Monday, February 11, 2013

Native American Culture Creates European Desire for Personal Liberty

Part 14 of the series Are Native Americans Relevant?

At the time of contact Europeans weren’t truly free.  In the 1500s the vast majority of Europeans lived in monarchies.  Native Americans were free from monarchs and the aristocracy based on property ownership.  For the first time Europeans were aware of the possibility of living in harmony, prosperity and personal freedom.  The principles of “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” were derived from European philosophers who were envious of the Natives Americans.  Discovery of the Native Americans’ radically different lifestyle spurred on the Age of Enlightenment and the European philosophers such as Thomas More, Michel de Montaigne, Jean Jacques Rousseau and Thomas Paine who were read by the elite of the American Colonies.  Thus inspired, the colonists agitated for freedom and the right to self-government, leading to the start of the American Revolution and the publication of the Declaration of Independence, where we find these words.
The traditional Native American lifestyle inspired American philosopher Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who in turn inspired Mahatma Gandhi.  Gandhi developed the principle of non-violent protest and inspired Martin Luther King Jr., thus paving the way for the various Civil Rights Movements that have taken place since the 1950s.

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