More on John Locke’s Philosophy

In my last post on Locke, I described how his contract view of the relationship between monarchy and people laid the foundations of modern liberal, representative democracy. Below are a few more passages setting out Locke’s view of the origins of political sovereignty in the people, rather than their leaders, and the right of the same people to elect their governors to protect their lives, liberty and property.

The Original Compact

Men being … by nature all free, equal and independent, no one can be put out of his estate and subjected to the political power of another without his own consent. The only way whereby any one divests himself of his natural liberty and puts on the bonds of civil society is by agreeing with other men to join and unite into a community, for their comfortable, save and peaceable living one amongst another, in a secure enjoyment of their properties and a great security against any that are not of it … When any number of men have so consented to make on community or government, they are presently incorporated and make one body politic, wherein the majority have a right to act and conclude the rest.

Political Power as a Trust

The legislative being only a fiduciary power to act for certain ends, there remains still in the people a supreme power to remove or alter the legislative when they find the legislative act contrary to the trust reposed in them. For all power given with trust, for the attaining an end, being limited by that end, whenever that end is manifestly neglected, or opposed, the trust must necessarily be forfeited, and the power devolve into the hands of those that gave 9it, who may place it anew where they shall think best for their safety and security.

The Dissolution of Government

Besides this overturning from without (by conquest), governments are dissolved from within. First, when the legislative is altered … When any one, or more, shall take upon them to make laws, whom the people have not appointed so to do, they make laws without authority, which the people are not therefore bound to obey … being in full liberty to resist the force of those who, without authority, would impose anything upon them …
When such a single person or prince sets up his own arbitrary will in place of the laws which are the will of the society, declared by the legislative, then the legislative is changed … whoever introduces new laws not being thereunto authorized by the fundamental appointments of the society, or subverts the old, disowns and overthrows the power by which they were made and so sets up a new legislative …

In these and the like cases when the government is dissolved, the people are at liberty to provide for themselves by erecting a new legislative, differing from the other by the change of persons, or form, or both, as they shall find it most for their safety and good…

The People the Ultimate Arbiters and Holder of Power: The Government are merely the People’s Deputies

Here ’tis like, the common question will be made, who shall be judge whether the pricne or legislative act contrary to their trust?… To this I reply, the people shall be judge; for who shall be judge whether his trustee or deputy acts well and according to the trust reposed in him but he who deputes him and must, by having deputed him, have still a power to discard him when he fails in his trust?…

The People have the Power to Oppose and Overthrow Tyrants

The end of government is the good of mankind, and which is best for mankind, that the people should be always exposed to the boundless will of tyranny or that rulers should be sometimes liable to be opposed, when they grow exorbitant in the use of their power and employ it for the destruction and not the preservation of the properties of their people?…

Source

John Locke, Two Treatises of Government (London: J.M. Dent and Sons 1924)

John Miller, The Glorious Revolution (Harlow: Longman 1983)

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3 Responses to “More on John Locke’s Philosophy”

  1. Mike Sivier Says:

    Reblogged this on Vox Political and commented:
    Beastrabban goes further into the ideas of John Locke, which are still pertinent to today: “Rulers should be sometimes liable to be opposed, when they grow exorbitant in the use of their power and employ it for the destruction and not the preservative of the properties of their people”.

  2. Alex Jones Says:

    Applicable to today as it was in his day.

  3. rainbowwarriorlizzie Says:

    Reblogged this on HUMAN RIGHTS & POLITICAL JOURNAL.

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