On the American Revolution

“That’s because the French completely botched their revolution,” Mr. Bates said rather smugly.

“The thing that sets our American Revolution apart from most other revolutions,” Mr. Magundi replied, “is that it was a conservative revolution: conservative in the root sense of the word, meaning seeking to preserve the established order. The French Revolution had as its object to sweep away all the ancient institutions and replace them with something entirely new to France. But the Americans had seen their ancient liberal institutions swept away and wanted them back. Here in Pittsburgh in 1775, a people’s committee resolved to support the New England rebels, saying that the committee did ‘most cordially approve of their opposing the invaders of American rights and privileges to the utmost extreme.’ And similar statements came from all over the country. The Americans were not mainly theorists; they saw a despotic government invading their ancient rights and privileges, and they defended what belonged to them. Before the despotic invasion, they had lived in states governed by popular assemblies with a governor as the executive; after a successful revolution, they lived in states governed by popular assemblies with a governor as the executive. It was the interval of despotism that was the innovation, and we rejected it.”


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