How did the American Revolution influence the French Revolution?

While the French Revolution was a multifaceted battle with many catalysts and reasons, the American Revolution laid the groundwork for a successful rebellion.

When American colonies gained their freedom from Great Britain in the Revolutionary War, the French, who also fought, were both loyal collaborators and crucial contributors.

Several years after the American Revolution, French reformers encountered political, social, and socioeconomic difficulties that paralleled the colonists’ battles.

The American Revolution laid the groundwork for an effective rebellion that the French had witnessed personally. 

The French Revolution was a phase of profound political and societal transition in France that commenced with the Estates-General in 1789 and concluded in November 1799 with the foundation of the French Consulate. 

Many of its concepts are now regarded as core liberal democratic values, while terms like liberté, égalité, fraternité resurfaced in subsequent revolts. 

Examples comprise the 1917 Russian Revolution and the spurred movements to abolish slavery and unrestricted suffrage. The values and institutions it established continue to govern French politics today.

Its reasons are widely acknowledged as a confluence of social, political, and economic elements that the old regime could not control.

In May 1789, considerable social unrest prompted the formation of the Estates-General, which was later renamed the National Assembly in June. 

The besieging of the Bastille on July 14 culminated in a series of drastic reforms by the Assembly, including the elimination of feudalism, the imposition of governmental authority over the Catholic Church in France, and the extension of the right to vote.

The struggle for political authority dominated the next three years, compounded by an economic slump and civil unrest.

External opposition from Austria, Britain, and Prussia resulted in the commencement of the French Revolutionary Wars in April 1792. 

Disillusionment with Louis XVI resulted in the formation of the French First Republic on September 22, 1792, followed by his execution in January 1793.

In June, an insurrection in Paris replaced the Girondins, who had dominated the National Assembly, with the Committee of Public Safety, governed by Maximilien Robespierre. 

This triggered the Reign of Terror, a campaign to eliminate accused “counter-revolutionaries.”  By the time it ended in July 1794, almost 16,600 people had been murdered in Paris and the provinces.

In addition to external foes, the Republic faced internal opposition from both Royalists and Jacobins, and the French Directory gained power in November 1795 to deal with these dangers. 

Despite many military successes, many of which were achieved by Napoleon Bonaparte, political disagreements and economic stagnation forced the Directory to be replaced by the Consulate in November 1799.

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This is often regarded as the end of the Revolutionary period.

How did the American Declaration of Independence influence the French Revolution?

The Declaration of Independence served as a model for the French Revolution. The French, who had close touch with the Americans, were victorious in incorporating Enlightenment principles into a new governmental system.

When preparing the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen in 1789, the French National Assembly utilized the American Declaration of Independence as a model.

Like the American declaration, the French statement featured Enlightenment concepts such as equal rights and democratic sovereignty.

How did the American victory catalyze the French?

The French people saw that a revolution, even against a significant military power, could succeed and that long-term change was attainable. Many analysts believe that this provided them with the impetus to rebel.

The newly created US government also served as a model for French reformers. Ideas like popular sovereignty, natural rights, constitutional checks and balances, and separation of powers, which were once simply ideas, were now part of a functioning political structure.

What caused the French Revolution?

The upheaval that caused the French Revolution was driven by widespread dissatisfaction with the French monarchy and King Louis XVI’s disastrous economic policies, both of which were executed by guillotine, as was his wife, Marie Antoinette.

Similar Causes that Overlap both the American and the French Revolutions 

Although the French and American people had various separate and opposing reasons for revolting against their governments, several common causes drove both revolutions, including the following:

Economic Difficulties 

Louis XVI, who came to the throne in 1774
Louis XVI, who came to the throne in 1774

Both Americans and the French faced a taxing system that they deemed discriminatory and unfair.

Furthermore, France’s engagement in the American Revolution, combined with the excessive spending habits of King Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette, drove the country to the brink of bankruptcy.

Likewise, during the 18th century, the French state suffered a succession of budgetary crises caused mainly by structural defects rather than a shortage of resources.

Unlike in the United Kingdom, where Parliament set both expenditures and taxes, the Crown controlled spending but not revenue in France.

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National taxes could only be imposed with the approval of the Estates-General, which had not been met since 1614; its revenue tasks had been handled by provincial parliaments, the most powerful of which was the Parlement de Paris.

Although they were willing to authorize one-time taxes, these bodies were hesitant to pass long-term legislation, and the collection was delegated to private persons.

This significantly lowered the yield from those that were allowed, and as a result, although being larger and wealthier than Britain, France failed to fulfill its debt.

Following a partial default in 1770, Turgot, the Finance Minister, undertook reforms that, by 1776, had balanced the budget and cut government borrowing rates from 12 percent per year to less than 6 percent.

Despite his achievements, he was fired in May 1776, claiming that France could not afford to interfere in the American Revolutionary War.

Monarchy 

Police regulated the price, quality, and supply of bread, French Revolution
Police regulated the price, quality, and supply of bread, French Revolution

Although the American colonists had lived under a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system, they revolted against King George III’s royal powers in the same way that the French revolted against Louis XVI.

Historians sometimes criticize the Legislative Assembly as an unproductive legislature, weakened by differences over the monarchy’s role, worsened by Louis’ resistance to constraints on his powers and attempts to reverse them with external backing.

By limiting the suffrage to those who paid a minimal amount of tax, only 4 out of 6 million Frenchmen over the age of 25 were entitled to vote; this largely excluded the sans-culottes, or urban working class, who increasingly perceived the new administration as failing to meet their needs for bread and job.

The new constitution was opposed by significant elements within and outside the Assembly, divided into three major groups.

Two hundred forty-five members belonged to Barnave’s Feuillants, constitutional monarchists who believed the Revolution had gone too far.

Another 136 were Jacobin leftists who sought a republic, led by Brissot and known as Brissotins.

The remaining 345 were members of La Plaine, a centrist faction that shifted votes depending on the subject, and many of them shared Brissotin’s doubts about Louis’ devotion to the Revolution.

Inequality of Rights

Meeting of the Estates General on 5 May 1789 at Versailles
Meeting of the Estates-General on 5 May 1789 at Versailles

Like the American colonists, the French believed that certain rights were only bestowed to select elements of society, particularly the elite and aristocracy.

The source of the problem was the taxing structure that was utilized to pay for government spending.

While it was commonly assumed that the nobles and clergy were generally spared from taxes, newer research contends that the tax burden was spread more evenly among the classes than previously thought but that its assessment and collection were “a disaster.” 

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Tax rates varied greatly from region to region, often had little or no relation to the ideals enshrined in official decrees, and were levied inconsistently; it was the “bewildering intricacy of the system” that fueled discontent as much as the quantity of taxation. 

The American Influence of the Enlightenment Philosophy on the French Revolution 

John Locke was the first to develop a liberal philosophy
John Locke was the first to develop a liberal philosophy

Many analysts believe that the principles that fueled the American Revolution had long permeated French culture.

During the conflict in the North American colonies, some friendly Frenchmen fought alongside Continental Army soldiers, allowing for exchanging values, ideas, and philosophies.

The Enlightenment was central to the American insurrection. The Enlightenment emphasized natural rights and equality for all citizens.

The ideals of the Enlightenment spread from Europe to the North American continent, sparking a movement that increased the popularity of enlightened thought across the Atlantic.

The Age of Enlightenment took place in the 18th century, preceding the start of the French Revolution in 1789. 

Even though the Enlightenment occurred several years before the commencement of the French Revolution, its ideas and achievements had a significant impact on the French Revolution.

Indeed, many historians now regard the Enlightenment as a primary cause of the Revolution.

The ideals of equality and liberty required to depose Louis XVI originated first from the writings of prominent and famous Enlightenment thinkers.

The elucidations of John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Baron de Montesquieu, in particular, had a significant influence on the French revolutionaries. 

Each of these three Enlightenment intellectuals questioned the ancient authority of an absolute king and argued against France’s severe class distinctions of feudalism or the estate’s system.

Their challenge to power and the function of the government-inspired French revolutionaries and ordinary individuals.

Indeed, the views of many Enlightenment thinkers were extensively discussed and debated at France’s salons, where intellectuals intellectuals would gather to discuss the ideas of the day.

Conclusion 

Though most historians believe that the American Revolution affected the French Revolution, which lasted from 1789 to 1799, some experts disagree on the relevance and scope of its influence.

France, a country on the point of financial disaster with an outmoded feudal system and a hugely unpopular king, was a powder keg waiting to blow, with or without the American conflict to serve as a model.

Other political, social, and religious reasons fueled the French people’s desire for change.

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