American Revolution

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The influence of Enlightenment ideas on the American Revolution

Summary:

The Enlightenment influenced the American Revolution by promoting ideas of liberty, equality, and democracy. Thinkers like John Locke argued for natural rights and government by consent, which inspired American colonists to challenge British rule and seek independence. These Enlightenment principles were foundational in shaping the Declaration of Independence and the new nation's political philosophy.

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How did Enlightenment ideas contribute to the American Revolution?

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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How did the American Revolution realize the ideas of the eighteenth century Enlightenment?

The Enlightenment was a time during which people came to believe that human actions and institutions should be based on things like reason and natural law and that people should strive for progress in all things.

The American Revolution was based on natural law.  It was based on the idea that all people (or all men, at least) have certain rights because of the fact that they are human.  It was based on reason in that it believed that there was no reason that a monarch should have the right to rule over other people.  It was based on the idea of progress because it was an attempt to change the world in ways that were seen as positive.

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