How did Enlightenment philosophers like John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau inspire the American revolutionaries such as George Washington and Benjamin Franklin? Think about the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution as a product of Enlightenment ideas.

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John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau introduced the idea of a social contract. The social contract is a model for how societies operate. Groups of individuals come together and agree to certain infringements on their individual liberties in exchange for certain protections. For example, one person agrees not to physically harm any other person in...

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John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau introduced the idea of a social contract. The social contract is a model for how societies operate. Groups of individuals come together and agree to certain infringements on their individual liberties in exchange for certain protections. For example, one person agrees not to physically harm any other person in exchange for the implicit promise of all other individuals that they will not harm him. It is the role of government to codify these social promises in the form of law. George Washington and Benjamin Franklin were inspired by this idea. They believed that the United States was the first place on the planet where a true social contract could be achieved. Most other nations were governed by kings or tyrants. These American revolutionaries wanted to establish a government that supported individual liberties and democracy, rather than infringe upon individual liberties in an authoritarian and unjustifiable way.

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