Enlightenment Represents a Stage in Thesis

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As far as the philosophy of Montesquieu, it is crucial to note that the principle of the checks and balances of the governmental branches was also included in the Constitution. The Framers also adopted Rousseau's idea that the power of the social contract is directly derived from the people. This is best illustrated by the introduction of the Constitution: "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution of the United States of America." Even though the Anti-Federalists support movements of the Bill of Rights were based on their firm belief that the Constitution had to lay down the rules for common-law procedures in criminal cases, their contribution to the adoption of the Bill of Rights in 1791 was invaluable. In this sense, the Eighth Amendment of the Bill of Rights mirrors the direct influence of Enlightenment principles of crime and punishment as reflected, for instance, in the writings of Cesare Beccaria.
He supported the idea of regulating and controlling punishments in order to avoid excessive use of power since the aim of punishment was to prevent further harm to society. To conclude, by comparing the principles enumerated by the most prominent writers of the Enlightenment, and those to be found in the American Constitution, it is safe to argue that there are numerous similarities which support the idea that Enlightenment philosophers influenced the Framers on a myriad of issues, such as the separation of powers, popular sovereignty, social contract -- to name but a few.


Burdick, Charles K. The Law of the American Constitution: Its Origin and Development. G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1922: 3-33.

Kenyon, Cecelia M. "Men of Little Faith: The Anti-Federalists on the Nature of Representative Government." The William and Mary Quarterly 12.1 (Jan. 1955): 3-43.

Kirk, Linda. "The Matter of Enlightenment." The Historical Journal 43.4 (Dec., 2000): 1129-1143.

Porter, Roy. The Enlightenment. 2nd ed.….....

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