The Consent of the Governed: Lockean Ideals

ryanGovernment(ML), Mini Lessons

Common Sense Government: John Locke and Liberal Philosophy

The liberal thinker who was most influential to the American Founders, especially Thomas Jefferson, was John Locke. Locke’s Second Treatise became a blueprint of sorts for Jefferson as he wrote the Declaration of Independence, for reasons that should be clear.
In the early portions of the Second Treatise, Locke attempts to ascertain and explain the foundation of legitimate government. The world had seen any number of governments, after all, but how many of them had been legitimate?

  1. Imagine yourself back at the beginning of human society. What differentiated a ruler from a thug? If one or the other rode up on horseback and demanded obedience, how could you tell if he or she was legitimate, or not?
  2. Think of yourself with a group of friends, trying to decide how to spend your Friday evening. How do you decide what to do? Who decides? Under what “rules”? What happens when you can’t agree? What counts as a “legitimate” decision? Under what circumstances do you consent to do things you don’t want to do in your group?

This reading is an excerpt from Certell’s Common Sense Government eBook.  Certell offers curriculum materials and eBooks free of charge for use by students and teachers.  Click here to download the Common Sense Government materials.

Image Citation:

21st, August 2018, Portrait of John Locke [Digitial image].  Retrieved from <>.