Thomas Jefferson’s use of “pursuit of Happiness” rather
June 9, 2019
Thomas Jefferson and John Locke shared strikingly similar political philosophies. Freedom, equality, basic human rights, government reform—these were all key points in their own ideologies. John Locke is often regarded as the “Father of Liberalism” and his writings paved the way for what is the foundation of the country; Jefferson was not only one of the Founding Fathers and presidents of the United States but also the author of the Declaration of Independence. Both men were heavily influential in the creation of America’s government, and Locke’s presence becomes very apparent when examining Jefferson’s many accomplishments.In the words of John Locke, “being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions.” This sentiment was established in Locke’s Two Treatise of Government and served as a crucial source of inspiration for Thomas Jefferson’s own ideology. Thomas Jefferson’s actions brought many of the guiding principles for a country, as defined by Locke’s Two Treatise of Government, into being. In the Declaration of Independence, for example, it states that all humans have certain “unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The inspiration is clear from which it came, as it nearly mirrors the words of Locke. However, one important distinction is Jefferson’s use of “pursuit of Happiness” rather than “possessions” as it signals how Jefferson is able to build upon Locke’s ideology and morph it into one that fits the need and belief of Americans as he saw it. By writing this into the Declaration it effectively cemented Locke’s influence on him and his own influence into history, providing the foundation for the country’s moral principles. Locke was extremely outspoken about his own political views and influenced the country’s political progression in many ways, but Jefferson was a crucial component in realizing these ideas. In many of Locke’s works he asserted the importance of a limited government and the separation between the Church and the State. In addition to the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson ushered in the Jeffersonian Era when he formed the Democratic-Republican party. The party took a liberal stance with many of its policies reflecting the same attitude as in Locke’s writings.