During the United States' revolutionary era (1763-1787), the political philosophies of Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and John Jacques Rousseau all served as influences in the creation of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution--two of the most important documents in American history. At this time, the British colonies in North America were struggling to break free from what they viewed as a tyrannical and unjust monarchical system of rule. After they declared their independence from Great Britain in 1776, they were faced with the monumental task of creating a republic that would balance respect for individual rights with a strong national government.
The men at the forefront of this debate are most commonly known as the Founding Fathers, political leaders and statesmen who participated in the American Revolution and were the key architects in the creation of the United States of America as embodied in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. Many of these men came of age during the "Enlightenment Era", a cultural movement of intellectuals in eighteenth-century Europe that sought to mobilize the power of reason in order to reform society and advance knowledge. Included in this group of philosophers were Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau. Their writings had a profound influence on men who sought guidance on what was essentially a grand experiment in governance.
For this assessment, you will use selected texts from Hobbes (Leviathan), Locke (Second Treatise of Government), and Rousseau (Social Contract) to determine how their perspectives on the state of nature, society, and government are reflected in the ideals put forth by the Founding Fathers. After reviewing the texts, read about the history of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution in addition to the actual texts. For the U.S. Constitution, focus on the Preamble, Articles I-VII, and the first ten amendments (also known as the "Bill of Rights"), which will assist you in composing your answers.
Then, write three short essays (between 2-3 paragraphs each) comparing the central themes of government and the distribution of power in Hobbes' Leviathan, Locke's Second Treatise of Government, and Rousseau's Social Contract to those found in the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution. How are the latter texts reflective of the former? In other words, where specifically might the Founding Fathers have found inspiration while writing these documents, either explicitly or implicitly, in the works of Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau? On what issues may the Founding Fathers have parted ways with the authors? Be sure to provide direct quotes from the relevant texts in your argument.