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Classical Liberalism Essay

1407 words - 6 pages

Classical Liberalism, the Enlightenment, was a political movement that has impacted countries and their policies over many generations. The Enlightenment emphasized the notion that men are inherently good by nature (Bentley). The Enlightenment gave people the idea that a king was not necessary to rule over the people because people are not inherently bad. If anything, the people need someone to guide them but not have absolute rule over them. Revolutions have been based off of Enlightenment ideals because they are used to benefit the majority not the rich elite.
John Locke, and his book Two Treatises on Government, impacted the Enlightenment by spreading the ideals around the world, which influenced revolutions. Locke wrote that “the state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges every one: and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions” (Locke. sect 6). This ideal was the basis of the revolution sparked from Enlightenment ideals. Locke believed that man had a set of rights, which were given to a man when he is born. These rights cannot be taken away from a man based on social class, race, or anything else. When the revolutions started, the people believed that the king had been infringing on their natural rights. “All men may be restrained from invading others rights” (Locke. sect. 7) and this includes people of nobility as well as common people. Paine says in Common Sense that “the king is not to be trusted without being looked after, or in other words, that a thirst for absolute power is the natural disease of monarchy” (Paine. page 10). A big theme with Enlightenment writers, and writers influenced by Enlightenment thinking, is that absolute monarchy is bad and is not what the government should be sued for. This theme will resonate with the common people and help fuel the revolutions in America and France.
The Enlightenment impacted how the American people viewed government; particularly concerning popular sovereignty and equality of class systems. The Declaration of Independence uses popular sovereignty as the basis for the reasoning for American independence with Britain. “Among these [rights] are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” (US 1776. paragraph 2). When these rights are infringed upon the people have the right to rebel. This shows why the revolutions came to happen. The people were finally given a definite reason to rebel, which seems to help unify the country in the rebellion. In Locke’s Two Treatises on Government he states that “in the state of nature, one man comes by a power over another; but yet no absolute or arbitrary power” (Locke. sect. 8). Again, these writings are emphasizing that an absolute monarchy is wrong because no man is more important than another and that no man should have more power over another man than is consented to. This showed people the...

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