The Enlightenment was important in determining almost every aspect of colonial America, in terms of politics, government, and religion. Without the ideas and figures of the Enlightenment, the United States would have been drastically different since these ideas shaped what America is today. Many of the core ideas of the Enlightenment were the basis for the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Concepts such as freedom from oppression, natural rights, and new governmental structure came from Enlightenment philosophers such as Locke, Montesquieu, Rousseau, and Voltaire. All aspects of life, even religion, were affected by the Enlightenment and many key figures from American history such as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were greatly influenced by the movement.
The American Revolution and many of the events to follow was the climax of many of the ideas of the Enlightenment. The Revolution came about after colonists were forced to pay unfair taxes by the British government, who needed the colonists to pay for the French and Indian War. Using the Enlightenment principles of freedom and reason, the colonists declared these taxes unfair and stood up against oppression. These early Americans wished to have their own government that was based on Enlightenment principles and soon the revolution occurred. Locke’s principle of natural rights for all of mankind was being violated by British oppression and it became necessary to draft a government and code that guaranteed everyone natural rights under law.
One of the first steps in the formation of the United States that was based upon Enlightenment ideas was the creation of the Declaration of Independence. This sought out to promise personal freedom to all citizens in a new form of government, one that was based on the people’s right to have a say in their government. As the country moved toward the drafting of the Constitution, the ideas of several Enlightenment philosophers shaped the direction American political leaders too. For an example, Montesquieu’s idea about the balance of power between three branches of government was used just as Rousseau’s ideas about the power of democracy and consent of the people were in the formation of the new government.
Key figures in the founding of the United States such as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were greatly influenced by the ideas of