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Locke’s Government

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The Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson, and The SecondTreatise on Civil Government by John Locke, are two similar works. Lockes work seems tohave had an influence on Jefferson when he wrote the Declaration of Independence. Both workswere written on government, what it should and should not be.

Locke brings the view that the state exists to preserve the natural rights of its citizens. When governments fail in that task, citizens have the right–and sometimes the duty–towithdraw their support and event to rebel.

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Locke maintained that the state of nature was a happyand tolerant one, that the social contract preserved the preexistent natural rights of theindividual to life, liberty, and property, and that the enjoyment of private rights– the pursuit ofhappiness– led, in civil society, to the common good.

Lockes form of government is simple, yet confusing. Lockes government is brokendown into four main areas, the State of Nature ( SN ), the State of War ( SW ), Civil Society ( CS ), and Political Society ( PS ).

Locke begins by recognizing the differencesbetween power, in general, and political power in particular. Locke believes political power tobe, the power of a magistrate over a subject. (2) The subject remains under the magistratesrule by choice. This brings about the State of Nature. The SN is a state of perfect freedom, noone is controlling others and no one is being controlled, everyone is equal. Locke comes to saythat the only way someone can rule over us is if we let them. By doing this we are notabandoning our SN, but remaining in it. It is ones choice to let another preside over them. OurSN is threatened though because we do not have complete control, therefore we come into theState of War. Under SW we have taken away others SN or given up our own. For us to get itback we come into Civil Society. By lending out our SN we come together to protect it. We aregiven back our SN after it has been restored. We are no longer threatened by someone taking itaway. The problem that arises is the fact that this is not a very solid solution. This leads to thePolitical Society. People agree to get together and establish a PC (AKA government) The PCis responsible for protecting others. We are still in our State of Nature as we have lended it out, received it back and come to terms with others in arranging a Political Society. Locke isattempting to understand the proper relationship between a people and a government.

Jeffersons ideas are very close to those of Lockes. Which proves Lockes work had animpact on him. The first major relationship between Jeffersons Declaration of Independenceand Lockes Second Treatise is that they both believe in the State of Nature and use it as thebasis of their governments. The Declaration of Independence says that, …and to assumeamong the Powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature andof Natures God entitle them… (1) Locke believes this as, …what state all men are naturallyin, and that is a state of perfect freedom to order their actions, and dispose of their possessionsand persons as they think fit within the bounds of the Law of Nature… ( 2 ) The Declarationof Independence is saying that when one set of politics is not working, that one must break awayand start over again in the Law of Nature because this is truly the only way to go. For Locke, The Sate of Nature has a law of Nature to govern it, which obliges everyone, and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind who will but consult it, that being all equal andindependent, no one ought to harm another in his life, liberty, or possessions. (2) Jeffersonuses the Law of Nature as the highest government a society can achieve. This being everyonefree, and in their State of Nature, yet under a government. Another similarity is how they explain their belief that all men are created equal. As theDeclaration of Independence goes on Jefferson comes to say, …that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these areLife, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. ( 1 ) Both Jefferson and Locke believe that all menare created equal. Both believe all men have a right to happiness. Locke comes to terms withthis when he says that, A state also of equality, wherein all the power and jurisdiction isreciprocal, no one having more than another… ( 2 ) Locke then goes on to say, …preserve therest of mankind, and not unless it to do justice on an offender, take away or impair the life, orwhat tends to the preservation of the life, the liberty, health, limb, or goods of another. ( 2 ) The wording between Jefferson and Locke is important here as they both use close to the samewords in believing all men to be equal. Locke and Jefferson come to the point that no oneperson is superior over another person in any way, shape or form. The natural liberty of man isto be free from any superior power on earth, and not to be under the will or legislative authorityof man, but to have only the Law of Nature for his rule. By having the Law of Nature for everymans rule no one person is controlling another yet everyone is at peace with each other becausethey are in their SN.

Jefferson puts the people in charge. They decide on the government. They have the rightto accept it or change it or do away with it and establish a new one. …the Right of the People toalter or abolish it, and to institute a new Government, laying its foundation on such principlesand organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safetyand Happiness. ( 1 ) Locke believes this also, although it is a little more difficult to comeabout his understanding of it. …every man has a power to punish the crime to prevent its beingcommitted again, by the right he has of preserving all mankind… ( 2 ) Locke is saying thateach person has the power to prevent something from happening again. By doing this they mayneed to change laws, dispose of laws, and/or make new laws to stay in their SN. Both Lockeand Jefferson believe in equality, no man is better than the next. They both believe inestablishing a government that meets the needs and wants of each individual. They both believeeach person must remain in their State of Nature, and they can do so even under a governmentsystem.

When Jefferson makes his accusations on the King, in the Declaration of Independence, one of them is, He has forbidden his governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressingimportance…neglected to attend them. ( 1 ) A point Locke makes is that we are not to ignorelaws that need to be passed. For that in a state of perfect equality, where naturally there is nosuperiority or jurisdiction of one over another, what any may do in prosecution of that law, every one must needs have a right to do. ( 2 ) Here Locke makes it clear that if somethingneeds to be done, it needs to be done. That if a law needs to be passed no person should holdanother person from passing it. This maybe be just a coincident that both believe laws that needto be passed should be passed, or perhaps Jefferson saw this as another way to connect theDeclaration of Independence to the Second Treatise.

The differences between the Declaration of Independence and the Second Treatise areslight. Jefferson does not go into elaborate detail on each subject as Locke does. TheConstitution does the detailing. Locke has a reason for everything and a purpose and a solution. The Declaration of Independence is a smaller form of Lockes Second Treatise and it relatesvery closely. It seems very clearly that the Lockes view on government had a very large influence onThomas Jefferson when he wrote the Declaration of Independence. Both men believe in the Lawof Nature, they believe it to be very important in a government. Both men believe in equalityand when explained in both works the wording is very similar. Both men believe thatestablishing good solid laws are part of a government and both believe that laws that need to bepassed should be passed. They both believe that an individual is important in establishing agovernment, that a government should be built around the needs and wants of society. It is veryclear that both works on how government should and should not be are similar and that Jefferson was greatly influenced by Lockes, The Second Treatise on Civil Government, when he wrotethe Declaration of Independence.

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Cite this Locke’s Government

Locke’s Government. (2018, Nov 05). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/lockes-government/

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