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the death penalty has Enlightenment Ideas And Politcal Figuers Of The Era

Intro to European History
3-3-99
Enlightenment Ideas and
Political Figures of
The  Enlightenment Era


The Enlightenment of the 18th century was an exciting period of history.  For the first time since ancient Grecian times, reason and logic became center in the thoughts of most of elite society.  The urge to discover and to understand replaced religion as the major motivational ideal of the age, and the upper class social scene all over Europe was alive with livid debate on these new ideas.
A French playwright who went by the pseudonym Voltaire is the most recognized and controversial Enlightenment author.  Because of his trademark acidic wit, he was forced to flee the country after giving offence to a powerful nobleman.  He spent the next two years in England where he came in contact with the pivotal Enlightenment idea of religious freedom and the freedom of the press.  When he returned to France, he had some scathing things to say about the less than enlightened policies followed by the French monarchs, especially concerning religious intolerance.  Because his ideas were generally offensive to the ruler of his country, the need to be able to leave France quickly to avoid prosecution was a consideration when deciding where he should live, which eventually was on the Swiss boarder.  There he continued to treat on society and anything else that caught his imagination.
Along with Voltaire were many other Enlightened thinkers, or philosophes, as they came to be known.  A man by the name of Rousseau was also a very influential personality.  His essays mainly treated on social inequality and education.
An Italian by the name of Cesare Beccaria also discussed society, but more in terms of social control and matters of crime and punishment.  He was an opponent of torture, capital punishment, and of any punishment that was done to excess or didnt fit the crime that warranted it.  He arrived at his conclusions through the logic that was so popular of the day.  An excellent example of this logic is in this phrase concerning capitol punishment:  Is it not absurd, that the laws, which detest and punish homicide, should, in order to prevent murder, publicly commit murder themselves?  Rational arguments such as these permeated Enlightened conversations and didnt fail to be noticed by many of the great national rulers of the day.
One monarch who seemed to be particularly inclined to the Enlightenment philosophies was Emperor Joseph II of Austria.  After the less enlightened reign of his mother, Empress Maria Theresa, he was able to finally institutionalize many of the ideas he had been mulling over and thinking about for years.  His mother, being a staunch Catholic, saw little use for such trivial issues, but once Joseph finally attainted complete control over the empire, his reforms were widespread.  Possibly to spite his mother, one of the first thing he did as emperor was seize much of the land occupied by various monastic sects, which he accomplished through his Edict of Idle Institutions.  True to his Enlightened nature, he promptly turned the seized lands into schools and other institutions of learning.  He abolished the death penalty, made everybody equal in the eyes of the law, and ratified legislation that called for complete religious toleration.  He even attempted to make the Jews living in Austria more acceptable to society as a whole.  He had only limited success on this front, but the attempt itself was a drastic step for a monarch of any country to date.  He made great progress economically as well.   Joseph II ended the monopolies that had unnaturally influenced his economy for decades and eliminated stifling internal trade barriers.  After all was said and done, he had created around 11,000 laws in an attempt to transform his country into an embodiment of Enlightened ideals.  Has he himself put it once, I have made Philosophy the lawmaker of my empire, her logical applications are going to transform Austria.
Despite his hopes, the reforms set forth by Joseph II were not as successful as he had hoped.  He angered the nobles by releasing the peasants from serfdom, and the peasants were similarly distressed over the newfound freedoms which they had no experience dealing with.  His reforms were simply ... more

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Boston massacre

The Boston Massacre is considered by many historians to be the first battle of the Revolutionary War.  The fatal incident happened on March 5 of 1770.  The massacre resulted in the death of five colonists.  British troops in the Massachusetts Bay Colony were there to stop demonstrations against the Townshend Acts and keep order, but instead they provoked outrage.  The British soldiers and citizens brawled in streets and fought in bars.  “The citizens viewed the British soldiers as potential oppressors, competitors for jobs, and a treat to social mores” (Mahin 1).  A defiant anti-British fever was lingering among the townspeople.
There are three major things that led to the Boston Massacre: First was the growing mistrust among the British soldiers and Americans.  There were a number of other incidents were the British clashed with the patriots and their supporters.  Individual soldiers were beaten on street corners and soldiers abused unarmed civilians.  In all the Americans in Boston made it clear that the British soldiers were unwanted.
The second reason is somewhat odd.  The removal of two out of four regiments meant there were to inadequate amounts of soldiers to keep the peace.  There were enough on the other hand to remind the patriots of the great British military.
The last reason would be the revolt of the Townshend Acts.  The patriots and Americans did not agree and strife with the British soldiers over it.  The Act built tension between the two. (Griswold 23)
On March 5, 1770 the dreadful day came.  A mob of people went in front of the Customs Office in Boston Massachusetts and started to throw stuff and give insults at the soldiers. As a result to this so-called harassment the soldiers fired on the crowd.  The first to die was a black man named Crispus Attucks.  He was a native of Frainghan, Massachusetts.  He escaped from slavery in 1750 and had become a sailor. Crispus Attucks is considered the first martyr of the American Independence (Mahin 1).  The four others who died were Samuel gray, a rope maker; James Caldwell, a sailor; Samuel Maverick, a seventeen year old apprentice and Patrick Carr, a leather worker and Irish immigrant.  All in which were unarmed and brutally murdered. The soldiers killed three, mortally wounded two others, and wounded six.  How much harassment could they have done to deserve to be shot?  The most the protesters should have gotten is to be arrested.
To please the crowds Governor Hutchinson arrested the soldiers and promised the people that there would be a trial.  John Adams and Josiah Quincy took the defense of the soldiers and Preston. The soldiers went to trial in September and they and captain Preston pleaded innocent.  The eight men and Preston were tried separately and only two were found guilty.  The others were acquitted while the two found guilty were branded on the hand and released, an easy penalty for murder.  Preston was found innocent. Adams was successful in proving the soldiers fired in self-defense.  
The soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre were proven innocent.  “Adam proved that the soldiers fired in self-defense” (no author 10).
I believe the British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre and/or the captain Tomas Preston should have been convicted Guilty.
The five deaths were unjustified and unneeded. All of the five men were unarmed at the time of the shootings.  If someone throws an apple at you, you don’t shoot him or her.  In a today’s court system I believe them British soldiers would have been guilty and been convicted with murder. “Adams said, the killing were justified and blamed the violence of the immigrant Patrick Carr and Crispus Attucks” (Mahin 1).  So if Adams believes the death of the five men were blamed on them two how come they weren’t just arrested and how come the others were shot.   “Adams told the jury that the illegal assembly was guilty of every crime a mob might commit” (Mahim 1).  I don’t think the mob crimes of throwing snowballs and other stuff deserve the death penalty.  The five men were shot and murdered by the soldiers.
I feel the soldiers were looking for a fight. The soldiers provoked the citizen’s countless ... more

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