These are just a few things that influenced our Founding Fathers. There are many more such as The Bishop Wars, William of Normandy, Charter of Liberties, the English Civil Wars, Pericles from the Golden Age of Greece and many more! 

Documents, books and essays


Magna Carta (1215)

The Magna Carta eventually served as the foundation for the English system of common law. Later generations of Englishmen would celebrate the Magna Carta as a symbol of freedom from oppression, as would the Founding Fathers who in 1776 looked to the charter as a historical precedent for asserting their liberty from the English crown. 


Commentaries on the Laws of England by William Blackstone

Perhaps the most important legal treatise ever written in the English language, Blackstone’s Commentaries was the first effort to consolidate English common law into a unified and rational system. 


Essay Concerning Human Understanding by John Locke

An Essay Concerning Human Understanding concerns the foundation of human knowledge and understanding. Locke describes the mind at birth as a blank slate filled later through experience. 


Essay on Crimes and Punishment by Cesare Becarria

Beccaria’s influential Essay On Crimes and Punishments is considered a foundation work in the modern field of criminology.


History of the Roman Republic by Theodore Mommsen

Thoroughly referenced with a wealth of primary sources from great Roman writers such as Cicero and Plutarch, The History of the Roman Republic is essential reading for those interested in the history of the Ancient world and its legacy. 


Letter Concerning Toleration by John Locke

John Locke’s “Letter” is one of the most under appreciated texts in the liberal tradition of political philosophy. When read in conjunction with his Second Treatise, it clarifies the relationship Locke envisions between individuals and the state. 



Reasonableness of Christianity by John Locke

In The Reasonableness of Christianity Locke considered what it was to which all Christians must assent in faith; he argued that the answer could be found by anyone for themselves in the divine revelation of Scripture alone. He maintained that the requirements of Scripture were few and simple, and therefore offered a basis for tolerant agreement among all Christians, and the promise of peace, stability, and security through toleration. 


Some Thoughts Concerning Education by John Locke

Locke does not present a systematic theory of education, and the work reads more like an instruction manual than a philosophical text. Locke’s is convinced that moral education is more important than other kinds of education. The goal of education, in his view, is not to create a scholar, but to create a virtuous man. 


Spirit of the Laws by Baron de Montesquieu

The ideas laid forth by Montesquieu in this work, especially that of balancing power among branches of government, had a prominent influence on the American Constitution.


Story of Liberty by Charles Carleton Coffin

The Story of Liberty covers a period of five hundred years, and is an outline of the march of the human race from Slavery to Freedom. 


The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli

Machiavelli composed The Prince as a practical guide for ruling. The Prince is not particularly theoretical or abstract; its prose is simple and its logic straightforward. 


Treatise Of Human Nature by David Hume

Hume began writing the treatise at the age of sixteen, finishing the work ten years later. Many scholars today consider it to be Hume’s most important work. 



Two Treatises of Government by John Locke

This text laid the foundation for modern forms of democracy and for the Constitution of the United States. 


Utopia by Thomas More

Utopia by Thomas More offers a criticism of European society at the time, offers a model against which that society can be measured and perhaps repaired but the book ultimately concludes that the only way to perfection is through Christianity and the coming of Christ. 


Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith

Adam Smith’s masterpiece, first published in 1776, is the foundation of modern economic thought and remains the single most important account of the rise of, and the principles behind, modern capitalism. 


The Law of Nations or the Principles of Natural Law by Emmerich de Vattel

The Law of Nations, or, principles of the law of nature, applied to the conduct and affairs of nations and sovereigns.


Petition of Right (1628)

This is a statement of the objectives of the 1628 English legal reform movement that led to the Civil War and deposing of Charles I in 1649. It expresses many of the ideals that later led to the American Revolution. 


English Bill of Rights (1689)

An Act Declaring the Rights and Liberties of the Subject and Settling the Succession of the Crown.




Iroquois Confederacy

During the struggle for independence from Great Britain and the subsequent effort to meld a group of separate colonies into a truly United States of America, the Founding Fathers turned to a variety of sources as inspiration.


Classical Influence in American Government

The founding fathers of the United States drew upon multiple sources when designing American government. Enlightenment philosophy was important, including the ideas of Voltaire, Montesquieu, and John Locke. The founders also looked towards the heritage of the Ancient world.