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Enlightenment thinking Essay

The Declaration of Independence is the basis of our government here in the United States. When the authors of this document were writing it they included many references to enlightenment theories. Of these many theories three within the document can be attributed to John Locke, Jean Jacques Rousseau, and Thomas Hobbes.

John Locke was a believer in the three natural rights of man, life, liberty, and property. In the Declaration of Independence Locke’s idea can be found throughout but one example is, “…It is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government laying its foundation of such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.” This quote is exactly along the lines of Locke’s thinking. He believed that a government is there to serve and protect, and if the government does not do its duty, then the people have a right to overthrow a government and start a new one.

Rousseau believed that all men were free and ought to be, therefore any government must act according to the will of the people. The Declaration of Independence includes this too, “A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.” This quote reflects Rousseau’s ideas exactly. That man is “in chains” by the government a must be free.

Finally, Thomas Hobbes was a believer in the social contract stating that to gain rights people had to give up rights. One right which people were supposed to gain was protection by the government. This idea can be found within the Declaration of Independence, “He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us.”

The Declaration of Independence contains many different enlightenment ideas. These ideas had a great impact on the founding of the United States and still do today.


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