Introduction a concept discussed but never put into

Introduction The formation of the American government is a historical breakthrough that is still used as the basis for new governments being formed today. This foundation was the first of its kind, the idea of a government led by the people had been a concept discussed but never put into practice to the extent of the United States of America. However, much of the credit for such a success is owed to John Locke, an English philosopher and one of the most influential figures of the Enlightenment era. The fact that the United States, a country with never before seen ideals, was able to become one of the world’s utmost superpowers means its system was efficient and its foundation a powerful competitor to other political philosophies around the world. However, when the variables influencing an experiment increase, the room for error in the experiment increases even more so. Therefore, if so many people were going to influence the government in their own way, Locke and the founding fathers needed to make sure the collective influence of so many factors would not deter the nation from a prosperous future. This is why the philosophies of John Locke and the American government are so important—in order to give an entire population so much voice in the political atmosphere, an extensive understanding of human nature must first be considered. The links being developed between the works of John Locke and the American government are derived from the writings of David M. Post’s “Jeffersonian Revisions of Locke: Education, Property-Rights, and Liberty” in which Post explains the different perspectives on the concept of natural rights between Jefferson and Locke, and Gerald S. Sandler’s “Lockean Ideas in Thomas Jefferson’s Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom” in which Sandler reveals the overwhelming similarities between Lockean principles and the works of Jefferson in the late 1770’s. Both individuals being established scholars who have done extensive research on the topics for which they write. A further exploration of Lockean principles, specifically that of separation of powers, is present in Ross J. Corbett’s “Locke and the Challenges of Crisis Government.” With the understanding of these resources and several others, it becomes evident that the human understanding that emerged in this era was accurate enough to have functioned efficiently for 300 years following its development. The determined research question, “To what extent to have the moral and political philosophies of John Locke influenced the structure of the american government?” therefore fits this philosophical discussion in that it demands the analysis of this Lockean principles and how they have rooted themselves in the American Government. The exploration of this argument itself will focus on a few main points or Lockean concepts in order to serve as the backbone for the work. Locke’s philosophies have influenced the american government through four main concepts: unalienable rights, separation of powers, consent of the governed, and the concept of human equality.Unalienable Rights The concept of unalienable rights is known as an American ideal, however, the root of this concept comes from none other than John Locke. In the mid-seventeenth century, Locke said that “The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges every one,” expressing how these rights are not written by man, but granted through nature to everyone. He then went on to say that “no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions.” Locke is now defining these rights, saying that no one can transgress these liberties no matter their justification. To Locke, these unalienable rights – life, health, liberty, and property – were entitled to all of humanity because a man himself is his own property, his labor and his mind under the authority of only himself. Locke therefore treated rights as properties, hence, giving them credibility. If a right is a man’s property, it is as though it is a part of the man himself. The unalienable rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” expressed in the Declaration of Independence, however, exhibited a different approach to validation. Thomas Jefferson rooted his suggested natural rights in human nature: since property is acquired or incidental, it is not technically natural, therefore, it is a social rather than natural right. This explains why Jefferson did not include property in the Declaration, he believed that unlike property which has to be acquired, a desire is developed independently within men (Post 152). Although Jefferson and Locke slightly differ in what they believed to be unalienable rights, both philosophers agree that there are in fact unalienable rights. Furthermore, the correlation between their concepts are simply too similar to be explained by coincidence. It is clear that Jefferson had taken Lockean principles into account, especially since he applied them to one of the most memorable documents in modern history.Those who argue Jefferson did not formulate his political philosophies on the basis of Locke’s writings should analyze the work of Paul Leicester Ford. In 1893, Ford edited and published Jefferson’s notes in The Writings of Thomas Jefferson. In this work are pages containing thorough annotations and commentary on Locke’s A Letter Concerning Toleration in the hand of Thomas Jefferson. Furthermore, when comparing Locke’s writing to Jefferson’s A Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom, strong similarities are evident. Jefferson presented this bill in 1779 to the House of Delegates of Virginia. In actuality, many of the ideas expressed in the Bill are simply paraphrased versions of Locke’s ideas in A Letter Concerning Toleration (Sandler 110). This connection serves as a clear proof for the undeniable relationship between Locke’s moral and political philosophies, and the works of Thomas Jefferson. Also, the strength of connections between Locke and Jefferson’s work on the concept of religious freedom are comparable to that of unalienable rights. Because the origin of ideas in Jefferson’s bill to the House of Delegates is found to be Locke’s letter, it is appropriate to consider Jefferson’s writings concerning unalienable rights in the Declaration of Independence to have originated from Locke’s two treatises of government as well.Separation of PowersLocke’s moral and political philosophies not only influenced the american government through the concept of unalienable rights, but also through the concept of separation of powers. For example, Locke writes, “whosoever in authority exceeds the power given him by the law, and makes use of the force he has under his command, to compass that upon the subject, which the law allows not, ceases in that to be a magistrate” (Section 202 of Chap. XVIII “Of Tyranny” in Book II of the Two Treatises of Government) Essentially, Locke is saying that as soon as a ruler abuses the powers endowed on him by the law, he is no longer suitable for executive authority. In doing so, he expresses his beliefs on just rule: power extended beyond the law justifies loss of leadership. This philosophical dilemma of leaders abusing powers suggests the need for a new system, one that is safe from the complications Locke identifies. This is where the American government adopts Locke’s ideas, clearly seen in the writings of James Madison, “ambition must be made to counteract ambition” (Madison). Like Locke, Madison understood that a single executive power would lead to tyranny, therefore, he identified the specific philosophical issue at hand: the selfishness of human nature. Madison believed that all humans have an evolutionary tendency to pursue their own self-interests, that when an individual is given the option to sacrifice something of theirs for the greater good versus act to benefit themselves, they would always elect the latter. This monumental concept arises from the fault in leadership Locke identified in his writings. Locke believed a leader lost his right to rule when he began to abuse his power, in response, Madison suggested dividing ruling authority into different branches of government – ingeniously converting mankind’s flaw into mankind’s tool. By identifying executive flaw in the political philosophies of his era, Locke stressed the need for a new system, one that Madison was able to help formulate. In actuality, the system Locke implied the need for is perfectly embodied by the United States government specifically through checks and balances (Corbett 25). Also, Locke claimed that a legitimate government would have to be based on the idea of separation of powers. He outlined the legislative power in particular as the superior faction in a governmental system, explaining how it was bound by the laws of nature, its responsibility to “further the goals of natural law.” He then discussed the executive branch and its duties, saying executive power was to simply enforce the laws defined by the legislature and as it should be in specific cases. Finally, Locke defined a third branch of government that he referred to as the “federative power.” This branch of government was an entire faction meant to deal with international situations, basically a government’s foreign policy sector (Tuckness). This clear proposition of a government with separated powers presented by Locke decades before the formation of the United States serves as evidence for the influential nature of this political philosophy in structuring the American government. The idea of a tyrannical leader abusing his power, the concept of human interest counteracting itself, and the outline of Locke’s philosophical government are all proofs for the heavy correlation between Lockean philosophies and the formation of the American government.In contrast to Locke’s philosophies are those of Thomas Hobbes, another prominent philosopher of the same era. Hobbes was an opponent of the concept of separation of powers, he believed that a population had an obligation to obey its government no matter the circumstance. This obedience to government was essential for the functionality of a country because it exhibited unity. For Hobbes, a government separated was a government of disunity, one that would spark disobedience and, according to his writing in Leviathan, plunge humanity into a “perpetual war of every man against his neighbor” (Kosar). However, Locke’s philosophy of a separated government has been put into practice and Hobbes’ argument demeaned. It’s become evident that his worries were not valid and his philosophy not applied to the structure of the American government. The American government was founded on enlightenment ideas and of the most prominent thinkers of the era were John Locke and Thomas Hobbes. Both individuals with rivaling philosophies. If the american governmental structure was not influenced by the political philosophy if separation of powers, then it must have been formed from other philosophical thinkers of the enlightenment. However, seeing that there is no correlation between Hobbes’ philosophy in this context and the structure of the american government, it must be that Locke’s philosophy was the main contributor to this area of United States politics.Consent of the GovernedIn addition to the philosophies of separation of powers and unalienable rights, John Locke introduced the concept of a government run by the people. According to Locke’s two treatises of government, consent is a crucial part of forming a legitimate government. With respect to his era, Locke was an especially liberal philosopher, one that advocated for ideas that were never seen before, a government with an entire population’s consent being one of his most provocative (Dunn 156). This philosophy has become so deeply rooted in american society that it’s become the fuel for nationalism. Americans today and throughout history take and have taken immense pride in the fact that the United States gives so much voice to the American people. This very philosophy of John Locke, in addition to structuring the American government, has provided structure to American society on an international level. Furthermore, a strong relationship between Locke’s idea of a political system led by a population and the american government can be found when analyzing two heavily impactful documents: the Declaration of Independence and two treatises of government. The former states that, “governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” This is a very direct or outright expression of Locke’s beliefs. These very notions are expressed in Locke’s Two Treatises in which he writes, “Wherever therefore any number of men are so united into one society, as to quit every one his executive power of the law of nature, and to resign it to the public, there and there only is a political, or civil society.” Here, Locke is saying that men give up their “executive power” or superiority in exchange for justice and find a fair legislative system. This sacrifice of personal power is essentially the soul of a government run by the people, the soul of a democracy. What the founding fathers did was take Locke’s philosophies and implement their roots to the foundation of the American government. They took ideas that Locke wrote about thoroughly, and emphasized the main points of his political and moral writings. This implementation of Lockean principles on consensual ruling structured American government by forming passionate political parties that continue to grow polarized, that continue to diverge as a result of differing public opinions. However, this very situation was an expected outcome to the founding fathers, and a viable possibility to Locke himself. This expected outcome is perfectly evident in the writings of James Madison. In order to promote the new constitution, Madison contributed to the Federalist Papers, a collection of persuasive and informative essays. In the tenth essay, Madison says, “The influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular States, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other States. A religious sect may degenerate into a political faction in a part of the Confederacy; but the variety of sects dispersed over the entire 5 face of it must secure the national councils against any danger from that source” (Madison). Madison understood that a government run by the people would develop factions that would collectively work towards achieving their own selfish interests. However, because of the massive size of the United States, he predicted that several such factions would form and if all of them worked towards achieving their selfish interests, only the majority faction could be successful. If this majority faction did in fact achieve success, then it had enough support from the population of the country to make a difference. Despite the natural strive of human ambition, the outcome of a government led by the people would always be spearheaded with the intentions of the majority. Locke’s political philosophy of a government that runs with the consent of the governed was readily adopted by the founding fathers of the United States of America. In the process of this adoption, the leaders of the United States extensively thought through the implementation of such a concept. The effects of these implementations are present in the writings of James Madison concerning the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. Some may argue that the concept of a government led with the consent of the governed was actually a notion introduced to the american government by the ancient greeks, however, these individuals fail to recognize that this would be an indirect correlation for the transfer of ideas, John Locke being the direct relation. It’s true that the Ancient Greeks were indeed the pioneers of democracy, the first to implement a voting system by the population of a region, theirs being Athens. However, this concept of democracy does not mirror that of the American Government. In Ancient Greece, only a small proportion of the community could actually cast votes, the rest were unable to participate in directing community happenings. Furthermore, the Greek method of government was that of a direct democracy, each individual vote held its own in the political system of the era (Gascoigne). Also, the greater good of men was decided by the gentility, and to become of gentility demanded men to be of superior intelligence and power. The people therefore had faith in the intelligence and nobility of the gentility through both fraught and prosperous times, a belief that stemmed from the deeply implanted notion that the gentility were inherently superior than themselves. Perception has a large role in this central notion, and one of its earliest examples is seen in these first structures of government. Although all of the men entered the Agora as equals, they left in distinct classifications. In the Agora, the political center of Ancient Greece, men were essentially play actors at a theatre; a man was defined by the persona, the ideas, and the knowledge he presented. If a man presented worthy and logically sound ideas, not only were his ideas adhered to, but the man himself became an embodiment of his own well-thought ideas, and his status elevated among other men. Even in the beginning of a so called “democracy,” the notion that all men are created equal was quite different from its contemporary understanding. This is because the people of Ancient Greece deeply believed in the characters they perceived in the Agora as the embodiment of logic. Thus, where logic was intended to create meaning and understanding, the opposite occurred; logic devoured its own content. This is because the telling of logic in a theatrical setting made the logic itself arbitrary, and the line between a man and his character in the Agora – a summation of all of the rhetoric and ideas he presented – became blurred. Where the people should have had faith in concrete and logical ideas, they ended up inevitably having faith in the static nature of people, due to the theatrical nature of the Agora. This theatrical nature, although seen in the scandals of modern day politicians, does not apply to the general population of the United States which is considered responsible for the progression of the country under the U.S. Constitution. In addition, the American Government practices a representative government, one that utilizes a winner take all system through the establishment of the electoral college. Finally, the writings of the Greeks versus the writings of John Locke do not compete in correlations with the works of the founding fathers. Not only do the conceptualizations of government prior to the U.S. Constitution, such as the Declaration of Independence, strongly paraphrase ideas written by John Locke, but no writings of the Greeks have been found to be as influential to the founders as Lockean principles were. Human EqualityFinally, John Locke has influenced the structure of the american government through his moral philosophies on human equality. In his writings, Locke describes the natural state of society as one “of equality, wherein all the power and jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having more than another; there being nothing more evident, than that creature of the same species and rank, promiscuously born to all the same advantages of nature, and the use of the same faculties, should also be equal one amongst another without subordination or subjection” (Locke, Treatise, 8). Locke has a very straightforward and unbending interpretation on the universal equality of man. Although utopian, his philosophy was still implemented into the American governmental structure, its first presence being in the renowned phrase, “All men are created equal” of the Declaration of Independence. Since that insertion, Locke’s moral philosophy has been applied to everything involving the justice system, the idea that a man is innocent until proven guilty, that all accused criminals have the right to an attorney, regardless of their respective crimes. Today, all United States citizens have the right to vote, to participate in the political atmosphere of their homeland. This moral philosophy, this idea that all creatures of the same species are undeniably equal, has grounded itself in the structure of the United States government. Some may say that the concepts of equality that the founders based the American government upon were not of John Locke, but Voltaire, another famous enlightenment thinker. The United States practices capitalism, a system that allows for class mobility. This flexible nature causes a select few individuals to rise above others in the financial atmosphere. A capitalist society therefore creates a hierarchy that is easily manipulated by the most talented or intelligent individuals. Hence, these individuals prove that not all people are actually equal, a concept that correlates with Voltaire’s views on equality. To Voltaire, all men are created equal by nature, but these men sacrifice this equality upon entering human society. This idea, although applicable to modern day America, is not responsible for the structuring of the american government, rather, of american society. What occurs amongst the population of the United States is not the doing of american government, but the personal interactions between individuals. The concept of equality in the actual governmental structures of america does not follow the philosophies of Voltaire, but of John Locke.ConclusionJohn Locke’s moral and political philosophies have tremendously affected the structure of the american government. His moral philosophies being those of equality and natural rights, his political philosophies being those of separation of powers and the consent of the governed. Locke’s philosophies have affected the U.S. government to the extent of the three branches of government with a system of checks and balances, a declaration expressing our spiritually ordained rights, a representative democracy, and legal equality for all citizens in the nation. The american government owes its entire foundation to the creative and intelligent mind of John Locke, without whom, we would not be the prosperous nation that we are today.

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