The French Revolution is officially dated from this day, 14 July, in 1789: the date of the storming of the Bastille. Many people here in the United States visualize the French Revolution – if they think about it at all – as a sort of “American Revolution Part 2.” Bastille Day is sometimes celebrated as a day of French culture, like St. Patrick’s Day, or Cinco de Mayo.
But some of us mourn it as a dark day in history, for the reality is far – and sadly – different. The Bastille, a castle used as a prison, had become a symbol of hated tyranny and much legend has grown out of this event, as an article I had previously posted, but which appears no longer to be available online, notes with depressing accuracy:
“As it so happens, there were no political prisoners at the Bastille at that time, and despite the fact that the Lieutenant Governor of the Bastille, M. De Launay, was guaranteed safe conduct and surrendered the fortress under a white flag of truce, the mob massacred his soldiers, and the governor, cutting off their heads and carrying them on spikes throughout the streets.
“As body parts of the defenders of the Bastille were paraded through the streets, a mere seven prisoners were found in the Bastille. When the news reached the palace of Versailles, King Louis was astonished: ‘This is revolt!’ He said. The Duc de la Rochefoucauld-Liancourt responded: ‘No, Sire, it is a Revolution!'”
“The French Revolution was one of the most influential events of modern history. The ten-year period from 1789 to 1799 when France went from a Monarchy to a Republic, to a Reign of Terror, to Dictatorship was one of the most tumultuous times in European history.
“Much myth and romantic legend has been written on what some politicians would like the French Revolution to have been, but the reality was that the French Revolution was a monstrous horror. In the name of ‘liberty, equality, fraternity – or death!’ over 40,000 people lost their heads to the guillotine, 300,000 people were publicly executed by firing squads, drownings and other methods of mass murder and ultimately many millions died in the 25 years of war and upheavals that resulted.”
Many of those who died were killed specifically because they were Christians: thousands of clergy and “religious” (monks and nuns), and many thousands more who were simply observant Christians who clung to their faith. The account continues,
“It was in the French Revolution that the terms ‘left wing’ and ‘right wing’ were first coined. Those on the left were the Radicals, who proudly adopted the designation as a symbol of their Revolutionary defiance of Christian tradition which always represented those on the right hand of God as saved, and those on the left as damned.”
“The French Revolution has been the inspiration and model for all socialist and communist revolutions in modern history,” writes Reformation500, and continues,
“The French Revolution was the prototype, which was followed by the Russian Revolution, the Chinese Revolution, the Cuban Revolution, the Cambodian Revolution, the Vietnamese Revolution, the Ethiopian Revolution, the Mozambiquan Revolution, the Angolan Revolution, the Zimbabwe Revolution and many others. In every case they proved that yesterday’s revolutionaries become tomorrow’s tyrants and dictators.”
The Henry Morton Stanley School of Christian Journalism continues, with links that can be followed for more detailed information:
A Time of Turmoil
The French Revolution was one of the most influential events of modern history. The ten-year period from 1789 to 1799 when France went from a Monarchy to a Republic, to a Reign of Terror, to Dictatorship was one of the most tumultuous times in European history.
Myth and Reality
Much myth and romantic legend has been written on what some politicians would like the French Revolution to have been, but the reality was that the French Revolution was a monstrous horror. In the name of “liberty, equality, fraternity or death!” over 40,000 people lost their heads to the guillotine, 300,000 people were publicly executed by firing squads, drownings and other methods of mass murder and ultimately many millions died in the 25 years of war and upheavals that resulted.
The Prototype Revolution
The French Revolution has been the inspiration and model for all socialist and communist revolutions in modern history. As so many today seem entranced by the deceptive promises of communism, it is vital that we look again at what communism really is and why so many rose up in resistance against it.
Over 30 years ago, the Iron Curtain fell, Soviet satellites broke free, the Soviet Union collapsed and the world rejoiced in a new birth of freedom. Yet, today, there is an entire generation who are apparently ignorant that they are being lied to and used, to advance a failed and evil system, under the delusion that they are working for a better and more just world.
Those of us who fought against communism during the Cold War need to remind the younger generation of the reality which destroys the modern propaganda narrative being taught on so many university campuses and broadcast under the guise of news on the mainstream/lame stream media.
Communism is the most malicious and destructive system in the history of mankind. God’s Covenant people have beaten it before and we must defeat communism again. “Who will rise up for Me against the evildoers? Who will stand up for Me against the workers of iniquity?” Psalm 94:16
Lord Acton in his Lectures on the French Revolution observed: “The appalling thing in the French Revolution is not the tumult, but the design. Through all the fire and smoke we perceive the evidence of calculating organisation. The managers remain studiously concealed and masked; but there is no doubt about their presence from the first.”
Tools of Revolution
The tools of the French Revolution were: disinformation, propaganda, the subversion of language, malice, envy, hatred, jealousy, mass murder and foreign military adventurism as a diversion to distract the masses from the failure of government. These tools have been implemented by more modern revolutionaries: Vladimir Lenin, Trotsky, Joseph Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, Fidel Castro, Che Guevare, Patrice Lumumba, Nicolai Ceausescu, Pol Pot, Ho Chi Minh and Robert Mugabe.
[Father Tom adds: and sadly, it is possible to see many of these in operation in today’s United States of America…]
The power mad and disenchanted have continued to sing the praises of the French Revolution, and to attempt to replicate its ideals in revolutions as far afield as Russia, China, Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Angola, the Congo and Zimbabwe. Demonic forces and the Enlightenment ideas of humanist philosophers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Voltaire prepared the ground for revolution…”
Bastille Day is not just an innocent day to wave le Tricolore and celebrate French culture; nor does it mark a continuation of the American Revolution, which was far different in both character and conduct. Although it was not without origin in some of the ideals of the Enlightenment, it by and large kept them within reasonable – that is to say, Biblical and traditional – bounds.
Two key points suffice to illustrate the difference:
The French Revolution began with an attack by radical revolutionaries on a site – the Bastille – linked to the regime they sought to overthrow. The American Revolution began with a defense – at Lexington and Concord – by organized, disciplined countrymen against an attack by forces of the regime from which they sought to break free on the traditional rights and privileges they enjoyed as free Englishmen.
The French Revolution was a fight against not only monarchical rule, but against the Christian faith; many of its leaders and participants were quite explicit about that, and the reality of it was demonstrated in the slaughter of many clergy and lay religious. The American Revolution was strongly supported by many clergy (known to the British and to history as the “black-robed regiment”), and appealed for its authority to “the laws of Nature and of Nature’s God,” asserting that we had been “endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights.”
But that was then; this is now. America is – alas! – a more secular nation than it was in the 1770s, and the French Revolution can certainly serve as a cautionary tale. Let us hope and pray that we do not see a similar scene played out, here in these United States!
Faithfully yours in Christ,
Fr. Tom Harbold
A Prayer For Our Country.
The Book of Common Prayer 1928 (p. 36).
ALMIGHTY God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage; We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favour and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honourable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogancy, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.