The Enlightenment movement, which questioned traditional authority and embraced rationalism, heavily influenced The Declaration of Independence. In breaking away from Great Britain, Thomas Jefferson called on the "certain unalienable rights" of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." These rights varied only slightly from the rights of "life, liberty and property" British philosopher John Locke laid out in his 1689 "Two Treatises of Government."
The Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments added to the U.S. Constitution, were meant to put specific limits on government power. The early U.S. government was split into two factions: the Federalists, who supported a strong national government, and the Anti-Federalists, who feared centralized government. The Bill of Rights were added as part of a compromise between the sparring parties.
Thomas Jefferson was the main author of the Declaration of Independence and the nation's third President. He was also deeply interested in science, philosophy and architecture. He designed his own gravestone and insisted that it read, "Here was buried, Thomas Jefferson, Author of the Declaration of American Independence of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom & Father of the University of Virginia."
John Hancock is best known for his extravagant signature on the Declaration of Independence, which he was the first to sign. However, Hancock was also a key figure in early revolutionary politics and one of the richest men in New England.