Jefferson and other members of the founding generation were deeply influenced by the 18th-century European intellectual movement known as the Enlightenment. Enlightenment philosophy stressed that liberty and equality were natural human rights.
Colonial Americans argued that King George III and Parliament had denied them the basic rights of British citizens. Despite the pervasiveness of slavery in their society, the revolutionary generation envisioned a new American government that secured the rights and freedoms of its citizens. However, these rights and freedoms did not extend to slaves.