The Enlightenment Principles Of Rationalism And Universal Rights

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The Enlightenment period was a revolutionary time where scientific and rational thought became the chief values of society. Thinkers such as John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau were signposts of this era, inspiring populations locally and abroad. This revolution of ideas led to political and societal upheaval throughout the Western world. This essay will argue that the Enlightenment principles of rationalism and universal rights shaped modern Europe and North America through the rejection of absolutist government and the movement towards an equal society. The effect of these Enlightenment ideas is evident throughout the ‘Declaration of Independence’, written by Thomas Jefferson and the Congressional Congress in 1776. These same ideas…show more content…
Jacques Bossuet, a bishop in Louis XIV’s court, justified absolutism by proclaiming that Louis had been given ultimate authority from God. Additionally, the political theorist Thomas Hobbes (1688-1789) of England claimed that absolutism was the only form of government strong enough to quell the selfishness of the people and prevent war amongst them. These justifications seemed to fall short in the rising circulation of Enlightenment ideas. Eastern monarchs attempted to appeal to these ideas through denying the divine right to rule, however they ignored the philosophes’ cries to grant individual rights and equality for their people. Although Enlightenment principles were sometimes used by rulers to gain popularity, they instituted real change in British North America. ‘The Declaration of Independence’ clearly signified this change, as the influence of Enlightenment ideas is present within the text. The motivation of the Americans towards this revolution was initially to end heavy taxation and tyranny from the British. Britain had taxed the American colonies to finance their wars against the French. Hence, the phrase ‘No taxation without representation’ succinctly expressed the colonists’ demands. Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) reflected Enlightenment ideals through his radical belief in popular government, and that all people were born equal. The Enlightenment principle of
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