The Enlightenment Era in Europe


The Enlightenment Era consisted of an intellectual and philosophical movement that carried throughout Europe. This was often considered an intellectual revolution where “thinkers who were involved in working with the laws of nature in order to make each of the societies as great as possible. Some great thinkers during this era include: Olympe de Gouges who discussed the rights of man and citizen, John Locke who discussed about the natural rights of humans and Montesquieu who discussed the idea of separations of power. These Enlightenment thinkers had a profound effect on the the future generations while carrying what they believe was better for society.

Many of the Enlightenment thinkers had their own view on how to better the world in which they lived. There was also different approaches to each situation, some being subtle and some being preached to the public through large crowds and speeches. Throughout the Enlightenment era it was to be known that society must be based on foundations that seemed rational and were not based on those as ancestors traditions and common religion, Olympe de Gouges expresses this in the excerpt from Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen. De Gouges begins discussing that in order for a declaration to be in place citizens must obey simple and inconstestable principles that would then help maintenance the creation of the Constitution and the welfare of the common people (Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, 126). De Gouges also continued to explain the fundamental rights of man and citizens through several different rights. First, key points brought up by De Gouges is, “Men are born and remain free and equal in rights (Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, 126).

This sets the foundation for the ‘All men are created equal’ argument that will be strongly expressed decades after in the United States Declaration of Independence. Secondly, De Gouges discussed that no man could be arrested for an undefined reason and that every man is presumed to be innocent until declared guilty (Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, 126), which also had a major impact with the government centuries later with the creation of the Miranda Rights which is consistently used by the United States Civil Force. Lastly, De Gouges revealed the idea that no one could be ‘disquieted’ based on one’s opinions or religion (Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, 127). This influence what we now call the First Amendment, which states that every United States citizen has the freedom to speech and the ability to practice whichever religion or tradition one would like. De Gouges is partly the reason some of these laws and ideas were carried on throughout the centuries following her life. Although during her time it was seen as being a traitor, in the long run it had a major impact on society that governed today.

John Locke who was a major Enlightenment thinker was most common for setting the groundwork for epistemology and political philosophy. Epistemology being the theory of knowledge, justification and rationality (History, 2018), Locke’s discovery of political philosophy was the study of questions based on the state or politics, through this he used the information of this to begin the liberalism ideology which states that it would secure the freedom for citizens by putting boundaries or limitations to the government. Some may see this as the similar view of checks and balances we currently use. Locke plays a pivotal role in the creation of such things in our government due to the study that was conducted by him.

Enlightenment thinker, Baron de Montesquieu along with John Locke provided the pathway for government creation but Montesquieu disagreed with the idea of an absolute monarchy and decided to adopt a different form of governing which was known for the idea of separations of powers which is well known in our branches of government today. Montesquieu believed that in order for liberty to be protected there must be a system that regulates each branch to a specific job so that the responsibility of each branch does not interfere with one another. Montesquieu came to this conclusion by studying the previous history of government and various cultures around the world. With this the framers of the Constitution centuries later this idea of separation of powers in order to create the government that is in place today. With this idea in place each branch of government has their own set of principles that they must follow and one branch cannot overcome another which also tied back into John Locke’s adapted rule of checks and balances.

The Enlightenment Era was one that was most influential when it came to many of the thinkers. Without the adaptation of such ideas such as De Gorges’ equality and free speech, Locke’s checks and balances and Montesquieu’s separation of powers the government would be more than likely nonexistent due to failure to keep balance within itself. These thinkers played a pivotal role in future generations.

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