America’s Founding Fathers—Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, James Madison, and the like—created a republican system of government that was, for its time, truly unique. This government reflected the political philosophies of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment. Perhaps more important, the American system of government embodied the conceptions of liberty, equality, and freedom from tyranny held by ordinary Americans.

Both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution reflect these ideals. The Declaration of Independence cut off all of the colonies’ political ties with Great Britain, established the United States as a new nation, and expressed America’s political philosophy. The Constitution created a stable federal system of government in which the individual states and a strong national government share political power. The process in which the Constitution was written and later ratified further reflects American ideals and values.

Popular pages: The Founding and the Constitution