American Revolution

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How did Enlightenment ideas contribute to the American Revolution?

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Ideas from the Enlightenment contributed to the American Revolution in at least two ways. 

First, ideas from the Enlightenment helped to convince the American colonists that they ought to break free from Great Britain.  One of the major ideas of the Enlightenment was that people should not blindly follow certain ways of life simply because they were traditional.  Monarchy was one such way of life.  Enlightenment thinkers argued that there was no rational reason to think that the members of one family were destined by God to rule over all other people.  They argued, therefore, that people should not continue to accept monarchy just because that was the way things had always been done.

Second, ideas from the Enlightenment were used to justify the Revolution.  We can see this most clearly in the Declaration of Independence.  There, Jefferson uses the ideas of John Locke (an Enlightenment thinker).  Locke argued that human beings had innate rights and that the only reason to have government was to protect those rights.  This is exactly what Jefferson argues at the beginning of the Declaration of Independence. 

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