Monday, March 30, 2015


The various revolutions of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries all share ideals of liberty and equality, but they differed in the interpretations and definitions of these new ideas. Enlightenment ideals appealed to all people and as they spread people began putting them into practice and questioning where their true loyalties lay. Independence, freedom and equality are innate human principles; and they were being put into action around the globe, specifically in Europe and the Americas. Political revolts became more than simple uprisings; they became a powerful force that the motherlands eventually had to reckon with. As these enlightenment and ultimately human principles were dispersed, the “people” rose up.

What started as a simple plea for human rights, soon became the beginnings of a new nation-The United States of America. To pay for the war with France, King George III raised taxes on the American colonies and restrained American merchants and “smugglers”, but colonists lacked representation in parliament. The colonists saw this as unjust, and certainly not following the “new” principles of liberty and equality. The colonies bombarded the King with reasonable pleas, petitions, and boycotts but as it became evident that the King George would not budge from his lofty positions and unjust treatment, the revolt eventually turned violent. The Declaration of Independence (primary source) led to all out war between England and the united colonies. As Americans fought for the ideals of freedom and independence they constructed a new government based on these principles that has last over two hundred years.

The French people also felt oppressed, but their oppression came from within the government of France, not from a ruling country overseas. The French people were inspired by enlightenment ideals, much like the American Colonists were and their revolution inevitable had a global impact. Frances extraordinary fiscal problems in compound with the ramifications of enlightenment ideas, peasant suffering and an overall disdain for the court, aristocracy, and church led to revolution. The French government had huge debts from helping in the American revolution and thus had to convene the United States General to raise taxes. This obviously did not make the people feel anymore free; the forming of the National Assembly and the storming of the Bastille inspired the people to revolt with passionate violence against the privileged aristocracy. “The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen” (primary source), promoted individual rights and a representative government. But the revolution was eventually taken over by the Jacobins and the Reign of Terror set out to extinguish counterrevolutions. Finally Napoleon restored peace, the catholic church, a new constitution and legal policies, but ultimately a monarchy would be restored once again.

Slave revolutions were breaking out all across Central America, rising and being suppressed. But one revolution stood out among them, it was indeed the only one to succeed. Freed slaves and people of color and white settlers disagreed as to who exactly represented the people of France. Who was the French citizen? This dispute became a civil war. In an effort to appease the people and regain control, the French government abolished slavery. Toussaint L’Ouverture became a French Governer General of the colony, led ex-slaves against the Spanish and British. Napolean’s army was sent to restore slavery, but the ex-slaves knew what no freedom felt like and resolved to win independence or die trying. This passionate spirit of freedom parallels the American colonists in a way. Although Toussaint was arrested, his army fought until it gained it’s independence. Haiti was free. But most revolutionary nations still refused to recognize Haiti. While Haiti was independent, in reality it was quite chaotic.

The Spanish King remained under Napoleon’s control, and so Spanish America practically governed itself. Thus Mexico eventually developed autonomy, but the crown would not give up it’s colonies that easily. When the crown attempted to assert control over Spanish America, which had grown used to it’s independence, they fought back. Enlightenment ideas had reached Spanish Americas and they built their revolution on the ideas of human rights and freedoms. Royal troops were able to maintain the peace until groups of revolutionized peasants rose up threatening both Creoles and Royals. As Spanish control in Spain declined, Mexican independence was declared.

For Americans freedom meant a government ruled by the people for the people; the French people simply wanted freedom from oppression and poverty; Haitians wanted independence and abolition of slavery; for the Spanish Americans freedom was independence from Spain. Americans created a government ruled by the people for the people; the French had a interval of relief but were soon oppressed again; Haitians got their independence, but were not truly recognized as a nation; Mexico gained it’s independence but would eventually fall into a currupt form of government. Americans focused on fundamental lasting interpretations of freedom and independence; the French paid attention to what the proponents of freedom and independence could offer them at the moment; Both Hatians and Spanish Americans focused their efforts on the revolutionary ideas, but not on sound ruling ideas.Thus the principles, applications, and interpretations of those principles, are vital to sustaining a lasting government after a passionate revolution.