Enlightenment Ideas Reflected in the Declaration of Independence

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Enlightenment Ideas Reflected in the Declaration of Independence

This essay will examine the Declaration of Independence as a reflection of Enlightenment ideals. It will analyze how the document embodies the period’s key principles such as liberty, democracy, and reason. The essay will explore the philosophical influences on Thomas Jefferson and other founding fathers, highlighting how Enlightenment thinkers like John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau inspired the Declaration’s core ideas about human rights and government. At PapersOwl too, you can discover numerous free essay illustrations related to Age Of Enlightenment.

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The Declaration of Independence reflects a great extent the values of Enlightenment. The Declaration of Independence is a formal statement written by Thomas Jefferson asserting 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 propelled a huge transition in American views. The movement stimulated religious tolerance and democratic revolutions around the world. Most of the Enlightenment ideas reflected in the Declaration of Independence are from John Locke’s point of thinking.

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Locke believed that human nature allowed people to be selfish and are born a blank slate (Jayne). All people are equal in a natural state and independent, besides everyone has a natural right to defend “life, liberty, health, or possessions.” Most of Locke’s ideas on enlightenment are fundamentals of government. He states that men are by nature free and equal against claims that God has made all people naturally subject to a monarch. 

According to Locke, people consent to the government for the protection of their natural rights. 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 the reason as demonstrated by the separation of scientific reasoning over religious reasoning; divine force makes human’s human and destroys intolerance (Jayne). 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- “In the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands that 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 Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires to declare the causes that impel separation.”

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 has also been reflected in the Declaration of Independence. This is the idea where people get together and agree to give up some of their freedoms so the government can 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 just Powers from the Consent of the Governed.” Popular Sovereignty is the belief that the authority and legitimacy of government are created by the will or consent of its people. Most importantly the people are the source of all political power (Jayne). “It is the right of the people to alter or abolish and to institute new Government,” is a prime example of an idea of the 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 connected to concepts related to enlightenment ideas. Thomas Jefferson based his thoughts on the visions of John Locke and enlightenment thinkers to compose this document of independence.

Works Cited

Jayne, Allen. Jefferson’s Declaration of independence: origins, philosophy, and theology. University Press of Kentucky, 2014.

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