Abstract The Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson in 1776, incorporates many of the views and ideas of John Locke, an English philosopher, and his writings of the Social Contract theory. Within the theory, Locke states that society should be afforded certain unalienable rights (life, liberty, and happiness) that give authority and control to the people and not the government. Additionally, Locke states that God created everyone equally and as such, they are entitled to the same amount of property as everyone else.
His ideas would later shape the United States from a group of a few territories into a nation. John Locke’s Social Contract Theory Thomas Jefferson wrote, “…that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” (Jefferson, 1776, para. 1) when he created the Declaration of Independence. His words formed the foundation of the United States and give meaning to the word “freedom,” but to be “free” means to be unrestricted by anything physical, emotional, sociological, ethical, and physiological.
Laws and societal norms placed upon humanity challenge the meaning of the word as the government has the authority and power to create and abolish laws that dictate what society can and cannot do. However, it is through the enactment of the Declaration of Independence, a document whose words were based on the theories of John Locke, which the people, not the government, are given ultimate control. In this article, the reader will learn about John Locke’s contribution to the Social Contract theory.
Moreover, this article will also show how his thoughts and attitudes led to the development of the Declaration of Independence and how those views are consistent with the criminal justice system. Social Contract Theory: What It Is The Social Contract theory is a collection of theories written by many authors (Thomas Hobbs, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, etc. ) that debates how the structure of a society is formed. This structure takes into account the State of Nature, a place “…wherein all the power and jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having more than another” (Locke, 1963, p.309), and the rights of the people against the government.
Although Locke’s ideas are responsible for the establishment of the Declaration of Independence, the views of Hobbs and Rousseau are also important in understanding the mentality of society throughout history. Thomas Hobbs and His View Hobbs view mainly dealt with the King (along with his supporters, the Monarchists) against the Parliament (more notably Oliver Cromwell). The King wanted the traditional authority of his title, which was given to him (or her) by God, whereas the Parliament wanted a shared power between the King and themselves (Parliament).
Hobbes rejected both of their views and instead believed that authority should not be given to one person, but instead should be vested in society where individuals are equal to each other. Additionally, Hobbes states that the power given to the Monarch (he called Sovereign) must be turned over to society if society is to survive (Friend, 2004). A second part of Hobbes’ contract theory is that of the State of Nature. In it, Hobbes describes a place where the fear of losing one’s life to someone else is constant.
This place always exists, so no normal or sane person would want to stay there. Instead, they would choose to create a society that institutes common laws and therefore escape the State of Nature. John Locke and His View Contrary to the theories of Hobbs and Rousseau, Locke believed many things. First, people were allowed certain unchallengeable rights; mainly “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” (Jefferson, 1776, para. 1). This meant that the government must recognize a person’s individual rights thereby limiting its power over the people. Locke also believed that the government should perform two functions: (1) to protect the ethical rights of the people and (2) to provide goods for the public (efforts of many whose results are enjoyed by all).
An example of public goods is the establishment of a police department that serves the community. Locke also believed that the people are the main source of the state’s authority and that the state cannot rule people under its control without the people’s consent to do so. Hobbes and Rousseau, on the other hand, believed that the social contract is a pact of association; basically one in which people become people.
Locke thought the opposite in this because people already existed before the creation of the social contract, the contract itself was a pact of government – one in which the people select someone to rule (such as the King or Queen in England). Last, Locke believed that the people should not make rules for themselves, but instead should elect someone periodically to do it. Politics are driven by private interests, and because of this should be a profession and not the ordinary matters of citizens.
Additionally, property is a key part in Locke’s contract theory because he concludes that God gave everyone the world to share and that no man (or woman) should take more than they can use. When people begin to take more than their share, a State of War will ensue. Civil authority is absent in the State of Nature, but when war occurs, man will form a civil government and abandon the State of Nature. In his version of the Social Contract theory, Locke believed that the State of Nature was not a horrible place as was thought by Hobbs, but instead was one of perfect and complete harmony and liberty.
People were free to live their lives as they saw fit, without interference from others. In the State of Nature, people are equal to each other and are connected on the basis of mortality that had been given to humanity by God. This mortality, or Law of Nature, commands a person not to “harm others with regards to their life, health, liberty, or possessions” (Friend, 2004, sect. 2b, para. 3). Jean-Jacques Rousseau and His View Rousseau followed very closely with Locke’s view of the Social Contract theory.
He believed that the State of Nature was a peaceful place where harmony reined and people did not fight. However, as the population increased, people began to come together to form families, and later communities. The introduction of property (mainly private property) was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back because it brought greed, competition, inequality, and corruption. Those with property force others to work for them, which is how social classes formed. Rousseau did not believe that a return to the State of Nature was possible once society left it; however, politics was the only way to restore that freedom.
He believed this because the State of Nature generated a way for people to reconcile “who we truly and essentially are with how we live together” (Friend, 2004, sect. 2c, para. 7). John Locke and the Bill of Rights The first 10 Amendments of the United States Constitution make up the Bill of Rights that grants rights to the people. Most of these amendments have to do with individual rights such as Amendment II (Right to Bear Arms), Amendment IV (Search and Seizure), and Amendment VII (Right to a Trial by Jury); however, Amendment X does not protect rights, but instead the powers of states.
Because many states had to give up a majority of their powers during the writing of the Constitution, Amendment X was added to ease fears that the government would carry out powers that had not been given to it. The Bill of Rights, unlike the Declaration of Independence, communicates the foundation of Locke’s theory; that is life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness. Social Contract Theory and the Criminal Justice System In the practice of the criminal justice system, the roles of the various elements (law enforcement, courts, and corrections) vary.
For example, law enforcement’s responsibility is to prevent, detect or act on reports of law violations, to apprehend suspects reasonably believed responsible for such violations and to bring those suspects or defendants before a court of law, assess the charge and the evidence as presented by both the prosecution” (Miller & Hess, 2008, p. 67). Because each element is dependent on the other, a system of checks and balances ensures that no one is deprived of his or her freedom before every avenue has been taken to afford due process and equal protection.
It is stated in the Preamble to the Constitution that the creation of the Constitution will “…establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility…” (The Library of Congress, 2011, para. 1). This short section of words solidifies the creation of the criminal justice system. To protect against inequality and unfair laws, the creators of the Constitution wanted to establish a court system that would bring about not only fairness but also consistency when handling the wrongdoings of the people.
The courts of today provide this fair and equal treatment through several actions (Jefferson, 1776): 1. Not subjecting a person to double jeopardy and not depriving one of life, liberty, or property. 2. Providing a quick trial with an objective panel of one’s peers and supplying legal counsel. 3. Granting a trial by jury. 4. Protecting one from cruel and unusual punishment. Conclusion The Social Contract theory is the root of the criminal justice system because Locke’s beliefs and values were essential in the formation of today’s government.
The introduction of the Bill of Rights granted individual rights to the people whereas the creation of the Constitution restricted governmental control of the people by requiring that the government answer to and claim responsibility for the protection of its people. Without the influence that Locke’s Social Contract theory has had on the development of the United States, its government, and it people, there is no telling if the United States would have ever been a free nation or one still ruled by the English. References Friend, C. (2004). Social Contract Theory.
Retrieved from http://www. iep. utm. edu/soc-cont/. Jefferson, T. (1776). The Declaration of Independence. Retrieved from http://www. archives. gov/ exhibits/charters/declaration. html. Locke, J. (1963). Two Treaties of Government. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. Miller, L. S. & Hess, K. M. (2008). Community Policing: Partnerships for Problem Solving (5th ed. ). Belmont, CA: Thompson Wadsworth. The Library of Congress (2011). Primary Documents in American History. Retrieved from http://www. loc. gov/rr/program/bib/ourdocs/Constitution. html.