What are the contributions of John Locke and Baron Montesquieu to the philosophical principles of American government?
John Locke’s primary, and most notable contribution to the framework and essential nature of the American democracy is the idea of the social contract. Locke’s views on the social contract states that the government itself was the fulfillment of the social contract between people in the state. As a contract, there is a responsibility on the part of the individual and the government to act in the best interest of the republic. Locke believed that all people had the right to life, liberty, and property, and if these rights were not granted or taken away, then it is just to overthrow or remove that government. Locke felt that the rights of people were best fostered in a government that was limited. Considering this, it can be seen how these ideas gave way to the thinking of Jefferson, Franklin, and other founders, who saw it just to overthrow British rule. This fell under the idea that people could determine their own government and outcomes.
While Locke had a more theoretical influence on the democracy of America, Montesquieu had an impact that was more concrete. He was a proponent of separated government, and specifically separation of powers. His beliefs were that if one person or entity controlled all of government that minority interests and liberties would be taken away from citizens. His contribution led to the way that the checks and balance system works in the United States today. Separating powers is a crucial point in the influence of Montesquieu.