The American Revolution was important not just for our own country, but for the entire world as well. While the French sought freedom from its own oppressive monarchy around the same time as the U.S., their motives were a bit different from the American colonists.
Here’s a transcript of our conversation:
Brittany: Hi, Connor.
Connor: Hey, Brittany.
Brittany: So we talked at least a few times, maybe not more about the American Revolutionary. That’s kind of an ongoing theme for us, and how it was important not only for our own country, right, and our founding, but the entire world as well. In fact, our declaration in many ways is not just about America. You know, it’s a declaration for all men. And when I say men, I mean mankind. I don’t mean just males.
Connor: What about the, 42 genders, or 83, or however many we’re up to now? I think
Brittany: I think there’s like 200 and something.
Connor: Ok, men and women, go ahead.
Brittany: But you know, a lot of other nations have actually looked to our founding documents and our founding in general for advice. and it’s kind of like a beacon of liberty for a lot of people. And one modern example of this, though, not really anymore, cuz China’s squashed this revolt. But Hong Kong, you know, for a while before the pandemic, people have kind of forgotten about this. Now, there was an uprising in Hong Kong and a lot of the young people fighting against, you know, Chinese oppression were actually holding American revolutionaries. Yeah. They were using our revolution. It was actually really beautiful to see. I thought I don’t know if you remember that.
Connor: I did see part of that. In fact, I remember seeing a video where folks in Hong Kong had the American flag. They had this big like, protest and there were a bunch of people sitting around and they had American flags and they were singing the American Anthem. I love that. And, it’s kinda interesting, right? Because here everyone’s like, oh, football players should kneel. They should stand, they should look like we’ve kinda lost the point of like the patriotic spirit behind it. Now it’s like conformity, you must feel respect versus like, these are the ideas of freedom. So yeah, it was really interesting to see them latch onto the American kind of revolutionary spirit.
Brittany: And I think you’re right, it was kind of a good reminder that we take our own stuff for granted. But, so today I wanna talk about another revolution. And this one actually happened right after the American Revolution. I mean, it wasn’t even, I think it was 1799. Our revolution was 1776, so not far after at all. But it was, inspired by the American Revolution, but very misguided, I would say, in its efforts. And, when I say misguided, I mean really misguided. So I wanna talk about that a little bit today, and that is the French Revolution. So I kind of wanna bounce my ideas off you and talk to you about it and, compare it to our own revolution.
Connor: You know, I think this is a good topic because as you pointed out, you know, there are these two revolutions, these, conflicts between kind of these freedom fighters and the existing government. And they have been similar, like, close to one another in terms of time. and, you know, they had similar causes. There were similar, reasons why the folks in both here in the colonies and then of course in France were upset. You know, they were fighting back against an oppressive monarch, a king. they had these grievances or or reasons for which they were upset and felt that their, you know, freedoms were being restricted. And, you know, oppressive governments are always a threat to the people. But the Americans and the, the French had very different approaches to this problem, which is what we’re gonna get into. You know, the Americans here in the colonies, favored, you know, a world where we had free markets, right? We had liberalism, which in the true sense of the word liberal means basically liberty. it means freedom. Today the word liberal means something entirely different. Yes. We’ll use it very differently. Now. A liberal is someone who favors a big government.
Brittany: And progressivism really?
Connor: Yeah. Progressivism, which we’ve talked about restrictions on our freedom. But a true liberal, or what we now call a classical liberal, was, you know, someone who wanted a free market, which is what, you know, most of the folks in the colonies stood for. And, you know, you think about the argument, no taxation without representation. You know, we have these rights. You need to let us keep our money unless we have a say, you know, and can make sure that, that we’re, our views are represented in parliament, in government. The French, on the other hand, you know, largely detested capitalism. There was no, strong desire for free market. There was a lot of support for socialism. you know, we’ve, we’ve talked about people who use this term eat the rich. Yeah. but you know, we see that sort of sentiment today. During the French Revolution, this was a big theme. People not only hated the, the monarchy, the king, they hated, what was called the aristocracy, or it was kind of the, the wealthy elite, the 1%. You know. And of course, part of the problem is it is like people today who criticize capitalism when really they’re criticizing crony capitalism. Yeah. Which is, you know, these big businesses that use the power of government and their political connections with elected officials to get, special treatment, right. To get favors. And that’s not actually capitalism. That’s not a free market. and so we call that kind of crony capitalism because it’s corrupt. it’s not actual capitalism. Similarly, you know, the French really upset with the aristocracy, but of course these were people who had political connections and benefits and you know, all types of things where it’s not just the fact that some random guy happened to mo, have money, it’s that they held more power, over other people, or they were of noble birth. They were part of these families of the, you know, were just, were had powerful and a lot of money. And so very different things going on in the two countries that obviously as we’ll get into, led to some different outcomes.
Brittany: Yeah. And I think one thing too, also keep in mind about the differences is that you know, in America, at least in theory, and I’m, I know not everyone lived by this, but it, this is an individualist revolution. I’m sure there were a few people here and there who maybe, you know, beat up British, soldiers just because they were British soldiers. We could get into the Boston Massacre in another episode, but, with the French Revolution, this was not a revolution of individuals, right? This was, I’m gonna, how do you say, is it bourgeois? Z ? Yeah.
Connor: Bourgeoisie. Yeah. It was
Brittany: Against, and they’re the bad guys, right? At least forget, we’re supposed, cause nowadays it’s used as like a, I wanna go to a bougie brunch. And now it’s used as like a good thing. And I never know, but, so those were like the wealthy people, right? So there was like this, this class warfare, and they didn’t really care that the revolutionaries, if you weren’t really a part of that or not, right? They just saw you as, oh, you were rich, you’re part of the problem. So like a lot of women who didn’t really hold power at the time were still, well, we’re gonna get to this put to death. So some of you may have heard of something called Madam Guillotine, and maybe if you’re listening to people who dunno how to speak French, they’ll say guillotine. Which really just grinds my gears cuz I took 13 years of French. So when I hear guillotine, I just get mad. But, so one of the defining characteristics of the French Revolution that is honestly just, it makes me so sick to my stomach, was beheadings. So they used to behead the aristocracy all the time. And again, this wasn’t, sometimes there were children sent. So this wasn’t just, oh, this guy has power, we’re gonna, you know, we’re going to take him to his death or whatever. This was like, oh, you’re rich, okay, we’re putting you to death. So over the course of this first French revolution, cause there were actually several, in fact, Baia lived during the other French Revolution. Yeah. And I don’t, I’ll be honest, I don’t even know what that one was about, but I know that I know that he had some thoughts about it.
Connor: Good opportunity for our listeners to go look up on Wikipedia. What, it was about
Brittany: There you go. And he has, I did read some of his quotes, but then I realized they weren’t about this revolution. I was like, wait a second, how many times are the French gonna revolt? But so during this time, 17,000 people were beheaded. and the guillotine, I mean, I don’t even know how to explain this. So it’s like this diagonal metal like shard that just like came down, you drop a rope and it came down. People would like to gather in the public squares and cheer while people were being beheaded. And it sounds so grotesque to us today, but there was a time when public executions actually used to be like a form of entertainment. Like sports, like you and I, well, I don’t go to sports, but like some people who go see basketball or football, like that’s what they did. They were just coming to the town square to watch these rich people be, you know, be beheaded. But it wasn’t just rich people, it was also King Louie, what was it, the 16th? Yeah. And Mary Antoinette, you may know her in history as Let them Eat Cake. That was kind of her line, right? That’s, yeah. Okay. For a second I was like second-guessing myself. But they called this time the reign of tear. And Connor, I don’t know how much you know about this or anything relating to that, but this part always just kinda makes me sick to my stomach.
Connor: The reign of tears is really interesting. I mean, this is, there’s a lot of stuff going on at the time. Of course, there’s a rejection of, you know, religious authority happening at the same time. There’s lots of these massacres, these public, you know, executions that are happening. And, this happens for a while. This goes on for a period of time. And, it’s interesting because all of these influences are kind of tied together to make people, I don’t know, really, really upset, really, motivated to like, do something almost like you’ve seen those like Coke and Mintos, YouTube videos where people, I think, I feel like I’ve asked you this producing.
Brittany: We talk about this and I was going, I was listening to one of our older episodes and I couldn’t remember why we brought it up, but yeah, we talked about it.
Connor: I don’t remember either, but you had homework, and you needed to go watch one of these videos. I know. You know you put these in the bottle, you twist the bottle, and it just, you know, because it, you know, generates so much pressure, inside. And I feel like that’s what was going on in France. There was, a lot of this conflict happening. A lot of people felt these pressures. And then when it’s one of those things when like other people start doing something, you feel more comfortable doing it. Yeah. Right? But like, you don’t wanna be the first person. So when other people are in the streets, then you’re more likely to go in the streets When other people are calling for, you know, beheadings of the aristocracy, you’re more likely to do it. In fact, there’s really interesting, it’s called psychology, which is the study of the human mind. And there it’s really interesting psychology about how people are subject to peer pressure. And we’re much more likely to do things that other people are doing, even if we think those things are wrong. Even if, we otherwise would be like, no, I don’t think I’m gonna do that. But if our friends are all doing it, if like everyone is doing it, the popular thing to do, all of a sudden we feel more inclined to do it. So I feel like a lot of you know, was happening in France, we see this in Hong Kong, we see this elsewhere there are those kind of, you might call them the brave, you know, tip of the spear. People who are really willing to kind of go out on a limb and, push forward. And then all of a sudden it’s like the domino effect where all these, so France, this was massive. The rain and terror was just huge. And all these people were just kind of releasing their pressure, I feel like, and all these beginnings and all this conflict happened.
Brittany: So one thing that I think is also interesting to keep in mind is during this time, Thomas Jefferson was actually in France. And he was a little bit, into this revolutionary spirit himself. And that’s always kind of disappointed me because and you know, the whole point of this is contrasting it with our own, I don’t wanna say our revolution was peaceful, it clearly was not, but there was more of a sense of justice. And like I said, we’ll have to do a whole separate episode just on the Boston Massacre. But that’s a fascinating, example of this because John Adams, the reason he rose to prominence is he defended the British soldiers because the Americans kind of picked a fight with them, the American colonists, the Sons of Liberty specifically. And he was saying, no, we can’t let this lawlessness happen, right? We have to be peaceful. We, can’t do this. And he caught a lot of flack for that. I mean, a lot of flack for that. But you have Jefferson, who’s over in France this time, I don’t know what was his official title at the time? Do you remember? I don’t remember it.
Connor: I don’t remember. I think he was like an ambassador or something.
Brittany: That’s what I thought as well. So he’s over there and he’s actually kind of fueled and pumped by this. But, that’s always seemed kind of contrary to the American, in my opinion, because this was not a revolution of individuals fighting for individual liberty. This was in many ways, a socialist, you know, kind of communist revolution. I don’t know if you have any thoughts on that.
Connor: Well, what’s interesting, one of the, probably best-known figures in the revolution was, Robespierre.
Connor: Robespierre, I’m sure it’s like we say Frederick Bastiat, but it’s like Bastiat.
Brittany: I say Bastiat.
Connor: Yeah, Bastiat, I’m not French, I’m bushing the names. And, so this gentleman, he’s a lawyer, he is a statesman, kind of like a politician. And he’s one of the ring leaders in the French Revolution. And, what was really interesting is like, you know, he had certain goals, which I think were many of them noble. And so Britney, as you describe how the French, revolution was about many other issues and not really about freedom. What’s really interesting is, is he coined, or at least was the first to express, the term Liberté, égalité, fraternité, which means liberty equality fraternity. It’s now the national motto of France, but it got started in the French Revolution. And by Robespierre or however you say his, that.
Brittany: Spierre it’s fine.
Connor: And, so, you know, here’s, a guy, here’s what the people who are really, and I think that’s what Thomas Jefferson was after, right? Like, yeah, we need liberty, we need equality, we need, you know, brotherhood, we need these things. But in France, there were so many other weird dynamics involved. What I mean by that is a kind of religious tension. And they were so close to the monarchy. They had all this aristocracy and all the jealousy of the poor versus the rich. And like all these things even though there were many people who were pushing for a French revolution for good reasons, it kind of devolved into just chaos.
Brittany: Which we’ve seen happen. never numerous times throughout history this is definitely not, the only time. some interesting things cause we’ll wrap up here. Cause I, definitely wanna leave you guys with some links. just for points of reference, the movie, oh my goodness, what I just blanked. It’s one of my favorite musicals, La Mis. So, La Mis is about the French Revolution. And yeah, I always think of, you know, do you hear the people sing? Which is a beautiful song and it kind of gets people riled up. But that kind of helps you see both sides. It also helps you see a neutral side. also one of my favorite stories, it is fictional, is the Scarlet Pimpernel. And the old movie is very family friendly. The movie is, it’s like Jane Seymour when she’s in her twenties and, some other guy, it’s like, like a Hallmark movie. But I’m gonna link to those. They’re really good movies and maybe they’re fiction, but I think that they’re kind of fun to watch, to get an idea for what was going on at the time.
Connor: I think it’s, really, important to understand that, what we want isn’t always what we get. And there were a lot of people who wanted good outcomes with the French Revolution. They didn’t quite get that. There were a lot of people who wanted different outcomes with the American Revolution. But when so many of your people are involved, you kind of lose control of the narrative. Like the, and other people, you know, want to, oh, hey, here’s an opportunity to, you know, kill some soldiers or do these things or tear down the government for these other reasons. And so it’s very interesting to kind of study how these conflicts happen and kind of how they start and end. And sometimes, like different people are involved by that point, and you get kind of different messages, different outcomes. So the French Revolution is really interesting to study, as you pointed out Brittany at the outset because it’s happening, at, kinda similar time as the American Revolution, as you pointed out. Thomas Jefferson is there, others are kind of supporting it. And, the French were the ally in the American Revolution. Yeah. So there was also this desire to like, help those who had helped us, right? We probably, not probably, we would not have won the Revolutionary award for women, not for the French. And so it’s like, well, hey, they, were there for us. Why shouldn’t we be there for them? And so there was this feeling like that. But then there was also this, feeling, which we’ve talked about a little in the past about, you know, you think of John Adams when he’s president. You get the Alien and Sedition Act, which is where you get all these people moving into French, excuse me, all these French people moving into America. And a lot of the people here are like, eh, we don’t want any more French people, cuz they’re bringing their socialism and their crazy ideas. And, so they start restricting immigration, they start passing all kinds of crazy laws. And it really divides Congress because you have a lot of people who feel this loyalty to France and others who are like, no, we gotta post a stop to this. You got some people who see the French Revolution as a pro-liberty thing. Others see it as a like chaos-type thing. And so what’s happening in France is very much what’s affecting this brand new country in America, and the political divides and, tensions that exist. So it’s a really interesting thing to study. As Brittany said, we’ll leave you guys some links. So check out the show notes page, Tuttletwins.com/podcast. Of course, you can just go pull up a Wikipedia page, find a book, and start reading. These are really interesting topics, Brittany. Thanks for the conversation. And until next time, we’ll talk to you later.
Brittany: Talk to you later.