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The Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson, and The Second
Treatise on Civil Government by John Locke, are two similar works. Locke's
work seems to have had an influence on Jefferson when he wrote the Declaration
of Independence. Both works were 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--to withdraw their support and event to
rebel. Locke maintained that the state of nature was a happy and tolerant one,
that the social contract preserved the preexistent natural rights of the
individual to life, liberty, and property, and that the enjoyment of private
rights-- the pursuit of happiness-- led, in civil society, to the common good.
Locke's form of government is simple, yet confusing. Locke's government is
broken down 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 differences between power, in general, and political power in
particular. Locke believes political power to be, "the power of a magistrate
over a subject." (2) The subject remains under the magistrates rule by choice.
This brings about the State of Nature. The SN is a state of perfect freedom, no
one is controlling others and no one is being controlled, everyone is equal.
Locke comes to say that the only way someone can rule over us is if we let them.
By doing this we are not abandoning our SN, but remaining in it. It is ones
choice to let another preside over them. Our SN is threatened though because we
do not have complete control, therefore we come into the State of War. Under SW
we have taken away others SN or given up our own. For us to get it back we come
into Civil Society. By lending out our SN we come together to protect it. We are
given back our SN after it has been restored. We are no longer threatened by
someone taking it away. The problem that arises is the fact that this is not a
very solid solution. This leads to the Political Society. People agree to get
together and establish a PC (AKA "government") The PC is 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 is attempting to understand the proper relationship between a people and a
government. Jefferson's ideas are very close to those of Lockes. Which proves
Locke's work had an impact on him. The first major relationship between
Jefferson's Declaration of Independence and Locke's Second Treatise is that
they both believe in the State of Nature and use it as the basis of their
governments. The Declaration of Independence says that, "...and to assume
among the Powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws
of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them..." (1) Locke believes this as,
"...what state all men are naturally in, and that is a state of perfect
freedom to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions and persons as
they think fit within the bounds of the Law of Nature..." ( 2 ) The
Declaration of Independence is saying that when one set of politics is not
working, that one must break away and 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 and
independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, liberty, or
possessions." (2) Jefferson uses the Law of Nature as the highest government a
society can achieve. This being everyone free, 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 the Declaration 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 are Life,
Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." ( 1 ) Both Jefferson and Locke believe
that all men are created equal. Both believe all men have a right to happiness.
Locke comes to terms
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Sovereignty, Libertarian theory, John Locke, Rights, Empiricists, Natural and legal rights, Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, Natural law, State of nature, United States Declaration of Independence, Social contract, Thomas Jefferson
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