Many leading colonists, most notably Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, followed the doctrines of deism, a religious outgrowth of the Enlightenment.
Deists relied on the reasoning power of science rather than on faith.
Locke’s ideas regarding limited, democratic government; the right to rebel against an inept government; and the opportunity to pursue the natural rights enjoyed by all mankind; clearly influenced Jefferson: “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.” –Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration of Independence Following the French and Indian War, many of Parliament’s decisions to control the colonists through taxes and trade regulations produced waves of discontent in America.
However, after England repealed the Townshend duties and support for the non-importation agreements weakened, trade between America and Great Britain increased.
Debate and conflict over government authority, diverse state economies, federal control of western territories, and the new republic’s relationship with other nations transformed America’s political culture.
The desire to form a democratic government with balanced powers can be traced, in part, to the Enlightenment and its profound impact on colonial thinking.As late as January 1776, months before independence was declared, many colonists continued to proclaim their loyalty to the Crown.Large portions of the population, including people in leadership roles, considered the colonies an extension of Great Britain and generally discarded the notion of becoming a self-governing country.Locke argued that rebellion against such a government was acceptable if it failed to protect certain “self-evident” natural rights, including life, liberty, and property.This “right of rebellion” theory, based upon natural law, subsequently influenced the American Patriots.Parliament’s prior reactions to rebellious acts, including the Boston Tea Party, loomed heavy on the colonists’ minds.Eventually, however, the numerous taxes, strict regulations, and decision to hire foreign soldiers to suppress colonial uprisings weakened the loyalists’ allegiance to the Crown.Paine unleashed his anger directly at King George III.He argued that the cause of American hostility toward the British government was not Parliament, but rather the monarchy, which he claimed was the true source of malice toward the colonists.Within a short period, most of the other colonies established similar organizations to spread the spirit of resistance and exchange information and ideas about the latest British policies.The network effectively shaped public opinion, generated strong inter-colonial cooperation, and created a unified front that invigorated the patriotic cause.