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The Political Culture of the Eighteenth Century Essay

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In order to understand the essence of American political identity, one should first refer to its origins, particularly, to the Epoch of Enlightenment, because, the ideas, expressed by Voltaire, Diderot, Rousseau, are reflected in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. In fact, many scholars believe, that the United States was the first country, which attempted to implement the major principles of Enlightenment.

Probably, it would be better to substantiate this statement with some concrete examples. First, it should be pointed out that many forward-thinkers in eighteenth-century France stressed the importance of religious tolerance and freedom. Partly, this is the reason why Enlightenment was often labeled as an”age of atheism”. Founding Fathers put this principle into practice in the First Amendment to the Constitutions, which proclaims, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” (The United States of America). The major law of the country makes a clear distinction between the state and religion.

Additionally, many advocates of democracy in eighteenth-century France, especially, Diderot were subjected to heavy criticism of the belief that power can be descended or that it is a right by birth. The first three articles of the Constitution explicitly state that elections must be held for any position of power. Certainly, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, this statement may seem commonplace to say the least; however, this principle entirely contradicted the tenets of absolute monarchy.

Furthermore, we should speak about the mechanisms of checks and balances, which the Constitution provided. Again, it is of crucial importance to trace their origins. Enlightenment opposed absolute or constitutional monarchy, according to them every decision, made by the monarch is virtually unquestionable. In this case, it is necessary to pay extra attention to the establishment of a bicameral congress.

Another peculiar feature of the American constitution is a clear separation of legislative, executive, and judicial powers, which was almost unprecedented at that moment. The representatives of Enlightenment raised objections to the Kings complete domination. In their view, the absolute monarchy could lead any country to a deadlock. Tomas Jefferson and other Founding Fathers adopted these ideas, and they became the cornerstone of American political identity. Some people may argue that the main feature of Americans main law is the belief that every citizen of the country must have equal rights. Certainly, this idea was always emphasized by many philosophers of Enlightenment, yet, it seems that Founding Fathers did not follow this principle completely, because some ethnic groups, namely African Americans were deprived of citizenship. The Declaration of American Independence stated “all men are created equal” (The United States of America). However, this principle of Enlightenment was not fully put into practice.

It should be taken into consideration that we are discussing only the original versions of these documents, and a great many amendments were further proposed. Nonetheless, the Constitution of the United States and the Declaration of Independence can be regarded as the first attempts to implement the ideas of Enlightenment into practice.

Therefore, it is quite possible for us to arrive at the conclusion that the political identity of the United States was strongly influenced by the major ideas of Enlightenment. It is reflected in the clear distinction between the church and the state. Secondly, the Enlightenment gave rise to civil equity, to some extent it is a natural response to aristocratic rule in France and England.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "The Political Culture of the Eighteenth Century." December 3, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-political-culture-of-the-eighteenth-century/.

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