and dreams gave way to extremism and fratricide. When chaos and violence become commonplace, people begin to look for a savior. History books are abundant with biographies of how Napoleon Bonaparte’s force and control ultimately led to order.
How did an enlightened France fall? Some historians point to the metaphysical philosophies of Jean Jacques Rousseau and Voltaire before the French Revolution. Compare this to the philosophies ofJames Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay's championing of the ‘Bill of Rights'. In one blow, The National Assembly destroyed the feudal system that lasted for over a century with the theories of ‘The Rights of Men’.
Does anyone see the similarities in today’s modern world view? Russell Kirk said, “The Americans were men of political experience; The French Revolutionaries rejected the historical and political inheritance of their country, while the Americans declared that their revolution was fought to preserve their British heritage. Members of this natural aristocracy, which governed the Republic of the United States for almost precisely half a century, 1775 to 1825, thought of themselves as restorers of what was being lost – not as adversaries of the past.” The French Revolution was different. It was associated with a philosophical and ideological revolution very similar to what we are seeing across the Western cultures today. As we sever our historical roots we open up for the latest, greatest ideas of the day. The framers of the Constitution, and the Congress that approved the first ten amendments, were concerned more with preservation. The ‘Declaration of the Rights of Man’ is a document of the Enlightenment. In the words of Dostoievski, “ To begin with unlimited liberty is to end with unlimited despotism.” The great historian, Lord Thomas Babbington Macaulay said, “ Which of the two candidates is likely to be preferred by a working man who hears his children cry for more bread?’ “When your society has entered on this downward progress, either civilization or liberty must perish. Either some Caesar or Napoleon will seize the reins of government with a strong hand, or your Republic will be as fearfully plundered and laid waste by barbarians in the twentieth century as the Roman Empire was in the fifth; - with this difference, that the Huns and Vandals who ravaged the Roman Empire came from without, and that your Huns and Vandals will have been engendered within your own country by your own institutions.”
It’s a great opportunity to join Orrin Woodward and the LIFE leadership and personal development business. It’s time for a commitment to learn lessons from the past an apply those principles to the future. Let's not repeat the past. God Bless, George Guzzardo