Reader Kevin writes:
Hello Mr. Pastry! In your first post about Antonin Carême you wrote that the American and French revolutions were different. I’m curious: what was the difference? Would you mind explaining that a little?
Entire books have been written on that subject, Kevin! But I’ll do my best. The most succinct summary of the difference that I’m aware of goes like this: that while both revolutions were against monarchy in favor of the rule of law and individual rights, the American Revolution was fundamentally about freedom and the French Revolution was fundamentally about justice.
Which is to say that while American revolutionaries were deeply suspicious of state power and sought to minimize it so individuals could be free to pursue their own destinies, French revolutionaries sought to take over the state and use its power to make peoples’ lives more just and equitable.
Both are worthy goals and each comes with its own set of upsides and pitfalls. In fact trying to decide just how much freedom and how much justice we need to create the perfect society is what most of our modern political fights are about!
Of course I’m grossly over-simplifying two very complicated and interesting events. I highly encourage you to read up on the subject. If you’d like me to recommend some good books, I can! Cheers and that was one heck of a great — and difficult — question!