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French and American Revolution: Compare and Contrast Essay

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The Enlightenment movement made it possible for the people of Europe to question the principles of Europe's order. Two revolutions, called the American Revolution and French Revolution, were the products of the Enlightenment movement. The American Revolution began in 1775 with the battles of Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts and the French Revolution occurred in 1789-1790 upon the Storming of the Bastille in Paris, France. Both revolutions came to be because of the scientific revolution which led to the Enlightenment movement. The scientific revolution, occurring around the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, was when historic breakthroughs in mathematics, science, and gravity occurred. People like Isaac Newton and Galileo contributed a large amount to these breakthroughs. As a result of the scientific revolution, European intellectuals renewed their thinking with reason and hoped that by using the scientific method, they could change the society they inherited by reforming their government, religion, and women's rights, and working towards justice. From this, the Enlightenment movement, an eighteenth-century philosophical movement in Europe, was established influencing all of the Western world and creating developments in politics, art, philosophy, reading, and religion. This spread of Enlightenment eventually led to the revolt against British rule because of the unfair taxation and other unjust factors of the British Parliament. Colonists formed their own army and declared independence, therefore resulting in the American Revolution, which colonists thought of as a good representation of the Enlightenment's political principles. The French Revolution was a major historical event in European history and established both a new political and social order. Ultimately, the French Revolution, American Revolution, The Enlightenment movement, and Scientific Method, all played a very important role in shaping Europe's new political and social orders. Europe’s order has changed significantly, firstly, their government has reformed for the better by creating documents that contain specific laws to ensure equality among the people, their economy, however, was in bad shape due to food shortages and unemployment, and lastly, religion was reformed by adding other protestant religious orders that contrasts Europe’s main religion, Christianity.

Europe's government significantly progressed to be more modern, accepting, and have everyone's interest at heart. After the American Revolution congress selected five ablest members to write the Declaration of Independence. This helped the states gain independence from British Parliament and it stated that the American government would be determined by the will of the people and it justified a resort to the use of weapons (The Origins of the Constitution). The Constitution was made to insure the states had orders in their government so they could have a reasonable amount of power. They created the federal government from this and made three branches: The legislative branch, the executive branch, and the judicial branch (The Origins of the Constitution). Lastly, The Bill of Rights was made up of twenty-six amendments that were made so the people could have proper rights. The amendments cover things like property rights, voting rights, weapon rights, and much more (The Origins of the Constitution). The National Assembly acquired France’s first constitution in September 1791, it stated that the King was to maintain his position with little power. This caused a lot of conflicts and as a result, France declared war on Austria and Prussia in April 1792. In September, the National Assembly renamed itself the National Convention and made France a republic, and got rid of the Monarchy. King Louis was stripped of his titles and executed. The French Government's leader at the time, Maximilien Robespierre, began to make a harmful effort to get rid of any resistance to the revolution. Due to this thousands of people were executed, however, it came to an end when Maximilien Robespierre was arrested and guillotined (French Revolution). The convention created a French Parliament made up of two legislative houses, they did this in fear of someone having too much power. France would be led by five individuals called the Directory. The Directory took over France and relied on the military to enforce the rule of law (French Revolution). In November 1799, French general Napoleon took control of the government coup. The directory was replaced by the French Consulate and Napoleon made himself leader. In 1804, Napoleon acquired the title of emperor and went on multiple conquests. This resulted in Napoleon bringing a large section of Western Europe under French control. His empire ended in 1814 when he was defeated (French Revolution).

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Their economy suffered in some ways because of the Enlightenment movement. Some French Philosophers devoted their time to reforming education systems and gave them freedom of worship to Protestants and Jews (“The Enlightenment Elsewhere in Europe”). The economy had suffered in France drastically and there had been many taxes and food shortages French Enlightenment). The execution of thousands of individuals also changed the economy in France French Revolution). People started to question the Catholic Church and their views so that drove people to go against the Catholic Church and rethink their beliefs (French Revolution). Social classes had greatly changed making the economy change (French Revolution). Trade had been hard for France since they were mostly at war with other countries and people were revolting (French Revolution).

In the seventeenth century, France was ruled by the monarchy, aristocrats, and clergy of the Catholic Church. France's social and political system consists of three social classes called estates, the first one is the monarch, the second has aristocrats and clergy and the third is all common people. The third estate had few rights and all of the estates were controlled through social pressures. Starting in the 1600s and early 1700s ideas of liberty, equality, and the role of religion came into play and as a result, changed people and France's social hierarchy ( French Enlightenment). Beginning in the mid-1500s philosophers such as Galileo used advances in technology to identify facts about the natural world and make assumptions about nature from those observations. Isaac Newton had a great impact on the Scientific revolution by contributing to the scientific method. This method made thinking and understanding much easier to comprehend. Usually, only the leaders of the church could say why and how events happen, but the scientific method gave people the opportunity to understand the world around them (French Enlightenment). Voltaire was a French philosopher and he was one of the first philosophers to spread enlightenment in France. Voltaire was born in the third estate he changed his name and made friends with aristocrats to obtain power and even though he was friends with them they never accepted him as their equal. He used this instance as inspiration for his ideas and proceeded to publish books questioning France’s social structure. Due to this, he was exiled and moved to England. In England, he attended Isaac Newton's funeral and he thought of how Newton would have been buried in a commoner's grave in France because of the social class he was in. He also realized that England had more religious tolerance than France. As a result of this, Voilataire became very deprecatory of France's social structure and religion and continued to write books. (French Enlightenment). Due to Voltaire's books and criticisms about France and its religion and social hierarchy, people in the third estate social class began to question how France's social structure affected their lives. Another French figure that contributed greatly to the Enlightenment movement was Jean La Rond d’Alembert. He and Denis Diderot published one of the most memorable works of the Enlightenment, the Encyclopedia. This Encyclopedia was published in twenty-eight volumes over a period of twenty-one years. It had more than seventy thousand articles by more than one hundred contributors. Not everyone could afford to purchase the volumes but the Encyclopedia still gave many people an immense amount of knowledge (French Enlightenment). Enlightenment created historic changes all over the world. The Enlightenment movement inspired the french revolution and the concepts of liberty and equality were new to French people and heavily influenced their society. People in the third estate wanted to see more equality among the social classes (French Enlightenment). Even though Enlightenment created this wanting for equality, other things fueled the revolution as well such as taxes, food shortages, and other food sources. The Reign of Terror, where thousands of people were executed, and Romanticism brought the Enlightenment movement to its end ( French Enlightenment).

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