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John Locke:

“I have a standing rule to live by…a liberty to follow my own will in all things…and never subject to the inconstant, uncertain, unknown, arbitrary will of another man—Life, liberty, and property.” (This statement, among others, Thomas Jefferson and America’s Founders, used to craft the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.)

  • John Locke expressed the radical view that government is morally obliged to serve the people, namely by protecting life, liberty, and property. He explained the principle of checks and balances to limit government power. He favored representative government and the rule of law. He denounced tyranny. He preached that when government violates individual rights, people may legitimately rebel.
  • These views were best developed in Locke’s famous Second Treatise Concerning Civil Government, and they were so radical at the time (mid-1600s) that he never dared sign his name to this historical work. He acknowledged authorship only in his will, following his death.
  • Locke’s writings did much to inspire the ground-breaking ideals of the American Revolution. Thomas Jefferson ranked Locke as among the most important philosophers on liberty in world history. John Locke helped inspire Thomas Paine‘s critical concepts about revolution and independence, as contained in his seminal work Common Sense, which helped inspire the American colonists to revolt against Great Britain.

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