In the latter part of the 17th century, scientists such as ISAAC NEWTON and authors such as JOHN LOCKE began to question the established norms.
The universe was defined by Newton’s principles of gravity and motion in terms of natural laws as opposed to the influence of any supernatural element.
In the midst of political upheaval in England, Locke declared the right of a people to replace a government that did not respect natural rights like as life, liberty, and property. This assertion came in the wake of Locke’s belief that a people had the right to alter a government.
People were starting to question whether or not there was a God who could foreordain human people to an eternity of damnation and provide absolute authority to a despot for a monarch. These concepts would radically alter Europe for all of time.
In the United States of America, intellectuals were also reading about these concepts. On their side of the Atlantic, free from the constraints of old Europe, enlightened notions of liberty and development had the opportunity to blossom. The dogmatic viewpoints held by religious leaders started to shift as time went on.
They started putting more of an emphasis on the parallels between the Puritan Congregationalists and the Anglican Church rather than the contrasts between the two groups. Even COTTON MATHER, the preacher in Massachusetts who wrote and talked so strongly about the presence of witches, favoured the use of science to immunise individuals against smallpox.
He believed that vaccination was the best way to prevent the disease. As a result of the extreme liberalism of Harvard clergy, Yale College was established in New Haven in 1707 in an effort to preserve traditional Calvinist thought.
This endeavour was unsuccessful, and in 1722, all of the faculty members, with the exception of one, switched to the Church of England. By the end of the century, a significant number of clergy in New England would convert to Unitarianism, casting doubt on even the divine nature of Christ.
The political sentiments of people were also influenced by new ideas. John Locke advocated for the overthrow of a ruler who would not safeguard the lives, freedoms, and property of the English people. This view led to the English Revolution.
According to JEAN-JACQUES ROUSSEAU, the “general will” of the people ought to be the determining factor in how a society is governed. The philosopher BARON DE MONTESQUIEU asserted that authority should not be vested in the hands of any one person.
He advocated for the separation of powers between the legislative, executive, and judicial departments of the government. These ideas started to seep into the American intellectual community. These are some of the justifications that were made by the delegates that proclaimed independence from Britain.
The concepts of John Locke are implemented in their entirety throughout the opening paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson. The values of the Enlightenment are reflected in the founding documents of our early states as well as the United States Constitution. Benjamin Franklin’s works helped to disseminate many of the Enlightenment’s most influential concepts to the general public.
Superstition, an angry God, and complete and utter deference to those in charge were the defining characteristics of the previous way of life. A fresh style of thinking was brought in by the philosophers who lived during the Age of Reason. This innovative approach highlighted the significant achievements of humans.
People did not had to give in to their feelings of hopelessness. Science and reason have the potential to bring about enjoyment and upward movement. Kings did not reign by divine right. They owed something to the people under their control. Nearly a century was spent by Europeans considering the repercussions of the event. The Americans were the first to put them into use.
One of the ways in which the concepts of the Enlightenment influenced the political thinking of Europeans in the time following 1750 was the manner in which individuals started speaking out against the church and their monarchs.
The ideals of the Enlightenment, such as John Locke’s inherent rights, inspired people to want that kind of structure for their governments. Additionally, they desired a voice in the decision-making process of their governments.
When people realised how vital it was to have a voice in democratic decision-making, they began to challenge the authority of their monarchs and churches in order to secure these rights.
The West underwent a period of political modernisation thanks to the Enlightenment, which is characterised by a concentration on democratic principles and institutions as well as the development of contemporary liberal democracies.
Thinkers of the Enlightenment aimed to limit the influence of organised religion in politics in order to forestall the onset of yet another period marked by intolerance and religious strife.
The Enlightenment was instrumental in putting a stop to the abuses committed by the church, establishing science as a reliable source of information, and defending human rights against oppression.
It was also responsible for the development of modern education and medicine, as well as republics and representative democracies, among other things.
The most notable result of the Enlightenment was the establishment, between the years 1688 and 1815, of a governing elite composed of scientists and intellectuals. “The most important factor that contributed to the rise in popularity of Enlightenment ideas was the progress that was made during the Scientific Revolution.”
The Enlightenment, sometimes known as the “Age of Enlightenment,” was an intellectual movement that occurred in the late 17th century and the early 18th century. This movement placed an emphasis on reason, individuality, and scepticism.