How Did Natural Laws Influence Early America

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The Influence of Natural Law Philosophy on Early America
In 1690, English philosopher and political theorist John Locke published Second Treatise of Government. Within Second Treatise of Government, Locke proposed principles such as natural rights, and the rights and regulations of kings and the government. Almost a century later, this same document sparked America’s founders to rebel against the British Empire. Locke’s natural rights philosophy influenced early American society and its founders- specifically within the ideas of life, liberty, equality, and revolution. In order to understand its influence however, one must contemplate what Locke defined as natural rights.
According to Second Treatise of Government, Locke defines “life, health, …show more content…

One of the most famous lines in all of America’s documents sums up John Locke’s theory of natural laws. “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.” [5] This statement means that God gives us rights, such as life, liberty, and happiness. These rights cannot be taken away and are equally given by God to all men. It is easy for one to notice that this idea proposed in the Declaration is almost identical to Locke’s proposed natural rights philosophy from Second Treatise of Government. However this is not the only part of the Declaration which reflects the idea of natural rights. Jefferson, the composer of the Declaration, speaks into the ideas of life and happiness as a natural right quite often. Specifically, Jefferson discusses how the king “has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people”, therefore Congress, “in support of this Declaration, with a pledge of firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” [6] With these passages, The Americans were actively having their lives and happiness taken away by Britain. Their lives were not respected, nor where they protected as John Locke said men should be. Even after the Boston Massacre where several innocent colonists were killed, British Parliament protected the soldiers, “by a mock Trial, from punishments for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States.” [7] Americans did not have healthy lives, and they also did not have liberty. Liberty is “the condition of being free of restraints, especially the ability to act without control or interference by another or by circumstance.” [8] As written

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