What influence did John Locke have on American government?
British philosopher John Locke had several important impacts on American government, and government in general. Locke’s concept of natural law was that laws can be determined from nature (almost like a kind of science). This is different than the idea of divine law which was often used at this time. One of the most important ideas Locke came up with out of natural law is that of private property; the idea that people (as well as government) had the right to own things (e.g. land). This is a necessary foundation for capitalism.
Also very important was the idea of the separation of powers. The three branches of government Locke called for were legislative, executive, and federative; very similar to the American legislative, executive, and judicial. The legislative branch made the laws (as ours does). The executive enforced the laws (again like ours). The third, federative, has to do with holding other countries accountable to natural law.
Locke wrote of the need for governments to protect life, liberty, and property; an idea borrowed and adapted into the Declaration of Independence. For more on Locke see his work The Second Treatise on Government.