The American Revolution and the French Revolution began only 13 years apart, inspired by similar human liberty and justice ideals. Both were instigated and led by dedicated patriots.
Still, for all the similarities, the "Sister Revolutions," as Susan Dunn, a professor at Williams College, dubs them in her book, quickly diverged. Once liberated, Americans created a nonviolent democracy. The French result was the so-called Reign of Terror, and protracted internal turmoil. The result was the dictatorship of Napoleon.
Professor Dunn finds that part of the difference in the result is based on national history differences. Americans had gained political experience as Colonials, while the French, developing under an absolute monarch, were political novices.
The most succinct analysis may come from the era itself, from Gouverneur Morris, the U.S. Minister to France. His observations can be applied to leaders today. In 1790 he said that the French "have taken Genius instead of Reason for their Guide, adopted Experiment instead of Experience, and wander in the Dark because they prefer Lightening to Light."
Think about that when you vote on November 3.
From: Leadership...with a human touch October 31, 2000, Pages 17-18
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