Lawrence Lindsey reflects on that question in this op-ed over at the Wall Street Journal: Geithner and the "Privilege" of Being American. As Lindsey points out, the Founding Fathers thought that our fundamental rights of life and liberty precede the State. In other words, the State does not provide us with our rights and grant them to us, rather the State merely recognizes rights that already exist. Our rights are not boons provided to us by our betters, by those who rule over us. The task of our leaders is to protect the rights that are ours by nature.
The weak spot in Lindsey's argument is that he fails to identify precisely where our rights do come from. If not from the State, then what is their basis? For the Founders, the source of our rights is divine Providence, in the God who creates and sustains the world -- "nature's God" to use a phrase from the Declaration of Independence. At the root of liberty, at the root of limited government, at the root of human freedom, is the truth that prior to and above the State there exists a Power to whom the State itself is subordinate. Take away that truth, and human rights and limited government collapse in a heap.