In the latter half of the 18th century, unrest and discontent were growing in the hearts and minds of the average citizens of France and the American colonies. For centuries both England and France had been ruled by monarchs with almost absolute power. Tired of being oppressed by uncaring, distant kings, the common people were being pushed closer and closer to revolution.
The American and French Revolutions were inspired by the ideals of the Enlightenment philosophy that emphasized natural rights such as common people having a voice in their own government and the right to own property. This philosophy was able to gain traction because the people of both countries had grown tired of being repressed by their respective monarchs. Both countries were facing social and economic troubles that led the common people of each area to revolt and take power into their own hands.
Even though England and France were two of the dominant world powers at the time, they had been considerably weakened by the Seven Years War (the part of the conflict that took place in America is known as the French and Indian War). The political climate in France was more volatile than in America as the French had been on the losing side of the war and much of the fighting on the European front had taken place there. Almost all of the fighting on the American continent had taken place in New France (which would one day become Canada), leaving the Colonies relatively unscathed.
The most important similarity between the causes for the revolutions was the ill will felt by the lower classes towards the monarchy and its associated aristocracy. Both England and France were teetering on the edge of bankruptcy after the war, leading to abominable taxation rates and unfair laws. The monarchs of each country (King George III in England and King Louis XVI in France) were losing their grip on both their people and their economy.
In the American Colonies, unrest was growing due to laws like the Stamp Act and Townshend Act which drove up taxes on essential goods. The British imposed these laws partly to refill their wallets and partly because they felt that the Colonials should contribute more to maintain the American territories as part of the British Empire. King George saw it this way: “…George was a mercantilist, convinced that the colonies existed for the benefit of the mother country. He resented that the Americans would not give a helping hand to Britain when it was so impoverished by its exertions in the Seven Years War that half the annual revenue went on servicing the National Debt… He thought it self- evident that Americans should willingly, nay cheerfully, contribute to the costs of protecting the colonies from the French, Spaniards and Indians” (Cannon 21-2).
The Colonials believed that, because they were not represented at Parliament, these laws were in violation of their rights as Englishmen. This led to dissent among the lower and middle classes who were being...