Essay on Enlightenment Vs Great Awakening

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Throughout our history, civilization has been constantly evolving. It was different in the 1800’s than it was in the 1600s or 1500 and it is completely different now. The impact of religion, conflict, economics, and philosophy all play a role in the formation of American civilization and the government. Throughout history, mankind and civilization have been constantly changing, even now. This is due to the many different impacts mentioned and some examples of events that contributed to our civilization are the Great Awakening, the Enlightenment, the separation from the British and free trade.

The Great Awakening movement came at a time when the passion for religion had grown stale. It happened during the 1730s and 1740s and was a religious revival that impacted the English colonies in America. It was the first real social movement to sweep across the thirteen British colonies. Characterized by religious fervor and passionate affirmations of faith, the Great Awakening changed the structure and concept of religion in the colonies. The testimonials and sermons from preachers like Jonathon Edwards and others caused even the most pessimistic attendee to get swept up in the infectious emotion of the renewal. By creating images of “a wide and bottomless pit, full of the fire of wrath” and urging their listeners to actively seek a relationship with God, the sermons of Edwards emphasize a personal relationship with God and move away from a focus on theological knowledge. This way of thinking follows the Thomas Hobbes’ State of Nature, believing that the only way to control mankind is by fear, and without it, men will become chaotic. The Great Awakening produced social change uniting the colonies in the spirit of a religious movement, for the first time the colonies could share a common set of beliefs.

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Towards the end of the Great Awakening, however, and beginning of the Early Enlightenment period, a renewed emphasis on education was made. Providing higher educational institutions to instruct the growing generations within the colonies. The Enlightenment period was a late 17th and 18th-century intellectual and philosophical movement emphasizing reason, individualism, skepticism, and science. Enlightenment thinkers such as Thomas Pain helped encourage Independence for America and indulged in challenging the authority of the British government. People began to examine the way that rulers governed, because of Thomas Pain’s “Common Sense” letter and felt as if they should start questioning their government to see if it was being managed the appropriate way. For instance, at the time of the Enlightenment, there was only one ruler who lived in Britain and although he lived across the sea, he still held all control and contained the power over most of everything he had. Thomas Paine opposed this idea, believing in the opposite, and urged for power to be balanced and separated so that their government would not become corrupt as well. In his letter, “Common Sense”, Paine felt as if the government did not promote their overall happiness, nor did it represent the people properly. This agrees with the Excerpts from the Second Treatise of Government by John Locke, that “tyranny is the exercise of power beyond right, which nobody can have a right to”, this corresponds with Thomas Paine’s belief that people should have the right to revolt against the British government as well as choose their government.

The main reason the colonies started rebelling against their 'mother England' was the taxation on trade issues. The colonies debated on England's legal power to tax them and they believed because they had no representatives in the British Parliament, they should not have to pay British taxes and did not wish to be taxed without representation. They wanted to separate themselves from the British and finally be able to freely create their civilization and government. The Revenue Act of 1767 was the last straw. It regulated trade and put taxes on paper, paints, glass, and tea, goods imported into the colonies from Britain. Since these taxes were imposed on imports, the British thought of them as 'external' taxes rather than internal taxes such as the Stamp tax. The colonists did not understand the difference between external and internal taxes and went ballistic, causing a huge conflict with the British. This caused Americans to start smuggling products between the colonies and England. According to the Americans with Attitudes: Smuggling in Colonial America, most Americans saw nothing wrong with it since they did not like government interference with their commercial activities. Even one of the founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, agreed with smuggling. Believing that free trade is a “natural right.” Thus, creating the start of the preparation of the American Revolution, essentially making it an economic one.

The American Revolution war was for independence, to separate themselves from the British to become and create their own governed civilization in peace. Each event or movement played a role in creating an American civilization, it changed the way the people in the 1730s viewed religion. The way the Enlightenment brought about education within the colonies and how colonies changed their view of the British government. Without these events, we would not have had the leaders who helped alter and modernize the way we act and think now and in the future. Although all these impacts helped shape and change the way of civilization throughout history, they also gave the word a common ground. Civilization means “civil life”, peace among groups of people.

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