Timeline of Age of Reason or Enlightenment

Some call it the Age of Enlightenment. Whatever the label, it covers history, science, philosophy, literature, and arts and architecture and the 1700s, including the American Revolution, but stops short of the French Revolution (the next post).

If you’re in a hurry, use the ctrl-f search and type in your key term.

Please click on the corresponding post Outline of the Age of Reason or Enlightenment for more information.

This post has Bottom Line sections as it moves along, and there is a Conclusion at the end, which demands the Western world to remember some things.

The Age of Reason Or The Age of Enlightenment

I. Introduction

A. Timeframe:

1. 1715: Death of Louis XIV

2. 1791: American Revolutionary War and Constitution

Bourbon Kings of France


Philippe Erlanger, Louis XIV, trans. Stephen Cox (New York: Praeger, 1965, 1970).

J. H. Shennan, The Bourbons: The History of a Dynasty (New York: Continuum, 2007)

Hanovers of Great Britain

Alvin Redman, House of Hanover (New York: Coward McCann, 1960)

Alvin Redman, The House of Hanover (New York: Coward-McCann, 1960, 1961)

II. France

A. Louis XV (r. 1715-1774)

1. Identity (see Genealogical Tables)

2. Duke of Orleans (regent 1715-20)

B. Cardinal Fleury (1653-1743)

C. Estates General and Parlements (plural)

1. King refers to the parlements, which rubber-stamped his decisions until build up to Revolution.

2. King ignores Estates General until 1789.

3. King’s absolutism blows up in to Revolution.

Royal Council
Estates General Parlements
Clergy, Commons, Nobility; meets only when called by king, but never convened after 1614 until 1789; French Revolution begins then Law courts that register and try cases; debates increase in volume and frequency; Parlement of Paris asserts old privileges and becomes more powerful

III. Great Britain

A. Hanoverian Dynasty

1. Act of Settlement (1701)

Please click on the corresponding post Outline of the Age of Reason for more information.

B. Robert Walpole (1676-1745)

1. Considered First Prime Minster

C. Structure of Parliament

1. King or Queen has to consult and seek approval from Parliament.

2. His or her submissive posture or shared power keeps monarchy alive and not subject to a revolution.

King or Queen
Privy Council
House of Lords Commons
Peers or aristocracy; has veto power Commons has two members from a county, often divided into boroughs or smaller units;

It meets regularly; controls money; legislates;

It has mutual veto; levies taxes; keeps pressure on king to control his spending; approves of war

D. Freedom

E. Prosperity

IV. Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions

A. New Crops and New Methods

1. A Challenge

2. Jethro Tull (1674-1741)

3. Charles “Turnip” Townsend (1674-1738)

4. Robert Bakewell (1725-1795)

B. Industrial Revolution

1. Consumption

2. Textile Production

3. Iron Production

C. Timeline of Inventions

1733 James Kay’s flying shuttle increases textile production

1765 James Hargreaves’ spinning jenny

1769 James Watt perfects and then patents steam engine

Richard Arkwright’s water frame patent is designed to permit production of purely cotton fabric without linen fiber

1793 Eli Whitney’s cotton gin separates seeds from fiber

V. Some Eighteenth-Century Wars

A. War of Jenkins’s Ear (1739+)

1. Trade war between Great Britain and Spain

B. War of Austrian Succession (1740-1748)

1. Frederick the Great (r. 1740-86) takes Silesia from Maria-Theresa of the Habsburg Dynasty of Austria (r. 1740-80)

2. Prussia and France


Austria and Great Britain

3. In America, known as King George’s War

4. Treaty of Aix-la Chapelle is signed after stalemate, with Prussia keeping Silesia

5. France, overstretched, loses future to Great Britain, especially in America

C. Seven Year’s War (1756-1763)

1. Prussia invades Saxony

2. Prussia and Great Britain under Pitt (1708-78)


Saxony, Austria, and France

3. International Theatre, e.g., in America

4. Overlaps with French-Indian War in America (1754+)

5. Treaty of Hubertsburg has the European powers maintaining status quo

6. Treaty of Paris has Great Britain receiving all of Canada, the Ohio Valley, and the Eastern half of the Mississippi Valley, so France loses more of future, especially in America

Bottom Line on These Wars

1. France is overextended, so it loses future to Great Britain


I. Some Discoveries and Advances

1705 Edmond Halley correctly predicts comet bearing his name passed earth in 1682 and would return in 1758

1714 Daniel Fahrenheit invents mercury thermometer

1716 Swiss naturalist Johann Scheuchzer argues that fossils were organic in origin, not merely geological

1721 Bostonians inoculate citizens against smallpox

1727 Stephen Hale publishes Vegetable Staticks, on plant physiology

1735 Karl Linnaeus publishes Systema natura, dividing plants into 24 primary classes

1742 Anders Celsius devises an alternative scale for thermometer

1748 Roman city of Pompeii is discovered

1751 Benjamin Franklin publishes Experiments and Observations on Electricity, demonstrating lightning was a natural force of immense power, going beyond static electricity parlour games

1755 Joseph Black discovers carbon monoxide

1760 John Mitchell proposes earthquakes caused by one layer of rock rubbing against another layer

1766 Fossilized remains of huge animal (later Mosasaurus) are found in a quarry near River Meuse in Netherlands

1768 John Hunter begins the foundation of experimental and surgical pathology

1771 Luigi Galvani discovers link between nerve action and electricity

1774 Karl Scheele isolates a large new number of compounds and discovers chlorine

Joseph Priestly discovers oxygen

1776 Henry Cavendish discovers that hydrogen is lighter than air; it could be used as a lifting agent in a balloon (see 1783)

James Keir proposes that some rocks (e.g., Giant’s Causeway in Ireland) may have formed as molten material that cooled, then crystallized

British use Firguson breech-loading rifle during American Revolution

1777 Jan Ingenhousz describes photosynthesis

Antoine Lavoisier shows air made up of mixture of gases, and oxygen is necessary for combustion and rusting

1749-1804 Georges LeClerc (Count of Buffon) publishes Histoire naturelle (Natural History) (44 vols); it argues for change in life species, not fixity; he proposes earth may be a lot older than 6,000 years

1781 William Herschel discovers Uranus and stellar systems beyond our galaxy

1783 Joseph and Etienne Montgolfier, brothers, fly a ballon without a human

Jacques Charles flies in a balloon

1784 Thomas Jefferson excavates an Indian Burial Mound on Rivanna River in Virginia

1785 Jean-Pierre Blanchard and John J. Jeffries make first balloon crossing of English Channel

Digitalis (drug for strengthening heart muscle) is used to treat heart disease

1787 Lavoisier publishes Méthode de Nomenclature Chimique (Method of   Chemical Nomenclature), which defines a system of classifying quantification of chemicals and facilitates comparative experiments; the weight of all compounds obtained by chemical reactions is equal to that of the reacting substances: Law of Conservation of Mass

Lt. Shrapnel develops of “spherical case shot” that becomes shrapnel shell

1790 John Frere identifies Old Stone Age tools (Paleolithic) and large extinct animals

Enlightenment Philosophy

I. Philosophes (Philosophers)

A. Who They Are:

1. Intellectual essayists, rather than pure philosophers

B. Formative Influence

1. Isaac Newton (1642-1727)

a. Universe is orderly and can be studied

2. John Locke (1632-1704)

a. Advocates strong legislative branch of government

See Outline of Locke’s Theory of Knowledge

3. Stability of English government

4. Reaction to Strict Orthodoxy

II. Freedom

A. Political

Kant (1724-1804):  And what a people may not decree for itself can even less be decreed for them by a monarch, for his lawgiving authority rests on his uniting the general will in his own.  (from “What is Enlightenment?” in 1784)

B. Thought

KantSapere aude!  ‘Have courage to use your own reason!’—that is the motto of the enlightenment.  (from “What . . . ?”)

“But that the public should enlighten itself is more possible; indeed, if only freedom is granted, enlightenment is almost sure to follow.  For there will always be some independent thinkers . . . who, after throwing off the yoke of tutelage from their shoulders, will disseminate the spirit of the rational appreciation of both their own worth and every man’s vocation  for thinking for himself.” (from ibid.)

Diderot (1713-1784): Today, when philosophy is advancing with gigantic strides, when it is bringing under its sway all the matters that are its proper concern, when its tone is the dominant one, and when we are beginning to shake off the yoke of authority and tradition in order to hold fast to the laws of reason, there is scarcely a single elementary or dogmatic book that satisfies us entirely. We find these works are put together out of the productions of a few men and are not founded upon the truths of nature. We dare to raise doubts about the infallibility of Aristotle and Plato, and the time has come when the works that still enjoy the highest reputation will begin to lose some of their great prestige or even fall into complete oblivion . . . Such are the consequences of the progress of reason, an advance that will overthrow so many old idols and perhaps restore to their pedestals some statues that have been cut down. (from The Definition of an Encyclopedia [1751-72])

Voltaire (1694-1778):  On the Liberty of the Press:  “You fear books, as certain small cantons [in Switzerland] fear violins [Calvinists said no to musical instruments in church].  Let men read, and let men dance—these two amusements will never do any harm to the world.”  (from Philosophical Dictionary in 1764)

C. Religious

Kant:  “But would not a society of clergymen . . . be justified in obligating itself by oath to a certain unchangeable symbol in order to enjoy unceasing guardianship over each of its members . . . ?  I answer . . . that such a contract, made to shut off all further enlightenment from the human race, is absolutely null and void even if confirmed by the supreme power [monarch], by parliaments, and by the most ceremonious of peace treaties.” (from “What . . . ?”)

III. Tolerance

Locke:  “Concerning outward worship, I say . . . that the magistrate has no power to enforce by law, either in his own church, or much less in another, the use of rites or ceremonies whatsoever in the worship of God.  And this, not only because these churches are free societies, but because whatsoever is practiced in the worship of God is only so far justifiable as it is believed by those that practice it to be acceptable unto him . . . .  To impose such things, therefore, upon any people, contrary to their own judgment, is in effect to command them to offend God, which, considering that the end of all religions is to please him, and that liberty is essentially necessary to that end, appears to be absurd beyond expression . . . .” (from “A Letter Concerning Toleration” in 1689-93)

Voltaire:  “What is toleration?  It is the prerogative of humanity.  We are all steeped in weakness and errors:  let us pardon reciprocally each other’s folly, it is the first law of nature.

            “The Parsee, the Hindu, the Jew, the Mohammedan, the Chinese deist, the Brahman, the Greek Christian, the Roman Christian, the Quaker Christian trade with each other in the stock exchanges of Amsterdam, London, Surat or Basra:  they do not raise their daggers against one another to win souls for their religions.  Why then have we butchered each other almost without interruption since the first council of Nicaea . . . ?

“Civil wars followed [in France in the 16th cent.], then saint Bartholomew [massacre in 1572], and this corner of the world was soon worse than everything the ancients and the moderns have ever said about hell.

“Of all the religions the Christian is undoubtedly that which should instill the greatest toleration, although so far the Christians have been the most intolerant of all men.” (from entry “Tolerance,” in Philosophical Dictionary, in 1764)

IV. Progress

A. Some Essay Titles:

1760 Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot, “On the Successive Advances of the Human Mind”

1754 Voltaire, “In Defense of Modernity”

1762 Adam Smith, “The Four-Stage Theory of Development”

1781 Joseph Priestly, “How Glorious, Then, Is the Prospect . . . .”

1792 Adam Ferguson, “The Progressive Character of Human Nature”

1794 Marquis de Condorcet, “The Perfectibility of Man”

Ben Franklin:

“The rapid Progress true science now makes, occasions my regretting sometimes that I was born so soon.  It is impossible to imagine the height to which may be carried, in a thousand years, the power of man over matter.  We may perhaps learn to deprive large masses of their gravity, and give them absolute levity, for the sake of easy transport.  Agriculture may diminish its labor and double its produce; all diseases may by sure means be prevented or cured, not excepting even that of old age, and our lives lengthened at pleasure even beyond the antediluvian standard.” (from a letter to Joseph Priestly in 1780)

V. Religion and the Enlightenment

A. Spectrum

Atheist – Skeptic – Deist – Traditional Christian – Enthusiast – Judgmental Enthusiast – Fanatic

1. AtheismBaron d’Holbach (1723-1789):

. . . Does it require, I say, any thing but plain, common sense, to perceive, that the idea of such a being [as God] is an idea without model, and that it is evidently only a being of imagination . . . .  It is asked what motives an Atheist can have to do good?  The motive to please himself and his fellow-creatures; to live happily and peaceably; to gain affection and esteem of men, whose existence and dispositions are much more sure and known, than those of a being [God] impossible to be known. (from Common Sense, or Natural Ideas Opposed to Supernatural in 1772)

Julien La Mettrie publishes L’Histoire naturelle de l’âme (Natural History of the Soul) (1745); and L’Homme Machine (Man the Machine) (1748), which supports materialism and atheism

2.  SkepticismDavid Hume (1711-1776)

Four Simple Objects:

Street, Gold, Wall, Rubies + Complex Impressions + Complex Idea + Imagination = New Jerusalem

Question:  What does this imply about the idea of God?  We get it from a virtuous man infinitely augmented in the imagination.

See Outline of Hume’s Theory of Knowledge

And his Outline of Hume’s Argument against Design

3.  Deism:

 Thomas Paine (1737-1809):  “I believe in one God and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life . . . .  I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Turkish church [Islam], by the Protestant church, nor by any other church that I know of.  My own mind is my own church . . . .  But some perhaps will say:  Are we to have no word of God– no revelation?  I answer:  Yes, there is a word of God; there is a revelation.

            “THE WORD OF GOD IS THE CREATION WE BEHOLD; and it is this word, which no human invention can counterfeit or alter; that God speaketh universally to man (from The Age of Reason in 1794)

4.  Traditional Christian:  The churches and theologians of all brands and denominations were still going strong.

5.  Enthusiasm: heart-felt, hand-clapping, foot-stomping, visions, “commotions,” See Quakers & Shakers and American Great Awakenings; Voltaire’s cure:  Reason

6. Some Judgmental Enthusiasts: They criticize unbelieving clergy and split churches; even more radicals burn books (e.g., as James Davenport in 1742; he retracts excesses in 1744)

7.  Fanaticism:

Voltaire on fanaticismFanaticism is to superstition what delirium is to fever, and what fury is to anger.  The man who has ecstasies and visions, who takes dreams for realities, and his imaginings for prophecies, is an enthusiast.  The man who backs his madness with murder is a fanatic.  John Diaz, living in retirement at Nuremberg, was firmly convinced that the pope was the Antichrist . . . He was only an enthusiast, but his brother Batholomew [Alphonso] Diaz, who departed from Rome piously to assassinate his brother, and who in fact killed him for love of god [in 1546], was one of the most abominable fanatics superstition has ever succeeded in shaping.  (from his Philosophical Dictionary)

Bottom Line on Enlightenment Thought

1. The philosophes were very bright, but their concerns were more social and political than purely philosophical: Diderot, Voltaire, Franklin, and Jefferson are examples.

2. They advocated tolerance in religion and politics, and freedom of the press and speech. They despised the suppression of newspapers and books, and the persecution of witches.

3. They preached that the average human should think for himself or herself and not listen to the age-old ideas of age-old institutions like the monarchy or the Church.

4. They preached the end of war, especially wars of religion.

5. However, some philosophers carried on typical philosophical issues, such as the problem of evil (Leibniz) and epistemology (Hume and Kant).

6. Skepticism rules the day, as we move farther and farther from the Renaissance and the mild skepticism seen in Montaigne and Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Religion in America

I. Moravians

A. Nikolaus Zinzendorf (Count) (1700-1760)

1710-16 Studies and grammar school

1716-19 Studies Law at U. of Wittenberg

1721 Becomes civil servant in Saxony

Sponsors assemblies in his home at Dresden

1722 Sponsors meeting of Bohemian Protestants refugees on his estate in Berthelsdorf

Invites brothers—unitas fratrum—to form a community, called Herrnhut

1727 Enters full-time ministry

1731 In Copenhagen he sees a Black slave and interest in missions begins

1734 His views come under scrutiny by Lutherans

1736 Expelled from Saxony for theology

1737 Becomes a theology candidate and ordained a bishop and is the Court preacher in Berlin under D. E. Jablonski; this means official recognition

1738-39 Travels to St. Thomas in Caribbean

1741-43 Travels to America, encouraging congregations

1747 Returns to Herrnhut and ministers to many

B. Methodism

1. John Wesley (1703-1791)

1709 He barely escapes from fire of parsonage

1720s He takes degrees from Oxford

1726 Elected to a fellowship at Lincoln College

1729 He assumes leadership of “Holy Club” in Oxford, and he says this gives early rise of “Methodism,” meaning disciplined

1728 Ordained priest in Anglican church

1735 Accepts invitation from Society for Propagation of Gospel to go on mission trip to America

1736 Travels to Savannah, Georgia, on ship Simmonds and a storm hits; Herrnhut Moravians on board sing and appear calm; Wesley asks them if they were afraid, and they say no; this strikes Wesley; “I went to America to convert the Indians, but who shall convert me?”

1738 Back in England, his “heart strangely warmed within him” under discipleship of Moravian Peter Boehler (May 24), as he listened to reading from Luther’s preface to Romans at meeting on Aldersgate Street

1739 He uses open-field preaching at suggestion of Whitefield and encounters success; coal-miners in Bristol repent

For latter years of his life he preaches in London, Bristol, New Castle-on-Tyne; in 1784 he ordains Thomas Coke to mission in America; he organizes followers into societies, subdivided into bands, subdivided into classes for fellowship and offerings

III. First Great Awakening(s) (1725-1760)

A. Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)

1716-20 Undergraduate at Yale

1720-22 M.A. at Yale

1722-23 Minister to Presbyterian church in New York

1723 Minister of church at Bolton, Connecticut

1726 Becomes his grandfather’s colleague (Solomon Stoddard) in Northampton, Mass.

1727 Marries Sarah Pierpont

1729 Full pastor of church in Northampton after death of his grandfather

1734 Local Revival begins; publishes A Divine and Supernatural Light

1737 Publishes A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God

1740 George Whitefield tours New England and meets Edwards;

Great Awakening begins in earnest

1742 Publishes Some Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival of Religion in New England

1744 Bad Book Case

1750 Council of churches votes to dismiss him as pastor of Northampton (June)

1751 Settles in Stockbridge, Mass., as local pastor and missionary to Indians

1758 Assumes office as president of College or New Jersey (Jan)

Dies of smallpox inoculation (Mar 22)

B. George Whitfield (1714-1770)

1733 Enters Oxford University

Joins “Holy Club” with Charles and John Wesley

1737-41 Travels to America and preaches revival; travels to America seven times

1740 He founds orphanage in Savannah, Georgia

1741 Marries widow Elizabeth Burnell in Wales

1743 Breaks ties with John Wesley and forms Calvinist Methodist Society over free grace and predestination

1744 Arrives in America to preach revival

1768 Founds College in Trevecca

1770 Travels around N. America, ignoring danger signs in his health; “I would rather wear out than rust out”; he dies in the morning after preaching on justification by faith

Bottom Line on Religion

1. People experience a refreshing from God.

2. However, Justo Gonzalez calls this a reaction against religious fighting and killing and rigid dogmatism. (Ch. 23 is “Spiritualist Option,” and Ch. 24 is “Pietist Option.”)

Literature in the Enlightenment

I. Description of Enlightenment Literature

A. Patronage

1. Freedom

2. Salon, where thinkers met

B. Humanity

1. Reason vs. Passion

II. Enlightenment Literature in England

A. Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797)

1. Works

a. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792)

“After considering the historic page, and viewing the living world with anxious solicitude, the most melancholy emotions of sorrowful indignation have depressed my spirits, and I have sighed when obliged to confess, that either nature has made a great difference between man and man, or that civilization which has hitherto taken place in the world has been very partial. I have turned over various books written on the subject of education, and patiently observed the conduct of parents and the management of schools; but what has been the result?—a profound conviction that the neglected education of my fellow creatures is the grand source of the misery I deplore; and that women, in particular, are rendered weak and wretched by a variety of concurring causes, originating from one hasty conclusion. The conduct and manners of women, in fact, evidently prove that their minds are not in a healthy state; for, like flowers which are planted in too rich soil, strength and usefulness are sacrificed to beauty; and the flaunting leaves, after having pleased a fastidious eye, fade . . . . One cause of this barren blooming I attribute to a false system of education, gathered from the books written on this subject by men who, considering females rather as women than human creatures, have been more anxious to make them alluring mistresses than affectionate wives and rational mothers; and the understanding of the sex has been so bubbled by this specious homage, that the civilized women of this present century, with few exceptions, are only anxious to inspire love, when they ought to cherish a nobler ambition, and by their abilities and virtues exact respect.” (from A Vindication)

B. Alexander Pope (1688-1744)

1. Works

a. Essay on Man (1733-34)

Cease, then, nor ORDER imperfection name:

Our proper bliss depends on what we blame.

Know thy own point: this kind, this due degree

Of blindness, weakness, Heaven bestows on thee.

Submit—in this, or any other sphere,

Secure to be blest as thou canst bear:

Safe in the hand of one disposing power,

Or in the natal, or the mortal hour.

All nature is but art, unknown to thee;

All chance, direction, which thou canst not see;

All discord, harmony, not understood;

All partial evil, universal good:

And, spite of pride, in erring reason’s spite,

One truth is clear, ‘Whatever is, is RIGHT’. (I.X)

III. Enlightenment Literature in France

A. François-Marie Arouet (Voltaire) (1694-1778)

1. Candide (1759)

“Chapter III: How Candide escaped from the Bulgars, and what became of him. Those who have never seen two well-trained armies drawn up for battle, can have no idea of the beauty and brilliance of the display. Bugles, fifes, oboes, drums, and salvoes of artillery produced such a harmony as Hell itself could not rival. The opening barrage destroyed about six thousand men on each side. Rifle-fire which followed rid the best of worlds of about nine or ten thousand villains who infested [or cluttered] its surface. Finally the bayonet provided “sufficient reason” for the death of several thousand more. The total casualties amounted to about thirty thousand. Candide trembled like a philosopher, and hid himself as best he could during this heroic butchery.

            “When all was over and the rival kings were celebrating their victory with Te Deums in their respective camps, Candide decided to find somewhere else to pursue his reasoning into cause and effect. He picked his way over piles of dead and dying, and reached a neighboring village on the Abar side of the border.  It was now no more than a smoking ruin, for the Bulgars had burned it to the ground in accordance with the terms of international law. Old men, crippled with wounds, watched helplessly the death-throes of their butchered women-folk, who still clasped their children to their blood-stained breasts. Girls who had satisfied the appetites of several heroes lay disemboweled in their last agonies. Others, whose bodies were badly scorched, begged to be put out of their misery.”

Voltaire is answering Pope and others in his novel. Voltaire says there is too much evil to believe this is the best of all possible worlds, whereas Pope says what we perceive as evil is merely “partial evil” and really “universal good” and “whatever is [or exists] is Right.” Which one has the stronger case?

B. Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778)

1. Works

a. Confessions (1765-70; publ. 1781-88)

1) Proto-Romantic

Simply myself. I know my own heart and understand my fellow man. But I am made unlike any one I have ever met; I will even venture to say that I am like no one in the whole world. I may be no better, but at least I am different. Whether Nature did well or ill in breaking the mould in which she formed me, is a question which can only be resolved after the reading of my book.

Let the last trump sound when it will, I shall come forward with this work in my hand, to present myself before my sovereign judge, and proclaim aloud: “Here is what I have done, and if by chance I have used some immaterial embellishment it has only been to fill a void due to a defect of memory . . . I displayed myself as I was, as vile and despicable when my behavior was such, as good, generous, and noble when I was so. I have bared my secret soul as Thou thyself hast seen it, Eternal Being! So let the numberless legion of my fellow men gather round me, and hear my confession. Let them groan at my depravities, and blush for my misdeeds. But let each one of them reveal his heart at the foot of Thy throne with equal sincerity, and may any man who dares, say, ‘I was a better man than he.’” (from Confessions)

C. Denis Diderot (1713-1784)

1. Encyclopédie (1751-1772)

INTOLERANCE, f. n. (Ethics.). It is generally understood that intolerance is a violent emotion inciting people to hate and persecute individuals with erroneous notions. For the sake of clarity let us distinguish between ecclesiastic and secular forms of intolerance.

Ecclesiastic intolerance consist in regarding as false all other religions except one’s own and in demonstrating or shouting this true religion from the rooftops without being stopped by any form of terror, sense of decency, or even the risk of death. This article will not be concerned with that particular heroism that created so many martyrs in the long history of the Church.

Secular intolerance consists in breaking off all relations with those people who have a different conception and way of worshipping God and in persecuting them by all violent means. . .

It is impious to expose religion to the odious charges of being tyrannical, severe, unjust, and unsociable, even with the intent of bringing back to the fold those people who have unfortunately strayed.

The mind can only consent to what seems true, the heart can only love what appears good. Force will make a hypocrite out of a weak man, but a martyr out of a courageous one. Whether weak or courageous, he will feel the injustice of persecution and become indignant.

Education, persuasion, and prayer are the only legitimate means of spreading religious faith . . .

Any method that would tend to stir men up, to arm nations, and to soak the earth with blood is impious.

It is impious to want to impose laws upon man’s conscience: this is a universal rule of conduct. People must be enlightened and not constrained.

Men who are sincerely mistaken are to be pitied, never to be punished.

Neither sincere nor dishonest men should be tormented: they should be abandoned to the judgment of God. . .

What did Christ recommend to his disciples when he sent them among the Gentiles? Was it to kill or die? Was it to persecute or to suffer? . . .

Stop being violent, or stop reproaching pagans and Muslims for their violence.

For the Bottom Line on Enlightenment Literature, see the Bottom Line on Entire Enlightenment, below.

American Revolution

I. Background

A. Political

1. English system

2. Colonial systems

a. Bicameral

b. Powerful governor

3. Whig ideology grows (Parliament over monarch)

B. Enlightenment Ideals

1. “Natural Rights” . . . “Liberty” . . . “Inalienable Rights”

2. See Declaration of Independence

C. Great Awakening

1. Denominational pluralism

2. Challenge to state-established churches

3. Skeptical of authority

D. Economic

1. Entrepreneurial ethos (fiercely protective of trade)

2. Artisans (2/3 of urban pop. and fiercely protective of rights, even against American town policies)

3. Family Farms (fiercely protective of farm, even against American landlords)

II. Path to Revolution

1763 Proclamation of 1763 forbids white settlement west of Appalachians

1764 Revenue Act (Sugar Act) sets higher duties on imported sugar and lower duties on molasses and enlarges power of vice-admiralty courts

Currency Act forbids all colonies to print paper money

1765 Stamp Act requires purchase of stamps from British-appointed distributors Stamp Act Congress meets in New York to challenge Stamp Act

Quartering Act requires colonies to furnish British troops with housing and some provisions Sons of Liberty form in NYC and thereafter in many towns

1766 Declaratory Act reasserts British authority over colonies after Parliament repeals Stamp Act

Riots by NY tenant farmers against oppressive American landlords

1767 Townshend Revenue Act imposes duties on tea, glass, paper, paints, etc.; repealed in 1770 except for tea

South Carolina Regulators form to stop eviction of tenant farmers

1768 British troops sent to Boston (one per male citizen) to quell unrest

1770 Boston Massacre (four or five killed, eight wounded)

1772 British Schooner Gaspee burned in Rhode Island

Committee of Correspondence forms in Boston and thereafter in other cities, in order to communicate with other colonies and drum up support for revolutionary activities

1773 Tea Act reduces duty on tea, but gives East India Company right to sell directly to Americans

Boston Tea Party dumps British tea (£10k) in harbor

1774 Coercive Acts (“Intolerable” Acts) closes Boston port, protects British officials from prosecution (Administration of Justice Act); changes Massachusetts’ charter (Massachusetts Regulating Act); and expands Quebec’s borders south to Ohio R. (Quebec Act)

First Continental Congress meets to boycott British goods (Sept-Oct)

1775 Battles of Lexington and Concord, Mass, cause 95 American and 273 British casualties (Apr)

Ft Ticonderoga taken by Ethan Allen and Green Mtn. Boys (May)

Second Continental Congress meets in Philadelphia (May) and assumes many powers of independent government:

1) Sends King George Olive Branch Petition, begging him to remove obstacles to reconciliation (July 5); King refuses to receive it (Aug 23)

2) Authorizes army (June) and Navy (Nov 1775)

3) Appoints Washington Commander in Chief (June)

4) Issues money (June)

5) Establishes postal system (July)

6) Seeks Indian neutrality

7) Approves plan to build military hospital

8) Approves of Declaration of Independence (1776)

9) Works on Articles of Confederation, which is approved in Nov 1777, but not ratified by states until March 1781

Prohibitory Act embargoes American goods

George III proclaims Americans in open rebellion (Aug 23)

1776 Thomas Paine publishes Common Sense and is distributed in Philadelphia, where Congress is meeting (Jan)

British troops evacuate Boston (Mar) and seize New York (June)

Declaration of Independence approved by Continental Congress

III. War of Independence (1775-1783)

1775 Battles at Lexington and Concord, Mass (Apr)

Battle of Bunker Hill (actually on nearby Breed’s Hill) (June)

1776 British seize NYC (June)

Washington escapes from NYC (Oct)

Washington crosses the Delaware R. to capture Hessians (Dec 25-26)

1777 British General John Burgoyne captures Ft. Ticonderoga (July)

British occupy Philadelphia (Sept), after Congress flees

Americans win victory at Saratoga, NY, on Hudson R., and Burgoyne surrenders (Oct)

1778 French Treaty of alliance and commerce (after victory at Saratoga) (Feb)

British capture Savannah, Georgia (Dec)

1779 British capture Augusta, Georgia (Jan)

British attack John Paul Jones’ ship Bonhomme Richard and demand his surrender, but he replies, “I have not yet begun to fight!” (Sept)

1780 Charleston, SC, surrenders to British (May)

Camden, SC, surrenders to British (Aug)

1781 Americans win decisive battle at Cowpens, SC (Jan)

French Navy arrives in Chesapeake Bay, VA, and establishes naval supremacy (Aug), while Washington’s army arrives from PA (Sept)

British General Cornwallis surrenders at Yorktown (Oct 19)

1783 Congress ratifies preliminary peace treaty negotiated by John Adams, Ben Franklin, John Jay, and Henry Laurens (Apr 15)

Peace of Paris formally signed (Sept 3)

IV. Constitution in Force (1789)

A. Political Philosophy Learned from State Constitutions:

1. Sovereignty resides in the people

2. Written constitutions embody their sovereign will

3. Government must function under clear constitutional limits, checks and balances

Constitutional Government
Article 1 Article 2 Article 3
Legislative Executive Judicial
Senate: Serves 6 years House of Representatives:

Serves 2 years

Serves four years up to two terms Serves for life; other federal judges serve for life
Two per state Number  of Reps. determined by population of each state Electoral College in each state votes for the nominee who gets the most popular votes in each state Supreme Court chosen by president; senate advises and consents; other federal judges chosen by president


The Bill of Rights

Ratified December 1791

Amendment I


Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for redress of grievances.

Amendment II


A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Amendment III


No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment IV


The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against reasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things seized

Amendment V


No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment VI


In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

Amendment VII


In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of a trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment VIII


Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishment inflicted.

Amendment IX


The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X


The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

V. Second Great Awakening (1797-1830s)

A. New England

1. Inside churches without earlier manifestations

2. Moral change sticks in participants

a. Yale Moral Society (1797)

b. Temperance Movement: Beecher’s Six Sermons (1826)

3. Formation of Voluntary Associations

a. Missionary Societies

1) Baptist Missionary by Particular Baptists founded (1792)

2) New York Missionary Society is formed to minister on frontier   (1796)

3) Haystack Prayer Meeting launches American Foreign Missions (1806)

b. Publication and Educational Societies

(1) 770K tracts by NE Tract Society alone; American Tract Society is formed (1825)

(2) American Education Society (1826) and Sunday School Movement begins in earnest (1835)

(3) About 130 Bible Societies founded from 1808-16 in U.S.

(4) American Bible Society is formed (1816)

4. Key Leaders of NE Great Awakening:

Timothy Dwight (1752-1817): grandson of Edwards; President of Yale (1795)

Nathaniel William Taylor (1786-1858): Pastor New Haven Church (1811-22)

Professor of Theology at Yale Divinity School (1822+)

Asahel Nettleton (1783-1844): Revivalist in Connecticut; he will oppose Finney

Lyman Beecher (1775-1863): converted by Dwight at Yale; pastor of Presbyterian church in East Hampton, Long Island (1798-1810); pastor First Church in Litchfield, Conn (1810-26); Hanover Street Congregational Church in Boston (1826-32); President Lane Theological Seminary (1832-52); he will oppose Finney

Charles Grandison Finney (1792-1875): Admitted to bar as Lawyer (1810); Converted (1821); Presbyterian ordination (1824); Revivals in New York (1824-31); Pastor of Second Presbyterian Church in NYC (1832); Professor of Theology at Oberlin College, Ohio (1835); President of College, but always active in Revivals (1851-66)

B. West

1. Methodists in West:

1800: 2,622 Whites and 179 Blacks

1812: 29,093 W and 1,648 B

1830: 175,000 W; 15,000 B; 2,000 Indians

1844: 1,068,525 members

Baptists in Kentucky:

1790: 3,105 in 42 churches

1800: 5,110 in 106 churches

1803: 10,380

1810: 31,689 in 491 churches of 564k total population

Remarkable growth in other states, too

Source: Sydney Ahlstrom, A Religious History of the American People, Yale UP,  1972, p. 436-37; 442-43.

2. Key Leaders in West:

Francis Asbury (1745-1816): Appointed Methodist Superintendent (called himself Bishop) in 1784; traveled 300k miles in West, preaching and organizing from 1772 onwards

James McGready (1758?-1817): Presbyterian revivalist; studied theology in Penn (1785-88); ministry in N. Carolina (1789-1796); moves to Kentucky (1796); Gasper River Camp Meeting (1800)

Barton Warren Stone (1772-1844): Presbyterian revivalist, but breaks with them after Cane Ridge; converted under McGready in western Carolina; Cane Ridge Revival Preacher, Kentucky (1801)

Peter Cartwright (1785-1872): Methodist circuit rider; converted in 1801 at Cane Ridge Revival; ordained deacon (1806); elder (1808); transferred to Illinois due to distaste for slavery; defeated by Lincoln in race for Congress (1846)

C. Some Key Dates

1797-1801 Many towns from CT to NH feel “heavenly sprinklings” (beginning of Awakening)

1800 Gasper River Church host Camp Meeting under McGready: “religious service of several days’ length, held outdoors, for a group that was obliged to take shelter on the spot because of the distance from home” (qtd in Ahlstrom 432)

1801 Revival at Yale College under Dwight’s preaching

Cane Ridge, Bourbon County, KY (10-20k)

1809 Restoration/Reform/Primitivism Movement gains momentum, seeking to return to NT Christianity, purged of accretions; Thomas and Alexander Campbell are prominent—Disciples of Christ church

1815-21 Revivals in CT (especially 1815-16; 1820-21)
1824-31 Finney’s Revivals in NY

Bottom Line on the American Revolution, Constitution, and the (First) Great Awakenings

1. The Constitution is well ahead of other European government documents.

2. England has a Bill of Rights, but it does not reach as far down to the “little people” as our Constitution does. Ours is a direct result of Enlightenment thinking (e.g., Locke) and revivals, which taught Americans to question officialdom (i.e., the Church), a questioning that they applied to the government in England

3. Amendment I is especially innovative, though unofficially Protestants, not Catholics, dominate political life. Certainly, Amendment I allows freedom of religion the world had barely known before. This is a direct result of the Enlightenment.

4. American Revolution and Constitution will inspire other nations, such as France and Latin Americans.

5. We are the beneficiaries of the ideas and lives and deaths of the Revolutionaries—they died in the War of Independence so Founders could set up a government that would allow freedom, even for the disenfranchised, such as slaves.

6. Slaves and abolitionists will now work for freedom within the Constitution and the ideas that lie behind it in the Enlightenment and Christian revivals.

7. Four main sources of the American Ethos or Character:

A. Philosophical-Religious Ideas that Make America

1. Revival and Religion

2. Enlightenment ideas

B. Economic and Political

1.  Business, Entrepreneur, Central Government: (Hamiltonian)

2. Pioneer, worker (Jeffersonian)

C. Tension

Revival and Religion + Enlightenment Ideas + Business entrepreneur + Central Government + Pioneer and farmer + Decentralized Government = America

Bottom Line on Entire Enlightenment

I. Economics

A. Modest advances in prosperity due to early industrial developments and benefits primarily the growing middle class

B. But no widespread prosperity for the lower classes

C. Physiocrats:

1. François Quennay and Adam Smith are most prominent

2. Basic Ideas

a. Reaction against Mercantilism (protectionism)

b. Laissez-faire (“hands off”) or noninterference policies

c. Workers and markets should govern themselves

d. Wealth is the result of labor

II. Government

A. Many support a strong legislature, as was seen in England, but few wish to abolish the monarchy

B. Many outside governments support freedom of press in writings, but not widespread in reality

C. Monarchy and aristocracy rule the day, but they are at least challenged philosophically by Enlightenment thinkers

D. American Revolution will inspire other nations to seek independence

III. Science

A. Advances along the line of the 1600s

B. Young earth belief coming under attack, which challenges traditional interpretations of Genesis

IV. Philosophy

A. Most philosophers are concerned with politics and society: freedom of thought, religion, and politics, and freedom from war

B. David Hume and others carry forward Descartes’ skepticism

C. Without any doubt, these new ideas could not impact society so strongly and widely without the growth of the number of printing presses

V. Religion

A. Freedom of religion is supported in writings, but not widespread in reality

1. Colonial America: some pockets of freedom (e.g. Rhode Island, Penn.)

B. After Thirty Years War, major wars of religion cease (thanks to fatigue and Enlightenment), but minor skirmishes still erupt on occasion

C. Inquisition still exists, and witches are occasionally persecuted, but the Inquisition and witch hunts are not as strong or prevalent as in earlier centuries

D. Deism gains momentum

1. It seeks to make religion palatable or acceptable to intellectuals as science and philosophy blow apart a comfortable theology and world

E. People seek refuge in revivals and renewals: Great Awakening and Pietism

VI. Literature

A. Neo-classicism dominates, as it is carried forward from the Baroque

B. Skepticism, as in Voltaire’s Candide, is stronger than in previous generations

C. Criticism of society and religion grows steadily from the Renaissance

VII. Art and Architecture (not outlined here, but see Outline of Age of Reason)

A. Classicism dominates because it fits with Enlightenment ideals

1. Ancient Greece and Rome represents political freedom and high political morals and devotion

B. Rococo

1. Frivolous, sexual, and carefree—reflects carefree royal courts


The 1700s is the century when America when America developed and grew out of the 1600s, fought for independence, and wrote up the Constitution. Christianity and the Age of Reason gelled together and produced our country. The Age of Reason / Enlightenment also led to the French Revolution, which proclaimed the libertyof the French.

Get up, Western world! Remember your good past, like your true biblical Christian faith, rather than empty religion! Leave the bad behind. Don’t let the left and Islam browbeat you about it! Remember your hard-fought liberties!

Live as free people!

Timeline of the Age of Revolutions and Reactions

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s