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John Locke  Philosopher of American Liberty

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Philosopher of American Liberty

by Mary-Elaine Swanson

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ISBN:  978-0-9831957-3-3
Paperback (embossed), 432 pages

About the Author

Mary-Elaine SwansonMary-Elaine Swanson (1927–2011), a historical researcher, educator, and speaker, wrote over 80 short biographies from original research in primary sources, in addition to her award-winning major biography, The Education of James Madison: A Model for Today. As Resident Scholar for American Colonial Studies she co-authored The American Covenant: The Untold Story book and film with Rev. Marshall Foster of The Mayflower Institute, now World History Institute; then as vice-president of the American Christian History Institute, she developed a Study Guide to The Christian History of the United States of America, Vol. 2: Self-Government with Union by Verna M. Hall. Her many presentations and articles included "James Madison and the Presbyterian Idea of Man and Government" published in Religion and Political Culture in Jefferson's Virginia, "The Monroe Doctrine and the Hemisphere of Liberty," and "The Law of Nature in John Locke's Writings: A Break with Classic Natural Law."

On May 19, 2011, Mary-Elaine Swanson went home to be with her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Nordskog Publishing team will sorely miss this dear lady. She was a most excellent editor, scholar and friend. Her influence is upon us all.

Nordskog is honored to publish posthumously her crowning achievement, John Locke: Philosopher of American Liberty. the Untold Story.

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Mary-Elaine Swanson has done an invaluable service for this and subsequent generations by resurrecting awareness and presenting an accurate knowledge of John Locke and his reasoning through an uncensored view of his life, writings, and incalculable influence on America. This book will help Americans understand the importance of Locke's thinking for American constitutionalism today.

You will learn the real meaning of the "law of nature" as it was embraced in Colonial America and the separation of church and state embraced in the Constitution. The Founding Fathers looked to Locke as the source of many of their ideas. Thomas Jefferson considered Locke as one of the three greatest men that ever lived.

Locke advocated separation of the state from the church and extension of religious toleration. Locke's political writings were an enormous influence on America's founders in the preservation of liberty and the establishment of representative government. Locke's contributions to American Liberty can clearly be seen interwoven in our colonial Declarations of Rights, paraphrased in our Declaration of Independence, and incorporated into our Constitution and Bill of Rights. The Declaration is born of the extensively studied and widely taught Treatises On Civil Government by John Locke. There Locke reasoned the very purpose of forming civil government is the protection of property, and that "life, liberty, and property (pursuit of happiness)" are not three separate rights but intrinsically one great and inalienable right he called "property"—which begins with the life of the individual, then his liberty which is essential to his productivity, followed by the right to enjoy the fruits of his labors without fear that the government will confiscate his property. These inalienable rights are from God and legitimate government has no authority to take them away but is chartered in fact to preserve and protect liberty.

The book is divided into Five Parts and is fully footnoted and indexed:

  • Foreword by David Barton quotes American Presidents throughout our history, from John Adams through George W. Bush, who have acknowledged Locke's incalculable contribution to America.
  • Part One includes a biography of John Locke, showing his Biblical and Christian belief and character, along with the historical background of his life and times.
  • Part Two documents Locke's philosophical and active influence on securing religious toleration and the rights of Englishmen up to the time of William and Mary.
  • Part Three examines the influence Locke's governmental reasoning had on our Founding Fathers and the establishment of American liberty.
  • Part Four examines Locke's philosophy in contrast to the French philosophes who dropped his God-given basis and embraced an anti-religious, secular and absolutist political theory. She presents a clear comparison (illustrated in the life of Lafayette who was inspired by Lockean thinking to fight for freedom on two continents), of the French Revolution which gave rise to anarchy and chaos, against the American War for Independence which resulted in a stable and just government with individual liberty and prosperity.
  • Media Appearances

    Ben Gilmore discussing the book:
  • Part Five shows the application of Locke's governmental philosophy to America's situation today. The author concludes that the United States is now following, at its peril, many of the absolutist political ideas of Rousseau rather than the truly liberating ones of John Locke, so important to a free people. Americans are not being taught the treasures entrusted to them in their heritage and particularly in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. It is no wonder that they fall easy prey to specious arguments in favor of socialistic policies. John Locke's First Treatise of Government demolished the idea of absolute monarchy (or arbitrary rule by men, not law), and the Second Treatise provided a blueprint for a system of government with a written constitution that would ensure the citizen's "life, liberty, and property."
  • Appendix includes three documents of rights directly influenced by Lockean governmental philosophy: The Virginia Declaration of Rights (also a model for our Bill of Rights); The Declaration of Independence (which includes Locke's words almost verbatim and gives the philosophical foundation for our Constitution); Lafayette's French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen (rejected by the French Revolution leaders along with the Constitution Party, and Lafayette imprisoned), while France did not finally become a republic until 1875, and his Declaration of Rights finally became the Preamble of the Constitution of the French Republic.)

This is a great book – especially if you like history or politics. John Locke is written without the revisionist twist that so often takes place in mainstream books of this caliber.
Mary-Elaine Swanson did her homework and created a wonderful work that shows the reader how Locke's faith in God is plainly evident through his life and politics. I would definitely say this would be a great book for a high school student who wants to read a living book that is on their level; or even an advanced middle school student can enjoy this book. I know I will be coming back to it as we get more into American history studies and I'll be encouraging my children to read this book as each of them is able to do so.

- OHIOSARAH (BookCrash)


   Mrs. Mary-Elaine Swanson, author of numerous biographical sketches found in the appendix of The Christian History of the Constitution of the United States of America, was encouraged by Misses Verna Hall and Rosalie Slater of The Foundation for American Christian Education to pursue her interest in John Locke. The three of them knew that Locke had suffered many things at the hands of modern scholars, who in general selectively quoted Locke to support various ideas and philosophies alien to his thinking.

            In addition to her many other scholarly endeavors, Mrs. Swanson spent years researching Locke and interacting with modern Lockean scholarship in order to prepare her subject. The reviewer remembers seeing evidence of this work in 1983 at a Pilgrim Institute conference held in Michigan, and at that time she had already been engaged in it for years.

            The author writes as an historian to successfully defend Locke against charges of deism and atheism and to show that he was an orthodox Christian, a philosopher of free government, a theologian, a physician, a diplomat, an educator, a founder of the Bank of England, and a monetary reformer.

            John Locke is written in a clear, concise, accessible style that maintains a good balance between the informal and the scholarly with extensive documentation. The biography of Locke shows how thoroughly he influenced the England of his day. Locke’s ideas came to beadapted by England in its ”Glorious Revolution”, as it moved from an absolute to a limited monarchy in which the king ruled with the Parliament. Owing to the wide circulation and study of Locke’s two Treatises on Civil Government in America, the Founding Fatheradopted his philosophy and embodied it, not only in the U. S. Constitution, but in local and state/colonial governments. In France, Locke’s ideas were abandoned with the grim consequences of the French Revolution. Read On»

- Mr. Darold Booton (PilgrimInstitute.org)


What could 21st-century Americans — luxuriating in their BMWs, iPads, and largely unhindered freedom to worship God in their own individual ways — owe to a mild-mannered 17th-century Christian philosopher?

In terms of their physical, political, and religious liberties, just about everything.

In John Locke: Philosopher of American Liberty, the late Mary-Elaine Swanson has done such a thorough job of proving how the Christian political philosophy of John Locke so completely permeated the thinking of American colonists in the pre-Revolutionary War period, that for anyone to assert otherwise would expose to the world either his ignorance of history or a deliberate intent to defame one of the greatest thinkers of all time. Read On»

- Mike Gray (The American Culture Blog)


John Locke, the philosopher who gave the world the formula of “life, liberty, and property”; adviser to noblemen and to a king; sometime political refugee; hailed as the inspiration for the Declaration of Independence. Was he a Christian, or a deist?
Was he really the godfather of American independence, or a blind guide leading other blind men into a ditch?
In this meaty volume, the late Mary-Elaine Swanson (d. 2011) applied deep, extensive, and tightly-focused scholarship to demonstrate “how important Locke’s political ideas were-and still are-to a free people” (p. 5). The book is also a yeoman effort to rehabilitate Locke in the eyes of Christians with whom he has fallen out of favor.

Notable among those was R.J. Rushdoony. Let’s get down to business, and try to decide whether Ms. Swanson has adequately answered his objections.

Read On»

- Lee Duigon (Chalcedon.edu)


Mary-Elaine swanson has done an invaluable service for this and subsequent generations in this historical biography of John Locke, correcting mischaracterizations of him from Deconstructionism and Academic Collectivism by presenting an uncensored view of his life, writings, and incalculable influence on America.

Thomas Jefferson said that Locke was among his “trinity of the three greatest men the world had ever produced.”
- David Barton (From the Foreword)


Mary-Elaine Swanson's book on John Locke is a masterpiece of scholarship, made interesting and readable for the twenty-first century. Was Locke a founder of the unbelieving "Enlightenment"? Or was he a Christian apologist who pro- moted a Biblical view of government and society? Mary-Elaine's fine book gives an authoritative defense of Locke and his Christianity.

- Marshall Foster, DD Author, Speaker, and President, World History Institute


Additional Endorsedments

Stephen McDowell
President, The Providence Foundation and Biblical Worldview University Charlottesville, Virginia

James B. Rose
Author, Educator, and President of the American Christian History Institute Palo Cedro, California

John A. Eidsmoe, JD, DMin
Colonel, Alabama State Defense Force Author, Christianity and the Constitution: The Faith of Our Founding Fathers

Because Americans generally are disconnected from their true national identity, this book should be in every home and every schoolroom.
Carole Adams, PhD

President, Foundation for American Christian Education; Founder, StoneBridge School

Jerry Newcombe, DMin
Truth in Action Ministries (formerly Coral Ridge)
Author, The Book that Made America: How the Bible Formed Our Nation

This book ranks among the ten most significant books of the decade. It should be read by every American pastor and activist patriot.
Ben Gilmore

Founder and Director, ACH Study Groups, Citrus Heights, California

William J. Federer
Author, America’s God and Country Encyclopedia of Quotations Speaker, and Faith in History (TV) and AmericanMinute.com (radio)

Katherine Dang
President and Founder, Philomath Foundation Author, Universal History, Volumes I and II

Paul Jehle, MDiv, Ed D
Executive Director, Plymouth Rock Foundation Senior Pastor, New Testament Church

Gary Amos
Author, Defending the Declaration:
How the Bible and Christianity Influenced the Writing of the Declaration of Independence

This book should be read by anyone who is deeply troubled about the direction in which America is headed.
Robert M. Damir, MBA, JD

Founder, Bridgemont Christian High School San Francisco, California

Locke was the fountainhead of American liberty and...he may yet prove to be the harbinger of a new day of freedom ahead.
George Grant, PhD

Author, Educator, and Pastor of Parish Presbyterian Church, Franklin, Tennessee

Every state and national legislator in America needs to read this book.
Rick Green, JD

Founder, Torch of Freedom Foundation and Patriot Academy, Co-host of WallBuilders Live Aledo, Texas

Rev. David R Brown
Educator, Author, Pastor of Danville (California) Presbyterian Church (PCA)


What Readers are Saying

"The John Locke book written by Mary-Elaine Swanson is a marvelous recounting of America's founding principles and will prove to be a great blessing to all who read it, especially Christians. Ms. Swanson very clearly describes the very meaning of the words used in America's founding documents which unfortunately too many Christians do not understand and it also clearly shows that Locke was indeed a devoted Christian and not a deist. By showing that our present changed form of big government is not new at all, but rather is hundreds of years old, Ms Swanson also clearly destroys the myth that as times are continually changing our government needs to evolve in order to keep up with the changing times."
— Al Vipiana, former Board Member of the Foundation for American Christian Education, San Rafael, California

"John Locke: Philosopher of American Liberty. This is a book about the Christian contributions of the English philosopher, John Locke and his influence on American government and the Declaration of Independence. This book sets the record straight in truth that Locke was a Christian in his profession, and Biblical in his worldview. The subtitle of this book is "Why Our Founders Fought for Life, Liberty, and Property."

Locke has been praised by Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and James Monroe, among others. All admit Locke's influence on the thinking and writing of these men as they laid the foundation of the United States. Locke believed that the Law of Nature was the Law of God, and as such, Natural Law made no sense without God. Locke was educated at Christ Church, Oxford, where Oliver Cromwell was chancellor at the time. Among other writings, Locke wrote "Some thoughts on Education" in 1690 which is still in print today, and relevant. The detail in this book is quite interesting and readers will find it very relevant to what is happening in government today, as it sheds light on how far we have strayed from the intention of the founding fathers. Readers will find especially interesting the section on the current administration.

There is not only a Bibliography in the back, but an extensive general index of concepts and cross references in this very well researched book.

I would recommend this book to any lover of history and anyone who would like to know who influenced our founding fathers in their thinking. Many will not be aware of Locke's influence on our country, but this book should clear things up."

"John Locke was an inspiration to many people. Locke knew Newton, as in Newton's laws!!! He played a part in everything our Country is founded upon - land, religion, and of course the Constitution. I learned about history in school, and John Hancock etc. However I never learned about the people behind the scenes that laid the foundation for what the Constitution would be. In this book, I learned that many famous people got ideas from Locke, including famous Whigs, the New England Clergy, pastors and anyone else you can imagine that had a role in the Writing of the Constitution."

"A thousand dollars per book would still be too little for this beautifully written and produced book."
— Sylvia, Colorado

  "Mary-Elaine Swanson has done an invaluable service for this and subsequent generations by resurrecting awareness and presenting an accurate knowledge of John Locke and his reasoning through an uncensored view of his life, writings, and incalculable influence on America. This book will help Americans understand the importance of Locke's thinking for American constitutionalism today.
   You will learn the real meaning of the "law of nature" as it was embraced in Colonial America and the separation of church and state embraced in the Constitution. The founding fathers looked to Locke as the source of many of their ideas. Thomas Jefferson considered Locke as one of the three greatest men that ever lived.
   Locke advocated separation of the state from the church and extension of religious toleration. Locke's political writings were an enormous influence on America's founders in the preservation of liberty and the establishment of representative government. Locke's contributions to American Liberty can clearly be seen interwoven in our colonial Declarations of Rights, paraphrased in our Declaration of Independence, and incorporated into our Constitution and Bill of Rights. The Declaration is born of the extensively studied and widely taught Treatises On Civil Government by John Locke. There Locke reasoned the very purpose of forming civil government is the protection of property, and that "life, liberty, and property (pursuit of happiness)" are not three separate rights but intrinsically one great and inalienable right he called "property"—which begins with the life of the individual, then his liberty which is essential to his productivity, followed by the right to enjoy the fruits of his labors without fear that the government will confiscate his property. These inalienable rights are from God and legitimate government has no authority to take them away but is chartered in fact to preserve and protect liberty."
Cheryl Malandrinos

What I found to be really interesting about this book is the sheer amount of impact that John Locke had on the founding principles of the United States of America. You hear so much about founding fathers, but to see one of the figures that really molded their ideals was really fascinating. This book is a biography of John Locke, from birth onward. This book is quite long, nearly 400 pages of reading, but it is genuinely interesting. I would say that this book is a wonderful addition to the bookshelf of history lovers. I would give this book a 5/5 - well written, interesting, and historically accurate. Great read!
Beth

Mary-Elaine Swanson's book on John Locke is more than a biography, although it is also that. This book is a study of John Locke's influence on a variety of times and places. Fittingly, therefore, Swanson's book is split into five sections: one a biography of Locke and the remaining four a study of how Locke influenced revolutions across three countries.

The bulk of the book focuses on the Glorious Revolution in England, our own American Revolution, the blood-soaked French Revolution, and the modern secular state. Each of those sections feels like its own history book, and I learned a great deal about world history from those pages. Throughout each section, Swanson details the intellectual history of the various revolutions, while interweaving excerpts from John Locke's work to show the similarities and differences between his ideas and those adopted by the revolutionaries.

American readers will gravitate toward the book's third section, where Swanson evaluates John Locke's role in America's development. Swanson's own interest and research shines in this section, which is more than 50% longer than any other. Although Locke had almost no direct impact on American politics (only serving as secretary for the group that wrote the original Constitution for the Carolinas), he had enormous influence over the men who eventually declared their independence. According to David Barton, who wrote the book's foreword, John Locke was one of the three most-cited political philosophers during America's founding, and he was by far the most frequently referenced from 1760 to 1776.

I was fascinated to learn that American clergy filled their sermons and political speeches with both quotes and ideas from Locke's writing. Their impassioned words shaped the American climate as the fledgling nation sought to forge its own political identity, and Swanson catalogs a laundry list of American pastors and other influential leaders whose ideas came directly from John Locke.

Read the full review at quietedwaters.com

In my Modern World Humanities class, I teach about the four world-changing revolutions. They were the Glorious Revolution in England in 1688, the American Revolution of 1776, the French Revolution of 1789, and the Russian Revolution of 1917. The first two were radically different from that last two. And the first two were inspired in large part by the thinking and writing of John Locke. Most Americans are familiar with Locke indirectly through Thomas Jefferson's writing of the Declaration of Independence. Locke's Two Treatises of Government are a classics in political philosophy.

Christians interested in politics, and that should be all Christians, should rejoice in the book John Locke: Philosopher of American Liberty by Mary-Elaine Swanson. This work was among the last labors of Mary-Elaine Swanson. Her works go back to a time when Christians started rediscovering the forgotten Christian influences in history. Christians began realizing that they could actually teach their own children and teach them a different perspective. But what was that perspective? There were plenty of oversimplications and distortions. Puritans were bad and the Founding Fathers were secularists (or maybe Deists). Books started being published, old sources started being rediscovered, and books from the past started getting reprinted. This movement was propelled by such people as Peter Marshall Jr., Paul Jehle, Marshall Foster, Verna Hall, Rosalie Slater, and Mary Swanson.

Today, a Christian can fill quite a few book shelves with both scholarly and popular historical works dealing with the Christian figures, movements, and influences on American history. I know that from personal experience. Of course, Locke is not an American, but he was widely read by the Founding Fathers.

One of the books I use in my government class is John Eidsmoe' sChristianity and the Constitution. One of the best features of that book is the chapter that deals with some of the key thinkers who influenced the Founders. And of course, Locke tops the list.

—Ben House of Veritas Academy of Texarkana, AR