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Courtesy of York University


John Locke, author of Two Treatises of Government, was one of the important influences on the writers of America’s founding documents. His political philosophy encouraged readers to overthrow any government that did not protect the rights of its citizens. Locke also wrote about the basic rights every person has simply because they are human.

Transcript of "Two Treatises of Government," 1689

Transcribed Excerpts of "Two Treatises of Government," 1689

Source-Dependent Questions

  • As you read the text, consider the things Locke says individuals have power over. What common themes are repeated?
  • Compare the things Locke says individuals have power over with Thomas Jefferson’s words in the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson wrote that “. . . all men are created equal and are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…” Summarize what you think Locke’s level of influence over Jefferson was in a sentence or two.
  • In Paragraphs 21 and 22 Locke makes points regarding enslavement and how it goes against the natural liberty of individuals. Consider how you summarized Locke’s influence on the writing of the Declaration of Independence above. Keeping in mind that Jefferson was a slaveholder, can you reconcile Jefferson’s words with his actions?

Citation Information

Locke, John. Two Treatises of Government. 1689. 1823. York University