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The Enlightenment

            Upon its reception into the colonies, the Enlightenment had a tremendous impact. The effects of the enlightenment are evident in American Literature, the founding of Georgia as a colony, as well as the Declaration of Independence and the American Revolution. Although advocates of enlightened ideas were present in the mainland colonies before newspapers began circulating these views, the enormous increase in the publication of newspapers and books ensured a wide diffusion of these new ideas. In addition, several eminent American individuals as well as the emergence of the legal and medical professions in the colonies, helped to spread the ideas of the enlightenment. The Age of Enlightenment describes a period in Europe and the American colonies during the 18th century, in which it was believed that society was "emerging from centuries of darkness and ignorance into a new age enlightened by reason, science, and respect for humanity."(Encarta encyclopedia) Enlightenment philosophers questioned the past and appealed to reason. Many of them followed 17th-century English philosopher John Locke in believing that all individuals possessed certain "natural rights" such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of property, and that it was the responsibility of government to protect those rights. .
             Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine were important contributors to the enlightenment movement in their own right. Benjamin Franklin embodied the concepts of the enlightenment in that he was not religiously pious, did not attend church regularly, experimented with the sciences, and was constantly searching for methods of social improvement. Thomas Paine's enlightened ideas in the pamphlet, Common Sense, have been called the most important in American history. This piece of writing contributed enormously to the spread of the movement. The law profession, which had been disreputable before the 1700's, as well as the study of medicine, proved to be fields that unavoidably promoted enlightened ideas.

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