"It is indeed true that our Revolution was strikingly unlike that of France, and that most of those who originated it had no other than political programme." The American and French Revolutions were both bourgeois revolutions fought under the banner of the "rights of man"-individual liberty, equality before the law, opposition to tyrannical government.Yet these upheavals were very different from one another.The Great French Revolution of 1789-1793 was the most radical of the bourgeois revolutions.What happened in France was a radical social revolution.What happened in the America of Washington and Jefferson was not because of the hypocrisy of the chattel slavery system that remained intact after the American Revolution.France underwent a massive downward redistribution of wealth and a radical change in class structure.Not so in America.
How is it that the democratic principles inscribed in the Declaration of Independence were written by a slaveholder?The basic underlying cause of the War of Independence was the increasing conflict of economic interests between the propertied classes in the American colonies-Southern plantation owners and Northern merchant-traders-and Britain's ruling circles.In order to mobilize the mass of the white populace-small farmers, artisans and shopkeepers-to risk their lives and livelihoods in going to war against Britain, the wealthy colonial elite had to tell them that all men, having been created equal, were entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
At the level of practical politics, black chattel slavery made the democratic enfranchisement of white farmers and artisans in the early American republic less economically threatening to the Southern ruling class.Liberal planters like Jefferson could advocate extending voting rights to most white males since their own labor force, on which their wealth and social power depended, was made up entir…