Friday, July 14, 2017

Bastille Day 2017

Today is the Fête Nationale in France known also as "le quatorze juillet" or Bastille Day.

This is the day in 1789 when French citizens stormed and captured the Bastille—a Royalist fortress in Paris. It marks the symbolic beginning of the French revolution although the real beginning is when the Third Estate transformed itself into the National Assembly on June 17, 1789 [Tennis Court Oath].

Ms. Sandwalk and I visited the site of the Bastille (Place de la Bastille) when we were in Paris in 2008. There's nothing left of the former castle but the site still resonates with meaning and history.

One of my wife's ancestors is William Playfair, the inventor of pie charts and bar graphs [Bar Graphs, Pie Charts, and Darwin]. His work attracted the attention of the French King so he moved to Paris in 1787 to set up an engineering business. He is said to have participated in the storming of the Bastille but he has a history of exaggeration and untruths so it's more likely that he just witnessed the event. He definitely lived nearby and was in Paris on the day in question. (His son, my wife's ancestor, was born in Paris in 1790.)

In honor of the French national day I invite you to sing the French national anthem, La Marseillaise. An English translation is provided so you can see that La Marseillaise is truly a revolutionary call to arms. (A much better translation can be found here.)1

1. I wonder if President Trump sang La Marseillaise while he was at the ceremonies today?

Check out Uncertain Principles for another version of La Marseillaise—this is the famous scene in Casablanca.

Reposted and modified from 2016.


  1. They were all citizens, assailing or being assialied in the bastille. They wewre all Royalists.
    I don't agree with the French , or anyone, celebrating this attack. it was murderous on the guards. IOt was not needed.
    The french revolution was a disaster for justice and government. it led to murderous government and finally a absurd dictator/killer in Napoleon who was not French.
    unlike revolutions in England, or america, it was not based on the right of the people.
    The french people, the ones revolting, claim they acted in the right of the people but they were not acting from actual settled laws.
    They had no right to overthrow the government. They could change the government by due process, and a unique aggresion to do so, however it was always immoral and illegal. Thats why it failed.
    English/american revolutions were based on existing rights of the citizens.
    They claimed the government was breaking the law and so had no right to goverrn.
    In fact the case in cAnada today by allowing the courts to rule the people. literally.
    The french should rethink the french revolution and overthrow Bastille day.
    make a new day based on better ideas for freeing the people to govern themselves.
    by the way some, or many, famous French scientists were executed in the revolution. Possibly it interfered with french accomplishment in science and a reason why they dragged behind the British.

    1. Sure Bastille day wasn't the greatest day of the French revolution but to claim that it is inferior to American and English revolutions because it was illegal is absurd. English revolution started when the king abused his privileges that were "rightfully" his. If American revolution stayed within legal bounds it would just be a series of letters between the mainland and the colonies, possibly ending with colony seats on the parliament.

      Imagine we live in a legal system where the law is "what I say is law". You can't possibly introduce a change in this system without brute force and coercion. Should Haitian slaves waited to be given freedom while by law it is ok for them to be slaves? All those "actual settled laws" came from smacking rulers till they agreed to do as they are told or kicking them out in a highly illegal manner.

      Sure French revolution turned out nasty in the end but it had everlasting effect on the French people where the idea of a ruler ruling by birthright and god's grace was replaced by a ruler whose power comes from the people and be taken away by the people. I wouldn't pick Bastille day as the high point myself but it is a symbol that represent more than the real Bastille day now so too late to change it.

    2. It didn't end by rule of the people but in a military dictator. Then later endless revolutions. It had nothing to do with the people but instead forceful minority's of people.

      The people did not need murderr/brute force. All that does is confirm brute force. Which is what happened and what English/american government philosophers pointed out and why their revolutions were different.

      it was illegal . it was immoral. The people themselves can not overthrow their own government by force.
      They are living in consent to the government. They have no execuses tio sudden;y rise up.
      They could easil;y of insisted on new reforms including overthrowing everything. however it must be within contract between the people and government.
      If the government/King refused then they could march peacefully and occupy. To enforce due process.

      The English/American revolutions started by the people enforcing existing contracts.
      In both cases it was the government that attacked the complainers.
      nothing to do with france and why to this day we have in the Anglo-American civilization a unique stable government while all the world roared and got it wrong.
      We played by the rules. they broke rules to make things better. As they counted it.
      Indeed today we are attacked by the courts to overthrow our government. We can truly today with the same energy fight this. We can storm our Bastille's, peacefully, and within contract.
      Hopefully soon.