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"Vanity Made The Revolution, Liberty Was Only A Pretext"

1425 words - 6 pages

“Vanity made the revolution, liberty was only a pretext”A revolution is the overthrow of one government with replacement of another. The American Revolution against the British during 1775 to 1783 and the French Revolution against their own French government between 1789 and 1799 are both important political and social turnovers. Each country sought radical change for freedom and equality. Many similarities as well as differences existed between the American Revolution and the French Revolution. This paper will explore the driving factors as well as the similarities and differences between the two Revolutions.Both revolutions are fundamentally based on the Enlightenment ideas of John Locke. “The Declaration of Independence” contains many of Locke’s ideas; it is a document that states all Americans are entitled to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” (Thomas Jefferson, “The Declaration of Independence”, in Mark S. Micale, The Western Experience: 1750 to Present Reader, Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2002, 9-12). Similarly, the French document, “The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen,” states that the French have rights to “liberty, property, security, and the resistance of oppression” (“The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen”, in Mark S. Micale, The Western Experience: 1750 to Present Reader, Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2002, 13-14). Both of these documents emphasize the idea that liberty is something to which all men should be allowed. The French document was based off of “The Declaration of Independence.” Rather than a constitution it was a statement of principles. “The Declaration of the Rights of Man” was much more understated and less extensive (HIS 142 discussion,01-28-2008).These Revolutions were fueled and instigated by the inefficiency of their governments and the oppression they placed on their people. Americans were unhappy with the Taxation from the British government. Unfair taxes were placed on the colonists for things that did not involve them. They had to pay for wars that did not benefit them. In addition, Britain put severe trade restrictions on the colonies. In the end, the question for many Americans became not whether they would submit to taxes but whether they would submit to tyranny. Certainly taxation was not the only cause; the absence of legal redress for any grievances is certainly a contributing factor.However, unlike the American Revolution, the French Revolution was fought for power, not freedom. France also faced economic turmoil. Louis XV was involved with lengthy and costly conflicts. This in combination with the inefficient feudal tax system left France bankrupt. The amount of tax each person must pay is unfair. Landholders found in the nobility and the Church was exempted from tax. However, the landholders found in the commoners were taxed heavily. Grain shortage across the country was driving up the price...

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