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Like a lamp lighting up the darkness, the idea of enlightenment was expected to open the eyes of the planet's poor and liberate them from unfair rule. Writers and poets of the time had a belief that the enlightenment had the capacity to raise the planet from an era of ignorance and darkness into equality, rationality, and science (Gordon 2000, 35-45). The enlightenment spread all through Europe and is even credited with inspiring the American Revolution. In Europe, France was most affected by enlightenment philosophies as what started as a call for rationality, brotherhood and reason ended up in massacre and hysteria for the period of the French Revolution.


The enlightenment became accepted all through 18TH century Europe. For its ardent supporters the notion was much more than a philosophy but rather a manner if thoughts stemming from belief in human advancement and reason. Enlightenment was the peak of numerous scientific progress for instance Sir Newton's laws of gravity and writings from the most eminent of European thinkers. The adherents of enlightenment believed in human kind remerging from the era of superstition and darkness into a future of education, freedom and liberty for all (Rasevskis & Binkley 2007, 87-112). Newspapers, pamphlets and essays crammed the streets of Europe predicting a brighter, new era.

Enlightened philosophers had a belief that through reason humankind would progress into a new and magnificent era. These philosophers came from a variety of countries and settings. Jean Francois-Marie Arouet a Frenchman who later became known as Voltaire is the most renowned enlightenment philosopher. A friend of royalty all over Europe, he used humor and mockery to condemn his opposers. This made him the most feared and well-liked writer of the 18th century. His main adversary was the church which he understood muffled freedom of thinking and was dishonest.

Another famous philosopher of this period was John Locke an Englishman who believed that humans were born without character and personality. He alleged that study and experience led to understanding and which supported enlightenment ideas. He had a belief that if character and mind-set could be taught then humankind could be fashioned into a new civilization founded on rationale and fairness.

Many other great philosophers, scientists and authors lectured on the ideas of enlightenment. These thinkers involved Jefferson Thomas and Benjamin Franklin who introduced these ideals into the American Revolution. Across the seas, Europeans observed as Americans struggled against unjust British rule. The throwing off of British rule by the Americans set up a government founded on enlightenment ideas. In the place of a monarchy the US formulated a government elected by the people. To the populace of Europe living under kings or queens, this was a case in point of the achievement of the Enlightenment philosophy. Nowhere was this more significant than in France (Jacob 2000, 155-167).

According to Martin (2003, 47-53), France in the late 18th century was not a good place to live as most people lived in abject poverty and had no say in how they were governed. France was deep in debt as a result of assisting in the American Revolutionary War which Louis attempted to remedy by raising taxes. Although a good idea, the bad thing was that the affluent people were not required to pay taxes. Instead the weight of tax paying was on the poor who were previously struggling to provide for their families.

Louis did very little to alleviate the suffering of the common man. In fact his wife Marie Antoinette lived a luxurious life of shopping and gambling the money of which was taken from the almost empty public coffers. The small group of nobles was no better living lavish lives of idleness while the common man lived in abject poverty. Thomas Jefferson who at one time served as ambassador to France in describing the condition of the French people said that, "out of a population of twenty million Frenchman, there are nineteen million more accursed and more abject in each condition of human life, than the most noticeably abject person of the entire US (Rasevskis & Binkley 2007, 178-190). Enlightenment thrived under these circumstances.

According to Israel (2006 33-42), The American Revolution proved to many Frenchmen that the enlightenment philosophy could formulate an ideal government which made it very popular especially among the lower classes. By employing enlightenment theories they started to condemn their government and the royalty. Ultimately this restlessness would initiate the French Revolution. The French revolution was as a result of a variety of factors such as; starvation, intolerable taxes, mass distress, a weak king and a wasteful upper class. The philosophy of enlightenment gave hope to the suffering masses of France as it preached freedom, justice and reason of which they had not. It also ignited a mass awakening that would result to the cry of fraternity, egalitarianism and emancipation (Martin 2003, 22-28).


The enlightenment changed people's perspectives on government, and its social and political policies. Democracy, citizenship and human rights were all chief characteristics of the enlightenment. This resulted to the phrase fraternity, equality and liberty becoming a popular motto of the French Revolution. Revolutionists struggled for a government by the people for the people. They desired a government in which all men were entitled to a vote, and all men were equal before the law. Revolution presented a opportunity to make these ideas a realism. These new viewpoints and ideas were reflected in the French Revolution. The Enlightenment assisted in shaping the policies of the French Revolution.

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