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Did the Enlightenment Impact the American Revolution?

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Emilia Covaci

on 15 September 2016

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Transcript of Did the Enlightenment Impact the American Revolution?

Did the Enlightenment Impact the American Revolution?
American Revolution
It was a war that took place because the British colonies in America wanted to be independent from Britain.
It took place during the years of 1775 to 1783, and "it was fought primarily between Great Britain and revolutionaries within the 13 British colonies" (New World Encyclopedia).
The American Revolution occurred because The colonies weren't getting the representation that they wanted in the British government and Parliament.
Britain passed laws and taxes on the colonies without the consent of the colonies and without letting the colonies vote on the taxes. Some acts passed include the Stamp Act, Sugar Act, Tea Act, and the Intolerable Acts.
"Great Britain was passing these laws because of the French and Indian War, which had ended in 1763. That war, which had been fought in North America, left Great Britain with a huge debt that had to be paid" (Price).
Map of the Enlightenment Throughout Europe
A Common Theme: Freedom
Map of the American Revolution Throughout North America
Similarities can be seen in the beliefs and ideas of the people during the Enlightenment and American Revolution. The Enlightenment made many people not only use reason, but it also increased the belief in people's rights and freedoms and it promoted the idea of Democracy. The Enlightenment "helped create the intellectual framework not only for the American Revolutionary War and liberalism, democracy and capitalism but also the French Revolution, racism, nationalism, secularism, fascism, and communism" (New World Encyclopedia). The American Revolution revolved around the idea of Democracy and independence. People wanted to have a say in their government along with more rights and freedoms. Many people in the American Revolution, including famous figures, were inspired by the ideas of philosophers in the Enlightenment.
The Idea of Freedom
The Enlightenment focused on religious freedom, freedom of people to think by themselves and for themselves, and freedom of people to make their own choices through reason and logic. "Traditional hierarchical political and social orders ... the monarchy, the privileges of the ... nobility, the political power and authority of the Catholic Church were violently destroyed and replaced by a political and social order informed by the Enlightenment ideals of freedom and equality for all, founded, ostensibly, upon principles of human reason" (Bristow).
Freedom in the American Revolution involved freedom from a country that wasn't giving the colonies any real representation in Parliament and the freedom of people to make their own choices. People wanted the freedom to vote on important topics such as laws and taxes. Many people wanted to have human rights and liberties, so their idea of freedom was in the form of a democratic government.
Supporters of the ideas of the Enlightenment wanted independence from the church and nonfactual beliefs. People such as Voltaire waned the church to stop meddling in and controlling political issues. People wanted to use reason and factual evidence to solve issues and prove topics and theories rather than the common religious beliefs.
The American Revolution was all about independence from Britain. The colonists were unfairly treated, so they wanted to be free of Britain.
People of the Enlightenment believed in the idea of human rights which gave people independence because they were free and could think for themselves. The American Revolution also believed that people should have the right to make their decisions and to vote on topics.
John Locke's
Second Treatise on Government
influenced the Declaration of Independence because the text questioned the authority of the monarchy and discussed the rights of man. The Declaration of Independence was made in order to free America from a monarch and to give colonists more rights and the freedom to vote and represent themselves in their government.
Many of Voltaire's pamphlets emphasized the right to freedom of speech. These ideas influenced the Declaration of Independence because its writers demanded to have the freedoms of speech, press, and assembly.
Rousseau's book,
The Social Contract
, discussed the idea that people are born free, so they have freedoms and rights. His book influenced the Declaration of Independence because it enforced the idea that people have rights. It also inspired the Bill of Rights which focuses on the rights of the people, because the book focused heavily that all men are free and can therefore have liberties and the right to represent themselves rather than the government controlling everything.
People Inspired People
John Locke stressed the importance of natural rights, democracy, and the idea that the government is for the people. His ideas of liberty and rights for citizens influenced Thomas Jefferson when he wrote the Declaration of Independence. His ideas of natural rights and freedom also inspired George Madison when he helped make the Bill of rights.
Rousseau was credited for the "development of socialist and democratic theory, and the growth of nationalism" (New World Encyclopedia). His ideas of democracy inspired Madison who was a supporter of elections and public representation. They also inspired Andrew Jackson who used these ideas of Democracy to create the Democratic Party.
Thomas Paine was inspired by John Locke because he believed that people deserved to have rights and that Absolutism is not a good form of government. He was also inspired by Voltaire who believed in the freedom of speech, and Paine was a writer who wanted to freely express his thoughts and ideas through his writing.
A period in which people began to question everything, and a period that resulted in changes in science, art, politics, religion, philosophy, and the general way of thinking.
It took place in the years of 1685 to 1815 in Europe, but specifically in places like Italy, France, and Britain.
"The Enlightenment advocated reason as a means to establishing an authoritative system of aesthetics, ethics, government, and even religion, which would allow human beings to obtain objective truth about the whole of reality" (New World Encyclopedia).
People began to rely on facts and reason as they questioned the world around them.
"Enlightenment thinkers in Britain, in France and throughout Europe questioned traditional authority and embraced the notion that humanity could be improved through rational change" (History).
It lead to and inspired many scientific discoveries and inventions, new ideas on government and authority, and even wars and revolutions.
Important People
Important People
In both the Enlightenment and the American Revolution, there were positive and negative reactions to the new ideas.
Many philosophers and people of the general public believed in the ideas of reason, freedom, and natural rights during the Enlightenment. Likewise, patriots of the American Revolution believed in independence, liberty, citizen rights, and Democracy.
In both cases, the opposition to these ideas were the kings and queens, nobles, and some rich people. The lords and monarchs wanted to have most of the power, so the ideas of natural rights, Democracy, and independence threatened their rule. Merchants and people who relied on the monarchs such as Georgia opposed these ideas because they were fine with having less rights and representation as long as they could survive and make money.
Works Cited
Galileo Galilei contributed to improvements in astronomy.
Issac Newton created theories on light, gravity, motion, and calculus.
Thomas Hobbes made a social contract and "contributed to a diverse array of fields, including history, geometry, ethics, law, psychology general philosophy and what would now be called political science" (New World Encyclopedia).
John Locke made many political contributions such as introducing ideas of democracy and natural rights.
Voltaire was a writer who believed in natural laws, separation of church and state, and the freedom of speech, thought, and religion.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau made contributions to the ideas of democracy, socialism, and the belief that all humans are naturally good.
George Washington was the first president of America as well as a major general in the war.
Thomas Jefferson wrote most of the Declaration of Independence and believed in Democracy and the will of the people.
John Adams was the second U.S. president who saw the taxation without colonial representation as a form of oppression.
Benjamin Franklin was a scientist and inventor who helped draft the Declaration of Independence, and he was a strong believer in reason and Democracy.
Andrew Jackson was a supporter of individual liberty and a founder of the Democratic Party.
Thomas Paine a writer who inspired his readers to become Independent from Britain and to aim for a democratic government. He believed that people had rights, "opposed slavery and was among the earliest advocates of social security, universal free public education, a guaranteed minimum income, and other programs which are now common practice in many western nations" (New World Encyclopedia).
George Mason didn't want the federal government to have too much power, so he helped establish the Bill of Rights.
Yes, the Enlightenment impacted and inspired the American Revolution. The people, texts, events, and the mindset of supporters during the Enlightenment were used to support the patriots in choosing why to fight for their independence from Britain and the right to a democratic government.
Enlightenment Thinkers
Continental Congress
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