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Similarities and Differences of the French and American Revolutions

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Similarities and Differences of the French and American Revolutions

Both the French Revolution and the American Revolution were captivating due to the strength of average men to be able to fight against their authority. The French and American Revolutions were both unique in history because they originate from the Enlightenment ideas, that led future societies to crave for freedom and equality. Both of the revolutions were fought primarily by the common people, who found inequalities within their governments. The French Revolution began in 1789 stemming on the slogan “liberty, equality, and fraternity” and ended with new social changes for the lower and middle classes of France. The American Revolution began in 1775 with the slogan “no taxation without representation” and the American people had victory in 1783.

The considerable mix of violence and determination for equality of the people in the French Revolution showed the power of the common people when uniting. “In 1787, the finance minister Charles-Alexandre de Calonne offered a plan for a subvention territoriale, a new tax collected in kind on all landed income with no exceptions” (White 223). The need for the tax reform stemmed from the bankruptcy in France caused by both their participation in helping throughout the American Revolution and the two decade long agrarian crisis. The Estates General is a representative meeting of the clergy, the nobles, and the common people to discuss pressing issues(Digital History). The Estates General lead to the Third Estate, or the common people, to becoming the National Assembly because of the inequality in the voting system. On July 14, 1789, rioters of the National Assembly began to destroy the Paris jail, Bastille, a rebellion used to get gunpowder and weapons, that lead the people to have the abolition of feudalism (Encyclopedia). Without the rebellion, the people may have never gotten the nobles to agree to slowly give the peasants what they deserved. The constitution drafted by the National Assembly called the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, brought the Enlightenment ideas of freedom and ideas of separation of church and state. King Louis greatly disagreed with the new constitution, especially the ideas of secularism, and tried to flee Paris in June of 1791, but was caught at Varennes. According to Dr.Schwartz in his document History 151 The French Revolution: Causes, Outcomes, Conflicting Interpretations, “After the establishment of the Republic, the level of violence grew as the Republican regime sought to repress counter-revolutionary movements in France . . . while struggling at the same time to prevent defeat in war by the combined forces of Austria, Prussia, and Britain. The so-called reign of Terror was instituted to quash both internal and foreign forces of counter revolution. But once these internal and foreign threats were under control in the spring of 1794, Terror continued at the direction of the Committee of Public Safety, the most famous member of which was Maximilien Robespierre” (Schwartz). Maximilien Robespierre was in favor of the execution of the king, and later his wife Marie-Antoinette, and with him France declared themselves a Republic, changing the legislative assembly to a National Convention. June of 1793 the Jacobins took over the National Convention, creating more violence with the execution of thousands thought of as traders, and the erradication of Christianity ( Staff). The final phase of the revolution began with the execution of Robespierre, and and a new constitution that added the Directory and Napoleon Bonaparte. Throughout this period of time the majority of authority was caused by military forces, but finally in 1815 Napoleon was defeated and the revolution was over. The people stuck together through over a decade of war and revised government systems, that brought them new freedoms and rights. “The slogan “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, or Death” embodies revolutionaries’ vision for a new world and their commitment to die for the cause,” (Encyclopedia). The people's ability to work together with the determination of wanting equality, through the use of rebellion, brought forth a new political revision in France among the people.

The American Revolution had two important elements: a strong general known as General Washington and colonists willing to fight for their freedom. The American Revolutionary War was between the thirteen North American colonies and Great Britain. Growing tensions between Great Britain and the colonists had been building up as the British government enforced acts such as the Sugar Act, the Stamp Act, and the Townshend Acts to raise money and have more control over the colonists (DigitalHistory). These acts outraged colonists due to their lack of representation, but they still had to follow British rule. After the Boston Massacre men of the colonies including Samuel Adams and George Washington, met in Philadelphia to voice their grievances with the Bristish Crown ( Staff). This meeting was the start towards dependence with the basis of ‘no taxation without representation’ a slogan used throughout the American Revolution to rebel against the British. An account from George Washington to his wife Martha stated, “I am now set down to write to you on a subject which fills me with inexpressible concern . . . it has been determined in Congress that the whole army raised for the the defense of the American Cause shall be put under my care, and that it is necessary for me to proceed immediately to Boston to take upon me the Command of it” (Washington). Washington was chosen to be lead command in the military because of his sense of spirit in patriotism. He was a very respected man who used the ignorance of his enemies to become victorious in war. Washington’s letter sent to his wife in 1775 was when the violence of militants to the British soldiers began at the Battle of Lexington and the Battle of Concord. The closeness of victories to losses between the colonists and the British were quite surprising because the soldiers of Britain were superior and highly trained, whereas the colonists were untrained and unprepared. The Americans side was fought by both the Continental Army and the militiamen, the militiamen although unreliable fighters, proved themselves in critical moments of battle (Kelly) . According to author John Ferling, a leading historian in the American revolution, in his article “Myths of the American Revolution,” “On October 17, 1777, British Gen. John Burgoyne surrendered 5,895 men to American forces outside Saratoga, New York. . . . The defeat persuaded France to form a military with the United States” (Ferling). The addition of the French to the colonists side was both a figure of belief in the colonists and a way of gaining access to resources they



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