The Equality of Man in the Eighteenth Century

Henry Phelps Brown

in Egalitarianism and the Generation of Inequality

Published in print November 1988 | ISBN: 9780198286486
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191596773 | DOI:
 The Equality of Man in the Eighteenth Century

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The major part of this chapter is devoted to the two great revolutions of the eighteenth century––the American and French, both of which claimed the equality of man at their outset, but it starts by looking at the ideas of John Locke in Britain at the end of the seventeenth century. Locke had been working out a philosophy of government that was to exercise international influence throughout the following century and to lay the philosophical foundations for the American Revolution, and he affirmed near the start of his enquiry (and as a by‐product of his argument) the original equality of man in the state of nature. The second section of the chapter examines the American Declaration of Independence in relation to belief in equality, and the third examines the French Declaration of the Rights of Men and Citizens. Most of the rest of the chapter considers the situation in Britain in the eighteenth century––looking first at social inequality, and then at the English tradition of revolt and levelling (the Levellers). The final section briefly considers the limits of eighteenth‐century liberalism.

Keywords: American Revolution; Britain; Declaration of Independence; England; equality; French Declaration of the Rights of Men and Citizens; French Revolution; history; Levellers; liberalism; John Locke; revolution

Chapter.  32321 words. 

Subjects: Public Economics

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