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Oscar Wilde - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Oscar Wilde
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  1. “The only thing that one really knows about human nature is that it changes. Change is the one quality we can predicate of it. The systems that fail are those that rely on the permanency of human nature, and not on its growth and development. The error of Louis XIV was that he thought human nature would always be the same. The result of his error was the French Revolution. It was an admirable result.” E. Napp Oscar Wilde

  2. Revolutions in North America, France, Haiti, and Latin America were not entirely separate and distinct events • These revolutions clearly influenced one another • Thomas Jefferson was the U.S. ambassador to France on the eve of the French Revolution • Simon Bolívar, the great liberator in several Latin American independence movements, twice visited Haiti, where he received military aid from the first black government in the Americas • Beyond direct connections, these Atlantic revolutionaries shared a set of common ideas • Ideas were derived from the European Enlightenment and were shared across the ocean in newspapers, books, and pamphlets E. Napp

  3. At the heart of these ideas was the radical notion that human political and social arrangements could be engineered, and improved, by human action. Conventional and long-established ways of living and thinking – the divine right of kings, state control of trade, aristocratic privilege, and the authority of a single church – were no longer sacrosanct and came under repeated attack. E. Napp

  4. New ideas of liberty, equality, free trade, religious tolerance, republicanism, and human rationality were espoused • The core political notion was “popular sovereignty,” which meant that the authority to govern derived from the people rather than from God or established tradition • The Englishman John Locke (1632-1704) argued that a “social contract” between ruler and ruled should last only as long as it served the people well • It was therefore possible to start over in the construction of human communities • Debates abounded as to what kind of government best ensured freedom E. Napp

  5. Except in Haiti, the beneficiaries of the Atlantic Revolutions were propertied white men of the middle classes. Although women, slaves, Native Americans, and men without property did not gain much from these revolutions, the ideas of the Atlantic Revolutions gave them ammunition for the future. E. Napp

  6. Because the aim of these revolutions was to extend political rights, they have often been referred to as “democratic revolutions” • Yet these revolutions differed substantially from one another since the events that triggered them differed as well • The North American Revolution (1775-1787) was a struggle for independence from oppressive British rule • That struggle began with the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and resulted in an unlikely military victory by 1781 which generated a federal constitution in 1787 • Thirteen formerly separate colonies joined into a new nation E. Napp

  7. In its break with Britain, the American Revolution marked a decisive political change, but in other ways, it was, strangely enough, a conservative movement because it originated in an effort to preserve the existing liberties of the colonies rather than to create new ones. E. Napp

  8. For much of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the British colonies in North America enjoyed a considerable degree of local autonomy as the British government was embroiled in its own internal conflicts and various European wars • In addition, Britain’s West Indian colonies seemed more profitable and of greater significance than those of North America • This allowed local elected assemblies in North America, dominated by wealthier property-owning settlers, to achieve something close to self-government • Colonists came to regard autonomy as their birthright and part of their English heritage E. Napp

  9. While class distinctions existed in the colonies, the ready availability of land following the elimination of the Native Americans, the scarcity of people, and the absence of both a titled nobility and a single established church meant that social life was far more open than in Europe. No legal distinctions differentiated clergy, aristocracy, and commoners, as they did in France. All free men, which excluded black slaves, enjoyed the same status before the law. E. Napp

  10. The American Revolution grew out of a sudden and unexpected effort by the British government to tighten its control over the colonies and to extract more revenue from the colonies • Britain’s global struggle with France drained the treasury and increased the national debt • Beginning in the 1760s, British authorities looked to America for revenue • Abandoning its neglectful oversight of the colonies, Britain began to act like an imperial power • New taxes were imposed and tariffs on the colonies were established without the consent of the people for colonists were not represented in the British parliament E. Napp

  11. By challenging the economic interests of the colonists as well as their established traditions of local autonomy and their identity as true Englishmen, the British had infuriated the colonists. Armed with the ideas of the Enlightenment – popular sovereignty, natural rights, the consent of the governed – the colonists went to war, and by 1781, they had prevailed, with considerable aid from the French. E. Napp

  12. Independence from Britain was not accompanied by a wholesale social transformation • Instead the revolution accelerated the established democratic tensions of the colonial societies • Political authority remained largely in the hands of the existing elites who led the revolution • But property requirements for voting were lowered and more white men of modest means, such as small farmers and urban artisans, were elected to state legislatures • This widening of political participation gradually eroded the power of traditional gentlemen, but no women or people of color shared these gains • Land was not seized except in the case of pro-British loyalists who had fled the country E. Napp

  13. Although slavery was gradually abolished in the northern states, where it counted for little, it remained firmly entrenched in the southern states, where it counted for much. In the century that followed independence, the United States did become the world’s most democratic country, but it was less the direct product of the revolution and more the gradual working out in a reformist fashion of earlier practices and the principles of equality announced in the Declaration of Independence. E. Napp

  14. Yet the new U.S. Constitution – with its Bill of Rights, checks and balances, separation of church and state, and federalism – was one of the first sustained efforts to put the political ideas of the Enlightenment into practice • That document, and the ideas that it embraced, echoed repeatedly in the political upheavals of the century that followed • Since thousands of French soldiers had provided assistance to the American colonists, they returned home full of republican enthusiasm • More immediately, the French government, which had generously aided the Americans in an effort to undermine its British rivals, was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy and had long sought reforms that would modernize its tax system and make it more equitable E. Napp

  15. In a desperate effort to raise taxes against the opposition of the more privileged classes, the French king, Louis XVI, had called into session an ancient parliamentary body, the Estates General. It consisted of representatives of the three “estates,” or legal orders, of prerevolutionary France: the clergy, the nobility, and the commoners. E. Napp

  16. The first two estates, the clergy and the nobility, comprised about 2 percent of the population • The Third Estate included everyone else and paid most of the taxes in France • When the Estates General convened in 1789, representatives of the Third Estate soon organized themselves as the National Assembly, with the sole authority to make laws for the country • A few weeks later, they drew up the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, which declared that “men are born and remain free and equal in rights” • These illegal actions in the acien régime (the Old Regime) launched the French Revolution E. Napp

  17. The French Revolution was quite different from the North American Revolution. Whereas the American Revolution expressed the tensions of a colonial relationship with a distant imperial power, the French Revolution was driven by sharp class conflicts within French society. E. Napp

  18. Members of the titled nobility resented and resisted the monarchy’s efforts to subject them to new taxes • Educated middle-class groups were offended by the remaining privileges of the aristocracy, from which they were excluded • Ordinary urban residents suffered in the late 1780s as the prices of bread rose dramatically and unemployment increased • Peasants in the countryside, though free of serfdom, were subject to a variety of hated dues imposed by their landlords, taxes from the state, obligations to the Church, and the requirement to work without pay on public roads • The ideas of the Enlightenment offered possible solutions to end the suffering of the French people E. Napp

  19. Social conflicts gave the French Revolution, especially during its first five years, a much more violent, far-reaching, and radical character than its American counterpart. It was a profound social upheaval, more comparable to the revolutions of Russia and China in the twentieth century than to the earlier American Revolution. E. Napp

  20. Initial efforts to establish a constitutional monarchy gave way to more radical measures, as internal resistance and foreign opposition produced a fear that the revolution might be overturned • Urban crowds organized insurrections • Some peasants attacked the castles of lords, burning documents that recorded their dues and payments • The National Assembly decreed the end of all legal privileges and abolished what remained of feudalism in France • Even slavery was abolished, albeit briefly • Church lands were sold to raise revenue, and priests were put under government authority E. Napp

  21. In early 1793, King Louis XVI and his queen, Marie Antoinette, were executed, an act of regicide that shocked traditionalists all across Europe and marked a new stage of revolutionary violence. What followed was the Reign of Terror of 1793-1794. Under the leadership of Maximilien Robespierre and his Committee of Public Safety, tens of thousands deemed enemies of the revolution lost their lives on the guillotine. Eventually, Robespierre himself was arrested and guillotined, accused of leading France into tyranny and dictatorship. E. Napp

  22. For the first time in French history, the country became a republic and briefly passed universal male suffrage, although it was never implemented • As revolutionary France prepared for war against its threatening neighbors, it created the world’s largest army with all adult males required to serve • Common people, who had identified primarily with their local community, now began to think of themselves as belonging to a nation • The state replaced the Catholic Church as the place for registering births, marriages, and deaths, and revolutionary festivals substituted for church holidays E. Napp

  23. And French influence spread through conquest, largely under the leadership of Napoleon Bonaparte (ruled 1799-1814). A highly successful general who seized power in 1799, Napoleon is often credited with taming the revolution. Yet Napoleon preserved many of the Revolution’s more moderate elements, such as civil equality, a secular law code, religious freedom, and promotion by merit, while reconciling the Catholic Church and suppressing the revolution’s more democratic elements in a military dictatorship. Napoleon kept social equality but dispensed with liberty. E. Napp

  24. Napoleon’s forces subdued most of Europe, thus creating the continent’s largest empire since the days of the Romans • Napoleon ended feudalism, proclaimed equality of rights, insisted on religious toleration, and codified the laws • While in some places these reforms were welcomed, in others, French domination was resented and resisted, stimulating national consciousness throughout Europe • But national resistance, particularly from Russia and Britain, brought down Napoleon and ended his empire by 1815 • Yet the ideals of the French Revolution lived on E. Napp

  25. Nowhere did the example of the French Revolution echo more loudly than in the French Caribbean colony of Saint Domingue, later renamed Haiti. Widely regarded as the richest colony in the world, Saint Domingue boasted 8,000 plantations, which in the late eighteenth century produced some 40 percent of the world’s sugar and perhaps half of its coffee. Slaves, about 500,000 of them, made up the vast majority of its population. Whites numbered about 40,000, sharply divided between very well-to-do plantation owners, merchants, lawyers and those known as petits blancs, or poor whites. A third social group consisted of some 30,000 gens de couleur libres, or free people of color, many of them of mixed-race background. E. Napp

  26. In such a setting, the ideas and example of the French Revolution set in motion a spiral of violence that engulfed the colony for more than a decade • But the principles of the revolution meant different things to different classes • To rich white landowners, the ideas of the revolution meant greater autonomy for the colony and fewer restrictions on trade • But to slaves, the promise of the French Revolution’s ideas was a personal freedom that threatened the entire slave labor system • In a massive slave revolt beginning in 1791, triggered by rumors that the French king had declared an end to slavery, slaves burned 1,000 plantations and killed hundreds of whites and mixed-race people E. Napp

  27. Spanish and British forces, seeking to enlarge their own empires at the expense of the French, only added to the turmoil. Amid the confusion, brutality, and massacres of the 1790s, power gravitated toward the slaves, now led by Toussaint Louverture, himself a former slave. He and his successor overcame internal resistance, outmaneuvered the foreign powers, and even defeated an attempt by Napoleon to reestablish French control. E. Napp

  28. Something remarkable and unprecedented had happened in Haiti, a revolution unique in the Atlantic world and in world history • Socially, the last had become first • It was the only completely successful slave revolt in world history • Haiti was the second independent republic in the Americas and the first non-European state to emerge from Western colonialism • The country had been renamed Haiti, a term meaning “mountainous” or “rugged” in the language of the original Taino people • It was a symbolic break with Europe and represented some connection with the long-deceased native inhabitants of the land E. Napp

  29. Haiti was formally declared independent on January 1, 1804. Jean-Jacques Dessalines was the new country’s first head of state. In defining all Haitians as “black,” Haiti directly confronted an emerging racism, even as they declared all citizens legally equal regardless of race, color, or class. Economically, the country’s plantation system, oriented wholly toward the export of sugar and coffee, had been largely destroyed. As whites fled or were killed, both private and state lands were redistributed among former slaves and free blacks, and Haiti became a nation of small-scale farmers producing mostly for their own needs, with a much smaller export sector. E. Napp

  30. The destructiveness of the Haitian Revolution; its bitter internal divisions of race, color, and class; and continuing external opposition contributed much to Haiti’s abiding poverty as well as to its authoritarian and unstable politics • But in the early nineteenth century, it was a source of enormous hope and of great fear • In Latin America, the Haitian Revolution injected a deep caution and a social conservatism in the elites that led their countries to independence in the early nineteenth century • In Cuba, plantations and their slave workers considerably increased their production of sugar as that of Haiti declined • And Napoleon’s defeat in Haiti persuaded him to sell French territories known as the Louisiana Purchase to the United States E. Napp

  31. Strayer Questions • In what ways did the ideas of the Enlightenment contribute to the Atlantic revolutions? • What was revolutionary about the American Revolution and what was not? • How did the French Revolution differ from the American Revolution? • What was distinctive about the Haitian Revolution, both in world history generally and in the history of Atlantic revolutions? E. Napp