between your revolution and ours is thatnhaving nothing to destroy, you hadnnothing to injure, and labouring for anpeople, few in number, incorrupted,nand extended over a large tract ofncountry, you have avoided all the inconveniencenof a situation contrary in everynrespect.”nDavis suggests how conflictingnemotions conditioned membersnof America’s revolutionary generationnto identify with the French Revolution.nOn one hand, it acted to reinforce anbroad feeling that human beings couldnindeed make their own future, whatnDavis, borrowing from Robert Darnton,ncalls the sense of “possibilism.” Onnthe other hand, a generation that wasntesting “whether societies of men arenreally capable or not of establishingngood government from reflection andnchoice” had to be insecure about thensurvivability of the great experiment.nAnxious about internal and externalnenemies, leaders of the fledgling republicnmight be forgiven for embracingnkindred spirits where they were not.nEnthusiasm for the French Revolution,n34/CHRONICLESnEMIGRATIONnLIBERAL ARTSnDavis points out, could obscure domesticndivisions. Elites that proclaimednFrench principles could pretend theynwere not elites. Such enthusiasm couldneven become “the litmus test thatnwould reveal either ideological purity orna betrayal of the principles of America’snWar of Independence and the sacrednmission it bequeathed.”nAge, undoubtedly, also played a role.nRevolutionary America was youngnAmerica. How many early supporters,nlike the brilliant John Randolph of Roanoke,ncould justifiably write ofl^ theirnearly identification with the FrenchnRevolution as youthful exuberance andnnaivete? In addition, some French radicals,nat least in the beginning, looked tonmembers of America’s revolutionaryngeneration for ideas. Courted and flattered,nthey could have easily deceivednthemselves into thinking that they andnthe French were fighting the samenbattle.nPerhaps more remarkably, enthusiasmnfor French principles amongnwhites in the United States continuednto wax strong for years after thosenprinciples had helped to ignite a slavenMy opinion, with respect to emigration,nis, that, except of useful Mechanics andnsome particular descriptions of men ornprofessions, there is no need of encouragement:nwhile the policy or advantagenof its taking place in a body (I mean thensettling of them in a body) may be muchnquestioned; for, by so doing, they retainnthe Language, habits and principlesn(good or bad) which they bring withnthem.n— George Washington, in a letter ton]ohn Adams, November 15, 1794nnnrevolution in France’s Caribbean colonynof Saint Dominique. A few whitennotables, boldly moving from religiousnand secular meanings of equality to anbroad critique of the arbitrary rule ofnone man by another, defended thenslave revolution and justified the bloodletting.nThe majority, however, particularlynwhite Southerners, turned awaynto confront the rising spectre of servilenwarfare on their own lands incited bynblack Jacobins. By 1800 a series ofnslave conspiracies and revolts throughoutnthe Americas with clear connectionsnto the great revolutions in Francenand Saint Dominique confirmed theirnworst fears. Little wonder then that inn1801 President Thomas Jefferson, insteadnof using Saint Dominique’s formernslaves to thwart Napoleon andnadvance United States interests in thenMississippi Valley, actually encouragednNapoleon to reoccupy Saint Dominique,nfor in Jefferson’s estimation, thengreater threat was race war. But in thenlong run, Jefferson could not escapenwhat antebellum white Southernersnwould read into his famous words onnequality, and many, like Edmund Ruffin,nwould come to repudiate him as annabolitionist.nIn truth the older Jefferson approximatednAdams in his indictment of thenFrench Revolution. Davis’s commentarynon their correspondence suggestsnthat he, too, has qualified his earlynthinking on revolution. Like Adams, henhas sickened of the enormities committednin its name. Like Burke, he recognizesnthat the traditions and values ofnone society cannot easily be exported bynrevolution to another that is ill-preparednto accept them. Yet, in the end, henappears to find consolation in the reformsnthat revolution or the threat ofnrevolution has precipitated, albeit indirectly:n”I can only shudder when I thinknwhat our world would be like today ifnindustrialization had advanced withoutnpolitical revolutions and the fear ofnrevolutionaries, who, for all their mistakesnand self-delusions, perpetuatedndreams of equality and social justice.”nHe has a point. Strategic reform hasnnot always come easy to conservatives.nIf the modern world has suffered toonmuch for its extravagant faith in humannprogress and its shameful disregard ofncontinuity, it has also suffered too muchnfrom repeated failures to recognize legitimatencries for social jushce. <^n