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This article was originally published in December of 2020 by Dr. Marshall Foster, Founder of the World History Institute. Dr. Foster is also a member of the IPS Scholars Council. For more information, please visit www.worldhistoryinstitute.com where you can download this journal and access other resources.
We, the American people, are facing a day of decision. Our choice as a people was stated well by President Ronald Reagan: “You and I are told we must choose between a left or right, but, I suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down. Up to man’s age-old dream — the maximum of individual freedom consistent with order, or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism.” The following stories are examples of two great nations: one chose the ant heap and the other chose freedom. We are confronted with the same life or death choice today.
Two landmark revolutions, the American Revolution (1776) and the French Revolution (1789), are commonly taught as revolts against tyrannical kings for the benefit of the people. But the truth of history presents a much different picture. Yes, each country did face tyranny. But how they dealt with it made all the difference. The French Revolution was in the direct line of hundreds of failed rebellions throughout history. The American Revolution was a war of self-defense and unique in history. It defended the biblical truth that “All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The French Revolution
Much myth and legend have been written about the French Revolution. Many have been taught to believe the revolt was a spontaneous uprising of the common people to end discrimination and monarchy. In reality, the revolt was a diabolical anti-Christian horror. The motto of the revolution was “Liberty, quality, Fraternity or Death.” The only promise fulfilled in this motto was “Death.” Not only did 40,000 people lose their heads under the blade of the Guillotine, but over 300,000 French citizens were publicly executed in the countryside through mass murder, including firing squads and drowning. Ultimately, many millions of young Frenchmen were slaughtered in the twenty-five years of foreign wars that emanated from this reign of terror.
How did this atrocity occur? Lord Acton, in his Lectures on the French Revolution, said, “The appalling thing is the French Revolution is not the tumult but the design. Through all the fire and smoke we perceive the evidence of calculating organization. The managers remain studiously concealed and masked, but there is no doubt about their presence from the first.” It was not spontaneous. It was planned.
The plan of the revolution unfolded in France, the world’s most prosperous nation at the time. But the country was ripe for chaos. France by the 18th century had made a hard turn away from its Christian heritage. France’s kings and corrupt clergy had carried out a century-long wholesale genocide or exile of at least one-fifth of the population who had chosen to become Christians of the Reformation. These intelligent, productive citizens who were persecuted were called Huguenots. This fatal cleansing of Christianity from French culture virtually eliminated the once-thriving literate and productive middle class of the nation.
Generations of illiterate Frenchmen grew up without any biblical knowledge. They became easy prey for beguiling Enlightenment philosophers like Jean Jacques Rousseau and the atheist, Voltaire. Rejecting the Bible and God’s sovereignty, these thinkers enthroned human reason and the dream of man’s “progressive” liberation without God. Denying the sinful nature of man, Rousseau propounded his theory of the “naked savage” unpolluted by the restrictions of “moral law” and “civilization.” He lived out his philosophy of unfettered hedonism. He had twenty-three children and abandoned them all to poorhouses where they all died of starvation and neglect. His motto was: “Do away with the family.”
Rousseau died in 1789, the year the French Revolution began, but his character and wicked philosophy were stamped on the ensuing disaster. They were led by a small cadre of “enlightened” radicals such as Jean-Paul Marat, George Danton, and Maximilien Robespierre. They railed against the French monarch King Louis XVI and the rich nobles who congregated at the castle at Versailles. Using class warfare and identity politics, these libertines promised the peasants freedom and bread for all. The people believed the lies of these politicians and on June 14, 1789 a mob was incited to storm the Bastille, an ancient prison and symbol of the monarchy. The conspirators hired mobs and agitators to stage “spontaneous” riots in Paris. Business owners, shopkeepers, nobles and finally the King and his family were targeted. They were all beheaded under the Guillotine.
For the central goal of the revolution to be reached, totalitarian control and all vestiges of Christian heritage had to be destroyed. Ancient Rome, with its worship of Emperors, was their model. Robespierre declared himself the high priest of their “Cult of Reason” with its satanic roots. Over 2,000 churches were turned into “Temples of Reason” as hundreds of priests were drowned in the Seine River. The press and theatres were turned into instruments of state propaganda to ridicule anything Christian. Great festivals were staged to pacify the masses. At the festival at the Notre Dame Cathedral, an actress (actually a prostitute), was enthroned as the goddess of the French people.
Then in 1793, the infamous Reign of Terror swept the nation. The “Committee for Public Safety”, i.e. the execution squad, led by Robespierre, determined each day who would die. They began to butcher tens of thousands of citizens of Paris regardless of their societal rank. Individuals were paraded through the streets and then beheaded before the multitudes under the Guillotine. Their bloody heads were held up for all to see and cheer. Who were these people who were being dismembered? Anyone who fell out of favor of the “Committee,” anyone who was not “politically correct.” It was a celebration of death. Without the moral constraints of a higher law, the leader’s “political enemies list” soon degenerated into the mass murder of all dissenters. Before the Reign of Terror was over in 1793, 40,000 citizens in Paris alone had lost their heads. Modern Marxism, the heirs of this revolutionary ideology, have practiced this same debauchery on steroids.
The plan of the revolutionaries included the deceptive use of elections as a tool against political opposition. They asked for everyone to vote on their new revolutionary constitution for their faux “republic.” Over one and a half million people voted. What the people didn’t know is that 44,000 members of the Committee of Vigilance (secret police) were taking down the names of anyone who voted against the Revolution. Then they rounded up 150,000 Frenchmen who dared to vote against the radical constitution and shot or beat them to death to save ammunition.
The Reign of Terror finally ended after Robespierre himself fell out of favor and was beheaded as well as his fellow conspirator, George Danton. The French Revolution collapsed, leaving the nation in ruin. Not only did it fail; it led to a radical backlash that carried France into a military despotism under Napoleon Bonaparte a few years later. He declared himself Emperor and plunged all of Europe into twenty years of war. Millions of Frenchmen were slaughtered in Napoleon’s drive for world conquest. France, more than 200 years removed from these atrocities, has never fully recovered.
The French Revolution was the first of the modern, secular, socialist revolutions. It was followed by a second French revolt called the Revolution of 1848, the first avowed Marxist revolution. The German, Russian, and Chinese Communist revolutions of the 20th century followed the French strategy, killing over a hundred and fifty million people in the 20th century. And today, the rebellious spirit of the French Revolution and its fatally failed experiment in governance permeates all of America’s institutions.
Cultural Marxists and atheist globalists in our generation are following the same strategy seen in the French Revolution. “The tools of the French Revolution were disinformation, propaganda, the subversion of language (changing the meanings of words), malice, envy, hatred, anger, jealousy, mass murder and foreign military adventurism [foreign wars] as a DIVERSION to distract the masses from the failure of government.” These same devices have been used by modern revolutionaries such as Lenin, Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, Fidel Castro, and now the Socialists in control of many American institutions.
The true history of America’s War of Independence stands in stark contrast to the French Revolution. By learning that history we can, by God’s grace, recover their “holy cause of liberty” and avoid another anti-Christian holocaust in the coming years.
The American Revolution
The American Revolution was an act of self-defense and was not an offensive war to disobey legitimate, lawful authority. It was fought to defend the colonists’ wives, children, lives, and property from an out-of-control tyrant abusing his power. The colonists were upholding the rule of law and the charters agreed to with English rulers since the earliest colonies. The colonists had all the rights of English citizens. But King George in the mid-eighteenth century, decided to crush the American colonies into submission, ignoring the law and 150 years of precedent.
England had become drunk with the power of an ever-expanding Empire. The English, especially the King and Parliament, awash with wealth, disregarded their centuries-long march toward liberty. In the 17th century, the English had fought their own wars against the lawless dynasties of Charles I and James II. From these revolutions, the people, committed to biblical liberty, created the English Bill of Rights and the “Glorious Revolution” of 1688. The English and continental reformers including Martin Luther, John Calvin, and eminent pastors like Samuel Rutherford had clearly taught the biblical rights of resistance to tyranny. Tyrants were to be removed by lesser magistrates, the peoples’ representatives, not by mobs or individuals. This biblical doctrine is called interposition.
Increasingly in the 18th century, the English became jealous of the colonists’ growing power and wealth. By 1764, the King decided to take dictatorial control over the colonies. He ignored the mutual agreements and covenants between the colonies and their monarch that had been in effect for five generations.
King George III began his unlawful crackdown on the colonists with acts such as the Stamp Act to control all media and printing among the colonists. Just like today’s media giants, the King attempted to control all written communication. He wanted to censor all opposing thought by forcing his stamp of approval to be placed on all printed matter. The colonists forced the repeal of the Stamp Act, but Parliament then immediately passed the Declaratory Act. It stated that they, the Parliament, could pass any act to control the colonists without their consent, effectively destroying their freedoms. Then the King attacked and occupied Boston in 1774 with an army of 4,000 men. He ordered that the private weapons of the colonists be confiscated. On April 19, 1775, in “the shot heard around the world,” 900 British soldiers opened fire on seventy-six militiamen in Lexington to disarm the citizenry. English warships went on to bombard Norfolk, Virginia into oblivion. In the summer of 1776, the King sent 130 ships with 33,000 men to enslave New York City and crush all of the colonies.
The colonial leaders of the resistance to England’s growing tyranny in America were nearly all Protestant Christians. They were highly literate students of both history and Scripture. Intellectually, politically and spiritually, the colonial pastors were the most powerful influence on the colonists. Yale professor Harry Stout says, “The New England Sermon had a topical range and social influence so powerful in shaping cultural values, meanings and a sense of corporate purpose that even television pales by comparison.” Stout says that the average colonist in New England listened to about 7,000 sermons in a lifetime. Many of these treatises were biblical expositions of the Just War Theory reasoned through the centuries. So the Founders of America followed the biblical plan to resist despotic rulers as written in such documents as Magna Carta, Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos (the Defense of Liberty Against Tyrants) and Lex Rex (the Law is King). All of these works were widely studied in the colonies at this time.
Samuel Adams, the Father of the American Revolution, is often caricatured as a rabble-rousing brawler. In fact, he was a devout Christian who committed his life to Christ while a student at Harvard during the Great Awakening led by George Whitefield. He spent most of his life teaching the principles of biblical liberty to his fellow colonists. His Committees of Correspondence were created for the colonist to communicate with each other in the 1770s. They were as pervasive a tool for education as the media is today. Adams led his compatriots to reason and plead from the Scriptures, teaching his fellow colonists to be self-governing and law-abiding. Samuel led his compatriots to reason and plead with the king in formal letters of reconciliation. But when the king denied all their lawful appeals and began to attack and murder the colonists, Adams was a powerful force calling the people to stand and fight for their liberty under God. And so they did.
Just days before the first shots of the war were heard in Lexington, Patrick Henry delivered his “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech. In that speech, he rehearsed for the legislators of Virginia how they had followed the peaceful strategy of reconciliation with the King. Patrick said, “Sir, we have done everything that could be done to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne … Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne! In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free … we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left to us.”
The Declaration of Independence is America’s founding document. It is in the form of a covenant, like the Mayflower Compact. It is an agreement between God and the people who have been created equal, to form a new nation. They defend their right to do so by listing dozens of felonies committed by the King of England against his citizens in the colonies. Based on these facts, they declared him to be a tyrant, a renegade ruler. Unlike the French Revolution with its riots, destruction of property, and mass murder, the American defensive war shunned the pillaging of private property and generally was fought avoiding civilian casualties. They won against all odds.
The leaders of the colonies had every right and responsibility to interpose themselves between the king and the people. Unlike the French Revolution which worshiped false gods, the American Revolution acknowledged a “firm reliance upon divine providence.” Samuel Adams gave his American Independence Speech shortly before the fifty-six Founders signed the Declaration. Adams said, “We have explored the temple of royalty, and found that the idol we have bowed down to, has eyes which see not, ears that hear not our prayers, and a heart like the nether millstone. We have this day restored the Sovereign, to whom alone men ought to be obedient … From the rising to the setting sun, may His kingdom come.”
The American War of Independence resulted in the creation of the biblically-based constitutional republic which has brought more freedom to the world than any other nation in history. Our democratic republic has lasted almost two and a half centuries.
Today, however, America is more dangerously divided than any time since the Civil War. Many fear the Republic will not survive. But let us remember that the odds against the Founders succeeding against the most powerful Empire since Rome was nearly impossible. Yet, by depending upon Divine Providence, they pledged their “lives, their fortunes, and sacred honor” and they were victorious.
But in our hour of decision, we cannot rest upon the sacrifice of those who have come before. Ronald Reagan wisely warned us, “Freedom is never more than one generation from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on to them to do the same. Or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States when men were free.”
Now is the time to fight for the Truth that will set us free! Abraham Lincoln saw beyond the conflict and division of his time. He said, “Freedom is the natural condition of the human race, in which the Almighty intended men to live. Those who fight the purpose of the Almighty will not succeed. They always have been, they always will be, beaten.”