J. Locke Influences T. Jefferson

Presentation by Jason Hogle

Thomas Jefferson

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John Locke

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Comparison #1

Locke: "The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges every one: and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions…"

Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Meaning of the Quotes: Everyone as basic humans is born with 3 basic rights. Through nature we are guaranteed the rights of health, liberty, and possessions, and through God we are guaranteed the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Whether it be from God, nature, or just some supernatural force, every human on this earth is guaranteed basic rights, that no one has the right to take away or hinder.

Comparison 2

Locke: "First, That when such a single person, or prince, sets up his own arbitrary will in place of the laws..."

Jefferson: "He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good."

Meaning of the Quote: Locke describes under what circumstances it is justified to break away from a government or ruler. His first reason is that the ruler imposes his own will in place of the laws agreed upon by the common public. Jefferson relates this idea to the current situation with the King of England. The King of England is currently refusing to allow the colonies to put laws in place without his approval. By putting his will before that of the common law and common vote, he is destroying all previous ideas of government.

Comparison 3

Locke: "Secondly, When the prince hinders the legislative from assembling in its due time, or from acting freely..."

Jefferson: "He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them."

Meaning of the Quote: Locke's next reason is when a king hinders the assembling of legislative acts meant to pass laws and agree upon ideas that could help make laws better for all the people. Jefferson alludes to this idea when stating that King George is hindering the due process of making laws by forcing all the colonies and representatives to wait until he is present to approve the laws, before enacting them. He further complains how the king always put off these hearings and never really took them seriously.

Comparison 4

Locke: "Thirdly, When, by the arbitrary power of the prince, the electors, or ways of election, are altered, without the consent, and contrary to the common interest of the people..."

Jefferson: "He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only."

Meaning of the Quote: Locke's next reason is when a king makes it harder or completely does away with the right of representation in a government, which hinders the speaking of the common interest of the people. Jefferson alludes to this idea when he talks of how the king has made it so hard to have a representative for the colonies be present at legislative meetings. He is making it so hard that the fatigue of the colonies is forcing them to give in to the demands of the king instead of fighting for their rights.

Comparison 5

Locke: "Whensoever therefore the legislative shall transgress this fundamental rule of society; and either by ambition, fear, folly or corruption, endeavour to grasp themselves, or put into the hands of any other, an absolute power over the lives, liberties, and estates of the people; by this breach of trust they forfeit the power the people had put into their hands for quite contrary ends, and it devolves to the people, who. have a right to resume their original liberty, and, by the establishment of a new legislative, (such as they shall think fit) provide for their own safety and security, which is the end for which they are in society."

Jefferson: "But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."

Meaning of the Quotes: Locke's overall major idea in his piece in when is it alright to break away from a major government and start a new one. His strongest belief is that when a government or a king abuses their power and no longer looks out for the well being of the ones being ruled, the ruled now have a right to throw off this government and start a new one that's better suited for their needs and basic rights. Jefferson directly alludes to this idea and, and even almost quotes it, as he talks about the abuse of power by King George and the colonies right to break away from him to form a better government suited for their needs.


The two most important ideas listed above that are still a necessity in our government today is the idea that everyone is guaranteed basic unalienable rights, and the idea that the government needs to work to protect these basic rights. No matter who you are, or what background you come from, everyone is guaranteed the basic rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This idea is what government is all about, the protection of these rights, and the way to govern them to make all people as safe and successful as they can possibly be. When the government helps to protect these rights, and uses the idea to keep people in check, then they can always have a safe and functioning society.