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The Influence Of The American Revolution And The Enlightenment

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Neither the United States Constitution, nor the Declaration of Independence, were written in an ideological vacuum. Rather, the ideas expressed by the various philosophers during the century and leading up to the American Revolution had tremendous influence over the Founders of the United States. These ideas came together in the creation of the U.S. constitution, working in tandem to lay the foundation for the way the government should be structured, as well as the core philosophy behind the country.
The Enlightenment, also called the Age of Reason, influenced the rest of the world during the late eighteenth century. There were several revolutions taking place at this time, but the American Revolution was at the forefront of them all. The
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The Declaration of Independence was far from the only product of Enlightenment philosophers. In addition, the very structure of the United States government was heavily influenced by Jean Jacques Rousseau’s idea of the social contract. In summary, the government has a contract with its people, also known as the general will of the people, in which all voters have a voice in regards to what they think should stay, improve, or be done away with entirely. In his book, The Social Contract, Rousseau also popularized the concept of state governments having control over their affairs from the federal government.
Montesquieu's concept of a government having three separate branches that each keep the other in check also made its way into the Constitution. The government was to be divided in a way that prevented any one person or group from holding significantly more power over the nation. The first and most prominent amendment of the Constitution is freedom of speech and religion, taken from the Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire, who was most noted for his support of free speech and tolerance.
In addition to America's Founding Fathers, Thomas Paine was another man greatly influenced by Enlightenment ideals, and eagerly published a pamphlet in hopes of spreading support for a revolution. With more than 120,000 copies published by May 1776, Paine’s Common Sense convinced a majority of colonists that independence from Britain
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