Lincoln Blogs


John Locke and Natural Rights
October 20, 2008, 3:38 pm
Filed under: History, School Papers

John Locke was an English philosopher who lived in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries; his beliefs and writings helped bring about the American Revolution. A devout protestant, Locke strongly believed in the natural rights of man. His basic thesis maintained that in a state of nature, men have a “perfect freedom to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions and persons as they think fit, within the bounds of law and nature, without asking leave or depending upon the will of any other man.” He professed the idea that man has a natural right to life, to liberty, and to property, and he justified his beliefs on the foundation of natural law. Locke’s view of natural law was simple: there are certain laws whose content is set in nature by God and that have validity everywhere.

Locke believed in the natural rights of man, but he also believed in the sin nature of man, which is why he saw the need for government. He said that we should have government because due to the “corruption and viciousness of degenerate men” they would not be able to defend their rights. Without government, man’s sin nature would overcome their sense of natural law, and their rights would be exploited for evil. “The great chief end” for men to have government “is the preservation of their property; to which in the state of nature there are many things wanting,” he wrote. It was his strong opinion that men should give up as much power as is needed to defend themselves in exercising their natural rights, an idea called the “social contract theory.” His beliefs on government can be summarized in the following statement:

“[The] freedom of men under government is to have a standing rule to live by, common to every one of that society and made by the legislative power erected in it; a liberty to follow my own will in all things where that rule prescribes not; and not to be subject to the inconstant, uncertain, unknown, arbitrary will of another man; as freedom of nature is to be under no other restraint but the law of nature.”

John Locke’s writings were extremely influential in bringing about the American Revolution. The list of his major works includes An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Some Thoughts Concerning Education, and Two Treatises on Government. Clearly, he was highly knowledgeable in many fields. Two Treatises on Government, perhaps his most famous work, had a great impact on many of America’s founding fathers, including Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and others. As mentioned above, he wrote of man’s right to “life, liberty, and property,” a belief that is also explicitly stated in the Declaration of Independence. His social contract theory, promotion of governmental separation of powers, and belief that revolution is a right had a significant effect in bringing about the American Revolution against England, as well as in writing the Constitution of the United States.

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1 Comment so far
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wow he had a large impact to society cool

Comment by branden




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