The American founders did not consider themselves as making a radical break with the past; they considered themselves as standing on the shoulders of giants. There were three cities in particular which influenced their tradition of thought:
It all started in Jerusalem with the revelation of one God: monotheism as opposed to polytheism, the creator of a world which is thoroughly good. The world is not divided between an evil demiurge and a good demiurge. It has its integrity, it is good. Evil didn’t enter the world through God, but through man’s disordered will.
From Athens, we have the invaluable contribution of the integrity of reason and reason’s ability to apprehend reality. Because behind reality is logos, is reason. Reality is a manifestation of the creative reason which our minds can apprehend.
The Romans learned from the Greeks about the nature of law, and the fact that through reason, we can know the difference between good and evil, and that all people’s souls are directed toward the same good. This notion is essential for a foundation in the rule of law: that men are ruled by laws and not by men. Why not? Because men can rule arbitrarily, according to their whim and according to their self-interest.
All of these notions were critical for the development of the idea of limited government. The United States, in its founding, and its Constitution, and in its Declaration of Independence, is unintelligible without recognizing the contributions that came from Jerusalem, Athens, and Rome.