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Enlightenment Era in America and Europe Essay

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Updated: Dec 30th, 2020

Ladies Are not to Be Forgotten!

Followed by the revolutionary change in America, the demand to consider both genders equally both in the social and political sphere was quite predictable. However, Abigail Adams’s suggestion was considered a flight of fancy and nothing more even by her liberal husband. Even though Mrs. Adams’s proposal was not considered as a worthwhile one as America was being reborn and reunited, it is obvious that the traces of this unusual and daring idea finally led to the feminist movement and the acceptance of women’s rights all over the world.

Therefore, the first suggestion of establishing the system of man and woman’s equal rights and freedoms that was founded first at the distant end of the XVIII century finally led to the ideas of feminism and women’s rights acceptance spreading all over the world. Being a decisive woman of great will and determination, she managed to break new ground in the world belonging to men, and only men. Perhaps, many women politicians owe their positions in the government to this courageous and daring First Lady of 1797.

Paying more attention to the ideas which Abigail Adams suggested, one can notice that her arguments were grounded impeccably – declaring independence for all the citizen of America, it would be unjust and illogical to consider men superior to women, since the Declaration of Independence granted each person of America with equal and indefeasible rights, among them the right to participate in the governmental issues.

Basing her arguments on the Declaration, she claimed that women must be equal to men when participating in governmental debates and political issues. A revolutionary idea in the country seized by revolution, this was more than people could take, which John Adams understood perfectly well.

There is no doubt that it was the caution that made John Adams suppress his wife’s attempts to establish the system of equal rights. Fearing that this will trigger another surge of people’s rage, Adams rejected the idea of gender equality. It is quite peculiar that the president grounded his ideas on the fact that the existing “Masculine” theory is the only reasonable means to conduct the state policy.

As Adams considered his wife’s ideas of equality inconsistent, he emphasized that the rest of her considerations, among them the one touching upon the constitutional issues, are going to be tackled sooner or later, thus contradicting himself – practically, he admitted that Lady Adams could participate in the political affairs. However, this was the kind of participation that could be called detached and rather insignificant. No matter how hard Abigail could have tried, the problem would not have moved any further – it was still enough to shift it from the dead point.

Therefore, it can be considered that the revolution for democracy in America was followed by another one – the feminist revolution. Although what Abigail Adams started could be called only the prerequisites of the feminism movement, this was quite enough for a start.

There is no doubt that the achievements of Abigail Adams can be compared to the most significant achievements of the world political leaders. Also, Abigail Adams initiated the movement which would further on grip the European states as well, starting from the liberal France which was quite ready for such changes up to more conservative England that was rather reluctant to change anything concerning the gender politics. With help of Abigail Adams, women of the entire world could finally find their place in the sphere of politics.

A Chain of Revolutions: On the Significance of Social Contract

Due to its well-known revolutionary character, France has always been well known as the stronghold of the most liberal ideas. This has predetermined the striking and daring ideas of such great philosophers and political scientists as Rousseau. However, it was not only the idea of the state reformations which the great man was concerned with. Because the political issues were intertwined with the concern for the people in his works, it becomes obvious that Rousseau’s main concern was the problem of liberty.

Emphasizing the importance of the so-called “social contract”, Rousseau clarifies that people are born to be free, yet the constitutional freedom did not always signify the actual one. At this point Rousseau’s ideas intersect the reflections of Abigail Adams – both consider that the constitutional law does not take into consideration what can be called the inner freedom, the freedom from the social prejudice, and the ossified way of thinking.

Therefore, in his first book Rousseau asks an important question: what is freedom, and what parts it comprises? Since the state’s sovereignty and the constitutional rights and freedoms are given to people might not guarantee absolute liberty, one has to search for it somewhere else – perhaps, within him/herself. As Rousseau compares the legitimate force to the illegal one, it becomes clear that real freedom is hidden deep within people’s minds, and this is only the liberal way of thinking which can help people out of the injustice depth.

It can be considered that Europe was undergoing serious changes during the Enlightenment epoch. With the new liberal ideas streaming from France to the other countries and spreading worldwide, Europe felt the impact of the new social theories better than ever. With help of the ideas conveyed by the most outstanding French philosophers, Rousseau taking the first place among them, Europe could face the changes and accept them.

It is also worth considering that Rousseau touches upon such an issue as slavery. Although Europe did not experience the same difficulties with slavery as America did, this issue raised heated debates among numerous European political scientists. Liberal and democratic, Rousseau states that slavery has to be abandoned as the social phenomenon that has nothing to do with ideas of freedom, saying: “the right of slavery is null and void” (Rousseau 758). Although the philosopher admits the necessity to base the state system on obedience, the latter has nothing to do with depriving people of their inalienable right to be free.

Considering Rousseau’s works, one has to admit that Europe and America were developing each in its way, yet they have passed the same stage of enriching with liberal ideas as they faced the Enlightenment epoch. Focusing on what makes people’s freedom and what a democratic state is composed of, the greatest philosophers of both continents created the foundation for future democratic innovations and restoration of people’s rights. These perfect historical examples showed once again that, once started, the process of revolution would never turn back, reaching each sphere of people’s activities and touching upon every single man.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Enlightenment Era in America and Europe." December 30, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/enlightenment-era-in-america-and-europe/.


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