Compare and Contrast the American and French Revolutions

Essay by NoiseeShoesHigh School, 11th gradeA, February 2006

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Both the American and French Revolutions were focused around liberty and equality. Both countries were trying to gain freedom. America was trying to gain freedom from the rules and taxes put upon them by Great Britain. Whereas the French wanted to abolish the French monarchy and create a better government in which the people could have more of a say in society. Although the revolutions of both started for very similar reasons, and both countries fought for the same thing, the outcomes of the two were very different.

The American Revolution was mainly focused on gaining independence. After the British victory during the Seven Year War, America was tied down from the British rules. America was obligated to pay off the war, and to pay the high taxes that British Parliament assigned. The British enforced the Stamp Act on the Americans. The stamp tax levied taxes on commercial and legal documents, such as, diplomas, pamphlets, newspapers, almanacs, dice, and playing cards.

A stamp glued to each article indicated that the tax had been paid. What also angered the Americans was the lack of representation from the British Parliament, Americans had to no way to speak their mind to the British, other than rebellion. The British had crossed the line when they allowed the East India Tea Company to ship their products directly to the colonies, rather than sending it through the middlemen in London. In order to show the public's opinion, Thomas Paine wrote Common Sense, this book ridiculed the idea of a small island ruling a large continent, this was a call for freedom and republican government. After much fighting, the Americans finally found a way to make things fair. On July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson. By 1783, Britain allowed the 13 colonies of North America to have independence.

The common people of France wanted to get rid of the French monarchy, the lower classes wanted to enforce equality rather than having the nobles and the king overpower them. Like the Americans, the French were also in debt from war, they enterd the Seven Years War by using borrowed money. In order to pay the it off, the king, Louis XIV, levied a large tax, however the people refused to pay. To resolve this issue, Louis went to converse with the General Estates, the General Estates was made up of representatives from the commoners, the clergys, and the nobles. However, problems came up when the nobles refused to sit and discuss with the commoners. Both the commoners and the clergys were angered, they went together to form the National Assembly of France. The peasants were also facing problems in the work force, due to the fact that the wheat and grain crops were doing awful and barely producing, therefore the bread prices vigorously increased. The king did nothing to help the peasants in their times of trouble, which caused even more uproar. The French were rapidly losing trust in the King, in fact many nobles began moving out of the palace of Versailles. Which again, caused peasants to lose jobs, because many women involved in the cottage industry sewed clothing for those living in Versailles. The lower class had had it, the rebellions had begun. First they attacked the Bastille and killed the governor, next they marched to Versailles, they began attacking and killing random nobles. The king and his family quickly left the palace to hide from the commotion.

Overall, the American and French Revolutions had many similarities, with a number of outstanding differences. Both revolutions were focused on the countries gaining freedom and independence, mainly looking at the concepts of liberty and equality. America wanted to escape from the regulations and rules that the British were putting on them, whereas the French simply wanted to abolish the monarchy in their own country. Also, both countries were suffering because they were in a terrible debt from the Seven Years War. Many taxes were put on each country to pay these debts off, leading to parallel rebellions. The main similarity in the French and American Revolution is that commoners were fighting for equality and freedom. The main difference is the outcome of the revolutions. The Americans ended by creating the Declaration of Independence which was a great way to begin a solid society. The French commoners did gain some freedom, but there was still a king ruling over.

For the most part, the revolutions greatly impacted the societies of France and America. After the fight they put up, the thirteen colonies were heading into a time of much significant progression. However, the French still had a long ways to go. The revolutions of France and North America were extremely relevant yet not necessarily helpful to the commoners, and their liberty and equality.