American Revolution and the French Revolution played a crucial role in the shaping of the modern world. Through these revolutions, people asserted their rights and ended exploitation. Many of the political rights that we enjoy today are the direct outcome of these historical revolutions.
The American Revolution shaped the new realities of the modern world in the following ways:
- 1. HUMAN RIGHTS (principles of liberty and democracy)- The DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE brought forth a philosophy of human freedom which became in subsequent period a dynamic force in the rest of the world. It became the inspiring force and the guiding spirit of many freedom struggles with its emphasis on equality, right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. The Bill of Rights granted many freedoms such as freedom of speech, press, religion and justice under law.
- 2. CONSTITUTIONALISM – A highly precious legacy of the American Revolution was that it brought forth a written constitution – the first of its kind in modern history – the source of all powers, position and functions of the various branches the American government. The constitution also became the custodian of Individual liberty, civil rights and the independence of the Judiciary. It tremendously influenced the making of constitution in various parts of the world. In the making of the Indian constitution some of the remarkable features of the American constitution have been inserted.
- 3. NATIONALISM – An outstanding achievement of the American Revolution lies in the fact that it was the first successful struggle for freedom in modern history. More significantly, it became a role model for all subsequent freedom movements in various parts of the world in the 19th and 20th centuries. Interestingly enough the Indian freedom movement derived a lot of inspiration from the personalities and events of the American war of Independence. The sacrifices of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson very much inspired the Indian nationalist leaders.
- 4. FEDERALISM – The American war of independence gave birth to a novel system of government, viz, Federalism (13 colonies came together to share power). In the course of time, the federal form of government got popularity. This provided a nice template for power sharing in diverse countries that needed complex polities.
The French Revolution affected the old order and gave a push to the modern
world in the following ways:
- 1. NATIONALISM IN WORLD POLITICS The French Revolution initiated the movement toward the modern nation-state and played a key role in the birth of nationalism across Europe. As French armies under Napoleon Bonaparte captured territories, the ideology of Nationalism was spread across Europe. Due to this, struggle for national liberation became one of the most important themes of 19th and 20th-century European and world politics. Also, the wars with France weakened the European colonial powers like Spain and Portugal and their colonies in South and Central America declared themselves as independent
2. BLOW TO SLAVERY The abolition of Slavery after the French revolution was the first move against this repressive system and Britain followed suit in 1833 while the USA banned it in 1865.
3. THE BIRTH OF LIBERALISM – Prior to the French Revolution, people generally lived in the form of government that had been in place for centuries (monarchy). However, after the French Revolution, no government was accepted as legitimate without justification. Due to the success of the French Revolution, liberal governments were established in nations across Europe, South America and North America through the 19th century. Thus the Revolution is considered a defining moment in Liberalism.
4. POLITICAL AWAKENING AND RULE OF LAW – Ending the arbitrary royal rule, the revolution paved the way for rule by law under a constitutional order. The historic French document, ‘Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen’ was adopted. This asserted the equality of all men, the sovereignty of the people and the rights to liberty, property, security, right to education, to free speech, to be informed, right of the poor to public assistance, a ban on torture and slavery, recognition of the right of the people. France became the first state in history to grant universal male suffrage. These ideals brought political awakening in Europe.
5. SECULARISM: The revolution ended the sovereignty, despotism and corruption of the Church. The importance of the worship of intellect and reason became more prominent.
6. ECONOMIC GROWTH – It led to the destruction of feudalism in France as all laws of the old feudal regime were repealed and lands of the nobles and church were confiscated and redistributed. The Revolution thus destroyed the power of oligarchies and elites that opposed economic change. Evidence suggests that areas that were occupied by the French and that underwent radical institutional reform experienced more rapid urbanization and economic growth, especially after 1850. The arrival of new economic and industrial opportunities in the second half of the 19th century then resulted in more economic growth of Europe.
The American and French revolutions not only laid the edifice for a newly emerging egalitarian society and a new way of polity in their respective countries but they also acted as the philosophical basis and aspiration for the people of other nations. The revolutions highlighted the fundamentals of a civilized world which continue to shape the global aspirations even today!