This timeline aims to demonstrate the close personal, philosophical, and political relationship between French and American revolutionaries. It lists the individual actions and broader historical movements of both countries. This Timeline of the Revolutions is primarily intended for students of the the FIU Honors College France Study Abroad: Art, War, and Human Rights.
There are three main Enlightenment writers that were of great influence on the American Revolutionaries: Voltaire, Rousseau, and Montesquieu. Montesquieu is of particular importance, as Madison adapts Montesquieu’s Separation of Powers into the structure of the US government.
In the Federalist Papers, James Madison writes “One of the principal objections inculcated by the more respectable adversaries to the constitution, is its supposed violation of the political maxim, that the legislative, executive and judiciary departments ought to be separate and distinct. In the structure of the federal government, no regard, it is said, seems to have been paid to this essential precaution in favor of liberty. The several departments of power are distributed and blended in such a manner, as at once to destroy all symmetry and beauty of form; and to expose some of the essential parts of the edifice to the danger of being crushed by the disproportionate weight of other parts…The oracle who is always consulted and cited on this subject, is the celebrated Montesquieu. If he be not the author of this invaluable precept in the science of politics, he has the merit at least of displaying, and recommending it most effectually to the attention of mankind.”
04 JULY 1776
American Revolutionaries sign the Declaration of Independence.
03 DECEMBER 1777
Silas Deane, Benjamin Franklin, and Arthur Lee arrive in France as diplomats representing the American Revolutionaries
06 FEBRUARY 1778
France enters the American War of Independence against England
21 MARCH 1778
Louis XVI welcomes Silas Deane, Benjamin Franklin, and Arthur Lee at Versailles
17 OCTOBER 1781
American Revolutionaries, with their French allies, defeat the British at the Battle of Yorktown
18 JULY 1782
John Paul Jones dies in a residence near the Jardin du Luxembourg. Jones was the first American naval officer. “With this ungainly vessel, he captured the British frigate HMS Serapis in a battle at very close quarters on September 23, 1779, off the coast of Yorkshire. Jones’s ensign, the new Stars and Stripes, had been shot away, so the captain of the Serapis demanded if he had struck his colors in surrender. “Struck, sir?” Jones yelled. “I have not yet begun to fight!” Blue Lion Guides
03 SEPTEMBER 1783
Treaty of Paris, “signed on September 3, 1783, between the American colonies and Great Britain, ended the American Revolution and formally recognized the United States as an independent nation. The American War for Independence (1775-1783) was actually a world conflict, involving not only the United States and Great Britain, but also France, Spain, and the Netherlands. The peace process brought a nascent United States into the arena of international diplomacy, playing against the largest and most established powers on earth. The three American negotiators – John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and John Jay – proved themselves ready for the world stage, achieving many of the objectives sought by the new United States. Two crucial provisions of the treaty were British recognition of U.S. independence and the delineation of boundaries that would allow for American western expansion. The treaty is named for the city in which it was negotiated and signed. The last page bears the signatures of David Hartley, who represented Great Britain, and the three American negotiators, who signed their names in alphabetical order.” National Archives
Thomas Jefferson arrives in Paris
24 JANUARY 1789
Louis XVI convenes the General Estates. The First Estate is the Clergy. The Second Estate is the Nobility. The Third Estate is the rest of the population-nearly 95% of the people of France. Informally, a free press is called the Fourth Estate. The General Estates of France operate on a two thirds majority, despite the Third Estate representing 95% of the population. The system is inherently flawed as the entrenched powers of the Clergy and Nobility can veto resolution of reform presented by the Third Estate.
14 FEBRUARY 1789
George Washington is elected President of the USA and John Adam Vice-President
05 MAY 1789
The General Estates convene
20 JUNE 1789
The Third Estate take the Tennis Court Oath. “On 20 June 1789, the deputies of the Third Estate met there at the time of the Estates General, since the Menus-Plaisirs hotel, their usual meeting place, had been closed by order of the king. On that day, they took an oath not to separate until they had endowed France with a written constitution. This founding scene was immortalized by the painter Jacques-Louis David in a grand fresco, sadly unfinished, called The Tennis Court Oath, which joined the Palace collections in 1921.” Chateau de Versailles
14 JULY 1789
French Revolutionaries storm the Bastille
17 JULY 1789
“The people of Paris forced the prisons of St. Lazare, where they got some arms. On the 14th. they took the Invalids, and Bastille, and beheaded the Governor and Lt. Governor of the latter and the Prevost des marchands. The city committee is determined to embody 48,000 Bourgeois and named the Marquis de la Fayette commander in chief. The king hereupon went to the States general, and surrendered as it were at discretion and this day he and they have come in solemn procession to satisfy the city…I imagine that from 60. to 80,000 armed Bourgeois lined the streets through which he passed to day. A more dangerous scene of war I never saw in America, than what Paris has presented for 5. days past. This places the power of the States general absolutely out of the reach of attack, and they may be considered as having a carte blanche.” Letter from Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Paine
26 AUGUST 1789
Declaration of the Rights of Man. This is the most important document of the French Revolution, as it serves as the model for the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Jefferson leaves Paris to return to the USA
06 OCTOBER 1789
Revolutionary women march from Paris to Versailles. General La Fayette negotiates a peace wherein the Royal family will abandon the safety of Versailles and live in the heart of Paris in the Tuileries Palace. From this day forward Louis XVI is essentially under house arrest, never to return to Versailles.
19 MAY 1790
The French National Assembly abolishes the Nobility
12 JULY 1790
The French National Assembly adopts the Civil Constitution of the Clergy. This requires Clergy to swear allegiance to France.
20 JUNE 1791
Louis XVI attempts to flee to Belgium to join foreign troops that aim to end the Revolution. This is an act of treason. He is captured and returned to Paris.
14 AUGUST 1791
The Haitian Revolution begins. Toussaint Louverture leads a 10 year war of independence against the Spanish, then the British, and lastly France.
21 JANUARY 1793
Louis XVI is guillotined
13 FEBRUARY 1793
George Washington is re-elected President of the USA and John Adam Vice-President
16 OCTOBER 1793
Marie Antoinette is guillotined
28 DECEMBER 1793
Thomas Paine is arrested in Paris for treason.
04 FEBRUARY 1794
The National Convention of France abolishes slavery.
05 APRIL 1794
George Danton and Camille Desmoulins are guillotined
28 JULY 1794
Maximilien Robespierre is guillotined
08 FEBRUARY 1797
John Adams is elected President of the USA and Thomas Jefferson Vice-President
18 NOVEMBER 1799
Napoleon becomes First Consul, effectively head of the French State.
17 FEBRUARY 1801
Thomas Jefferson is elected President of the USA and John Adams Vice-President.
REFERENCES AND FURTHER READING
Deutsch, Lorant. Métronome : L’histoire de France au rythme du métro parisien. Michel Lafon, 2014.
Gray-Durant, Delia. Blue Guide Paris . Blue Guides, 2015.
Horne, Alistair. Seven Ages of Paris . Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2004.
King, Ross. The Judgment of Paris. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2006.
Norwich, John Julius. A History of France. Grove Atlantic, 2018.
Price, Roger. A Concise History of France (Cambridge Concise Histories). Cambridge University Press, 2014.
Steves, Rick; Smith, Steve; Openshaw, Gene. Rick Steves’ Paris 2014 . Avalon Travel, 2014
EDITOR AND LAST UPDATE
John William Bailly 30 June 2022
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