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Comparing The French And American Revolutions

903 words - 4 pages

While the French and the American revolutions share some similarities, they differ in most areas involving the revolution. Enlightenment ideas would help shape politics, economics, and religion in the revolutionary nations. Although both found the importance of individual rights, they took different paths in establishing and operating their respective governments. The economic standpoints of the French would be in contrary with the American economics which roughly associate with enlightenment thinkers such as Adam Smith. Religion would closely be associated with principles in the United States while the French sought to secularize their nation.
The enlightenment ideas affected politics for both the French and the American peoples through the form of government and individual rights. Thinkers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, believed in the individual right of man as a citizen of a sovereign nation. In 1789, Marquis de Lafayette used Rousseau and other free thinker’s ideas to draft his Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen to the National Constituent Assembly in France (http://www.pbs.org/marieantoinette/revolution/america_france.html). This established universal rights for individuals that always existed at all times. The document shows many similarities to American documents such as the declaration of Human Rights in the U.S. Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights in the Constitution. For instance, they all show a relationship through the declaration of individual rights such as free speech and freedom of religion. However, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen focuses more on individualism while American documents focus more on a community “We the People” (http://www.pbs.org/marieantoinette/revolution/america_france.html). Subsequently, later on the American government would leave individuals alone, and the French government would look to conform its citizens.

Another difference involves the situation between the different people and their governments. The American revolution ideally processed as a War for Independence unlike the French Revolution that was more of a war to overturn its current governing system. Americans sought to relieve themselves from British rule which abused the colonist through over taxation. This is similar to the French by means of the class taxation which under the monarchical system meant few taxes on the nobles and more on the lower working classes. Enlightenment ideas influenced both Revolutions in different areas and to different degrees. The French even looked to the American Revolution as an example that could be studied. Also, Maximlien Robespierre’s Reign of Terror saw the execution of many Frenchmen (http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/robespierre-terror.asp). His purpose for these executions came with his high ranking in the French government and his desire to stabilize it. The people ultimately became frustrated with Robespierre as he began threating influential...

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