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Sophia Elias

The Enlightenment Ideals of Philosophes Adopted from the United States


The 18th century can best be remembered as the Age of Enlightenment. This period is

extremely important to America because it laid the philosophical ground work of the American

Revolution against Great Britain. More importantly, it provided the foundation for the

democratic society that exists in the United States today. The principle behind the Age of Reason

was that through the application of human intellect, reasonable decisions could be made about

how people and nations were to conduct their business. Many great philosophes, or “lovers of

wisdom,” shared their ideas, which continue to help solve social, economic, and political

problems. These innovative ideas and new scientific advances, led up to what became known as

The Enlightenment. I argue that the United States adopted the ideals of the Enlightenment

philosophes. I will prove this by explaining the great ideas of John Locke, Voltaire, and Adam

Smith that spread throughout the entire world.

John Locke views this world’s society in an optimistic way. He believes that peoples

rights belong to humans from birth, which is called natural rights. Locke has written a text called

Seasonal Treatise of Government, and in it he writes about how all people are equal and

independent, and have the right to defend their life, liberty, and possessions. His ideals have led

the United States to the current day concept of separation of powers and modern day democracy.

His concepts are also linked to the development of executive and legislative powers. Within

many of the great philosophes, Voltaire is considered one of the most famous philosophes in the

Enlightenment. Voltaire battles inequality, injustice, superstition, and defends the idea of

freedom of speech and religion. His greatest contribution to our founding fathers was his strong
search for civil rights, fair trials, and the freedom of religion, which was held in high regard by

them and transcends into the foundation of our government today. Lastly, Adam Smith is a

“British economist who created The Wealth of Nations, which argued that the market should be

allowed to regulate business activity,” says World History: Connections to Today. Smith is

known for the market forces of supply and demand, which was sparked from manufacturing,

trade, wages, profit, and economic growth. Sageamericanhistory says that, “All of these political

writers saw England as the most enlightened nation in Europe, and it was the place where people

first revolted.”

The Age of Reason was an age of extraordinary intellectual ferment. Many figures

associated with The Enlightenment have been regarded as influences on American thinking

between 1760 and 1800. The Enlightenment is generally discussed in terms of America's

political evolution. The United States adopted the ideals of the Enlightenment philosophes over a

period of time. Their ideals contain religious beliefs, and different areas where governments can

be improved. These lovers of wisdom solve social, economic, and political problems. The ideals

of John Locke, Voltaire, and Adam Smith continue to spread throughout the world, which helps

government officials adapt new morals for their country. Imagine how different America would

be without these great ideals.