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

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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 about the formation of alliances, and the proposal of a plan of confederation. Later on, the colonists decided to appoint Thomas Jefferson as the builder of a document that could justify the colonists’ break with the crown, clarify their notions of the ideal government, and enumerated the wrongs that the colonists had suffered under British rule. Being the responsibilities assigned, Jefferson started to work on the Declaration of Independence. But, how did he come up with the well known and basic idea of unalienable Rights?
During this period of liberal thinking, individual right was widely favored over “Divine Right”. The ideas of social contract theorist John Locke are very much evident in the Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson. Unlike the chaotic and brutal scenario (of the “State of Nature” that creates the necessity for the “Social Contract”) described by Hobbes, Locke claimed that there are rights that are naturally inherited by all humans upon birth. According to Locke, these “unalienable rights” are: life, liberty, and property. In the declaration of Independence, the word “property” is replaced by the phrase “the pursuit of happiness”. Locke believed that when a man works with technology to enable the



Cited: O 'connor, Karen, and Larry Sabato. Essentials of American Government. 2008. New York: Pearson Longman, 2008.

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