Even though the American colonies developed original American beliefs through westward expansion; British Enlightenment ideas and Anglicization provided the foundation for American ideals, proving the culture that emerged in the mid-18th century colonies to be indistinct from Britain.
The English Enlightenment represented innovation in technology, advancement of communication, and the destruction of absolutism, all of which significantly affected American culture. Scientific discoveries in Europe, mainly cultivated by Isaac Newton, Galileo, and Copernicus, served as the pinnacles of scientific rationalism, or the science that provides answers to questions reached through human inquiry, not scriptures of the Bible. These findings went completely against religious ideals of the era, one example being the discovery of craters on the moon, which proved that all things created by God are not perfect. The printing press allowed scientific ideas to be effectively spread across the world. The upset of religion by science extended throughout Europe, into Britain, and eventually to the American colonies. As religious beliefs were replaced by scientific fact, universities in North America grew and became secular. In Europe, absolute monarchs were ousted and established churches were denied the right to have hierarchical power. The rise of science was reflected by new political ideas as well. Montesquieu’s Spirit of the Laws, Rousseau’s The Social Contract, and John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government justified the ostracism of absolute monarchs through the principle of government based on social contracts, not divine rights. The social contract was created to protect what Locke described as the Natural Rights of Man- life, liberty, and property. Also, it established the idea of a government formed by the consent of the people. America adopts these principles through Enlightened writers, who deemed Newton’s Laws of Motion as a great intellectual achievement and agreed with Locke’s writings, even trying to improve their society using his ideas. Those in the medical and legal professions, once denounced as secular, implemented Enlightenment ideas and these “learned professions” skyrocketed.
Adoption of British culture in the American colonies stretched beyond politics and science. London fashions were worn by the gentry in North America and even English architecture was evident in the colonial buildings. The acceptance and implementation of British ideas in the American colonies was known as Anglicization, and it had a profound effect upon the colonists, whether they realized it or not. Because imports to the Americas were strictly British, and imports outpaced the population growth of North America, the imports defined American culture as British. Therefore, by the mid-18th century the American colonies were not developing their own distinct culture, and were merely British citizens residing outside of Britain.