The Enlightenment in America

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How did the Enlightenment affect the colonists?

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The intellectual movement known as the Enlightenment encouraged people to think for themselves instead of blindly following authority, be it secular or religious. Each and every one of us in endowed with reason, so the thinkers of the Enlightenment argued, and we must draw upon that stock of reason in navigating our way through life's many hazardous highways and byways.

In relation to political life, reason must be used to construct enduring institutions that will provide us with suitable enlightened governance instead of the tyranny to which an unthinking adherence to custom and tradition often lead.

This was precisely what the American colonists sought to do. Steeped in Enlightenment thinking, they consciously set out to build a system of government on rational principles. Instead of blindly going along with the system that they'd inherited from the British, they embarked upon a deeply ambitious and unprecedented project of state-building that would incorporate enlightened ideals.


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