TheAge of Revolutions, the transformative period that helped to majorly define theend of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth centuries, was bothtelling and informative from both a global and an Atlantic World standpoint. TheAmerican, French, Haitian and Latin American Revolutions all share similaritiesand differences that simultaneously individualize each nation’s cry for changebut also dictate universal truths about the institution that is foreigndominion. The thematic realities that transcend these Atlantic Worldrevolutions were the inviting nature of the current international politicalclimate at the time, the growing distrust and general distaste for parentalmonarchical leadership, and the deep longing for sovereignty. All of theseconcepts help to explain how these Atlantic World revolutions were connectedyet at the same time individualistic in makeup as well.
Global politics that were inassociation with countries engrained in Atlantic World empires, set the stagefor the eminent fostering of revolutionary ideology. Furthermore, as politicaland economical decisions made by foreign empirical leadership, such asParliament in Britain, began to trickle down into every day colonial life(whether directly or indirectly), this instigated radical thoughts. The highestof examples of this notion was the grandiose political and economical falloutthat arose from the Seven Years’ War between European powers. The BritishEmpire, though enriched through the garnering of Northern American territoriesfrom the French in correspondence to the conclusion of the the Seven Years’War, was tapped economically as war always is a very expensive endeavor. Withthe parent company on the brink of bankruptcy, a logical avenue to raisecapital for the country was to increasingly levy taxes on its colonies as animmediate source of new funds. The levying of amplified taxes on North Americancolonists spurred radical conceptualization in the minds of these exactindividuals.
Another resulting consequence of the Seven Years’ War on BritishNorth America was the Royal Proclamation of 1763 which portrayed a sentimentthat British governance was more concerned with Native American appeasementthan the general well-being of the average colonist. Again, this is a greatexample of fallout from European politics paving the way for revolutionaryroots to engrain themselves. Now, aside from the North American effect from theSeven Years’ War, the political and economical conditions left in France ledtowards King Louis XVI calling Estates General. An institution, not brought tolife in over 150 years, had roots that spurred uneasiness among the Frenchmasses. Moreover, the Third Estate, comprised mostly by lower-class Frenchcitizens, became unhappy with the way in which they were being unrepresented.
FrenchParlement became a catalyst in instigating this unrest. Again, the Seven Years’War, a global European political battle, led to King Louis’ decision, which inturn backfired as the masses came to a greater understanding of where theystood in terms of representation in the country as a whole. Simon Bolivar, aneducated Spanish colonist of Creole decent, also took advantage of political unrestin Spain as he led his battle for independence in Venezuela against Spanishrule. This is yet another example of European powers being caught up itheightened global politics, opening the door for easier change to ensue. Governing over foreign nation statesis an endeavor that could easily be met with opposition if those being governedfeel the need to distrust leadership. This distrusting sentiment usually spawnsfrom unfair treatment of colonial subjects by parental rule.
This was a themeseen time and time again across the majority of Atlantic World empiricalopposition. In British North America, the Tea Act of 1773 laid the foundationof unfair treatment of colonists through a manipulation of the tea trade(creating monopolistic dominance with the British East India Company), whichwas a continuance of British Parliament’s reforms that were routinely condemnedby North American colonists. The perpetuation of dictated amendments to everyday colonial life by English rulers created unjust connotations that freedcolonists from loyalty to the parent. In France, the unjust deliverance oftreatment can again be conceptualized through the fallout from the EstatesGeneral in 1789. The Third Estate, unlike the First and Second Estate, continuallymaintained the burden of taxation. This created the response from the lowerclass French who felt the feelings of being treated unfairly. Leading to thecreation of the National Assembly, King Louis XVI and Parlement’s unreasonableactions spurred a longing for change. In the Haitian Revolution, unfair andunjust treatment was the most easily definable institution as it existed theform that was undue slavery.
Slavery in Haiti, witnessed through the brutalityin St. Dominque, gave individuals of color reasoning to long for a better life.A key understanding in the Haitian revolution was that the road map laid out bythe French Revolution became a thought for the white French elite living inHaiti. Haitians of color realized that life as it already was, was unbearable,to imagine plantation owners obtaining complete autonomy was an even scarierthought. This gave Haitian slaves a driving force behind their efforts ofrebellion. Longing for sovereignty may be themost prominent theme existent in the Age of Revolutions that spanned across theentire Atlantic World. Most of the theory behind this concept of becomingsovereign had to do with the underrepresentation witnessed by colonists in theface of decision making by monarchal and elitist leadership. Taxation played abig role in dictating this sentiment as well as other doctrines denounced uponcolonists that were met with dissenting emotions.
British North American andthe French lower class quickly took to action when a need for sovereignty hadreached its pinnacle when a combination of all the aforementioned came to fruition.For Haitians, witnessing the power of sovereignty and moreover, a realization thatsuch an endeavor was possible through seeing it in North America and France,spurred action. Simon Bolivar in Venezuela became entrenched in the ideals ofthe Enlightenment, which again pointed towards sovereignty from European ruleas a better living opportunity. Thomas Paine, an individual with heightenededucation, spelled out the need for independence in his book, Common Sense.
This book paved a higherpublic sentiment for sovereignty, not only in its nation of origin, NorthAmerica, but also in Latin America, where it was later adapted also as a proseto indulge in to provide public support of independence. The Age of Revolutions could be themost important period of time from a historical standpoint for the AtlanticWorld. It changed European empires and set the stage for other global fluctuations,such as the discussion of the abolition of slavery (something the HaitianRevolution was a key part of). All in all, each of the revolutions wereindividualistic in their own right but also shared similarities that paved theway for better life for many people.