Bill has progressed degrees in education and political science. He has been a political science teacher for over 27 years.

You are watching: Similarities and differences between the american and french revolutions


In the exact same year that the American Republic began, the French transformation started. Must these two revolutions, American and also French, it is in acclaimed together "similar"?


At first glance, it appears that the American and also French Revolutions had a lot in common. After ~ all, both take it place roughly the exact same time. Both championed the desire because that republican government and the principles of liberty. And also many Americans advocated the French Revolution, and also the Americans to be indebted come the French who advanced their revolution, giving both money and material come the cause.

In fact, it's common in academia come treat the revolutions as being an ext alike 보다 different. However, the historical record reveals the these two revolutions began from different premises and their results were even much more divergent 보다 their premises. This essay is specialized to providing a contrast to the American and also French Revolutions, v a conclusion the these were two really different events.


Samuel Adams has been called the "Father that the American Revolution." some have suggested that the expression "American Revolution" is a misnomer and that the activity should be rightfully referred to as the "American war for Independence."

A change By any kind of Other Name...

The American Revolutionary War….

That’s what we often speak to it. That was, after ~ all, a revolution, wasn’t it?

Was it?

If the French change is the benchmark for exactly how revolutions go, climate the American revolution was no a revolution at all.

First, think about the American Revolution. It's ironic that the root of the American transformation were British. Prior to the Americans acquire their declaration of freedom in 1776, the british led the way with the Magna Carta, the Petition that Right and also the English bill of Rights, files that reasserted the rights of subjects against the arbitrary rule of kings, like the Stuart tyrants that the seventeenth century.

Like their counterparts in England, numerous Americans the the eighteenth century self-identified together “Whigs”, those that opposed the tyranny that monarchy and also desired a republican kind of government. Your resistance versus the British began shortly after the conclusion that the French and Indian battle in 1763 and also culminated v those shots “heard round the world” in ~ Lexington and Concord, about twelve years later. Indeed, our “revolution” was lengthy in coming. The many radical act developed in 1773 once otherwise reasonable males dressed up prefer the natives and also dumped british tea into Boston harbor in the commemorated Boston Tea Party.


Marie Antoinette, pictured, at the period of thirteen. The French queen was just one the the innocent victims that the French Revolution.

A mob By any kind of Other Name...

For all of its mob-like appearances, however, the Boston Tea Party to be characteristically uncharacteristic. The decision to dump the tea into the port was not the product of roaming mobs. Quite it was a deliberated act; in fact, the tea to be the only victim that night (except because that a busted lock which Ben Franklin insisted be replaced). As soon as one male stole some of the tea, he to be punished by the colony.

In terms of violent behavior, the American revolution can’t hold a candle come the French Revolution. Compared to the antics of the French Revolution, the notorious Tea Party in Boston was choose the sisters at the convent sneaking into the dorm that the competitor convent and shorting their sheets. The French revolution was among the most senseless bloodlettings ever to happen in the name of freedom. From the moment the revolutionaries stormed the Bastille till the increase of Napoleon, thousands in France were senselessly murdered, consisting of France’s hapless king, luigi XVI and also his consort, Marie Antoinette.

But isn't one man's terrorist one more man's flexibility fighter? Well, look in ~ it this way: it's difficult to imagine George Washington denouncing the Christian religion, cutting board Jefferson cutting a man’s head off, holding it up to the crowd for a cheer or putting the head on a pike to be paraded about the highways of Boston or john Adams eating the heart of his enemy.

The fact is the there are plenty of contrasts that can be made between these 2 revolutions. The Americans to be trying to keep their legacies of representative government and also self-imposed taxation; because that the French, every little thing that had to carry out with the ancien régime was repugnant and had to be uprooted, also its religion. The French change was a dispute rooted in envy v desperate peasants whipped right into a frenzy. The Americans, in contrast, did not envy the British; they wanted to be left alone, to graph their very own political destiny. In comparison to the American price of liberty, the Liberty Bell, we have the French symbol of liberty, the guillotine.

As for the literature contribution, France gave the civilization a statements of Rights, a insurance claim to entitlements, grounded in human reason; the American starting fathers gave their civilization a explanation of Independence, a explanation of responsibility, grounded in self-evident truths. Through the explanation of Independence, America’s establishing fathers to be saying,“We have outgrown the function of a child in a paternalistic government. We space responsible and ready to stand on our own and take our place amongst the nations.” Previously, the swarms had exist in a state of "salutary neglect" because that over a century. They were obtaining along relatively well without British meddling. They to be making their own laws and living by their very own wits. Together Jefferson placed it, it was time “to dissolve the political bands i m sorry had linked them through another.”

As for the French Revolution, the zealots that the movement imposed a “Cult of Reason." lock tried to eliminate all vestiges the religion, like changing the seven-day week and removing religious holidays native the calendar (like Easter and Christmas). Castle were also mandating that priests be “uncelebate.” The ACLU would have remained in heaven if they could have saw this secular spree operation amok (except castle don’t believe in heaven…).


It is true the the French revolution and American change have your roots in contract theory. However, the call theory offered by Jean Rousseau (above) is an extremely different 보다 the one available by brothers philosopher, man Locke (below).


The Foundation

Yes, both transformations are the product the the Enlightenment, however the American change was no inflamed by the works of philosophes favor Diderot and also Voltaire, yet primarily by john Locke who, though a contract philosopher like Hobbes and Rousseau, focused an ext on man’s civil liberties to “life, liberty, and property.” as for the French Revolution, it was grounded in a “Cult the Reason” with rootless souls choose Voltaire and also Rousseau fanning the flames. Revolutionaries convert the magnificent Cathedral of Notre Dame right into a “Temple of Reason” v the French actress, the seductive price of reason, being lugged into the cathedral by males dressed in roman costume.

The results might not be additional apart. Locke’s principles encouraged constitutionalism, a federal government of minimal power; as for Rousseau, his contract caused a “General Will” which ended up being the embodiment of absolute power. The isn’t a stretch to say that Rousseau’s ideas have been the progenitor for near every totalitarian menace we’ve experienced because him and also the dad of state education, the best menace ever foisted top top the community of humanity in the name of progress.

Stranger 보다 Fiction

Another remarkable comparison is what happened to the leader of the Revolution. In France, the revolutionaries instigated terrible acts with many of castle dying awful deaths, choose Maximilian Robespierre. Together for the American revolutionaries, only among the initial 56 guys to authorize the Declaration died a violent fatality (and his fatality had nothing to do with the revolution). In fact, the instigators that the American revolution fared well as revolutionaries go. Many of them were honored ~ the revolution and lived long lives. In fact, every American president as much as Abraham Lincoln died a nonviolent death, unless you consider eighteenth century medication an act of violence, which took George Washington native this human being prematurely.

And speaking of George Washington, the commander of the army, a top “insurrectionist” came to be the an initial president and also “father that his country.” by the end of his life in 1799, that was probably the most respected and most revered American. Man Adams to be the “Atlas the Independence,” top top the committee that drafted the explanation of Independence, the cook architect the the Massachusetts constitution, crucial template because that the national Constitution (and is still the oldest written work constitution). He went top top to it is in America’s second president. Cutting board Jefferson, chief writer of the declaration of Independence, was important in founding the modern-day American party system and also was chosen twice to the presidency. Adams and also Jefferson would come to be political enemies, however reconcile, live lengthy lives and die within hrs of each other on the fiftieth anniversary of freedom in 1826—fiction couldn’t get any stranger.

Ben Franklin, signer the the Declaration and also one of the first proponents of one “American Union” was a principal figure at the constitution Convention, was governor of his state the Pennsylvania, and also one of the most famed Americans in the civilization of his time—he likewise lived a lengthy life.

And then there’s James Monroe who, like Washington, combated in the Revolution, took a cartridge in the left shoulder at the fight of Trenton, leaving him serious wounded. But he would certainly live on to end up being America's fifth president and also the architect of one of America's most important foreign plan statements: The Monroe Doctrine. Monroe would certainly be immortalized in the Jonathan Trumbull paint Capture of the Hessians at the fight of Trenton.

The one American revolutionary that did die a violent death, Alexander Hamilton, died in a duel with Vice-President Aaron Burr, but the duel had actually nothing to carry out with the Revolution. In the hrs just before the duel, Hamilton confessed come his mam that he would hazard dying quite than take the life of Burr, a sworn enemy. And also he did take that mortal bullet on the evening of July 11, 1804 in ~ Weehawken, new Jersey, vowing to execute no violence and also departed this life, confessing the Christian religion.

In the Gospels, Jesus said that those that live by the sword, die by the sword. It’s a truism: soldiers frequently die through the sword and it is often true that violent men come complete circle and also meet their bitter end in violence. Yet these men—Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, and Monroe—were not guys of violence.

A adjust of Heart

So, if the American change was not a change of violence, what sort of transformation was it? follow to man Adams, it was a transformation of the mind. In one 1818 letter to Hezekiah Niles, Adams said,

"But what carry out we median by the American Revolution? do we mean the American war? The transformation was impacted before the battle commenced. The revolution was in the minds and also hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments of their duties and also obligations. ... This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and also affections the the people, was the actual American Revolution."

Some historians like Paul Johnson have attributed the American Revolution, in part, come the good Awakening, the spiritual revival of new England that started in Connecticut in 1741. Johnson call the good Awakening the “proto-event” for the American Revolution.

As much as Adams to be concerned, the American transformation was a change of mind that impacted a positive readjust for american and, yes, for mankind. And we can take Adams’ affirmation one step further--and this equally uses to the French Revolution--that prior to it to be a revolt in the streets, it was a change of the mind, and before it was a transformation of mind, it was a revolution of the heart.

American transformation or French Revolution?

For every question, pick the best answer. The answer an essential is below.

First RevolutionAmerican RevolutionFrench RevolutionCommittee of windy SafetyAmerican RevolutionFrench RevolutionCommittees of CorrespondenceAmerican RevolutionFrench Revolution"Liberty, Equality, Fraternity"American RevolutionFrench Revolution"Life, Liberty, and also the search of Happiness"American RevolutionFrench RevolutionThree EstatesAmerican RevolutionFrench RevolutionDeclaration of the civil liberties of Man and also the CitizenAmerican RevolutionFrench Revolution

Answer Key

American RevolutionFrench RevolutionAmerican RevolutionFrench RevolutionAmerican RevolutionFrench RevolutionFrench Revolution

© 2012 william R Bowen Jr


mommy gay on march 12, 2019:

thank you

#gamergirl on February 06, 2019:

sooooooooooooo helpful

young blood 18 top top October 09, 2018:

Cool fight

RichJ ~ above September 25, 2018:

When i learned around the panoramic view of church background in the publication of Revelation (chapters 2 & 3) I put it along with the great Awakening and then i learned around what the Brits(in 1770s) called the black Robe Regiment and also I establish the very same thing. America to be actually started by a revolution of the heart started by a revival. Ironically one the preachers responsible traveled from England come preach here, George Whitefield. Also, the writings of Locke and also Wise added greatly to the reasoning of society at the time which developed the explanation of Independence. An excellent article. Many thanks for posting.

yung blood top top September 20, 2018:

thanks for the assist G

joe biden top top April 15, 2018:

Hi, bro i simply used this for a project, don't problem I cited thanks for the help broski.

Dirk Vavroch on September 03, 2017:

I am reading A story of 2 Cities, and I am noting part disturbing similarities in between the dam burst of the French revolution and the seemingly impending dam burst of the American social revolution. I have the right to empathize through Charles Darnay's amazement in ~ the rapidity and the extent of the social shift in his native country. I find myself marveling in ~ the change occurring in American culture today. Yes, i am a Christian.

S on respectable 24, 2017:

It is excellent

William R Bowen Jr (author) from brand-new Bern, NC on march 22, 2013:

Couldn't agree more. Many thanks for reading and also for your comments.

indigenous upstate, NY on march 22, 2013:

Your therefore right, there to be a large difference in between the American and also the French Revolutions. The behavior of the American patriots reflect a Christian structure while the French transformation an atheistic one. The American’s respect the legitimate dominance of law whereas the French acted as a violent mob, demanding their rights.

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The French change was informed by numerous of the same concepts of today’s leftists. The French were moved by envy, mob violence, flexibility (associated v license), anti-Christian sentiment and also entitlement. The American’s were thrust by Christian ideals such together the inalienable rights of men, flexibility (with duty to God) and a respect because that godly traditions indigenous upstate, NY on in march 21, 2013:

"The results might not be more apart. Locke’s concepts encouraged constitutionalism, a federal government of limited power; together for Rousseau, his contract resulted in a “General Will” which became the embodiment of pure power."

Many fail to watch that the"general will"

William R Bowen Jr (author) from brand-new Bern, NC top top June 17, 2012:

Thanks Julie. Happy it to be a help.

Blurter the Indiscretions indigenous Clinton CT top top June 17, 2012:

Very unique done. Ns am fascinated by background and specifically our revolution...voted up!

William R Bowen Jr (author) from new Bern, NC on June 16, 2012:

Thanks Souvikm. Good luck top top hubpages

Souvik Mukherjee native Bangalore, India top top June 16, 2012:

Though ns am no from the united state or France, the hub provided good information around the 2 legendary revolutions. Chosen it!