Modern human rights stem from the Enlightenment–the 18th century intellectual and cultural movement in the Western World which rejected tyranny, superstition, cruelty, and persecution in favor of open-mindedness, liberalism, reason, and humanitarianism. Arising out of the evolving standards of decency which mark the moral progress of mankind, the Enlightenment unleashed irresistible civilizing influences that have elevated and improved social manners, government practices, and political institutions. Respect for human rights was fundamental to the Enlightenment. The Declaration of Independence (1776), the U.S. Bill of Rights (1789), and the French Declaration des Droits de L’Homme (1789) are products of the Enlightenment.
Wilkes, Donald E. Jr., "The Anti-Enlightenment and Human Rights" (2008). Popular Media. Paper 164.