I have spent the last year fascinated by the American Revolution and frustrated by the French Revolution. I have read books, discussed, and thought alot about why these two revolutions were so different. I almost reread all of Les Miserables again, because it's about the French Rvolution and I'll gladly make up excuses to reread that powerful book. I started reading biographies of the leaders of these two revolutions. While reading about the different leaders I started to see themes and catch ideas. some of these thought kept floating around in my head.
John Adams went to France to help Benjamin Franklin with foreign relations during the American Revolution. At that time in Paris 6,000 babies were being given abandoned at church door steps a year. Unfathomable! There aren't similar stats for America, but I'm not sure if there would be 60, at that same time in America. France and America had very different moral climates.
I wondered if morals alone could make the difference. Perhaps. Perhaps they are also connected with another factor. It appears to me that what the French leaders lacked was not charisma, speaking abilities, or education. They also had plenty of national pride. They knew how to rally people to a cause, and how to get things done. What they lacked was a knowledge of how to make peace. They were excellent at making a revolution. They were very effective at geting rid of those in power. They were very poor at knowing what to do once they had power. They did not know the principles of peace or how to inspire a society to keep laws that would make for a peaceful nation.
From the beginning of the American revolution, Americans had a concept of freedom. They checked the English very early in a clear legal way when they felt their rights were being hampered. Americans had a concept of what good governmetn looked like and acted like. Some Americans studied great political thinkers and philosphers to understand what good government could look like. American leaders valued peace over power. When the time came to form a government, there were men in America available who knew how to build peace and wanted to make it last. The constitution was the result of the work of those great minds.
France had a vague sort of notion that what was going on was wrong. They waited far too long to act. They waited until the masses were starving. Hungry people don't think rationally, they think desparately. Hungry people think in the short term. Leaders in France were educated in law, but usually in the sort of law they had just been living. They had grand philosophical ideas, but they also valued personal power. They were seldom able to see into the long term what would be best for France, because they were focused on advancing their own careers. They valued power over peace. Many of the political philosphies they admired were new and few were based on correct principles.
Now back to the 6,000 babies a year...This reflects on the moral state of the people as closely tied with their family life. In my opinion, the best place to learn how to be a peace maker is in the home. France's family life was suffering, America's was flourishing. It is easier to understand peace when home is a haven of peace. It is also easier to understand peace when we seek the Prince of Peace.
As I have studied this, the most hubling aspect is to consider our country today. I love America, but I can hardly say that family life is flourishing in America. I'm not sure if we are morally where France was, but I know we aren't where we once were. We are still desparately in need of peacemakers. Will we have them when we need them?