Mackenzie VernonProfessor Kathy KennedyHistory 1301 4 January 2018Word Count: The Enlightenment The Enlightenment, which is also known as the Age of Reason, took place from 1685 to 1815. According to Dictionary.com, “the Enlightenment, a philosophical movement of the 18th century, characterized by belief in the power of human reason and by innovations in political, religious, and educational doctrine.
” The Enlightenment took place in three different periods of time. The Early Enlightenment, The High Enlightenment, and lastly was The Late Enlightenment and Beyond. “The Enlightenment produced numerous books, essays, inventions, scientific discoveries, laws, wars and revolutions.” (History.com Staff, 2009) Many saw the Enlightenment as a positive reinforcer for America and couldn’t wait to see the outcome. The Early Enlightenment took place from 1685 to 1730. This era of Enlightenment included many important figures such as, Thomas Hobbes, Rene Descartes and Francis Bacon.
The two most important figures were, Isaac Newton and John Locke. History.com states that these two, “provided the scientific, mathematical and philosophical tool kit for the Enlightenment’s major advances.
” (History.com Staff, 2009) Had these two not created the scientific or mathematical tool kits, the world probably wouldn’t be where it is today. Rene Descartes was also very important during this era. He believed “all human knowledge (not only knowledge of the material world through the senses) depends on metaphysical knowledge of God.” (Bristow, 2017) Due to this belief, Rene Descartes contributed to the development of natural sciences.
This era contributed to not only human progress, but an advancement in everyday knowledge.The second period of time is known as The High Enlightenment. This period ran from 1730 to 1780 and contained many figures that contributed to human advancement. French Philosophies, Montesquieu, Diderot, Voltaire, Buffon, and Rousseau were the major contributors. Voltaire and Diderot, are the ones who made the biggest impact. Voltaire’s summary of “Philosophical Dictionary” describes this era as “a chaos of clear ideas.” (History.com Staff, 2009) Diderot then published “Encyclopédie” (1751-77), which brought together leading authors to produce an ambitious compilation of human knowledge.
” (History.com Staff, 2009) These two authors together, soon assembled new ideas for human knowledge. Also during this time frame, “Thomas Jefferson, whose “Declaration of Independence” (1776) framed the American Revolution” (History.com Staff, 2009) This era was also known for its religious or anti-religious foundation. Shortly after, newspapers and coffeehouses were built so new ideas could disperse freely. I believe that this era was the one with the most impact on America, because of The Declaration of Independence being published and also all the new ideas for human advancement developed here.
The last period of Enlightenment is known as The Late Enlightenment and Beyond, which lasted from 1780 to 1815. During this time, the French Revolution of 1789 became the climax. It led to a vicious “bloody terror that showed the limits of its own ideas and led, a decade later, to the rise of Napoleon.” (History.
com Staff, 2009) The French Revolution started out with great intentions with the Enlightenment but soon went down hill. While the Enlightenment was full of advancements and life lessons, it eventually had to come to an end, but it also led to greater things, “The Enlightenment ultimately gave way to 19th-century Romanticism.” (History.com Staff, 2009) The Enlightenment is what influenced the United States into what it is today. Imagine what the world would be like today if we hadn’t gone through the Enlightenment era. “The Enlightenment was crucial in determining almost every aspect of colonial America, most notably in terms of politics, government, and religion.
” (Smith, 2011) These ideas are what brought The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution to The United States. The Declaration of Independence “sought to promise personal freedom to all citizens and this was to be guaranteed by means of a new form of government, one that was based on the people’s right to have a say in their government.” (Smith, 2011) Author of The Declaration of Independence, “Thomas Jefferson was greatly influenced by the ideas of the Enlightenment which meant that the country was as well. Jefferson was a perfect man of the Enlightenment as he was both classically educated and trained in the humanities as well as very practical and empirical.
” (Smith, 2011) Without Thomas Jefferson, we wouldn’t have the government structure we currently have today. Religion was also a major factor throughout the Enlightenment. Roger Williams, “was most of all a political philosopher, and as such his 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.” (Sage, 2012) Williams major belief was that Church and State should be separated.
He believed that Churches should be able to function alone without the state interrupting. Roger states, “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.” (Sage, 2012) He solemnly believes that people should be able to freely practice whatever religion they want and to be able to join a church of their choice.
Roger Williams is the reason that we can freely choose our religion and church of our choice instead of just being placed into one by the state. “The Enlightenment was important to America because it provided the philosophical basis of the American Revolution” (Sage, 2012) This Revolution provided us with the structure and organization we use today in government. “Jefferson wrote: If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.
” (Sage, 2012) Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, are seen as the two individuals, “considered to be the Americans most touched by the ideas of the Enlightenment.” (Sage, 2012). The Enlightenment brought in new knowledge and excitement. Also, many new jobs and cities were also created. Due to all these major economic changes, people were excited about the freedom they received. I firmly believe that if America hadn’t gone through this era, we wouldn’t be near as smart and know the things we know today. We should all be forever thankful that we had these intelligent individuals that shaped the world into what it has become today.
Work CitedHistory.com Staff. “Enlightenment.” History.com, A Television Networks, 2009, www.history.com/topics/enlightenment. “Enlightenment.
” Dictionary.com, Dictionary.com, www.dictionary.com/browse/enlightenment?s=t. Bristow, William, “Enlightenment”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2017 Edition), Edward N.
Zalta (ed.), URL =
“The Enlightenment in America.” The Enlightenment in America, 2012, sageamericanhistory.net/colonies_empire/topics/enlighten.htm Smith, Nicole. “The Influence of the Enlightenment on The Formation of the United States.
“Article Myriad, 2012, www.articlemyriad.com/influence-enlightenment-formation-united-states/.