Comparing Jefferson and Rousseau’s Ideas

2 February 2017

Outline Thesis: Two significant thinkers and writers Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Thomas Jefferson both had a great influence on revolutions in France and America accordingly. As long as Rousseau’s “The Origin of the Civil Society” was written before Jefferson’s “Declaration of Independence” it is said that Rousseau is the person who influenced on Jefferson’s work. Moreover, both authors share several key concepts.

Since Jefferson and Rousseau share some key ideas, especially those expressed on fundamental human rights, the paper aims to compare their ideas and to find if there are more similarities or differences.The paper will take certain parts from both works to show which concepts are reflecting each other. 1) One of their shared idea on political equality and freedom: a. Excerpt from the Declaration of Independence and its meaning b. Excerpt from the Origin of the Civil Society and how it reflected in Jefferson’s work 2) Another shared idea about how people give up their freedom to guarantee themselves protection and comforts.

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They decide to form a society which will be governed by one particular ruler but can overthrow him: a. Excerpt from Declaration of Independence and its explanation b.

Appropriate statement from Rousseau’s work on this idea 3) Another shared argument which is used obliquely by Jefferson a. Rousseau’s thought on “Might makes Right” b. Jefferson uses Rousseau’s philosophy to rationalize the separation of American colonies from British crown 4) Shift to explore the differences in their writings a. Theoretical and Practical b. Initially not revolutionary and directly persuading to a revolution 5) Conclusion a. They, indeed, share some key concepts but the main difference remain to be the different political arenas, France and America

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