The American Enlightenment is the intellectual thriving period in America in the mid-to-late 18th century
(1715–1789), especially as it relates to American Revolution on the one hand and the European Enlightenment on
the other. Influenced by the scientific revolution of the 17th century and the humanist period during the Renaissance,
the Enlightenment took scientific reasoning and applied it to human nature, society, and religion.
Politically, the age is distinguished by an emphasis upon liberty, democracy, republicanism and religious tolerance –
culminating in the drafting of the United States Declaration of Independence and Constitution. Attempts to reconcile
science and religion resulted in a rejection of prophecy, miracle and revealed religion, often in preference for Deism.
Historians have considered how the ideas of John Locke and republicanism merged to form republicanism in the
United States. The most important leaders of the American Enlightenment include Benjamin Franklin, Thomas
Jefferson, John Adams and James Wilson.
The Americans closely followed English and Scottish political ideas, as well as some French thinkers such as
Montesquieu. They paid little attention to Voltaire or Rousseau or to German theorists. John Locke was especially
influential. In addition the Americans paid very close attention to the ideas of the "country party" in England,
which attacked the Court party that was in power. From the Country Party the Americans picked up republicanism,
which became a major component of American political values.
Liberalism and republicanism
Since the 1960s, historians have debated the Enlightenment's role in the American Revolution. Before 1960 the
consensus was that liberalism, especially that of John Locke, was paramount and that republicanism had a distinctly
secondary role. The new interpretations were pioneered by J.G.A. Pocock who argued in The...