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Contribution to our Declaration of Independence

Emma Ivory

In this paper I seek to determine which philosophe’s ideas had the greatest impact on our
Declaration of independence. During the Enlightenment many of the world’s greatest thinkers put pen to
paper and came up with some of the most helpful and impactful advice. These thinkers were titled,
philosophers. The word philosopher means “lovers of wisdom.” Some of the greatest philosophers such as
John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Montesquieu, Voltaire, and Rousseau. One of the most well-known
philosophe’s during this time was John Locke. He wrote multiple books on government ideas and
suggestions, including Second Treatise of Government. I argue that John Locke’s intricate and inspiring
work had an impact on our Declaration of Independence and how it was formed. I will prove this by
explaining Locke’s views on, natural rights, his optimistic views of society, and how the constitution
reflects his Second Treatise of Government.
First, I will discuss how his views on natural rights impacted the way that the Declaration of
Independence was written. The definition of natural rights according to is as
follows, “Rights that people supposedly have under natural law. The Declaration of Independence of the
United States lists life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as natural rights.” John was greatly known for
his ideas about liberty, the author of the Declaration of Independence himself said that John Locke was
the highest ranked the most important thinker on liberty. This all ties into the Declaration of Independence
because in parts of the document it seems to mirror or echo Locke’s writings and ideas about natural
rights. He has a strong mentality that people deserve natural rights and natural laws. In the Declaration of
Independence when it says “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness,” this is directly related to John
Locke and his concrete ideas on about liberty. As mentioned before Thomas Jefferson refers to John
Locke as one of the greatest liberty thinkers of all times, and when talking about liberty in the Declaration
of Independence Jefferson’s ideas reflect those of John Locke’s. All in all, John Locke’s views on natural

rights and laws ultimately impacted Thomas Jefferson when he was writing the Declaration of
Next, I will explain how John Locke’s optimistic personality and his positive faith in people and
the equality that we deserve impacted the Declaration of Independence. Locke saw that people all people
are equal according to the Excerpts from John Locke’s, Second Treatise on Government, John said “…
being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another…” Throughout his writing he continues to
talk about how people are equal and even though we are all equal people who are under orders or a person
is working for another fellow civilian they must be able to follow their orders. He also believed that no
one could take away, or impair the life, or what tends to the preservation of the life, the liberty, health,
limb, or goods of another. All of this is shown in the Declaration of Independence for instance when it
says “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” One of the Declarations key
points is actually equality. This part was not completely inspired by Locke. However he was definitely
part of influencing and opening the minds of all people to a general idea that all are created equal. In
conclusion, John Locke’s optimism towards the equality of people and in general inspired the author and
collaborators that worked on the Declaration and had a substantial impact of the final product.
Lastly, I will show that John Locke’s fine words of wisdom which is the Second Treatise of
Government, his most known piece of work, had a huge impact on the Declaration and is also echoed in
the Declaration of Independence. In the following website, there is just
one example of and exert from the Declaration of Independence that mirrors John Locke’s writing. The
Declaration says, “All experience hath . . . shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils
are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed…” Then in
Locke’s Second Treatise it says “…The people are very seldom or never nice in the point or questioning
of (executive) prerogative whilst it is any tolerable degree employed for the use it was meant-that is, the
good of the people, and not manifestly against it.” This goes to show the relationship between the Second
Treatise on Government and the Declaration of Independence is strong. So strong that not only in this
exert, but throughout the Declaration of Independence there will be pieces that echo the Second Treatise

of Government. John Locke wrote the Second Treatise of Government in England during the 1680’s. This
book of his was about political philosophy, little did he know that 96 years later he would have such an
immense amount of impact on our Declaration of Independence. All in all, the work of John Locke
especially the Second Treatise of Government is echoed in our Declaration of Independence thus proving
that John Locke had the most impact on our Declaration.
In conclusion, the philosophe that had the most impact on our Declaration of Independence was
John Locke. A lot of John’s work is well known and some of it is very clearly reiterated in the declaration.
Therefore I still strongly support my argument when I say that Locke’s inspiring words helped the
Declaration of Independence become what it is today, a strong well written piece of writing that
represents our freedom. John Locke was able to bring new kinds of thinking such as the elaboration on
equality, liberty and many other things that are shown in the Declaration of Independence. He had many
prevailing characteristic. Those characteristics helped him and his writing appeal to the writer and
collaborators of the Declaration of Independence. Some of which were he was extremely intelligent, he
cared a lot for liberty and many contributions to the development of liberalism, he also deeply cared about
equality and had a optimistic view. All in all John Locke was the writer that impacted the Declaration of
Independence the most through his views on natural rights, his optimistic outlook and the many political
philosophy books he wrote.