Intellectual Influences on the Declaration of Independence

While the Declaration of Independence had many influences, the most notable was the influence of the Social Contract. The Social Contract is the agreement between the government and its citizens, and defines the rights of each party. John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Jean-Jacques Rousseau are most notable for the creation of the social contract political philosophy. The Social Contract believes that “individuals are born into an anarchic state of nature. Then, by exercising natural reason, formed a society (and a government) by means of a contract among themselves.” In other words, people are born into the world without any knowledge or opinions but then develop their views based on their society. Their society, in turn, is affected and altered based on the people’s beliefs. Self-interest, or “personal interest or advantage,” inspires a society and government who derives its power from the people. The social contract states that “rational people” should believe in organized government, and this ideology highly influenced the writers of the Declaration of Independence.

John Locke believed that government was obligated to follow the will of the majority
that created it, or popular sovereignty. He believed that every citizen was equal in the view of the government. Locke developed the “branch” system of government which consists of the legislative, executive and judicial branches we know today. If the government fails to fulfill their duties, then the citizens have the right to rebel and remove the figurehead. This notion gave the colonists the inspiration and good reason to fight against the British for independence. Locke is notable for making the statement that all men have the right to pursue “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Property.” In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson alters this statement to state that all men have the rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” John Locke fused “individualism within the framework of the law of nature and the limits of legitimate government authority.” Locke’s work inspired the Declaration of Independence and subsequently the U.S. Constitution. He also inspired many other famous documents written during the Revolutionary Era, including The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.

Locke, Hobbes, and Rousseau each had their own interpretations of the social contract.
Locke believed that people naturally have the rights to life and private property, (Two Treatises of Government, 1690), Hobbes believed right and wrong did not exist in the world, (Leviathan, 1651) and Rousseau believed the government must rely on the general population of citizens, la volonté générale, or the general will of the people. (Du contrat social, 1762)

Each of these interpretations proved to be an inspiration to the Declaration of Independence.

18 Comments

  1. Bradley Boeke April 25, 2014 2:36 am  Reply

    “John Locke believed that government was obligated to follow the will of the majority
    that created it, or popular sovereignty. He believed that every citizen was equal in the view of the government.”

    In 18th century Europe, How could this majority will be measured? And How could the will of the majority be determined?

    And, who in society mattered? Was it just the landed gentry? the wealthy merchants? the clergy?

  2. dad dad February 10, 2021 5:01 pm  Reply

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    • mom mom February 10, 2021 5:02 pm  Reply

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  3. Thomas paine February 11, 2021 7:54 pm  Reply

    Man what the hell is going on in here

  4. Benjamin Franklin February 11, 2021 7:56 pm  Reply

    Mom… pick me up I’m scared

  5. Donald Trump February 11, 2021 7:57 pm  Reply

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  6. Kanye West February 11, 2021 7:59 pm  Reply

    Prrr prrr whatever he said best president ever . I love you daddy Trump.

    • Hilary Clinton February 11, 2021 8:04 pm  Reply

      I will go as well, pls make sure to send the invitation to my email 🙂

      • Donald Trump February 11, 2021 8:06 pm  Reply

        Make sure u don’t delete that one too, LMAOO

  7. Donald Trump February 11, 2021 8:00 pm  Reply

    Thank you Kanye, very cool

  8. Joe Biden February 11, 2021 8:03 pm  Reply

    I mean am I invited ? I will go as long as I get to sniff someone .

  9. Donald Trump February 11, 2021 8:05 pm  Reply

    Make sure u don’t delete that one too LMAOO

  10. Joe Biden February 14, 2021 2:38 am  Reply

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  11. Michael Jackson February 26, 2021 8:36 pm  Reply

    OOOOOUUUUUU!!! Gotta love the declaration Of iNdEpEnDaNcE

  12. Ted Bundy March 10, 2021 6:15 pm  Reply

    Well this is fun!

  13. Creeper? AW MAN! March 10, 2021 6:18 pm  Reply

    Creeper? Ah man!
    So we back in the mine, got our pick axe swinging from side to side
    Side, side to side
    This task a grueling one, hope to find some diamonds tonight, night, night
    Diamonds tonight
    Heads up, you hear a sound, turn around and look up, total shock fills your body
    Oh no it’s you again
    I could never forget those eyes, eyes, eyes
    Eyes, eyes, eyes
    ‘Cause baby tonight, the creeper’s trying to steal all our stuff again
    ‘Cause baby tonight, you grab your pick, shovel and bolt again
    And run, run until it’s done, done, until the sun comes up in the morn’
    ‘Cause baby tonight, the creeper’s trying to steal all our stuff again
    Just when you think you’re safe, overhear some hissing from right behind
    Right, right behind
    That’s a nice life you have, shame it’s gotta end at this time, time, time
    Time, time, time, time
    Blows up, then your health bar drops, you could use a 1-up, get inside don’t be tardy
    So now you’re stuck in there, half a heart is left but don’t die, die, die
    Die, die, die, die
    ‘Cause baby tonight, the creeper’s trying to steal all your stuff again
    ‘Cause baby tonight, you grab your pick, shovel and bolt again
    And run, run until it’s done, done, until the sun comes up in the morn’
    ‘Cause baby tonight, the creeper’s trying to steal all your stuff again
    Creepers, you’re mine
    Dig up diamonds, and craft those diamonds and make some armor
    Get it baby, go and forge that like you so, MLG pro
    The sword’s made of diamonds, so come at me bro
    Training in your room under the torch light
    Hone that form to get you ready for the big fight
    Every single day and the whole night,
    Creeper’s out prowlin’ – alright
    Look at me, look at you
    Take my revenge that’s what I’m gonna do
    I’m a warrior baby, what else is new
    And my blade’s gonna tear through you
    Bring it
    ‘Cause baby tonight, the creeper’s trying to steal all our stuff again
    Yeah baby tonight, grab your sword, armor and gold, take your revenge
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    ‘Cause baby tonight, the creeper’s trying to steal all our stuff again
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    And run, run until it’s done, done, until the sun comes up in the morn’
    ‘Cause baby tonight, the creepers tried to steal all our stuff again

  14. God March 18, 2021 3:09 pm  Reply

    yea i failed

  15. Jonah Hill May 1, 2021 11:20 pm  Reply

    waht in the name of …

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