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Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin are Americans from the eighteenth century most influenced by the Enlightenment. Exemplifying the belief in the power of Reason, Jefferson wrote,
If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.
While the focus of the thinking of the Enlightenment was in the salons of Paris and Berlin, the practical application of the Age of Reason and its philosophies is to be found in the history of the American Colonies, where the full scope of human existence was examined.
You can see the thinking of the Age of Enlightenment if you study the Declaration of Independence as a very carefully crafted argument. There is clear and identifiable use of ethos, pathos and logos in the founding father's argument about why the colonies were declaring themselves sovereign from the rule of England. This was not a hasty or purely emotional letter to England. It is a document that is worth actually studying in its entirety for what it accomplishes in rhetorical argument.
One example of the enlightenment and understanding is in the formation of the democratic republic in the United States. They based the government on writings that were definitely advanced, including those of John Locke. The fact that this enlightened government still exists demonstrates that the seventeeth century was an age of understanding and enlightenment.
This makes sense to me. There were a lot of important thinkers and scientists who made major contributions to our understanding of the world. As some examples, think about the importance of the following people:
- Adam Smith
- Thomas Malthus
- Edward Jenner
- Leonhard Euler
These people and many others were major contributors to the way we modern people think about the world.
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