LOCKE: Concerning Civil Government [Second Essay] Ch. 6-12

LOCKE: Concerning Civil Government [Second Essay] Ch. 6-12

  • Chapter 6 – Of Paternal Power
    • The power of parents over their children is not placed solely with the father, but shared between both father and mother. Thus, in order to avoid confusion, instead of paternal power, we ought to say parental power.
    • Though Locke says that all men are created equal, he does not presume to mean that all men are equal in virtue, age, strength, birth etc., but that all men have the equal right to his natural freedom without being subject to the arbitrary will or authority of any other man.
    • Children are not born in this full state of equality, though they are born to it. Their parents have a sort of rule and jurisdiction over them until they come to acquire reason, and may direct their own actions according to the laws of reason and provide for his own support and preservation.
    • Because children are born in an imperfect state, the parents have an obligation to preserve, nourish, and educate their children until they are capable of acting according to the dictates of reason and providing for their own preservation.
    • Children are not under the law of reason because they do not possess reason and no one can be under a law that is not promulgated to him. The law of reason is promulgated or made known only to those who possess reason. Law is not a limitation, but a direction of a free and intelligent being to his own proper interest. Law prescribes no farther than what is for the general good of those under the law. The purpose of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom; for liberty is to be free from restraint and violence from others, which cannot be where there is no law. Liberty is the freedom to dispose as one wills his person, actions, possessions, and property within the allowance of the laws under which he is, and not be subject to the arbitrary will of another, but freely of his own.
    • Parental power arises from the obligation parents have to care for their children.
    • Men acquire the freedom provided under the law of reason when they are mature enough to understand the laws of reason and choose to direct his actions according to those prescriptions. The capacity to understand the laws of reason, the laws of England, etc. enfranchises that man under such laws, and he is able to act according to his own will within the bounds of the laws under which he is. Until then, the person must be subject to the will of his parents or guardians who understand the law and can direct his actions.
    • If a man is incapable of ever understanding the law and thus being a freeman, he is never allowed to dispose of his person, actions, property, etc. according to his own will, but must live under the government of others for his entire life. Thus, lunatics, idiots, or criminals incapable of reform are never set free from the government of their guardians or the state.
    • We are born free as we are born rational, but do not possess either in our infancy. Age that brings reason, also brings freedom. A child is free by his father’s title, by his father’s understanding of the law, which is to govern his actions until he has an understanding. Sense, rather than skill or learning, is more capable of discerning when a person may be said to have attained so far forth the use of reason as suffices to make him capable of those laws whereby he is then bound to guide his actions.
    • To turn a man loose to an unrestrained liberty before he has reason to guide him is to thrust him out amongst beasts and abandon him to a wretched state. Thus, parents have an obligation to preserve, nurture, and educate their children, and from this obligation arises the authority to govern their children whilst they are in a state of ignorance as to the laws of reason and the laws of the country under which they live. Parents’ natural inclination of tenderness towards their children guarantees that this power will be used temperately, wisely, and for the benefit of the children as long as they should need it.
    • When a parent quits his care of his children, then he loses his power over them. The act of begetting does not bestow power upon the man over his issue. The act of caring for another bestows power upon that nurturer over his ward.
    • When a child reaches the age of maturity in which he no longer is subject to the will of his parents, he still owes honor to his parents. But this is very far from absolute obedience and submission.
    • Political power is different from Paternal power. If they were the same, then all paternal power would be vested in the Prince, and the parents who are subjects of the Prince would not have dominion over their own children.
    • Parents also have the power to bestow their property on those who please them best according as the behavior of this or that child comported with their will and humor.
    • A parent may annex conditions to the inheritance of his children as governments annex conditions by which its subjects must fulfill in order to enjoy property located within the country.
    • Though children owe honor, support, care, relief, assistance, and defense to their parents for their entire lives, this does not bestow the power upon their parents to make laws and enact penalties on their children after the children have reached the age of maturity in which they acquire reason.
    • Men confuse the difference between parental and political power because in the beginning it is reasonable to suppose that families, separated from each other, naturally appointed the father to be ruler of their familial unit. When these families communed with others, then they would choose a father figure to lead them.

Law, in its true notion, is not so much the limitation as the direction of a free and intelligent agent to his proper interest, and prescribes no farther than is for the general good of those under that law: could they be happier without it, the law, as an useless thing, would of itself vanish. So that, however it may be mistaken, the end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom: for in all the states of created beings capable of laws, where there is no law, there is no freedom: for liberty is, to be free from restraint and violence from others; which cannot be, where there is no law: but freedom is not, as we are told, a liberty for every man to do what he lists: (for who could be free, when every other man’s humour might domineer over him?) but a liberty to dispose, and order as he lists, his person, actions, possessions, and his whole property, within the allowance of those laws under which he is, and therein not to be subject to the arbitrary will of another, but freely follow his own.

In Chpater 6 Locke discusses paternal power. He says that we would be more accurate in our description of such a power if we used the term ‘parental power’; for paternal power suggests that the power of parents over their children rests solely with the father, when the authority really is divided equally between the father and mother.

Parents are obliged to nurture, preserve, and educate their children. This obligation arises from the power over their children to direct their behavior until they have reached the age at which they are capable of understanding the laws of reason and the government under which they live.

Men cannot be held accountable to a law that is not promulgated or made known to them. Since the laws of reason can only be known by those who possess it, children must obey their parents who do possess reason and can guide their behavior until the children acquire sufficient intelligence to understand the laws of reason and choose whether to follow them.

When children reach maturity, the parents’ authority over them ceases. However, a child’s obligation to honor their parents endures for their entire life. A child owes support, care, assistance, relief, and defense to his parents for the life given to him by them and for the care and guidance provided to him in his nonage. Although a child owes perpetual honor to his parents, they do not owe absolute obedience as they did in their development to the age of reason and understanding.

Law is not a restraint or limitation, but rather a guide to the best advantages of life. Law bestows freedom upon men; for liberty is to be free from restraint and violence from others. Where there is no law, men are subject to unlawful restraint and violence. Liberty is not the freedom to do whatever one pleases, but rather to dispose of one’s body, actions, and possessions within the laws of reason and society according to his own free will, and not to be subject to the arbitrary will of another man.

  • Chapter 7 – Of Political or Civil Society
    • Necessity, convenience, and inclination drive men into society. The first society is the family, but this falls short of a political society if we consider the different ends, ties, and bounds.
    • Conjugal society is made by a voluntary compact between male and female to have a right in one another’s body in order to procreate. The compact also requires mutual assistance to preserve, nourish and educate their offspring until the children are able to provide for themselves.
    • The end of the conjugal society is not mere procreation, but the continuation of the species. The conjunction between male and female should therefore last after procreation as long as is necessary to provide support for the offspring. In viviparous animals that feed on grass, the conjunction between male and female lasts no longer than the ac of copulation because the teat of the dam can provide sustenance for the offspring, and the sire can provide nothing in the way of sustenance. In beasts of prey, the conjunction lasts longer because the dam cannot subsist herself and nourish her offspring with her prey alone, but requires support from the male for the common maintenance of the family.
    • This is the chief reason why the male and female in mankind are tied o a longer conjunction than other creatures. God also gave foresight to man to lay up necessaries for the future, which is advantageous to the requirements of life.
    • There is no necessity for the marriage of man and woman to be perpetual. The compact can be determinable and of a definite duration.
    • Husband and wife will inevitably have different wills; therefore the authority of rule should be placed somewhere. This authority naturally falls to the man because he is stronger and abler. This does not give the husband absolute authority over the life of his wife, but only authority over their common interest and property – i.e. their children, house, servants, etc.
    • A freeman makes himself a servant to another by selling his services for a certain time in exchange for wages. But there is another sort of servants called slaves, who are captives taken in a just war and subject to the absolute dominion and arbitrary will of their masters for an indefinite time. Because they are not capable of holding property, they are not a part of civil society; the chief end whereof being the preservation of property.
    • Men not only have the power to preserve their life, liberty and possessions from injury, but also have the right to punish the breaches of the law as he is persuaded he offense deserves, even with death where the crime is particularly heinous. Society exists where men have renounced this power and agreed by mutual consent to invest the power in the hands of the community. Thus, the unbiased community becomes judge betwixt men, and determines the appropriate penalty for transgressions, and preserves the life, liberty, and possessions of those people under its government. Those who have a common established law and judicature to appeal to that possesses the authority to decide controversies between men and punish offenders are in a civil society. All others are in a state of nature.
    • Thus, the common-wealth comes to have the power to judge betwixt men and determine the appropriate punishment for violation of the laws it establishes to preserve the life, liberty and property of its subjects. It also has the power to punish foreign offenders; this power is the power of peace and war. A subject has also given the common-wealth the power to employ him to enforce such laws.
    • Absolute monarchy is inconsistent with civil society; for the end of civil society is to avoid and remedy the inconveniences of the state of nature, which necessarily follow from men being judges in their own cases, by setting up an authority to which everyone may appeal upon any injury received or controversy that may arise. Because one cannot appeal the decision of an absolute monarch, the absolute monarch is not a part of civil society, but rather a part of the state of nature.
    • A subject of an absolute monarch is degraded to the state of a slave within the state of nature, and subject to the arbitrary and absolute will of another man.
    • Absolute power does not purify a man’s blood from vice and folly. The impunity makes them licentious.
    • Subjects of absolute monarchies have an appeal to law, judges to decide cases, and protection from violence, but this is not derived from the love for mankind that the absolute monarch possesses; for it is necessary for a farmer to establish order amongst his animals that labor for his pleasure in order to ensure that they do not injure one another and spoil his profits. However, there is no defense, or check, against the violence, oppression, and caprice of an absolute monarch.
    • No matter what flatterers may say to abuse the people’s understanding, it does not prevent people from feeling. And when people feel that a man acts not within the bounds of reason, he believes that man to be in a state of nature, and therefore to seek security from him in a civil society (perhaps a new one). No man in civil society can be exempted from the laws of it.

This conjunction betwixt male and female ought to last, even after procreation, so long as is necessary to the nourishment and support of the young ones, who are to be sustained even after procreation, who are to be sustained by those that got them, till they are able to shift and provide for themselves.

In those viviparous animals which feed on grass, the conjunction between male and female lasts no longer than the very act of copulation; because the teat of the dam being sufficient to nourish the young, till it be able to feed on grass, the male only begets, but concerns not himself for the female or young, to whose sustenance he can contribute nothing. But in beasts of prey the conjunction lasts longer: because the dam not being able well to subsist herself, and nourish her numerous off-spring by her own prey alone, a more laborious, as well as more dangerous way of living, than by feeding on grass, the assistance of the male is necessary to the maintenance of their common family, which cannot subsist till they are able to prey for themselves, but by the joint care of male and female.

Those who are united into one body, and have a common established law and judicature to appeal to, with authority to decide controversies between them, and punish offenders, are in civil society one with another: but those who have no such common appeal, I mean on earth, are still in the state of nature, each being, where there is no other, judge for himself, and executioner; which is, as I have before shewed it, the perfect state of nature.

But whether this be from a true love of mankind and society, and such a charity as we owe all one to another, there is reason to doubt: for this is no more than what every man, who loves his own power, profit, or greatness, may and naturally must do, keep those animals from hurting, or destroying one another, who labour and drudge only for his pleasure and advantage; and so are taken care of, not out of any love the master has for them, but love of himself, and the profit they bring him.

Whatever flatterers may talk to amuse people’s understandings, it hinders not men from feeling.

Locke writes that necessity, convenience, and inclination strive men into society. But what drives men out of society? Perhaps a perceived injustice or a lack of satisfaction for the current order drives men to seek alternative lifestyles, or alternative governments. Indeed, Locke writes that when a man feels that the society in which he lives is not fulfilling its obligation to preserve his and his family’s life, liberty, and property, he regards the society as an entity that has declared war upon him. Therefore, he may seek o remedy this problem by seeking a new society in which to live, or attempting to alter the current laws and enforcement of those laws in his current society.

I enjoyed reading Locke’s ideas about marriage. He states that the chief end of marriage is to nurture, preserve, and educate the offspring of the marriage. Therefore, the length of marriage is determined by the ability of the female to care for the offspring. In vociferous animals that feed on grass, the teat of the dam can provide the required nourishment of the offspring until they are able to care or themselves. Therefore, the sire has no care for the children and only has relations with dam during copulation. Beasts of prey are different because the dam cannot provide for her offspring, and requires assistance from the male in order to provide sustenance for the children. The marriage between man and woman necessarily endures until the children have reached the age of maturity at which they gain reason and can care for themselves according to their own will.

  • Chapter 8 – Of the Beginning of Political Societies
    • Men, by nature, are free, equal and independent. No one can be put out of this state and subjected to the political power of another without his consent. When men consent to make a community or government they make one body politic in which the majority have a right to conclude and act.
    • Because a society is one body, it is necessary that the body move in the direction of the greater force – i.e. the majority – or else it is impossible for the society to continue as one body politic. Thus, everyone is bound to consent to the majority rule when entering into a society.
    • Any man who consents to make a community with others subjects himself to the determination of the majority; for the compact amongst the people of the society would be nothing if men were free to oblige themselves only to the laws of the society that they saw fit, and disregard the other laws. This would be no different than the state of nature.
    • If actions of the common-wealth were based upon consent of every person within the society, nothing would be accomplished because of the varying opinions of individuals. Thus, societies would exist for very short durations.
    • The consent of any number of men to form a community and live according to the rule of the majority constitutes and gives rise to lawful government.
    • Two objections are often made to Locke’s argument: 1) there is no historical evidence of men living free amongst each other and then forming a government and consenting to live according to the rule of the majority; and 2) It is impossible for men to do such a thing because all men are born under government, and must submit to that government. They are not at liberty to make a new one.
    • In response to the first argument, Locke counters that history provides no evidence of men living within a state of nature because the inconveniences and characteristics of men compel them to form a community for the preservation of themselves and their property. Furthermore, if we suppose that men never lived in a state of nature because there is no evidence that they did, then we would also suppose that Xerxes was never a baby because the historical documents only give an account of his life when he was a general of the Persian army. Finally, government is everywhere antecedent to records because the art of letters only arises after the basic necessities of life have been looked after by the community. The records that do exist of newly formed political society support Locke’s theory on the development of political bodies by the consent of any number of men to live in a community according to the rule of the majority.
    • Free men independent of one another formed Rome and Venice by consenting to live together in one community and establish rulers over themselves by mutual majority consent.
    • Locke concedes that the majority of the original commonwealths have one man at the head of the government. Locke argues that this is because men are accustomed to being ruled by one man during their youth – i.e. their father – and therefore find it natural to appoint one man to legislate over them in their maturity. However, if the successor of the dead king has some defect of mind, body, or character that renders him incapable of ruling well, history has demonstrated that the community will elect a fitter man to rule them.
    • Men, being accustomed to the rule of one man, naturally formed monarchical societies. They did not know about the inconveniences of absolute power, or the encroachments of prerogative which monarchy in succession is apt to lay claim to. Men in the early ages had no apprehension about these hazards, and thus they did not trouble themselves to think of methods that would restrain the exorbitances of those who had authority over them, and of balancing the power of government by placing power in several hands rather than one.
    • The very first elected rulers were kings who were brave and could lead the men into war against foreign enemies; for men who formed a society together cannot but be supposed to have a liking and trust one for another, and that their chief concern would be of foreign attack, and not transgressions from someone within the community.
    • The golden age, before vain ambition and evil concupiscence, was ruled by better governors and possessed less vicious subjects. The ambition and luxury of future ages compelled men to examine the origin and rights of government in order to restrain the exorbitances, and prevent the abuses of the power that the people had consented to place in one man’s hands. People found that to live by one man’s will was the cause of their misery. This compelled them to establish laws wherein all men might see their duty beforehand, and know the penalties of transgressing them.
    • The second objection to Locke’s argument is that men are born under a government; and they are not at liberty to erect a new government. Locke rhetorically asks how there came to be so many governments in the world if this were true. Either men, no matter where they are born, are free to establish governments, or there is only one true prince of the world. Locke sarcastically adds that if his opponents can prove to him the validity of one true prince, that he is sure the whole world will submit to his authority.
    • A child is born a subject of no country or government. If an Englishman has a child with an English woman in France, whose subject is the child? Not England’s, for the child must have permission from England to be admitted to the privileges of living in England. Not France’s, because the father is at liberty to bring take the child out of France and breed him as he wills. The child is under the tutelage of the father until he has come of age and can choose what government he will put himself under.
    • Locke addresses what shall be understood to be sufficient forms of consent to enter into a society, and thus make himself a subject of those laws. An express consent makes a person a subject of that government. Every man makes an implicit consent to live according to the laws of a society when he has any possessions or enjoyment of any part of the dominions of any government.
    • When a man unites himself with a society, he also unties his property to that society; for it would be a direct contradiction for anyone who enters into a
      society for the preservation and regulation of property to suppose that his property is not under the jurisdiction of that society.

Every man, that hath any possessions, or enjoyment, of any part of the dominions of any government, doth thereby give his tacit consent, and is as far forth obliged to obedience to the laws of that government, during such enjoyment, as any one under it; whether this his possession be of land, to him and his heirs for ever, or a lodging only for a week; or whether it be barely travelling freely on the highway; and in effect, it reaches as far as the very being of any one within the territories of that government.

In this chapter, Locke argues that political governments are established when any number of men unite together and consent to live according to the majority rule. He states that the society, being one body, must be moved by the greater force, and that if men did not consent to live by the rule of the majority, but were free to oblige themselves only to the laws they saw fit, this would be no different than the state of nature. Furthermore, if the society did not act unless there was unanimous consent, nothing would ever be accomplished because of the improbability of reaching a consensus given the varying opinions of different people. Though I agree with his arguments regarding the impossibility of reaching a unanimous consensus on most political matters, I believe there are some inherent risks in subjecting oneself to majority rule. I believe that there must be some restraints on the power of the majority as well.

I was initially shocked when I read Locke’s statement that when a man consents to live under the jurisdiction of a government, he also consents that his property is subject to the same authority. However, his reasoning was very persuasive. He argues that the end of society is the preservation and regulation of property; therefore, it would be absurd for a man who is subject to the laws of such a society to suppose that his property was not subject to the laws of that same government.

  • Chapter 9 – Of the Ends of Political Society and Government
    • Men part from their freedom in the state of nature because the enjoyment of that freedom is often exposed to invasion by others. Men’s property in the state of nature is very uncertain and unsecure.
    • The chief end of uniting into commonwealths is the preservation of property. The state of nature lacks an established and settled law received by common consent to be the standard of right and wrong; for though the law of nature – i.e. reason – is plain and intelligible, men are likely to be biased in their own cases, and some men are ignorant for want of study.
    • The state of nature lacks a known and indifferent judge with authority to determine all differences according to the established law. Passion and revenge is apt to carry men too far in their own cases.
    • The state of nature lacks an executive power to support the sentence of right and wrong, and to give it due execution.
    • Therefore, men seek shelter from the inconveniences of the state of nature by uniting into one commonwealth with an established law, an indifferent judge, and executive power.
    • But for vicious and degenerate men, there would be no need for any other law than the law of nature, and men would live peacefully amongst each other in the state of nature.
    • When a man enters a society he gives up his liberty of doing whatever he thought necessary for the preservation of himself to be regulated by the laws of society.
    • He also gives up the power to punish transgressors of the law to assist the executive power of the state as the law shall require.
    • The power of the society or legislative power can never be supposed to extend farther than the common good of the society, but is obliged to secure everyone’s property.

In this chapter, Locke writes about why men leave the state of nature, in which they enjoy nearly boundless freedom. He argues that this almost limitless freedom to do whatever one thinks necessary for the preservation of oneself is often very uncertain, unsecure, and vulnerable to foreign attack. Therefore, men unite into commonwealths for the preservation of their property.

When men enter into a society, they renounce two things: 1) their right to do whatever they think necessary for the preservation of themselves; and 2) their power to punish transgressors. Men give up both of these rights to the government under which they place themselves, which is established for the preservation of their property, and must always act for the public good.

The state of nature lacks three things: 1) a common, established, and settled law reached by a consensus; 2) a known and indifferent judge with the authority to decide between the differences and controversies of men; and 3) an executive power to support the sentence of the indifferent judge and give it its due execution. In this argument, Locke outlines the legislative, judicial, and executive framework of many modern societies.

  • Chapter 10 – Of the Forms of a Commonwealth
    • The majority possess the power of the commonwealth. They may choose to retain the power of making laws, and appointing men to execute those laws, in which case a perfect democracy would result. They may choose to put the power of making laws into the hands of a few people and their heirs, in which case an oligarchy develops. They may choose to put the power into the hands of one men, in which case a monarchy results; if the majority places the power into the hands of one man and his heirs, then a hereditary monarchy is the result; if only to one man for his lifetime, but upon his death nominating a new successor, then it is an elective monarchy. The supreme power of a government is the legislative power.
    • When Locke uses the word commonwealth, he does not mean a democracy or type of government; he means any independent community.

Chapter 10 was very brief. Locke outlines a few different forms of government, and concludes that the majority have the power to decide in whom they place the supreme power of a society, which is the legislative power. Some of the possible forms of government are: democracy, oligarchy, hereditary monarchy, and elective monarchy.

  • Chapter 11 – Of the Extent of the Legislative Power
    • The chief end of men entering society is to preserve their property. The established laws of a society preserve property; and therefore, the establishment of a legislative power. The first and fundamental natural law of a society is the preservation of the society as far as it will consist with the public good. No edict except one from the appointed legislative power has the effect of law in a commonwealth. The legislature is the supreme power in a commonwealth. Nobody can have a power to make laws over a society that has not given their consent to such a body.
    • Though the legislative power is the supreme power of a society, it is not, nor cannot be absolutely arbitrary over the lives and fortunes of the people; for the legislative power is the joint power of all within a society. Because no man can give away a power he does not possess, the legislature does not possess an absolute power over anyone because no one possesses an absolute power over themselves to destroy their own life, or the life of others without just cause. The legislative power is limited to the public good and preservation of the society. The laws of nature do not cease in a society, but often have fixed penalties annexed to them to enforce their observation.
    • There are two foundations that support public societies: 1) a natural inclination whereby men desire a sociable life and fellowship; and 2) the law of the commonwealth.
    • The legislative power cannot assume a power to rule by extemporary arbitrary decrees, but must dispense justice according to standing laws and known judges; for the law of nature is written in men’s minds, who through passion or interest will not be easily convinced of their err in justice where there is no established law or judges, where all men are judges, and he that has right on his side of the case, having but his single strength, has not the force to defend himself from injuries or punish transgressors. To avoid these inconveniencies, men leave the state of nature for societies.
    • It cannot be supposed that men should intend to give one person or a group of persons an absolute arbitrary power over society. This would be worse than the state of nature. Whereas in the state of nature, men could at least defend themselves from injuries, and were upon equal terms of force to preserve their property, liberty, and life. The ruling power ought to govern by declared and received laws, and not by extemporary orders and undetermined resolutions because then men will be in a much worse condition than the state of nature.
    • The legislative power cannot take away property from men without their consent because the preservation of property is the end of government. If the government could take away property from men without their consent, then the government, not men, would own property. This abuse of power is not to be feared in commonwealths where the legislative power is vested in the hands of a variable assembly, whose constituents are citizens of the commonwealth and subject to the orders of the government. But if the power is vested in a lasting assembly, or a monarch, there is a danger that the legislature will think themselves to have a distinct interest from the rest of community; and therefore will be apt to increase their own riches and power by taking what they think fit from the community.
    • Even absolute power, where it is necessary, is not arbitrary. The absolute power that is required in a commander of soldiers is limited to the preservation of the army. A commander can command his soldiers to walk into certain death against an enemy, but cannot command his soldiers to give him one farthing of their estate.
    • Governments must be supported. It is fit that everyone who enjoys the protection of the society should pay their proportion for the maintenance of the state. But this must be done with their consent; i.e. the consent of the majority to a tax.
    • The legislature cannot transfer the power of making laws to another body, only the majority can transfer their right of making laws to a political body.
    • In sum, the four bounds set to the legislature by the society and laws of god and nature are: 1) the legislature is to govern by promulgated established laws; 2) laws ought to be designed for no other end but the good of the people and the preservation of their life, liberty, and property; 3) the legislature must not levy or raise taxes on the property of the people without the people’s consent; and 4) the legislature cannot transfer the power of making laws to any other person or political body.

A man who is exposed to the arbitrary power of one man, who has the command of 100,000, is in a much worse condition than he that is exposed to the arbitrary power of 100,000 single men.

These are the bounds which the trust, that is put in them by the society, and the law of God and nature, have set to the legislative power of every common-wealth, in all forms of government.

‑‑First, They are to govern by promulgated established laws, not to be varied in particular cases, but to have one rule for rich and poor, for the favourite at court, and the country man at plough.

‑‑Secondly, These laws also ought to be designed for no other end ultimately, but the good of the people.

‑‑Thirdly, They must not raise taxes on the property of the people, without the consent of the people, given by themselves, or their deputies. And this properly concerns only such governments where the legislative is always in being, or at least where the people have not reserved any part of the legislative to deputies, to be from time to time chosen by themselves.

‑‑Fourthly, The legislative neither must nor can transfer the power of making laws to any body else, or place it any where, but where the people have.

In chapter 11, Locke outlines the extent of the legislative power within a society. He argues that although the legislative power is the supreme power in a commonwealth, it does not possess an absolute arbitrary power over the subjects of the society; for men do not possess an absolute arbitrary power over their own lives that enable them to take their own life or the life of others; and therefore cannot transfer a power that they do not possess to the legislature. Furthermore, it is absurd to suppose that the legislature has the power to take the property of the subjects without the people’s consent; for then men would not own or enjoy their property, which is the motivating factor that drives men into society; i.e. the preservation of their life, liberty, and property.

  • Chapter 12 – Of the Legislative, Executive, and Federative Power of the Commonwealth
    • The legislative power ought to be put into the hands of divers persons who are subject to the laws; i.e. those who do not possess the power of enforcing those laws; for men, apt to grasp at power, will be tempted to exempt themselves, to their own private advantage, from obeying the law if they possess the power of making and enforcing laws.
    • Laws, once made, require perpetual execution. Thus the executive power is perpetual, and is separate from the impermanent legislature that need only exist long enough to make laws.
    • There is another power in every commonwealth – the natural power every man possess in the state of nature. A commonwealth is one body in the state of nature with respect to all other persons out of its community. Therefore, if a member of the society is injured by a foreign person, the whole society is bound to avenge the injury.
    • Locke calls this power – which is concerned with war and peace, leagues and alliances, and all transactions with people and communities without the common wealth – the federative power.
    • The executive power is directed by established promulgated laws, whilst the federative power is directed by the prudence of those officials whose hands the power is place because the actions taken by the federative power are dependent upon the unpredictable actions of foreigners. Although the federative power is entrusted largely to the prudence of the men who possess the power, those men must always act in the best interest of the society as they see fit.
    • Though the executive and federative powers are distinct from one another, the powers should not be placed in distinct hands. The force of the commonwealth ought to be placed in the hands of one person or one body. If it were placed in distinct persons or bodies, then the powers would inevitably contradict one another and be apt to cause disorder and ruin.

The whole community is one body in the state of nature, in respect of all other states or persons out of its community.

The legislative power ought to be placed in the hands of divers people who after establishing laws return to society and live under those laws. This obligates the men of the legislature to enact laws according to the best interests of the society. Men who possess the legislative power ought not to possess the executive power too because men are apt to exempt themselves from the laws they establish to increase their riches and power.

The executive power has the right to enforce those laws established by the legislature. The federative power is concerned with war and peace, leagues and alliances, and all transactions with persons and communities without the society. If a member of the society is injured by a foreign person or community, the society is obligated to avenge the harm because the society is considered one man or body in the state of nature with respect to persons and communities without the society.

Second Treatise of Government

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