How did the enlightenment effect colonial thought?
As discussed the spirit of democracy, though fledgling at best,
was growing rapidly. Yesterday we discussed the level of democratic
activity, today we discuss the roots of the ideological fervor.
I. The Roots of Democracy In America
A. Evolution of the Democratic Spirit
1. Adventurers – The colonists were rough hewn
adventurers who had risked life and limb to build a civilization in
the New World. They were the type who questioned the established
system and stood up for themselves when they felt they were wronged.
2. Grassroots movement – Political movements in the colonies
started on a grassroots level. That meant they stated with he common
man, were spread by word of mouth and them grew and grew. Since they
were grassroots movements they had the support of many people and
were very powerful.
3. Enlightenment – The ideas of the enlightenment writers
discussed below were read by the intellectual elite of the colonies
and spread to all. They were heavily influenced buy these writers,
4. Distance from authority – They were 3000 miles away and grew
accustomed to making decisions for themselves.
B. How were the ideas expressed by the enlightenment put to use in
1. John Locke – His writings became the basis for the
Declaration of Independence
-He wrote about the natural rights of Life Liberty and
Property. He also wrote that government was created by consent of
the governed in order to protect these natural rights. If the
government did not protect these rights he said that people had the
right to rebel and dissolve the government. This was the
philosophical justification of the American Revolution.
2. Voltaire – His writings became the basis of the
1st Amendment and Freedom of Speech
– Voltaire once wrote: “I may disagree with what
you say, but I will defend till death your right to say it.” This
famous quote was widely read and believed.
3. Baron de Montesqueau – His writings became the
framework of the much of the Constitution.
-He wrote about a Separation of powers and checks and
balances that would divide government into three branches in order to
prevent one branch of government from getting too powerful.
4. Machiavelli (The Prince) and Hobbes (Leviathan) both
endorsed a strong government and in part formed the basis of