How Did the Declaration of Independence Embody Enlightenment Ideals: Informative Essay

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The Enlightenment was a period of time from 1715-1789 that was an intellectual and philosophical movement that spread throughout Europe. It brought many ideas that we could not live good lives without, like freedom of speech, natural rights, and freedom of religion, which was one of the main reasons the Enlightenment started in the first place. It brought economic change, religious change, and governmental change that impacted our world so deeply to the point that it changed entirely. This was a good thing.

The Enlightenment brought a lot of economic change. Like free trade. Before Adam Smith brought up the idea of free trade, we used mercantilism. Nobody wanted to trade with other countries because they thought that it would be bad for their own country. They thought that the government of the country should own the production of the product. The products that a country would make would be sold directly from that country and would be very expensive due to it being only available to that country. Tariffs were extremely high. Free trade was the complete opposite. If a country had an abundance of one product that another country needed and the other country had an abundance of something that the other country needed they would be able to trade one for the other at no cost. With free trade, the demand for a product would determine its price.

Another part of the economic change of the Enlightenment was the increased innovation that brought a lot of new products to the world. Manufacturing was improved, along with an increase in entrepreneurship. The main reason that manufacturing was improved was the separation of labor. People that specialized in specific things would do the job that they were successful in, making products more reliable and well-built. Huge innovations in temperature and time were made by Daniel Fahrenheit, who invented the mercury thermometer, which is still used today, and Galileo Galilei, who invented the pendulum. The pendulum paved the way for much better, more elegant, and grander clocks for years to come. Transportation was improved with more canals and roads being built. This caused information and ideas to be spread around the world much faster.

Among all of the other changes brought about by the Enlightenment, there was a lot of governmental change. Two people that brought a bit of this governmental change were John Locke and Thomas Hobbes. Although Hobbes did argue his point of wanting a strong government to keep you from committing evil, his ideas were not very impactful. John Locke's argument of every human has the natural rights of life, liberty, and the right to own property. Locke believed that the government existed to protect the rights of every human being. He also believed that the government could be overthrown by the people if it failed to protect these natural rights. It was a perfect relationship, as written in a contract, between the government and the people: The people would grant the power to the government and the government would protect the rights of the people in return, or vice versa.

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At the time, absolute monarchies were the dominant government around the world. The monarch held absolute power and would grant few rights to the people. During the Enlightenment, some monarchs began to implement these ideologies into their government power. They were known as enlightened absolutists. One of these enlightened monarchs was Joseph II of Austria. He abolished serfdom, which is a form of slavery. Joseph II also granted freedom of the press and enacted religious reform.

Catholics had believed for years that the Earth was in the center of the universe and nobody went against it for years, knowing the power that the catholic church had, or they just didn’t question it for the reason that they believed what the church said. In the early years of the Enlightenment, one of the first people to question the church was Copernicus. He believed that the solar system was heliocentric, or the sun was in the center of the solar system, instead of the geocentric solar system that the followers of the catholic church believed for years. Copernicus also said that the planets revolved around the sun in perfect circles, a theory that would later be debunked. The person that debunked his theory of perfect circle orbiting was Kepler. He said that planets revolved around the sun in elliptical orbits, or ovals, instead of circular orbits. The next philosopher to hop on the heliocentric bus was Galileo Galilei. He built a gigantic telescope 30x the size of any other at the time. This helped him get good views of other planets and prove that the sun was in the center of the universe. The catholic church, feeling defeated, decided to put Galileo on house arrest for going against the catholic church. Soon after, Issac Newton discovered the law of gravity and gave a reason why the planets orbit around each other and what holds them in place. This just kept adding to the heliocentric argument. These philosophers helped bring religious change because they proved that some things that the catholic church is preaching to people are not true. This caused more people to use reason over religion to justify their thinking.

Voltaire was known as the most famous philosopher of the Enlightenment because of how he preached religious freedom and created a religion, Deism, that went directly against the teachings of the catholic church. The teachings of Deism go as follows: God created the universe and every human but stepped back right after. He has no say in anything that happens in our life and does not control the world as the Catholics think. This, along with the proving of the heliocentric solar system caused more people to question the church and go against it.

Without the Enlightenment, The United States of America would have never gotten the idea to declare its independence from England, as its declaration of independence contains a few Enlightenment ideas. The Enlightenment would prove to be the most influential time in history, as it was proved by the medical, scientific, mechanical, religious, and transportation innovations brought by this point in time.

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How Did the Declaration of Independence Embody Enlightenment Ideals: Informative Essay. (2023, September 19). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 23, 2024, from
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