In the eighteenth century, there were different notions concerning freedom and equality that had emerged. It seemed that there were two groups at this time; the conservatives and liberals. However, it is important to note that, many of the governments at that time were conservatives. Many European nations were under monarchy, for example, Britain and France. The conservatives never believed that there was a term referred to as equality or freedom. They believed that the rulers at the time were above the rest. They were representatives of God here on earth, and so were more equal than the rest of the population. Moreover, they did not find it necessary for citizens to have freedom. This is because they had an idea that, men are evil by nature. They had to be tamed and ruled by strong people who were kings and princes.
On the side of liberals, they believed in freedom and equality. They held the belief that God created very man and woman equal, hence there was no need of anyone to be above the rest. That was why they advocated for revolutions to overthrow the monarchs. They believed that every individual had an opportunity to be equal, as well as gain numerous rights just like the rest. In liberalism, no one was above the other, all men were equal.
There is a difference between freedom and equality. However, the relationship that the two terms have is a complex one. On one hand, equality refers to the fairness or likeness in quality, status, power or degree. It refers to being exactly the same as others. On the other hand, freedom is being able to think and act whichever way one wants, that is without limitations or control. However, it is important to note that the two terms are connected in that; an individual has to be free first before being equal to others. A person who has been enslaved has no freedom, and hence cannot be equal with the rest. This is because slaves are always under their masters.
The ideas as put forward by liberals became revolutionary for the majority of European rulers because people became enthusiastic with liberalism. Conservatives had argued that the educated and wealthy minority were the ones fit to rule others, in addition to enjoying more rights than the rest of the population. This view came to change in the eyes of most European population. They demanded for more rights and freedom, and that is why the eighteenth century was characterized by numerous revolutions that changed the way democracy was viewed.
The way liberals understood the meaning of freedom and equality were challenged by conservatives. The conservatives warned that liberals were aiming at disrupting the natural order of things in the world. Moreover, liberals were seen as chaotic and only wanted to overthrow governments. Conservatives argued that not everybody was created equal. People were different all over the world; hence not all will be equal. There are others that will have or enjoy more privileges than others.
Liberals strengthened their beliefs about freedom and rights by making sure that their ideals spread through the masses. They did this by pointing out the cruelty and oppression that was associated with conservatives. By doing this, liberal ideas were spread amongst the citizens all over Europe. Revolutions were born, for example the French revolution. They modified their beliefs by ensuring that people were free and equal so long as they did not do harm to themselves. There were few restrictions that came with the freedom they had advocated for, for example there had to be a powerful government that governed the people and protect their rights.