John Locke

The most important thinker of modern politics is the most directly responsible for Thomas Jefferson’s rhetoric in the Declaration of Independence, and the rhetoric in the U. S. Constitution. Locke is referred to as the “Father of Liberalism,” because of his development of the principles of humanism and individual freedom, founded primarily by #1. It is said that liberalism proper, the belief in equal rights under the law, begins with Locke.

He penned the phrase “government with the consent of the governed.” His three “natural rights,” that is, rights innate to all human beings, were and remain “life, liberty, and estate.”

Sensory experience, though, provides only one kind of idea,sensation; reflection, the other, is the mind's combination and comparison of the various sensory impressions. As a result, one has no direct knowledge of the physical world, but only of the ideas (whether sensations or reflections) produced by them. Locke devotes much of his Essay to the relationship between ideas and objects. His philosophy was a development of Bacon's methods, and provided the first systematic account of an empiricist philosophy and psychology.

His most important political work also appeared in 1690, the Two Treatises of Government; there he argues that the function of the state is to protect the natural rights of its citizens, primarily to protect the right to property. Though he challenged Thomas Hobbes on the nature of primitive society --for Hobbes it was "nasty, brutish, and short," while for Locke it was more rational, tolerant, and cooperative -- he agreed withhim on the origin of the social contract, an implicit agreement between everyone in a society to respect a legalauthority, a supreme sovereign, so as to enable the pursuit of happiness.


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. Without serving his connection with Oxford, he became a member of Shaftesbury’s household, and seems soon to have been looked upon as indispensable in all matters domestic and political. He saved the statesman’s life by a skillful operation, arranged a suitable marriage for his heir, attended the lady in her confinement, and directed the nursing and education of her son — afterwards famous as the author of Characteristics. 

He assisted Shaftesbury also in public business, commercial and political, and followed him into the government service. 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. In 1675 his official life came to an end for the time with the fall of his chief.

Locke remained at Oates until his death in 1704.