John Locke (1632—1704) is the defender of the ‘”glorious revolution” of 1688, which deposed James II, the last of the Stuart kings and the last English monarch claiming to rule by divine right. In his place the English Parliament, representing the nation, called William and Mary, rulers of the Netherlands. to the throne. In his Second Treatise on Government, Locke, like Hobbes, assumed that humanity originally lived in a state of nature; however. Locke’s primitive state was pre-political rather than presocial like Hobbes’.
Locke accepted the traditional philosophy of natural law. To this he added natural rights. the rights to liberty and property that people enjoyed in the state of nature, To better secure these rights, people entered Into a social contract, thus creating a political society.
The next step is the formation of a government by majority decision, as contrasted with the unanimity necessary for the social contract. To Locke, the government was trustee of society’s rights. A government that failed to protect the individual’s rights to liberty and property violated the trust and could no longer claim the obedience of its citizens. For a flagrant abuse of power, the people could resort to revolution. Locke’s philosophy not only justified the English Revolution of 1688, but the American Revolution as well.
The American Constitution. with its emphasis on the powers of government being limited to those delegated and implied, reflects Locke’s influence, and the Bill of Rights is a practical application of the idea of natural rights. Today the philosophy of natural law and natural rights is not as strongly held as formerly. Few if any now believe in the social contract as a historical fact: nevertheless, Locke’s philosophy is still of great significance. It is a way of explaining the importance of the individual and his priority to the state and the state as a constitutional relationship based on consent.