Home Discussion Forum What intellectual defined the Enlightenment and how did he define it?

What intellectual defined the Enlightenment and how did he define it?

Beginning in the 17th and into the 18th century, the Age of Reason or the Enlightenment began. What INTELLECTUAL (WHO) defined the Enlightenment and how did HE define it? What were the three main concepts of the Enlightenment?


  1. In Europe:
    Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu (Charles-Louis Montesquieu) (1689—1755) whose works had more influence than any other man in the world at the time. Political scientist, Donald Lutz, found that Montesquieu was the most frequently quoted authority on government and politics in colonial pre-revolutionary British America, cited more by the American founders than any source except for the Bible. His writings more than any other stirred the pot of revolution around the world. He was a French political thinker. He is famous for his articulation of the theory of separation of powers, taken for granted in modern discussions of government and implemented in many constitutions all over the world.
    Under the “separation of powers” model, the state is divided into branches, each with separate and independent powers and areas of responsibility so that no one branch has more power than the other branches. The normal division of branches is into an executive, a legislature, and a judiciary. America’s government is based on this theory and this is the reason why we have 3 branches of government. Each has it’s own separate powers given to them by the Constitution, and none of them ever entirely control the government. To prevent one branch from becoming supreme, the US government employs a system of “checks and balances”, also credited to Montesquieu. Checks and balances allow for a system of regulation that allows one branch to limit another, such as the power of Congress to alter the composition and jurisdiction of the federal courts.
    In America:
    Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. He was a major figure in the American Enlightenment and the history of physics for his discoveries and theories regarding electricity. He invented the lightning rod, bifocals, and the Franklin stove. He formed both the first public lending library in America and the first fire department in Pennsylvania.
    Franklin earned the title of “The First American” for his early campaigning for colonial unity; as a writer and spokesman in London for several colonies, then as the first American ambassador to France, he embodied America. In the words of historian Henry Steele Commager, “In Franklin could be merged the virtues of Puritanism without its defects, the illumination of the Enlightenment without its heat.”
    Franklin became a successful newspaper editor and printer in Philadelphia. He became wealthy publishing Poor Richard’s Almanack and The Pennsylvania Gazette. Franklin gained international renown as a scientists for his famous experiments in electricity and for his many inventions, especially the lightning rod. He played a major role in establishing the University of Pennsylvania and was elected the first president of the American Philosophical Society. Franklin became a national hero in America when he spearheaded the effort to have Parliament repeal the unpopular Stamp Act. An accomplished diplomat, he was widely admired among the French as American minister to Paris and was a major figure in the development of positive Franco-American relations. For many years he was the British postmaster for the colonies, which enabled him to set up the first national communications network. From 1785 to 1788, he served as governor of Pennsylvania (officially, President of the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania). Toward the end of his life, he sold his slaves and became one of the most prominent abolitionists.
    His life and legacy of achievement, and status as one of America’s most influential Founding Fathers, has seen Franklin honored on coinage and money; warships; the names of many towns, counties, educational institutions, namesakes, and companies. Benjamin Franklin was the most accomplished and most influential American of his era.


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