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Old 11-15-2017, 06:53 PM
Location: Old Mother Idaho
21,132 posts, read 14,190,125 times
Reputation: 15654


There were many differences.
One big one was the seat of the American colonial government was in London, over 3,400 miles away, across an ocean. The government in France was literally next door to their revolution.

France was completely populated, and the country had very little wilderness. French infrastructure was fully developed. There was nothing but wilderness in America, and infrastructure was non-existent.

The class distinctions in France were fully intact; the nobility and the commoners, the rich and poor, the landed and landless were all clearly divided, and everyone who who was their opposite. In colonial America, these old-world divisions were much weaker and more ill-defined. While the American revolution was led by mostly wealthy landowners, they as a group were not much different than the other colonists.
Land ownership didn't automatically bestow the advantages in America that it did in Europe, since there was nothing but un-occupied land here, free for the taking. This made all the old status of the old world next to nothing in its importance in the new world.

The American colonists were mostly rebels who left England to see independence in a wilderness. The French didn't want to flee their homeland, they wanted a revolutionary regime change.

The American revolutionaries all wanted the same thing; a representative government that was similar to the one in England's parliament, but one that was stronger and did not have the privileges of royalty and a king attached to it. They were all accustomed to a representative form of democracy from the long establishment of the parliament.

The French commoners wanted more pure form of democracy, one that was based on the ancient Greek city states, not the representative semi-republic of the English. The French king was still an absolute ruler, while the British King was not, although his powers were greater then than now.

The French rebels could never agree on who was to become the new leader, what the new government would be in organization, and how all the mechanics of running a democracy should be. Their revolution was much more one of the moment than ours.

The French peasants wanted land ownership, more ability to keep and sell what they grew and produced, and after several years of bad harvests, mostly wanted relief from widespread food shortages.
Their revolution was led by intellectual commoners who came from peasant stock, and had none of the responsibilities of land ownership that every land owner in America had.

Anyone who wanted to own land here could. All it took was work to tame the land and it was theirs to keep. If someone here wanted to make a life in the trades, there was next to no government impediment to starting a business.

In France, no one could simply occupy land and claim it for their own. They could not just start a business without petitioning some official for permission to set up a trade. It was easy for a king to enforce his edicts in France, and the edicts were quickly carried out there.
In America, it was just the reverse. The American colonists tended to ignore royal edicts, ignored or defied the few royal officials who were in the colonies, and if the crown pushed too hard, the colonists would simply pack up and move into new wilderness.

We here were all much more essentially united in our common goals and ambitions than in France. Although America had many royalists who always opposed our revolution, they had a safe place to go if things got too bad for them; Canada was as open and had all the advantages of colonial America, so many of them moved there who preferred to stay loyal to the crown.

They also tended to come to terms with the revolutionists once the fireworks began, and if they didn't join the revolution, they stayed out of it as best they could.

Not so in France. From the beginning, it's revolution was won or lost street by street, little province by province, and one group with much different plans opposing another, with very little commonality between them all. The royals were far stronger, and some had substantial local support.
There was very little to unite their revolution, and there was even less to keep it held together. The fighting was done by street mobs in the cities, and country mobs in the countryside. There was next to no military battles with organized revolutionary military units fighting the king's soldiers as there was here.

We had Generals leading a revolutionary army. They had street thugs and poets leading their battles. We were already an organized young society that was different from our mother country when we rebelled. Our colonial organization held firm, and re-organized to better accommodate things as we wanted. So the new United States always had a central government the populace supported.

In France, they had nothing but anarchy to try to build a republic upon. Our fight was a common test of will against our crown. Theirs ended their crown in short order, but then it became a test of will that had no commonality.

That's why so many French revolutionaries looked to us as a model. But their revolution never truly succeeded; the French never united until Napoleon did it as a dictator. Napoleon established the needed bureaucracy that is needed to make a government perform, organized a commoner's military, and put everything together the French republic needed to be a republic.

If he had not drowned the French in their own blood with his military conquests, he could have been a dictator for life. And then, after his death, the French would have either did as they did after he was finally defeated, and turned France into a democracy at last, or they would have turned back to a kingdom and seated a new king from the royal lineage onto the throne of France.

As it turned out, the British had the final say in that, by removing Napoleon to an exile so far away from France in a place so remote, Napoleon would never be able to return and the French could never rescue him. The British were smart. If they had killed him, the French would have gone back to fighting among themselves again. By leaving him alive, it was easy for the French to simply continue their lives in what he had established, and desert leadership by one man for leadership by a representative government.

We needed no Napoleons to organize us. We didn't need to fight our king on his soil- he had to come to ours to fight us. We were already used to being independent. We were already used to defending ourselves in an organized fashion. We were all commoners, no matter what our ancestors may have been. We had wilderness. We didn't have to contend with other nations moving in and taking us over at any time in our weakest moments. We had no ambitions to possess other nations.

None of any of that applied to the French. All they had was the blind desire for change. That made anarchy next to inevitable. Once Marat, their great political philosopher and visionary was murdered in his bathtub early on in the revolution, the French never had anything to build on once their king lost his head. And he wasn't much of a king to begin with. His grandfather would have crushed the revolution and then made his people happy they lost afterward.

Meanwhile, the king we whipped was as mad as a hatter. No one in the court knew what King George would do or say next, or if he would take to walking around the court in his underwear again.

That in itself made a huge difference in the two revolutions.
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Old 11-15-2017, 07:49 PM
14,419 posts, read 3,809,534 times
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Uh, the French Revolution is still the basis for society and government in France today. I would call that success.

In terms of the USA - I would say our issues with slavery, racism, war, divisiveness and many other don't give us much room to crow about the success of our revolution.

But some of the real answer is that France had a royal setup in place that was there for 100's of years while the US was just some backwater with a few Brit troops hanging out. This made it MUCH easier for the land grabbers to decide it would be better for them to own the place than for the King to rule from afar. Really a no-brainer.
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