Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Russell Kirk's explanation of the difference between the American and French Revolutions

That's the topic of this interesting article by Darrin Moore posted over at The Imaginative Conservative. Well worth a read.


JMS said...

I will reiterate here what I posted over in the comments section at the Imaginative Conservative website.

In the closing minutes of the DVD “Liberty! The American Revolution” (Episode 6) historian Pauline Maier refutes Kirk’s contention that "America's War of Independence was 'a revolution not made, but prevented.'"

Maier states that, “I think it’s one of the greatest ironies of human history that the American Revolution is sometimes considered no revolution at all That honor goes to others -- the
French Revolution, the Russian Revolution -- revolutions that fail to realize their promise of liberty, revolutions that ultimately failed. Our revolution, I think, is underestimated mainly because it succeeded.”

Mark D. said...

Kirk's view is not uncontested, but it bears noting that Kirk did not deny that America's Revolution was in fact a revolution. Afterward we had new forms of government, a different civic culture. That is not disputed by anybody. What Kirk was getting at is whether American history should be viewed in continuity or discontinuity, with the Revolution being the point of breakage. Kirk argued that the American Revolution was in continuity with what happened before, that it was a revolution that sought to defend established rights and duties against aggression by the King in Parliament. In her own work on the Declaration of Independence, Maier has demonstrated that the truly revolutionary ideology embodied in that work was largely ignored throughout most of the early history of our country.

JMS said...

Mark - each of your points are excellent, and I agree with them. Any analysis of the American Revolution has to acknowledge and factor in both continuity and change, and often it is a matter of emphasis. I just come down more on the "world turned upside down" side.