The ideas of the Enlightenment had a profound impact on the world. List and analyze the major concept developed and propagated by three major thinkers of the Enlightenment?  Accordingly, explain...

The ideas of the Enlightenment had a profound impact on the world. List and analyze the major concept developed and propagated by three major thinkers of the Enlightenment?  Accordingly, explain why the slaves' revolt at Saint-Domingue was the only slave revolution in history to succeed.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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One of the most dominant concepts of the Enlightenment time period was its affirmation of transforming being in the world.  The Enlightenment thinkers were radical because of their willingness to cast aside the traditional understanding of what was accepted as truth and offer an alternate vision grounded in rational thought.  This proposition was liberating because it directly sought to transform human constructs of power and envision what might be in a world where all individuals were treated with rationality and logical presuppositions:

Enlightenment was a desire for human affairs to be guided by rationality rather than by faith, superstition, or revelation; a belief in the power of human reason to change society and liberate the individual from the restraints of custom or arbitrary authority; all backed up by a world view increasingly validated by science rather than by religion or tradition.

Thinkers who were so associated with the Enlightenment period such as Voltaire, Rousseau, and Montesquieu affirmed such an idea.  They advocated and propagated a thought process that embraced the need to be guided by rationality. Voltaire affirmed a zealous defense of human rights because of its universality and applicability to all human beings. He saw individual rights as both a condition of rational thought that affirmed the equality of all in the face of faith and superstition.  Montesquieu advocated a political system of divided government through checks and balances precisely because of his fear of arbitrary authority.  The abuses of power were limited in Montesquieu's vision of government, allowing individuals to be liberated from tyranny.  Finally, Rousseau conceives of human society as one that flies in the face of tradition.  When Rousseau argues that "Man is born free, but lives in chains," he helps to evoke the idea that society is what causes the individual to move into a path of brutal banality.  In order to prevent such a condition, Rousseau argues that individuals must actively defy what society instructs and embrace a condition where individual realization exists on the subjective level.

When examining the reasons for success in the slave revolt of Saint- Domingue, one can many principles of the Enlightenment in action.  The leadership of Toussaint L'Ouverture featured many ideas of the Enlightenment that helped to galvanize the cause of resistance.  L'Ouverture called for an end to slavery.  This was Enlightenment in its very nature because of its appeal to a world view that repudiated tradition and actively sought universality in its approach.  At the same time, L'Ouverture called for a constitution that advocated freedom and autonomy, concepts so strongly associated with the Enlightenment time period.  The need to change society through human action became vitally important in the success of the Haitian Revolution.  Clarion calls for freedom and liberation proved to be very persuasive, and something that the French forces could not contain.  It is in this where one can see how the Enlightenment ideals helped to distinguish such change as one of the only successful slave revolts.  

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