Locke was born in 1632 to a Puritan family. As a young man, he studied at Oxford University and became a physician. He also traveled abroad and served as personal physician to Lord Shaftesbury, an important English politician.
Locke’s writings reflect his concern with social issues and civil liberties. He wrote Two Treatises of Government (1689), which argues that monarchies should be replaced by republics governed by democratic assemblies elected by all eligible citizens. He also argued that government should respect individual rights, including property rights protected by law courts and independent judges who could not be dismissed by government officials.
Locke’s influence on American independence is evident in Thomas Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration of Independence. In this document, Jefferson states that all men have certain “unalienable Rights” which are given to them by nature and cannot be taken away by any government or person (Jefferson 83). He also states that these rights include life, liberty, and property (Jefferson 85). While Locke does not mention property specifically among his natural rights, he does state that every man has a right to private property as long as it doesn’t prevent others from having their own (Locke 90).
In addition to influencing Jefferson’s writing style, Locke also influenced America’s founding documents through his concept of natural law.