How the American Revolution Led to the French Revolution

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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In the American Revolution, the thirteen colonies were able to gain independence from Great Britain and an important cause of the victory was the help of the French who made a major impact on the war and were allies of the colonists. They fought together closely and exchanged several ideas, which included thinking that led to the start of the American Revolution. After the war of almost eight years, there were many parts of French culture that had been affected by American ideals and this propelled them into their revolution.

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The American Revolution influenced the French Revolution through the shared values of the Enlightenment philosophy, the creation of the Declaration of Independence, and their model of revolutionary success. After the French were defeated in the Seven Years’ War or the French and Indian War that lasted from 1756 to 1763, they had to give up much of the land that they had acquired in North America to the British. Because of this, the French government’s hate toward the British grew over the years and they desired to get revenge on them. The British had fallen into debt because of the war, and they had new monetary responsibilities since they had acquired new colonies in North America and had to be able to afford to station their troops in the colonies to protect the land and prevent colonist rebellion. In turn, they put new trade restrictions in place and imposed the Stamp Act on the American colonies in 1765.

This act put a tax on all paper that was used for printed documents in the colonies including newspapers, magazines, and any kind of legal document, even marriage licenses and wills. This was infuriating and outrageous to the Americans, and they began to adopt Enlightenment idealism as they were opposing the British. A very influential philosopher of the Enlightenment era was John Locke, who held the view that all people are born with innate rights that the government has no right to take away or infringe upon. His perspective of government was to protect the rights of the people and ensure freedom for its citizens, and if the government did not do this the people had the right to rebel. Even though the act was small and did not have a major effect on Americans, they recognized the abuse of power and did not want it to continue to grow in the future. The colonists argued that the British were illegally taxing them since there were no Americans that were in Parliament and the famous slogan of British opposition, no taxation without representation, originated from this situation. Americans also were not given the right to a trial by jury, and they felt that the British were stripping them of all of their natural rights given to them in the Magna Carta. The colonists encouraged and placed a boycott of British goods into action. Parliament did not want to deal with the continually rising opposition any longer, often violent especially from groups like the Sons of Liberty, and repealed the Stamp Act the following year in 1766. Even though the Stamp Act was repealed, the imposition of policy upon the American colonies continued and colonist rebels responded in violence and extreme acts of opposition. The Tea Act was passed by Parliament in 1773, and this placed a monopoly on all tea that was exported into the colonies. This meant that the colonies could no longer have tea smuggled in from the Netherlands and this act greatly angered the colonists.

This led to the important event of the Boston Tea Party in 1773 in which the Sons of Liberty dumped a vast amount of British tea from ships into the Boston harbor. This event was very impactful leading into the American Revolution as the British responded by passing the Intolerable Acts to punish the colonies and the British government even closed the port to the Boston Harbor. Americans acted in violence and defensiveness toward these controlling measures, and a year and a half later the war began when the established their independence from Britain on July 4, 1776 through the publishing of the Declaration of Independence. Since this war was going on, the French now held an opportunity to potentially gain the colonies they lost to the British once again and were rooting against them. The American colonies were lacking financial support and military resources as well as a strong navy, and asked French to join them as allies. Initially, France refused to ally with America but did support them financially. For reasons that varied from soldier to soldier, many French men fought alongside the Americans as volunteers. A very influential French soldier was the Marquis de Lafayette who became a general under George Washington and was eventually given command of a division. George Washington traveled to France in 1776 in order to gain support from France and get the people riled up in opposition toward Britain and their abuse of power in government. The response of the French people was very positive, and The French government in Versailles was very hesitant in accepting the invitation to ally with the colonies especially because they were short on funds and did not foresee enough benefits at the time from helping the Americans in the war. A very influential French soldier was the Marquis de Lafayette who became a volunteer became a general under George Washington and was eventually given command of a division.

However, the Americans were victorious in the Battle of Saratoga in 1777 which was an incredibly important battle that convinced the king of France to sign a military alliance with the Americans in 1788 and soon after declared war on Britain as well. France helped the Americans primarily using their navy and assisted them tremendously in the Siege of Yorktown in 1781 which ended up being the last crucial battle of the American Revolution. The Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783 which brought a peaceful end to the war and the British finally recognized the independence of the United States as a separate country and established their borders. France did not benefit as much from their assistance in the war as they were hoping to. They did not regain the former colonies in America that had been taken away from them by the British because the Americans had already negotiated secretly with the British before they made the treaty. The only land that they acquired was the African country of Senegal and the island of Tobago in the Caribbean. The French treasury was further damaged by their involvement in the war as France spent over one billion livres helping the United States. However, France was encouraged by the victory of American colonies and it brought them hope of one day being able to fight and win their own peaceful revolution and build a government based on Enlightenment ideals. The French were inspired incredibly by these events and the courage of the American colonies, and desired to be free from the rule of the British as well. The important figures of the Revolution became extremely famous in France as well, including George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. The American philosophies of revolution were studied by the French and were admired by them.

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How the American Revolution led to the French Revolution. (2019, Sep 28). Retrieved from