The American Revolution and the Enlightenment


The Enlightenment is a lengthy period of history lasting from the end of the 17th century until the end of the 18th century. All across Europe, philosophers, intellectuals, and scientists were arguing for belief based on scientific discoveries and human reason. They were moving away from a life revolving around serving sovereign and church, to a belief that the individual had rights and could control their own life. The church and monarch had been found to be corrupt. This led to the questioning of churches, religion and monarchs that did not care for the welfare of their subjects.

The Enlightenment encouraged many political debates and theories of how people should be governed. These ideas circulated around Europe and across the Atlantic to the the Americas. The colonies were greatly impacted by these notions and revolted against Great Britain, causing the American Revolution. Before the Enlightenment, European thinkers began to reject the existing thoughts and practices entered around the church, and took a scientific approach. This shift in thinking was known as the scientific revolution.

This period gave rise to many new discoveries in astronomy, chemistry, medicine, and physics, many of which are still accepted today. A new approach to was developed known as the scientific method. This strategy involved forming a hypothesis and testing it through research and experiments. Ideas became more concrete because of this revolution; they were based on observations and logic. (Berlin 1957) Enlightenment thinkers wanted to apply reason and the scientific method to laws that shaped human actions.

The three-fifths compromise declared slaves partial and insufficient human beings. Ancient prejudice and tyranny was not destroyed with the American Revolution and ratification of the Constitution. It would be another ninety years before slavery was abolished in the United States and not until 1920 before women were given the right to vote. They, like Britain, were oppressing people for the purposes of land, resources, and power. The Enlightenment inspired America to win freedom and break away from the despotism of King George III, but the ideas did not immediately create a erfect republic; it began The United States of America’s long journey, which continues to this day.