locke two treatises of government

John Locke can be considered the father of liberalism.

John Locke, Father of Classical Liberalism

John Locke can be considered the father of liberalism. His theories on life, liberty, property, consent, and the social contract form the foundation of classical liberalism.[1][2][3][4]

Specifically, Locke is the father of classical liberalism, a type of liberty-focused liberalism that grew out of the Enlightenment and was used to justify England’s Glorious Revolution. Classical liberalism stood against the state-controlled systems of kings and churches which dominated Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire. It is the foundation upon which all Western ideologies and western powers are built. Specifically, it is the foundation upon which England’s Glorious Revolution, the American Revolution, and France’s Revolution are based. These three revolutions allowed for the rise of religious liberty, modern human rights, free trade, and modern banking.

Due to the importance of liberalism, John Locke is one of our most significant philosophers. His fame comes from political philosophy, economic philosophy, and epistemology. This can be seen in his Essays on Human Understanding and Education (Locke’s essays on symbolic language are just as fascinating and insightful on his essays on liberalism). Locke’s most famous work is his Second Treaties of Government, although his other works and letters all have important insights to offer.[5]


TIP: The father of conservatism is a little harder to pinpoint, but in many respects, it is Thomas Hobbes. Hobbes, like Robert Filmer (the subject of Locke’s First Treaties), presents an argument for the absolute authority of kings. Earlier philosophers like Machiavelli (the father of political science) and later philosophers like Montesquieu help round out both sides of the ongoing argument, which can itself be traced back to the Romans, Greeks, and beyond.

Thomas Hobbes and John Locke: Two Philosophers Compared.

Locke’s Key Theories

Locke’s major theories and consequently many of the essential theories of liberalism are:

” . . . every man has a property in his own person. This nobody has any right to but himself. The labour of his body, and the work of his hands, we may say, are properly his . . . ” – Locke on property and value.

Locke, Berkeley, & Empiricism: Crash Course Philosophy #6.

TIP: Another famous classical liberal is the father of classical liberal economics, Adam Smith. Other famous classical liberals are… America’s founding fathers.

FACT: Lifelong bachelor Sir Isaac Newton once accused his good friend John Locke of trying to “embroil him with women.” He later apologized before going on to become Warden of the Royal Mint. Both men were key figures in England’s history.

FACT: Classical liberalism is the original liberal position. From here we get social liberalism (like FDR, which says state intervention is needed) and radical liberalism (like the revolutionaries in France or Libertarians, who tend to favor a more anarchistic form of liberalism). This also is the foundation upon which socialism, a very authoritative type of liberalism, rests. Early forms of each type of liberalism can be seen throughout history, especially from the Greeks like Sparta and Athens forward, but the proper versions of social liberalism and socialism don’t arise until the mid-to-late 1800’s as a response to the rise of industrialization and the “robber barons.” Learn more about the history of liberalism and the types of liberalism and conservatism.


John Locke is the one best suited with the honorary title “father of liberalism”. Although we can look backward to anyone from Aristotle to Machiavelli, or look forward to Rousseau, John Locke is properly credited with being the first to clearly express the ideas which form the foundation of classical liberalism.


  1. the Little Guide to John Locke
  2. John Locke
  3. John Locke (1632—1704)
  4. Liberalism
  5. John Locke, The Works of John Locke, vol. 4 (Economic Writings and Two Treatises of Government) [1691]

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Taylor on

Didn’t FDR’s (Social Liberalism) bring back Hobb’s Tribalism?


Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

Interesting take. I’d have to think about a response.