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Equal and Inalienable Rights

Guiding Questions

  • What are inalienable rights?
  • What is the role of government in protecting natural rights?
  • How did the Founders view liberty, justice, natural rights, and consent of the governed?


  • Students will analyze primary sources on the social contract theory: Hobbes’s The Leviathan, Locke’s Second Treatise of Civil Government, and the Declaration of Independence.
  • Students will compare and contrast Hobbes and Locke.

  • liberty
  • justice
  • natural rights
  • Magna Carta
  • tyranny

Choose a few of the key terms to write on the board (or post to an interactive JamBoard or Padlet). Ask students to write the first words (or pictures) that come to mind when they first hear these words.

Divide the class into an even number of small groups. Give students Handout A: Excerpts from Hobbes’s The Leviathan and from Locke’s Second Treatise of Civil Government, and assign half of the small groups the excerpt from Hobbes and the other half the excerpt from Locke.

After students have had time to discuss and understand their assigned readings according to the instructions provided on the handout, pair each Hobbes group with a Locke group to compare and contrast the readings, and complete the comparison on Handout B: Comparing and Contrasting Hobbes and Locke.

(Optional) Teacher reads aloud the primary sources (Handout A). Instead of instructing students to conduct a close read of Hobbes and Locke first, the teacher models the syntax of the essay. It may help with student comprehension and analysis.

Debrief: Review tiered reading terms, key terms, guiding questions

Assessment: Students write which Enlightenment thinker (Hobbes or Locke) best describes the social contract theory and how this theory is essential in a republic.

Student Handouts

Next Lesson

Popular Sovereignty and the Consent of the Governed