John Locke Quotes

John Locke
Portrait of political theorist and philosopher John Locke (1632-1704) author of Two Treatises of Government.

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English philosopher John Locke (1632—1704) is remembered as the father of empiricism and as one of the earliest champions of the idea that all people enjoy certain natural rights. In areas including government, education, and religion, John Locke quotes helped inspire momentous events like the Age of Enlightenment and England’s Glorious Revolution, as well as the Declaration of Independence, Revolutionary War, and Constitution of the United States. 

John Locke on Government and Politics

“Government has no other end than the preservation of property.”

“… tyranny is the exercise of power beyond right …” 

“The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges every one: and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions.” 

“New opinions are always suspected, and usually opposed, without any other reason but because they are not common.”

“Men being, as has been said, by nature, all free, equal and independent, no one can be put out of this estate, and subjected to the political power of another, without his own consent.”

“As if when men, quitting the state of Nature, entered into society, they agreed that all of them but one should be under the restraint of laws; but that he should still retain all the liberty of the state of Nature, increased with power, and made licentious by impunity.”

“But there is only one thing which gathers people into seditious commotion, and that is oppression.” 

“The end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom. For in all the states of created beings, capable of laws, where there is no law there is no freedom.”

“The Indians, whom we call barbarous, observe much more decency and civility in their discourses and conversation, giving one another a fair silent hearing till they have quite done; and then answering them calmly, and without noise or passion.”

“The great question which, in all ages, has disturbed mankind, and brought on them the greatest part of their mischiefs ... has been, not whether be power in the world, nor whence it came, but who should have it.”

“And because it may be too great a temptation to human frailty, apt to grasp at power, for the same persons, who have the power of making laws, to have also in their hands the power to execute them …” 

“… no one can be put out of this estate, and subjected to the political power of another, without his own consent.”

“This is to think that men are so foolish that they take care to avoid what mischiefs may be done them by polecats or foxes, but are content, nay, think it safety, to be devoured by lions.”

“Revolt is the right of the people.” 

John Locke on Education

“The only fence against the world is a thorough knowledge of it.” 

“Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge; it is thinking that makes what we read ours.”

“Education begins the gentleman, but reading, good company and reflection must finish him.”

“A sound mind in a sound body, is a short but full description of a happy state in this world.”

“Long discourses, and philosophical readings, at best, amaze and confound, but do not instruct children.” 

“There is frequently more to be learned from the unexpected questions of a child than the discourses of men.”

“Thus parents, by humoring and cockering them when little, corrupt the principles of nature in their children …” 

“Of all the ways whereby children are to be instructed, and their manners formed, the plainest, easiest, and most efficacious, is, to set before their eyes the examples of those things you would have them do, or avoid.”

“A father would do well, as his son grows up, and is capable of it, to talk familiarly with him; nay, ask his advice, and consult with him about those things wherein he has any knowledge or understanding.”

“That which parents should take care of... is to distinguish between the wants of fancy, and those of nature.” 

“Our Business here is not to know all things, but those which concern our conduct.”

“No man’s knowledge here can go beyond his experience.”

John Locke on Religion

“So that, in effect, religion, which should most distinguish us from beasts, and ought most peculiarly to elevate us, as rational creatures, above brutes, is that wherein men often appear most irrational, and more senseless than beasts themselves.”

“The Bible is one of the greatest blessings bestowed by God on the children of men. It has God for its Author, salvation for its end, and truth without any mixture for its matter. It is all pure, all sincere; nothing too much; nothing wanting!”

“Whosoever will list himself under the banner of Christ, must, in the first place and above all things, make war upon his own lusts and vices.” 

“As men, we have God for our King, and are under the law of reason: as Christians, we have Jesus the Messiah for our King, and are under the law revealed by him in the gospel.” 

“He that denies any of the doctrines that Christ has delivered, to be true, denies him to be sent from God, and consequently to be the Messiah; and so ceases to be a Christian.”