LOCKE: Concerning Civil Government [Second Essay] Ch. 1-5
- Chapter 1
- Locke has demonstrated that Adam did not have by natural right of fatherhood, or by donation from God dominion over the world. If he did, his heirs had no right to it. If they did, there is no law of nature or God that determines the right of succession. If that had been determined, the lineage of Adam’s posterity has been lost. Thus, modern ruler can claim authority based on Adam’s dominion and paternal jurisdiction.
- Another origin of political power must be discovered. To this purpose, we must show the difference between the power of a ruler over a commonwealth, a father over a family, and a ship’s captain over his crew. Political power is the right to make laws with penalties to regulate and preserve property, employing the community to enforce such laws, and the defense of the commonwealth from foreign injury; and all this for the public good.
Political power, then, I take to be a right of making laws with penalties of death, and consequently all less penalties, for the regulating and preserving of property, and of employing the force of the community, in the execution of such laws, and in the defence of the common-wealth from foreign injury; and all this only for the public good.
In Chapter 1, Locke outlines the subject matter of his treatise. He claims to have demonstrated in the preceding essay that political power is not acquired through direct inheritance from Adam. Furthermore, government is not the product of force and violence, in which men live like beasts amongst each other. Locke argues that in order to ascertain the origin of political power, one must first distinguish between the power of a ruler over his subject, a father over his children, and a ship’s captain over his crew. Political power is the right to make laws with penalties to regulate and preserve property, and to engage the community to enforce such laws, and to protect the commonwealth from foreign injury; and all this for the common good.
- Chapter 2 – Of the State of Nature
- To understand political power, and determine its origin, we must consider what state all men are naturally in. The state of nature is a state of perfect freedom in which men can dispose of their possessions and person as they think fit within the bounds of nature. All power and jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having more than another. All creatures of the same species are equal unless their lord and master should set one above another, by an evident and clear appointment, and give them an undoubted right to dominion and sovereignty.
- The equality of men is so evident that we have an obligation to mutually love our fellow man; for being equal, we must expect to suffer if we do others harm.
- Though the state of nature is a state of liberty, it is not a state of license. The state of nature is governed by the law of nature, which is given by reason. The law of nature prohibits a man from taking his own life, or harming another in his life, health, liberty, or property; for all men are equal and the workmanship of the omnipotent, and being his property, they are made to last during his, not another’s pleasure. Being equal, there cannot be supposed any such subordination amongst us as if we were made for one another’s uses as the inferior ranks of creatures are for ours.
- The enforcement of the law of nature, in the state of nature, is put into every man’s hands. Every man has the right to punish a transgressor to such a degree as will deter its violation.
- A criminal cannot be punished according to passionate heats or boundless extravagance of will, but rather as calm reason and conscience dictate what is proportionate to the transgression, which is so much as will serve for reparation and deterrence. In transgressing the law of nature, the offender declares himself to live according to another rule than that of reason and common equity, which is a trespass against the whole species. Therefore, every man has the right to punish a transgressor to such a degree as will serve for reparation and deterrence of future mischief.
- If ever man did not have the right to punish a transgressor, then the magistrates of England could not punish an alien since, in reference to him, the magistrate can have no more power than what any other man naturally has. Thus, every man does have the power to punish a transgressor in the state of nature.
- The man who receives injury from a transgression has both the common right to punish the offender and seek reparation for the received injury.
- A magistrate may remit the punishment of a criminal, but cannot remit the satisfaction of reparation due to any private man for an injury he has suffered. In the state of nature, every man has the right to kill a murderer, who having renounced reason, has declared war upon mankind, and therefore may be destroyed as a tiger or lion
- Each transgression may be punished to such a degree as will suffice to make it an ill bargain for the offender, give him cause to repent, and terrify others from committing the like offense.
- It is unreasonable for men to be judges in their own cases; self-love makes them partial to themselves and their friends; ill nature, passion, and revenge will carry them too far in punishing offenders, which will create disorder and confusion. Government is necessary to restrain the partiality and violence of men. However, an absolute monarchy is even worse than the state of nature because one man has the liberty to judge and may do whatever he pleases to his subjects. At least in the state of nature, men who judge amiss in their own case are answerable to mankind. An absolute monarch is answerable to no one.
- All princes and rulers of independent governments are in a state of nature with respect to the other rulers. Every compact puts an end to the state of nature, but only agreeing together mutually to enter into one community, and make one body politic. Truth and keeping of faith belongs to men as men, not as members of society.
- Hooker argues that to supply the defects and imperfections which are in us, we are naturally induced to seek communion and fellowship with others; this was the cause of men uniting themselves into one body politic.
The state of nature is a state of perfect freedom to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions and persons, as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of nature, without asking leave, or depending upon the will of any other man.
Every man, in the state of nature, has a power to kill a murderer, who having renounced reason, the common rule and measure God hath given to mankind, hath, by the unjust violence and slaughter he hath committed upon one, declared war against all mankind, and therefore may be destroyed as a lion or a tyger, one of those wild savage beasts, with whom men can have no society nor security: and upon this is grounded that great law of nature, Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed.
In chapter 2, Locke strives to find the origin of government so that he can understand it better. He writes that we must first consider the state in which men are naturally. That state of nature is one in which men are at liberty to dispose of their possessions and person as they see fit. The power of jurisdiction and dominion is equal amongst every man, and every man has the power to enforce those laws, and punish offenders.
The state of nature is a state of liberty, but not a state of license. Men may dispose of their possessions and person as they see fit within the bounds of the laws of nature, which are given by reason. The laws of nature forbid a person from taking his own life, or harming the life, liberty, health, or possessions of another. Creatures of the same species are equal, and thus we ought not harm other people. Furthermore, members of mankind are the possessions of the omnipotent and are not made for the uses of one another like the inferior ranks of creatures are for ours.
The law that every man has the power to enforce laws and exact punishment leads to a few dilemmas. The first is that men are not impartial judges in their own case due to self-love. Furthermore, passion, ill nature, and revenge will lead most men to go too far in punishing a criminal, which will result in disorder and violence. Government is necessary to eliminate this possibility.
Some other interesting insights include the following: rulers of independent governments are in a state of nature with respect to other governments; all men in the state of nature have the right to punish an offender, and the right to execute a murderer; a transgressor chooses to renounce reason and live by his own set of laws, which makes him an enemy of mankind and subject to punishment; an absolute monarchy is worse than the state of nature because the monarch is answerable to no one, whilst every man in the state of nature is answerable for his actions to the rest of mankind.
- Chapter 3 – Of the State of War
- The state of war is a state of enmity and destruction. One who calmly declares a design upon another man’s life puts him into a state of war with him against whom he has made such a declaration, and so has exposed his life to be taken away by him or others who join with him in defense of his person. All have a right to destroy that which threatens them with destruction. Men who have no other law but ha of force and violence may be treated as dangerous animals, and be killed.
- He who attempts to get another man into his absolute power, puts himself into a state of war with him; for I have reason to conclude that he who would get me into his absolute power without my consent would use me as he pleased and destroy me when he had a fancy to it. To be free of such force is the security of self-preservation. He who attempts to deprive a society or commonwealth of their freedom must be supposed to have a design to take away everything else, and therefore be looked on as a state of war.
- It is lawful to kill a thief because a thief uses force to get another within his power to steal something from that person. Because the thief designs to take away the liberty of another person, that person has no reason to suppose that the thief will not kill him when he has him within his power; thus, the thief puts himself into a state of war with the victim, and the victim has the right to kill the thief, regardless of the thief’s true intentions.
- The state of nature is as different from the state of war as the state of peace, good will, and mutual assistance is different from the state of enmity, violence, and mutual destruction. Men living according to reason without a common superior who has authority to judge between them is the state of nature. Force or the declared intention of force upon another person where there is no common superior to appeal to on earth is properly named the state of war. Even when there is a common superior to appeal to on earth, the use of force or the declared design to use force upon another creates a state of war because the aggressor does not allow time for such an appeal; thus, one may still murder a thief whilst in a society that possesses courts of law.
- When the force is over, the state of war is over because then there lies open the remedy of appeal for a past injury if there is a common superior who has authority to judge over such cases. Where there is no common authority, the state of war persists until the aggressor is killed or offers terms of peace by which he repairs any wrongs he has done. Where an appeal to law lies open, but the remedy is denied by a manifested perversion of justice, then there is a state of war. Whenever violence and force is used by men in positions of authority, it must be used in good faith to protect the innocence and administer justice. When this is not done in good faith, then war is made upon the sufferers.
- One great reason that men assemble societies and governments is to avoid this state of war which will naturally arise within the state of nature because every difference will result in contention amongst the acting parties.
One may destroy a man who makes war upon him, or has discovered an enmity to his being, for the same reason that he may kill a wolf or a lion; because such men are not under the ties of the common law of reason, have no other rule, but that of force and violence, and so may be treated as beasts of prey, those dangerous and noxious creatures, that will be sure to destroy him whenever he falls into their power.
In this chapter, Locke distinguishes between the state of nature and the state of war. He argues that the two states are as disparate as the state of peace, goodwill, and mutual friendship and the state of enmity, violence, and mutual destruction. The state of nature is one in which men live according to reason amongst each other without a common superior who has the authority to judge between them. The state of war is one in which an aggressor uses force against another or declares a design to use force upon another in a sedate and settled manner with or without a common superior to appeal to on earth.
The state of war arises when an aggressor uses force upon another or sedately declares a design upon another to take away that person’s liberty, life, health, or property. A man has the right to kill a thief who intends to rob him because the man does not have a reason to suppose that once the thief has the man within his absolute power the thief will not destroy his life. Liberty is the fence of self-preservation. One who wishes to deprive the liberty of a person or whole society must be supposed to have designs to take away everything, even the person or society’s life. Thus the aggressor enters into a state of war with whom he has declared an intention to use force upon another, or who has declared a solemn intention to use force upon another.
In a state where there is a common superior to appeal to on earth, then the state of war ceases when the force ceases, and the injured party must seek redress from the common judge. However, if the remedy is denied, then a state of war persists amongst the aggressor, the injured party, and the judge; for violence and force used by a common superior who possesses the authority to judge its subjects must use that power to protect the innocent and redress the wrong. When this is not done, then a state of war is declared upon the sufferers.
- Chapter 4 – Of Slavery
- The natural liberty of man is to be free from any superior power on earth, and no to be under the legislative authority of any man, but to have the law of nature for his rule. The liberty of man in society is to be under no other legislative power than that established by consent. Freedom of men under government is to have a standing rule to live by, a liberty to follow one’s own will where he law prescribes not, and not to be subject to the inconstant, uncertain, unknown and arbitrary will of another man.
- Freedom from absolute, arbitrary power is necessary for a man’s self-preservation. Nobody can give more power than he himself has; therefore, one cannot enslave himself to anyone because no one possesses a right to forfeit their life, it being the property of the omnipotent.
- Slavery is the state of war continued between a lawful conqueror and a captive.
THE natural liberty of man is to be free from any superior power on earth, and not to be under the will or legislative authority of man, but to have only the law of nature for his rule.
The true definition of liberty is not a state in which a man may do as he pleases, and is bound by no laws. Natural liberty is the freedom from any superior power on earth, to not be under the will or legislative authority of another man, but to have only the law of nature for his rule. Freedom under government is to have a standing law to live by common to everyone in society, which is enacted by the legislative power erected within the society. A man living in a society with a government has a liberty to do all things where the law prescribes not, and is not subject to the inconstant, unknown, uncertain, and arbitrary will of another man.
Because freedom from absolute, arbitrary power is necessary for self-preservation, a person cannot enslave himself to another; for his life is not the property of himself, but the omnipotent; and men can only give away so much power as they have. Slavery is possible, however, where there is a lawful conqueror and captive, but when a compact is made, his is not a state of slavery but rather drudgery; for no man can possess absolute power over another unless that man has done something to warrant death.
- Chapter 5 – Of Property
- A man cannot acquire exclusive control of whatever he wills. A man can only acquire what he can make use of to the advantage of life before it spoils; for nothing was made by god for man to spoil or destroy.
- God commanded man to work, and the penury of man’s condition required it of him. God commanded man to improve the earth for the benefit of life.
- The appropriation of land does not prejudice other men. A man that leaves enough for another to make use of does as good as take nothing at all. Nobody could think himself injured by a man who took a large draught of water if he had a whole river left to quench his thirst.
- When men are born, reason tells us that they have a natural right to preservation, and thus to meat and drink. God gave the earth to man in common, an mankind can have property in several parts of the world without the express compact of all the commoners.
- God has given men reason to use the earth to the best advantage of life and convenience. There are means to appropriate the goods of the earth; for a good must be the possession of an individual before that commodity can do him good for the preservation of his life.
- Every man has a property in his own person that no one else has a right to. The labor of his body is properly his. Whenever a man removes something from nature, and mixes his labor with it, that good becomes his property.
- Labor makes a distinction between the things of nature, which are common to all, and property. It’s not reasonable to conclude that a man who gathers and eats acorn does not have a right to eat those acorns because he does not have the full consent of all the people on earth. If full consent were required, then mankind would not be sustained. Property is acquired by taking any part of the common out of its natural state and mixing one’s labor with it. He who has started to hunt a hare has taken the hare out of the state of nature by exerting labor, and thus has begun a property right in the hare.
- The measure of property was limited to the extent of man’s labor and the conveniences of life. No man’s labor could subdue and appropriate all; neither could man enjoy more than a small part of the whole to the advantage of his life. Ground is of so little value without labor that it is properly called wasteland. The other people on earth are grateful to the man that plows and tills wasteland because that man provides corn for his own subsistence, and perhaps for others. The people do not begrudge the man a right to the land. There is land enough in the world to suffice double the inhabitants had not people consented to the invention of money.
- Before the desire of having more than man needed altered the value of things, which depends upon their usefulness to life, men could appropriate as much of nature as he desired without prejudicing others because there would still be plenty remaining for others. He who appropriates land by labor does not lessen the common stock of mankind, but increases it; for one acre of cultivated land produces far more goods than one acre of uncultivated wasteland. He who acquired goods that perished without their due use transgressed the common law of nature which commands men to use the fruits of the world for the conveniences of life. One who allows goods to perish unused has invaded his neighbor’s share, and therefore is liable to be punished.
- Labor puts the difference of value on everything
- Whatever bread is worth more than acorns, wine more than water, and silk more than leaves is wholly owing to labor and industry. Thus, the numbers of men are to be preferred to largeness of dominion; and the increase and right employing of the lands is the great art of government.
- With the increase of people and stock, and the use of money, land became scarce, and therefore more valuable. Men agreed by consent to distinguish between their properties rights in land, disowning their natural common right to the possessions of others.
- The things really useful to the life of man are things of short duration – perishable. Gold, silver and diamonds are things that are not really useful to life, but men have put a value upon because of their lasting and scarce qualities. A man could justly trade his perishable good for these lasting goods. The common law of nature only prescribes the use of the conveniences of life before they spoil; it does not forbid a man from amassing a large amount of possessions so long as they do not perish unused.
- Thus came in the use of money, some lasting thing that men could keep without spoiling, and that by mutual consent men would take in exchange for the truly useful, but perishable supports of life.
- Supposing an island separated from commerce with the rest of the world, and lacking any commodity that is both scarce and lasting, the inhabitants of the island would not seek for more possessions than what is sufficient to sustain the life of their families. Regardless of the availability of land, men would only labor on land enough to supply the needs of their family; for more labor would be unnecessary, and transgress the common law of nature if they could not use the fruits of their labor according to their proper use.
- Money is useless to the life of man except that men have agreed by consent to its value. Thus, men have created a way for a man to fairly possess more land than he himself can use the product of because he can sell the surplus for imperishable gold and silver, which he can hoard up without injuring anyone. Accordingly, men have agreed to an unequal parting of the common fruits of the earth.
- Before the consent to use money, men could appropriate the common goods of the land as much as he needed, and would be deterred from taking more than he needed because the labor would be lost on products that spoilt. It was useless and dishonest for a man to carve more than he needed.
Whatever bread is more worth than acorns, wine than water, and cloth or silk, than leaves, skins or moss, that is wholly owing to labour and industry. This shews how much numbers of men are to be preferred to largeness of dominions; and that the increase of lands, and the right employing of them, is the great art of government.
Now of those good things which nature hath provided in common, every one had a right (as hath been said) to as much as he could use, and property in all that he could effect with his labour; all that his industry could extend to, to alter from the state nature had put it in, was his.
Thus came in the use of money, some lasting thing that men might keep without spoiling, and that by mutual consent men would take in exchange for the truly useful, but perishable supports of life.
Since gold and silver, being little useful to the life of man in proportion to food, raiment, and carriage, has its value only from the consent of men, whereof labour yet makes, in great part, the measure, it is plain, that men have agreed to a disproportionate and unequal possession of the earth, they having, by a tacit and voluntary consent, found out, a way how a man may fairly possess more land than he himself can use the product of, by receiving in exchange for the overplus gold and silver, which may be hoarded up without injury to any one; these metals not spoiling or decaying in the hands of the possessor.
I think, it is very easy to conceive, without any difficulty, how labour could at first begin a title of property in the common things of nature, and how the spending it upon our uses bounded it. So that there could then be no reason of quarrelling about title, nor any doubt about the largeness of possession it gave. Right and conveniency went together; for as a man had a right to all he could employ his labour upon, so he had no temptation to labour for more than he could make use of. This left no room for controversy about the title, nor for encroachment on the right of others; what portion a man carved to himself, was easily seen; and it was useless, as well as dishonest, to carve himself too much, or take more than he needed.
In Chapter 5, Locke explains how men can come to have property. God has given the earth to mankind in common for men to use according to reason in order to supply the necessary conveniences to sustain life. The common law of nature commands men to labor, and cultivate the earth for the benefit of human life. In the beginning, before the advent of money, men could appropriate all that they desired; for men would only carve from the earth held in common by all men that which was necessary for their own survival. To carve more than one needed, and thus let the products of his labor spoil, is dishonest and useless. A man who did such a thing transgressed the common law of nature, invade the right of his neighbor, and was liable to punishment.
Locke also explains that men can rightly claim a property right to a part of the earth, which is held in common, by removing something from the state of nature and mixing his labor with it; for labor is what adds value to all things upon the earth. Man has a property right to himself, and the labor of himself. Thus, by mixing the labor of his body with something in the state of nature, he has attached a part of himself to that thing, and therefore that thing becomes his by right.
All things that are really useful to life are perishable – i.e. food, water, raiment, shelter, etc. Men have agreed by consent to place an artificial value on imperishable and scarce goods such as gold, silver, and diamonds. Thus, men found out a way for men to rightly acquire more land and possessions than they truly needed; for they could exchange the surplus of perishable goods that they cultivated for imperishable goods, which can be hoarded up without injuring or violating the common law of nature because the imperishable goods will never spoil. A man transgresses the common law of nature if he appropriates goods without enjoying the benefits according to their proper uses before they spoil.