John Locke laid the groundwork for modern liberalism. He argues that political societies exist to defend the lives, liberties and properties of their citizens, and that no government has any authority except by the consent of the people. When rulers become tyrants and act against the common good, then the people have a right to revolution against them. Writing against the backdrop of Charles II's savage purge of the Whig movement, Locke set out to attack monarchical absolutism and demolished the intellectual fabric of the divine right of rulers. The rights of property owners of native Americans, and of women and children, the need for economic improvement, the separation of powers in the constitution, the meaning of God's commands and the nature and limits of consent-these are all topics within Locke's compass, and make his book the subject of intense debate.
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