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Second Treatise of Government

Second Treatise of Government

Two Treatises of Government

The Two Treatises of Government also referred to as 'Second Treatise of Government' is an essay written by 17th century philosopher John Locke. The essay is about what a good government should look like, how they are formed, how it should behave, and discussions about natural freedom and individual rights. In layman's terms, The Second Treatise of Government is an essay that help create the American government that we know today.

A Little Background on John Locke

John Locke was born in 1632 in Wrighton, Somerset. His father John Locke (they both had the same name) was a lawyer and his mother Agnes Keene died when Locke was just a baby. Locke was initially homeschooled and then attended Westminster School at 14 years old. In his 20's he attended Christ Church, a college in Oxford, England that is a part of the University of Oxford. There he met Anthony Ashley Cooper, a greek politician known as "1st Earl of Shaftesbury". Cooper offered his home to Locke where they became friends and had debates about various subjects including education, science, politics, and religion. Locke's encounter with Ashley Cooper and the discussions really shaped who he became.

💡Tip: 'Treatise' means a well-thought-out essay (but longer) on a single subject. There are two treatises in John Locke's book. The Two Treatises of Government simply means two long essays about government.

What Are The Two Treatises?

Second Treatise of Government

The First Treatise was against the idea that the governor should be inherited by people of high status and power simply because they believed it was "God's plan" (the power was given to them by God). John Locke believed that no one person or institution should have that power. Instead, the government should be made up of people appointed by the citizens and they should guarantee citizens will have natural freedom and individual rights.

The Second Treatise involves the Social Contract Theory, a belief that the government and the citizens being governed should have a social contract with each other. Locke believed that the appointed government had an obligation to serve the people being governed and the people had responsibilities to their government. If the appointed government misbehaves (act like a tyrant, use their position to help themself get rich, etc.) the people have the right to overthrow the government and elect a new one.

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