Jewish World Review July 1, 1999 /17 Tamuz 5759
What made our revolution different?
After 223 years -- and William J. Clinton notwithstanding -- America is still the most successful experiment going.
Among other things, the American revolution demonstrated that majorities are frequently wrong, a fact worth recalling in
an age of focus-group worship.
Historians tell us that the colonists were evenly divided in favor of, against and ambivalent toward independence. If
Gallup had been around in 1776, we'd be driving on the wrong side of the road and obsessing about the royal family.
Unlike all men, all revolutions are not created equal. What makes ours unique?
There were three revolutions that profoundly influenced the course of human events: the American, French and Russian.
The first transformed the world; the latter deformed it.
The best revolutions are made by elites -- men of property and learning with a sense of service. The French and Russian
revolutions soon fell into the hands of bloody-minded fanatics. Jacobins and Bolsheviks -- these are not names that inspire
America's was a revolution of words (albeit defended by the sword), epitomized by the Declaration of Independence
and Constitution, and lesser works like "The Federalist Papers" and "Common Sense."
It wasn't ink that flowed in the streets of Paris and St. Petersburg. If our revolutionary era was symbolized by a quill
pen, theirs would best be represented by Madame la Guillotine and a Cheka firing squad.
Those who make revolution reluctantly do so most wisely.
With a few exceptions, the Founding Fathers came to accept the necessity of a break with the mother country late in the
game. Even after the Intolerable Acts, Lexington, Concord and Bunker Hill, it took months of debate to get a resolution of
independence through the Second Continental Congress.
Revolutions with narrow goals -- those that eschew grand utopian visions and settle for modest improvement of the
human condition -- work best. Madison, Adams and their associates didn't aim to overhaul society or remake human nature.
They were wise enough to understand that, like inalienable rights, our nature is endowed by the Creator.
Mere mortals, and the Founders never pretended to be more, understand they are incapable of giving people new
The most Founding Fathers aspired to was an orderly society, governed justly (where state interference in human affairs
is minimum), where property rights are respected and individuals can work, play and pray pretty much as they choose.
Marat and Robespierre, Lenin and Trotsky saw humanity as clay on the potter's wheel. The Paris commune, the Terror,
collective farms, purge trials and gulags all were ghastly attempts to fashion a new Eden.
If that weren't enough, French and Russian radicals felt compelled to export their glorious revolutions, on the point of a
bayonet, to those who fiercely resisted the favor.
By contrast, the generation of 1776 said to the world: "Well, here it is. We wish you well. Look to us for inspiration, not
liberation." The most-quoted line from Washington's farewell address is his warning about entangling alliances.
Finally, the American revolution had a spiritual foundation. The Declaration of Independence appealed to "the Supreme
Judge of the World" and affirmed the colonists "firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence."
The French and Russian revolutions were unalterably opposed not just to religious expression but to the very idea of a
power above the party or state.
Jacobins attacked the Catholic Church, murdered clerics and erected a Goddess of Reason. The communists made
atheism an official state dogma. Heaven distributed its blessings -- and maledictions -- accordingly.
Consider the aftermath of the three revolutions.
Both communism and fascism were forged in the fires of revolutionary France. The revolution of 1789 led directly to
Napoleon, a resurrection of the monarchy, a second empire and a series of unstable republics, culminating in a nation known
principally for its cuisine.
Russia suffered 70 years under Bolshevism, with untold millions dead, and spread its blight to half of Europe.
America shaped the 20th century, created the greatest industrial engine in history and saved humanity from the twin
And the future? That depends on how well we recall the lessons of our revolution and what distinguishes it from those
JWR contributing columnist Don Feder can be reached by clicking here.
6/28/99: Michigan lowers the boom on swearing
6/23/99: Politicians think we're fools -- they're right
6/21/99: Gambling commission issues report, rolls dice
6/17/99: Why Right went cuckoo over Kosovo
6/14/99: America will be ultimate victim of war on Yugoslavia
6/09/99:Call a moratorium on Clinton judges
6/07/99: Public schools will muck up character education
6/03/99: Don't think, just vote
5/28/99: An American credo
5/26/99 :Do we really want peace in Yugoslavia?
5/24/99: Gay 'marriage' -- don't pass go
5/19/99: Little Bill, you had a busy week
5/17/99: Gun control, campaign-finance reform -- two liberal illusions
5/12/99: Watch Quayle go from "incredible" to quite credible
5/10/99: Conservatives excluded from academic diversity
5/05/99: Expecting the impossible of parents
5/03/99: Gore race-baits with impunity
4/29/99: Why Kosovo? Oh, just because
4/27/99: The president's pro-parent claptrap
4/22/99: McCain plays to the media
4/19/99: NATO would have favored the confederacy
4/14/99: Before we march into Kosovo
4/12/99: Taiwan more worthy of U.S. support
4/09/99: Bauer and Forbes --- Main Street vs. Wall Street
4/05/99: Bubba and Maddy lit Kosovo's fire
3/29/99: At Passover, Egypt is a state of mind
3/29/99: Could the GOP stand Pat in 2000?
3/17/99: Hollywood's party line in 1999
3/15/99: All bow, the court is in session
3/11/99: In praise of negative campaigning
3/09/99: Day-care study defies common sense
3/04/99: Starship Clinton orbits Kosovo
3/01/99: Public will blot out Broaddrick's accusation
2/25/99: Slick Hillie for Senate would be fun
2/23/99: Fascism in the name of fighting fascism
2/16/99: Was anything learned from the impeachment trial?
2/12/99: Educating the democratic voters of tomorrow
2/10/99: First Amendment doesn't apply to pro-life cause
2/08/99: Dems' triumph over Constitution complete
2/03/99: Blood of victims will drown out breakfast prayers
2/01/99: Without a home the heart knows no rest
1/29/99: Poster boy for term-limits
1/27/99: The 'so-what' defense in the City of Saints
1/25/99: Whose choice?
1/21/99: Censure worse than nothing
1/18/99: Words can`t dignify a dishonored presidency
1/13/99: Conservatism "with a heart" is conservatism without a head
1/11/99: If he isn't removed, watch out for Bill!
1/07/99: We can learn a lot from Teddy
1/05/99: Monica and a call to modesty
12/30/98: Will Bubba get away with it again?
12/28/98: Zionist dream alive and well on West Bank
12/18/98: Impeach or abandon the Rule of Law
12/16/98: Clinton moves Middle East closer to war
12/14/98: Why we lost interest in the homeless
12/10/98: No place at table for conservatives
12/07/98: The day America lost its innocence
12/02/98: Pilgrims Pilloried in streets of Plymouth
11/30/98: Caribbean dogpatch not a good candidate for statehood
11/25/98: Will Vermont force gay marriage on the nation?
11/23/98: The ACLU wants your kids to get a love life
11/18/98: Why liberals hate tobacco and guns more than drugs and crime
11/16/98: "Pleasantville" a countercultural morality play
11/13/98: Ads are a tough sell for abortion
11/09/98: Why gutless Republicans lost
11/06/98: Historians against the Constitution
11/02/98: Loving response to a hateful conference
10/28/98: Professor Death will fit right in at Princeton
10/26/98: Plymouth caves to Pilgrim foes
10/21/98: On '98 election, keep a critical eye on polls
10/19/98: Clinton could yet be 'prosperity president'
10/16/98: Working families -- Dems love 'em (stuffed)
10/09/98: Majoring in 'weirdness'
10/07/98: Friends of Billy Clinton
9/29/98: Letter from ex-soldier highlights defense peril
9/28/98: Answering arguments against impeachment
9/18/98: The nation that doesn't exist
9/14/98: Bubba isn't the only one who should be ashamed
9/11/98: Resolution of Clinton crisis will define national character
9/09/98: We're still just wild about Harry
9/07/98: Mexican banditry didn't end with Pancho Villa
9/02/98: Clinton forgives us!
8/31/98: Ashcroft's plain talking touches responsive chord
8/26/98: Public opinion be damned
8/24/98: Why liberals condone Clinton's lies
8/20/98: Time to move on -- to impeachment
8/12/98: With Bubba in the sexual privacy zone
8/10/98: The truth won't set Clinton free
8/06/98: Truth about Hiroshima is incontrovertible
8/04/98: Clinton not the first hollow president
7/30/98: "Small Soldiers" -- a fractured Vietnam allegory
7/27/98: Crime wave hits hometown
7/22/98: Love in an Internet fishbowl
7/20/98: Ads bring ex-gay movement out of closet
7/15/98: Brian and Amy -- the children of Roe
7/13/98: Why are we scared of obnoxious 'activists?'
7/6/98: Fonda still resists reality
7/1/98: New York blesses domestic partnerships
6/29/98: Teddy and Calvin stood for virtue
6/24/98: Will Clinton betray Taiwan?
6/22/98: Big tobacco? What about big casinos?
6/15/98: Religion -- God for what ails you
6/10/98: Planning Clinton's China itinery
6/8/98: Republicans' Custer offers advice
6/4/98: Oh, Dems Christian-bashers!
6/2/98: Goldwater did conservatives more harm than good
5/27/98: A Clinton-hater confesses
5/15/98: Giuliani's assault on marriage
5/13/98: Hillary knows what's best for everyone
5/11/98: To honor her would not be honorable
5/6/98: Conservative chasm: pragmatism vs. worship of marketplace
5/4/98: Anglo-saxon me
Needle exchange programs are assisted-suicide
4/27/98: Chretien's mission of mercy to Fidel
4/22/98: School-choice is a religious freedom issue
4/20/98: Corporate execs deliver body parts to Beijing
4/14/98: National sales tax --- looks better all the time
4/13/98: The U.N. sinister? Hey, where did that idea come from?
4/8/98: Unions fight workers rights in 226 campaign
3/30/98: Africa's leaders should apologize
3/25/98: GOP shouldn't look to media for advice
3/22/98: You should care about Clinton's 'private life'
3/19/98: Color-coded reading, product of obsessive minds
3/16/98: Amendment will end exile of G-d from our public lives
3/9/98: Havana will break your heart
3/2/98: Vouchers Terrify Teachers' Union
2/25/98: Presidential politics starts at a resort hotel
2/23/98: Hillary's support comes at a price
2/18/98: How many times must we say "no" to gay rights?
2/16/98: Enoch Powell spoke the truth on immigration
2/11/98: Bubba behaving badly
2/9/98: A conservative dissent on the flag-burning amendment
2/5/98: We get the leaders we deserve
2/2/98: Send a signal that could penetrate boardroom doors
1/27/98: State of the president: hollow rhetoric
1/25/98: For Monica's playmate, we have no one to blame but ourselves
1/22/98: At Yale, bet on yarmulke over gown
1/19/98: Commission tackles America's fastest-growing addiction, gambling
1/15/98: Capital punishment and the hard case: no exceptions for Karla Faye Tucker
1/12/98: Partial-birth abortion and the GOP's future: the "big tent" meets truth in advertising
1/8/98: IOLTA: the Left's latest scam to crawl into our pockets
1/5/98: Connect the dots to create a terrorist state
1/1/98: The Unacceptables of 1997: Long may they rave
12/28/97: Hypocrisy is a liberal survival mechanism
12/23/97: Chanukah is no laughing matter
12/22/97: No merry Christmas for persecuted Christians around the world
12/18/97: Bosnia, Haiti, and how not to conduct a foreign policy
©1999, Creators Syndicate