Why do some reject the French Revolution?

Bart Dale

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
7,095
#82
The French revolution, like any historical event, was a very wide and complex episode; among the French revolutionaries, there were people which we would label as moderate if not conservatives as well as proto-socialist revolutionaries; the cultural background was amde up by thinkers whose relevance in putting the basices of modern liberal-democracies is out of doubt (Montesqueu), by thinkers who justly condemned fanatic positions (Voltiare) as well as thinkers who can be interpreted in many different ways (Rousseau, whose social contract inspired even the American founding fathers but whose "general will" theory is considered at the vcore of Jacob Talmon's concept of "totalitarian" democracy); amond the revolutionaries themeselve, there were people like Saint Just, Robespierre, Baeuf in the aftermath, but also moderate leaders). When we rightly condemn the French Terror and the massacres in Vandee, we should also consider the specific historical context (reaction of European monarchies); when we comapre the French revolution with the American revolution, we should consider how it was much more easier for the new-born US NOT to fall into Terror.
In the end, the record of history is pretty clear: the French revolution ended in a bloodbath but it put the basics of modern democracy (social justice included) endind a political system which should be considered, by common modern standards, as out of date in the 21th century.
When it comes to creating an actual democracy, the French Revolution was a failure, quickly falling back into tyranny and re-establishing nobility and inheritance as the basis of government. It would be several generations after the French Revolution that democracy would be established in Europe.

For all the noble sounding principles, the French Revolution was a failure in implementing them. I question how much influence it had in really promoting democracy. In the English speaking world, certainly, it played no role in the development of democracy, and even in France, it wasn't until France's defeat in the Franco-Prussian War that a republic was finally established for good.

The industrial revolution, which you mentioned, wasn't less controversial than the French revolution in putting the basis of modern democracy. Even 21th century's populist, even though some of them quote Guenon and Evola, actually are much more similar to a democratic culture which started at the end of 19the cntury and which appeals to the will of the people, and not to the cultured elites. French nationalists of the 19th century which would have evolved in extreme right parties at the beginning of the 20th century (ending in Vichy's experience) celebrated the French people heroism against Prussians in 1792. It's more a matter of style than of political thinking actually.
The French Revolution certainly wasn't the basis for modern democracy in the US, which predates the French Revolution, or any of the other British colonies.

In the English speaking world, the French Revolution is not as highly regarded and esteemed as important than in other parts of this world for several reasons:

1. It failed to come close to living up to the potty ideals it espoused. Slavery was quickly re-established in the French colonies, and slavery had long been banned in France itself before the revolution.

2. The democracy it established was quickly replaced by an autocratic government.

3. It resulted in widespread mass executions and eventually bloody warfare. There is no repentance.fo the atrocities committed by the revolution, no apology given by the French people for the death and suffering they caused, no reparations.

4. The French Revolutionaries were rather conceited, example trying to replace the long established calendar with one which had year one starting with the French Revolution. Despite the lofty sounding principles, many were not put into actual practice until decades after the revolution.
 
Oct 2013
1,312
Monza, Italy
#83
When it comes to creating an actual democracy, the French Revolution was a failure, quickly falling back into tyranny and re-establishing nobility and inheritance as the basis of government. It would be several generations after the French Revolution that democracy would be established in Europe.

For all the noble sounding principles, the French Revolution was a failure in implementing them. I question how much influence it had in really promoting democracy. In the English speaking world, certainly, it played no role in the development of democracy, and even in France, it wasn't until France's defeat in the Franco-Prussian War that a republic was finally established for good.



The French Revolution certainly wasn't the basis for modern democracy in the US, which predates the French Revolution, or any of the other British colonies.

In the English speaking world, the French Revolution is not as highly regarded and esteemed as important than in other parts of this world for several reasons:

1. It failed to come close to living up to the potty ideals it espoused. Slavery was quickly re-established in the French colonies, and slavery had long been banned in France itself before the revolution.

2. The democracy it established was quickly replaced by an autocratic government.

3. It resulted in widespread mass executions and eventually bloody warfare. There is no repentance.fo the atrocities committed by the revolution, no apology given by the French people for the death and suffering they caused, no reparations.

4. The French Revolutionaries were rather conceited, example trying to replace the long established calendar with one which had year one starting with the French Revolution. Despite the lofty sounding principles, many were not put into actual practice until decades after the revolution.
I totally agree with everything you said, but may I add that in the long run those democratic principles which we generally take as granted were promoted also by the French revolutionaries? There's no doubt, for example, that the impact of the French troops following Napoleon had a radical postiive impact on the Italian peninsula, putting the basics for the spreading of democratic ideals (Free-Masons were relevant too). What you said refers to the historical accidents which prevented democracy from being established, but may I ask: if it wasn't for the 1789-1793 experience (ap art from its tragic results in that moment), what would be of modern Europe today? Yes democracy ended in Robespierre's Terror, that's because democracy itself is by definition the most potentially anti-libertarian form of government.
 

Bart Dale

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
7,095
#84
I totally agree with everything you said, but may I add that in the long run those democratic principles which we generally take as granted were promoted also by the French revolutionaries? There's no doubt, for example, that the impact of the French troops following Napoleon had a radical postiive impact on the Italian peninsula, putting the basics for the spreading of democratic ideals (Free-Masons were relevant too). What you said refers to the historical accidents which prevented democracy from being established, but may I ask: if it wasn't for the 1789-1793 experience (ap art from its tragic results in that moment), what would be of modern Europe today? Yes democracy ended in Robespierre's Terror, that's because democracy itself is by definition the most potentially anti-libertarian form of government.
The US created a modern democracy without any from the French Revolution. Democratic ideas clearly existed before the French Revolution, and the extent to which the French Revolution was responsible for spreading them can be debated. The reaction and b as backlash against the excesses of the French Revolution may have retarded the rise of democracy.

What can't be argued is that the French Revolution played no role in the creation of a modern democracy in the US.
The rise in rise in republican stayed in South America owes less to the French than the Americsn Revolution.
 
Oct 2013
1,312
Monza, Italy
#85
What can't be argued is that the French Revolution played no role in the creation of a modern democracy in the US.
The rise in rise in republican stayed in South America owes less to the French than the Americsn Revolution.
I think America's founders actually believed their country to be more a republic than a democracy, with only one body of the government directly elected by the people.
 

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
5,572
#86
The French Revolution established a modern liberal individualistic society. That it succeeded with to such an extent that contemporary Europeans clearly identified that world BEFORE the revolutions and the world AFTER it were radically different places. Establishing a, stable, modern democracy was about the only thing it didn't. (But then quite a lot of Americans today will also argue that the US is NOT a democracy, but a Republic, and that it's much better like that; revolutionary France even without democracy was ALSO a republic.)

Comparisons with the US misses the point entirely of what kind of society dominated in Europe prior to the French Rev. Even pre-revolutionary American colonial society worked pretty much as our modern society does. France, most of continental Europe, did not. Exactly HOW different that society was tends to get lost in these discussions. It tends to not even be understood. (Rank, privilege and corporatism, extremely alien to American colonial society, unless you were a black slave of course.) At worst this is ahistorical US self-congratulation with zero knowledge of history.
 

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
5,572
#87
The US created a modern democracy without any from the French Revolution.
You never had to contend with entire empires (several) of monarchical absolutists by the Grace of God, armed willing and ready, sitting right on top of you. Britain was an ocean away, a fraction as resolute about putting down that rebellion compared to the absolute monarchs were about the French, and politically the UK ALREADY was a liberal society in most ways that mattered. Add to that the American colonial society ALREADY was the kind of liberal society that the French revolutionaries first had to create, and were successful at. The US could make a revolution to create a democracy because it didn't NEED to first have a revolution to create the society in which a democracy even made sense, which was what the French did.

There's really no comparison to what the French had to overcome. The US was even aided by being a colonial society, and by European common agreement what people got up to there was of no actual consequence; unlike France, the heart of Europe and its entire political system.

For the rest there is a problem of relative US myopia and over-focus on its own history. That's usually fine, everyone is of course entitled to being keenly interested in their national or local history, until that interest itself it's taken as "proof" that this bias matters more than what happened in Europe. Or is somehow "proof" that the US did better. In those cases one has to conclude that Americans don't quite understand the issues.
 

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
5,572
#88
I'd say his brother Louis who Napoleon made king of Holland was both talented and successful. Rather than bumble into a civil war like big brother Joseph Louis strived to be a good king and won the love of his new people. That's why he lost his job, because he was too busy being a good king to be a French puppet.
Napoleon's family is the exception.

Focusing like that by Pugsville tends to ends up trying to make it out that somehow the First Empire was just a Bonaparte family business, and nothing else. Which is bizarre.
 
Jun 2016
1,843
England, 200 yards from Wales
#90
Also is it not largely true that the US had to get rid of a foreign overlord, but it had a system of internal government that was not destroyed - so there wasn't the sort of near power-vacuum created in France, with a new government having to be created, that opened the way for, first sanguinary extremists and, later, the military strong-man?