What Enlightenment Ideas are Reflected in the Declaration of Independence

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The Declaration of Independence reflects to a great extent on the values of the Enlightenment. The Declaration of Independence is a formal statement written by Thomas Jefferson declaring freedom from Great Britain. The Enlightenment was an intellectual and philosophical movement that dominated the world of ideas in Europe.

The Enlightenment brought ideas of scientific reasoning over religious reasoning which was a huge transition in American views. This movement stimulated religious tolerance and fueled democratic revolutions around the world.

Many ideas of Enlightenment reflected in the Declaration of Independence from John Locke’s point of thinking. Locke believed that human nature allowed people to be selfish and we are born a blank slate. All people were equal in a natural state and independent, everyone had a natural right to defend “life, liberty, health, or possessions.” Most of Locke’s ideas of enlightenment were based on government. He states that men are by nature free and equal against claims that God had made all people naturally subject to a monarch. According to Locke, people consent to government to protect their natural right. Directly from the Declaration, a strong point is based on the idea presented before… stated by Thomas Jefferson, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Another key idea of the Enlightenment is reason. The separation of scientific reasoning over religious reasoning; divine force, makes humans human, destroys intolerance. Also, “happiness is achieved if you live by nature’s laws- you don’t have to wait for heaven.”  In the Declaration  this statement is based on the reasoning idea of enlightenment- “When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

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The Social Contract was written by Jean-Jacques Rousseau and according to him it is between the government and the people, although the ideas are based on three enlightenment thinkers – Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Rousseau. The Social Contract is highly reflected in the Declaration of Independence. This is the idea that people get together and agree to give up some of their freedoms in order to have the government protect their truly important freedoms. Rousseau asserts an idea of popular sovereignty in the Social Contract which also appears in the Declaration of Independence by stating constitutional governments are such ” that to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the Governed.”  Popular Sovereignty is the belief that the authority and legitimacy of government is created by the will or consent of its people. Most importantly the people are the source of all political power.  “It is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government,” is a prime example of an idea of social contract presented in the Declaration of Independence.

Enlightenment ideas had a major impact and influence on the thoughts of the Declaration of Independence. Multiple strong ideas are present throughout the Declaration that connect to concepts relating to enlightenment ideas. Thomas Jefferson based his thoughts on the visions of John Locke and enlightenment thinkers to compose this document of independence.

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What Enlightenment Ideas are Reflected in the Declaration of Independence. (2019, Feb 06). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/values-of-the-enlightenment-in-declaration-of-independence/

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