History of Ideas. The Declaration of Independence

Critical reflection on theoretical concepts allows to systematize the learner’s thoughts and summarize practical knowledge through more thoughtful, careful study. In the context of the social sciences, such reflective analysis helps to structure the system of views and social values of the researchers. The subject of this essay is the ideas and theories of John Locke, the British educator, and theorist. As it is known, the man’s teachings have profoundly influenced the development of political philosophy and epistemology throughout the world. Consequently, the purpose of this paper is to reflect on the critical views of the researcher critically.

Essential questions for the social sciences are to explain the nature of the mechanisms that determine the coherence of society as a stable unit. Such study seeks to elucidate the interpersonal connections between individuals and the verticals that form the folded structure of society. John Locke, the famous seventeenth-century English philosopher of liberalism and empiricism, is a crucial figure in contemporary political philosophy. According to Locke, the historical development of statehood was preceded by a state of nature, defined as the totality of the freedoms of the individual guaranteed by the laws of nature (Kesici). At the same time, the formation of state forms of government led to a marked suppression of the natural freedoms of the individual. Whereas in the pre-state system, man’s natural liberties were limited only to the personal space and dignity of the other individual, Locke believed that governments had changed this paradigm. Henceforth the individual had freedom and the guarantee of its exercise only within the limits of the laws provided for.

It is interesting to note that the concept of inalienable rights was often found among the views of eminent academics. Indeed, John Locke perceived natural liberties as the freedom of life and the freedom of property of the individual. In other words, every person was endowed with the inalienable right to his own life and the possession of the personal property. Thomas Jefferson, the famous American diplomat, slightly modified John Locke’s views in the Declaration of Independence. Instead of the property right, Jefferson pointed to the more American value of the pursuit of happiness (Langholtz). This category was not merely a subjective measure of reality but instead reflected a social guarantee of satisfaction with political life. It is noticeable that Locke’s and Jefferson’s visions were broadly similar: both men valued life and liberty as an inalienable right of every individual. The perception of property differed since, for Locke, it had a markedly higher value. All of this combined to form a stratum of inalienable rights: such freedoms of each individual that could not be taken away or altered.

Nevertheless, the idea of a state of nature did not mean complete permissiveness of the individual. Whereas in pre-state constructions, the individual possessed far greater freedoms, these were not unlimited and ended where the freedoms of the other individual began. The same statement is true of the political community, in which mutually respectful, peaceful relations must exist between individuals. The personal life, property, sentiments, or liberties guaranteed by the state must not interfere with the same aspects of the civil life of the other individual. Consequently, a legal relationship must be created between members of society based on the fundamental foundations of civic morality and public law.

It is pertinent to note, however, that the state system easily supersedes the state of nature because of its fragility of formed freedoms. Such a state has several shortcomings that can be resolved by Locke (Bouillot 513). First of all, it is difficult to speak of a known, formed law for all individuals in the pre-state order: the legislative framework of government solves this problem with a set of rights and duties. Secondly, in the state of nature, there is no impartial court that could fairly resolve the issue between two individuals: the judicial system of states is designed to cover this deficiency. Finally, even if a court existed in a state of nature, the pre-state public would not have the mechanisms to support its decisions: the law-enforcement means of states also solve this problem.

All of the above together allows us to identify John Locke as a formed philosopher whose ideas and views are generally well reflected in modern political philosophy. Locke’s historical influence is so significant that many authors have expressed his academic effect on the conceptual development of the U.S. Constitution. In fact, such views are valid because there is a strong connection between the man’s ideas and the principles of the American Constitution. Thus, John Locke was one of the first thinkers to propose a division of power into legislative, federal, and executive. In more detail, the federal power can engage in diplomatic functions and declare war and peace (The U.S. Constitution). Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution gives such roles to the U.S. Congress. The analogy is also evident in the discussion of the fullness of the power of the people: under Locke, citizens have the right to overthrow the sovereign in the event of a breach of established duties. Section 4 of Article II shows that the highest U.S. officials can be impeached in cases of serious misconduct, corruption, loss of trust, or treason (The U.S. Constitution). In sum, two examples confirm the connection between the described ideals of John Locke and the final form of the Constitution as drafted by the Founding Fathers. Consequently, it is appropriate to argue that Locke’s writings had a textbook effect on the Founders and thus on the political system of the United States.

In conclusion, it should be noted that the British thinker John Locke is an important historical figure in modern political philosophy. As an eminent academic, Locke expressed ideas about the individual’s inalienable rights and the limitations that the state imposes on them. The concept of such freedoms can also be seen in Jefferson’s writings, although there is a marked difference between the content of the inalienable rights of the two scholars. In addition, Locke has been shown to have had a profound effect on the Founding Fathers and the constitutional order of the United States as a whole.

Works Cited

Bouillot, Céline. “The Conflict in the Lockean State of Nature.” Journal of the History of Economic Thought, vol. 41, no. 4, 2019, 511-529.

Kesici, Zeynep. “State of Nature or State of War? Locke and Hobbes Discussed.” Zeynep Kesici, 2019. Web.

Langholtz, Jacqueline. “The Declaration of Independence Around the World.” Monticello, 2018. Web.

The U.S. Constitution, 2021, Web.

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