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How did the French Revolution differ from the American Revolution?

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balroghunter | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 6, 2012 at 9:47 PM via web

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How did the French Revolution differ from the American Revolution?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted December 6, 2012 at 10:05 PM (Answer #1)

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The two most important differences between these two revolutions are that the French Revolution was more radical and, in a sense, more violent. 

First, the French Revolution was much more violent than the American Revolution.  It is true, of course, that the French Revolution did not lead to a major war within France the way that the American Revolution led to a major war within the American colonies.  Nonetheless, the French Revolution was more brutal in many ways.  In the American Revolution, most of the killing was military.  This is less brutal, at least arguably, than the kind of killing that went on in the French Revolution.  All of the executions during the Reign of Terror made the French Revolution much more brutal for society as a whole than the American Revolution was.

Second, the French Revolution was much more radical than the American Revolution.  The American Revolution was not aiming for a fundamental change in the structure of society.  After the Revolution, much was the same in the United States as it had been in the colonies.  The same class of people generally held positions of power.  The system of government was similar to what it had been.  By contrast, the French Revolution tried to completely remake society.  There were no attempts in the American Revolution to create a new secular church or to give new names to months and days.  There was no attempt to completely cast down a whole class of people from power and replace them with another class.

Thus, the American Revolution was much less violent in a way and much less radical than the French Revolution.

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