Enlightenment Influences on American Ideals Essay

Enlightenment Influences on American Ideals Essay

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By the late eighteenth century, the Enlightenment, or the Age of Reason as it was called had begun to rapidly spread across Europe. People began believing in the ideals of popular government, the centrality of economics to politics, secularism, and progress. This cultural movement was sparked by intellectuals and commonwealth thinkers such as the influential writer John Locke and the famous scientist Isaac Newton, both who emphasized the fact that man, by the use of reason, would be able to solve all of his problems-whether it be problems with the government, morals or the society. However, these ideals weren’t just limited to the European nations where they had first begun. On the other side of the world, off in the United States, American intellectuals began to reason with these ideas as well. As a result, the influence on the profound of modern economic and political thought had a huge impact on the United States, resulting in one of the most important documents in known in American history; the Constitution.
John Locke, one of the leading philosophers of the European Enlightenment was very important when it came to political thought in the United States. His ideas of the reasons, nature, and limits of the government became especially important in the development of the Constitution. In one of his most famous writings of that time, Two Treatises on Government (1689), Locke established a theory where personal liberty could coexist with political power ; meaning that the people would agree to obey the government and in return, the government would have the responsibility of respecting the people’s natural rights. In other words, he laid out a social contract theory that provided the philosophy and source of a governing author...


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...e centrality of economics to politics, secularism, and progress played a very important part in the formation of the United States Constitution. With such commonwealth thinkers such as Locke, Montesquieu and Rousseau, the Fathers of the Constitution were able to establish the supreme law of the land. Using the ideals of these enlightenment thinkers, they were able to describe the organization of the government and its relationship with the states and its citizens. The Enlightenment period, and more importantly the philosophies of the thinkers of this time, pretty much changed the entire world viewed everything in the 17th and 18th centuries. For our purposes, it was most important because it set the tone for what citizens go by today; there is still a separation of power, natural rights, and the citizens can live peacefully knowing that there is no supreme ruler.

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