Explain four similar ideas held by the two philosophers John Locke and Thomas Jefferson.

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Thomas Jefferson, like many eighteenth-century liberal thinkers and politicians, was heavily influenced by John Locke. Several features of Locke's thought loom large in Jefferson's political career. First, Jefferson took the Lockean view that the only legitimate governments were founded upon the consent of the governed. This is the Lockean version of the social contract. Second, Jefferson also believed that people, by the very fact of their humanity, were, as he put it, "endowed" with "unalienable rights." Locke had argued the same thing, emphasizing the importance of property. The protection of these rights, especially property, Locke argued, was the foundation of government. These ideas were distilled by Jefferson into the preamble to the Declaration of Independence, in which he said that, "to secure those ends, governments are established between men." Third, and perhaps the most important and overlooked, is the belief of both men in religious tolerance. Locke wrote one of his most famous works, "On Tolerance," about the subject, and Jefferson authored the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, which banned any religious establishment in his home state. Finally, Jefferson, though often portrayed as a romantic, was a firm believer in science. His scientific worldview was shared by Locke, whose Essay Concerning Human Understanding was a seminal work in promoting empiricism, or science based on observation. This is why Jefferson had Locke's portrait hung alongside Isaac Newton and Francis Bacon--he regarded these three great scientific thinkers as the greatest men who ever lived.

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Commonalities exist between the philosophies of John Locke and Thomas Jefferson. These are evident in “Two Treatises of Government” written by John Locke, and in the Declaration of Independence penned by Thomas Jefferson. In Locke’s writings, he describes the rights of people to life, liberty, and property. Jefferson writes about people’s rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Both men believed in the concept of democracy for the people, and a government that had separate branches. In addition, both agreed that citizens of a country should have the right to overthrow government if the rights of the people are violated. They also agree that government has the obligation to protect its citizenry while providing for their safety and protecting their rights.

The following quotes show the similarities in the philosophies of these men.

John Locke writes,

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… (and) when his own preservation comes not in competition, ought he, as much as he can, to preserve the rest of mankind, and may not, unless it be to do justice on an offender, take away, or impair the life, or what tends to the preservation of the life, the liberty, health, limb, or goods of another.

The Declaration of Independence says,

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; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that 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, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

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