John Adams and Thomas Jefferson are most notable for their contributions to the American revolutionary cause. Both of them worked to advance the Revolution. What is not as widely discussed is their influence in the discussion on the French Revolution in the United States of America. If the topic is discussed, it is narrowly defined by historians by the political party identities the two men would form – John Adams as a Federalist and Thomas Jefferson as a Democratic Republican. In this narrative, these two opposing political identities, logically, leads to opposing views on the French Revolution. However, there is much more to the story than that.
The letters and works written by John Adams and Thomas Jefferson illustrate a more nuanced view of the discussion surrounding the French Revolution in the United States of America. In particular, writings from the early years of the revolution are highly instructive in gaining insight into their perspective of what was occurring across the Atlantic. Neither of the two men fully lost their zeal of revolution. The ideals of freedom and liberty were no less powerful to them when looking toward France than they were when the colonies revolted against Great Britain. They also both recognized that violence was an unfortunate but inevitable part of revolution. Contrary to what may be assumed based upon political ideology, the only question that the two men truly differed on is how the French Revolution should end.
Aubrey Kohl, ’17