English, American, and French Revolutions
Revolutions English, American, and French The three most prominent revolutions in recent western history are The English ‘Glorious’ Revolution, The American Revolution, and The French Revolution. The despite these events being separated by nearly a century, several thousand miles, or both, all three of the revolutions share the same causes, were brought forth by the same idealism, and had similar outcomes in which a document was produced to secure the rights and freedoms for the future.
While there were a large number of causes for each war, and an even larger number of events and escalations that occurred to set the stage, one theme in particular rings true throughout all three. The idea of being governed without representation. This idea of a legitamate government being representative of the people and derived from their consent was brought about by Thomas Hobbs. This idea that the government represent the people is widely accepted by the British during the time of The Glorious Revolution, and subsequently accepted by the French and the Americans during their revolutions.
This is a key underlying similarity. In addition to the idea of representation, Hobbs also made a hypothesis that society will endure minor abuses of power as a price paid in order to maintain the protection that only a government could afford, but would quickly revolt should the abuses be perceived as egregious. 2 In England, the dissatisfaction began when King James II attempted to repeal the Test Acts. While looking back at this, King James II actions could be construed as noble and just, but they were carried out in a manner that stepped over the threshold of tolerance for the English.
In order to carry out his repeal, King James II dismissed all representatives which disagreed with the repeal. The people no longer had any say in the decision to repeal, and this upset the English. The King was quick to then throw the repeal of the Test Acts into the faces of those whom it disgusted the most, the Anglican Church. “The Declaration of Indulgence was reissued by James on April 27 1688, and in an act of gross miscalculation he ordered Anglican clergy to read it from the pulpit to their congregations on two consecutive Sundays. King James continued this until the people had enough and fought back with their Glorious Revolution. Much like the English revolution, the French Revolution was largely caused by a leader denying his subjects their percieved right of representation in government. There, due to looming financial problems, the state attempted to levy additional taxes without an elected body to approve them. The French Parlement rejected this idea and insisted on the Estates General as the only body able to allow this.
Despite the efforts of many to establish the Estates General to ratify the taxes, the Kings blatent disregard for the peoples concerns over the abuse of power quickly pushed the country to war. But for all the good will earnt more was lost as the king and his government began forcing laws through using the arbitrary practice of lit de justice. The king is even recorded as responding to complaints by saying “it’s legal because I wish it” (Doyle 80). Ultimately, France went bankrupt the people would accept no more.
This theme of abuse of power and subjection of citizens to the whims of a government removed from the will of the people continues into the American Revolution. The British were looking for money to pay for the French and Indian War, and decided upon establishing new taxes on goods into the American Colonies. Similarly to the English nearly 100 years earlier, the Americans rejected the idea that a government which considered none of the American points of view and contained no representatives of the colonies should not be allowed. 3
As with the French, the Americans pushed back and insisting upon fair representation, but to no avail. The British responded with more outrageous abuses only further enraging the citizens. This again continued until war was the only option. All three revolutions ended similarly. Those without representation won, and immediately issued documents securing their rights from future government abuse. No longer was it acceptable to govern without consent or representation. Many today take for grated the notion that much of the world is able to influence the government above them.
While it may have taken hundreds of years, and exponentially more lives, many ideas of Thomas Hobs, and indeed The Enlightenment as a whole, have become common place and help to protect all. [pic] 4 Works Cited Doyle, William. The Oxford History of the French Revolution. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2002. Print. “G4 – The Glorious Revolution – UK Parliament. ” Www. parliament. uk Home Page – UK Parliament. 01 Mar. 2009. Web. 30 May 2010. . Kelly, Martin. “Causes of the American Revolution – Examining the Causes of the American Revolution. ” American History From About. Web. 30 June 2010.