The government set up by James Madison and the other Founders requires a virtuous public and virtuous leaders—or the whole...
Two Revolutions for Freedom
Shortly after the storming of the Bastille prison in Paris on July 14, 1789, the English political theorist Edmund Burke wrote a letter to Lord Charlemont, the first president of the Royal Irish Academy. It is Burke’s earliest known statement about the French Revolution:
The spirit it is impossible not to admire; but the old Parisian ferocity has broken out in a shocking manner…if it should be character, rather than accident, then that people are not fit for liberty, and must have a strong hand, like that of their former masters to coerce them. Men must have a certain fund of natural moderation to qualify them for freedom, else it becomes noxious to themselves, and a perfect nuisance to every body else.
We know the rest of the story. The French revolutionaries proved themselves to be unfit for liberty. Barely a decade after executing their hated monarch — and after years of political instability, social chaos, and the remorseless violence of the guillotine — the freedom-loving revolutionaries installed an emperor to replace him. Napoleon Bonaparte, dictator for life, would become a perfect nuisance to the rest of Europe.
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