Enlightened Despots

Three philosophers that shaped the policies of Enlightened Despots were known as Voltaire, Rousseau, and John Locke. There ideas about society and religion had a deep impact on these Enlightened Despots. The three that stand out in particular were Frederick the Great of Prussia, Joseph the II of Austria, and Catherine the Great of Russia. The ideas of “natural law and natural right” played a significant part in these leaders’ type of government. These Enlightenment Philosophes truly shaped the American Revolution for they put forth ideas about liberty and personal will that went on to be key aspects in the most important documents in America such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
The philosopher, Voltaire, believed in religious toleration. He believed that “revealed” religion made people ignorant and cruel. He never liked an organized religion. One of his most famous battle cries was, “Crush the infamous thing!,” which of course meant organized religion. Voltaire also held to a rational belief in God deism. This is the belief that reason and observation of the natural world, without the need for organized religion, can determine that the universe is the product of an all powerful creator. In his Philosophical Letters on the English, he expressed his admiration for England’s balanced government and relative religious toleration. His ideas influenced many Enlightened Despots, but especially two of them that go by the name of Frederick the Great of Prussia and Catherine the great of Russia. Voltaire spent two years at the court of Frederick the Great of Prussia and it was there that he shared a belief in enlightened top-down reform and a distrust of the ignorant masses. Influenced by Voltaire, Frederick the Great also practiced religious toleration.
Another important philosopher named John Locke, believed that people had natural rights. These rights were the rights to life, liberty and property. He believed that people cannot win general...