February 14, 2003


Dear Mr. Soon:

  1. No, and who ever said he was? And,
  2. He also owned slaves. Your point is?

Posted by Andrea Harris at February 14, 2003 01:00 AM

I love this quote from the linked article: "Like Americans, the French believe that their eighteenth-century revolution more or less gave birth to modern liberty".

We had Jefferson, Hamilton, Washington, and Adams. They had Robespierre.

We're still on our first republic. They're on their fifth (with a few intervening kings, emperors, Nazi collaborator regimes, etc.)

That about wraps it up for France, I'd say.

Posted by: Niccolo Machiavelli at February 14, 2003 at 01:19 AM

This must be some new talking point making the rounds. Some guy made a comment to my year-old "Fuck Europe" post mentioning a quote by Ben Franklin about America having two fathers, one of them being France.

My reaction was, "My family didn't come over on the Mayflower, they came over in some rank, fetid pit deep in the bowels of a steamship in the 1870's. They didn't care about the Revolution or the Civil War, they just wanted to get out from under the Prussians and have a chance at something better. They married other Poles and, eventually, Germans. Neither ethnic group shared a common history with the Anglos in America, and because of that, they considered what had happened before their arrival to be irrelevant to their current plight. They lived in absolute poverty and filth in a neighborhood bordered on one side by a cattle yard, the other a running sewar from the meat packing plant, the third a garbage dump and the fourth a mess of railway tracks. They were overworked, underpaid and treated like swarthy foreign sub-humans. They fought each other, the Anarchists and the Barons before escaping to Wisconsin in the 1890's to eke out a living logging and farming. America for my family started in 1874 and along with the millions of other immigrants and their descendants, created a country bearing little resemblance, both ethnically and culturally, to what had come before. What the fuck does Ben Franklin have to do with that?"

And to that, I'd add TJ. I give them credit for their political philosophy and for the political system they created, but there's a lot of history between them and us.

Posted by: Paul at February 14, 2003 at 02:58 AM

Seems to me that ALL of the important ideas about Liberty predate the French revolution. We invented the Declaration of Independance, a written Constitution, a Bill of Rights. The French have been trying to get it right ever since, and are, as mentioned, on their Fifth republic.

Time for the Sixth.

Posted by: Chuck at February 14, 2003 at 12:27 PM

A few corrections, Chuck, though I agree with your sentiments. We didn't invent the concept of a written constitution: England had one under Cromwell (the Instrument of Government). Nor did we think up a Bill of Rights: the English Bill of Rights of 1689 contains much language that was lifted nearly verbatim into our own, and all the states had them in their constitutions before the federal constitution was amended to include one. But, of course, none of this was thought by the French, either.

Personally, I think Silvio Berlusconi should be made Emperor of France. Being ruled by an Italian seemed to work fairly well for them before, at least by comparison.

Posted by: David Jaroslav at February 14, 2003 at 02:07 PM

The French managed to go from revolution to dictatorship of the majority in no time at all. The Scots, socialists that most of them are, have more to do with the development of freedom than the French. The only reason the French have got a bye for so long is the fact they helped the Colonies in the War of Independence. It was to screw over the British not in any sense of fratenity with the colonists.

Posted by: Andrew at February 14, 2003 at 05:15 PM

Two words: Jerry Lewis.

Posted by: Charles Austin at February 14, 2003 at 10:19 PM

I'm an anglophile and I lived in England a while. Though England has a history of generating some powerful, influential documents that led to what we call constitutional democracy -- beginning with Magna Carta during the reign of the impossibly bad King John -- none of them has held the force of our constitution. If you don't believe me, ask the guys at Samizdata about their constitutionally guaranteed rights. They don't have any. Common law serves as a basis for both systems of justice, but ultimately we have an objective source to trace our rights back to that does not exist on the sceptred isle.

And don't even get me started on the EU Charter of Fundamental Human Rights.

Posted by: Charles Austin at February 14, 2003 at 10:26 PM