The American Enlightenment is a period of intellectual ferment in the thirteen American colonies in the period 1714–1818, which led to the American Revolution, American Independence, the creation of the American Republic under the United States Constitution of 1787, the Bill of Rights in 1790, the development of Federal and State laws and institutions protecting the liberties defined in the constitution over the next three decades, and the War of 1812 or "Second War of Independence". Influenced by the 18th-century European Enlightenment, and its own native American Philosophy, the American Enlightenment applied scientific reasoning to politics, science, and religion, promoted religious tolerance, and restored literature, the arts, and music as important disciplines and professions worthy of study in colleges. The "new-model" American style colleges of King's College New York (now Columbia University), and the College of Philadelphia (now Penn) were founded, Yale College and the College of William & Mary were reformed, and a non-denominational moral philosophy replaced theology in many college curricula; even Puritan colleges such as the College of New Jersey (now Princeton) and Harvard reformed their curricula to include natural philosophy (science), modern astronomy, and math. The foremost representatives of the American Enlightenment included men who were Presidents of Colonial Colleges: Puritan religious leaders President Jonathan Edwards, President Thomas Clap, and President Ezra Stiles, and Anglican moral philosophers American President Samuel Johnson and Provost William Smith. It also included political thinkers John Adams, James Madison, James Wilson, and Alexander Hamilton, and polymaths Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson.
Human rights are "commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being." Human rights are thus conceived as universal (applicable everywhere) and egalitarian (the same for everyone). These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in local, regional, national, and international law. The doctrine of human rights in international practice, within international law, global and regional institutions, in the policies of states and in the activities of non-governmental organizations, has been a cornerstone of public policy around the world. The idea of human rights states, "if the public discourse of peacetime global society can be said to have a common moral language, it is that of human rights." Despite this, the strong claims made by the doctrine of human rights continue to provoke considerable skepticism and debates about the content, nature and justifications of human rights to this day. Indeed, the question of what is meant by a "right" is itself controversial and the subject of continued philosophical debate.
Many of the basic ideas that animated the human rights movement developed in the aftermath of the Second World War and the atrocities of The Holocaust, culminating in the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Paris by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. The ancient world did not possess the concept of universal human rights. The true forerunner of human rights discourse was the concept of natural rights which appeared as part of the medieval Natural law tradition that became prominent during the Enlightenment with such philosophers as John Locke, Francis Hutcheson, and Jean-Jacques Burlamaqui, and featured prominently in the political discourse of the American Revolution and the French Revolution.
"Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" is a well-known phrase in the United States Declaration of Independence. The phrase gives examples of the various "unalienable rights" which the Declaration says all human beings have been given by their Creator and for the protection of which they institute governments.
Natural and legal rights are two types of rights: legal rights are those bestowed onto a person by a given legal system, while natural rights are those not contingent upon the laws, customs, or beliefs of any particular culture or government, and therefore universal and inalienable.
The theory of natural law is closely related to the theory of natural rights. During the Age of Enlightenment, natural law theory challenged the divine right of kings, and became an alternative justification for the establishment of a social contract, positive law, and government — and thus legal rights — in the form of classical republicanism.]dubious original research?clarification needed[ Conversely, the concept of natural rights is used by some anarchists to challenge the legitimacy of all such establishments.
The quotation "All men are created equal" has been called an "immortal declaration", and "perhaps [the] single phrase" and popularized as "theory of prediction" of the United States Revolutionary period with the greatest "continuing importance". Thomas Jefferson first used the phrase in the Declaration of Independence, and as important as who wrote it and what was written, is also whom all men were being declared equal to, namely, George William Frederick III — the King of Great Britain (not his subjects). It was thereafter quoted or incorporated into speeches by a wide array of substantial figures in American political and social life in the United States. The final form of the phrase was stylized by Benjamin Franklin.
The Declaration of Independence is a statement adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, which announced that the thirteen American colonies, then at war with Great Britain, regarded themselves as independent states, and no longer a part of the British Empire. Instead they formed a union that would become a new nation—the United States of America. John Adams was a leader in pushing for independence, which was unanimously approved on July 2. A committee had already drafted the formal declaration, to be ready when Congress voted on independence.
Adams persuaded the committee to select Thomas Jefferson to compose the original draft of the document, which congress would edit to produce the final version. The Declaration was ultimately a formal explanation of why Congress had voted on July 2 to declare independence from Great Britain, more than a year after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War. The national birthday, the Independence Day is celebrated on July 4, although Adams wanted July 2.