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Areican And French Revolution Revised

.. largest country in Europe, France might never have recovered. Now contrast all of this with the American Revolution, more correctly called the War for Independence. The American Revolution was different because, as Irving Kristol has pointed out, it was a mild and relatively bloodless revolution. A war was fought to be sure, and soldiers died in that war.

But . . . there was none of the butchery which we have come to accept as a natural concomitant of revolutionary warfare. . .

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. There was no ‘revolutionary justice’; there was no reign of terror; there were no bloodthirsty proclamations by the Continental Congress.” The American Revolution was essentially a conservative movement, fought to conserve the freedoms America had painstakingly developed since the 1620s during the period of British salutary neglect, in reality, a period of laissez faire government as far as the colonies were concerned. A sense of restraint pervades this whole period. In the Boston Tea Party, no one was hurt and no property was damaged except for the tea. One Patriot even returned the next day to replace a lock on a sea chest that had been accidentally broken.

This was not the work of anarchists who wanted to destroy everything in their way, but of Englishmen who simply wanted a redress of grievances. After the Boston Massacre, when the British soldiers who had fired upon the crowd were brought to trial, American lawyers James Otis and John Adams defended them. In any other revolution, these men would have been calling for the deaths of the offending soldiers. Instead, they were defending them in court. When the war finally began, it took over a year for the colonists to declare their independence.

During that year, officers in the Continental Army still drank to God save the King.” When the Declaration of Independence was finally declared, it was more out of desperation than careful planning, as we sought help from foreign nations, particularly the French. In the end, it was the French monarchy, not the Revolutionists. As they had not yet come to power, that helped America win its independence. Through the seven years of the American war, there were no mass executions, no reigns of terror, no rivers of blood flowing in the streets of America’s cities. When a Congressman suggested to George Washington that he raid the countryside around Valley Forge to feed his starving troops, he flatly refused, saying that such an action would put him on the same level as the invaders. Most revolutions consume those who start them; in France, Marat, Robespierre, and Danton all met violent deaths. When Washington was offered a virtual dictatorship by some of his officers at Newburgh, New York, he resisted his natural impulse to take command and urged them to support the republican legislative process.

In America, unlike France, where religious dissenters were put to death, there was no wholesale assault on freedom of religion. At the Constitutional Convention in 1787, there were devout Congregationalists, Episcopalians, Dutch Reformed, Lutherans, Quakers, Presbyterians, Methodists, and Roman Catholics. Deist Ben Franklin asked for prayer during the Convention, while several months later George Washington spoke at a Jewish synagogue. During the Revolution, many members of the Continental Congress attended sermons preached by Presbyterian John Witherspoon. While Thomas Jefferson worked to separate church and state in Virginia, he personally raised money to help pay the salaries of Anglican ministers who would lose their tax-supported paychecks. In matters of religion, the leaders of America’s Revolution agreed to disagree.

Finally, unlike the French Revolution, the American Revolution brought forth what would become one of the world’s freest societies. There were, of course, difficulties. During the critical period of American history, from 1783- 1787, the 13 states acted as 13 separate nations, each levying import duties as it pleased. As far as New York was concerned, tariffs could be placed on New Jersey cider, produced across the river, as easily as on West Indian rum. The war had been won, but daily battles in the marketplace were being lost. The U.S. Constitution changed all that by forbidding states to levy tariffs against one another.

The Constitution also sought to protect property rights, including rights to ideas (patents and copyrights) and beliefs (the First Amendment). For Madison, this was indeed the sole purpose of civil government. In 1792 he wrote: Government is instituted to protect property of every sort. . . .

This being the end of government, that alone is a just government which impartially secures to every man whatever is his own. Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury, helped restore faith in the public credit with his economic program. It was at his urging that the U.S. dollar be defined in terms of hard money, silver and gold. (At the Constitutional Convention, the delegates were so opposed to fiat paper money that Luther Martin of Maryland complained that they were filled with paper money dread.) Hamilton’s centralizing tendencies would have been inappropriate at any other time in American history; but in the 1790s, his program helped 13 nations combine to form one United States.

Had succeeding Treasury Secretaries continued Hamilton’s course of strengthening the federal government, at the expense of the states, America’s economic expansion would have been stillborn. Fortunately, when Jefferson came to power, he brought with him the Swiss financier and economist Albert Gallatin, who served Jefferson for two terms and Madison for one. Unlike his fellow countryman Necker, whose mercantilist policies only hastened the coming of the French Revolution, Gallatin was committed to limited government and free market economic policies. Setting the tone for his Administration, Jefferson said in his first inaugural address: Still one thing more, fellow citizens, a wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.” For the next eight years, Jefferson and Gallatin worked to reduce the nation’s debt as well as its taxes. The national debt was cut from $83 million to $57 million, and the number of Federal employees was reduced. Despite the restrictions on trade caused by Napoleon’s Berlin and Milan decrees, and the British blockade of Europe, American businessmen continued to develop connections around the world. By the end of Jefferson’s first term, he was able to ask, What farmer, what mechanic, what laborer ever sees a tax gatherer in the United States? The only real comparison that can be made between these two great historic revolutions is the formation of their new government. The revolutionists in America abolished laws that Britain opposed on them such as the Navigation Acts, Quartering Acts, Stamp Acts, and the hated Intolerable Acts.

Are founding fathers also used a democratic form of government, which, in that time frame, was considered radical and totally unheard of in Europe, where the major European powers were almost all total monarchies. In addition to this, the revolutionists founded their own constitution. Now the revolutionists in France used the same idea by using their newly formed National Assembly by passing laws to wipe out many of the abuses of the old feudal system. The National Assembly drew up a new constitution, which made France a constitutional monarchy. Aside from that, the constitution formed a legislative branch with 475 members elected by active citizens, and it represented mainly the middle class, which was the majority of the population. The king could declare war and peace only with the consent of the legislature.

This National Assembly did not last long enough for that. The king did uphold the constitution and some of the revolutionaries revolted against it also. Nevertheless, the National Assembly dissolved on Sept 30, 1791 making it only lasting three years. These two revolutions occurred relatively at same period, but were almost complete mirror reflections of one another. The patriots of the revolution in America did not really even wanted a revolution, but had no choice, which made it peaceful aside from the war.

The revolutionists in France seemed almost bloodthirsty and were very quick to kill someone for any injustice. The groups of revolutionists were too radical in that they were not willing to compromise. Compromise makes the difference between a peaceful state and a reign of terror. History Essays.


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