Values and Goals of the French Revolution

The bloodiness of the French Revolution came from its values, which are especially seen in La Marseillaise and The Cult of the Supreme Being. The French National anthem is drastically different from the American equivalent. It promotes values of war and violence to achieve liberty. La Marseillaise inspired citizens to take up arms to end government tyranny. The anthem is appropriate for troops marching into combat under heavy fire whereas the Star-Spangled Banner focuses on the values achieved by the war’s success such as liberty and equality.

The Cult of the Supreme Being, written by Robespierre in the Reign of Terror, represents similar values of violence and rebellion but from a very different angle. Robespierre justifies the call to arms with religion. He merges God with war by saying the He created men to help one another and that it is their duty to “purify the earth which they have soiled.” His radical writings are faith with fanaticism. Robespierre is careful to give “Him” a new name–The Supreme Being–to avoid losing the supports of more religious people of the Third Estate.

The dramatic text is an extreme, twisted version of civil religion. Instead of creating loyalty to the state through religious symbolism, he creates loyalty to the French Revolution with religious symbolism. He is certainly not the first to make his own perspective on religious to further violent goals.

The goals of the famous texts which inspired the revolution were corrupted during the actual revolution. Instead of achieving enlightenment through thinking for oneself or engaging in intellectual debate to better civil society, the goal became a violent overthrow of government tyranny. The French Revolution was an accurate depiction of Hobbes’ state of nature. Perhaps a contributing factor to the French Revolution’s unsuccessfulness (as compared to America) was that the civil religion used to inspire and justify the bloody revolution was never adapted for peacetime. Just a speculation…

Revolutionaries in France and America

De Gouge was a playwright and a political activist in 18th century France. In her “Declaration of the Rights of Women,” she addresses the unscrupulous oppression under which women have endured and the prejudice that have surrounding prejudice implemented by their male counterparts. De Gouge renounces the male-written law not only in the private sphere but also in the public sphere by stating that “our French legislators have long ensnared by political practices now out of date.” She requests women to question what they have gained from the revolution and asks them to acknowledge all that they have been denied. De Gouge suggests several ways in which women (who are willing to do so) can free themselves from the chains society has imposed on them. She states that women can be “prepared through national education, the restoration of morals, and conjugal conventions.” Her idea of an effective social contract between men and women would include communal wealth and the passing down of family wealth to the respective kin. De Gouge calls for a “fraternal union” for her belief that it will consequently “produce at the end a perfect harmony.” Most importantly, de Gouge offers the social contract as a way to elevate the latent souls of women and to have them conjoined with those of man. She acknowledges that upon writing this document, she will encounter vehement opposition, mostly by “hypocrites, prudes, and the clergy.” De Gouge contract is intricate and comprehensive but her message is simple: once prejudice is exterminated, morals are sanctified, and nature returns to its original state, man and woman can enjoy equal privileges and freedom.


Similarly to the way to de Gouge condemns the ways in which man has utilized societal norms to sustain the oppression of women, the Declaration of Independence denounces the tyrannical politics of Great Britain. This document outlines specific ways in which the people have been denied their natural rights and freedom, along with the ways in which the British governors have failed to serve for the public good. The document states “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness,” and whenever these natural rights are denied, it is the “right of the people to alter or abolish it” and to implement a new form of government, and one that offers the most democratic way of life to ensure that all citizens are provided with security and equality.


While both documents were derived from different authors and places, each text was created to inform and inspire those who were denied their freedom to form unity and regain their natural rights.

Rights, Revolutions, and Revolutionaries in America and France

Throughout history, declarations have been written in order to make a society aware of the problems it faces, frequently appearing in times of rapid change and revolution. In her Declaration of the Rights of Women, Olympe de Gouge, a prominent female revolutionary in the late 18th century, argues that women deserve to share equality with men in matters concerning government, society, marriage, and all other areas of life.  De Gouge wrote the Declaration of the Rights of Women in response to the Rights of Man, challenging its suggestion that men are superior to women. Writing in a passionate, defiant tone, she addresses French women, intending to gain supporters and enlighten women of the injustices that are perpetually being posed against them by men and the French government. De Gouge criticizes the authority that reigns France, and insists that women should be equal to men in order to facilitate a “happy government”. She argues that with equality among men and women will come the purification of morals and a stronger government.

Similarly, the American Declaration of Independence appeals to the British monarchy, stating that the king has failed to comply with the necessities of the rights of the people. The same nature of defiance as seen in the Declaration of the Rights of Women is present in the Declaration of Independence, as both are created in opposition to authority the government has placed upon them.

In his document on the third estate, Sieyes also criticizes the state of the government, arguing that the Third Estate does not possess enough power and more responsibilities should be entrusted to it. The First and Second Estates should be eliminated, suggests Sieyes. If not that, all three estates should at least be under equal representation and common laws.

In both the French and American revolutions, the people of the country respond to injustices placed upon them by their ruling monarchies. Both countries successfully overthrow their monarchies, freeing themselves of inequities. Revolutionaries of both countries sought freedom from their imposing governments, liberating their countries and earning their natural rights through the power of discourse.


The French and American Declaration

The French and American Revolutions are two of the most famous revolutionary movements in the history of mankind.  The revolutions are very similar, mainly in the writing that led up to revolution.  The United States’ “Declaration of Independence” and the French’s “What is the Third Estate”, “Decree Upon the National Assembly”, “Tennis Court Oath”, and “The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen” all outline very similar grievances that the people are rising against.

In the “Declaration of Independence” the Continental Congress wrote “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”  In the “Declaration of the Rights of Man” the French wrote “The end of all political associations is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible right of man; and these rights are Liberty, Property, Security, and Resistance of Oppression.”  The common theme in those two quotes is the word Liberty, which is “the state or condition of people who are able to act and speak freely” (  While the Patriots and the French had smaller grievances, specific to their situation, Liberty is the most overarching one.  Both groups felt underrepresented by their controlling body, the English monarchy for the Americans and the French monarchy for the French.  Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès wrote his “What is the Third Estate” after the American Revolution but it applies to what was happening in the colonies as much as it did to what was happening in France.  Sieyès wrote “1) What is the Third Estate?  Everything.  2) What has it been until now in the political order?  Nothing.  3) What does it want to be?  Something.”  Both the American colonists and the French citizens wanted recognition from their controlling government but more importantly they wanted the rights they felt they deserved.

The colonists way of gaining “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” was to declare independence from Britain.  They wrote in the Declaration of Independence “these United Colonies are, and of Right out to be Free and Independent States.”  The French offered up a similar solution, however their monarch was not an ocean away.  The “Third Estate” formed the “National Assembly”, which consisted of “at least ninety-six per cent of the nation.”  The “National Assembly” wrote in the “Declaration of the Rights of Man” that they had “resolved to set forth in solemn declaration, these natural, imprescriptible, and inalienable right; that this declaration being constantly present to the minds of the members of the body social” effectively declaring their own independence from the monarchy.

While the American and French revolution happened an ocean away and began about 13 years apart they followed the same track in action and writing.



examining natural rights in the Declaration of Independence and the Declaration of the Rights of Men

Written within ten years of each other on the eve of two different revolutions, the Declaration of Independence and the Declaration of the Rights of Men remain today as influential revolutionary texts. While both documents examine natural rights, they do so in different contexts, for The Declaration of Independence was the assertion of a fledgling democracy’s right to political autonomy, while the Declaration of the Rights of Men enumerates and demands the protection of the individual natural rights of an oppressed class of citizens. Though the focuses of the two documents are different, examining them in tandem shows us the inextricable relationship between government and individual rights.

The Declaration of Independence lists the colonists’ grievances against the King of England and does not identify individual human rights, believing that these truths were “self-evident” (Blaisdell 63). The extensive list of complaints against King George are concerned with his interference in different institutions within the colonial government – cutting off trade, dissolving representative houses, and “refusing to assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers” (Blaisdell 65). While this declaration is a response to the oppression of the natural rights of a sovereign nation, the Declaration of the Rights of Men was written in response to the oppression of individual rights – namely, those of the Third Estate, the class of all french citizens who were not part of the gentry or nobility. The Third Estate was burdened with “all the really arduous work, all the tasks which the privileged refuses to perform” (Blaisdell 72). The French National Assembly listed fewer grievances in their declaration than the American Continental Congress and instead offered a comprehensive outline of the natural rights of individual citizens, ranging from freedom of speech to the right to property.

Different though their content may be, each declaration examines half of the relationship between citizens and their government. Both the french and americans agreed that a government is instituted to protect its citizens’ rights, and in return for this protection citizens will sacrifice certain rights of their own. The Continental Congress shows us government protection of rights in action – an elected group of officials protesting the abuse of another power against their own citizens. The French national Assembly outlines the second half of this political equation, showing how citizens sacrifice for their government through acts such as paying taxes and limiting their natural right to those which will not infringe upon someone else’s. Together, these documents show us how individuals allow for the creation of government, and how a government allows for the protection of natural rights.