James Madison

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When English political philosopher John Locke published Two Treatises of

Government anonymously in 1689, the lack of attention the seemingly radical work

received in the period of upheaval immediately in the wake of the Glorious Revolution

is, in hindsight, nothing short of astounding. Drawing inspiration from Thomas Hobbes’

Leviathan and Machiavelli’s Discourses on Livy, few (if any) of Locke’s contemporaries

would have realized how explicitly revolutionary his ideas would prove to be. Locke’s

philosophical ideals, exposed mostly in the Second Treatise, were more radically

individualistic than arguably any others published at that time. He placed unmatched

emphasis on the importance of personal property rights, a topic that had been

previously pondered and exposed but widely disregarded on any significant political,

cultural, or religious level. However, the lack of fanfare surrounding the release of his

work proved to be entirely unrepresentative of the vast impact his ideas would have on

the course of Western society. The ideas of John Locke, distinctly more individualist

than those of his predecessors proved to the the spark that would set alight, albeit some

years later, the fire of liberalization in the minds of the Western population: the Second

Treatise, within a century of its original publication, would usher in unprecedented

changes in Western religious thought and practice and, even more importantly, would

find itself spreading across continents and oceans to act as a guiding light for two of the

most major sociopolitical uprisings of the modern age.

Before one can properly understand the full extent of Locke’s influence on the

beginnings of modern Western society...

... middle of paper ...

...Bacon, Locke and Newton...I

consider them as the three greatest men that have ever lived, without any exception.”

James Madison, however, was more influenced by John Locke’s work than perhaps any

of the other Founding Fathers. In a way, James Madison worked as a sort of proxy or

channel for Lockean ideas to form the basis of the American society, though that is

obviously a drastic oversimplification. Because of the direct influence of his arguments

against the Divine Right of kings, the Right to Revolution, and political participation as a

self-interested act by every individual to protect their own material possessions, the

United States of America would, after the successful Revolution, become a society

many times more liberal and independent (both on a personal and on a diplomatic level)

than arguably any other the world had yet seen.

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