They Say They Want a Revolution

As America’s millennial generation cries out for a revolution, let’s learn a major lesson from the history of the French Revolution.

Recently, 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders posted a tweet saying, “The political revolution is just beginning.” Crying revolution is nothing new for Mr. Sanders. While stomping the campaign trail, he repeatedly said some variation of this: “We need a political revolution in this country, which means that 80 percent of the people vote, not 40 percent, and which means that people demand that Congress represent the middle class and working families of this country and not just the billionaire class.”

Like a white-haired grandfather, Mr. Sanders has promised many things: a $15 minimum wage, a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan, Medicare for all, and free tuition at public colleges and universities. Sanders, an avowed socialist, did not win the American presidency. Yet he has gained a considerable following. He has captured the hearts, minds and idealism of America’s youngest voters—the millennial generation.

“And if there’s one thing people are learning about this young generation, it’s that they are liberal. Even leftist. Flirting with socialist,” wrote Derek Thompson, senior editor of the Atlantic.

So the millennial generation now wants a revolution too.

Let’s give this fact some perspective. According to the Pew Research Center in 2016, the number of millennials (ages 18 to 34) in this country has reached 75.4 million—surpassing the 74.9 million baby boomers (ages 51 to 69). Generation X (ages 35 to 50, in 2015) are expected to pass the boomers in population by 2028. The millennials are now the largest generation in America, and they have been stirred to action—to revolution.

The millennials are now the largest generation in America, and they have been stirred to action—to revolution.

Do baby boomers and those from Generation X have the foresight to see where the desire for revolution will likely lead America? The history of the French Revolution can show us much, if we are willing to study it.

We have to face the reality that the current call to revolution is about much more than getting people out to vote. It is a call for a new form of government!

“One popular candidate running for the Democratic presidential nomination claims to be a socialist. Well, many Communists call themselves socialists,” wrote Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry in his January 2016 article “The Roots of America’s Dangerous Turn Left.” “The fact that he has so much support reveals how dangerously ignorant the American people are.” Take the time to read his informative article. While it mainly chronicles the infiltration of communism into American politics and society, it demonstrates how naive Americans are about what is really happening behind current events.

The protests that started in America during the 2016 presidential campaign are warning signs of more serious protests to come.

A Decade of Social and Political Upheaval

The French Revolution was a decadelong period of sweeping social and political upheaval from 1789 to 1799. This watershed event has been studied and analyzed by many authors for over two centuries. Even the British novelist Charles Dickens, in his famous novel A Tale of Two Cities, captured the disturbing events of the “Reign of Terror” during the revolution. This short but bloody period, 1793 to 1794, is hard to explain given the ideological catchphrase of the French Revolution: “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.”

In his 2015 book, The Coming of the Terror in the French Revolution, Timothy Tackett thoroughly explains how all revolutions devolve into terror. In France, what began as a movement filled with high ideals and hope witnessed the rise of a regime that brutally executed 17,000 citizens.

Storming the Bastille on July 14, 1789
Christophel Fine Art/UIG via Getty Images

While there are many lessons we can learn from the French Revolution, this article will look at just one as it relates to America’s current financial crisis. If U.S. leaders don’t deal with this problem, we are on the road to repeat the French Revolution. As Winston Churchill wrote, “The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.” In a similar vein, the philosopher George Santayana wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” If America does not remember, we are doomed to repeat France’s mistakes.

Let’s begin our look into this important history.

A Financial and Fiscal Crisis

“The origin of the French Revolution is one of the most intensely debated questions in all of history, a question that absorbed the revolutionary generation itself and that has continued to fascinate historians ever since,” writes Mr. Tackett. “It now seems clear that the direct impulse to the events of 1789 came not from an ideological struggle or a class struggle, but from a financial and fiscal crisis of the French monarchy, and that crisis was above all the product of a geopolitical struggle in which that monarchy found itself engaged.” You may want to read that paragraph again.

Essentially, what Tackett is telling us is that during the 18th century, the French monarchy got tangled in a series of costly wars—world wars. Truthfully, the history of Europe at that time period is a history of war over territories on the Continent and colonies around the globe.

The Battle of Fontenoy on May 11, 1745
Pierre Lenfant; Public Domain

The last of the wars the French involved themselves with was our American Revolution from 1778 to 1783. It was French national desire to pay back the British for beating the daylights out of them during the previous Seven Years’ War. The French sent 6,000 troops to the colonies to fight alongside the American colonists. The French also fortified their Navy to take on the British around the globe. To finance this effort, the French monarchy borrowed massive high-interest loans that pushed the monarch to bankruptcy.

This financial nightmare was made worse by several additional factors. In the 18th century, France maintained an inefficient tax system. It differed from region to region and involved numerous separate taxes. Various class and provincial privileges forced the tax burden onto the least wealthy members of society. In addition, Tackett explains, “the monarchy’s efforts to raise or reform taxes were invariably opposed by the French sovereign courts or parliaments.” Essentially, the parliamentary magistrates protected themselves from paying more taxes. Probably the worst factor of all, the French state was plagued by a lack of leadership, and it started with Louis xvi. “Confronted with the regime’s dire financial situation, Louis would oscillate between hard-line and conciliatory approaches. In his more liberal moments, in an effort to outflank the opposition, he would support a series of ‘revolutionary’ reforms,” writes Tackett.

$20 Trillion in Debt

France’s 18th-century fiscal disaster is shockingly similar to America’s current economic woes and even the causes behind them.

Since 1990, the United States has fought in the Gulf War, the Kosovo War, the Iraq War, the Libyan Civil War, the War in Afghanistan, the war on terror and other conflicts. Since the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. has spent $3.2 trillion to fight wars it has not won. Most of this was borrowed money. “And for 15 years now, the United States has been putting these wars on a credit card,” wrote Uri Friedman, senior editor for the Atlantic. This was not the case in previous wars. “Past U.S. wars were largely ‘pay as you go’ affairs for which the government raised taxes, slashed non-military spending, borrowed money from the American public by selling war bonds, or chose some combination of these and other options, according to Neta Crawford, the author of the study and a political scientist at Boston University.” Most of America’s borrowing has come from China and Japan.

Can you see that America’s current financial policy—borrow now, pay later—is hauntingly similar to the 18th-century French monarchy’s?

Nearly three decades of war have put an intense strain on America’s financial health and severely weakened our economic strength. The latest reports show that the United States is over $20 trillion in debt. That truly is a mind-blowing figure. The U.S. Congressional and Senate leadership went into a white-faced panic when the 2008 economic crisis hit. In many ways, that slice of time has been forgotten. While the U.S. economy may appear to have made an upturn, U.S. leadership has not changed its ways. The U.S. has not had a balanced budget since 2001. American leadership is addicted to deficit spending. The burden of paying off this immense debt will be laid on the backs of our children and grandchildren.

The monarchical government structure of France, just prior to the French Revolution, was able to keep the nation’s catastrophic financial picture secret for a time. “At first the politics of the crisis had played out at the highest levels of government in negotiation with France’s leading aristocrats, churchmen and magistrates,” writes Tackett. “But as the political struggles grew ever more intense and the king’s radical proposals became public knowledge, the broader population was progressively drawn into the affair.” Once the general public was awakened to France’s financial woes, real trouble came quickly.

Proposed Tax Reform

To solve France’s critical financial crisis, King Louis xvi and his advisers’ most radical measure to fix the problem “was to subject all citizens, including the nobility to a tax levied equally in proportion to one’s landholdings,” writes Tackett. This was a bold move and required approval from the parliaments (made up of magistrates). In early 1787, the king’s finance minister, Charles-Alexandre de Calonne, called for a special session of the Assembly of Notables—influential nobles, churchmen and a few commoners. These men were expected to examine and approve the king’s financial reforms and strengthen the monarchy’s position before the magistrates. This plan failed miserably.

The Notables were shocked and horrified by the budget deficit. They refused to give up their tax privileges without a guarantee that Louis xvi would spend money responsibly. Calonne’s failure caused his dismissal. His successor tried for a year to resolve the crisis, but to no avail. There was a second go at the parliaments, which also failed. In May 1788, the king decided to abolish the parliaments and replace them with a decentralized court system that could no longer block fiscal reforms. His plan collapsed within weeks, “when creditors ceased providing short-term loans, leaving the state’s coffers entirely empty,” writes Tackett. The king’s last desperate effort to institute tax reform forced him to call a meeting of the Estates General to take place in the spring of 1789. The Estates General was an institution resembling the English Parliament. This was not a natural thing for a French monarch to do. “Over the centuries the French monarchs had done everything to avoid such a meeting,” writes Mr. Tackett. Why? They wanted to severely limit the Estates General from growing in power as the English Parliament had.

Opening of the Estates General in Versailles on May 5, 1789
Auguste Couder; Christophel Fine Art/UIG via Getty Images

The French monarchy worked extremely hard to keep the flow of information about the French financial crisis under wraps and under their own control. Little to nothing was said about the financial crisis or the reasons behind the call for the Assembly of Notables and the Estates General. Most citizens had no idea of the dire financial situation their country was facing. Neither did they see the rapidly rising crisis of division within the government.

However, it was a mixed group of young, well-educated people such as Adrien-Joseph Colson, a principal estate agent for a noble family living in Paris, who reported what was happening in the government to friends through personal letters. “Adrien Colson realized the unprecedented nature of the event, but he was altogether uncertain of the objectives, the meeting date or the composition of the ‘Notables,’ and virtually every letter to his friend in the provinces recounted the latest rumors, many of them false concerning the Assembly,” writes Tackett. The communication provided by Colson and others like him led to the politicization of the French public between 1787 and 1789. Many began to understand that all the government’s infighting would eventually mean that the increase in tax revenue necessary to save France would be pushed onto the already hard-pressed poor citizens. It was not long before the common people, or the group of people represented by the Third Estate of the Estates General, would take matters into their own hands.

Compare these events to what is happening in America today. This past September 27, President Trump unveiled the tax cut plan that he had repeatedly promised during his campaign for the presidency. Congress was immediately divided, with some celebrating it as a boon to economic growth and others condemning it as a benefit only for the rich. The media loves to dramatize such division, guaranteeing that the reportage the American public will be fed is a hot dish of sour soup, fomenting with squabbling and dissent. Public discontent will rise, and more protests are sure to come.

Fear and Anxiety

In revolution-era France, the unofficial Parisian journalists wrote as concerned citizens, voicing opinions about what they were observing. Some “supported the monarchy, others the parliaments, though it was not uncommon for them to modify their opinions from week to week as the situation evolved,” continues Tackett. As their news spread—whether true or false (yes, there was “fake news” even in that day)throughout Paris and the countryside, broader elements of Paris and the provincial areas became involved. For example, in Paris “[t]here were several demonstrations and processions though the streets in support of the parliament, led in particular by young law clerks, fearful of losing their jobs if the sovereign court was abolished,” explains Tackett.

Added to the growing mix of discontent with the French system of government were a group of future revolutionaries—Faulcon, Gaultier de Biauzat, Maximilien Robespierre, Jerome Petion and Antoine Barnave. These men produced a flurry of pamphlets that addressed not only the financial crisis but also other problems afflicting France. At this time, often referred to as the pre-Revolution, their writings were not as radical as their future writings would be. “Yet almost all spoke of the necessity of expanding the influence of the Third Estate commoners. Increasingly, they also reflected on the need for some kind of written constitution and for filling government and church positions on the basis of talent rather than ancestry,” writes Tackett. “Many were sharply critical of the aristocracy, even as they professed their praise and love for the king.” Tackett also tells us that the revolutionary writer Louis-Sébastien Mercier “took the defense of the poor in Paris, deploring the ‘terrible inequality of fortune [that] gives rise to internal conflicts closely resembling a civil war.’” In today’s language, this means that the revolutionaries were calling for a redistribution of wealth. Mercier also criticized France’s criminal justice system. Dozens of these types of pamphlets appeared on shop stands each day.

These pamphlets helped provoke a series of events that would permanently change the face of France. Here is the simplest explanation of a complex event: Appalled at the attacks leveled against them, the majority of aristocracy hardened their position and refused to surrender their dominance in the coming Estates General. The most conservative nobles banded together to ensure that only conservative-minded nobles were elected to attend the coming Estates General. A small group of liberal-minded aristocrats who supported government reform were intimidated to reverse their decision of support. In reaction to the nobles and because of the support of the revolutionary writers, an opposition party formed among the commoners, calling themselves “patriots.” Anxiety, anger and fear began to grow within all levels of French society. These raw emotions took hold of the commoners most of all. None suspected the lethal power these emotions would unleash in the coming years. The revolutionaries, such as Robespierre, were surprised and shocked at the violence perpetrated by the commoners. It could not be controlled.

Since losing the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, Bernie Sanders has remained an active revolutionary. In August 2017, he published a revealing book, Bernie Sanders’ Guide to Political Revolution, addressed to America’s youth. “I am especially proud that, in virtually every state primary and caucus, we won the overwhelming majority of young people—black, white, Latino, Asian American and Native American. In fact, my campaign received more votes from young people than Donald Trump’s and Hillary Clinton’s combined,” he writes. “It is my observation that the current generation of young people is the smartest, most idealistic, and least prejudiced generation in the modern history of the United States.” This all sounds so good and positive and, I am sure, invigorating to a young mind.

“It is my observation that the current generation of young people is the smartest, most idealistic, and least prejudiced generation in the modern history of the United States. This is a generation that is prepared to think big and move this country in a very different direction than we have been traveling for years.”
Bernie Sanders

However, read this carefully. “This is a generation that is prepared to think big and move this country in a very different direction than we have been traveling for years,” he exclaims. This is a little fuzzy. What direction does he want them to take? “It is especially prepared to reject the value system espoused by Donald Trump and the right-wing reactionaries in Congress who support his ideas.” This is not just anti-Trump rhetoric—it is anti-American government. Bernie wants the youth of America to go left and pull the whole system down.

Now pay attention to this next quote. It is shockingly similar to the ideology espoused during the French Revolution: “The American people know that in the midst of massive wealth and income inequality, the very rich have got to start paying their fair share of taxes and that we desperately need reforms to our criminal justice systems,” writes Mr. Sanders.

The Worst of Times

When Estates General formally convened on May 4, 1789, in Versailles, it was a glorious event to behold. A thousand delegates representing the Clergy, the Nobility and the Third Estate paraded in the streets for the opening ceremony. Witnesses to the event were even poetic in describing that day. It was a day of great hope. It appeared that France was deeply united.

“Few of those present could have predicted the events that would transpire during the tumultuous weeks ahead,” writes Tackett. “Indeed, historians sometimes wonder how the representatives of the third Estate became so radical so rapidly.” Within days of the beginning of the convention, it was clear that the government of France was hopelessly divided.

Essentially the Estates General succumbed to confusion over why it had been called. There were heated arguments over its own structure. In March 1789, in an early meeting of the Estates General, the king and his council agreed that the Third Estate would have double the representatives so they could be equally represented by the same numbers as the nobility and clergy combined. However, when the formal convention began, it was clear that all voting would be counted “by power” not “by head.” This caused terrible friction between the commoners and the other two estates. Essentially, the commoners still had no real voting power. Bitterness and resentment that had seethed among the commoners soon boiled over.

Remember that the people of Paris and Versailles, as well as the commoners, had been thoroughly educated by the many pamphlets distributed in the shops. The Parisians and people of Versailles supported the commoners in their cause, which led to a full breakdown of the Estates General. The commoners broke free of the Estates General and formed their own National Assembly. The “National Assembly, created in the name of popular sovereignty, abolished a ‘feudal system’ that had held sway in France for a thousand years,” writes Tackett. “Fueled by an ever expanding conception of liberty and equality, the revolutionaries would subsequently broaden individual rights to include universal male suffrage, greatly expanded rights for women, the abolition of slavery, and the goals of universal education and social welfare.”

However, by 1793, “a darker side of the revolution emerged. An increasingly dictatorial government was promoting denunciation and repression, while surveillance committees were everywhere rooting out ‘suspects’ and purported traitors. Thousands of citizens were arrested, and hundreds of others, tried before ‘Revolutionary Tribunals’ without appeal, were executed. Louis xvi and several major political leaders, whom people once trusted, were executed by the guillotine. Even fervent supporters of the Revolution—men and women—were condemned to death. Terror had become the order of the day. Our word terrorist comes from this catastrophic time.

The Best of Times

Is a French-like “Reign of Terror” coming to America? We cannot say for sure. However, we must face the fact that there are powerful people in this country—more powerful than Bernie Sanders—who want to pull America’s government structure down. One famous actress has called for a military coup to remove President Trump. A state senator posted on Facebook, “I hope Trump is assassinated.” Can you imagine a United States of America with a different government? If it happened in 18th-century France, it could happen here. History repeats itself.

Read Mr. Flurry’s January 2017 Trumpet article “America’s Coming Civil War” and Andrew Miiller’s article “Antifa Is Trying to Ignite a Civil War.”

Men and women in high government offices are seeking to have the U.S. Constitution eliminated as passé parchment. Yet this time-honored document established American government and law. It is the document that paved the way to America’s greatness. Why? This brilliantly written piece of law is based on the biblical truth that the Almighty God blesses the nation that obeys His law and curses the nation that does not (Deuteronomy 28). Listen to Stephen Flurry’s September 18 Trumpet Daily Radio Show. It will inspire you to love America’s glorious Constitution.

Those of us at are working feverishly to keep you informed about the meaning behind current news and events. Check our website daily. We continually feature articles on the news you need to know about, such as America’s disastrous budget crisis. Read Commentary’s recent article “The Debt Crisis Is Here” for the latest information on America’s national debt.

If we are totally honest with ourselves, we must admit that America in many ways is struggling as a nation to stay alive. These are the worst of times. But the best of times is coming soon: Jesus Christ will soon return and restore America to the greatness God intends it to have.


Read Gerald Flurry’s booklet Great Again online, or request a free print copy. This booklet explains why America is in the shape it is in and how Christ will make America truly great again.