(August 29, 1632 – October 28, 1704)
“The end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom. For in all the states of created beings capable of law, where there is no law, there is no freedom.”
John Locke had an indelible influence on the Founding Fathers and the documents considered to be our Founding Documents. Locke was an English philosopher and physician and is considered the father of classical liberalism. Locke was a proponent of classical republicanism, an ideology that rejected tyranny whether monarchic, aristocratic, or democratic. He attended the Westminster School in London and then Christ Church Oxford.
James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson referenced Locke and his ideology in their written works. Jefferson wrote: “Bacon, Locke and Newton … I consider them as the three greatest men that have ever lived, without any exception, and as having laid the foundation of those superstructures which have been raised in the Physical and Moral sciences.” Locke’s influence on Jefferson is evident in the Declaration of Independence.
In the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson reproduced a passage from the nineteenth chapter of Locke’s Second Treatise, which states, “But if a long train of abuses, prevarications and artifices, all tending the same way, make the design visible to the people, and they cannot but feel, what they lie under, and whither they are going, ’tis not to be wondered, that they should then rouse themselves, and endeavour to put the rule into such hands, which may secure to them the ends for which government was at first enacted”. The Declaration says, “But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”
Locke not only opposed tyranny, he also supported and detailed in his works such ideas as limited government, right to property and natural rights. According to Locke, property was derived from a man’s labor and government cannot “dispose of the estates of the subjects arbitrarily.” Karl Marx disagreed with this concept and critiqued Locke’s theory of property in his social theory. Locke was a religious man and he referenced God and biblical principles throughout his works. The idea of separate branches of government were main themes for Locke as well as he specified the need for at least two branches of government, a legislative and an executive.
The Founders were inspired to move against Great Britain with Locke’s idea that revolution is not only a right, but an obligation when necessary. They took the first step with the Declaration of Independence.
– Diane Student
About the Author: Conservative-libertarian and registered Republican Diane Student is a successful small business owner, talented blogger/proprietor of Freedoms’ Wings Politics, and host of the wildly popular internet radio program Freedom’s Wings. Follow her on twitter @FreedomsWings and like The Freedom’s Wings Show on Facebook.
Bailyn, Bernard. The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1992.
Locke, John. Two Treatise of Government, Second Treatise of Civil Government. London, 1690.
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. “John Locke.” Sept. 2001