Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Progressivism and the French Revolution

I have before me a book titled "The Progressive Revolution." I have not read it yet, but just the back cover tells us that the dichotomy that was set up during the french revolution persists in the US to this day. The book says that it want to examine the revolution known as progressivism. IT opposes itself to this revolution. The counterrevolution is a return to natural rights, limited government, separation of powers, and constitutionalism. The revolution is committed to progressivism, centralization, unlimited government, and direct democracy.

This mirrors the general positions leading up to and during the French Revolution. John Adams saw himself on the side of the Anglomanes, who advocated bicameralism and constitutional checks and balances. Jefferson saw himself more on the side of the Gallomanes, who advocated a national, unified, central legislature as the center of power.

These debates persist.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,


Blogger Tortoise(notHare) said...

Very interesting. As you read that book, your comments will be most welcome and helpful.

Kevin Phillips (author of "The Emerging Republican Majority" back in 1969) wrote a book a few years ago called The Cousins' Wars. In essence he argues that the Cromwellian Revolution in England pitted the "Whigs" (Puritans etc.) against the "Torys" (the monarchy and the Anglican Church, established by a monarch Henry VIII). He then says that the American Revolution reflected the same line-up...that many of those who were the "rebels" in 1775 can trace their heritage to (or would have been aligned with) the Cromwellian "Whigs" and that the Loyalists would line-up with the previous Torys. He then takes it one step further to say that these same Whig alignments were the backbone of the Union position in the American Civil War and that the Confederacy was dominated by those who were Tory in nature (to the point that England often considered helping the South much like France helped the Colonials some four-score years prior...but that slavery was always the deal-breaker).

I mention this because Phillips points out that the victorious "Rebels" in the American Revolution quickly became "the establishment" by 1783 to 1787 and started to act to consolidate power much as the "Parlimentarians" had in the 17th Century. And in that peculiar way, the Jeffersonians who were Tory-ish in their own way (an aristocracy of slave-owning planters who were well-educated and often Episcopalian) were then more kindred with those who opposed the centralized government which one day might outlaw slavery...to the point that this landed aristocracy fired the first shot of rebellion at Ft. Sumter whereas it was a farm boy raised in poverty in Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois who joined with his core support in New England to preserve the Federal government.

The dance of positions is most interesting and unusual.
Slavery always seems to me to be the paradox, the fulcrum of hypocricy, that makes me take Jefferson less seriously because his actions don't match his words.

2:13 PM  
Blogger Tortoise(notHare) said...

Pardon my rambling.
To try to take a stab at the issues of the FR using some of Phillip's insights...he focuses on the core issue in all three wars being that of religion and varying religious beliefs.
I would posit that Adams' religious background, which focused on the moral depravity of man, caused him to want as many belt-and-suspenders checks and balances as possible in government. I also think that the behavior of those who engaged in the salon culture of France just prior to the FR repulsed him and his Puritan roots. TJ seems much more libertine, um, I meant "liberal".
He talks a good game about democracy but it seems to me that he wants to replace a monarchy with an aristocracy of The Enlightened. Soon after he got his wish in France they, inevitably it seems, began to cut off the heads of anyone whose head contaned ideas with which they disagreed.

2:23 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home