Second Treatise of Government - John Locke - ebook

The Two Treatises of Government (or "Two Treatises of Government: In the Former, The False Principles, and Foundation of Sir Robert Filmer, and His Followers, Are Detected and Overthrown. The Latter Is an Essay Concerning The True Original, Extent, and End of Civil Government") is a work of political philosophy published anonymously in 1689 by John Locke. The First Treatise attacks patriarchalism in the form of sentence-by-sentence refutation of Robert Filmer's Patriarcha, while the Second Treatise outlines Locke's ideas for a more civilized society based on natural rights and contract theory.Two Treatises is divided into the First Treatise and the Second Treatise. The original title of the Second Treatise appears to have been simply "Book II," corresponding to the title of the First Treatise, "Book I." Before publication, however, Locke gave it greater prominence by (hastily) inserting a separate title page: "An Essay Concerning the True Original, Extent and End of Civil Government."The First Treatise is focused on the refutation of Sir Robert Filmer, in particular his Patriarcha, which argued that civil society, was founded on a divinely sanctioned patriarchalism. Locke proceeds through Filmer's arguments, contesting his proofs from Scripture and ridiculing them as senseless, until concluding that no government can be justified by an appeal to the divine right of kings.The Second Treatise outlines a theory of civil society. John Locke begins by describing the state of nature, a picture much more stable than Thomas Hobbes' state of "war of every man against every man," and argues that all men are created equal in the state of nature by God. From this, he goes on to explain the hypothetical rise of property and civilization, in the process explaining that the only legitimate governments are those that have the consent of the people. Therefore, any government that rules without the consent of the people can, in theory, is overthrown.

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Second Treatise of Government

John Locke

First digital edition 2017 by Anna Ruggieri


Reader, thou hast here the beginning and end of a discourseconcerning government; what fate has otherwise disposed of thepapers that should have filled up the middle, and were more thanall the rest, it is not worth while to tell thee. These, whichremain, I hope are sufficient to establish the throne of our greatrestorer, our present King William; to make good his title, in theconsent of the people, which being the only one of all lawfulgovernments, he has more fully and clearly, than any prince inChristendom; and to justify to the world the people of England,whose love of their just and natural rights, with their resolutionto preserve them, saved the nation when it was on the very brink ofslavery and ruin. If these papers have that evidence, I flattermyself is to befound in them, there will be no great miss of thosewhich are lost, and my reader may be satisfied without them: for Iimagine, I shall have neither the time, nor inclination to repeatmy pains, and fill up the wanting part of my answer, by tracing SirRobert again, through all the windings and obscurities, which areto be met with in the several branches of his wonderful system. Theking, and body of the nation, have since so thoroughly confuted hisHypothesis, that I suppose no body hereafter will have either theconfidence to appear against our common safety, and be again anadvocate for slavery; or the weakness to be deceived withcontradictions dressed up in a popular stile, and well-turnedperiods: for if any one will be at the pains, himself, in thoseparts, which are here untouched, to strip Sir Robert's discoursesof the flourish of doubtful expressions, and endeavour to reducehis words to direct, positive, intelligible propositions, and thencompare them one with another, he will quickly be satisfied, therewas never so much glib nonsense put together in well-soundingEnglish. If he think it not worth while to examine his works allthro', let him make an experiment in that part, where he treats ofusurpation; and let him try, whether he can, with all his skill,make Sir Robert intelligible, and consistent with himself, orcommon sense. I should not speak so plainly of a gentleman, longsince past answering, had not the pulpit, of late years, publiclyowned his doctrine, and made it the current divinity of the times.It is necessary those men, who taking on them to be teachers, haveso dangerously misled others, should be openly shewed of whatauthority this their Patriarch is, whom they have so blindlyfollowed, that so they may either retract what upon so ill groundsthey have vented, and cannot be maintained; or else justify thoseprinciples which they preached up for gospel; though they had nobetter an author than an English courtier: for I should not havewrit against Sir Robert, or taken the pains to shew his mistakes,inconsistencies, and want of (what he so much boasts of, andpretends wholly to build on) scripture-proofs, were there not menamongst us, who, by crying up his books, and espousing hisdoctrine, save me from the reproach of writing against a deadadversary. They have been so zealous in this point, that, if I havedone him any wrong, I cannot hope they should spare me. I wish,where they have done the truth and the public wrong, they would beas ready to redress it, and allow its just weight to thisreflection, viz. that there cannot be done a greater mischief toprince and people, than the propagating wrong notions concerninggovernment; that so at last all times might not have reason tocomplain of the Drum Ecclesiastic. If any one, concerned really fortruth, undertake the confutation of my Hypothesis, I promise himeither to recant my mistake, upon fair conviction; or to answer hisdifficulties. But he must remember two things.

First, That cavilling here and there, at some expression, orlittle incident of my discourse, is not an answer to my book.

Secondly, That I shall not take railing for arguments, nor thinkeither of these worth my notice, though I shall always look onmyself as bound to give satisfaction to any one, who shallappear tobe conscientiously scrupulous in the point, and shall shew any justgrounds for his scruples.

I have nothing more, but to advertise the reader, thatObservations stands for Observations on Hobbs, Milton, &c. andthat a bare quotation of pages always means pages of hisPatriarcha, Edition 1680.


Sect. 1. It having been shewn in the foregoing discourse,

(1). That Adam had not, either by natural right of fatherhood,or by positive donation from God, any such authority over hischildren, or dominion over the world, as is pretended:

(2). That if he had, his heirs, yet, had no right to it:

(3). That if his heirs had, there being no law of nature norpositive law of God that determines which is the right heir in allcases that may arise, the right of succession, and consequently ofbearing rule, could not have been certainly determined:

(4). That if even that had been determined, yet the knowledge ofwhich is theeldest line of Adam's posterity, being so long sinceutterly lost, that in the races of mankind and families of theworld, there remains not to one above another, the least pretenceto be the eldest house, and to have the right of inheritance:

All these premises having, as I think, been clearly made out, itis impossible that the rulers now on earth should make any benefit,or derive any the least shadow of authority from that, which isheld to be the fountain of all power, Adam's private dominion andpaternal jurisdiction; so that he that will not give just occasionto think that all government in the world is the product only offorce and violence, and that men live together by no other rulesbut that of beasts, where the strongest carries it, and so layafoundation for perpetual disorder and mischief, tumult, seditionand rebellion, (things that the followers of that hypothesis soloudly cry out against) must of necessity find out another rise ofgovernment, another original of political power, and another way ofdesigning and knowing the persons that have it, than what SirRobert Filmer hath taught us.

Sect. 2. To this purpose, I think it may not be amiss, to setdown what I take to be political power; that the power of aMAGISTRATE over a subject may bedistinguished from that of aFATHERover his children, a MASTER over his servant, a HUSBAND over hiswife, and a LORD over his slave. All which distinct powershappening sometimes together in the same man, if he be consideredunder these different relations, it may help us to distinguishthese powers one from wealth, a father of a family, and a captainof a galley.

Sect. 3. POLITICAL POWER, then, I take to be a RIGHT of makinglaws with penalties of death, and consequently all less penalties,for the regulating and preserving of property, and of employing theforce of the community, in the execution of such laws, and in thedefence of the commonwealth from foreign injury; and all this onlyfor the public good.


Sect. 4.TO understand political power right, and derive it fromits original, we must consider, what state all men are naturallyin, and that 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, ordepending upon the will of any other man.

A state also of equality, wherein all the power and jurisdictionis reciprocal, no one having more than another; there being nothingmore evident, thanthat creatures of the same species and rank,promiscuously born to all the same advantages of nature, and theuse of the same faculties, should also be equal one amongst anotherwithout subordination or subjection, unless the lord and master ofthem all should, by any manifest declaration of his will, set oneabove another, and confer on him, by an evident and clearappointment, an undoubted right to dominion and sovereignty.

Sect. 5. This equality of men by nature, the judicious Hookerlooks upon as soevident in itself, and beyond all question, that hemakes it the foundation of that obligation to mutual love amongstmen, on which he builds the duties they owe one another, and fromwhence he derives the great maxims of justice and charity. Hiswords are,

The like natural inducement hath brought men to know that it isno less their duty, to love others than themselves; for seeingthose things which are equal, must needs all have one measure; if Icannot but wish to receive good, even as much at every man's hands,as any man can wish unto his own soul, how should I look to haveany part of my desire herein satisfied, unless myself be careful tosatisfy the like desire, which is undoubtedly in other men, beingof one and the same nature? To have any thing offered themrepugnant to this desire, must needs in all respects grieve them asmuch as me; so that if I do harm, I must look to suffer, therebeing no reason that others should shew greater measure of love tome, than they have by me shewed unto them: my desire therefore tobe loved of my equals in nature as much as possible may be,imposeth upon me a natural duty of bearing to them-ward fully thelike affection; from whichrelation of equality between ourselvesand them that are as ourselves, what severalrules and canonsnatural reason hath drawn, for direction of life, no man isignorant, Eccl. Pol. Lib. 1.

Sect. 6. But though this be a state of liberty, yet it is not astate of licence: though man in that state have an uncontroulableliberty to dispose of his person or possessions, yet he has notliberty to destroy himself, or so much as any creature in hispossession, but where some nobler use than its bare preservationcalls for it. The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it,which obliges every one: and reason, which is that law, teaches allmankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal andindependent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health,liberty, or possessions: for men being all the workmanship of oneomnipotent, and infinitely wise maker; all the servants of onesovereign master, sent into the world by his order, and about hisbusiness; they are his property, whose workmanship they are, madeto last during his, not one another's pleasure: and being furnishedwith likefaculties, sharing all in one community of nature, therecannot be supposed any such subordination among us, that mayauthorize us to destroy one another, as if we were made for oneanother's uses, as the inferior ranks of creatures are for our's.Every one, as he is bound to preserve himself, and not to quit hisstation wilfully, so by the like reason, when his own preservationcomes not in competition, ought he, as much as he can, to preservethe rest of mankind, and may not, unless it be to do justice onanoffender, take away, or impair the life, or what tends to thepreservation of the life, the liberty, health, limb, or goods ofanother.

Sect. 7. And that all men may be restrained from invading othersrights, and from doing hurt to one another, and thelaw of nature beobserved, which willeth the peace and preservation of all mankind,the execution of the law of nature is, in that state, put intoevery man's hands, whereby every one has a right to punish thetransgressors of that law to such a degree, as may hinder itsviolation: for the law of nature would, as all other laws thatconcern men in this world be in vain, if there were no body that inthe state of nature had a power to execute that law, and therebypreserve the innocent and restrain offenders. And if any one in thestate of nature may punish another for any evil he has done, everyone may do so: for in that state of perfect equality, wherenaturally there is no superiority or jurisdiction of one overanother, what any may do in prosecution ofthat law, every one mustneeds have a right to do.

Sect. 8. And thus, in the state of nature, one man comes by apower over another; but yet no absolute or arbitrary power, to usea criminal, when he has got him in his hands, according to thepassionate heats, or boundless extravagancy of his own will; butonly to retribute to him, so far as calm reason and consciencedictate, what is proportionate to his transgression, which is somuch as may serve for reparation and restraint: for these two arethe onlyreasons, why one man may lawfully do harm to another, whichis that we call punishment. In transgressing the law of nature, theoffender declares himself to live by another rule than that ofreason and common equity, which is that measure God has set to theactions of men, for their mutual security; and so he becomesdangerous to mankind, the tye, which is to secure them from injuryand violence, being slighted and broken by him. Which being atrespass against the whole species, and the peace and safety ofit,provided for by the law of nature, every man upon this score, bythe right he hath to preserve mankind in general, may restrain, orwhere it is necessary, destroy things noxious to them, and so maybring such evil on any one, who hath transgressed thatlaw, as maymake him repent the doing of it, and thereby deter him, and by hisexample others, from doingthe like mischief. And in the case, andupon this ground, EVERY MAN HATH A RIGHT TO PUNISH THE OFFENDER,AND BE EXECUTIONER OF THE LAW OF NATURE.

Sect. 9. I doubt not but this will seem a very strange doctrineto some men: but before they condemn it, I desire them to resolveme, by what right any prince or state can put to death, or punishan alien, for any crime he commits in their country. It is certaintheir laws, by virtue of any sanction they receive from thepromulgated will of the legislative, reach not a stranger: theyspeak not to him, nor, if they did, is he bound to hearken to them.The legislative authority, by which they are in force over thesubjects of that commonwealth, hath no power over him. Those whohave the supreme power of making laws in England, France orHolland, are to an Indian, but like the rest of the world, menwithout authority: and therefore, if by the law of nature every manhath not a power to punish offences against it, as he soberlyjudges the case to require, I see not how the magistrates of anycommunity can punish an alien of another country; since, inreference to him, they can have no more power than what everymannaturally may have over another.

Sect, 10. Besides the crime which consists in violating the law,and varying from the right rule of reason, whereby a man so farbecomes degenerate, and declares himself to quit the principles ofhuman nature, and to be a noxious creature, there is commonlyinjury done to some person or other, and some other man receivesdamage by his transgression: in which case he who hath received anydamage, has, besides the right of punishment common to him withother men, a particularright to seek reparation from him that hasdone it: and any other person, who finds it just, may also joinwith him that is injured, and assist him in recovering from theoffender so much as may make satisfaction for the harm he hassuffered.

Sect. 11. From these two distinct rights, the one of punishingthe crime for restraint, and preventing the like offence, whichright of punishing is in every body; the other of takingreparation, which belongs only to the injured party, comes it topass that the magistrate, who by being magistrate hath the commonright of punishing put into his hands, can often, where the publicgood demands not the execution of the law, remit the punishment ofcriminal offences by his own authority, but yet cannot remit thesatisfaction due to any private man for the damage he has received.That, he who has suffered the damage has a right to demand in hisown name, and he alone can remit: the damnified person has thispower of appropriating to himself the goods or service of theoffender, by right of self-preservation, as every man has a powerto punish the crime, to prevent its being committed again, by theright he has of preserving all mankind, and doing all reasonablethings he can in order to that end: and thus it is, that every man,in the state of nature, has a power to kill a murderer, both todeter others from doing the like injury, which no reparation cancompensate, by the example of the punishment that attends it fromevery body, and also to secure men from the attempts of a criminal,who having renounced reason, the common rule and measure God hathgiven to mankind, hath, by the unjust violence and slaughter hehath committed upon one, declared war against all mankind, andtherefore may be destroyed as a lion or a tyger, one of those wildsavage beasts, with whom men can have no society nor security: andupon this is grounded that great law of nature, Whoso sheddethman's blood, by man shall his blood be shed. And Cain was so fullyconvinced, that every one had a right to destroy such a criminal,that after the murder of his brother, he cries out, Every one thatfindeth me, shall slay me; so plain was it writ in the hearts ofall mankind.

Sect. 12. By the same reason may a man in the state of naturepunish the lesser breaches ofthat law. It will perhaps be demanded,with death? I answer, each transgression may be punished to thatdegree, and with so much severity, as will suffice to make it anill bargain to the offender, give him cause to repent, and terrifyothers from doing the like. Every offence, that can be committed inthe state of nature, may in the state of nature be also punishedequally, and as far forth as it may, in a commonwealth: for thoughit would be besides my present purpose, to enter here into theparticularsof the law of nature, or its measures of punishment;yet, it is certain there is such a law, and that too, asintelligible and plain to a rational creature, and a studier ofthat law, as the positive laws of commonwealths; nay, possiblyplainer; as much asreason is easier to be understood, than thefancies and intricate contrivances of men, following contrary andhidden interests put into words; for so truly are a great part ofthe municipal laws of countries, which are only so far right, asthey are founded on the law of nature, by which they are to beregulated and interpreted.

Sect. 13. To this strange doctrine, viz. That in the state ofnature every one has the executive power of the law of nature, Idoubt not but it will be objected, that it is unreasonable for mento be judges in their own cases, that self-love will make menpartial to themselves and their friends: and on the other side,that ill nature, passion and revenge will carry them too far inpunishing others; and hence nothing but confusion and disorder willfollow, and that therefore God hath certainly appointed governmentto restrain the partiality and violence of men. I easily grant,that civil government is the proper remedy for the inconvenienciesof the state of nature, which must certainly be great, where menmay be judges in their own case, since it is easy to be imagined,that he who was so unjust as to do his brother an injury, willscarce be so just as to condemn himself for it: but I shall desirethose who make this objection, to remember, that absolute monarchsare but men; and if government is to be the remedy of those evils,which necessarily follow from men's being judges in their owncases, and the state of nature is therefore not to be endured, Idesire to know what kind of government that is, and how much betterit is than the state of nature, where one man, commanding amultitude, has the liberty to be judge in his own case, and may doto all his subjects whatever he pleases, without the least libertyto any one to question orcontroul those who execute his pleasure?and in whatsoever he doth, whether led by reason, mistake orpassion, must be submitted to? much better it is in the state ofnature, wherein men are not bound to submit to the unjust will ofanother: and if he thatjudges, judges amiss in his own, or anyother case, he is answerable for it to the rest of mankind.

Sect. 14. It is often asked as a mighty objection, where are, orever were there any men in such a state of nature? To which it maysuffice as an answer atpresent, that since all princes and rulersof independent governments all through the world, are in a state ofnature, it is plain the world never was, nor ever will be, withoutnumbers of men in that state. I have named all governors ofindependent communities, whether they are, or are not, in leaguewith others: for it is not every compact that puts an end to thestate of nature between men, but only this one of agreeing togethermutually to enter into one community, and make one body politic;other promises, and compacts, men may make one with another, andyet still be in the state of nature. The promises and bargains fortruck, &c. between the two men in the desert island, mentionedby Garcilasso de la Vega, in his history of Peru; or between aSwiss and an Indian, in the woods ofAmerica, are binding to them,though they are perfectly in a state of nature, in reference to oneanother: for truth and keeping of faith belongs to men, as men, andnot as members of society.

Sect. 15. To those that say, therewere never any men in thestate of nature, I will not only oppose the authority of thejudicious Hooker, Eccl. Pol. lib. i. sect. 10, where he says,

The laws which have been hitherto mentioned, i.e. the laws ofnature, do bind men absolutely, even as theyare men, although theyhave never any settled fellowship, never any solemn agreementamongst themselves what to do, or not to do: but forasmuch as weare not by ourselves sufficient to furnish ourselves with competentstore of things, needful for such a life as our nature doth desire,a life fit for the dignity of man; therefore to supply thosedefects and imperfections which are in us, as living single andsolely by ourselves, we are naturally induced to seek communion andfellowship with others: this wasthe cause of men's unitingthemselves at first in politic societies.

But I moreover affirm, that all men are naturally in that state,and remain so, till by their own consents they make themselvesmembers of some politic society; and I doubt not in the sequel ofthis discourse, to make it very clear.


Sect. 16. THE state of war is a state of enmity and destruction:and therefore declaring by word or action, not a passionate andhasty, but a sedate settled design upon another man's life, putshim in a state of war with him against whom he has declared such anintention, and so has exposed his life to the other's power to betaken away by him, or any one that joins with him in his defence,and espouses his quarrel; it beingreasonable and just, I shouldhave a right to destroy that which threatens me with destruction:for, by the fundamental law of nature, man being to be preserved asmuch as possible, when all cannot be preserved, the safety of theinnocent is to be preferred: and one may destroy a man who makeswar upon him, or has discovered an enmity to his being, for thesame reason that he may kill a wolf or a lion; because such men arenot under the ties of the commonlaw of reason, have no other rule,but that of forceand violence, and so may be treated as beasts ofprey, those dangerous and noxious creatures, that will be sure todestroy him whenever he falls into their power.

Sect. 17. And hence it is, that he who attempts to get anotherman into his absolute power, does thereby put himself into a stateof war with him; it being to be understood as a declaration of adesign upon his life: for I have reason to conclude, that he whowould get me into his power without my consent, would use me as hepleased when he had got me there, and destroy me too when he had afancy to it; for no body can desire to have me in his absolutepower, unless it be to compel me by force to that which is againstthe right of my freedom, i.e. make me a slave. To be free from suchforce is theonly security of my preservation; and reason bids melook on him, asan enemy to my preservation, who would take awaythat freedom which is the fence to it; so that he who makes anattempt to enslave me, thereby puts himself into a state of warwith me. Hethat, in the state of nature, would take away thefreedom that belongs to any one in that state, must necessarily besupposed to have a design to take away every thing else, thatfreedom being the foundation of all the rest; as he that, in thestate of society, would take away the freedom belonging to those ofthat society or commonwealth, must be supposed to design to takeaway from them every thing else, and so be looked on as in a stateof war.

Sect. 18. This makes it lawful for a man to kill a thief, whohas not in the least hurt him, nor declared any design upon hislife, any farther than, by the use of force, so to get him in hispower, as to take away his money, or what he pleases, from him;because using force, where he has no right, to get me intohispower, let his pretence be what it will, I have no reason tosuppose, that he, who would take away my liberty, would not, whenhe had me in his power, take away every thing else. And thereforeit is lawful for me to treat him as one who has put himselfinto astate of war with me, i.e. kill him if I can; for to that hazarddoes he justly expose himself, whoever introduces a state of war,and is aggressor in it.

Sect. 19. And here we have the plain difference between thestate of nature and the state ofwar, which however some men haveconfounded, are as far distant, as a state of peace, good will,mutual assistance and preservation, and a state of enmity, malice,violence and mutual destruction, are one from another. Men livingtogether according to reason, without a common superior on earth,with authority to judge between them, is properly the state ofnature. But force, or a declared design of force, upon the personof another, where there is no common superior on earth to appeal tofor relief, is thestate of war: and it is the want of such anappeal gives a man the right of war even against an aggressor, tho'he be in society and a fellow subject. Thus a thief, whom I cannotharm, but by appeal to the law, for having stolen all that I amworth, I maykill, when he sets on me to rob me but of my horse orcoat; because the law, which was made for my preservation, where itcannot interpose to secure my life from present force, which, iflost, is capable of no reparation, permits me my own defence, andtheright of war, a liberty to kill the aggressor, because theaggressor allows not time to appeal to our common judge, nor thedecision of the law, for remedy in a case where the mischief may beirreparable. Want of a common judge with authority, puts all men ina state of nature: force without right, upon a man's person, makesa state of war, both where there is, and is not, a commonjudge.

Sect. 20. But when the actual force is over, the state of warceases between those that are in society, and are equallyon bothsides subjected to the fair determination of the law; because thenthere lies open the remedy of appeal for the past injury, and toprevent future harm: but where no such appeal is, as in the stateof nature, for want of positive laws, and judgeswith authority toappeal to, the state of war once begun, continues, with a right tothe innocent party to destroy the other whenever he can, until theaggressor offers peace, and desires reconciliation on such terms asmay repair any wrongs he has alreadydone, and secure the innocentfor the future; nay, where an appeal to the law, and constitutedjudges, lies open, but the remedy is denied by a manifestperverting of justice, and a barefaced wresting of the laws toprotect or indemnify the violence or injuries of some men, or partyof men, there it is hard to imagine any thing but a state of war:for wherever violence is used, and injury done, though by handsappointed to administer justice, it is still violence and injury,however coloured with the name,pretences, or forms of law, theendwhereof being to protect and redress the innocent, by anunbiassed application of it, to all who are under it; wherever thatis not bona fide done, war is made upon the sufferers, who havingno appeal on earth to rightthem, they are left to the only remedyin such cases, an appeal to heaven.

Sect. 21. To avoid this state of war (wherein there is no appealbut to heaven, and wherein every the least difference is apt toend, where there is no authority to decide between the contenders)is one great reason of men's putting themselves into society, andquitting the state of nature: for where there is an authority, apower on earth, from which relief can be had by appeal, there thecontinuance of the state of war is excluded,and the controversy isdecided by that power. Had there been any such court, any superiorjurisdiction on earth, to determine the right between Jephtha andthe Ammonites, they had never come to a state of war: but we see hewas forced to appeal to heaven.The Lord the Judge (says he) bejudge this day between the children of Israel and the children ofAmmon, Judg. xi. 27. and then prosecuting, and relying on hisappeal, he leads out his army to battle: and therefore in suchcontroversies, where the question is put, who shall be judge? Itcannot be meant, who shall decide the controversy; every one knowswhat Jephtha here tells us, that the Lord the Judge shall judge.Where there is no judge on earth, the appeal lies to God in heaven.That question then cannot mean, who shall judge, whether anotherhath put himself in a state of war with me, and whether I may, asJephtha did, appeal to heaven in it? of that I myself can only bejudge in my own conscience, as I will answer it, at the great day,to the supremejudge of all men.