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Political Thought and the Origins of the American Presidency$
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Ben Lowe

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9780813066813

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: January 2022

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813066813.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM FLORIDA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.florida.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University Press of Florida, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in FLASO for personal use.date: 30 June 2022

Enlightened Despotism and the American Revolution

Enlightened Despotism and the American Revolution

The Political Thought of Frederick the Great of Prussia

(p.98) 5 Enlightened Despotism and the American Revolution
Political Thought and the Origins of the American Presidency

Caroline Winterer

University Press of Florida

This chapter shows that the political thought of King Frederick II of Prussia (1712–1786) influenced Americans during the revolutionary era by offering both a positive and negative example of despotic executive power. Having thrown off the monarchical rule of King George III in 1776, Americans remained unsure about which kind of executive rule would be acceptable in their new kingless republic. Widely admired by leading revolutionaries, Frederick II offered a viable and appealing example for newly republican Americans because he combined military success with a well-publicized effort to rule the people of Prussia in the name of enlightenment, whose core ideal was that human reason would lead to progress and happiness. Frederick encouraged religious freedom, educational and judicial reforms, and even some freedoms of the press. Frederick’s influence rapidly faded in the early nineteenth century after Napoleon Bonaparte’s conquests dimmed the appeal of despotism.

Keywords:   Frederick II, monarchical rule, despotism, executive power, Napoleon Bonaparte, revolutionary era

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