John Locke: An American Philosopher

Written by Eden Benites

American philosopher Elbert Hubbard said, “He who influences the thought of his times influences the times that follow” (Hubbard). Some may think that when a person dies, their ideas and influences die with them; however, this is not always the case. Countless remarkable men and women impacted people during their time but have also had a great influence on the generations to come. Their legacies live on, their influence everlasting. John Locke was one of these men of notable influence. Locke was an English physician as well as a renowned philosopher. Frequently known as the “Father of Liberalism,” Locke developed many theories and ideas which have influenced people, revolutions, and documents. Locke’s education, writings, and the influence these works had became inspirational to the world.

John Locke’s education opened new doors and experiences for him, which led to his prominent views and opinions. Because of his father’s English Civil War connections, Locke was able to acquire an outstanding education at Westminster School. After Westminster, he was accepted into Christ Church, Oxford, although he did not particularly enjoy his schooling there. “He graduated with a bachelor’s degree and later went back for his master’s degree” (Biography). Afterwards, John Locke became interested in medicine. His fascination in politics increased at this time as well, and he continued to pursue this interest. In the year 1666, Locke became acquainted with Anthony Ashley Cooper, who later became the first Earl of Shaftesbury (Uzgalis). Locke took the position of Shaftesbury’s personal physician. Throughout his period of helping Ashley, Locke developed different views and a greater interest in politics. He helped draft papers for Ashley’s speeches. He also was engaged in a few government occupations, which helped shape some of his opinions on trade and economics. Since Shaftesbury was an essential founder of the Whig party, Locke was exposed to different points of views about politics and government. Some of the things Shaftesbury believed in were a constitutional monarchy and religious toleration (Rogers). “As one of the founders of the Whig party, which pushed for constitutional monarchism and stood in opposition to the dominant Tories, Shaftesbury imparted an outlook on rule and government that never left Locke” (Biography). Although Locke believed in a democracy rather than a constitutional monarchy, his thoughts on religious tolerance and civil liberty corresponded with Shaftesbury’s. John Locke’s experiences with Anthony Ashley Cooper, which was a result of his education, had an immense influence in his philosophies and opinions on many topics.

During his lifetime, Locke wrote many things, but most of his works were written after he had fled to Holland following Shaftesbury. One of his famous works was The Two Treatises of Government, which was published in 1690 (“John”). Locke was believed to have been inspired to write these books because the Glorious Revolution had previously occurred in England. It was also said that he wrote them mainly to defend this revolution. He believed that the government should preserve and not impede on the natural rights, life, liberty, and property. In his second book of the Two Treatises of Government, Locke wrote, “A man, as has been proved, cannot subject himself to the arbitrary power of another; and having, in the state of Nature, no arbitrary power over the life, liberty, or possession of another, but only so much as the law of Nature gave him for the preservation of himself and the rest of mankind” (Locke). If the government encroaches on or hinders these rights and freedoms, then it is necessary for the people to remove those in authority. His books also give his ideas about the organization of the government. When John Locke was in school, he disapproved of the teaching methods. He wrote his own thoughts on education in his book, Some Thoughts Concerning Education. He considered the purpose of education is to “create a person who obeys reason instead of passion” (Aparece 60). He firmly believed that teaching morals and virtue were more important and essential than a regular standard education. It was apparent he considered this crucial because he spent most of this book explaining how to instruct these concepts to children. These two books were just a couple of his many accomplished writings.

John Locke’s books and ideas impacted the Founding Fathers of America. They used his ideas about government in writing the the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Locke had different philosophies about government and its roles, which mostly were unlike other thoughts of the time. Thomas Jefferson was inspired by Locke’s belief that if a government does not succeed in protecting the people’s rights, then it is the duty and right of the people to overthrow that government. These natural rights, however, were changed to the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness when writing the Declaration of Independence. Similarly, Locke’s belief in the separation of powers later inspired the division of powers in the U.S. Constitution. On the website Guier Law, it states, “Perhaps Locke’s greatest influence on the Constitution would be the idea that the power of government should be distributed among different institutions” (Guier). John Locke had a remarkable effect on the shaping of America.

John Locke’s education and experiences with Shaftesbury, his books, and the impact of these writings led him to become a hero in history. His education and his time with the first Earl of Shaftesbury encouraged him to develop his thoughts and feelings about politics, government, people’s rights, and education. Within Locke’s greatest accomplishments were the great inspirations to all. Locke motivated and inspired the Founding Fathers, and his principles aided them in forming two of the most remarkable documents in U.S. history. What started as a simple interest or fascination turned out to be an influence on America. This man had many notable thoughts and ideas, which has affected countless people. It is stated on a website that “His theories…not only influenced European thinkers…but shaped the thinking of America’s founders, from Alexander Hamilton to Thomas Jefferson” (Biography). If John Locke had never existed, America would not be the same as it is today.

 

 

 

Works Cited

“A Biography of John Locke (1632-1704).” American History, 2012,

http://www.let.rug.nl/usa/biographies/daniel-carroll/. Accessed 2 Nov. 2016.

Aparece, Pederito A. Tesi gregoriana: Serie filosofia. Gregorian Biblical BookShop, 2005.”John

Locke.” History.com, 2009, http://www.history.com/topics/john-locke. Accessed 2 Nov. 2016.

Guier, Spencer. “John Locke’s Influence on the United States Constitution – Guier Law.” Guier     Law, 13 Apr. 2016, guierlaw.com/john-lockes-influence-on-the-united-states-    constitution/. Accessed 16 Nov. 2016.

“John Locke – Major works, Theory of knowledge.” Psychology.jrank.org, Net Industries,

psychology.jrank.org/pages/386/John-Locke.html. Accessed 4 Nov. 2016.

“Of Political or Civil Society – LONANG Institute.” LONANG Institute,     lonang.com/library/reference/locke-two-treatises-government/loc-207. Accessed 16 Nov.     2016.

Rogers, Graham A.J. “John Locke.” Encyclopædia Britannica, 14 Dec. 2015,     www.britannica.com/biography/John-Locke#ref1023433. Accessed 3 Nov. 2016.

“Translation.” Elbert Hubbard: He Who Influences the Thought of His Times Influences the     Times That Follow., http://www.quotes.net/quote/52273. Accessed 16 Nov. 2016.

Uzgalis, William. “John Locke.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2 Sept. 2001,

plato.stanford.edu/entries/locke/. Accessed 31 Oct. 2016.

 

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