Little Ice Age, Protestant Reformation, Louis XIV, Enlightenment, Seven Years’ War, American Revolution and French Revolution

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 28th, 2013

Politics 101

(Originally published August 30th, 2012)

King Louis XIV remained Catholic as Protestantism was Breaking Out in Europe and Britain

It’s been awhile since the last ice age.  In fact the last time we had a real ice age predated the first civilizations.  We still wore animal skins and hunted and gathered our food.  Long before we first farmed.  But it would get cool again.  Shortly after the Black Death (during the 1300s) it did get unseasonably cool.  So cool that we now call it the Little Ice Age (from 1350 to 1850 or thereabouts).  The glaciers didn’t cover Europe.  But it was cold.  And wet.  The spring took forever to change into summer.  While summer was quick to turn into fall.  Which led to short growing seasons.  Poor harvests.  Hunger.  And famine.

Martin Luther was no fan of the Pope.  Especially because of the indulgences he was selling.  A shortcut to heaven.  For those with money.  Which is what the Pope wanted.  Money.  For he was doing some costly renovations in Rome.  So in 1517 Martin Luther nailed up his Ninety-Five Theses to the church door demanding reform.  And kicking off the Protestant Reformation.  Well, the Catholic Church wasn’t interested in reform.  So Luther set up a new church.  With a new religion.  Protestantism.  A more plain religion.  With masses in the common language of the people.  Instead of Latin.  And no fancy things in the church.  No altars.  No stain glass.  No icons.  Just the word of God.  With over a thousand years of Catholicism already under their belt, though, a lot of people took offense to this.  And their offense offended the new Protestants.  So they went to war with each other for a few centuries or so over their religious differences.

King Louis XIV was one of the great French monarchs.  Under his rule France was the dominant European power.  The Sun King believed in the divine right of kings.  Absolute monarchism.  Doing pretty much as he pleased.  Which included a few wars.  And growing an empire with oversea colonies.  It cost a pretty penny.  And a lot of lives.  Louis remained Catholic as Protestantism was breaking out in Europe.  And in England.  For a couple hundred years or so England and France were bitter enemies.  Contesting colonial lands throughout the globe.  And defending the true faith.  Catholicism.  Or Protestantism.  The Catholic-Protestant battle lines stretched across Europe.  And to distant lands across the globe.  Including the New World.  Where they would both spend fortunes in waging war.

For the French the American War of Independence had nothing to do with the Americans

The Enlightenment, or the Age of Reason, gave the French Voltaire.  One of the great Enlightenment philosophers.  When Benjamin Franklin was in France the French were eager to bring two of the world’s greatest Enlightenment philosophers together.  And did.  The French also gave us the great Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu.  The greatest influence on the Founding Fathers as they drafted our Constitution.  So there was some great thinking percolating in France.  Thoughts that focused on science and reason.  Not tradition and faith.  Even questioning some long-held beliefs about the Catholic Church, the aristocracy and the absolute monarchy.

Louis XIV built a great French empire.  The French seemed invincible.  Until Louis XV took over.  Who lost the Seven Years’ War to the British.  And saw French North America become British.  (And the Louisiana Territory go to Spain.)  That was tough having their eternal foe humiliate them.  The Protestant British.  It was a blow to French pride.  French commerce.  And French finances.  The near-perpetual state of war that had existed between Britain and France had cost both nations a lot of money.  The British decided to recoup some of that money by taxing their American colonies.  Which didn’t go over well with the Americans.  For unlike France the British had a constitutional monarchy.  Where the Parliament restricted the king’s powers.  That great institute of the people.  Which the Americans had no representation in.  Leading to their rebellion.  Because they didn’t like being treated like second-class subjects of the British Empire.  Which brought about the American Revolutionary War.

After the Americans defeated a British army at the Battle of Saratoga the French joined the Americans in their fight for independence from the oppression of a constitutional monarchy.  Which seemed rather odd being that the French at this time was still an absolute monarchy (though now ruled by Louis XVI).  Which was far more oppressive than the constitutional variety.  But for the French the American War of Independence had nothing to do with the Americans.  It had to do with French interests.  It was a chance to strike back at their eternal enemy.  The Protestant British.  And more importantly, when they won they could get back all their colonies they lost in the Seven Years’ War.

The French were Intoxicated with all of those Enlightenment Ideals and the American Win over an Oppressive Monarchy

The Americans won their independence.  But the French didn’t get anything they wanted.  All they got was a lot of debt.  To add to the enormous pile of debt they already had.  One of the French conditions for their alliance was that the Americans would not make a separate peace with the British.  Which is what the Americans did.  Why?  Because the French and the Spanish were conspiring against the Americans during the peace talks.  So they could expand their holdings in North America at the expense of the British and the Americans.  The French were even willing to trade American Independence away.  The British, who would rather have Americans on their former lands than the French or Spanish, made a separate peace with the Americans.

This act of diplomacy stunned the French.  For they had assurances from the American Congress that they would take the lead in the peace talks.  The Americans double-crossed them before they could double-cross the Americans.  This wasn’t supposed to happen in the world of European diplomacy.  Especially with rubes like the Americans.  But it did.  And the French were now in a world of hurt.  Broke.  And facing bankruptcy.  Desperately needing new tax revenue King Louis XVI called an Assembly of Notables.  The nobility and clergy.  But they didn’t want to pay any more taxes.  So the king called the Estates-General of 1789.  Which included the clergy, the nobility and everyone else (i.e., the Third Estate).

Meanwhile there was widespread hunger and malnutrition.  Poor grain harvests (in part due to the Little Ice Age) pushed the price of bread out of reach for many.  People were cold, hungry and poor.  In the Third Estate, that is.  For though they may have been suffering they saw that the nobility and the Catholic clergy were not.  In fact, they were living rather well.  Which inflamed the masses.  Who became intoxicated with all of those Enlightenment ideals.  And that American victory over an oppressive monarchy.  It got the people thinking.  That they didn’t need a nobility any more.  The Catholic Church.  Or a king.  And the people would get rid of these things.  For awhile, at least.  With something called the French Revolution.

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Global Warming Alarmists ignore Historical Record and claim Cooling is Better than Warming

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 2nd, 2013

Week in Review

Do you know why it was so cold at Valley Forge during the American Revolution?  We were in a mini ice age at the time. The Little Ice Age (from about 1350 to 1850).  Introduced by the Black Death.  The greatest plague in human history.  As the earth continued to cool we got shorter growing seasons.  And wetter growing seasons.  Leading to a little famine.  And war.  As nations struggled to feed themselves with shorter, colder and wetter growing seasons.  Plunging the world into centuries of world war.  Including the previously noted American Revolution.  Which followed the Seven Years’ War.  And was a prelude to the Napoleonic Wars.  And there were plenty more wars before, after and in between.

Disease, famine and war.  No, cold isn’t good.  Warm is good.  Just ask Napoleon.  Who was beaten by the brutal Russian winter.  Or those who died from cold, famine and disease at Valley Forge.  Yet there are those who believe that cold is better than warm (see Warming report sees violent, sicker, poorer future by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer, posted 11/8/2013 on Yahoo! News).

Starvation, poverty, flooding, heat waves, droughts, war and disease already lead to human tragedies. They’re likely to worsen as the world warms from man-made climate change, a leaked draft of an international scientific report forecasts.

Actually, history has shown all of these things are worse during times of global cooling.  When disease, famine and war were the norm.  Hitler invaded the Soviet Union for Lebensraum.  Living space.  Which meant taking the breadbasket of Europe for the German people.  The Ukraine.  A lot of wars have been fought over food.  And the less food there is the more frequent and brutal the wars.  For those who have no food suffer famine and die.

We’ve been putting carbon in the atmosphere since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution (1760ish).  We’ve been burning coal in our steam engines, locomotives, ships, steel plants, and our home furnaces for centuries.  The smoke, soot and ash was so thick and heavy that we made our city trains electric.  Because they don’t block out the sun when they run like our steam locomotives did.  Then coal gave way to petroleum products.  And the glorious internal combustion engine.  The greatest game changer in the history of man.

We’ve just been putting more and more carbon in the air since 1760.  And in those 250 or so years has any of the global warming doom and gloom come to pass?  No.  The world population has grown.  Because our food supply has grown.  And life expectancies have grown longer throughout this period because there have been fewer plagues, famines and wars.  The Pax Britannica (the British Peace) lasted about a century (1815–1914).  And the Pax Americana (the American Peace) has been going on since the end of World War II (1945).  We suffered some horrendous wars during these periods of peace but they were the exception not the rule.  In large part because the Little Ice Age had ended.  And the world was warming once again.

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Quantitative Easing, Inflation and Gold

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 23rd, 2013

Economics 101

The FOMC makes Money out of Nothing to Buy the Bonds for their Quantitative Easing

The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) decided to keep their quantitative easing.  Their monthly $85 billion purchase of Treasury Securities and mortgage bonds.  To stimulate the economy.  Which hasn’t stimulated the economy.  But it has greatly expanded the money supply.

When people buy Treasury Securities and mortgage bonds they have to first work and save up the money.  Then when they buy these investments they no longer have that money.  It’s how we buy things.  We exchange money for things.  So we can have the money or the things.  But never both.

Unless you’re the federal government.  That has the power to print money.  When they make these monthly $85 million purchases of Treasury Securities and mortgage bonds they pay for them with an electronic transfer of money.  They add money to the account of the holders of the Treasury Securities and mortgage bonds.  And that’s it.  They subtract no money from their ledgers.  Because they ‘printed’ that money.  Just made it out of nothing.  Literally.

The Danger of a highly Inflated and Devalued Currency is that it loses its Purchasing Power and People lose Faith in It

The Secret Service protects our presidents.  Ironically, the president that created the Secret Service was assassinated.  Abraham Lincoln.  Who created it not to protect presidents.  But to combat a great threat to the country.  Counterfeiting.  The scourge of paper money.

During the American Revolutionary War the Continental Congress had no hard money (i.e., precious metals) to pay the Continental Army.  So they resorted to printing paper money.  Igniting massive inflation.  The more money they printed the greater the inflation.  And the greater they devalued the dollar.  Requiring more and more of them to buy what they once did.  Until no one would accept them in payment anymore.  Forcing the army to take what they needed from the people.  Leaving behind IOUs for the Congress to honor.  Once they figured out how to do that.

This is the danger of a highly inflated and devalued currency.  It loses its purchasing power.  Until it gets so weak that the people lose faith in it.  And refuse to accept it anymore.  Returning to the barter system instead.  Trading things that hold their value for other valuable things.  But the barter system has high search costs.  It takes a lot of time for people to find each other that can trade with each other.  Greatly reducing economic activity.  And crashing a nation’s economy.  Which is what Abraham Lincoln wanted to prevent.  And why a lot of America’s enemies have tried to flood the American economy with counterfeit bills.

The Hard-Money Prices remained Relatively Constant during the Inflationary Periods of the Revolutionary War

With the FOMC’s decision to continue their quantitative easing the stock market soared.  As investors were instead expecting a ‘tapering’.  A reduction in their purchases of Treasury Securities and mortgage bonds.  And if the government stopped creating this money out of nothing to buy bonds from these investors these investors could not continue to buy and sell in the market like they were doing.  Pocketing handsome profits in the process.  Which is why they were so happy to hear the FOMC would continue their currency devaluation to continue buying like they had been.

But this continued currency devaluation has a down side.  For it can’t go on forever.  There will come a point when it ignites inflation.  Causing prices to soar.  Requiring more and more dollars to buy what they once bought before.  So with this possibility on the horizon and with continued currency devaluation some people were taking steps to protect their assets.  Especially their cash.  For there is nothing worse than having a lot of cash when it’s losing its purchasing power at an alarming rate.  So they convert that cash into something that holds it value better.  Such as precious metals.  Which is why when the dollar tanked (after the FOMC decision) the price of gold surged.

So what’s the difference between gold and paper money?  Well, the government can’t print gold.  They can’t create gold out of nothing and add it to someone’s account.  So they can’t devalue gold.  And because of this gold will hold its value during inflationary periods.  Which was why during the Revolutionary War people sold things with two prices.  One was in paper Continental Dollars.  With these prices increasing sometimes daily.  And one in hard money (i.e., precious metals).  The hard money prices remained relatively constant.  Even during the inflationary periods of the Revolutionary War.

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John Kerry insults Britain because the House of Commons said ‘No’ to Military Action in Syria

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 1st, 2013

Week in Review

There is a special relationship between Britain and the United States.  The first Americans were British.  As the American colonies were part of the British Empire.  The American colonists fought alongside British regulars against the French and Indians during the Seven Years’ War.  The cost of that war and the subsequent taxation to pay for it created a bit of a falling out between the British and the Americans.  In a little thing we call the American Revolution.  After that falling out, though, we resumed our special relationship with our former masters.  Who was our major trade partner.  Not France.  Who helped us in the American Revolution.  Why?  Because Britain’s Royal Navy ruled the seas.  And had a vast empire to trade with.

The French were inspired so much by our revolution that they had one of their own.  The French Revolution.  And unlike the American Revolution the French Revolution was rather vengeful.  With French citizens killing other French citizens.  Including their king and queen.  Which just appalled President Washington.  Then the French started waging war with her neighbors.  Including their eternal foe.  Britain.  The Americans remained neutral in the conflict.  But their neutrality favored the British.  As America’s economic future was tied more closely to the British than the French.  Something that irked the French in charge of France at the time.  The same people that killed King Louis XVI.  The head of France that helped the Americans in their revolution.

Then the Franco-American relations soured.  Citizen Genêt came to the U.S.  The new French ambassador.  To encourage the Americans to support France in their wars against Britain and Spain.  Recruiting American privateers to attack British shipping.  Even basing these operations out of American ports.  Bringing captured British vessels to American ports.  And he recruited a militia to march on the Spanish in Florida.  Infuriating President Washington.  It even got the ever-quarreling Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson to agree on something.  The danger Citizen Genêt was placing the Americans in.  Risking war with the British Empire.  So they asked for his recall.  Which the French did.  But because that probably meant the guillotine Genêt asked for asylum in America and got it.  Living out his days as an American.

Then there was the XYZ Affair.  The British and the French were interdicting trade of the other with neutral powers.   Including the Americans.  The Jay Treaty eased tensions between Britain and America.  But it angered the French.  Who stepped up their attacks on American shipping.  Hoping to avoid war with France President Adams sent a diplomatic mission to France.  But the French said before the Americans could enter any negotiations they first had to pay a bribe.  And agree to a loan.  The Americans refused and left.  When word reached America there was outrage.  Congress even annulled the 1778 Treaty of Alliance.  The treaty that brought the French into the American Revolution.  And promised America military support if the British ever attacked the French.  People wanted to go to war with France.  But eventually they reached an agreement and avoided said war.

So the Franco-American alliance was tenuous at best.  And short-lived.  The French entered into it not to help the Americans succeed in their lofty idealism.  Of life without a king.  For France was an absolute monarchy.  And the last thing an absolute monarchy wants is to fill their people’s heads with silly notions of liberty.  Because that could lead to things like the French Revolution.  No.  The French allied with the Americans to regain territory they lost to the British.  Which they lost a lot of at the conclusion of the Seven Years’ War.  Which the Americans helped them lose.  No doubt weighing heavily on their minds.  As during the peace negotiations they tried to strike a deal with the British to keep the Americans east of the Appalachians.  Thankfully, for the Americans, Benjamin Franklin was in Paris during the peace negotiations.  And made a more favorable peace for the Americans.  To France’s dismay.  Which no doubt led to the tenuous Franco-American relations following the French Revolution.

So this is America’s history.  A history that is based in friendship and amity between the British and the Americans.  Apart from that small episode called the American Revolution.  While King Louis XVI did help America win her independence from Britain France’s motive for their support was to take large chunks of North America back.  Even at the expense of the Americans.  We had a brief alliance during the Revolutionary War with France.  But the Americans have prospered because of the special relationship with Britain.  Two people that share a language, a history, a culture, a legal system and a form of government (representative government).  So what does the current American administration do to our BFF?  This (see Syria: John Kerry slaps Britain in face as he calls France ‘oldest allies’ by Peter Foster posted 8/30/2013 on The Telegraph).

John Kerry administered a diplomatic slap in the face to Britain following David Cameron’s withdrawal of military support for intervention in Syria, omitting the UK from a long list of ‘friends’ prepared to support US actions against the Assad regime.

The diplomatic smart was made worse by Mr Kerry’s pointed reference to the French as “our oldest ally” – a reference that dates back to France’s role supporting America against Britain in the American Revolutionary War that began in 1776…

He then listed the Obama administration’s supporters, including the Arab League, the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation, the Turks, Australians and the French. Britain, however, was conspicuous by its absence from that list…

“Turkey said there is no doubt that the regime is responsible. Our oldest ally, the French, said the regime, quote, “committed this vile action, and it is an outrage to use weapons that the community has banned for the last 90 years in all international conventions.”

What is it with this administration and the British?  First President Obama returns a bust of Winston Churchill to the British embassy.  And now this slap in the face.  One would get the impression that they don’t like the British.  Perhaps it’s because of Britain’s support in the Iraq War.  Or that John Kerry can speak French.  And is a Francophile at heart.  But as the U.S. Secretary of State he should not spurn our BFF.

America and France are great friends.  But Britain and America are greater friends.  Because of the special relationship.  Insulting them is not stately.  It’s just impudent and impertinent.  Things a secretary of state should just not be.

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FT177: “For democracy to work you need responsible citizens who will temper their wants with knowledge and experience.” —Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 5th, 2013

Fundamental Truth

The British Subjects were bothered by their Protestant King having a French Catholic Wife

King Henry VIII had a falling out with the Pope.  And broke away from the Catholic Church.  Putting England on the path to becoming Protestant.  Now, for those of you unfamiliar with the Protestant Reformation the resulting conflicts between Catholics and Protestants were really horrible.  And bloody.  Some of England’s greatest enemies during that time were Spain and France.  Both Catholic.  But this Catholic-Protestant animosity was not limited to her foreign enemies.

Religion played a large part in the English Civil War (1642–1651).  In fact, it started it.  When King Charles I tried to impose an English prayer book on Presbyterian Scotland.  To have a singular religion in England and Scotland.  Which the Scottish didn’t embrace.  And pushed back on King Charles.  Who then wanted to teach the Scottish a lesson.  With an army.  But to raise an army he needed money.  Which meant he had to call Parliament.  And when he did they weren’t all that keen on spending money for another war.  Then one thing led to another.  Resulting in a war between supporters of the king.  Cavaliers.  And supporters of Parliament.  Roundheads.

But there was another religious element.  The king’s wife.  Henrietta Maria.  Of France.  Who was a proud practicing Catholic.  This bothered a lot of people.  The king having a French Catholic wife in a Protestant country where they were still executing Catholics.  For practicing religion wrong.  And now the king had a Catholic wife.  Who they believed was turning the Protestant king Catholic.  In fact, they thought that English churches even looked too Catholic for their liking.  And they did something about it.  They smashed idols.  Altars.  Vestments.  Stained glass.  Etc.  Anything that you might find in a Catholic Church they destroyed.  Believing their churches should be properly Protestant.  Plain, boring and dull.

When Hostilities broke out the Anti-Catholic Sentiments among these British Americans were as Strong as Ever

About a hundred years later we come to the American Revolutionary War.  Another war between the British people.  Great Britain.  And the American colonists.  Who had grown into their own people.  And did not like the mother country treating them as second class citizens in the British Empire.  They didn’t like the taxation without representation.  Or their mercantile economic policies.  Which limited the colonists to raw material suppliers.  That they had to sell to Britain.  Ship on British ships.  Then buy only British goods.  Shipped on those same British ships.  Goods often manufactured from their own raw materials.

When George Washington settled his accounts with his British agent he didn’t like what he saw.  The British mercantile house was profiting more from his labors than he was.  And it pissed him off.  For George Washington was an astute businessman.  One of the few planters that actually made a profit in Virginia.  And the current system with Great Britain was just bad business.  So when talk of independence came around he was quick to sign on.  Both for principle.  And for business.  For he was an old man.  Who knew a lot.  And experienced even more.  One of the privileges of being an old man.

When hostilities broke out the anti-Catholic sentiments among these British Americans were as strong as ever.  And when General Washington’s soldiers expressed those sentiments publically the general quickly put an end to it.  For the memories of the English Civil War were not that distant.  He did not need to make his task more difficult by adding in that Catholic-Protestant animosity to the current struggle.  Especially when there was an attempt to get Canada to join their cause.  Which was recently French Canada.  A colony of Catholic France.  Before the British defeated the French in the Seven Years’ War.  Making French Canada British.  So the Americans were counting on cashing in on Canada’s anti-British sentiments.  And hopefully France’s anti-British sentiments.

Americans were able to Win the Peace because they didn’t Need Government to tell them how to Live

The Canadians didn’t join the Americans.  But the French did.  And General Washington avoided defeat for 8 years.  And won the American Revolutionary War.  Against the mightiest empire in the world.  A remarkable feat.  Then Washington won the peace.  Which was even more remarkable.  For revolutions rarely end in peace.  Because these conflicts are typically civil wars.  Where brother fights brother.  And when brother fights brother the fighting gets especially brutal.  With bitter feelings of animosity.  Like those between Catholics and Protestants.  Which they often just can’t shut off after the fighting is over.  But the Americans could.  And did.  Which is why their democracy worked.  When so many others have failed.

America’s experiment in self-government worked because of men like George Washington.  Responsible citizens who tempered their wants with knowledge and experience.  Who saw the bigger picture.  Who knew when to stand on principle.  When to compromise.  And when to leave things the hell alone.  Not acting on passions.  Or emotions.  Not acting like children.  But adults.  Who knew they couldn’t have everything they wanted.  And went without a lot of the things they really wanted.  For with liberty came personal responsibility.  You were free to do pretty much whatever you wanted to do.  But that personal responsibility kept you from doing a lot of the things you shouldn’t do.  By exercising restraint.  Which our Founding Fathers exercised after winning the Revolutionary War.  There were no reprisals.  No vengeance.  Only law.  Where justice was blind.  Something that didn’t happen during the French Revolution.  Fought but 5 years from the close of the American Revolution.  But unlike the American Revolution the streets of France ran with blood.  Where vengeance ruled the day.  And justice wasn’t blind.

This is what makes the American Revolution different.  It was the character of the men fighting it.  Men of the Enlightenment.  Selfless men.  Who put the country first.  Instead of settling old scores.  Helped in part by a short history in the New World.  And a long history in the Old World.  As they were able to learn the lessons of history.  Without having centuries of wrongs to right inflaming their passions.  Exceptional men.  And exceptional circumstances.  Something the French just didn’t have.  Which is why the streets of France ran with blood.  And why there were many fits and starts to their republic.  While the Americans were able to make theirs work from the beginning.  Because of the character of its people.  Who were not used to a ruling power subjecting them.  Who expected no one to take care of them.  And just wanted their government to leave them the hell alone.  So they could work hard.  And provide for their families.  And their ideal form of government was one that let them do just that.  Not one that was a big part of their life.  Or one that provided for them.  Made them dependent on it.  The Americans were able to win the peace because they didn’t need government to tell them how to live.  They chose to live harmoniously together.  Thanks to a character honed by their religious beliefs.  And having exemplary men to emulate.  The Founding Fathers.  This is why the Americans were able to win the peace.  Why the French were unable to win theirs.  And why the Egyptians are struggling to win theirs.

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Political Right, Left and Center

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 22nd, 2012

(Originally published December 8th, 2011)

The French Left wanted Radical Change and Launched the French Revolution

The terms Right, Left and Center go back to the French Revolution.  To the National Assembly.  Where people sat according to their political preferences.  Those who wanted to kill the king, the queen, the nobility, the clergy and pretty much anyone rich sat to the left of the president.  Those who wanted to maintain the monarchy and the established institutions sat to the president’s right.  Those who fell between these views sat in the center.

Why did the French Revolution erupt?  The people were starving.  Taxes were high.  And the government was trying to raise taxes again.  Because the government was drowning in debt.  From decades of war with their archenemy.  Great Britain.  And their financing of the American Revolution.  Where the British Americans were rebelling against the French’s archenemy.  Great Britain.

So France was a tinderbox.  To make matters worse for the monarchy was all that liberty talk of the Americans.  It was like a disease.  And it infected the French.  Who looked at the wealthy few.  The king.  The queen.  The nobility.  The clergy.  And then listened to their empty tummies rumbling.  The French Left wanted radical change.  And revolution.  The French Right said whoa now, let’s not act hasty here.  Yes we have some problems but our glorious French institutions have been around for centuries.  It’s in large part to them that France is great.

The Revolution to Topple a King ended with the Coronation of an Emperor – Napoleon

Well despite France’s great and glorious past the radicals got their way.  And blood ran in the streets of Paris.  Starting with the Storming of the Bastille.  The great medieval fortress housing prisoners of the realm.  The revolutionaries threw open the gates.  And freed all seven prisoners.  Being more a symbolic act than one of substance.  But this led eventually to a number of legislative assemblies.  A lot of blood.  Carnage.  And the beheading of King Louis XVI.  And his queen.  Marie Antoinette.  Eventually the seats on the right side of the National Assembly emptied.  As everyone moved to the president’s left.  Lest they be killed, too.

The revolutionaries aimed their wrath at anyone who was not supportive of the Revolution.  And even those whose support was only lukewarm.  They killed these enemies of the Revolution.  Or any other enemies that they conveniently identified as enemies of the Revolution.  Leaders rose.  And leaders fell.  Jean-Paul Marat.  Georges-Jacques Danton.  And Maximillien Robespierre.  All three were killed.  Charlotte Corday, a supporter of the Right, stabbed Marat in his bath tub.  Danton and Robespierre were guillotined.  Leaders of violence.  Victims of violence.  These members of the French Left.  Who killed and terrorized the people unlike the king they killed.  King Louis XVI.  Or the queen they killed.  Marie Antoinette.

Ultimately the French Revolution gave the world Napoleon.  And world war.  And the Revolution to topple a king ended with the coronation of an emperor.  For this opportunist ultimately had the biggest army.  Napoleon could consolidate his power.  Unlike Marat.  Danton.  Or Robespierre.  But Napoleon could.  And did.  Then he set out to create an empire.  Much like the kings that came before him did.

Those on the Right are Distrustful of those on the Left when they Talk about Egalitarianism and Fairness

Today the meaning of Left, Right and Center vary.  But, in general, those on the Right prefer the way things are.  Proven by time to work.  And those on the Left are never happy with how things are and want to change them to some new theoretical ideal that time hasn’t proven as a viable workable system.  Such as socialism.  And communism.  Generally referred to as ‘leftist’ systems.  And both are systems that have never worked.

Fascist Italy, Communist Russia and Nazi Germany were all new experimental systems to right all the wrongs of past governments.  And all three governments made their citizens’ lives worse with harsh police states.  With the state summarily executing enemies of the state.  Much like Marat, Danton and Robespierre did in France.  Many refer to Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy as right-wing states.  But both were fascist states.  Which was nothing more than a national socialism.  Which was a combination of socialism.  And nationalism.  These were people who wanted radical change.  Control over the masses.  And empire.  If these governments sat in the French National Legislation they all would have taken seats to the left of the president.

Leftists hate the rich and successful.  And want to confiscate their wealth for themselves.  Instead of trying to achieve wealth on their own merit.  Those on the Right are distrustful of those on the Left when they talk about egalitarianism and fairness.  Because they know what that means.  They are going to take their wealth via the power of government.  By a progressive tax system.  Inheritance tax.  Capital gains tax.  Surtaxes to punish success.  Regulatory laws and fees that increase the cost of doing business.  (As well as increases the prices of goods and services.)  Etc.

The Left champions the poor and downtrodden as they ascend to power.  But rarely have they helped the poor and downtrodden.  Only a select few in the party upper echelons ever live a better life.   For example, the Democrat Party launched a war on poverty in the Sixties and yet there is still poverty.  Despite a myriad of government programs that has exploded the size of government.  All headed by rich bureaucrats living better lives.  While the poor and downtrodden are still wallowing in poverty.  And we know this because the Left is constantly telling us this.  In their never ending quest to expand the size of government.

The center is somewhere between the Left and the Right.  It’s not really a group with core political beliefs.  But more of a group that that likes a little from column ‘A’.  And a little from column ‘B’.

Politics is a Procession – We tend to Start on the Left, Work our Way through the Center and End on the Right

Perhaps another way to look at this is those on the right being parents in a family.  Children of these parents who are now raising their own families are in the center.  And the young children who are still in college are on the left.

The young know little and have even less responsibility.  They like to stay out late, party, do drugs and have consequence-free sex.  They don’t like anything that restricts their good times.  Hence they are always hostile to authority.  Church.  Or state.  And their vote tends to lean towards anarchy.  Where anything goes.

The children starting their own families are slowly giving up the ways of their youth.  They are becoming established in their careers.  Raising children.  Which leaves little time for fun.  But they are hesitant to admit that they have become their parents.  So they hang on to some of their idealistic ways of their youth.  While starting to save for their kids’ college education.  And their retirement.  They even start going to church.  To get their kids started on the right foot.  And to try and keep their kids from doing everything they did when they were young.

The parents have worked long and hard.  They have a family.  And grandchildren.  They want the best for their family.  And a happy and secure retirement.  After playing by the rules all of their lives they don’t want to rock the boat now that they are so close to retirement.  So they are very pleased to stay with the proven ways of the past.  And prefer to help others at their church.  Rather than giving money to a leviathan government.

Politics is a procession.  We tend to start on the Left.  Work our way through the Center.  And end on the Right.  For we tend to grow less radical with age.  Because as we age we accumulate wealth and have far more to lose with radical change.

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Franco-American Treaties, Spanish Louisiana, French Republic, Edmond Genêt, Proclamation of Neutrality and Petit Démocrate

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 11th, 2012

Politics 101

The US enjoyed a Booming Economy due to Trade with Great Britain and the Protection of that Trade by Britain’s Royal Navy

In politics there is domestic policy.  Where politicians can really make a mess of the nation.  And then there’s foreign policy.  Where politicians can make an even bigger mess of things.  Because nations are not isolated from other nations in the world.  And what they say or do can have a great impact on those nations who threatened them.  And those nations who peacefully coexist with them.  Bad foreign policy can do anything from hurting the economy (by disrupting international trade).  To causing war.

America came into being in part due to the treaties they made with the King of France.  Louis XVI.  Who helped them overthrow their king’s rule.  An interesting thing for a king to do.  What with Louis being a king himself.  And the last thing he wanted was his subjects to overthrow him.  Which they would do a decade or so later.  As they were inflamed with the spirit of liberty.  Thanks to the American Revolution.  The very thing that Louis helped the Americans win.  Who did so to improve his position against his perpetual enemy.  Great Britain.  But in the end he lost his own kingdom.

The Franco-American treaties included a perpetual military alliance.  Such that if a hostile nation attacked France the U.S. was obligated to help protect the French West Indies.  Under a commercial treaty French privateers could use U.S. ports.  Meaning that if they captured an enemy ship, say a British ship, they could bring that prize into a U.S. port.  Even refitting the ship into another French privateer to go out and attack more British shipping.  All sensible and reasonable considering the U.S. was at war with Great Britain at the time they entered those treaties.  But the U.S. did not remain in a perpetual state of way with Great Britain.  In fact, the U.S. enjoyed a booming economy in part due to trade with Great Britain.  And the protection of that trade by Britain’s Royal Navy.  The most powerful navy in the world.

The Port of New Orleans was the Gateway for all American Farm Goods West of the Appalachians

So as war clouds loomed over Europe again with the outbreak of the French Revolution these treaties complicated matters for the young nation.  She had no navy.  Not much of a standing army.  And a lot of debt from the last war.  Which was not an enjoyable experience having lasted some 8 years before the Treaty of Paris of 1783 officially ended it.  Now the nation was enjoying peace and economic growth.  And the last thing they wanted was another war.  Which was going to be difficult to avoid.  And the animosity between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson didn’t help.  As they both wanted the young nation to remain neutral.  But they each wanted that neutrality to lean in opposite ways.

In 1790 war loomed between Great Britain and Spain.  The Spanish had allied themselves with France in the American Revolution to settle some old scores with Britain.  That war did not end as well as they had hoped.  As Gibraltar was still British.  So there was that.  Among other deeply held…differences.  When it looked like they would return to war the British in Canada sent an official to meet with the Washington administration.  To get permission for the passage of British troops on American territory to attack Spanish Louisiana.  Which is where the Mississippi River flowed through to the Port of New Orleans.  The gateway for all American farm goods west of the Appalachians.

This was a complex issue.  For the Spanish didn’t really like the Americans.  Wanting to keep them as far east of the Mississippi river as possible.  So on the one hand getting the Spanish out of North America completely might have been a good thing.  But replacing the Spanish with the British not so good.  Alexander Hamilton wanted to grant the British this passage.  In exchange for a guarantee of navigation rights on the Mississippi River.  He also wanted to grant them passage as he feared they would take it with or without the American’s permission.  And if they did without that permission the Americans would have no choice but to go to war to preserve American honor and her territorial sovereignty.  So supporting the British was the only way to save face in the international community without going to war.  In the end, though, the British and the Spanish resolved their differences peacefully.

Genêt refitted the British Brigantine Little Sarah into the Commerce Raider Petit Démocrate, Pushing the Americans Closer to War

The British didn’t go to war with the Spanish.  But the French and British did in 1793.  Which caused a lot of trouble in America.  For the American people still hated the British.  Despite a lucrative trade with them.  A trade protected by their Royal Navy.  But that did little to make them forget all those years of war.  Or forget the people who helped them win their independence.  The French.  So when the French Revolution broke out, and the French and the British went to war again, the American people sided with the French.  Despite what was happening in Paris.  The Terror.  And the execution of the king and queen.  As far as they were concerned the only good king was a dead king.  But that dead king posed a problem for American foreign policy.  Those Franco-American treaties were made with that now dead king.  And his court.  Which no longer existed.  So were the Americans still bound by those treaties?

Which brought up an even bigger question.  Should the Americans recognize the French Republic?  No other nation had.  And after the execution of King Louis and Marie Antoinette, it was unlikely any monarchy would.  So should the Americans be first?  Hamilton said, “No.”  While Jefferson said, “Yes.”  As far as the Franco-American treaties Hamilton did not want to honor them as that government no longer existed.  Jefferson insisted on honoring them as if they were made with the new French Republic.  Jefferson also insisted that Washington receive the new French envoy.  Citizen Edmond Genêt.  Washington ultimately consented to receiving Citizen Genêt.  But he also issued his Proclamation of Neutrality.  Telling the British and the French that America would remain friendly but impartial to both.  Which did not go over well with the French.  Or the American people.

Genêt landed in South Carolina.  And travelled overland to Philadelphia.  Getting a hero’s welcome along the way.  Genêt even said that Washington was jealous of him for how the American people loved him more than the president.  These actions and remarks did not endear Genêt to the Washington administration.  Washington and Hamilton gave him a cool reception.  While Jefferson gave him a very warm reception.  Telling him he had a friend in the Secretary of State.  Genêt demanded an advance on the money America owed France.  Hamilton refused.  Knowing what he wanted that money for.  To pay for the Armée du Mississippi and the Armée des Florides that George Rogers Clarke was putting together for him on paper.  To attack the Spanish in Louisiana and in Florida.  When Hamilton refused he complained to Jefferson.  Saying he was clearly favoring the British Crown over the Franco-American alliance.  And even lied.  Saying that if he agreed to use that money to contract with Hamilton’s friends he could have it.  Further convincing Jefferson of the corruption at the Treasury Department under Hamilton.

As bad as all of that was Genêt was also outfitting privateers that were attacking and capturing British shipping.  Worse, he was bringing these prizes back to American ports to sell.  Which did not look very neutral to Britain.  Who demanded their ships back.  And that the Americans close these ports to the French.  Which Washington did.  For the last thing the Americans wanted was another war with Britain.  Chaffing under the American restrictions Genêt refitted the British brigantine Little Sarah into the commerce raider Petit Démocrate.  Telling Jefferson he did so by the authority of the Franco-American treaties.  And when she set out to sea it captured one British ship after another.  Pushing the Americans closer to war with the British.  Turning the American people against the French.  And the Republican Party.  Who had so warmly embraced Citizen Genêt.  So that was the end of Genêt.  And the Franco-American treaties.  The Americans would remain neutral.  Even if that neutrality favored the British.  Which turned out to be a good thing.  As the whole world would be at war with France in a few years.  With even the American people demanding to go to war with France.  Thankfully, America’s second president, John Adams, was able to keep that from happening.

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American Revolution, French Revolution, Jacobins, Girondins, Proclamation of Neutrality, Jay Treaty, Hamilton, Jefferson and Citizen Genêt

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 13th, 2012

Politics 101

The Americans stuck by the Rule of Law while the French descended into Mob Rule

The American Revolutionary War was pretty brutal at times.  Especially on the frontier.  And in the civil war in the South.  Where Patriot and Loyalist could be rather cruel to one time friends and neighbors.  But for the most part both the professional soldiers and politicians practiced restraint.  And prosecuted the war by international law.  And a code of honor.  When the Americans defeated Burgoyne’s army at Saratoga the defeated soldiers did not suffer cruel acts of vengeance.  Instead they got rather generous terms of surrender.

When the war was over there were a few flare ups such as Shays’ Rebellion and the Whiskey Rebellion.  But these were the exception.  Not the rule.  The newly independent states had problems.  Which they addressed through political debate in Philadelphia.  And they drafted a new constitution.  This unleashed bitter partisan debate.  But only bitter partisan debate.  The states ratified the Constitution.  And the new nation went forth.  It wasn’t quite like this in the French Revolution.  Where the streets literally ran with blood.

Jean-Paul Marat, Georges-Jacques Danton and Jacobin Maximillien Robespierre were no Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson or James Madison.  The Americans stuck by the rule of law.  While the French descended into mob rule.  Where competing mobs rallied around different movements.  The Jacobins, the Cordeliers and the Girondins.  Who all incited the mobs to violence.  Against the ancien régime.  The monarchy.  And the Church.  As well as any counterrevolutionaries.  And anyone lacking in revolutionary zeal.

In 1793 French Revolutionaries Guillotined King Louis and Marie Antoinette

The mobs became judge, jury and executioner.  The Paris Commune (the revolutionary ruling authority in Paris) sanctioned the mobs.  Who could act with impunity.  While the people even watched.  And cheered.  Revolutionaries fell on imprisoned political prisoners.  Priests.  The Swiss Guards who protected the king.  As well as the royal servants and clerics.  They forced prisoners to run a gauntlet of revolutionaries armed with swords, knives, pikes, axes and other blunt and sharp instruments.  And bludgeoned and hacked them to death as they ran screaming back and forth.

And the violence grew.  With torture becoming sport.  The level of barbarity reached such levels to include the butchering of women.  Including the hacking off of a woman’s breasts.  Then setting a bonfire beneath her spread legs.  While the people cheered.  They brutally killed Princess de Lamballe, consort of Marie Antoinette.  Bludgeoned with a hammer, stripped naked, mutilated and dragged through the streets of Paris.  Then guillotined.  But that wasn’t the end of it.  They cut out her heart and roasted it over a fire.  Then stuck her bloodied head on a pike.  Took it to a hair salon to fix her hair.  Then returned it to the pike.  As they impaled her naked body on another pike.  Her crime?  She refused to denounce her king and queen.

In 1793 they guillotined King Louis.  The executioner held up his severed head and the people cheered.  Later that year they guillotined Marie Antoinette.  The executioner held up her severed head and the people cheered.  And the processions to the guillotine increased.  Enemies of the revolution.  People falsely accused of being enemies of the revolution.  And a lot of Girondins.  Who the Jacobins condemned.  And guillotined.  Then the people condemned the Jacobins.  And guillotined them.  They even condemned American Patriot Thomas Paine (who was in Paris and even helped write one of the revolutionary constitutions—unfortunately for him it was with the Girondins) to the guillotine.  But he would escape the guillotine and return to America.  They even imprisoned George Washington’s ‘adopted’ son, the Marquis de La Fayette.  Who fought with him throughout the American Revolution.  But he, too, survived.  Though he would languish in a prison for some 5 years.

When Genêt arrived in Philadelphia Washington greeted him with Portraits of King Louis and Marie Antoinette conspicuously behind Him

The events in France would reverberate across the Atlantic.  And further divide an already divided Washington administration.  As the French Revolution escalated the Americans were negotiating the Jay Treaty to resolve some issues left over from the Revolutionary War.  The end result was that the British and the new United States of America moved closer together.  Which really offended the pro-French elements in the Washington administration.  In particular Jefferson and Madison.  While inflaming the French.  For following the Reign of Terror the French exported their revolution throughout Europe.  And soon were at war with the old European monarchies.  Including Great Britain.  Again.

Interestingly, neither Jefferson nor Madison fought in the Revolution.  While Alexander Hamilton and George Washington did.  And yet they were for closer ties to Britain and not revolutionary France.  Why?  America’s future depended on trade.  Most of that trade was with Great Britain.  And that trade enjoyed the protection of the world’s most powerful navy.  The Royal Navy.  It was the pragmatic choice.  Jefferson, though, thought it showed Hamilton’s true colors.  That he was an aristocrat who wanted to turn America into a monarchy like Britain.  That he wanted power for himself.  Not individual liberty.  As exemplified in the American republic.  And in the republic the French were fighting for.  The French believed so strongly in liberty that they turned to world conquest.  Bringing that liberty to oppressed people everywhere.  Which Jefferson liked.  He saw a republican revolution sweeping the world, leaving a swath of liberty in its wake.  Others saw mob rule in France and the execution of a king and queen.  Which absolutely appalled Washington.

George Washington issued a Proclamation of Neutrality in these new European wars.  Which meant they weren’t going to help their one time ally.  France.  Which irked Jefferson.  Then came the Jay Treaty.  Further irking Jefferson.  And the American people.  For the people were clearly behind the French.  And did not like the British at all.  Which made President Washington a very unpopular president at the time.  Then the French sent over Edmond-Charles Genêt.  Citizen Genêt.  The new French ambassador to the United States.  And he was on a mission.  To get American support for their wars against Spain and Great Britain.  Something Jefferson was eager to support.  He communicated with Genêt.  Who assured Genêt that the Franco-American alliance would persevere.  Despite any proclamation or treaty.  He looked forward to his arrival in Philadelphia.  But he didn’t go to Philadelphia to meet President Washington.  He went to South Carolina first.  Where he recruited American privateers to join the French on their attacks on British shipping.  And tried to raise armies to attack Spanish Florida and Louisiana.  And eventually the British in North America as well.  When word of these activities reached Washington he was furious.

When Genêt finally arrived in Philadelphia Washington greeted him with portraits of King Louis and Marie Antoinette conspicuously behind him.  The king that was America’s staunchest ally during the American Revolution.  And the king the French had recently executed.  Genêt asked Washington to suspend their neutrality.  The answer was no.  Even Jefferson agreed and told the French ambassador he was out of line.  Actually joining Hamilton on this one issue.  Soon the Jacobins back in France issued an arrest warrant for Citizen Genêt and asked him to return to France.  Knowing that meant a trip to the guillotine he asked Washington for asylum.  That Washington granted on the advice of Hamilton.  Thus ending the Genêt affair.  But the French Revolution still threatened the young American republic.  First by an overwhelming public sentiment to stand by France.  Then by overwhelming public sentiment to go to war against France.  Something that would threaten to tear apart the next presidential administration.

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American Revolution, French Revolution, King Louis XVI, National Assembly, Tennis Court Oath, Bastille, Guillotine and Reign of Terror

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 6th, 2012

Politics 101

France was Staring at Bankruptcy while her People were Suffering Poverty and Hunger

Shortly after the American Revolution came the French Revolution.  Inspired in part by the American Revolution.  Whose spirit of liberty was infectious.  Some French even joined the Americans in their fight for liberty.  Such as Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, marquis de Lafayette.  Who was a general in George Washington’s army.  And who Washington looked on as a son.  America’s war was an expensive war.  And only through the generosity of Louis XVI, King of the French, did the Americans win their war.  Ironic, really, that an absolute monarch like Louis XVI would help the Americans break free from a monarchy.  But he did.  And saddled France with a tremendous war debt.

These are two things you don’t want to do if you’re a king.  Showing your people that you support the end of monarchy while denying it to your own people.  And making the French people pay for another people’s independence.  Through higher taxes.  And greater privations.  Things that tend to piss off a people.  It was a gamble for Louis.  For he didn’t believe in the American cause.  It was just a calculated bet.  The British had just recently defeated the French in the Seven Years’ War.  And the British took France’s North American territories.  Territories the French wanted back.  The American Revolution was their chance to rebalance the balance of power.  And get back at their hated enemy.  Great Britain.

Well that was the plan.  But it did not go as planned.  The Americans got wind of what the French monarchy was doing behind the scenes.  Which was even in discussions with the British to secure a peace that left the Americans subjects of the British Crown.  With a much smaller territory in the New World.  Leaving room for the French.  And their ally.  Spain.  An outcome that benefited neither the British nor the Americans.  So the British and the Americans made a separate peace.  One that favored their interests.  Not the French or the Spanish.  So Louis gambled.  He lost.  And he lost big.  The nation was staring at bankruptcy.  While her people were suffering poverty and hunger.  And what did these poor and hungry people see?  A very comfortable and well fed king, nobility and clergy.  This was the kindling just waiting for a match to light.

Montesquieu influenced the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen as well as the U.S. Founding Documents

That match came in 1789.  And the lighting of that match began with Jacques Necker.  Comptroller-General of Finance for Louis XVI.  Who advised the king that the nobility and the clergy needed to pay more taxes.  And proposed restricting the power of the parlements.  The nobility and the clergy paid little taxes due to their tax exemptions.  While the poor were too poor to help with the financial mess France was in.  So the only hope of raising new revenue was the nobility and clergy.  Alas, the monarchy did not like his recommendations and fired him.  Enter Charles Alexandre, vicomte de Calonne.  Who advised the king that the nobility and the clergy needed to pay more taxes.  Facing opposition from the parlements for proposing unpopular policy Calonne got the king to summon the Assembly of Notables.  A group of notables (like Lafayette) who advised the king.  But the notables did not endorse Calonne’s plan.  So the king called the Estates-General to the Grands Salles des Menus-Plaisirs in Versailles.

The estates were representatives of the people.  There were three of them.  The clergy.  The nobility.  And everyone else.  The commoners.  That is, the Third Estate.  Who grew weary with the way things were in France and declared themselves representatives not of the Third Estate but of the people.  They called themselves the National Assembly.  A radical move.  The first of a lot of radicalism to follow.  Not liking the look of this movement Louis closed their meeting hall and posted a guard in front of the door.  So the National Assembly moved to an indoor tennis court.  And took the Tennis Court Oath.  Where they promised to write a new constitution before adjourning.  Others joined them.  From both the clergy.  And the nobility.

The weariness grew into agitation.  The people grew angry.  And everything the king did just inflamed their anger.  From the firing of Necker.  To the presence of foreign soldiers in Paris.  The people feared royal oppression.  And began rioting.  Paris was out of control.  Then the people stormed the Bastille for weapons and ammunition.  They released all seven prisoners.  And brutally murdered Governor Marquis Bernard de Launay.  The guy in charge of the Bastille.  Beheaded him.  And placed his head on a pike and paraded it through Paris.  Then they went to Paris city hall and brutally murdered the mayor.  Jacques de Flesselles.  Then the National Constituent Assembly (of the National Assembly) went to work on the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789).  Sort of a combination of the U.S. Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Bill of Rights.  Drawing heavily on the same great French philosopher of the Enlightenment the Americans did.  Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu.

The People who Embraced the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen unleashed the Reign of Terror

In America after the U.S. Bill of Rights was ratified by the states the nation went about its business.  With some bitter fighting between the Founding Fathers as they argued over what the new nation was going to be.  But this bitter fighting was of the verbal kind.  It wasn’t quite like that in France.  There they attacked the Catholic Church.  Seized its property.  And sold it to the highest bidder.  As France grew more radical.  Where the radicals sat to the left in the legislative hall.  And those supportive of the old ways and monarchy sat on the right.  Giving us the political terms ‘left’ and ‘right’.  Then the radicals turned against the monarchy.  Created a constitutional monarchy to restrict the king’s power.  Like they had in Britain.  As the monarchy was assaulted the royal family tried to flee France in 1791.  They were caught and returned to Versailles.  Where they were put under house arrest.

Then the violence escalated.  Food shortages continued.  Prices continued to rise.  King Louis and Marie Antoinette were guillotined in 1793.  Control of France fell to the Committee of Public Safety.  And new leaders rose up to take power.  Including the radical journalist Jean-Paul Marat.  Who was murdered in a bathtub by a woman in the opposition party.  Georges Jacques Danton escalated the bloodletting by unleashing the Reign of Terror.  Where anyone who was identified as an enemy of the people or was not quite enthusiastic enough about the revolution was sent to the guillotine.  He was pretty bad.  But then there was Maximilien François Marie Isidore de Robespierre.  Who was real bad.  In all during the Reign of Terror the Committee of Public Safety guillotined some 20 to 40 thousand people.  Including Danton.  And Robespierre.  Live by the guillotine.  Die by the guillotine.

The French overthrew their king quicker than the Americans overthrew their king.  But the Americans quickly won their peace.  Without killing 20-40 thousand of their people.  Or their king.  Whereas the French descended into anarchy.  Even executed their king.  Something that appalled George Washington.  For though his motives were wrong and the Americans just rebelled against a monarch of their own, Louis provided the greatest aid to the Americans in their revolution.  Which probably made it easier to maintain a policy of neutrality in the new war between France and Great Britain during the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars that followed.  Even favor the British in that policy of neutrality.  For the vast majority of American trade was with the British Empire.  And all of the agreements the Americans made with France during their Revolution they made with King Louis XVI.  A man executed during the Reign of Terror.  A period where the rule of law was thrown aside.  By the same people who embraced the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.

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Little Ice Age, Protestant Reformation, Louis XIV, Enlightenment, Seven Years’ War, American Revolution and French Revolution

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 30th, 2012

Politics 101

King Louis XIV remained Catholic as Protestantism was Breaking Out in Europe and Britain

It’s been awhile since the last ice age.  In fact the last time we had a real ice age predated the first civilizations.  We still wore animal skins and hunted and gathered our food.  Long before we first farmed.  But it would get cool again.  Shortly after the Black Death (during the 1300s) it did get unseasonably cool.  So cool that we now call it the Little Ice Age (from 1350 to 1850 or thereabouts).  The glaciers didn’t cover Europe.  But it was cold.  And wet.  The spring took forever to change into summer.  While summer was quick to turn into fall.  Which led to short growing seasons.  Poor harvests.  Hunger.  And famine.

Martin Luther was no fan of the Pope.  Especially because of the indulgences he was selling.  A shortcut to heaven.  For those with money.  Which is what the Pope wanted.  Money.  For he was doing some costly renovations in Rome.  So in 1517 Martin Luther nailed up his Ninety-Five Theses to the church door demanding reform.  And kicking off the Protestant Reformation.  Well, the Catholic Church wasn’t interested in reform.  So Luther set up a new church.  With a new religion.  Protestantism.  A more plain religion.  With masses in the common language of the people.  Instead of Latin.  And no fancy things in the church.  No altars.  No stain glass.  No icons.  Just the word of God.  With over a thousand years of Catholicism already under their belt, though, a lot of people took offense to this.  And their offense offended the new Protestants.  So they went to war with each other for a few centuries or so over their religious differences.

King Louis XIV was one of the great French monarchs.  Under his rule France was the dominant European power.  The Sun King believed in the divine right of kings.  Absolute monarchism.  Doing pretty much as he pleased.  Which included a few wars.  And growing an empire with oversea colonies.  It cost a pretty penny.  And a lot of lives.  Louis remained Catholic as Protestantism was breaking out in Europe.  And in England.  For a couple hundred years or so England and France were bitter enemies.  Contesting colonial lands throughout the globe.  And defending the true faith.  Catholicism.  Or Protestantism.  The Catholic-Protestant battle lines stretched across Europe.  And to distant lands across the globe.  Including the New World.  Where they would both spend fortunes in waging war.

For the French the American War of Independence had nothing to do with the Americans

The Enlightenment, or the Age of Reason, gave the French Voltaire.  One of the great Enlightenment philosophers.  When Benjamin Franklin was in France the French were eager to bring two of the world’s greatest Enlightenment philosophers together.  And did.  The French also gave us the great Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu.  The greatest influence on the Founding Fathers as they drafted our Constitution.  So there was some great thinking percolating in France.  Thoughts that focused on science and reason.  Not tradition and faith.  Even questioning some long-held beliefs about the Catholic Church, the aristocracy and the absolute monarchy.

Louis XIV built a great French empire.  The French seemed invincible.  Until Louis XV took over.  Who lost the Seven Years’ War to the British.  And saw French North America become British.  (And the Louisiana Territory go to Spain.)  That was tough having their eternal foe humiliate them.  The Protestant British.  It was a blow to French pride.  French commerce.  And French finances.  The near-perpetual state of war that had existed between Britain and France had cost both nations a lot of money.  The British decided to recoup some of that money by taxing their American colonies.  Which didn’t go over well with the Americans.  For unlike France the British had a constitutional monarchy.  Where the Parliament restricted the king’s powers.  That great institute of the people.  Which the Americans had no representation in.  Leading to their rebellion.  Because they didn’t like being treated like second-class subjects of the British Empire.  Which brought about the American Revolutionary War.

After the Americans defeated a British army at the Battle of Saratoga the French joined the Americans in their fight for independence from the oppression of a constitutional monarchy.  Which seemed rather odd being that the French at this time was still an absolute monarchy (though now ruled by Louis XVI).  Which was far more oppressive than the constitutional variety.  But for the French the American War of Independence had nothing to do with the Americans.  It had to do with French interests.  It was a chance to strike back at their eternal enemy.  The Protestant British.  And more importantly, when they won they could get back all their colonies they lost in the Seven Years’ War.

The French were Intoxicated with all of those Enlightenment Ideals and the American Win over an Oppressive Monarchy

The Americans won their independence.  But the French didn’t get anything they wanted.  All they got was a lot of debt.  To add to the enormous pile of debt they already had.  One of the French conditions for their alliance was that the Americans would not make a separate peace with the British.  Which is what the Americans did.  Why?  Because the French and the Spanish were conspiring against the Americans during the peace talks.  So they could expand their holdings in North America at the expense of the British and the Americans.  The French were even willing to trade American Independence away.  The British, who would rather have Americans on their former lands than the French or Spanish, made a separate peace with the Americans.

This act of diplomacy stunned the French.  For they had assurances from the American Congress that they would take the lead in the peace talks.  The Americans double-crossed them before they could double-cross the Americans.  This wasn’t supposed to happen in the world of European diplomacy.  Especially with rubes like the Americans.  But it did.  And the French were now in a world of hurt.  Broke.  And facing bankruptcy.  Desperately needing new tax revenue King Louis XVI called an Assembly of Notables.  The nobility and clergy.  But they didn’t want to pay any more taxes.  So the king called the Estates-General of 1789.  Which included the clergy, the nobility and everyone else (i.e., the Third Estate).

Meanwhile there was widespread hunger and malnutrition.  Poor grain harvests (in part due to the Little Ice Age) pushed the price of bread out of reach for many.  People were cold, hungry and poor.  In the Third Estate, that is.  For though they may have been suffering they saw that the nobility and the Catholic clergy were not.  In fact, they were living rather well.  Which inflamed the masses.  Who became intoxicated with all of those Enlightenment ideals.  And that American victory over an oppressive monarchy.  It got the people thinking.  That they didn’t need a nobility any more.  The Catholic Church.  Or a king.  And the people would get rid of these things.  For awhile, at least.  With something called the French Revolution.

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