February 27, 2003


-AUDIO: France & The United States (Laura Knoy, 02/26/2003, The Exchange)
Their disagreement over Iraq has created huge tensions between the two countries. We’ll take a look at this sometimes-bumpy relationship with Ann Sa’adah, professor of Law and Political Science at Dartmouth College [http://www.dartmouth.edu], and Wallace Thies, professor of Politics at Catholic University of America [http://www.cua.edu] and author of the new book “Friendly Rivals”.

Suffice it to say, if you skip to around 45 minutes in, you'll hear that NPR hosts are unaccustomed to callers from Hanover being right-wing whackjobs.

Here's more on one of the points raised therein:
THE CAUSES OF THE WAR OF INDEPENDENCE (III): The Constitutional and Legal Issues (Pastor Steve Wilkins' History Forum.)

Friedrich Gentz, a German historian, wrote an essay which appeared in the German Historical Journal in 1800 and was translated and republished in this
country by John Quincy Adams. The title of his essay was "The French and American Revolutions Compared." In this work Gentz shows the very different
principles upon which the War with Britain and the French Revolution operated:

"From the breaking out of this [the French] revolution the question as to the lawfulness of what the popular leaders did, was never (an extraordinary, yet an indubitable fact!) started...Thus much is certain, that the leaders of the revolution, under the shelter of this talisman [the radical doctrine of "the rights of man"] spared themselves and others the trouble of enquiring into the lawfulness of their proceedings; for in their system, all was right, which they resolved upon in the name of the people, or in the name of mankind . . ."

"The French revolution, therefore, began by a violation of rights, every step of its progress was a violation of rights, and its was never easy, until it had succeeded to establish absolute wrong, as the supreme and acknowledged maxim of a state completely dissolved, and yet existing only in bloody ruins." (The French and American Revolutions Compared, pp. 48,49,52)

By contrast Gentz notes:

"Never, in the whole course of the American revolution, were the rights of man, appealed to, for the destruction of the rights of a citizen; never was the sovereignty of the people used as a pretext to undermine the respect, due to the laws, or the foundations of social security; no example was ever seen of an individual, or a whole class of individuals, or even the representatives of this, or that single state, who recurred to the declaration of rights, to escape from positive obligation, or to renounce obedience to the common sovereign; finally, never did it enter the head of any legislator, or statesman in America to combat the lawfulness of foreign constitutions, and to set up the American revolution, as a new epocha in the general relations of civil society." (Ibid., pp. 71,72)

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 27, 2003 9:51 AM

A historian I once read (I forget his name) very neatly encapsulated the difference between the two revolutions in a way that made a lot of sense to me.

He basically stated that the American revolution aimed to achieve the good; the French revolution aimed to achieve perfection.

Posted by: Barry Meislin at February 27, 2003 10:25 AM


One was based on humans as they are, the other was based on humans as someone might imagine they could be.

Posted by: oj at February 27, 2003 10:35 AM

Well, I listened to it. Clearly, you are just an average American without access to the secret history of our relationship with France over the last two centuries. Don't you realize that when we were willing to spend billions to keep them from being invaded, they were willing (albeit grudgingly) to let us? That's like being married.

Although I would use the word rival, rather than enemy.

Posted by: David Cohen at February 27, 2003 11:16 AM

Clearly, Orrin, you don't realize that when France gives weapons grade uranium to Saddam Hussein, it is out of sincere conviction that such commercial ties will moderate his regime, divide it from terrorists, and thus make the world a more peaceable place. It is, sans doute
, the act of a friend.

Posted by: pj at February 27, 2003 12:38 PM

P.S. - Did you tell them your name was "Warren"?

Posted by: pj at February 27, 2003 12:39 PM

I tried getting back in when that pompous ass suggested we unwashed just don't have access to the secret knowledge he does--whatta penis.

Posted by: oj at February 27, 2003 1:14 PM