Bachelor’s Essay: Legitimacy and Legality in the Declaration of Independence and Locke’s Second Treatise of Government


The foundation of the United States of America is one of the most remarkable events in human history. States have been established and have perished since time immemorial, but there are a number of unique elements to the story of America. What allows a people to declare themselves sovereign? What justifies a people in asserting their right to revolt? Where would such a right come from in the first place?

This paper initially deals with the Declaration of Independence as it stands by itself. It next explores the philosophical influences on the thinking that went into it, drawing from John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government. The end of government per se is taken up very superficially, inasmuch as the issue is dealt with in the Declaration and the Second Treatise. Issues dealing with the maintenance of regimes also lie mostly beyond the scope of this paper. What is relevant and what is being particularly gleaned from the texts are insights into the right to revolt and secede – the right to proclaim sovereignty as portrayed in the Declaration and the philosophical basis which provides for such a right as discussed in the Second Treatise.

The final section of this paper offers concluding thoughts and speculations on political philosophy and various aspects of statehood, in particular the problem of legitimacy and legality as viewed from these two texts.

Download the full paper hereBachelor’s Essay – Nareg Seferian – February 2011.