John Locke's Influence on the Founding Fathers

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The Founding Fathers of the United States relied heavily on many of the principles taught by John Locke. Many of the principles of Locke’s Second Treatise of Government may easily be discovered in the Declaration of Independence with some minor differences in wording and order. Many of the ideas of the proper role of government, as found in the Constitution of the United States, may be discovered in the study of Locke. In order to understand the foundation of the United States, it is vital that one studies Locke. A few ideas from Hume may be found but the real influence was from Locke. Rousseau, on the other hand, had none. A few examples of the similarities of the Declaration and Locke’s Second Treatise of Government will suffice, in order to show Locke’s importance. Some of the most important phrases of the Declaration seem to be Locke’s phrases. Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration, after declaring the purpose of government and if it fails to fulfill its purposes, that “it is the right of the People to alter or abolish it,” form a new one in such a way that will “effect their safety and happiness.” Locke declared about governmental purposes that “whenever that end is manifestly neglected, or opposed, the trust must necessarily be forfeited, and the power devolve into the hands of those that gave it, who may place it anew where they shall think best for their safety and security” (Locke 1690, Ch. XIII, P.149). Jefferson then declared “that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to write themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed,” because of “a long train of abuses.” Locke wrote “the people, who are more disposed to suffer, than right themselves by resistance, ... ... middle of paper ... ...posit is made with the whole, with no individual. The contract is equal, for each gives all. No one reserves any rights by which he can claim to judge of his own conduct” (Strauss and Cropsey 1987, 568). In conclusion, Locke influenced the Founders of the United States heavily. The rights of man in the preservation of their property, lives and liberty have been guaranteed because of these ideas. Hume, though a skeptic, I believe would not be as skeptical now because there is now history of a government by the consent of the governed. Rousseau’s ideas have been vanquished by Locke’s ideas. Works Cited Locke, John. "Second Treatise of Civil Government." Constitution Society. 1690. http://www.constitution.org/jl/2ndtr02.htm (accessed March 31, 2011). Strauss, Leo, and Joseph Cropsey. History of Political Philosophy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987.

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