Enlightenment thinkers in Europe influenced America's Founding Fathers to question the idea of a government having absolute control. They were mostly inspired by thinkers like Locke and Rousseau. Founding Fathers Thomas Jefferson, in the Declaration of Independence, and James Madison, in the U.S. Constitution, borrowed ideas from the Enlightenment. These documents include ideas that some countries are still trying to fight for today. The main points of the Enlightenment include, but are not limited to, natural rights, limited government, and consent of the governed.
Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence included several Enlightenment ideas, including natural rights, introduced by John Locke. Natural rights, according to these thinkers, were life, liberty, and property (or, as Jefferson called it, the pursuit of happiness). Jean Jacques Rousseau believed, as did Jefferson, that there should be equality for all, and that the government should protect that right. Jefferson borrowed Locke's other theory of social contract, which is an agreement between the government and the people. James Madison also used Locke's theory of social contract in the U.S. Constitution. The philosophers of the Enlightenment wanted limited government so that the people could trust that the government could uphold the social contract. This idea has come to be known as consent of the governed. Articles I, II, and III of the Constitution establish the federal legislative, executive, and judicial branches, respectively. This creates a separation of powers and checks and balances.
The preamble of the Constitution called for a more perfect union. The Constitution establishes justice and domestic tranquility. It also called for common defense. The Founding Fathers wanted to promote general welfare. They borrowed ideas from Enlightenment thinkers to secure the blessings of liberty through natural rights, limited government, and consent of the governed.