The American and French Revolution: Similarities and Differences

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The American and French Revolution: Similarities and Differences During the late 18th century, two great revolutions occurred, the American Revolution and the French Revolution. Between the years of 1775-1783, The American Revolution was fought between the thirteen British colonies in North America and Great Britain, their mother country. Thomas Hutchinson, the royal governor of Massachusetts at the time, sums the reason for war best, saying "‘No middle ground exists between the supreme authority of Parliament and the total dependence of the colonies: it is impossible there should be two independent legislatures in one and the same state'" (Van Tyne 135). The American Revolution was effectively a "conservative" advancement, and was fought to preserve the independence America had thoroughly expounded since the 1620s, when Great Britain's government appeared to abandon the colonies. Samuel Eliot Morison pointed out: "The American Revolution was not fought to obtain freedom, but to preserve the liberties that Americans already had as colonials. Independence was no conscious goal, secretly nurtured in cellar or jungle by bearded conspirators, but a reluctant last resort, to preserve 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness'" (Van Tyne 87). America was the child of England, but not the child of the England of 1760. Every English institution placed in the colonies had developed on purely American lines, shaped by the social, political, and economic conditions unique to America. The result was that the two unconsciously grew apart, and the colonies had reached a point in their development where they could govern themselves better than they could be governed by a power beyond the sea. The French Revolution, lasting from 1789 to 1799, was a major transformation of the society and political system of France. Eighteenth-century France was the largest and most heavily populated country in Western Europe, and also Europe's supreme power. Unfortunately, France was burdened with an economic belief in mercantilism, which kept the economy and the French people poor. The war actually began on July 14, better known as Bastille Day, when a Parisian gang damaged the fortress known as the Bastille, releasing, as one analyst put it, "‘two fools, four forgers, and a debaucher'" (Doyle 204). Soon France began to descend into a deep hole in which it would remain for the next ten years. The democrats and republicans overthrew the absolute monarchy and the Roman Catholic Church was forced to undergo extreme remodeling. Throughout the Revolution, France was changed from a monarchy to an anarchy, and lastly to a dictatorship. Had it not been for the insurmountable strength of the typical Frenchman and France's position as the most successful country in Europe, France might never have recovered. Charles Caleb Colton commented on the French Revolution, saying that "‘The consequences of things are not always proportionate to the apparent magnitude of those events that have produced them. Thus the American Revolution, from which little was expected, produced much; but the French Revolution, from which much was expected, produced little.'" (Mathiez 374). The parallels and differences between these two revolutions are obvious. The similarities are rooted from the cause of each revolution, which was mostly influenced by enlightenment ideals and a common disliking of authority, the ultimate removal of this disliked authority, and an overall model towards future forms of government; however, differences also arise, including the form and strategy of combat, the remarkable leaders and the lack of remarkable leaders, the principles and beliefs of the common citizens, and the positive versus negative outcomes, The causes of the two wars are similar in the fact that the commoners had had enough of their individual authoritative powers and that this dislike rooted from unjust and ridiculous taxations. The French Revolution is most generally portrayed as the...
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