To understand the basis of our country’s ideals and values concerning liberty, it’s pivotal to recognize events that shaped it. In particular, the Enlightenment and Great Awakening largely contributed to the guiding principles of the American Revolution. These two events prompted America’s Revolution by instilling ideologies our forefathers’ founded our country on. As a result of the 17th and 18th Century Enlightenment’s intellectual movement in Europe that emphasized individuality and deviation from tradition along with the Great Awakening’s spiritual revival to encourage religious tolerance, the American Revolution was able to incorporate its ideologies to reflect the liberty we continue to redefine and shape today.
Both the Enlightenment, or Age of Reason and the Great Awakening stimulated the basis of the American Revolution; thus defining the liberty and tolerant attitudes our nation celebrates. In the Enlightenment era that primarily occurred in Europe, ideas such as democratically driven progress and rational thinking arose amidst intolerant monarchies. While it took place outside America, many key figures in our country’s formation, such as the writer of our Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson were greatly influenced by the period. With the Enlightenment ideas manifested in the vision of our forefathers, the Great Awakening occurred to further shape the American identity by allowing religious sects to break off and enable Protestant denominations to increase. The Puritan and Anglican dominated early colonies dramatically dropped and colonists viewed themselves as capable of interpreting law without clergy interference. In turn, the ideas shaping the Enlightenment and Great Awakening acted as a blueprint for the American Revolution.
These aspects such as separation of Church and state, democratic values, and radial freethinking focused on the individualistic mindset our nation continues to implement. While 18th Century Americans regarded liberty as freedom of religion against governmental restrictions and clergy run laws, the term has expanded to allow people to practice religion without discrimination. To 18th Century Americans, human rights was limited to white men and discrimination was widely present to certain religious groups and cultures such as Irish Catholics. Today, human rights are ideally indiscriminate to all citizens, though our liberty is constantly called into question by liberal and conservative notions on what constitutes democracy. As a result, the values the American Revolution adopted from the Enlightenment and Great Awakening continue to beckon questions and shape the deals we use to define liberty and the human rights that accompany it.