How Were Enlightenment Ideas Reflected in American Colonial Society and the Establishment of the United States?
During the 18th century, a new era swept the world by storm. This era is know as the Enlightenment or sometimes known as The Age of Reason. Some of the people associated with the Enlightenment are Baron De Montesquieu, Voltaire, and John Locke. Some of the ideas related to the Enlightenment are limited government, freedom of speech, natural rights, and Separation of powers. Enlightenment ideas reflected in American colonial society in many ways which will further be explained in the following paragraphs. John Locke’s Enlightenment ideas were very influential to America.
Locke believed in natural rights which are life, liberty, and property. Thomas Jefferson stated “All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. ” Locke also believed in a limited government. If a government was to fail its duties or was to violate natural rights, the people had the right to get rid of the government. That reflected on America because America has the right to impeach a president. Baron De Montesquieu published a book called The Spirit of the Laws.
Montesquieu believed in democracy which is a government for the people by the people. Democracy is the government the United States has been using since they gained their independence. Montesquieu also believed in separation of powers and checks and balances. The United States government uses these systems today so that no one person gains too much control. In current U. S. government the three branches that separate the powers are the Legislative Branch (congress), the Executive Branch (President), and the Judicial Branch (Supreme Court). Voltaire believed in a little thing called freedom of speech.
He thought that people should have the right to say what they thought (even though sometimes it can leave you in sticky situations). Freedom of speech ended up in the 1st amendment in the United States constitution. Another thing that America adapted was the idea of popular sovereignty which is closely associated with the Social Contract idea from Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. The Social Contract implies that the people give up sovereignty to a government or other authority in order to receive or maintain social order through the rule of law.
Popular Sovereignty however is the belief that the legitimacy of the state is created by the will or consent of its people, who are the source of all political power. Many Enlightenment ideas were used to form the American government and society. The ideas came from people such as Voltaire, Thomas Hobbes, and John Locke just to name a few. If it wasn’t for these great thinkers and their ideas the United States government would not be as productive as it is today. American Colonial society and establishment reflected Enlightenment ideas such as the Social Contract, separation of powers, and limited government.