Enlightenment Ideas Inspired the American and French Revolutions

Only available on StudyMode
  • Download(s) : 7982
  • Published : August 3, 2005
Open Document
Text Preview
The American and French Revolutions were both fundamentally based on the Enlightenment ideas. The main ideas that they followed were by John Locke. His ideas inspired the Americans and the French to have a revolution. In these revolutions, the Americans had success and the French failed. The success that the Americans experienced wad due to the protection of rights they had. These rights are "Life, Liberty and Property." In America a constitution was put together that provided for a stable government and also a representative government. In France failure was caused by chaos, terror, fear and war. The French were unsuccessful because they failed to create a democratic government. In the end they were left with a dictator.

During the Enlightenment, many thinkers were writing about how a government should be run. John Locke was one of those thinkers. His ideas included the consent of the governed, or the "social contract." This social compact is what the Americans and the French both based their revolutions on (Ziegler 126 - 135).

These Revolutions started because the American and French citizens were unhappy. These people were unhappy because there was inequality throughout the entire country. They did not have any representation, in any from of government.

John Locke said that property is a right. In America's constitution it protects property. The 4th, 5th, and 6th amendments guarantee the protection of property in America, In France they

did not guarantee property. In America it was set up so that people have to earn property. The Americans wanted to expand but the Proclamation of 1763 said that they were not able to pass the Appellation Mountains (Ziegler 126 - 135).

In France property was not equal. It was divided up into different classes. Class determined how much property citizens would have. Peasants would have the least because they were at the bottom of the class structure. During the revolution the French thought that property should be divided up equality. However, during this time the peasants were stealing property. The French's main goal was absolute equality.

A faction is a special interest group that is very passionate to their interest. James Madison, a realist, spoke of a way to deal with factions when he wrote Federalist 10. "There are two methods of curing the mischiefs of faction: the one, by removing its causes; the other, by controlling its effects." What Madison is saying is that factions are going to be in a society no matter what. People are going to have different opinions. Factions are always going to exist, and no matter what, the government cannot remove factions because if they do then they are eliminating peoples rights. The constitution protects against this. "Liberty is to faction, what air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires. But it could not be a less folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to political life, because it nourishes faction, than it would be to wish the annihilation of air, which is essential to animal life, because it imparts to fire its destructive agency." This is one reason that the Americans had success (Ziegler 216).

In order to control the effects of a faction, Madison said that the government needed to have a checks and balance system. By doing this, factions are prevented from getting too powerful. This is the reason why the Americans clearly put a checks and balance system in the

constitution. In the constitution, these rights are guaranteed (Ziegler 216-220).
In France, the French were completely against factions. Robespierre thought factions are a threat to equality, and the "common good". He also thought that factions and everyone who had believed in factions were a threat to the Revolution. "Hidden internal enemies, with the word liberty on their lips, stem the flow of life. Despite your benevolent laws, they close granaries, and coolly engage in the heinous calculation of...
tracking img