The Founders needed to use violence to defend their ideals and to build a nation focused on embracing God-given rights and perfecting freedom
Today is the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille, a public holiday in France more casually referred to as Bastille Day. This dramatic event in French history is looked on with as much respect and reverence in France as Americans view the colonists taking on the British troops in the “shot heard ‘round the world.” However, contrary to the romanticized image, the people that seized the Bastille were not endowed with altruistic ideals and tempered by principled actions. They were motivated by fear, as well as primitive desires to unleash pent-up anger and frustration. Also, more practical concerns by “shadow” leaders aimed to seize any weapons the mob could capture.
Actually, comparisons between recent mob violence of Antifa and the militant faction of the Black Lives Matter mobs and the mob violence of Paris in the summer of 1789 are appropriate. Young anarchists and older hardened leaders of these organized mobs would likely look upon their own violence as necessary for the “revolution.” The intent behind their violence may have similar roots in the intent behind the storming of the Bastille. Nevertheless, the comparison between the violence of the mobs and the violence initiated by the colonists in what escalated into the War for Independence, is overly simplistic and betrays an ignorance of history.
“If this country doesn’t give us what we want then we will burn down the system and replace it.”
Such ignorance was recently on display when Hawke Newsome, a Black Lives Matter leader from greater New York, appeared on Fox News with Martha MacCallum and threatened to burn the country down if demands aren’t met: “If this country doesn’t give us what we want then we will burn down the system and replace it.” Newsome went on a rant in the Fox interview: “because this country is built upon violence. What was the American Revolution? What’s our diplomacy across the globe? …We go in and we blow up countries and we replace their leaders with leaders who we like. So for any American to accuse us of being violent is extremely hypocritical,” Newsome proclaimed.
Actually, it is not hypocritical. Newsome’s statements reveal more about his lack of true understanding of history and a self-motivated justification for violence. Additionally, if he is a leader of the BLM effort, he likely has been trained, and trains others, to utilize violence as a means to an end. And, while Newsome had his talking points down in
the interview, a good Marxist would be expected to articulate well all their “demands.” Newsome’s statement in defense of violence against the poor people in the inner cities is what is “extremely hypocritical.”
The sustained ferocity of the widespread rioting, ostensibly sparked by the unjust murder of George Floyd, demonstrated a fairly well planned, well coordinated, and sustained activism—not just an emotional outburst. Innocent people who died in the violence represents a gross injustice. Such violent rioting spread over a prolonged period of time, involving burning, looting, and the destruction of businesses was equally unjust. Minority people who owned businesses that were the objects of destructive and violent rioting were also violated. What about their black lives? Those people who became victims of the BLM mobs were just trying to earn a decent living.
Basically, the mob violence in France in the late 1700s and in the streets of U.S. cities in in 2020 is similar. Merciless, and often senseless, mob violence usually shows similar characteristics. Mob violence and rioting can easily spin out of control and rioters can pursue destruction with great zeal to harm anything or anyone in the way, much like unleashed wild animals ravaging anything in their path. Mob justice allows no respect for law and order. In Paris, on July 14, 1789, an agitated mob acted in similar ways to anarchists and Antifa and BLM terrorist mobs in 2020. Leadership behind both of these two examples of mob terror played a key role in mobilizing and channeling the mob activity.
Storming of the Bastille is recognized as the event that sparked the French Revolution
On the morning of July 14, 1789, an angry mob of around one-thousand people had been roving the streets of Paris as there had been rumors of a political coup taking place at the upper levels of the French government. Many common people were concerned the French government would be mounting an offensive against lower class citizens of the “Third Estate.” They had been aroused and manipulated by rumors that the Royal military of King Louis XVI would attack them. The mob was fearful and felt the need to “defend” themselves by getting some guns. So, they marched to the Bastille to seize weapons.
They ultimately stormed the Bastille, a symbolic target of “shadow leaders,” originally a medieval fortress-prison that had often been utilized by French kings to imprison those politically disagreeable or disloyal subjects. After a prolonged firefight (the mob already had some weapons), the commander of the prison, Governor Bernard-Rene de Launay, surrendered. De Launay eventually halted his soldiers from escalating the skirmish into a bloodbath as around 100 civilians had been killed, yet only two soldiers. Immediately after he surrendered the Bastille, he was seized by the crowd and beaten repeatedly. By this time, the frenzied mob had become uncontrollable with rage and dragged Launay through the streets toward the Hotel de Ville. Reports indicate that it was near there he pleaded to be killed, and the people obliged by stabbing him to death.
Common sense would indicate that the commander’s murder was unnecessary as the attackers had seized their objective, but what followed was even worse. The frenzied mob cut off Launay’s head and stuck it upon a pike, and did the same with the heads of other officers and paraded them through the streets.
While the storming of the Bastille is recognized as the event that sparked the French Revolution, the treatment of de Launay could be viewed as an ominous foreshadowing of what ultimately transpired during the Reign of Terror. It is undeniably true that the move toward freedom in the French Revolution devolved into some of the most unjust acts of cruelty against humanity ever committed.
Within four years of the storming of the Bastille, the movement toward “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity” sadly devolved into the Reign of Terror, a horrific bloodbath under the machinations of Maximilien de Robespierre and assorted comrades. Robespierre led the powerful people’s tribunal known as the Committee for Public Safety that arrested, tried, and executed (guillotined) over 17,000 people.
Eventually, the powerful Committee for Public Safety became even more tyrannical than King Louis XVI. Especially, Robespierre, although only one on the absolutist committee, was the only member who had full support of the fanatical “Society of the Friends of the Constitution,” known as the Jacobins, who were among the more radical supporters of the French Revolution—or of their own power. Robespierre was the individual most closely identified with the Reign of Terror.
While the treatment of de Launay would prove to be a foreshadowing of the Reign of Terror, it reflected crazed mob violence with no sense of morality. The mob violence of Antifa and BLM today is also devoid of morality. Possibly there is one key difference: although criminal mobs today use firearms, there are no beheadings.
Finally, there is little valid comparison between the violence of the mob and the violence needed to build this nation. The intent behind the violence is what determines its value. BLM is destructive and not working for the good of the country; it works for itself. The Jacobins who stole the people’s revolution in France, were only working for their political power. The Founders needed to use violence to defend their ideals and to build a nation focused on embracing God-given rights and perfecting freedom.