During the Age of Enlightenment, English philosopher John Locke first thought of the idea of the social contract. Jean-Jaques Rousseau further developed and established this ideology. This theory argues that people need a form of government to protect certain unalienable freedoms and rights people receive at birth. However, in exchange, people must give up some of their rights in order to secure the protection of their government. Moreover, if said government decides to abuse the power the people consented to give, then the people hold the right to overthrow this tyrannical government and establish a new social contract with a government that will carry out the will of the people. 

Throughout history, revolutions took place, as the leaders of these revolts believed the previous government became oppressive. The two most famous instances of this would be the American and French Revolutions. Both took place in the late eighteenth century and were against a powerful monarch that lived lavish lifestyles that taxed poorer populations. 

There were key differences between each of these revolutions. Three thousand miles separated the American colonies from Britain, but the French peasants were forced to fight on the same turf as the monarchs. The aftermath of these revolutions was extremely different. Americans fell into some financial hardship trying to figure out their new form of government but ultimately found their stride with a new democratic approach without too much death, other Shays’ Rebellion. Conversely, France fell into a dark ten-month period of constant bloodshed called the Reign of Terror. During this time, sixteen thousand people were executed. 

A lesser-known revolution that also occurred in the late eighteenth century is the Haitian Revolution. The island of Saint-Domingue, now known as Haiti, was a French colony before it gained independence. The series of slave revolts resulted from France’s very own revolution that declared “liberty, equality, and liberty”, but these basic rights apparently did not apply to the enslaved people in France’s colonies. Haiti is now the only nation to ever be created by a slave revolt. 

Revolutions take place because of injustices. Even though the average American doesn’t think or hear about revolutions taking place in this day and age, protests, rebellions, and revolts take place all the time. Violence and injustice happen every day, so perhaps globally a social and cultural revolution is in need. 

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