The arguments that erupt between historians can be as caustic and vicious as the politics and wars they write about. However, arguments surrounding the root of the phrase, “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness,” offer us a moment of relative tranquility in a sea of discontent. It has long been agreed: when Thomas Jefferson ascribed those words to the Declaration of Independence, he had John Locke’s political philosophy in mind. When it comes to real estate, or the “Pursuit of Property,” as Locke put it, there hardly remains any doubt that Jefferson meant that as well.
The Right To Own Property Inspires The American Revolution
“Every man has a property in his own person. This, nobody has a right to, but himself.” – John Locke
Influential political philosopher and physician, John Locke, whose writings influenced the Founding Fathers, was born in Wrington, England on 29 Aug. 1632. His father was a lawyer who served in the military during the English Civil War (1642-’61). His parents were Puritans, so Locke was raised in that tradition. Because of his father’s service and allegiance to the Crown, Locke received an outstanding education at Westminster School in London. He earned the prestigious King’s Scholar award, which opened the door for him to attend Oxford.
At Oxford, Locked immersed himself in metaphysics and logic, as well as Latin and Greek. After graduating in 1656, he turned his focus to pursuing a Master’s degree, and by 1668, he was elected as a fellow of the Royal Society in London. He then began working on a number of treatises regarding politics, property and “natural rights,” a term he dubbed while pondering transcendentalism.
Locke penned some of his most influential writings on property during this time. “The Enlightenment,” as it has been called, was an era of deep thinking and debate which ended in revolution throughout the world. Though the idea of owning real estate, per say, had not crossed his or anyone’s mind just yet, he laid its foundation, and it was enlightenment that produced the notions of personal property. The right to own one’s thoughts and feelings parlayed notions of private property rights, and the right to own such property was revolutionary all in itself.
In 1689, Locke anonymously authored and published “Two Treatises of Government,” which directly challenged the king’s legitimacy as “divine ruler.” Under “the divine rights of kings” theory, all power vested in the king had derived from God; disobeying the king was disobedience to God; challenging the king was a challenge to God, and so on. This was an extremely powerful theory for kings to entrap subordinates with at the time. Who would dare be so hubristic and challenge the Crown? Locke would have none of it and soon engaged in spirited debates with His Majesty’s proponents. He argued, the king’s power could only be legitimized by the people, and nothing else, further articulating that “Natural Rights” included “Life, Liberty and Property.”
If this sounds familiar to you, it’s because most of Locke’s writings ended up in the Declaration of Independence. Once it took root, Locke’s philosophy–along with Jefferson’s, Madison’s, Franklin’s, and Hamilton’s–became the justification for revolution around the world.
America was built on the prospect that anyone of ample means could own property. Take part in the American Dream and talk to a real estate agent, today!