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Life, Liberty, and Property
Some of the most powerful and influential writings of our time came from the pen of John Locke. He expressed the view that government and people should both have a say in the running of their country. Locke’s ideas and beliefs were proven many times over a long span of history, even up to modern times. John Locke was a philosophical, brilliant man with many great ideas that effected todays governments and societys.
John Locke’s ideas on Enlightenment of rights, equality, and popular sovereignty were at the very center of the French Revolution. (Hennessey, the French Revolution: Locke and Rousseau) the French people fought to believe that everyone was equal. Kings, peasants, and any other living, breathing human being. Which was why all these different classes died by the same blade. The Guillotine. (Hennessey, the French Revolution: Locke and Rousseau) It was a twisted example, but an example all the same. The Rights of Man, a document written by French revolutionists was based on Locke’s ideas of equality and gave individuals personal rights they were deprived of before this document. (Hennessey, the French Revolution: Locke and Rousseau) The French Revolution is a great example of popular sovereignty and how people can seize control of their government because it was not thinking in the best interest of its people. Locke’s ideas of natural rights and equality were very important to the French Revolution. The Revolution was a violent time in France’s history, Locke’s Enlightenment concepts are shown in modern democracies. France’s time of monarchy ended and was replaced by a democracy. (Hennessey, the French Revolution: Locke and Rousseau)
The Enlightenment made its way all the way across the Atlantic to America, which were still the thirteen colonies. The Americans were still tied to the English nation. The Glorious Revolution, the new scientific methods and the idea and rise of Parliamentary government had all reached their ears. They decided, with the ideas of John Locke, and a few other philosophical thinkers, that they no longer wanted to be part of Great Britain. (Hooker, the American Enlightenment.) The American Revolution was a great example of how people can join and overthrow their government. Then, after they won their freedom they made their government a democracy, where the people have the right to vote for their leader. In this government, they give no man anything close to total power, which is a way Locke’s beliefs differ from Hobbesian. The Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution both had a bit of Locke’s ideals in them. Many of the United States of Americas beliefs and government is based off of Locke’s beliefs.
Absolute power should not be given to a single man for, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” – Laura Lacey. There have been many examples of power getting to man’s heads, from dictators to kings. There have been many examples such as, Louis XVI of France, Henry VIII of England, Saddam Hussein of Iraq, Napoleon Bonaparte of France, Pol Pot of Cambodia, Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti, or Benito Mussolini of Italy. Other examples of this include Adolf Hitler who just seventy years ago became the dictator of Germany and killed millions of Jews, and anyone who went against him. He conquered nations, and was driven insane with the power he was given. (Stokes, Second World War) Another example of such power abuse was Fidel Castro, who took over the free nation of Cuba and made it into a communist nation. He forced the overthrow of the government. He held total control over Cuba and refused to let anyone leave the country, practically holding its citizens prisoner. The country has quickly been going in a downward spiral to poverty ever since. (Geyer, Fidel Castro: A Study in Long-Term Manipulation of Power.) One last example is Maximilien Robespierre, who was against murder, and was a French revolutionist, until he got a taste of power. He ordered hundreds, thousands of people to the guillotine before he was finally killed by that very same murderous weapon. He was given a taste of power and began to change, began to turn against his own beliefs. (Littell, pg. 582) Power corrupts men with absolute power, so to give a man total unquestionable power will eventually lead in his own downfall. John Locke’s ideas of a government that can be changed by the people it governs is supported by fact in many different ways.
John Locke had great ideas and opinions of government. People should have a say in the running of their government, so it will be a clean change in power instead of a mass murder such as the French Revolution. Locke is definitely the right man to know how to run a government.
Nosotro, Rit. "Comparing Hobbes and Locke." HyperHistory.net. Web. 02 Dec. 2010. <http://www.hyperhistory.net/apwh/essays/comp/cw20hobbes_locke.htm>.
Powell, Jim. "John Locke Natural Rights to Life, Liberty, and Property." The Freeman | Ideas On Liberty. Web. 02 Dec. 2010. <http://www.thefreemanonline.org/featured/john-locke-natural-rights-to-life-liberty-and-property/>.
Beck, Roger B. World History Patterns of Interaction. Evanston, IL: McDougal Littell, 2003. Print.
Hooker, Richard. "The American Enlightenment." Washington State University - Pullman, Washington. Web. 02 Dec. 2010. <http://www.wsu.edu:8080/~dee/AMERICA/ENLIGHT.HTM>.
Hennessey, M.D. "The French Revolution: Locke and Rousseau - by M.D. Hennessey - Helium." Helium - Where Knowledge Rules. Web. 02 Dec. 2010. <http://www.helium.com/items/818390-the-french-revolution-locke-and-rousseau>.
Stokes, Phil. "Adolf Hitler Biography." Second World War. Web. 02 Dec. 2010. <http://www.secondworldwar.co.uk/ahitler.html>.
Geyer, Georgie Anne. "About.com: Http://www.fiu.edu/~fcf/geyerfidel32998.html." 20th Century History. Web. 02 Dec. 2010. <http://history1900s.about.com/gi/o.htm?zi=1/XJ&zTi=1&sdn=history1900s&cdn=education&tm=35&gps=320_181_1362_537&f=00&tt=14&bt=0&bts=0&zu=http%3A//www.fiu.edu/%7Efcf/geyerfidel32998.html>.