The independent existence of the United States was based on certain truths:
that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness—That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
On that foundation, the American Founders established a system of government based on delegated, enumerated, and thus limited powers.

The American Founders did not pluck those truths out of thin air, nor did they simply invent the principles of American government. They drew from their knowledge of thousands of years of human history, during which many peoples struggled for liberty and limited government. There were both defeats and victories along the way. The results were distilled in the founding documents of the American experiment in limited government: the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the state constitutions, and the Constitution of the United States.

More on The American Founders

Commentary

Electoral College Was Framers’ Antidote to Popular Vote

By Robert A. Levy. DC Examiner. May 13, 2013.

Graduates, Your Ambition Is the Problem

By Roger Pilon. The Wall Street Journal. May 8, 2013.

The Great Secession

By Doug Bandow. American Spectator. December 10, 2012.

Cato Studies

Only Freedom of Education Can Solve America’s Bureaucratic Crisis of Education

By Jack D. Douglas. Policy Analysis No. 155. June 17, 1991.

Articles

Declaration of Independence, U.S.

Roger Pilon. International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences., 2nd Edition. 2007.

Madison’s Constitutional Vision: The Legacy of Enumerated Powers

Roger Pilon. James Madison and the Future of Limited Government. 2003.

Public Filings

Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum

By Ilya Shapiro. Legal Briefs. August 8, 2012.

The Impact of Executive Orders on the Legislative Process: Executive Lawmaking?

By William J. Olson. Testimony. October 27, 1999.

Cato Reviews & Journals

The Classical Liberal Constitution

Richard A. Epstein. Policy Report. March/April 2014.

A New Intellectual History of Classical Liberalism

Policy Report. July/August 2013.

Frederick Douglass: The Self-Made Man

Robert McDonald. Cato's Letter. Fall 2011.

Events

Terms of Engagement: How Our Courts Should Enforce the Constitution’s Promise of Limited Government

Featuring Roger Pilon. October 8, 2013. Book Forum.

James Madison

Featuring John Samples and David Boaz. October 19, 2011. Book Forum.

The Cult of the Presidency

Featuring Gene Healy. November 4, 2008. Book Forum.