AMERICAN and FRENCH REVOLUTIONS – COMPARISON

AMERICAN Revolution (1776 -)  vs    FRENCH Revolution  (1789- )

PHILOSOPHIES

FREEDOM vs EQUALITY
John LOCKE vs ROUSSEAU
the INDIVIDUAL  VS  the COLLECTIVE (group)
“natural” rights – life, liberty, property  vs   the “general will” – that all individuals are born with the desire or interests of a people as a whole
social contract – “the people” voluntarily    vs    the “SOVEREIGN WILL of the MASSES
form government for their own benefit individuals could not be “free”
rights “inalienable” to the individual except as part of the group – “public interest”

INDIVIDUAL CHOICE.  vs  COLLECTIVE CONFORMITY
OPPORTUNITY – aristocracy of individual merit    VS    OUTCOME – leveling society’s inequalities
the persons (individuals); pluralism the people (collective whole); political correctness
“MINORITY” protected vs. “MAJORITY” promoted (“mob” rule?)
the “right to rebel” against tyranny individuals “forced to be free” (in the group)
Thomas JEFFERSON   vs.   ROBESPIERRE
“Rebellion against tyranny is obedience to God”.   vs  “The people” is ALWAYS worth more than individuals”
rejection of “democracy”as the “MOB”    vs.    “The people are sublime, but individuals weak

SLOGANS

Life, liberty, pursuit of happiness”      VS.    “Liberty, equality, fraternity (brotherhood)
E Pluribus Unum” (out of many, one)             in the REVOLUTIONARY COLLECTIVE

WORLDVIEWs

TRAGIC -“flawed” humanity REALISM    vs.    UTOPIAN – “evolutionary” IDEALISM
pessimism – LIMITATIONS (facts)    vs.    optimism – UNlimited POSSIBILITIES (feelings)
power corrupts – (preventing dystopia) power “concentrated” to bring “progress”
“CONSERVATIVE” – incremental change.  vs.   “RADICAL” SOCIAL TRANSFORMATION
PRESERVE what they ALREADY HAD    VS.  ELIMINATE feudal PAST/“RE-MAKE” the FUTURE
stop encroachment on rights    vs.   Robespierre’s “Republic of VIRTUE”
made by British government    vs.     Napoleon’s imperial “GREATNESS”
“A free government ought to … trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty” – John Adams  vs. world domination to “unite” Europe the CULT of PERSONALITY”

STARTING POINTS

Declaration of Independence    VS.   violent rioting, storming of Bastille Prison
July 4, 1776   VS.  July 14, 1789
lists causes protesting  VS   mob kills royal guards and takes gunpowder
English “tyranny”   VS.   at symbol of French royal tyranny

“LAW” and “JUSTICE”

Bill of Rights (1789)    vs.   The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen (1791)
The Constitution    vs.   Napoleonic Civil Code– modern uniformity-equality of law
DUE PROCESS of law (equal, established)   vs. SOCIAL JUSTICE – “modern” consensus
PROCESSES – past precedents. vs   OUTCOMES – “fixes” past privileges, inequalities
innocent until proven guilty guilty until proven innocent – (outcomes pre-determined, show trials)
no “cruel and unusual” punishment.  vs.  personal scapegoating-TERROR: the GUILLOTINE
PRINCIPLES-“A nation of laws, not men”.  vs  POPULIST  “POLITICAL CORRECTNESS”

GOVERNMENT

“TRAGIC” – limited government. vs.  “UTOPIAN” – UNlimited government
negative – protect freedom from “others” positive – possibilities, “progress” for “others”
The CIVIL SOCIETY – “pursuit of happiness” COLLECTIVE SALVATION
“messy” republic-an govt. “mob” violence – “democratic despotism” (tyanny)

SEPARATION of powers.  vs  CONCENTRATED power
“branches” of government   VS.  DICTATORSHIPS (Robespierre and Napoleon)
“stable” – controlled chaos/disunity   VS. “unstable” – bloody, violent & chaotic “phases”
The Constitution (1787).  VS   Third Estate – National Assembly – National Convention
– still in effect (sort of) Committee on Public Safety – The Directory – Emperor
divided government by coalition   VS  divisive, destructive government by coercion, TERROR (FORCED to be FREE)
POLITICAL debate amongst “factions”, competing political “parties”  vs.   division TERROR, PHYSICAL DEATH and DESTRUCTION;

The GUILLOTINE; Reign of TERROR (by “mob”)

inspires REVOLUTION around world    vs.    inspires neo-feudal REACTION

LEADERS

George Washington    vs.   Napoleon
rich, landowner, “privileged” elite    vs.   “poor”, relatively humble outsider from Corsica
both “Revolutionary” military leaders
“Father of His Country”    vs.  “I am the Revolution on horseback”
military “novice”, initial failure who beat British    vs.     military “genius”; loses to/exiled by British
almost captured/executed      vs.     “empire” – conquers continental Europe, Russia
eventually beats English    vs.    eventual military defeat to English-European powers
both the “Cult of Personality”
could have been/ refused king-ship VS. self- crowned “emperor”
“democrat” voluntarily GAVE UP power. VS  “dictator” who constantly SOUGHT power
after two elected Presidential terms. VS  megalomanic forcibly exiled to “nowhere”

CONCLUSIONS

both create MODERN NATION-STATE
“democratic” – government = power of “THE PEOPLE”
end “lex rex” for “lex” ends absolute monarchy (rex lex) for limited monarchy
individual, inalienable “RIGHTS” then eliminates monarchy (‘lex”)
government by elected COMPLEX ”PHASES” – a LONG, VIOLENT “MESS”
“representative” republican govt.  vs.  MOB RULE – “DEMOCRATIC DESPOTISM” (dictatorship?)
democratic REPUBLIC   VS  tyranny of “the people”/masses
(CONSTITUTIONAL) COLLECTIVE “RESPONSIBILITIES” – “great-ness”
“PAX AMERICANA”  VS. NAPOLEONIC EMPIRE (tyranny of French people over other nations)”
first “liberal” democracy.  replaces old, feudal tyranny with
(“freeing” the individual)    FIRST “MODEL” of “MODERN” DICTATORSHIP
CONTINUING an “EXPERIMENT” in “SELF-GOVERNMENT   vs.   REPLACING the “OLD” TYRANNY with a “NEW” TOTALITARIAN ”PROGRESS”?

“PURSUIT of HAPPINESS”   vs.  EVOLUTIONARY “PROGRESS”