The Age of Reason, as it was called, was spreading rapidly across Europe. In the late 17th century, scientists like Isaac Newton and writers like John Locke were challenging the old order.
Historians do not necessarily cut off historic periods strictly by dates, and the portion of the 18th century known as the Age of Reason generally refers to the period from through The year saw the beginning of the French Revolution.
Dates aside, the Age of Reason was an age of extraordinary intellectual ferment. The scientific revolution, which had begun approximately a century earlier, transformed the way people looked at problems, not only in the realm of science, but in the general realm of public affairs.
The principle behind the Age of Reason was that through the application of human intellect, reasonable decisions could be made about how people and nations were to conduct their business.
Societies could be restructured for the betterment of all citizens through rational application of ideas. Many figures associated with Enlightenment thought have been regarded as influences on American thinking between and Many American historians, however, have found the origins of the American Enlightenment in the thinking of Roger Williams.
Most Americans students of history first encounter Roger Williams as his differences with the Puritan leaders of Massachusetts led to his being banished from the colony. He was a deeply religious man, and discussions of his contributions to American culture have tended to lean toward the theological.
Williams, however, was most of all a political philosopher, and as such is thinking belongs in the discussion of American Enlightenment thought.
He has been described as being the most Christian of Christians, a man who devoted his entire life to following the path of Jesus Christ. He insisted upon absolute adherence to the principles laid down by Christ and the board those practices which he felt contradicted the lessons of Scripture.
He was not content with the approach of Puritans who remain within the fold of the Anglican church and attempted to reform from within. Rather, he was a separatist, believing that to associate with those who did not reject Anglicanism out right was tantamount to trafficking with Satan.
While he approved the separation of the Anglican church from Rome, he nevertheless a board what were commonly referred to as remnants of potpourri, the residual influences of Roman Catholicism upon the practice of Protestant faiths.
He would have none of that; the only way, the only path he could follow, was one of his own choosing. His most important contribution to American thought is generally regarded as is advocating of the separation of church and state.
In his writings he carefully detailed the roles of the church and the state and how they occupied separate realms.
Churches functioned within the state but were no more an integral part of the state than were corporations organized to conduct business. Whatever happened within the structure of a church should have nothing to do with the business of the state. Conversely, the state should have no right to interfere with the business of the church, or with the practices of individuals in their relationship to the divine.
He believed strongly that people of all faiths — Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or faiths practiced by Indians — should be allowed to follow their own consciences without any outside interference whatsoever. Related to his poor belief about the absolute freedom of people to practice religion as they sought was his belief in the equality of all beings.
He rejected outright the divine right of kings to rule and advocated a system of government in which the people were sovereign. He was a Democrat long before the idea of democracy could pass muster among the political thinkers of the time. He was a proto-Republican before the idea of Republicanism was developed in the context of the American and French revolutions.
In that regard he was truly a man ahead of his time, and enlightened thinker who lived a century ahead of the time when ideas such as his would become acceptable if not commonplace. Thus the American Enlightenment was influenced strongly by the ideas developed in the salons of Paris, Berlin and London and adhered to in limited fashion by the so-called enlightened despots of that age: But the American Enlightenment took the ideas of the European political thinkers and shape them through the American experience, which in its own way had generated a new kind of politics.
A nation in which individualism, self-reliance, and freedom from tight government control were normal, enlightened political thought such as Republicanism found fertile ground in which to develop.
The period known as the European Enlightenment was also known as the Age of Reason, a time when the full scope of human existence was carefully examined, with an eye toward trying to perfect human society as much as possible. Encompassing the years tothe enlightenment was probably as important in America as was in Europe.
In that age of classical thinking the European philosophers studied with great zeal the institutions of modern government with the same intensity with which scientists such as Newton had probed the mysteries of the universe and the worlds of physics and mathematics. Thomas Paine, who authored Common Sense, a reasoned argument for American independence, later wrote: You will do me the justice to remember, that I have always strenuously supported the Right of every Man to his own opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine.
He who denies to another this right, makes a slave of himself to his present opinion, because he precludes himself the right of changing it. The most formidable weapon against errors of every kind is Reason.America had its own figures of the Enlightenment to be sure, most prominently among them being Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, to name a few.
Many American historians, however, have found the origins of the American Enlightenment in the thinking of Roger Williams. The American Enlightenment was influenced by the 17th-century European Enlightenment and its own native American philosophy.
According to James MacGregor Burns, the spirit of the American Enlightenment was to give Enlightenment ideals a practical, useful form in . The ideals of the Enlightenment had a major impact on the colonists and the founding fathers of the United States used many of these ideas in their new government.
Major elements of our democracy, such as “separation of powers” and “checks and balances” came from Enlightenment writers like Hobbes, Locke, Montesquieu, and Voltaire.
Aug 29, · Watch video · The American and French Revolutions were directly inspired by Enlightenment ideals and respectively marked the peak of its influence and the beginning of its decline. The Enlightenment ultimately. In America, intellectuals were reading these ideas as well.
On their side of the Atlantic, Enlightened ideas of liberty and progress had a chance to flourish without the shackles of Old Europe. Religious leaders began to change their old dogmatic positions. The Enlightenment in Colonial America The Enlightenment actually began in Europe and it reached colonial America more than a century later.
In Europe, the Enlightenment was responsible for inspiring revived interests in education, science and literature.