Contemplating freedom, liberty, opportunities, and the shaky process of attaining and preserving them as realities. Surprisingly, every country that exists had some form of revolutionary war in its history. Revolutionary wars continue. Some say revolutions breed progress, while others disagree. July 4, in the United States, and July 14, in France, celebrate lifestyles that represent freedom. For over 200 years, these republics are worn but true examples, against many odds, that progressive lifestyles are cause for celebration.
July 4, each year, large and small cities and towns throughout USA light fireworks to celebrate July 4 1776, when the original 13 colonies (New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia) under the British Empire wrote the declaration of independence. It was the first major move in forming the United States, an alliance that was thoroughly debated. It was to be the basis of the revolutionary war between those colonies and Britain. It was to be a hard-fought, 7-year war where the colonies were victorious. Imperial France helped the colonialists with money and aid. The economic losses to France would give way to another revolutionary war in France, about 12 years later, deposing France’s monarchy.
In the USA, we celebrate July 4 as a memorial to the Declaration of Independence of the United States from Britain. Over the next 6 years, the Americans fought bitterly with the British, often outnumbered, in a bloody war. It wasn’t till 1783 that the British and Americans signed the preliminary Articles of Peace that would make the declaration a reality. The Treaty of Paris of 1783, negotiated between the United States and Great Britain, ended the revolutionary war and recognized American independence. The Treaty of Paris, signed on September 3, 1783, ended the American Revolutionary War between Great Britain on one side and the United States of America on the other.
It might not have turned out that way if not for a strategic alliance that brought France toward America’s side. A British war against France and another with Spain, ending in 1763, strengthened Britain’s might and ego as the best military force. Both France and Spain were defeated and lost territory to the British. What brought about the American Revolution and the move to declare independence in 1776, was the British imposition of taxes. These were a series of laws passed between 1763 and 1775 by Britain toward regulating trade and increasing taxes. Taxes were the forces that sparked unrest in the American colonies and (later) in France.
Fiercely outnumbered the Americans were fighting one of the greatest, and best trained military forces of the world. The Americans, through Benjamin Franklin and John Adams, were practicing intricate diplomacy seeking allies in its war against the British. In 1778, representatives of the French and American governments signed the Treaty of Alliance and a Treaty of Amity and Commerce on February 6. In 1763, as Britain won wars with Spain and France, Britain gained control of Florida from Spain and French territory east of the Mississippi river. Britain’s defeated helped the Americans. France joined in early 1778, the Spanish in mid-1779, and the Dutch at the end of 1780 (remember the Dutch had New Amsterdam taken by the British).
If not for the French military might, the US Revolution may have been won by the British. France and Britain were far from friendly with each other. The European neighbors fought many wars against one another for centuries. France’s interest in the American fight for independence stemmed from France’s humiliating defeat during the Seven Years War (or French Indian War). The war lasted from 1754 to 1763 and the military costs induced British parliament to impose new regulations and taxes on the American colonists.
The British defeated the French, and France was smarting for vengeance. As early as 1776, France extended offers for the purchase of military supplies on terms of credit, and to provide arms to the American revolutionists.
When representatives of the 13 colonies were working on the declaration of independence, battles were already going on between colonists and the British. The war that followed was indeed the American Revolutionary War and, upon victory, the first US Congress was formed. But the revolutionists had the aid of several major world powers and France was fighting alongside for nearly 5 years.
Ironically, the cost of France’s involvement in the American revolution emptied the coffers of France itself. In an attempt to replenish the losses, France declared a series of reforms designed to eliminate the budget deficit by increasing the taxation of the privileged classes. Nobles and the clergy were virtually exempted from France’s taxation system. Unable to fill the gaps, France declared higher taxation on peasants, wage-earners, and business owners. This led to further strife among the lower classes.
In the royal and feudal vestige that remained in France, peasants encountered taxation that radically increased the burden of the poorest. They were required to pay consumption taxes such as the salt tax, land tax to the state, a 5% property tax, a tax on the number of people in the family. While the clergy remained exempt, peasants were required to pay 10% of their income or produce to the church as well as rent to their landlords in cash, a payment related to their annual amount of production, and taxes on the use of nobles’ mills, wine-presses and bakeries.
King Louis XVI attempts to tax the nobility was met with resistance from the upper classes. The rank and file were further angered.
The French revolution, like the USA, was motivated by high taxation. With many different ideas being bounced around from 1787 to 1789. By 1788, ill weather causes harvests to fail and starvation stalks France. The peasantry start revolt across the country. By 1789, Women lead delegation to King in Versailles demanding bread. After scuffles, they are fobbed off by the King. Political legislative assemblies fail and the King is dethroned and executed by 1793, followed by Marie Antoinette several months later.
By Spring 1794, remaining royals are executed and toward the end of 1794, under Robespierre, even some poor were executed. By July 1794, Robespierre is executed. By 1795, remaining royalists attempt a coup and Napoleon Bonaparte makes his name suppressing the move with grapeshot.
The start of the French Revolutionary War is regarded when armed citizens storm and capture the Bastille. It was symbolic. The revolution would continue at least another 5 years.
A decade after the US revolution, France was on its way to be a new republic. As Dickens wrote, “It was the best of times and the worst of times.” Taxes waved a revolutionary war. Monarchs remained solid in Europe for another century but they would be gone soon after.
Essentially, the US revolutionary war and the France revolutionary war were based on taxes. One was against an external king and the other was against an internal one. USA waged a declaration of independence followed by a constitution. France trailed a different path. What would have happened if France didn’t form an alliance with our revolution?
Ironically, while Napoleon was dominating Europe, Britain made aggressive moves in the United States for greater trade opportunities from 1811 to 1812 – the USA War of 1812 , declared by President James Madison in June, 1812. Interestingly, France (and French pirates) came to the aid of the United States again.
From era to era, countries seek economic strength through trade and wealth. Oppressed poverty and lack of resources often fuel revolutions and revolutionary war. It may be a cycle that continues from those early biblical documented wars. Revolutionary war continued in the age of empires and there were many revolutions within. Taxes and oppression always fueled conflicts and wars. Wars are expensive and can topple the governments that promote those tactics. Yet, many countries continue to wage large and local revolutionary wars.
Any and every war has victors and victims. Wars breed profits and losses. It seems that wars continue to seek victories despite the costs. The incidence of war make peace more of an idyllic ideal. Each year, US celebrates July 4 and France celebrates July 14 as symbols of independence.
In 1870, the United States made July 4 a federal holiday. While celebrating the great document of the US declaration of independence, every July 4, we must appreciate all those revolutions, those valiant soldiers and thinkers who fought for our freedom. We must also remember the allies who helped preserve and enhance our ways of living.
Over 200 years ago, during a hot summer in Philadelphia, 56 unique and courageous men gathered at the Pennsylvania State House and defied the King of England with words. Eleven years later, representatives from 12 states gathered to shape the U.S. Constitution, finally creating one unified nation. The document that remains is a reminder of the dreams, thoughts, and fortitude that longed for freedoms as ideals.
Will people around the globe ever learn that wars breed new wars and result in economic drains? Perhaps not. Those fireworks celebrations are ways for all US citizens to remember and cherish the freedom principles that help make our country a guiding light and our diverse lifestyle opportunities that people envy. In awe, we are still a child growing in a complex world. July 4 reminds us that the costs were worth it.