Also known as the age of reason, the Enlightenment was the period of time in history from the late 17th century to the 18th century when science and rational thinking were adopted as the basic values that governed and steered the western countries to replace religious beliefs. This paper discusses the effects of The Enlightenment to the United States of America. The American Revolution that liberated America from its colonizers was influenced largely by the ideas and thinking of the Enlightenment (Palmer 1964)
The era of reason was a result of widespread separate works by literature, artistic, scientific and political intellectuals. It saw the departure from religious ideals and values as the only foundation of society. Thinkers fronted their ideas and philosophies on how the economy, political landscape and even religion should be ran to the maximum benefit of the people. It was an era of emergence of new knowledge it encouraged independent thinking that saw the growth of science and philosophy. In The United States of America, The champions of the Enlightenment influenced individuals and governments not only in their day, but also in Modern day America.
Benjamin Franklin was one of the champions of The Enlightenment. He was an inventor, painter politician and author whose ideas shaped the birth of the new nation that was the United States of America, his writing skills and his clear thinking earned him a part in history as one of the writers of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America. To this date his work whether in the making of the constitution, creation of the postal system, transformed has continued to touch the lives of Americans for centuries after his time.
As the ambassador for the thirteen colonies of America to France, Franklin used his charm, intelligence, tact and wit to strengthen the relationship of his country and that of the French. His skills paid off with France becoming a key ally of America.
That knowledge is power was one Francis Bacon’s statements that are still popular today. Bacon is one of he great minds of the era of reason whose ideas are very much in application today. He pioneered the scientific method, which is based on the idea that experiments were necessary in order to make a conclusion or hypothesis. At his time religion and philosophy were not differentiated to this day the state and the church are separate, and although this has been as a result of many developments, Bacons methodologies and thinking inspired the differentiation.
One of the most recognized names in the enlightenment and also regarded as a major influence to his colleagues and successors is John Lock. The English philosopher, who was born in 1632, is credited with defining the self. His theory challenged existing philosophy by stating that everyone is born with a mind that is unconditioned but open to new knowledge that is derived from sense perception. (Baird, 2008)
In his lifetime Locke fronted many arguments that are credited to have launched liberalism- which emphasized on the importance of equal rights. One of his works letters concerning Toleration (1682-92), championed for toleration of different religions and the importance of coexistence between different religions. (Alistair 1998). These were of major promotion to the freedom of worship that is enjoyed today.
One of his most famous works Two Treatises of Government (1690) which championed for people to be represented in government, was so profound that the founding fathers of America and writers of The American Declaration of Independence is said to have borrowed from it.
As one of the founding Fathers of America, Thomas Jefferson would later write, Francis Bacon and John Locke are the greatest men who ever lived an whose works were of big influence. (Jerrold 2005)
John Locke, Francis Bacon and Benjamin Franklin are just three of the many champions of the era of the Enlightenment whose ideas and works influenced and changed America in the 17th century and are still felt today. This paper has discussed some of the roles played by the three, and their influence on both on the era of Enlightenment and modern times.