Thursday, January 15, 2009

Is the USA, in 2008, like France, in 1789?

Louis XVI


Is the USA in 2008, like France in 1789?

Norman Gash, at the National Review, 14 July 1989, wrote: Reflections on the revolution - French Revolution

(Norman Gash is a former Professor of Modern History at the University of St Andrews)

1. According to Norman Gash, in 1789 France was the largest, wealthiest, and most powerful state in Western Europe.

In 2008, the USA is said to be the most powerful state in the world.

2. Norman Gash asks: What reason was there for revolution in France in 1789?

Gash relates that, according to Napoleon, there was revolution because the middle class wanted more power for themselves and less power for the aristocrats.

It could be argued that, in the USA, the middle classes are getting restless. They see a corrupt elite enjoying too many privileges.

Louis XVI

3. Gash points out that in France, in 1789, "the climate of opinion was rational, liberal, and optimistic, the monarchy not averse to reform, the aristocracy itself permeated by ideas of the Enlightenment."

Why then was there a bloody revolution?

Gash explains that the 'system' appeared to make reform difficult.

Edmund Burke said that "a state without the means of some change is without the means of its own conservation."

In the USA in 2008, the constitution appears not to be protecting the USA from disaster.

America's institutions seem incapable of preventing wars, discontent and hunger.



Bastille

4. Gash points out that the French revolution was a long sequence of events, stretching from 1789 until 1799.

There was "an extraordinary series of political improvisations:

constitutional monarchy,

republicanism,

single-party rule,

dictatorship of the proletariat,

oligarchy,

and finally military despotism."

If there are to be dramatic changes in the USA, the end result might be military despotism under an American Napoleon.

Napoleon was a fascist.

He attempted the total military domination of continental Europe.

He tried to have a New World Order, or as Gash writes "a new international order".

Napoleon


5. According to Gash, the French Revolution, Napoleon's Empire and the 1815 Congress of Vienna "foreshadowed the Europe of the future."

That means both good things and bad things.

Americans seeking revolution should study Europe's history.

6. Gash implies that bloody revolution was not necessary to bring about change in Europe.

Gash writes:

Even if the French Revolution had not taken place, "common sense suggests that the main lines of European evolution would have been much the same, though perhaps the pace might have been slower."

Gash lists the products of European society which would have come about either by gradual evolution or by fast and bloody revolution:

A. Liberalism based on representative institutions.

B. Nationalism based on linguistic unity.

C. The rise of the sovereign state.

D. The centralization of administrative power at the expense of provincial.

E. The increasing responsibility of government for the welfare of its subjects.

F. The ability to mobilize a whole society for war.

G. military defeats in consequence giving rise to revolution and revolution to tyranny.

H. International conflicts followed by international institutions to preserve harmony.

America is changing.

The changes will be a mixture of good and bad.

The changes will happen, even without a revolution.


French Empire 1911

7. According to Gash, the French Revolution helped to shape European society in two notable ways.

A. Force was used to bring about change. "Liberalism and reform marched behind French bayonets."

The ideas of liberalism and reform had many of their origins in England.

B. The awakening of nationalism.

Gash writes that: "ideas that march behind bayonets are rarely popular; reform at the hands of a conqueror earns little gratitude. French rule brought not only enlightenment but hardship."

It was not long before there were nationalistic revolts against the French.

In Germany, later in the century, "Bismarck exploited the German national feeling first evoked by Napoleon I."

Any attempt by an American dictator to bring about a New World Order would result in nationalist revolts.

~~~

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