Chapter 4: Revolution: “High-and-Mighty Ideals, Revolting Consequences”

The “American experiment” resulted in the first country born of Enlightenment ideals. The creation of the United States showed some Europeans that their own countries needed to reform. The questions of the “daughters” inspired the “mother country” of France, especially, to re-define itself. French thinkers argued that society should be more in line with the Enlightenment ideas of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity (an old term for “brotherhood”).

However, France was one of the most traditional of Europe’s monarchies, with a social system in place since the Dark Ages. Even during the Enlightenment, most of the proponents of Liberty, etc., were not from the lower-class, but instead from the upper-class. To change such a system causes much chaos—as we have seen with the change from geocentrism to heliocentrism. In the case of political systems, chaos is usually accompanied by violence. In the case of the French Revolution—much more so than for any of its American “cousins”—the results were much more destructive.

As opposed to colonies separated by an ocean from their mother country, France was a monarchy in the middle of a continent full of monarchies. Therefore, revolution in France would not only mean civil war inside France, but a continent-wide conflict, pitting all the monarchies against this new “revolutionary” society. So, here’s what happens when all the neighborhood moms gang up to attack another mom for acting like a rebellious teenager…