John Locke is considered one of the most important fathers of our democratic tradition. He wrote Two Treatises of Government. Locke's ideas were widely read in both England and America. Thomas Jefferson used Locke's principles in the Declaration of Independence when he said men are "endowed with certain inalienable rights, and that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

Locke believed that a Social Contract exists between the government and the people. He states that governments are formed with the consent of citizens. Locke believed that powers in the government should be limited and the powers between parts of the government should be balanced. These checks and balances (later reflected in the U.S. Constitution) and true representation in the legislature would maintain limited government and individual liberties.

Locke said that the state exists to preserve the natural rights of its citizens. Therefore, he said that if a government fails in that task, citizens had the right to rebel against it. In some cases, it was the citizens duty to rebel. He did not agree with Thomas Hobbes that the individual person surrendered his natural rights to the government in return for protection. John Locke also believed that no one should dictate another person's religion.


Locke was also a proponent of equal rights for women. He believed that the idea that man was superior to women was an idea that men had made, and could therefore be reversed.