What was the Enlightenment, and what effect did it have on the colonies? 

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The Enlightenment was a period in Europe that saw a transition from religious and superstitious thought to the application of reason and observation to acquire knowledge. While the period started in the scientific realm, it quickly grew important in the area of politics and the issue of sovereignty.

The American colonists utilized principles of Enlightenment political thought to achieve their separation from England. Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the Declaration of Independence, was heavily influenced by John Locke. Locke was an English philosopher in the 17th Century that spoke of natural rights that no government can abridge. These rights included life, liberty, and property. Locke, Baron de Montesquieu, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau were all Enlightenment thinkers that advocated for popular sovereignty. The issue of popular sovereignty was paramount to the signators of the Declaration of Independence.

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