Explain how the foundations of the modern world were laid by the American and French Revolutions. (15 Marks)

Mentor’s comment

  • In the intro, briefly state how both the events were the watershed events in the history of the world so much so that their impact is difficult to miss even today.
  • In the first part of the body elaborate on the influence of each of the events. In the case of the American Revolution ideal such as equal rights for all, the origin of the power to govern, the idea of republicanism, the relation between the idea of taxation and representation, etc. can be mentioned.
  • In the second part mention the ideas that emerged from the French Revolution, ideas like- liberty, equality and fraternity, moment against the colonialism, right to vote to all, rule of the law under constitutional order can be mentioned.
  •  Conclude by stating how ideas established by these two events shaped the modern democratic world and ideas espoused in these two events helps to ensure stability in the democratic framework.

Answer:

The American Revolution, conventionally dated 1776-1783, and the French Revolution that followed it beginning in 1789 has traditionally been regarded as the “founding” events of political modernity as they laid the principle of the Modern world.

Impact of the American Revolution:

  • It established that people are born with rights and that the government is empowered by the people. Its constitution is the first document that tells the government what it can’t do, not telling the people what they can do.
  • The idea of republicanism was adopted once more and the ideas of the enlightenment were put into action.
  • To fight for democracy has become the rallying cry of all the remaining colonies of the world. Newly independent countries have embraced the ideology of “no representation without taxation”, given by the American revolutionaries.
  • Its success immediately inspired anti-monarchical, democratic, or independence movements not only in France, but also in the Netherlands, Belgium, Geneva, Ireland, and the French sugar island of Saint Domingue (modern Haiti)
  • The British Empire had imposed various restrictions on the colonial economies including limiting trade, settlement, and manufacturing. The Revolution opened new markets and new trade relationships.
  • The American victory in the revolution would lead to Britain investing in colonization. 
  • The effects of this mass investment in colonization would lead to more explorations in Australia, along with Britain gaining the attention of Africa, Asia, and the Pacific.
  • The American fight for independence would inspire nations in Latin America to fight for their independence after the Napoleonic invasion of Spain.
  • Political and social life changed drastically after the revolution. Society became less deferential and more egalitarian, less aristocratic and more meritocratic.
  • The Revolution’s most important long-term economic consequence was the end of mercantilism. 

Impact of the French Revolution:

  • Ideologies of liberty, equality, and fraternity are inspired by the French revolution, where all citizens promised individual freedoms, equality in status, and brotherhood.
  • The French Revolution inspired movements against colonialism in colonies around the world, while movements for democracy and self-rule rose in the whole of Europe. 
  • The wars with France weakened the European colonial powers like Spain and Portugal and their colonies in South and Central America declared themselves as independent republics
  • The abolition of Slavery after the French revolution was the first move against this repressive system and Britain followed suit in 1833 while the USA banned it in 1865.
  • It led to the destruction of feudalism in France as all laws of the old feudal regime were repealed and lands of the nobles and church were confiscated and redistributed.
  • The Jacobian constitution, which although never came into effect, was the first genuinely democratic constitution. It gave the right to vote to all, and even the Right to Insurrection, which implies the right to revolt or rises against the government.
  • Ending the arbitrary royal rule, the revolution paved the way for rule by law under a constitutional order.

Thus, the many modern ideals which today’s democracies take for granted are laid down by the American and French revolutions. Indian constitution is too incorporated in the preamble, the ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity.

 

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