Second Treatise of Government

Lockean Ideals in the Declaration of Independence College

In devising the Declaration of Independence, the founding fathers used the work of John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government as an ideological framework. The similarities are mainly notable in the claims against the King, but can also be found in other important respects. Locke’s concept of the state of nature is evident in the founders' claims, while the influence of Locke’s ideals on political power and the function of government can be seen in the arguments presented in the Declaration. Yet the two texts diverge in important ways; the most significant difference between the two documents is that the Declaration lacks some of the extreme views that Locke takes in his discussion on the state of war. Nonetheless, it is clear that the Declaration of Independence was built on Locke’s concepts of government.

John Locke’s conception of the state of nature heavily influenced the writing of the Declaration. He devotes the second chapter of the Second Treatise of Government to discussing the state he believes men are naturally born into and the rights they deserve. Here, he presents the idea that men are created as equals when he says, “because it is simply obvious that creatures of the same species and status, all born to the same...

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