The Enlightenment Era


The Enlightenment Era Essay, Research Paper

On a cold winter morning a group of colonists stood on the corner of downtown Philadelphia crossroads. With frostbitten noses and wind-burnt cheeks, the frozen crowd awaited anxiously for the newest edition of Benjamin Franklin s newspaper and the current essay of Silence Dogood. The comedy and satire of each month s essay was allowing the colonists a new way of thinking about their lives. Today s story was about a man who justified eating fish, because the fish he ate had eaten a smaller fish. The punch line was that most men would use any excuse to justify their behavior. The colonists enjoyed reading witty material that had a different message than they had ever been exposed to. Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and the others responsible for our constitution radically changed history with their profound thinking. Two examples of this are the establishment of a democratic government that has authority because its people allow it to; and the encouragement of an economic system based on natural forces of supply and demand.

Prior to the colonization of America the world was ruled by complete monarchies. Policies were not begun by the people, but by the ruler. The beliefs of the majority or rights of minorities were not important in government by monarchy. Famous philosophers, writers, and even inventors during Enlightenment put dramatic thought into such radical thinkers as Franklin, Jefferson, and Henry. In Thomas Jefferson s first Inaugural Address, he stated, Sometime it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the form of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question. He felt confident that history would probe that the democratic process would win out. He also advocated a wise and frugal government that would offer protection but leave men to seek their own pursuits of industry and improvement. These intelligent radicals were who educated the nation to think and understand the power of the man-made liberties and the Declaration of Independence. Majority ruled, but the minorities still enjoyed rights formed by a democracy.

Before the age of Enlightenment, a country s wealth was based on a mercantilism or the amount of gold and silver it had. This system soon failed. Economists called the physiocrats came up with a theory based on a nation s raw materials, rather than money. Adam Smith, a researcher of natural laws, discovered a kind of balance in both economic affairs. He proposed a system in which there were no limitations to the manufacturing of goods and wages. This system was called laissez-faire or unfettered competition. Smith used a five-step base for the economy. First , he said, that labor is the source of all wealth within a nation. Second, all people are acquisitive. Third, we must have completely free and unregulated access to raw materials, labor, and markets . His fourth and fifth theories state that each person has the knowledge and the skills to determine their future and if all of the above is followed, then supply and demand will fall into effect. Smith also stated The natural forces of supply and demand, like the gravitational pulls of planets and suns upon each other, like the pulls of executive, legislative and federate branches of government, will form the whole economic structure into a smoothly operating, functional machine. The system that Smith created, and encouraged by our founding fathers, made a huge impact on the possible capability of American prosperity. Once again, it was an educated and radical belief- let the people decide their own level of prosperity.

Our forefathers were all educated radicals that believed it was time for a change. Their benefit to the country was outstanding. They were not afraid to put religion on a different level than ever before and allow science and rational thought to move up. Without them, our nation would be without a national anthem stating land of the free and home of the brave. Newton educated the world in physics and Kant did the same with philosophy. Franklin, with his Silence Dogood comedy educated a new nation with ideas of enlightenment while commenting on the issues arising from living in a new democracy. As Silence said, What a pleasure to be a reasonable creature.

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