Reasons for the French, Russian, and American Revolutionsby Rit Nosotro
Compare the differences and similarities between the French, Russian, and American revolutions.
American became a great nation because of the founding principles of their revolution in contrast with the French effort which didn't survive the Age of Napoleon and the the failed USSR.
Lenin and Bonaparte were not satisfied with becoming dictators, they craved domination of others. This is starkly contrasted with Washington who refused to be treated like royalty, but led with humble moderation. By pairing religion to the old monarchy, Robespierre and the French philosophers did away with Roman Catholicism and brutally disposed of Christianity altogether. In contrast to most of the God-fearing founding fathers of America, atheistic Lenin and successors believed in the Communist Manifesto of Marx that claimed "religion is the opiate of the people". Such atheistic efforts were doomed from the start.
Revolutions have played a key role in history since governments were first formed. They have been focal points in which the people have risen up against their rulers to force a change. Three of the most important revolutions in recent world history are the American fight for independence in 1776, the French in 1789, and the Russian revolt of 1917. Although similarities can be drawn, the long term consequences are quite different. The USA remains the strongest nation, even 250 years after its revolt, while the French Republic lasted only 10 years, at which time Bonaparte siezed power in 1799, and his revolution ended decisively in 1815. The Russian revolutions that created the USSR ended in 1989. What was the primary difference between what the British colonists did and what the French National Assembly and Russian Bolsheviks tried to do?
Suggested causes of the French Revolution have included crop failure, unemployment, and class struggle. Foremost was the timely mix of political philosophy in opposition to church politics and the peak of discontent by immense poverty among the peasants. Add to this a growing disdain over France's caste system, with the unfortunate target of Marie Antoinette, and anger towards the government about increased prices of staple goods like bread, it is easy to see why the peasants were ready for a change. King Louis XVI tried to make changes in the government structure to allow more fairness towards the peasants1, but they were already so irate that nothing the King did changed their resolve. When Louis tried to relieve the peasant tax burden by shifting some of it onto the nobility and church, Louis lost support of the upper classes.
It come to a peak in 1789 when angry peasant mobs were reported to have attacked the buildings of their lords and overseers. This created what was called "The Great Scare" in which the French Government exaggerated the problem so that they could take military action. This pushed the commoners past the brink, and plunged France into a bloody revolution2that brought on the "Reign of Terror" by Maximilien Robespierre and his use of the guillotine.
As the initial revolution of France fell apart, Napoleon Bonaparte came along to assert authority where he found none. In a matter of four years Bonaparte was able to lead the peasants and workers to victory in France. Had he stopped here, things might have been very different, but Bonaparte chose to keep going beyond France and try to take over the rest of Europe! Although he helped to get rid of one corrupt form of government, he simultaneously created another -- his dictatorship! 3 With this new power, the brilliant military strategist Bonaparte tried to take over all of Europe. Nations like Britain, who were already angered and upset with the new French nation because of their anti-Catholic policy, took sides against the French. At first the French met many victories and much success, but as time progressed the large number of enemies that Bonaparte created became too strong, even for his military tactics. In 1815 he was defeated at the infamous Battle of Waterloo, an event which marked an end to the French Revolution. 4
Similarly, Russia's revolution in 1917 was caused be unrest amongst the working class. Comparisons between the 1905 and 1917 Russian revolutions can be made. Even in the 1800's Russia had faced minor revolution problems but had always been able to clamp them down. Now, with Europe weakened by WWI, the revolutionists saw this as a prime time to make a move. In February, 1917, workers in the capital city of Petrograd (which is now St. Petersburg) went on a strike that grew into a city-wide revolution. Within one week the revolutionaires took control of the city, ousted the imperial monarchy, and establish a provisional government. 5
However, this new government did not last very long. At first it was met with great support, but as time progressed the people again began to be restless. Much of this was because of the masterful propaganda techniques of Vladimir Lenin, the leader of the Bolsheviks. The Bolsheviks were a minority group in the current government, but as Lenin's influence grew, so did their power. In late October of the same year, Lenin figured the time was right and swiftly took over control of the government to established the USSR 6 From there, much like Bonaparte, he went on to take more and more lands. However, unlike Bonaparte's time, Europe was still weakened from war, and thus did not make great moves towards stopping Russian's expansion in northern Asia. Although the USSR lasted much longer than Bonaparte's France did, it still crumbled in the late 1980's, just 72 years, killing an average of one million of its citizens for each year it existed.
United States of America
Many believe that the American Revolution was caused by colonists who refused to help pay for the British expense of removing the French from the Ohio River Valley and elsewhere. However, this series of taxes only swayed the American colonists toward a revolution that was principlely justified to avoid being subjected again to the Anglican Church. These type of imposing religious regulations had been the primary reason that Puritans and Seperatists had fled England in the beginning. It had many heroes, but one man that stands out, George Washington. Like Bonaparte he was a fearless leader and a powerful general. However, while Bonaparte turned France into a dictatorship, Washington chose democracy in the new United States. Unlike Lenin and Bonaparte, once the colonists were free from British rule, Washington did not seek immediate territorial expansion. With Washington as its first president, America had a moral precedent to become the greatest nation in the whole world. It is unfortunate that greedy, unscrupulous colonists drove the American Indians from their homelands but on the whole, America takes in the homeless and helps dispose of ruthless dictatorships. The moral foundation of the American Revolution has supported the USA well even though serious cracks have increasingly threaten to distabilized her since the mid-1960s.
In conclusion, there were many similarities between these three revolutions. First off they all had powerful, influential leaders who provide victories after a few years of fighting. However, there were some glaring differences contributed to America's lasting greatness. Lenin and Bonaparte chose to become the absolute ruler of their nations, while Washington was willing to lead with moderation. Secondly, Lenin and Bonaparte did not stop with their country, but went on and tried to capture more. As for religion, Bonaparte and the French philosophers wanted to do away with Roman Catholicism because it was attributed to the old monarchy. They ended up brutally disposing of Christianity altogether. Atheistic Lenin and successors believed in the Communist Manifesto of Karl Marx that claimed "religion is the opiate of the people". Lastly, and most importantly, almost all of the founding fathers of America were religious, God-fearing men. They exemplified the scripture: "For an overseer must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy and self-controlled" (Titus 1:7-8).
"Pride goeth before fall." A primary reason for the French economic crisis was a result of their long standing haterd of the British going back to the Hundred Year's War, and after Henry VIII, France's Roman Catholic persecutions against England's Protestants. The French had lost enormous land claims and resources to the British in the French and Indian War. In revenge, the French desired to weaken the British empire more than to help the American rebellion. France gave covert support until American victory was inevitable and then increased French troops and navel support. At the Palace of Versailles, and in French Cathedrals, the prideful conspicuous consumption of the clergy, nobility and crown, in the face of the desperate poverty of the masses, led to the French Revolution which overthrew the "Divine Right" of Louis XVI and his institutionalized Roman Catholic Church. There were more to the events that lead to the American Revolution and the French Revolution.
1. Each of the following is a correct match between country and key revolutionist
France and Maximilien Robespierre
Russia and Vladimir Lenin
The USA and George Washington
China and Yao Ming
2. Which of the following is NOT a key difference between the French/Russian revolutions and the US one.?
The US did not try to keep conquering after their revolution succeeded.
George Washington did not use his military power to turn himself into a dictator.
The Founding Fathers ate oatmeal for breakfast every morning.
The Founding Fathers were composed of god-fearing men.
3.In what year did the Russian Revolution take place?
4. At which battle was Napoleon defeated.
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