John Locke’s Vision of Political Order That Inspired American Constitution

John Locke’s vision of political order that inspired American constitution Content Introduction3 1Tabula rasa4 2First Treatise4 3Second Treatise5 4Political society6 5American Constitution7 Conclusion8 Resources9 Introduction As the title of this paper says the main aim of this essay is to discuss John Locke’s vision of political order that inspired American constitution.

In order to do that it is essential to introduce some of the most important ideas with which had John Locke come up, try to explain his theories and finally to briefly go through the American constitution itself.John Locke, born in 1632, is one of the most influential philosophers, not only in his era, but also many centuries after his death. Locke’s roots lay firmly among the Puritans who fought the Civil War in the name of parliamentary constitution and a godly church,[1] which had a great impact on his future life. He entered Westminster school in 1646, and passed to Christ Church, he graduated as bachelor of medicine in Oxford in 1674. His knowledge of medicine and occasional practice of the art led, in 1666, to an acquaintance with Lord Ashley (afterwards, from 1672, Earl of Shaftesbury).The acquaintance, begun accidentally, had an immediate effect on Locke’s career.

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When Shaftesbury was made Lord Chancellor in 1672, Locke became his secretary for presentations to benefices, and, in the following year, was made secretary to the board of trade. [2] John Locke followed Lord Ashley to Holland and then lived in the Dutch republic and France, too. However he has not started his writings until the return back to England. Locke is considered to be the Father of Liberalism and also one of the most important thinkers of the Enlightenment.Thanks to his new theories and his quite wide range of topics he has inspired many following philosophers. Of his works is to be mentioned the two most known An Essay Concerning Human Understanding and Two Treatises of Government. This essay will mostly deal with the second named. Tabula rasa To better understand John Locke’s political theory is necessary to introduce his main ideas in other fields of philosophy, too.

First of all is to depict Locke’s vision of men. He considers that human are all born as tabula rasa.Which means that every single person is born without any built-in-mental content, they are all completely plain. The intelligence, emotions, social behaviour, probably everything what makes a body into a human being is learned from experience and perception. There are no qualities, which are people already born with. First Treatise The Two Treatises were published in 1690.

[3] Each Treatise has its own content, the First Treatise focuses on the argumentation against Sir Robert Filmer’s writing Patriarcha. The main idea of Filmer’s work is that kings are God’s regents on Earth.Judging from this statement, the whole monarchy system is supposed to be divine and the only possible type of government is an absolute monarchy.

Filmer justifies his ideas with the help of Bible and the vision of Adam as the first absolute monarch. Locke strongly disagreed with Filmer and trough the whole First Treatise, finds arguments to refute Filmer’s theory and support his visions. Surprisingly he derives many of his statements from Bible, too. Locke’s First Treatise provided a description of God’s purposes which provides a large part of the basis of the Second Treatise. [4] Second TreatiseThe Second Treatise overlaps wide range of themes, which altogether create a consistent outline of how the society and its political system according Locke should look like.

One of Locke’s basic theories is the one about natural law. Natural law, understood as a universal law set by nature, obviously existed before Locke. According to Locke, natural law can be discovered by reason, so it is accessible to all people. In contrast the divine law is revealed only to people chosen by God. Natural and divine law are both coherent, they can occupy the same range of focus and they don’t contradict at any point.God is taken as mankind’s superior, who imposes moral obligations to humans. These laws and obligations, if they are understood correctly, should lead to some kind of general order. This order is the so called State of Nature.

Locke claims that the state of nature is a relation concept describing a particular set of moral relations that exist between particular people rather than a description of a particular geographical territory. The state of nature is just the way of describing moral rights and responsibilities that exist between people who have not consented to the adjudication of their desputes by the same legitimate government. 5] Locke assumes that if God has not given directly power to any individual, all the people are made naturally equal, further more they are all natural free with rights such as right to liberty, right to life and property, too. His vision of property is an important issue; he had to solve the problem how to justify private property as the earth was given by God to all and in the state of nature is everything commonly owned, too. Locke builds his arguments upon labour, the fact that man creates something by his own hands, which were given to him by God, allows him to state the final product as his roperty. As this definition on its own practically allows people to consider for example a water well their property, Locke adds that no one should take more than he actually needs for his life and joy and that God didn’t make anything to be spoiled or destroyed.

Locke disapproves slavery, which corresponds to his idea of equality and freedom. Yet there are two cases in which is slavery acceptable for him. Firstly when man causes an aggression against someone else, then he can be enslaved and it would be considered as fair. The second possibility is when man enslaves himself to another by his own decision.This brings us to the theme of parental power. According to Locke people are born free, but as they are born as tabula rasa, they are not mature enough to be able to make their own decision based on reason.

Therefore children have to be protected by parents until they develop their reason and knowledge to certain level. Political society Locke is aware of the fact, that the state of nature is not suitable for the society and that the society itself intent to create some sort of civil society with established laws, which he calls commonwealth.The so called commonwealth possesses power, but because the power was given to it by people, people also have the right to make a revolution/civil war if the system is not working according to the treaty, for example when government acts contrary to the legislative. People are free to remove themselves from their government- that is they are free to secede and to establish a new commonwealth if they see fit, for only an explicit promise or contract can put man into a society and, just as children upon reaching maturity are free to leave their parents, so too are men free to leave their society. 6] And on the other hand by joining a society man gives up his power to protect himself to the laws of the society.

Setting up a government is a completely rational act, the power given to government is to secure the public welfare, protect citizens from possible external aggression and so on and so forth. Polity according to Locke has three aspects: executive, legislative and federative. The distinction is amongst functions. One agency is to legislate, another to execute the laws and so on, and another still to conduct foreign relations. 7] Executive and federative are subordinate to legislative.

Locke wants rather a responsible than an absolute government. American Constitution In its most basic form, the Constitution is a flexible, lawful document of rights and restrictions. The Articles of the Constitution affirm the shape of government, divided into three branches, which are given powers to keep the others in check to balance government. The amendments grant certain civil liberties, but like the articles, also assert specific rules and restrictions on those who are not granted civil rights.

[8]As it is known, America was a British colony for many years; the problems started to emerge, when The British Emporium started to more economically and politically suppress America. The taxes were growing; America had no representation in the British parliament, the acceptation of Townshend Acts- all these issues lead not only to the broadly know Boston Tea Party, but also to the revolution and the birth of United States of America. On the 4th of July 1776 the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Continental Congress and since then the 4th of July is the most important day for all Americans.The Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution stem from the idea of a community, where the people are free, have their rights, and where they can affect their government. Before the revolution were all the main laws coming all the way from United Kingdom, which strengthened the need to have the polity more straightforward and obviously also more closer. Conclusion It is not surprising that Locke’s vision of political system where the government has only a certain power, which was given to him by people, interested and furthermore inspired the creators of American Constitution.The lack of possible impact on the law and its execution was one of the reasons for the American Revolution. We can also see similarities between the so called American dream, where everyone is able to succeed in whatever he chooses, he only needs to work hard enough and Locke’s argumentation for having private property, where he claims that what man creates with his hands belongs to him.

It is not really possible to cover Locke’s wide range of themes and his numerous writings in one essay, but it is indisputable that his affect on political thinking was huge.His ideas from all the ranges are connected one to another and altogether create a coherent philosophy.Resources Locke, John: Political Essays, Edited by Mark Goldie, Cambridge University Press, 1999, ISBN 0 521 478618 Harris, Ian: Locke’s political theory (study support) http://www. iep.

utm. edu/locke/ (attended on 27. 12. 2010) http://plato. stanford. edu/entries/locke-political/(attended on 27.

12. 2010) http://www. iep.

utm. edu/locke-po/(attended on 7. 2.

2011) http://www. marylandsar. rg/SAR-Documents/Essay/Third-Tie-Essay-MDSSAR-0708. pdf (attended on 7. 2. 2011) ———————– [1] Locke, John: Political Essays; Edited by Mark Goldie; pg xiv [2] http://www. iep. utm.

edu/locke/ [3] http://www. iep. utm. edu/locke/ [4] Harris, Ian: Locke’s political theory [5] http://plato.

stanford. edu/entries/locke-political/ [6] http://www. iep. utm.

edu/locke-po/ [7] Harris, Ian: Locke’s political theory [8] http://www. marylandsar. org/SAR-Documents/Essay/Third-Tie-Essay-MDSSAR-0708. pdf


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