Ideas That Influenced the Constitution

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

The world had never seen anything quite like the U.S. Constitution.  However, the creators of the Constitution were influenced by other countries and other political thinkers throughout the history of the world.

BRITISH INFLUENCES

The Framers (men who wrote the constitution) were familiar with England's Parliament and many had been in colonial and state governments. 

They knew of the English Magna Carta.  This document, written in 1215, limited the power of the Kings and Queens of England and made Parliament the most powerful political force in England.

The Framers were also familiar with the English Bill of Rights of 1689.  This influenced the Framers to eventually include a bill of rights in the U.S. Constitution.

ENLIGHTENMENT PHILOSOPHERS

The Framers were also familiar with the writings and thoughts of Baron de Montesquieu and John Locke.

LOCKE
John Locke was a philosopher from England.  He believed in the idea of natural rights.  According to Locke, all humans have the right to life, liberty, and property.  Jefferson later used these ideas in the Declaration of Independence.

John Locke also believed that governments are based on a social contract, or an agreement, between the people and the rulers.

MONTESQUIEU
Baron de Montesquieu was a French philosopher who argued that the powers of government should be kept separated and balanced from each other.  This should be done to prevent any one group or person from obtaining too much power.