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Side by Side Comparison of the French and American Revolutions


The American Revolution between 1763 to 1783 was a rebellion by the colonies to gain independence from Great Britain that resulted in the formulation of the United States of America. However, the American and France Revolutions had differences and the distinct driving force for revolting against their ruling governments. The revolutions resulted in various similar causes, such as economic struggles and the discriminatory and unfair taxation system. The American is usually characterized by a clarion for freedom, independence, and opposition the tyranny. However, to the idealism of the Revolution, the freedom provided by the Constitution continued to be restricted in many ways concerning the Revolution. The women could not vote, and about half a million slaves and several native Americans were prohibited from voting.[1]. Slavery and racial segregation in the American Revolution remained a political and cultural fault line. On the other hand, the French Revolution was less limited and fought for the justice of the lower-class people attaining effective organization of justice[2]. Since 1760, a bloody movement in favor of restructuring the court system has wracked the nation[3]. The judiciary’s structure has received harsh criticism from Montesquieu in the past. However, Voltaire was the one who delivered the most vigorous blows in his works against the Old Regime’s judicial system[4]. Furthermore, the reform movement did not just originate in France. Even the most significant publications favoring the reform of the judiciary came from Italy and England. Thus, the work On Crimes and Punishments by Beccaria was first published in Italian in 1764 and then in French in 1766.

During its inaugural sessions, the Constituent National Assembly also agreed to create a new judicial system for France. Nicolas Bergasse delivered a report on the “judicial authority” on August 17, 1789, speaking on behalf of the Committee on the Constitution.[5]. After reviewing the grievances recorded in the Estates General’s records, he advocated a new structure for the legal system based on the elimination of courts of exception and the establishment of justices of the peace in each canton, intermediate courts, and courts of justice in each province. He urged the establishment of juries, less severe punishments, improvements in law enforcement, and guarantees of individual liberty modeled after the British habeas corpus. On the contrary, the United States’ initial Constitution, the Articles of Confederation, was a compromise between strong and weak authority.[6]. The federal government was given authority under the Articles of Confederation to declare war, manage foreign affairs, manage Indians who reside outside of states, resolve disputes between states, and administer the post office. The Articles of Confederation have limitations, such as the inability to levy taxes and the impossibility of raising an army. The recession that followed the war made the American people angry. Street protests were widely dispersed, and there was bloodshed. Since the recession and the violence fell under the purview of the states under The Articles of Confederation, the federal government of the United States was powerless to take action.


Numerous institutions were destroyed due to the French Revolution, including feudalism, the monarchy, religion, etc. In the US, this did not take place. Instead, a new kind of government was replaced by the American Revolutionaries. The French Revolution dismantled feudalism which was not an issue concerning American Revolution. Liberal nobility and clergy renounced their previous feudal privileges to start the new resolution. The Assembly quickly passed laws outlawing “feudalism” as well as the church tithe, bribery in government, regional privilege, and fiscal privilege. The establishment of a contemporary, contractual understanding of property and an unrestricted land market depended heavily on the end of feudalism. However, standard rentals, leases, and land ownership were directly impacted. Seigneurs continued to be landowners and landlords while losing specific traditional sources of income.[7]. While all peasants improved in respectability and social standing, only the landowner peasants saw significant economic gains. Tenant farmers discovered that their rent now included the previously paid tithe. Furthermore, the Assembly did little to ensure that sharecroppers and tenants received improved lease terms or the opportunity to purchase the land they farmed.

Furthermore, the term “dechristianization of France during the French Revolution” refers to the outcomes of several distinct policies implemented by various French governments between the start of the French Revolution in 1789 and the Concordat of 1801, which served as the foundation for the later and less radical lacité policies.[8]. The campaign, which took place between 1790 and 1794, had a variety of objectives, including the termination of Christian religious practice and the religion itself, as well as the government’s appropriation of the large landed estates and vast sums of money held by the Gallican Church (the Roman Catholic Church in France)[9]. Whether the movement was driven by popular sentiment has been the subject of intense scholarly dispute. Due to the Gallican Church’s preeminent position in pre-revolutionary France, the French Revolution started with attacks on church corruption and the wealth of the senior clergy, actions with which even many Christians could connect. The anti-clericalism incidents became more violent in modern European history over two years, known as the Reign of Terror. The new revolutionary rulers suppressed the Church, who also banished 30,000 priests, ended the Catholic monarchy, nationalized church property, and slaughtered hundreds more.[10] Festivals of Liberty, Reason, and the Supreme Being were scheduled in October 1793, when the Christian calendar was replaced with one that began on the day of the Revolution.

On the other hand, the American Revolutionaries replaced an outdated type of government with a modern one. Between 1765 to 1791, British America experienced the American Revolution, an intellectual and political upheaval.[11]. With the help of the Thirteen Colonies, Americans gained independence from the British Crown and built the United States of America, the first nation-state based on liberal democratic Enlightenment values, by defeating the British in the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783)[12]. American colonists protested paying taxes to the British Parliament since they were not directly represented in the Assembly. Before the 1760s, the British colonies in America maintained a significant degree of internal autonomy, overseen at the state level by colonial legislatures.[13]. But in the 1760s, the British Parliament passed several laws that entwined the colonies’ economies with Britain’s and brought them under the more direct control of the British metropole.[14]. The Stamp Act of 1765, which levied internal taxes on official documents, periodicals, and the majority of items printed in the colonies, sparked colonial discontent and brought representatives from several colonies together at the Stamp Act Congress.

In addition, the American Revolution’s main achievements were political and economic: the transference of sovereignty from a British king to Americans, the maturation of colonial assemblies into state legislatures, the release of merchants from the chains of British trade laws and duties, and the opening up of westward territories for exploration.[15]. The Constitution strengthened the federal government, which merged the states into one nation and granted it the authority to levy taxes, issue currency, and support the armed forces. States lost their ability to issue their currency or assemble their armies due to ceding their sovereignty. Following the war’s conclusion, the states came together to establish a Federal Government based on the Articles of Confederation.

The Revolution’s process significantly impacted the world’s system and changed political, social, and economic configuration. However, there are various gaps in the historiography’s typology and theoretical approaches, such as being taught only one side of American history. The side involves the accomplishment of white males and ignores the achievements of other groups, such as Latinos, African-Americans, and women of all races suggesting that they never participated in the Revolution. In addition, the gaps involved preliminary research related to quantitative and qualitative analysis and considerations of the French and American revolutions. The existing gaps can be addressed by conducting revolution comparisons in the 20th and 19th centuries.[16]. Also, these gaps can be addressed by highlighting significant features of the Revolution. Lastly, the apertures may be addressed through the issue of identification of the primary revolutionary waves and vital elements during the French and American revolutions.

Comparative History

While revolutionary inclinations were amplified and expanded upon in France, they were attempted to be restrained by the US Constitution. For instance, in France, the abolition of slavery was the most significant accomplishment of the 1848 revolution for the colonies.[17] The Convention abolished slavery in 1794, but Napoleon reinstated it as the cornerstone of economic and social life in the older colonies of Martinique, Guadeloupe, Guyane, and Réunion. The French Revolution dismantled the previous social structure, did away with monarchy, and placed the Church under state control. On the other hand, Most Americans disagreed with the Constitution. The Constitution represented a reactionary counter-revolution against the fundamental ideals of the preceding Revolution rather than its completion. The American Revolution was a revolutionary event that revolutionized concepts of authority, equality, representation, liberty, and sovereignty. It also changed how men and women interacted inside and outside of politics. As its political expression, the Constitution was a revolutionary response to the long-standing conflict between power and liberty in Western society.

The American Revolution was primarily about profound political transformation, while the French Revolution was mainly about social change. All men should have the right to freedom, according to the tenets of the American Revolution. Additionally, new treaties permitted colonization to advance westward, further invading Native American territory. Newly freed slaves started to advocate for the end of slavery, while women saw their status within the family rise. The Bill of Rights was drafted to safeguard people’s civil liberties a few years after the US Constitution was ratified. The “freedom to bear arms” was the second of the Constitution’s first ten amendments.[18]. Many people may be ignorant that the “right to bear arms” refers to militias rather than to hunting or self-defense: “A properly regulated Militia, being essential to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, must not be infringed.”

On the other hand, during the French Revolution, various social classes aspired for change. People with significant financial and political power preferred little to no change.[19]. People with less money and no say in politics wished for more change. During the French Revolution, there were many diverse attitudes on evolution: “Radicals intended to abolish the monarchy[20]. Liberals embraced the Enlightenment’s philosophical principles and the French Revolution’s democratic ideals. While maintaining a monarchy, moderates sought to curtail its authority. The king was backed by royalists, who favored preserving the monarchy[21]. From a sociological perspective, the Revolution was characterized by eradicating the so-called feudal system, the emancipation of the individual, more excellent distribution of land, the elimination of privileges associated with noble birth, the establishment of equality, and the simplifying of life.[22]. The Revolution eliminated the nobles’ feudal privileges. Serfs were released. The government transitioned from being based on a religious system (divine right of monarchs) to one based on the consent of the governed. Mandatory contributions to the Church were also abolished.

The American Revolution was characterized by the continuity of events, while the French Revolution was a complete break. Some pivotal moments that led to the American Revolution include the Townshend Acts (June-July 1767). By enacting legislation to tax products that the Americans imported from Great Britain, Parliament attempted to impose its authority once more. To combat smuggling and corruption among local colonial officials, many of whom participated in the illegal trade, the Crown established a board of customs commissioners. Another event is the Boston Massacre (March 1770), which happened in Boston (March 1770). A dispute between an apprentice wigmaker and a British soldier one late afternoon led to 200 colonists encircling seven British soldiers, escalating simmering tensions between Boston’s inhabitants and the British occupiers[23]. The soldiers reportedly lost their cool and started firing into the crowd as the Americans started making fun of the British and hurling objects at them. Three men were killed and two others gravely injured as the smoke cleared, one of whom was an African American sailor named Crispus Attucks. After Paul Revere disseminated an engraving that falsely showed the British as the aggressors, the massacre was used as an effective propaganda weapon for the colonists.

On the other hand, the French Revolution, which took place between 1789 and 1799, was one of the bloodiest periods in European history, and it ended in a complete break. A new French constitution, enacted in 1795 after many years of revolutionary struggle, formed the French parliament, which consisted of 500 members and 250 senators.[24]. The opposition had to be put down by the French army, which was growing in strength since many of the remaining royalists persisted in fighting against the new administration. Due to this, the mysterious General Napoleon Bonaparte was able to launch his coup in 1799 and succeed as Emperor of France in 1804.

In conclusion, The American and French revolutions were majorly motivated by common factors such as their endeavors to attain liberty, equality, and free trade. Similarly, enlightenment ideas of free trade, equality, and liberty triggered the Atlantic revolution. Both French, American, and Atlantic revolutions were connected by the same factors, such as social, political, and economic crises that resulted in Enlightenment and war to free people from their problems. The French and American revolutions are strongly connected to the Atlantic revolutionary period because the French American Revolutions paved the way for other European countries. For instance, Haiti’s Revolution is an excellent example of an Atlantic revolution that employed the ideology of the American and French revolutions to end slavery and gain independence from its colonialists The French, American, and Atlantic revolutions broadened citizens’ rights and stressed the significance of equality and liberty. Lastly, the declarations of the French, American, and Atlantic revolutions and their created laws are related in their focus on human rights.


Blanc, Guillaume. ‘Modernization Before Industrialization: Cultural Roots of the Demographic Transition in France.’SSRN Scholarly Paper. Rochester, NY, October 30, 2021.

Chatellier, Courtney. ‘The French Revolution in Early American Literature, 1789–1815: Translations, Interpretations, Refractions’. Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects, May 1, 2018.

Coleman, Kenneth. The American Revolution in Georgia, 1763–1789. University of Georgia Press, 2021.

Dunning, Jonathan. ‘Revolution Is American until It Isn’t: A Study of American Reactions to the French Revolution 1789 and the Russian Revolutionary Period of 1917’. Steeplechase: An ORCA Student Journal 2, no. 1 (April 18, 2018).

Grinin, Leonid, and Andrey Korotayev. ‘Revolutions, Counterrevolutions, and Democracy .’In Handbook of Revolutions in the 21st Century: The New Waves of Revolutions, and the Causes and Effects of Disruptive Political Change, edited by Jack A. Goldstone, Leonid Grinin, and Andrey Korotayev, 105–36. Societies and Political Orders in Transition. Cham: Springer International Publishing, 2022.

Israel, Jonathan. The Expanding Blaze: How the American Revolution Ignited the World, 1775-1848. Princeton University Press, 2019.

Marks, Julie. ‘How Did the American Revolution Influence the French Revolution?’ HISTORY. Accessed October 3, 2022.

Purcell, Sarah J. ‘Past and Prologue: Politics and Memory in the American Revolution by Michael D. Hattem (Review)’. The William and Mary Quarterly 78, no. 4 (2021): 749–52.

Reed, Isaac Ariail. “Power and the French Revolution: Toward a sociology of sovereignty.” Historická sociologie 10, no. 1 (2018): 47-70.

Robso Wodajo, Mengesha. “The French Revolution: Causes, Courses, and Results: A Review.” The French Revolution: Causes, Courses, and Results: A Review (April 20, 2022) (2022).

Vincenzi, Anna. Filippo Mazzei’s Atlantic Revolutions: A New Dawn for Popular Sovereignty or Populism? Manchester University Press, 2022.

Wauters, Bart. Revolution and the Instrumentality of Law: Theories of Property in the American and French Revolutions. Brill Nijhoff, 2019.

Williams, Chenelle. ‘Analysis of the French Revolution: The Social Rigidity of the Ancien Regime Directly Led to the French Revolution. Virginias Collegiate Honors Council Conference, April 20, 2020.

[1] Blanc, ‘Modernization before Industrialization.’

[2] Blanc, ‘Modernization before Industrialization.’

[3] Reed, ‘Power and the French Revolution.

[4] Grinin, ‘On Revolutionary Waves Since the 16th Century’.

[5] Grinin, ‘On Revolutionary Waves Since the 16th Century’.

[6] Blanc, ‘Modernization before Industrialization.’

[7] Blanc, ‘Modernization before Industrialization.’

[8] Purcell, ‘Past and Prologue.’

[9] Grinin, ‘On Revolutionary Waves Since the 16th Century’.

[10] Robso Wodajo, ‘The French Revolution.

[11] Purcell, ‘Past and Prologue.’

[12] Robso Wodajo, ‘The French Revolution.

[13] Williams, ‘Analysis of the French Revolution.’

[14] Robso Wodajo, ‘The French Revolution.

[15] Robso Wodajo, ‘The French Revolution.

[16] Williams, ‘Analysis of the French Revolution.’

[17] Grinin, ‘On Revolutionary Waves Since the 16th Century’.

[18] Reed, ‘Power and the French Revolution.

[19] Robso Wodajo, ‘The French Revolution.

[20] Williams, ‘Analysis of the French Revolution.’

[21] Williams, ‘Analysis of the French Revolution.’

[22] Reed, ‘Power and the French Revolution.

[23] Purcell, ‘Past and Prologue.’

[24] Purcell, ‘Past and Prologue.’


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