The series of worldwide revolutions that begun in 1770, included therein the French, American, Haitian and Latin American revolutions, were clearly radical events that changed existing political orders. With these movements, an increasing consciousness was demonstrated towards issues of human rights and freedoms, directed against a hegemonic class that was often represented in the forms of monarchies and aristocracies. However, these revolutions in another sense did nothing to end issues of slavery, exploitation and colonialism. In this regard, it can be concluded that the revolutions signify a glass “half empty” as opposed to “half full”: the appeal to Enlightenment ideas of freedom and rights were not realized in a universal manner, as was their promise.

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The historical reasons why this interpretation may be correct lies in the fact that such revolutions were movements directed against existing hegemonies, such as the French aristocracy and the British monarchy. From this perspective, the revolutions are instead instances of attempting to seize political power and a certain self-determination, as in the case of the United States, which, for example, did not abolish slavery as a result of the successes in the revolution.

Clearly, this interpretation does not hold when considering all the revolutions listed above: for example, the Haitian revolution was fully intended to abolish slavery in Haiti. Here was a clearly universal movement where the rights of man were defended on a most fundamental level: the right to be considered a human being.

For this reason, it is difficult to classify all these revolutions under a singular banner. Nevertheless, when taking their overall historical legacy as a whole, it is difficult to defend the position that universal rights and freedoms were the clear aim of these political projects, since the subsequent historical events – such as the brutal genocide of the Native Americans and the enslavement of Africans in the U.S. – clearly indicate.