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Enlightenment Thinkers

and Revolutions
Shape of this lecture
1. Roots of Revolutions
2. Enlightenment ideas and their
relationship to real-time events
3. Impact of those ideas on Revolutions
4. Unintended Consequences
Educated at Oxford
Tutor to the Cavendish
Sided against Parliament
during the Civil War
Educated Charles II
Leviathan (1651)
Thomas Hobbes

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679)
The State of Nature, for Hobbes
Competition, Diffidence,
and Glory
War of All Against All
No amenities in a state of
Life as “solitary, poor, nasty,
brutish, and short.”

What kind of government?
Purpose = to avoid
Due to human nature,
must combine
under a sovereign
w/absolute power
People only have a
right to resist when
their lives are

The Glorious Revolution (1688)
King James II was deposed
for suspected Catholicism
Replaced with king and
queen invited by
They had to sign a contract
called the Bill of Rights
“Constitutional Monarchy”
The Bill of Rights (1689)
 No royal interference with the
 Freedom to petition the monarch
for redress of grievances (that is,
the freedom to complain)
 Freedom of speech for
 No excessive bail
 No “cruel and unusual
This is gibbeting. Not cruel
or unusual.
Hanging, drawing and quartering was the punishment for treason until 1867.
John Locke (1632-1704)
Educated at Oxford
Personal physician of
Lord Ashley, Earl of
Fled to Holland on
accession of James II
Influenced by the
Glorious Revolution

John Locke’s State of Nature
Governed by law of nature
All men are equal and
All men can execute laws
People must consent to be
Much more optimistic than

What kind of government?
People retain sovereignty
They make a social
contract, giving up some
of their rights for mutual
Government is simply the
agent of the people
State has limited powers
designated by people

Impact on Revolutions
Sovereignty comes from the people,
through the social contract.
Idea that governments can be replaced
when they no longer serve the
interests of the people.
Idea that each person “counts for one”
and only for one.

The American Revolution (1776)
 Thomas Paine, Common Sense: Boiled down social contract theory
for the average person.

 Declaration of Independence:
 We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created
equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain
unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit
of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are
instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of
the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes
destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to
abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on
such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them
shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
The French Revolution (1789)
 Declaration of the Rights of the Man and the Citizen

 1. Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social
distinctions may be founded only upon the general good.
 2. The aim of all political association is the preservation of
the natural and imprescriptible rights of man. These rights
are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression.
 3. The principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in the
nation. No body nor individual may exercise any authority
which does not proceed directly from the nation.

Unintended Consequences
Idea of equality of all,
and of “natural rights”
used to argue for
freedom of slaves, and
eventually, for equality
of women
Seneca Falls Declaration
of Sentiments (1848)