Similarity b/w American and French Revolution


  • Both the American Revolution and French Revolution were the products of Enlightenment ideals that emphasized the idea of natural rights and equality.

Revolution by Commons

  • Both were driven by the common masses who felt the need to be free from oppressive or tyrannical rule of absolute monarchs and believed in their ability to live independent from such forces .
  • Just as in America, it was the middle and lower classes involved in the revolution in France too and although the loyalists in America had a sound following, the demographics of the revolution were essentially the same.

Repressive Leadership

  • The leadership in both countries at the time of their revolutions was certainly repressive, especially in terms of taxation.
  • Both areas suffered social and economic hardships that led to the realization that something must be done to topple the hierarchy and put power back into the hands of the people.

Aims and Final Outcome

  • While there were different circumstances that effected the governments being rebelled against, these revolutions had similar aims and achieved the similar result of a new republic and constitution as the final outcome.

Declarations and Constitutions

  • Both revolutions produced similar and seminal political documents and their respective written constitutions.
  • The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen was adopted in France in August 1789 by the National Constituent Assembly whereas United States had Bill of Rights (1789) as significant documents which gave practical shape to ideals of Enlightenment .
    • The Declaration of the Rights of Man also showed similarities to the United States Constitution (1787) and the United States Bill of Rights.
    • Like the U. S. Constitution, The French Declaration provided for a national defense, and emphasized equality before taxation ( which was distinctly different from traditional France, in which the Catholic Church and the nobility were exempt from most taxes) .
    • Finally, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen provides for freedom of speech and of the press, and addresses freedom of religion.
    • Like these American documents , France ’s Declaration prohibits ex post facto application of criminal law and proclaims the presumption of innocence to a crime suspect .

Differences b/w American and French Revolution

DimensionsAmerican RevolutionFrench Revolution
Rebelled againstIn American Revolution, the colonists rebelled against a foreign government, Britain, which ruled them as colony.The common people of France, comprising of the Third estate rebelled against their own ruler, Louis VI and monarchy.
OutcomeThe revolution led to America gaining independence from British rule.It led to rise of Napoleon and long drawn years of Napoleonic wars.
ParticipationMostly all classes of colonists took part in the rebellion against the British rule.The rebellion was limited to the Third Estate which was the working class, revolting against the nobility and monarchy for equality, liberty and fraternity.
Place of RevoltAt the time of revolution, America was not a country but colonies of Britain, fighting against the colonial rule for their freedom.France was a country whose citizens were fighting for equality and against the oppressive monarchical rule.
Level of global involvementThe American Revolution pretty much stayed between the Americans and the British except when the French joined.The French Revolution started between the French lower class and the French government, It then evolved into the French fighting against other monarchies in Europe such as Austria and Prussia.
Level of ViolenceThe revolutionaries in the American Revolution never really killed supporters of the British and weren’t very violent to British people unless they were in battle. The Americans did not envy the British; they wanted to be left alone, to chart their own political destiny.French Revolution was more violent and bloody. The revolutionaries in the French Revolution would kill anyone who they heard were supporters of the king. In contrast to the American symbol of liberty, the Liberty Bell, we have the French symbol of liberty, the guillotine.
Relation with earlier systemThe Americans were trying to preserve their traditions of representative government and self-imposed taxation.To the French, everything that had to do with the ancien regime was repugnant and had to be uprooted, even its religion.
Contributions to the WorldThe American founding fathers gave their people a Declaration of Independence, a declaration of responsibility, grounded in self -evident truths.France gave the world a Declaration of Rights, a claim to entitlements, grounded in human reason.
ImpactWith the Declaration of Independence, America’s founding fathers were saying ,“We have outgrown the role of a child in a paternalistic government. We are responsible and ready to stand on our own two feet and take our place among the nations.” They were getting along fairly well without British meddling. They were making their own laws and living by their own wits.As for the French Revolution, the zealots of the movement imposed a “Cult of Reason”. They tried to remove all vestiges of religion, like changing the seven-day week and removing religious from the calendar (like Easter and Christmas).
Impact of Enlightenment thinkers
Both revolutions are the product of the Enlightenment, yet the American Revolution was not inflamed by the writings of philosophers like Diderot and Voltaire, but primarily by John Locke who, though a contract theorist like Hobbes and Rousseau, focused more on man’s rights to “life, liberty, and property.” Locke’s ideas encouraged constitutionalism, a government of limited power.
As for the French Revolution, it was grounded in a “Cult of Reason” with philosophers like Voltaire and Rousseau.
Rousseau’s social contract, unlike Locke , resulted in a “General Will” which became the embodiment of absolute power. It isn’t a stretch to say that Rousseau’ s ideas have been the progenitor for near every totalitarian menace we’ve experienced since him.

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