Why do some reject the French Revolution?

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
5,572
For the UK, I think the US revolution had a far greater impact on the British political landscape. While the French revolution terrified the upper classes (to some extent at least), it was the US revolution that really fed into the long history of British/English democratic growth, political thought and philosophy. Perhaps it could be said that the “average Brit” wanted a state closer to post-revolutionary US rather than post revolutionary France. The upper classes of course wanted neither!

The European states really feared was a new revolutionary zeal sweeping up their own population (the German Terror, Spanish Terror etc) or the new Republic expanding their revolution to the neighbours via military means. What they got was a new Empire expanding their borders, so business as usual for Europe I guess!
I've long thought that part of the problem with a lot of pop-hist is simply that what went down in continental Europe did not involve either the UK or US in any profound way. There is just no basis for understanding WHY revolution(s) was necessary in the end.

The political stakes and the necessary transformation of society wasn't an issue in either place. The French Enlightenment literally wanted France to become like England – the monarchy would rather die than that. The colonies that became the US already had the kind of society that it took waves of European revolutions to approach. And event then it didn't work until the powers-that-be for fear of their own people decided to stark tweaking things to try to comply.

So I take it you also somehow isn't getting what the problem the revolutions was a way of addressing was...
 
Aug 2009
5,429
Londinium
I've long thought that part of the problem with a lot of pop-hist is simply that what went down in continental Europe did not involve either the UK or US in any profound way. There is just no basis for understanding WHY revolution(s) was necessary in the end.

The political stakes and the necessary transformation of society wasn't an issue in either place. The French Enlightenment literally wanted France to become like England – the monarchy would rather die than that. The colonies that became the US already had the kind of society that it took waves of European revolutions to approach. And event then it didn't work until the powers-that-be for fear of their own people decided to stark tweaking things to try to comply.

So I take it you also somehow isn't getting what the problem the revolutions was a way of addressing was...
Perhaps the French revolution is the best example from the modern-era of “the road the hell is paved with good intentions”? I think this was brought up earlier in the thread somewhere.

The population clearly needed a new system, a reformed system that would have provided some form of representation aside from that wholly under the control of the Court and leading nobles. While the French finances were in shatters, to an absolute monarchist the worst fate is to loose standing among their peers (Hapsburgs et al). The one thing uniting most of European upper classes was to avoid a system like in the UK/England as it would lead to them feeling less and less needed in a society where the populace are “self-governing” (not sure how else to phrase it in this context), with the loss of prestige and usefulness of the upper class. England greatly reduced this among their own upper classes, by chopping off the head of the last (attempted) absolutist ruler, some 100 years earlier. Those in the upper class who wanted an absolutist ruler pretty much had that dream quashed when Charles’ head rolled away from this body - the state was only going in one direction, towards Parliamentary governance.

Bismark also hated English Liberalism, and preferred the authoritarian political culture of the Prussian and German past (albeit with limited reforms). This, IMO, was a leading factor in someone like Hitlers growth and eventual establishment of their form of revolution, while adhering to the historical political culture of that state. Same deal in post-revolutionary Russia. In both of these instances, there were strong bloc’s who wanted a Parliamentary democracy/constitutional monarchy, they were facing an uphill battle against centuries of tradition, political culture and the fear of a democracy being seen as easy pickings for the absolutist rulers on their borders.
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
4,710
Sydney
The revolution is very deeply popular in the mind of French people
the tricolor flag and the Marseillaise have been the very symbol of the people power
the kings were reinstalled on their throne by the bayonets of foreigners
while Napoleon the third was elected president and followed the family tradition in taking power in a coup
all together those 4 dynasts held on their thrones for 56 years
during which there was constant revolts and revolutions ,
the French were not content to be ruled by any form of king
the revolution was still alive in the minds and memories as it is to this day

Happy Bastille day
 
Jan 2017
1,276
Durham
Nowadays, it's easy to find people, specially on the Internet, who brag about being ''traditionalists'' and ''revolutionaries against the revolution'', believing in the archaic model of Monarchism and ''natural hierarchy''.

They think of the French Revolution as one of the most vile historical events ever. The same Revolution that brought up and spreaded (even if they were made ''lighter'' by Napoléon) the ideals of equality before the law, separation of church and state and overall the end of Feudalism. Yet some claim those aren't reasons for celebration.

Why is that? Why do some want to go back to the Ancien Régime at this point? I mean, I could understand from a historical and dialectical perspective how the ideas of the FR could find opposition during the 18th and 19th century (most notably in Spain with the Carlist Wars or during the Revolution itself with the War in the Vendée). But the counterrevolutionaries eventually lost, both in the battlefields and in the actual political discussions.

Are they just some individuals trying to look edgy by ''reviving'' anachronistic ways of thought, or is there something more complex beyond it?
The point is that lopping heads off to guarantee 'equality before the law', is not equality before the law. That is coercing people into things they don't want to do, which is tyranny.
 

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
5,572
The point is that lopping heads off to guarantee 'equality before the law', is not equality before the law. That is coercing people into things they don't want to do, which is tyranny.
Well, no one ever claimed it was.

Even "la Montagne" never argued anything like that. They argued that the suspension of the rule of law and imposition of terror was necessary to defend the revolution, defeat the royalist counter-revolution, and possibly make the citizens virtuous.

No one needs to agree with Robespierre, St Just, Couthon et al. (I don't, for starters), but it might be helpful to not actively misrepresent complex things and processes
 
Jan 2017
1,276
Durham
They argued that the suspension of the rule of law and imposition of terror was necessary to defend the revolution

but it might be helpful to not actively misrepresent complex things and processes
I haven't misrepresented anything. Your first statement is testament to this.

The means do not justify the ends, which was my point.

And, that is where England and France, and continental Europe for that matter, disagree.
 
Jun 2016
1,843
England, 200 yards from Wales
The point is that lopping heads off to guarantee 'equality before the law', is not equality before the law. That is coercing people into things they don't want to do, which is tyranny.
The idea of equality had been declared well before any 'lopping' began.
The Terror was a foul and mad business indeed, but it is not the whole story of the revolution.
To equate the two is to simplify. To invalidate the whole revolution, all its ideas, sll its protagonists (including those who opposed the Terror) because of the Terror is to deny the complexity of things where good and bad are usually mixed in any process or event.
It was both good and bad, removal of old injustices that was very necessary, and promotion of ideas that, in many cases, would only flower a good deal later, yet horribly blemished by the bloody actions of some (not all) of its proponents.
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
4,710
Sydney
A revolution is the sweeping away of the law ,
it is raw power ,
in the case of the glorious revolution , it was very polite but make no mistake , William brought troops and guns
for the American revolution , there was a contention using ultimate violence and the law was changed by the victor

the deeper the grievances , the harsher the revolutionaries
I fail to see what's wrong with looping off heads of aristocrats who would blissfully let thousands of "non-born" starve in misery while the "well-borne" were feasting

by the way the guillotine was introduced as a humanitarian progressive measure
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,241
A revolution is the sweeping away of the law ,
it is raw power ,
in the case of the glorious revolution , it was very polite but make no mistake , William brought troops and guns
for the American revolution , there was a contention using ultimate violence and the law was changed by the victor

the deeper the grievances , the harsher the revolutionaries
I fail to see what's wrong with looping off heads of aristocrats who would blissfully let thousands of "non-born" starve in misery while the "well-borne" were feasting

by the way the guillotine was introduced as a humanitarian progressive measure
lopping people's heads off did not feed anyone.
most people sent to the guillotine or killed in the terror were not nobles,
those running the terror were often not concerned with equality, and were not going to change vast inequalities in France,.

It was a pretty messy business.
 
Likes: Edric Streona

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
4,710
Sydney
It was a pretty messy business ,
there was a lot of emotions floating around and some fear that the royalists would seek revenge using foreign invasion and repression
those not for the revolution were thus enemies to be crushed and traitor to the "Patrie "
a concept compassing the people , their land and their history

Rather than those who ended up in the guillotine the real atrocities happened in the provinces ,
among many , the most extreme was the extermination of the Vendee following a deliberate policy commanded by the Parisian revolutionaries
number vary , 200.000 is the size of it