Enlightment and the war of independence

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Enlightment and the war of independence

  1. 1. ENLIGHTMENT AND THE WAR OF INDEPENDENCE The XVIII century characterized for being the period of transition between the early modern age and the modern age. However during this period the society continued to be divided in 3 estates that were like close boxes that you couldn’t leave: 1. The church was divided into the high church (cardinals, bishops and abbots) and the Low Church (priests, monks…) 2. Nobility was also divided into high nobility (the royal family) and the low nobility (lord farmers) 3. The third estate was the most confusing estate as it was formed by everyone who did not belong to the previous estates. It was formed by: The middle class, also known as the bourgeoisie (merchants, bankers…) Lower class (working people) When the king needed counsel he sent for the representatives of each estate. However there was the same amount of representatives for each estate although the third estate was the most numerous. So the third estate lost all the voting against the nobility and the church. The bourgeoisie wanted to have a say in government and this was the reason why movement such as the Enlightenment were created. The enlightenment was an intellectual movement who wanted to use reason, science and education to combat ignorance and reform society. They criticized the structure of the ancient regime and wanted to promote social progress. They saw reason as the only real source of knowledge so beliefs and dogma were not considered rational. Learning and teaching were considered essential and equality and liberty had to be the key elements of society so laws had to be the same for all the estates. All these ideas were spread through newspapers, newspapers and through schools. Moreover enlightenment thinkers meet together in salons and discussed their ideas. In Spain also societies were created known as sociedadeseconomicas de amigos delpais or such as the Royal Botanic Gardens. However in Spain these ideas encountered resistance. The most important representatives of Enlightenment in Spain were Jovellanos and the Conde de Floridablanca. It all lead to changes in science, economy, society and politics. Science. Science evolved from the science of middle Ages to modern science. During the Middle ages science was based on ideas from the Greeks, was not based on experimentation and science was bounded to religion and the bible. However during
  2. 2. the 16th century a new movement of science emerged: Empiricism. A theory that asserts that knowledge arises from experience and evidence. The most important scientist were Copernicus, Galileo, Johannes Kepler who discovered that orbitals were elliptical and Isaac Newton who developed the theory of gravity and that light was formed by colors. The best example of the fight between Ancient science and modern science was the fight between the geocentric model and the heliocentric. The geocentric model established that the Earth was the center of the model and this theory was believed by the church. However the Heliocentric theory established that the sun was the center of the universe; this theory was established by Copernicus and proved by Galileo with his telescope in the year 1632. For this he was tried by the inquisition. All this knowledge was summarized in a book called the Encyclopedia wrote by D’Alembert and Diderot. Economy. Economy was based on industry and commerce although a group of intellectuals called the Physiocrats argued that agriculture was the true source of wealth, they rejected mercantilism and though that the state should not interfere in trade. Society. The bourgeoisie became very powerful and rich. However they did not have any political power and they suffered the inequalities of law. This led to the French revolution. Politics. In politics enlightenment thinkers proposed measures to limit the monarch’s powers. Montesquieu: argued for the separation of powers. This mean that the legislative, the executive and the judicial powers should be separated the one from the other. Voltaire: favored parliamentary monarchies. Rousseau: believed in popular sovereignty. The result was that absolute monarchs introduced social reforms to improve their subjects’ quality of life. However they did not allow people to participate in choosing the government in what we know as enlightened despotism.
  3. 3. Enlightenment despotism was a mixture of an absolute monarchy with enlightenment ideas. The king thought that he was the father of the nation so he did what was possible to take care of his subjects but he didn’t allow them to have a say in politics. So their motto was: “Everything for the people, nothing by the people” What they did was to create centralize governments to implement their policies. Also they appointed enlightenment thinkers as ministers and to avoid challenges they tried to make changes peacefully. They modernized the army, and they promoted agriculture, industry, education and culture. The most important monarchs were Catherine of Russia, Joseph II of Austria, Frederick II of Prussia and Carlos III. However this system did not succeed as it maintained the privileges of the estates. One of the most important enlightenment victories was the war of Independence in North America (1756-1763). In this war the 13 British colonies in North America fought against Britain for Independence. These colonies were very important for Britain as they were places where surplus of people and goods were sent. Moreover they were places that supplied raw materials such as tobacco or tea. Colonist were discontent with Britain because of taxation and because they did not have representation in the English parliament. “No taxation without representation” Moreover they were not allowed to cross the Appalachian Mountains and go to the fertile lands beneath them. Also they were not allowed to import or export products that were not from the British so the prices were very high. One day colonist dressed as natives entered a tea ship and threw the tea to the sea in what is known as the Boston Tea Party in 1773 and which was the beginning of
  4. 4. the revolution. The 4 of July of 1776 colonist leaders met in Philadelphia where they signed the declaration of Independence. It said that Americans had the right to life, liberty and happiness. Finally in 1781 the British surrounded and in 1783 the peace of Versailles was signed. America turned into a Republic and created a congress and George Washington became the first president of the United States. Moreover the colonists started to expand until they reached the Pacific. The British loss the war because the colonist believed in their cause, the Atlantic ocean separated the British from England, Rebels were supported by France and Spain and Rebels fought the war of guerillas; a type of war that the English were not used to.

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