John Locke’s beliefs in natural rights and a government’s duty to protect those rights greatly influenced Thomas Jefferson’s writings, most notably the Declaration of Independence.
Locke was an English philosopher who lived from 1632 to 1704. He was considered one of the greatest thinkers of his time, but he did not have much influence on political thought until after his death. His ideas about liberty and equality gained popularity during the American Revolution, when they were used to justify resistance against Great Britain.
In his Two Treatises on Government (1689), Locke argued that all humans have certain rights by nature, including life, liberty and property. These natural rights exist before governments are created, so they cannot be taken away by any government or ruler without violating God’s law. These rights also apply equally to everyone in society regardless of class or status — something that was not true under the monarchies of Europe at the time.
Philosopher believed that governments existed only to protect these natural rights and had no right to interfere with them otherwise — even if it meant protecting religion or national security. In order for a government to exist at all it must respect these natural rights because otherwise its citizens would have every right to overthrow it by force if necessary.
So Jefferson was heavily influenced by Locke’s writings on natural rights and limited government. He incorporated these ideas into his own writings, including his draft for Virginia’s Declaration of Rights (1776). The draft stated that all men have an equal right to freedom from arbitrary restraint and subjection, as well as an equal right to protection by laws equally administered.