Born in 1632, John Locke was one of the greatest English philosophers in the whole world (Cranston 2). He was considered to be one of the fiercest empiricists to have ever lived in Britain. The modern period history refers to him as a great thinker and an influential political philosopher. In his life, he wrote numerous philosophical materials that he based on different ideas. He is known for documents such as the Two Treatises of Government and the Letter Concerning Tolerance. He was a champion of human rights and liberty in their natural environment (Ashcraft 56). Through his writings, he portrays very significant ideas that the modern societies are applying for governance purposes. The United States is a beneficiary of Locke’s ideas. For instance, it is evident that he influenced the thinking of Thomas Jefferson. In Declaration of Independence Jefferson applies Locke’s ideas to support his arguments. Additionally, Locke’s ideas are ubiquitously present in the American Constitution.
Concepts of Locke’s Political Philosophy
Locke wrote numerous documents about political philosophy. Political ideas in the documents have been widely used in the United States by Jefferson. His noble ideas also form the largest portion of the constitution of the United States. The famous political philosophy concepts and their influence on the United States and Jefferson are the law of nature, toleration, property, Locke and punishment, state of nature, separation of powers and dissolution of government, and consent, political obligation, and the ends of government (Tuckness 1).
- a.The Law of Nature
The most interesting concept in Locke’s philosophy is the theory of Natural Rights and Natural Law. He stated that human beings are subjects of natural law that were in existence long time ago. Natural law applies to everyone and it is conceptualized through reason. The law of nature enhances coexistence among human beings mingling in a certain geographical space. The law requires human beings to respect each other and show unconditional love. The natural law concept is evident in the United States. Many people have adhered to the concepts of natural law for a very long time. Jefferson interpreted the concept and applied it in his quest to liberate Americans from British colonialism (Jefferson 155). He also included the concepts in the Declaration of Independence. Currently, the constitution recognizes the law because it provides for prosecution of any person who violates other people’s rights.
In Letter Concerning Toleration, Locke argues that the government has no right to coerce people to be members of a certain religion (Roover and Balagangadhara 524). Similarly, religious societies are not entitled to the freedom of forcing people to be their followers. His argument is that salvation is a natural course that nobody should force someone to embrace. There is no certified religion that the most powerful party should use force to recruit others. The concept of willful choice of religion is in the constitution of the United States. For instance, the constitution provides for freedom of religion. This implies that an individual is free to choose his or her religion.
In this theory, Locke champions for the rights of an individual to own property. He also claims that the government and its leadership should protect the property of its citizens (Tuckness 1). According to him, any government that does not protect property should be removed and replaced by a new one. Jefferson used Locke’s theory of property in his writing too. In his document to the International Congress with regards to the suffering of Americans in the 13 British colonies, Jefferson advices the King to stop his people from taking land from Americans who had fought for it. In the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson also applies the theory by affirming that the leadership should protect property or face the wrath of the majority (Jefferson 155). In addition to Jefferson’s works, the theory also molded the constitution. The constitution states that every citizen has the right to own property. As a means of implementation, the government has the powers to prosecute any person who destroys or destroys another person’s property.
- d.Locke and Punishment
In this theory, Locke argues that punishment should be the property of the people in power. Such people are not allowed to punish the less strong in the society (Tuckness 1). He states that there should be laws to govern punishment. His theory states that the natural law allowed people to punish others even before the existent of the government. The force of punishment is part of the constitution. Under the constitution, courts are the main forces that can subject an individual to punishment. No other organ is allowed to punish an American citizen apart from the courts.
- e.State of Nature
This theory defines the state of perfect freedom. According to Locke, the state of nature should be full of equality where an individual is free to what he wants without being frustrated by others (Tuckness 1). However, to instill sanity in the state of nature, the law of nature should be effective to ensure morality and justice. The philosophy of the state of nature is evident in the Declaration. In the Declaration, Jefferson argues that liberty and happiness are important for any government to operate within the law of nature (Jefferson 155). Jefferson might have referred to the theory of nature in making decisions regarding the freedom of his people. He was fighting for American liberation from the rule of British colonialists. Ideas in this theory propelled him to actively engage in drafting the Declaration of Independence. Lastly, the constitution of America derives its principles and values from this theory. The constitution provides full liberation for Americans to enjoy their rights and freedom. The constitution protects its citizen to make them achieve the desired happiness.
- f.Separation of Powers and Dissolution of Government
Locke argues that a functional government is based on the idea of power separation. He states that the legislature is the supreme center of power in any government (Tuckness 1). The other two pillars of the government are the executive and the judiciary. According to him, he had an idea that the composition of the legislature should be a group of elected representatives. The person who ranks highest in the executive can dissolve the legislature. Natural law governs any action that an individual finds prerequisite. Being Locke’s student in this theory, Jefferson was quick enough to find sense in this argument. He was for a system of government that would devolve powers. Currently, the constitution recognizes the state and federal governments. The constitution also provides for separation of power with three key pillars, the executive, the judiciary, and the legislature.
- g.Consent, Political Obligation, and the Ends of Government
According to Locke, it is only through consent that political societies can form. It is also by consent that individuals join those societies (Tuckness 1). He also argues that consent is the main solution to political obligation. Consent is also a determinant of the legitimate ends that any government can prefer. In the Two Treatises, Locke argues that the government’s power is limited to the public good. The government should protect people’s rights in the natural state. Jefferson was inspired by this theory. In his works, he courageously argues that the government should prioritize the interests of its citizens (Jefferson 155). Similarly, the constitution provides for procedures through which political societies are viable. It also insists on consent as the key to the doors of political obligation and the ends of government.
Locke was a great thinker and philosopher who drafted various political philosophy theories. His political philosophy had significant ideologies that a section of people and governments followed closely. Even though some people criticized the theories on the grounds of legitimacy, there are numerous people who followed his steps. Such a person is Thomas Jefferson. He also drafted numerous readings on different topics. Mostly of them covered liberalism and the rule of law. He applied several concepts from Locke’s political philosophy in drafting his own work. Declaration of Independence is one of the documents that Jefferson wrote from the influence of Locke’s ideas. Another beneficiary of Locke’s ideas is the constitution of the United States. The constitution contains numerous ideas that directly correlate with Locke’s philosophy of governance. The law of nature and separation of powers form the mantle of the constitution. Locke’s work is appreciated because of its influence on governance, morality, and social justice.
Ashcraft, Richard. Revolutionary Politics and Locke's Two Treatises of Government,
Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986. Print.
Cranston, Maurice. John Locke, A Biography, London: Longmans, Green, 1957. Print.
Jefferson, Thomas. "Declaration of Independence." The American Experience: California
Edition. Ed. Prentice Hall. Pearson, 2002. 155. Print.
Roover, Jakob De and S. N. Balagangadhara. “John Locke, Christian Liberty, and the
Predicament of Liberal Toleration”, Political Theory, 2008, 36: 523–549.
Tuckness, Alex, "Locke's Political Philosophy", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
(Winter 2012 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL =
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