There are many different ways in which the Enlightenment affected the Declaration of Independence and the U. S Constitution. One way was the by the idea of a Social Contract; an agreement by which human beings are said to have abandoned the “state of nature” in order to form the society in which they now live. HOBBES, LOCKE, and J. J. ROUSSEAU each developed differing versions of the social contract, but all agreed that certain freedoms had been surrendered for society’s protection and that the government has definite responsibilities to its citizens.
Locke believed that governments were formed to protect the natural rights of men, and that overthrowing a government that did not protect these rights was not only a right, but also an obligation. His thoughts influenced many revolutionary pamphlets and documents, including the Virginia Constitution of 1776, and the Declaration of Independence. The Bill of Rights was created as a listing of the rights granted to citizens, the Bill of Rights serves to protect the people from a too powerful government.
These civil rights granted to U. S. Citizens are included in the first 10 amendments to the U. S. Constitution. Additionally, Lockes ideas about checks and balances and the division of church and state were later embodied in the U. S. Constitution as well. The Constitution replaced a more weakly organized system of government as outlined under the Articles of Confederation. John Locke was an English philosopher who lived during 1632-1704. In political theory he was equally influential.
Contradicting Hobbes, Locke maintained that the original state of nature was happy and characterized by reason and tolerance; all human beings were equal and free to pursue “life, health, liberty, and possessions. ” The state formed by the social contract was guided by the natural law, which guaranteed those inalienable rights. He set down the policy of checks and balances later followed in the U. S. Constitution; formulated the doctrine that revolution in some circumstances is not only a right but an obligation; and argued for broad religious freedom.
The Baron de Montesquieu was a multi-faceted Enlightenment writer whose most well known work was done in the realm of political theory. Montesquieu sought to classify types of government by the geography and climate to which they were best suited. His theories on the separation of powers within a republic were important throughout the next century, as monarchies were overthrown and republics established throughout Europe. In the U. S government his ideals where established with the following 3 branches: Legislative, Executive and Judicial.