Liberty, Equality, Fraternity

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François–Marie Arouet, who wrote under the name Voltaire, was both the best–known and most tireless advocate of the Enlightenment and also a close associate of several European kings and many French aristocrats. In his widely read history, The…

In 1774, on the accession of Louis XVI, Anne–Robert–Jacques Turgot was named Controller–General of Finances. In this position, he also became responsible for administrative policies relating to taxation, the economy, and local government. With…

In 1783 Charles Alexandre de Calonne, a provincial noble, became royal finance minister. At first, he, like Vergennes, saw no need to rationalize the royal treasury or to appease the Parlements. By 1786, however, the deficit had become so…

Simon–Henri Linguet was one of the most active and irascible old regime figures. Among his many careers, he was a lawyer (who was disbarred in 1775) and a journalist (who was forced to give up his newspaper and flee to England in 1776). Throughout…

In the 1780s, following the fall of the reform–minded Turgot and Necker ministries, traditionalists felt certain that they had seen the last of the crass, pro–commerce ideas that these men and their supporters had promoted. In this pamphlet,…

In response to policies that threatened to restore Catholicism in England, Parliament deposed King James II and called William of Orange from the Dutch Republic and his wife Mary, who was James’s Protestant daughter, to replace him. William and…

John Locke (1632–1704) wrote his Second Treatise of Government early in the 1680s and published it in 1690. In it Locke proposed a social contract theory of government and argued against the idea of "divine right," which held that rulers had a…

The author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826), was deeply influenced by the European Enlightenment. He spent many years in Paris and was just as much at home among European intellectuals as he was on his plantation in…

The Declaration of Rights drafted in 1776 by George Mason for the state constitution of Virginia influenced both Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen. It clearly states that rights are…

Voltaire was the pen name of François–Marie Arouet (1694–1778), an Enlightenment writer known for his plays and histories and his acerbic criticism of the French Catholic Church. Although Voltaire eventually became a kind of cultural icon…
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