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The French Revolution took place in 1789, about 14 years after the American Revolution of 1776. It was a time for upheaval worldwide. The ideas and values of the Age of Enlightenment questioned traditional institutions, customs, and morals. If all men were created equal, why could they not govern themselves? The "divine right" of kings was questioned as well and in many countries, rejected. The causes were were complicated than this, touching upon class structure and the economy of countries, but if you do some research, you will find that there was a type of "revolution fever" during the late 1700s and into the 1800s. Many influencial Frenchman, such as Lafayette, helped the Americans in our revolution and were inspired by the formation of the new nation, the United States of America. France also helped the American colonists with money, ships, military aid, etc. The French king did not do this for altruistic reasons, but because the French were life-long enemies of the British. However, it backfired on them and in 1789, the French also revolted against Louis XVI and eventually established a democracy, but it took much longer than in America and there were many years of additional bloodshed under various ruling groups that were more brutal than the Bourbon kings. Most of the nobility fled France and those that did not escape were sent to la guillotine. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
The French revolution also touched off slave uprisings in the Caribbean. On the French island of Haiti (called Saint Domingue by the French at this time), the free people of color revolted against French sugar planters who would not allow them French citizenship as declared by the National Assembly of France.
A bloody revolution followed with an endless chain of mini-wars involving slaves, whites, free people of color, France, Spain and Britain. Eventually, however, Haiti became the first independent black nation in the Western world.
In 1794 France revised its "Declaration of the Rights of Man" (the French version of the Declaration of Independence) and slavery was abolished in its overseas colonies. A man named Toussaint L'Ouverture (who was a leader of the Haiti rebellion and allied with the Spanish), abandoned Spain and joined up with the French.
The Spanish and British forces were defeated and Toussaint was the head of the nation. Soon, Toussaint sought independence from France. Haiti was still a French colony, but was governed more like an independent state.
From 1798 until 1799, France was in chaos. Finally, in 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte seized power. In 1802, Napoleon tried to restore slavery in the French colonies through political maneuvering and military force. Toussaint was captured and exiled, but the fighting continued. It was not until 1804 that Haiti was finally free, and named Haiti (instead of Saint Domingue). This was the only successful slave revolt ever.
Read about the Haitian and French Revolutions right here on enotes.
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