Sunday, March 23, 2008

A question for the American exceptionalists

Why did the American Revolution go so well, and almost every other revolution you can name turn into a bloodbath? The Russian Revolution produced Stalin, a ruthless apparatchik with a talent for intrigue, mass murder, and nothing else. The French Revolution, following right on the heels of ours, produced Robespierre, Napoleon, and its most enduring symbol, the guillotine. Ours produced, and was the product of, some of the greats of history -- Franklin, Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, men without whom the experiment of democracy might well have failed. And of course, the greatest product of all was this country which, faults and all, has been a pretty splendid place to live for most of its people most of the time, particularly when compared to other countries. My guess is it was a confluence of the right people coming together at the right time. When you look at Washington, Jefferson, Franklin et al, it's hard not to be impressed by them as individuals, that is, without taking into account the outcome of their political efforts, whereas the people behind the French Revolution were, by comparison, mediocrities, and the Russian Revolution depended on people who were little more than gifted thugs.