John Locke : Second Treaties of Government

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John Locke : Second Treaties of Government

John Locke was born on August 29, 1632 in England to a middle class family. He was named after his father, an educated attorney who had participated in the Civil War with the Long Parliamentary. Locke shared a great deal of affection and respect for his father. The relationship he built with his father influenced him to create his own views on education and government. His theory on education was published in 1693 titled, “Some Thoughts Concerning Education. ” Locke was accepted to Christ Church College, Oxford due to father’s friendship with a member of the Long Parliament.

The Long Parliment was known to challenge the monarchy in England at the time and later started the English Civil War. Locke attended Oxford for many years studying the curriculum in England and graduated with a Masters in 1658, pursuing his interests in arts. Later he became increasingly interested in the study of sciences including the study of medicine, which were on the rise in England Universities at the time. His interests in science continued to expand and he continued to apply himself to the study of medicine. While studying medicine Locke became interested in the philosophical questions of his time, including the rights of man.

The rights of man deal with the powers of government to wit, government by the king through a monarchy and the power of the people through a social contract. Since 1660 Locke began to explore his interest in the natural law. Within the next couple of years he composed “Essays on the Law of Nature” written in Latin. Unfortunately for Locke his Essays were never published, these theories of law were based on two of his philosophies. First, “in order that anyone may understand that he is bound by a law, he must know before hand that there is a law.

” Secondly, “there is some will on the part of that superior power, the law maker, who wishes that we do this and demands of us that the conduct of our life should be in accordance with his will. ” Locke’s interest in science and medicine brought him into contact with a distinguished scientist named Robert Boyle. In 1667, Locke took a position at Lord Ashley’s household in London as a family physician, in addition to confidential advisor and secretary. In 1668, Locke assisted Lord Ashley in drafting a constitution for the colony of Carolina.

In 1671, Locke began to write his greatest work, the “Essay Concerning Human Understanding. ” This took nearly twenty years to complete. Since then he was deeply engaged in Shaftesbury’s political affairs as Secretary of Council a position he obtained while being a secretary for Shaftesbury. In 1675, Locke became ill and lost his position working for Shaftesbury. Due to unstable government conditions Shaftesbury fell from power and Locke was forced to leave England, choosing to recuperate in France. He spent nearly four years in Paris and Montpellier studying at medical school.

During his exile in France Locke also took the time to develop his thoughts on Natural Law by composing, Two Treaties of Government. His writings deal with the development of a social contract, which is an agreement between the government and the governed. Locke later returned to England in 1679, he once again committed himself to offer services for Lord Ashley immediately upon his return to England. Four years later it was necessary for Lord Ashley to flee from England to Holland because he had supported the wrong leader during the Monmouth rebellion in 1685.

Shortly after Ashley fled from England, Locke followed him and remained in Holland until the Revolution of 1688. Upon returning to England, Locke began to rapidly issue a number of his works he concluded while in Holland, the result of years of study and meditation. Among his works were the, Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Two Treatises of Government, and Letters on Toleration. His positive outlook on the importance of a mutual relationship between government and human nature, exerted an immediate and profound influence on the English.

Locke’s views were immediately recognized among the English specifically his work on the Two Treatises of Government. Locke’s essay was written in such a way, to elaborate in detail about topics the people were already familiar with. Even the most uneducated candidate could recognize his premise on the philosophical views on government. Two Treatises of Government includes essays supporting the natural rights of society which guarantees our rights to life, liberty, and property. The term right, can be defined as a privilege or power, meaning a freedom or ability to do or refrain from doing something.

Natural Rights, specifically emphasize the restraints that ought to exist on government with respect to individuals. This includes what a government must refrain from doing and what a government must do. In Locke’s Second Treaties of Government he discusses the natural liberty and equality of humans, which includes our natural rights to life, liberty, and property. He also determines the proper foundation of a legitimate government. Through supporting and insisting on the mutual consent given by the people of a specific society.

Locke’s Theory of Natural Law was based on the moral laws societies are built on, including the establishment of peace and protection so that “no one will harm another person in their life, liberty, or possession. ” Preservation of peace, equality, and independence among all people begins with, the power placed on people in a given society to obey the common laws of nature. When these powers being to get corrupted or not enforced through strict, certain, and fair punishment. The need for an elected and coherent government is required to properly secure the natural rights of peace and self preservation among a society.

Locke then begins to explain to us the “natural state of man. ” He describes that living among a state of nature, people in a society have the freedom to do as they please, with limitations and respects to other people. Locke states that this “state of liberty,” comes with the limitations so not “to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions. ” Locke also notes that, “all men may be restrained from invading others rights and from doing hurt to one another. ” By saying this he is trying to define the equalities of man and their duties to each other in a community to live in peace.

If for any reason there becomes the need to seek punishment for anyone who “has shown themselves dangerous to mankind. ” Through an executive power there will be opportunities available to man, not only to receive reparation for damages but to do as necessary to “secure the innocent for the future. ” Locke’s theory on the “natural liberty” of man holds that “man is to be free from any superior power. ” This means that for a person in a society, no other power but his own ability to do and refrain from doing is within his own will.

Any limitation which requires to be placed on a behavior that is part of the natural common code of conduct, must be established through consent by the legislative power of government and for the good of all the people among the community. Locke claims that the “natural liberty of man is to be free from any superior power” and to have “only the law of nature for his rule. ” This means that the laws which exist are established for the people and by the people in a society. They are created for coexistence among one another and no one can enforce or take away this common practice.

These natural laws were created for the good of everyone, so the people who perform up to these standards gave trust that the enacted and enforced laws will prevail on their behalf. Locke then explains the “origins of property. ” He begins by confirming that although man does have a power and liberty over his life. He does not have power to dispose of his own life. In a brief statement Locke states, “Man has property in his own person” including “the labor of his body and the work of his hands.

” By saying this Locke expresses his views on human nature and our ability to acquire property. He is saying that we are all property acquiring beings, and our claim or possession to this property derives from our physical work. We as individuals in a society attempt to put effort to obtain something we value, and create an appreciation for what we have through labor. So in a sense the labor of man, according to Locke is the source of all value. The amount of labor one puts into what he owns creates an appreciation of value because value is created through his labor.

Since the creation of physical currency, paper money and coins, we in a society attempt to posses more property than we need to use. So people in a community are not guaranteed secure protection from this excess property. In order to protect our property and secure this right, Locke believes an elected government is needed to be established. With the consent of the people, the elected government takes responsibility to become the sole protector of their valuables. Locke’s political and legal thoughts on government created a justifiable pourpose for society to give power over to a elected ruler.

First of all the “state of nature,” as described by Locke, is a society in which each man governs himself individually and there is no existence of a specific government rule. A society that lives by these laws can use their own cultural morals to govern themselves without a formal government, although every culture has their own interpretation of what is moral. Locke states otherwise in his writings in the Second Treaties of Government, to argue that an elected government by society is necessary. Thomas Jefferson later includes parts of Locke’s political philosophy when composing the Declaration of Independence.

Based entirely on Locke’s theory of natural political equality, Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence became one of the most important and influential documents that created a foundation for the legislative branch of government. Locke’s focus is primarily based on the ideas of freedom and equality as a whole he believes that society should naturally possess the right to life liberty and property. These natural rights have derived from the law of nature, which are composed based on the laws of God. These laws are also known as moral laws. Locke believed that people that live in a state of nature are also living in a state of war.

Since there is only the state of nature for their rule, there is no determination of what is considered equality and who has the power to balance peace. John Locke’s Two Treatise of Government also includes a definition of government, in which the people conform to the law or to rules which are entered based on logic or justification. In relation to members of society conforming to these laws, the same government must guarantee protection from taking away any of their natural rights. Locke’s view on valid government is one that confirms and supports three main natural laws of life, liberty and property.

In defining political power, Locke insists that it is proper to make laws “for the regulating and preserving of property,” and adds, that it is necessary for, “the execution of such laws in the defense of the common-wealth from foreign injury. ” By saying this Locke supports and confirms that an established government is needed “for the public good. ” Locke explains that “the reason why men enter into society, is the preservation of their property. “

He adds that the citizens of a new established government “have a right to resume their original liberty ?by the establishment of a new legislative,” when any natural rights are threatened. Locke then continues to describe the separation between the powers of government and the powers of the governed. Including what creates a community under an elected government and who determines what political actions are for the good of the entire society.

This is explained further when Locke says “for when any number of men have, by the consent of every individual, made a community, they have thereby made that community one body, with a power to act as one body, which is only by the will and determination of the majority.

” When entering into a established society we assume our rights to enjoy our property in peace and safety. In order to be given this opportunity, Locke believes it is first necessary to establish a Legislative power for the good of all members of a society. The legislative power is to promote and guarantee preservation of all natural rights including safety for every person among the society. This legislative power thought does not have an absolute power, instead the power is offered based on the decisions as a majority given by the members in that society.

This procedure is used so that any laws created will become an obligation on the members to cooperate with them because they have consented to a legislative power. This separates a government rule with supreme power from government rule by the power of the people. Since this power is created through consideration of the common wealth of the public good. Locke’s perception of a monarchy consisted of the idea that the people of a community experienced corruption due to absolute power given to one leader, the king. This lead to vicious rule and caused the people in the society to be force to live in conditions they did not deserve.

In a monarchy the king would normally use his own judgments and digression to use his appointed power for the good of himself. This results in oppressing the people and leaving no opportunity to compromise the need for change. Under a monarchy rule there was an insufficient opportunity to dispute any privileges or restrictions. Enforcing laws or withholding natural rights under a monarchy rule hold no limitations because there is no restraint on the ruling of the king. By granting the powers of government in one person this will not guarantee a fair and honest approach for the common good.

So Locke attempts to discuss and examine a system that will refrain from granting the powers of government to strictly one individual. Limitation and separation of powers of the government will restrain and prevent members of government from abusing the powers of governing a society. Establishing a government through the consent of all members of society will create trust that the laws and sanctions will prevail for the common good. Locke then explains that when being born into an established government we assume our rights to enjoy our property in peace and safety.

In order to be given equal opportunity to enjoy our natural rights, Locke believes it is first necessary to establish a legislative power that will consider all members of a society. The creation of a legislative power is to promote and guarantee preservation of all natural rights including safety for every person who is a participant of that community. Most of John Locke’s writing also focuses on two branches of government known as the legislative and executive power. These branches of government are based on a constitutional state, where one leader does not have the authority to absolute power.

The Legislative branch of government has the function of making laws. The Executive branch has the responsibility to carry out those laws created by the Legislative branch. This is to ensure that an elected government does not use only his own digressions when establishing laws and enforcing them. Locke states that by separating the authority and responsibilities of government into two separate branches, is the first positive approach of creating a valid constitution. These powers are required to be handled for the good of all members in society, by separating these powers there is no chance that the government will become corrupted.

The purpose of John Locke’s composed writings attempt to encourage the need for a government which creates a foundation for the good of all members of society. In the process of offering order and peace for the common good of all the people members of the society must follow these rules. To establish a successful government Locke believes that it is necessary to obtain consent from the entire member. The purpose of creating a specific government is due to the unstable conditions of living in a state of nature.

Living in a state of nature guarantees natural rights and freedom but not safety. This is why a power needs to be placed in the hands of a member from society to maintain the peace. Although living in society like a monarchy, under the ruling of a king can create unbalance and corruption of power. To enjoy both natural rights and live under a government that will prevail on behalf of its members. Following the establishment of government Locke then explains that the powers of making laws and enforcing them cannot be placed on one person.

Placing absolute power in the hands of one person will only lead to corruption and unbalance, between all the members in the society. For this reason Locke requires a separation of powers among all government activity. This will balance and maintain a system that will stabilized living conditions for all the members of society. REFRENCES: Christie C. George, Martin H. Patrick. (1995). Jurisprudence; Text & Readings on the Philosophy of Law (3rd Edition). Natural Rights, Human Rights: John Locke (pgs 284 -342). St. Paul, MN : West Publishing Company.


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  • University/College: University of Arkansas System

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 16 November 2016

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