The most important document produced by the United States of America is the Declaration of Independence because it sets forth the principles that guided our Founding Fathers as they sought to establish a new nation. Many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints consider this document to be divinely inspired and for this reason they take seriously the statement that says, "that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government."
Since it was this sentiment among the Founding Fathers that led to the American Revolution, there are people today who believe that this is the model for how to abolish what they see as the corruption in our current government. For this reason, there is a growing number of Americans who hold the opinion that we need a second armed revolution to abolish the oppressive government we now have and "institute a new government," just as our Founding Fathers did.
Since Americans look idealistically at our own revolution against Great Britain it is easy for them to think that any revolution we might start today will end the same way for us. However, throughout history there have been many revolutions, uprisings, revolts, and insurrections, and by looking at their causes and effects we can gain a better perspective of the kinds of results we can expect from such actions.
In 133 B.C. Rome was torn apart by a series of civil wars that lasted one hundred years, as one military ruler after another sought to take control of Rome's power. In 30 B.C. Julius Caesar managed to put an end to these wars through military might however, in doing so he started a precedent that turned the Roman Empire from being a republic to one that became a dictatorship under the rule of emperors. Although Julius and his predecessor, Augustus, ruled with wisdom and governed justly, many of those who followed them did not.
In 73 B.C. a group of about seventy Roman gladiator slaves escaped and began an insurrection against Rome under the leadership of a man named Spartacus. In time his forces grew by the thousands and for two years they managed to out maneuver the Roman legions. But in 71 B.C. their forces were defeated and most of them died on the battlefield. However, six thousand of these rebels did survived but were all put to death by crucifixion.
In 66 A.D. a group of Jewish rebels, calling themselves Zealots, sought to throw off their yoke of Roman domination. In the beginning they had a number of military successes but that only brought down the wrath of Rome on their entire nation. In a campaign that was design to destroy every Jewish town and settlement, and either kill or take captive all Jews, the Roman army, under the command of General Titus fully succeeded in its mission and took the last Jewish city of Jerusalem in 68 A.D. It was nearly two thousand years later before the Jews were able to return to their homeland.
In 1642 Oliver Cromwell led a rebellion against King Charles I in what is known as the English Civil War. Although successful in his efforts, in the aftermath he had great difficulty governing his people because of infighting among members of the new parliament. But by 1661 this rebellion was put down by forces loyal to the monarchy and King Charles II was put on the throne.
In 1685 King James II of England issued several laws that favored Catholicism. Since most Englishmen were Protestant, these laws were very unpopular among the people as well as among many leading politicians and Protestant bishops. Therefore, a plot was hatch to have him removed from the throne. Several prominent politicians invited William III of Orange to bring his army to fight against the army of King James, and William accepted the invitation whereupon, in 1688, he marched his army towards London.
However, rather than fight, King James II fled to France, thereby abdicating his throne. The bishops and politicians of London quickly made William, and his wife Mary joint rulers of England. This bloodless coup was known as the Glorious Revolution or the revolution of 1688 but although it was successful, under the new rulers Catholics were treated as less than second class citizens and were denied the right to vote or to hold any government position, including receiving commissions in the military.
In 1776 England saw the American's Declaration of Independence an act of open rebellion against Britain and sent troops to put down this insurrection. However, what they thought would be a quick, easy task caused the war with their colonists to drag on for four years. In 1780 British General Cornwallis surrendered his troops to General George Washington at Yorktown, thereby giving the Americans victory over England.
Inspired by this success, in 1786 a man named Daniel Shays led a group of four thousand armed men against the government of the state of Massachusetts over grievances he had with their laws. However, their rebellion was short lived as the state militia was able to put down this revolt and the leaders were arrested and charged with treason for trying to overthrow the government of Massachusetts.
In 1791 the United States Congress passed a law putting a tax on whiskey. Farmers in the far western part of Pennsylvania strongly objected to this tax and not only refused to pay it but violently harassed any government officials who came to collect the mandated money. This uprising came to be known as the Whiskey Rebellion, but in 1794 a force of 13,000 militia men, commanded by President George Washington himself, was sent out to put down the revolt which ended with twenty men being arrested, thereby effectively ending their struggle.
The French Revolution lasted ten years from 1789 to 1799. The rebellion was successful in overthrowing the monarchy of King Louis XIV and establishing a republican form of government but the new government couldn't function because of strong disagreements among its leaders. The revolution also turned into a reign of terror as people were murdered by the tens of thousands for not being loyal enough to the new government, thereby making the new government's oppression worse than that of King Louis XIV. In 1799 Napoleon Bonaparte engineered a coup which eventually dissolved the French republican form of government and led to him becoming the Emperor of France.
In 1791 the black slaves of Saint Domingue successfully overthrew their white French colonial government in what was called The Haitian revolution and were able to establish an independent government which created the state of Haiti. But with no one familiar enough with the workings of government, the new nation quickly became no more than a copy of the old one. Worse yet, it soon turned into a copy of the French Revolution of 1795 where, on the order of Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the leader of the revolution and Haiti's first ruler, he ordered the massacre of all white people, and white women were "often raped or forced into marriages under threat of death." The land was confiscated by the new government and private ownership of land was forbidden. Although the war was fought over the issue of slavery, this practice still continued under the new black leadership.
In 1811 around 200 to 500 black slaves revolted in parts of New Orleans. For two days this group of men, armed with only farm hand tools, marched twenty miles, burning down plantations and crops as they went, as well as freeing the slaves belonging to those plantations. However, they were soon stopped by a militia and those who weren't killed during the fighting were punished so severely that no one wanted to record the horrors they witnessed. This event came to be known as the 1811 German Coast Revolt.
In 1830 in the southern part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands the working people erupted in riots over the despotic rule of King William I. Known as the Belgium Revolution, shops were looted, factories were occupied, and machinery was destroyed. In Brussels, the governing States-General body voted to secede from the Netherlands and form their own independent state called Belgium. They selected Leopold I as their King and by 1839 many of the European nations recognized the legitimacy of this new nation. However, the change was an economic disaster for them. Unemployment plummeted 30% as the city's cotton industry production dropped by five million kilograms, and their trade with the colonies dropped to zero. Also, the number of ships entering the harbor at Antwerp fell by almost 60%.
In 1846, anticipating the outbreak of war with Mexico, American settlers in California rebelled against the Mexican government. In 1846 a party of thirty-three men invaded the Mexican outpost of Sonoma. Facing no opposition there, they then proceeded to declare California an independent republic. With a cotton sheet and some red paint, they constructed a makeshift flag with a crude drawing of a grizzly bear, and a lone red star. For this reason this uprising was called the California Bear Flag revolt. But three weeks after it had been proclaimed, the California Republic quietly faded away out of existence.
In 1837 Hong Xiuguan (Chee-quan) had a vision or dream when he was 14 years old where he saw God, his heavenly Father and Jesus Christ who he believed was his elder brother. In that vision God told him that he must overthrow the Qing dynasty. He was later introduced to Christianity and it was then he realized who it was he had seen in the vision. He converted to Christianity and then became zealous in converting others.
His efforts were successful and he gathered a force of a hundred thousand men who followed him. Hong set up his capital city in Nanjing and proclaimed himself the king of Taiping or the heavenly kingdom of peace When he and his followers were attacked by an army unit of the Qing dynasty for their religious beliefs, Hong saw this as a sign from heaven that he was to attack and destroy the Qing dynasty.
Hong's war lasted 14 years, starting in 1850 and was known as the Taiping rebellion. It was one of the bloodiest wars ever fought in China and resulted in the death of over 20 million people. In 1856, Hong's government in Nanjing was weakened by infighting among members of his own leadership which resulted in an unsuccessful attempt on Hong's life. Hong died of natural causes on June 1, 1864, and Nanjing fell shortly thereafter to the forces of the Qing dynasty on July 19, thereby ending this rebellion.
In 1861 seven southern American states seceded from the rest of Union in an act of rebellion against the election of Abraham Lincoln. Shortly thereafter, other southern states following their lead. This act plunged America into a bloody civil war that lasted for four years, yet in the end, the Southern states not only lost the war but endured economic and political hardships through a repressive reconstruction policy that affected them for decades.
In March 1871 a group of extreme revolutionaries seized control of the city of Paris, France. Earlier they had demanded that a new government be established as a commune but when their request was rebuffed they began violent demonstrations. Eventually fifteen thousand demonstrators surrounded the Hotel de Ville demanding the resignation of General Trochue, who was the commander of the army protecting Paris from a German invasion. Louis Auguste Blanqui, the leader of the revolution, set up his headquarters in a nearby building and declared his own government was now running Paris. He controlled Paris for about a month when the French army came in and liberated Paris from the grip of the Commune rebellion.
In 1899 a group of Chinese nationalists, who called themselves Boxers, started a violent uprising against foreigners and Christians in their country. The Boxer fighters had managed to convince themselves that they were invulnerable to any foreign weapons, so they attacked all foreigners with zeal. At first their efforts were highly successful and the imperial army, who became convinced of their claims, then joined their cause.
In response to these acts of violence, eight nations entered into an alliance with one another to protect their people who were living on Chinese soil. Together they brought in a military force of 20,000 armed soldiers, defeating the imperial army and capturing the city of Beijing. In 1901 the foreign powers executed anyone who had been involved in the Boxer Rebellion as well as any government officials who had supported it.
In 1908 members of the military, including officers and young Turks, revolted against the rule of the Ottoman Empire. Although the Young Turk Revolution had promised their followers improvement in their living conditions, once they had succeeded in taking over the government they had no idea of how to run one. As a result, their efforts were disorganized and ineffectual. Because these working-class citizens had no real knowledge of how to govern, they followed the same system used by the Ottoman Empire, so instead of things getting better for the working class, they actually got worse.
In March of 1917 the Russian Imperial parliament or Duma, successfully overthrew the Tsarist monarchy of Nicholas II. But there was another radical faction call the Soviets, who were made up of common workers, under the leadership of Vladimir Lenin who opposed this new government and in October they overthrew the Duma and set up a communist style government as advocated by Karl Marx.
In 1923 a fledgling Nazi party under the leadership of Adolf Hitler sought to take over the government of the town of Munich, Bavaria. With two thousand men, Hitler marched to the town hall (a beer hall) where they attacked the police and successfully took over the building. However, two days later the state police, along with the regular police, stormed the building and Hitler was arrested and sent to prison. This was known as the beer hall putsch.
In 1936 the Popular Front of Spain came to power in Madrid, overthrowing the monarchy and establishing a Communist republic. Francisco Franco and other military generals retaliated by staging their own coup to unseat the Popular Front. This plunged Spain into a civil war that lasted for three years as Communist countries lent their support to the Popular Front while Mussolini and Hitler lent their support to Franco. In 1939 Franco defeated his enemies and came to power as Spain's new monarch.
In 1946 Mao Zedong launched a coup attempt against the nationalist government of Chiang Kai-Shek which plunged China into a civil war that lasted for three years. When Chiang fled China after realizing he could not win the war, Mao took control of the country and set up his own Communist dictatorship.
In 1953 Fidel Castro instigated an armed resistance against the Cuban government of President Fulgencio Batista and in January, 1959 he and his men had finally succeeded in overthrowing that government and set up their own communist regime.
In 1956 in what started out as a student revolt, quickly turned into a nationwide uprising against the Soviet-controlled government of Hungary. The students took control of the Parliament building and entered the radio building in an attempt to broadcast their demands. As the revolt spread across the country the government of Hungry collapsed, but the elation of victory was short lived as thousands of Soviet troops entered the country and brutally put down the uprising. The revolution had lasted only three months.
In February 1977 uprisings in Iran grew as the population there became increasing unhappy with its country's leader, the Shah of Iran. As in Hungary, the revolt started with student demonstrations but quickly spread throughout the rest of the nation. The conflict continued to grow as factories shut down and people rioted in the streets. For almost two years the country was torn apart by the revolution until in January 1979 the Shah left and a month later the exiled Ayatollah Khomeini returned to his home country. However, rather than stopping the riots, Khomeini called for more insurrection until he was able to put himself into the seat of power where he established an Islamic theocracy.
In April, 1978, the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan staged a military coup and overthrew the existing government and established a communist one that was friendly to the Soviet Union. By December 1979 an Afghan resistance group calling themselves the mujahideen, began fighting against this very unpopular government. To support their new ally, the Soviet Union sent in tanks and troops, but because of the guerilla tactics of the mujahideen and the rough terrain of the country, they had a hard time containing the rebellion.
By February 1989 the Soviets withdrew all of their troops. Even so, the Afghan communist government remained in power until 1992 when the mujahideen was able to take the city of Kabal. However, after this hard fought victory, there was no new government to replace the old one. As a result, Afghanistan descended into chaos with tribal warlords fighting against one another for control over different parts of the country.
In December, 2011 a wave of protests swept through the Middle Eastern countries of Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and Yemen. At first the protests were non-violent but soon turned violent. The result of all these uprisings was the overthrow of these country's leaders. Libyan dictator Muhammar Khadaffi was murdered but there was no government to replace him and the country devolved into a political chaos of warlords. Egyptian president Hosni Mubarrak was arrested and elections were held to choose a new president, yet a year later the people revolted against Muhammad Morsi's government and he was forced from power and imprisoned. The military then had to step in and take control in order to keep the peace. This wave of political discontent then spread to the countries of Syria, Iran, Bahrain, Jordan, Iraq, and Algeria, which has plunged many of these nations into civil wars.
There are two things we learn from looking at this list of revolutions, uprisings, rebellions, and insurrections. The first is that those that didn't end in a complete disastrous defeat often led to a new government being established that was worse than the government they overthrew. And many of these newly created governments lasted only for a short time before they too were overthrown. The second thing we learn is that this was true for all of them except for one - the American Revolution.
Of all the revolutions throughout history, the one that Americans fought in 1776 is unique from all the others. It is the only one that improved the lives of its people and brought them peace and prosperity. All other revolutions did just the opposite. More than that, it wasn't really a revolution in the sense that Americans violently rose up and rioted in order to overthrow their government. In fact, our Founding Father didn't start the fighting. They declared themselves independent of English rule and it was when Britain sent troops to attack a newly declared nation that Americans fought to defend their land from what they considered to be an invading army.
And even at that, the chances of Americans successfully defending themselves was almost zero. The fact that they did succeed despite the odds against them doesn't mean that's the natural outcome of all or even most revolutions. In fact, the American Revolution is the only one that was truly successful.
The question is, why? What was their secret to victory? How were they able to do what no one else in all of history has ever been able to do?
The answer that the founders have given is that it was "providence," which they defined as "God's divine interposition in the affairs of men." They credited God's protective care over them as the reason for their victory. Even George Washington himself often talked about the many miracles he personally witnessed that saved his army from destruction on a number of occasions.
Most people who start a revolution always think that God is on their side. This is what the Zealots of the Jewish revolt were convinced of but their actions eventually caused the entire destruction of their nation for almost 2,000 years. Oliver Cromwell was convinced that he was being led by God in his fight against King Charles. Hong Xiuquan started the Taiping rebellion because of a vision he said he had where God told him to overthrown the Qing Dynasty.
The Hungarians who stood up to the Russian occupation of their country thought that because their cause was just that God was on their side but all revolutions are started by people who say their cause is just and who claim that all they want to do is improve the lives of the common, hard working people. Therefore, they feel that because of the morality of their cause that God will bless their efforts. Yet, in the end, revolutions always seem to make things worse.
That is something to seriously think about before being ready to participate in an armed revolution because unless God is the author and instigator of a revolution there is almost no chance that it will succeed for the better. We know that because that is the lesson we learn from history.
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