Locke Vs. Jefferson

One Idea, Two Minds

By Megan Menegay and Quinn Moser


John Locke expressed the idea of equality in daily life as well as in the government, "A state also of equality, wherein all the power and jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having more than another,"( Locke, second Treatise of Civil Government chapter 2 section 5). Thomas Jefferson expanded on Locke's idea in the Declaration of Independence saying, "All men are created equal," (Jefferson, Declaration of Independence). Locke was the mastermind behind equality, but Jefferson was the one who actually took action and declared independence from Great Britain.

Natural Rights

Both Locke and Jefferson believed in the concept of natural rights, but each had different ideas of what natural rights were. Locke believed everyone had the same natural rights, "life, health, liberty, or possessions," (Locke, Second Treatise of Civil Government chapter 2 section 6). Jefferson, however, thought "[men] are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are LIfe, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness," (Jefferson, Declaration of Independence). Both Jefferson and Locke believed that life and liberty are natural rights.

Ability to Overthrow the Government

Locke believed that men had the right to overthrow the government if the government violated the Social Contract. "When the government is dissolved, the people are at liberty to provide for themselves, by erecting a new legislative, differing from the other, by the change of persons, or form, or both, as they shall find it most for their safety and good,"(Locke, Second Treatise of Government, chapter 19 section 220. Jefferson agreed with Locke saying, "whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government..."(Jefferson, Declaration of Independence).

Limiting the Government's Power

Locke believed that the people were an active part of the Social Contract, and that people could intervene with the government at any time they would like. He expressed, "Great mistakes in the ruling part, many wrong and inconvenient laws, and all the slips of human frailty, will be born by the people without ministry or murmur," (Locke, Second Treatise of Government sec 225). Jefferson also was a strong supporter of the content of the governed saying, "Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed..." ( Jefferson, Deceleration of Independence).


Jefferson and Locke both made references to Christianity, stating that God gave people equal natural rights. Locke refers to God and Christianity when he states, "Which God hath provided for all men," (Locke, Second Treatise of Government sec 222). Jefferson states "...and of Nature's God entitle them," this shows that God is telling them they deserve equality and natural rights.(Jefferson, Declaration of Independence).


Equality is very important to the United States of America. The country is based on the idea of "all men are created equal" this was said by Thomas Jefferson. Without this idea there would be no United States of America. John Locke and Thomas Jefferson agreed on some ideas but they agreed on one thing in particular that stood out to me and that was equality. Also I feel that natural rights are very important to the US today. Life and liberty are both key factors to the trust relationship between the people and the government. Although, John Locke and Thomas Jefferson both did not agree on these two natural rights, the pursuit of happiness and right of property are still fundamental building blocks of our society.