During the Enlightenment, there were many philosophers who developed various ideas pertaining to government. Among these philosophers were Locke, Voltaire, and Montesquieu. The ideas and principles of these men have influenced the American government greatly. The Declaration of Independence is influenced by Locke’s ideas of all citizens having certain rights. The Constitution is influenced by Montesquieu’s ideas for a system of checks and balances and separation of powers. The Bill of Rights is influenced by Voltaire’s ideas of free speech and individual rights. Ideas of Enlightenment thinkers Locke, Montesquieu, and Voltaire have been woven into important American documents such as the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence.
Locke believed that all men had certain natural rights. These rights were life, liberty, and property. He believed that a government’s job is to protect these rights of the citizens, and if it is not doing its job the people can overthrow it. Thomas Jefferson used these ideas when writing the Declaration of Independence, which states that all citizens have the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It also states that in order to secure these rights, a government must be instituted. If the government becomes destructive, the people can alter or abolish it.
Montesquieu believed in the separation of powers and a system of checks and balances. This means that the government should be divided into three branches and given equal but different powers. Each branch should be able to limit the power of the other branches, so as not to cause one branch having more power and destroying all the other powers. These ideas are the basis of the American Constitution. The Constitution establishes the judicial, legislative, and executive branches and describes the duties of each. It also shows how each branch can limit the powers of the other branches. For example, the legislative branch makes new laws but...
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