John Locke and his Influence on the Writing of the Declaration of Independence term paper
Thomas Jefferson’s proclamation of the principles of equality and freedom meant the refusal from the feudal-absolutist ideological traditions. It also represented a revolutionary interpretation of the Enlightenment ideas, and above all the teachings of John Locke, “About the Kingdom of God” based on “natural human equality”, freedom of the personal life and the right of private property. From this work of the relevant formulas of the inalienable human rights, Thomas Jefferson firmly ruled out the possession of the property, replacing it with the pursuit of happiness. And this choice has determined the progressive significance of the Declaration, because it was giving equal rights to all people regardless of their economic status.
Developing the idea of equality, the Declaration proclaims the people as the only arbiter of their destiny. Only on the “consent of the governed” the power of government is based, and on the right to “change or destroy” the form of government, if it is contrary to their desire for “safety and happiness.” This statement means that the proclamation of the Declaration “the right for revolution doesn’t have any doubts” (Sheridan, 47).
The same as Locke,Jeffersonbelieved that the best government is the government which governs least (“state is the night guard”); supported the idea of a strong local authority and self-government, because he saw the state as a servant of people, and therefore insisted on the freedom of the press. “The nation is the main subject. And if I happened to choose between government without press and press without government, I would unhesitatingly choose the second”. Although later he suffered from a tough and sometimes unfair criticism of him made by the free press; later he even stopped reading the newspapers.
Jefferson, the same as Locke considers human rights and freedoms the primary value and the legislative restrictions on those rights and freedoms – the secondary, based on the agreement. Locke was sure that the natural liberty of man was that he was free from any kind of authority, was not to obey the will or legislative authority of another person, but was guided only by the laws of nature.
The attention should be also paid to the Locke’s work “Two Treatises of Government”. This work had a great influence onJefferson, and that is why some of ideas of it were taken for writing the Declaration of Independence. In this paper “Two Treatises of Government,” he puts forward his view on the original, the natural state of man. Locke believes that the natural law is the initial absolute freedom of expression of natural human equality and his willingness to follow a reasonable natural condition. This natural willingness of people leads them to understanding that in order to get common good, it is necessary to give a part of functions to the government which intended to ensure further development of society. That is how the second agreement among people was made and the state was created.
In his significant work that influencedJefferson, Locke says that the aim of the state is to protect the natural rights of people, the rights to life, liberty and property. Locke emphasizes that people give the state only a part of their natural freedom. The State is obliged to protect their natural rights for property, life and freedom. The more rights the man has, the wider the circle of his responsibilities towards society is. The State thus doesn’t have the absolute arbitrary power. The Social Agreement, according to Locke, requires the State’s responsibility to the citizens. If the State fails in its duty, if it violates the natural freedom, so people have a right to fight against such a state.
In his main work “Two Treatises of Government” Locke develops idea of a contractual origin of state, natural law, popular sovereignty.
According to Locke, the state is created by people on the basis of the social agreement in order to secure the protection of human right. Locke was the one, who the first time in the history of political thought, formulated the idea of inalienable human rights and freedoms that are inalienable and belong to him from birth. This idea is now enshrined in all government and international legal documents. This idea also is reflected in the Declaration of Independence, written byJefferson.
One more idea of Locke, that Jefferson influencedJeffersonwas that the human rights and freedoms can be protected only in the case of separation of powers into three branches: legislative, executive and federative. The structure of the executive power includes the power of the judiciary also. In case of conflict between different branches of government, controversial issues should be put to a referendum. Thus, Locke justifies the idea of the popular sovereignty.
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