French and American Relationship During The French Revolution
Based off Joyce Appleby’s, “A Vision of Classlessness."
Analysis of the relationship between the new-born America and the French during the French Revolution.
1. At the beginning of the reading, Appleby argues that the execution of Louis XV (of France) in 1793 and the outbreak of war between France and England “changed American society from a previous view of government.
The view of government held during Washington’s first term was fairly conservative, to “remove politics from popular influence and restore the august majesty of government” (54). After the execution of Louis XVI and the war, the common people of America started to debate politics. The major reason for this was that the French Revolution supported beliefs held by the American people; as a result many of them supported the French. However, Washington and Congress agreed to remain neutral during this time, refusing to join the war at all costs. Not understanding the reasons behind this move, the common people felt it was a betrayal of everything they had fought for, and many public demonstrations were held in support of the French cause along with criticism of the policies of the government. These demonstrations along with the quickly expanding newspaper industry and rise in literacy dragged the people of the nation into political debates.
2. Appleby argues that Jay’s Treaty and Washington’s handling of the Whiskey Rebellion were two “critical junctures in 1794…the enraged large segments of the American public and swept politics out of Congress and into the cities and town.”
Appleby is saying that the two events, of Jay’s Treaty and Washington’s reaction to the Whiskey Rebellion were a major factor in bringing the common people to debate politics, not the Senators and Representatives. To suppress the Whiskey Rebellion, Washington led a militia force against the farmers, a rebellion that quickly collapsed without blood spilt, however once again called the attention of the people to their voice in politics. “Certain self-created societies” as Washington called them, debated over “the true principles of government” (64). In response to this the people debated over the right giver in the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights, particularly the freedom of speech.
The blame was quickly placed on the class separation, particularly the new “aristocratic faction” (65). To add oil to the fire, the terms of Jay’s Treaty were soon exposed after a leak to an editor. The concessions made by Britain seemed “nothing less than a sell-out to the Republicans” (68). The people viewed it as the Federalists “pretensions of social superiority” (68).
4. Appleby writes on page 58 that the 1790s witnessed a debate over “fundamental question about human nature and societal norms” between the two emerging groups (Republican and Federalist).
The debate between the Federalists and the Republicans was essentially the debate between liberty and order. The Federalists believed in order, and felt that the passions of the people would only undermine order created by some institution, in this case the government. They also believed in the “societal norms” particularly class separation how the rich were politically superior over the poor (59). These beliefs were common as shown by the direct way these views were presented. The Republicans rather believed in liberty. Not to say that the Federalists didn’t, but the Republicans had a much broader view of liberty. They questioned the hierarchy in the classes set in society, examining them in depth, challenging the Federalists in a debate completely new to the world.
3. Appleby writes on page 73 that what concerned many people in the 1790s was not fear that titles of nobility would be introduced, but rather the “Federalist expectation” that the new government would be organized and run “within the old assumptions of a politically active elite and a deferential, compliant electorate.”
The meaning of this statement was that the Federalists had expected the new government in America to be like the old: where only the upper class dealt with politics while the lower class remained respectfully obedient to the decisions made, even though they were the ones who were voting. The issue, Appleby argues, is the difference in class. While the Federalists could accept “gentlemen” discussing politics, they could not accept the “ordinary men” jumping into politics, for then It was quickly changed into “a noisy public quarrel” (73). Also the participation in politics could not be extended without changing the character of the government. While Washington had hoped that his reputation would stop the common people for long enough that they saw the danger in self-created societies, the Republicans were undeterred, bringing the argument to the newspapers, allowing them to forge the “new concept of the meaning of popular sovereignty” (74). And to it came to pass the prediction of repression made by the Republicans came to be fulfilled. Federalists passed laws of sedition, not wiling to abide by the freedom of speech, which lead to people being jailed while trying to prove the truth in their words.