The Influence of Locke’s Social Contract on the Declaration of Independence

890 Words Sep 28th, 2008 4 Pages
The Influence of Locke’s Social Contract on The Declaration of Independence
During the 1700s the American settlers suffered the abuses from their Mother England, and constantly fought through the rebellious spirit that lived within them. As their last hopes for independence dissolved by the greediness of the king, a man raised his voice, encouraging his subalterns to defend their freedoms. Richard Henry Lee proclaimed, “that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, and that all connections between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, dissolved”(29). The incentive had been brought to life again. Lee’s call for independence triggered debate among the delegates of the colonies
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According to John Locke, the government has a well-defined role in the life of the individuals that follow its authority. The “Social Contract” aspect of Locke’s philosophy is manifested in the idea that the government can only govern under the consent of the governed. Locke explains that there are instances when the government becomes a tyrant. In such instances it is the right of the governed to defend themselves (thus going back to the “State of War”) until a new government, which better satisfies the rights of the governed is established. In the indictment part of Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, is a very long list complaining about all of the infractions from the government of England upon its colonies in the new world. In this way Jefferson is showing how the government tyrannizes the “United States of America” and stomps over the “universal rights” of its people. It is through this indictment that the colonies justify their disposal of the government. The power of the Declaration of Independence comes from the sobriety and reasonableness used in the document of the governed, as it contrasts with the “State-of-War” savage cruelty of the tyrant. The Declaration of Independence is written in contract form, and the representatives of the oppressed corroborate their decision by signing the document, thus breaking the “old contract” in a very legal fashion. This aspect too, shows how

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