Locke

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Contents

Introduction

Toleration of Religious Differences

Civil Rights

Limits of State Authority

Limits of Church Authority

Separation of Church and State

Duty of a Magistrate

Activities not Tolerated

Discrimination as the Source of Revolt

Man in a State of Nature

Formation of Political Society

Rule of the Majority

Opposition to Tyranny

Retaining or Replacing Governments

Appendix: The English Bill of Rights

Sources

 

 

Introduction

 

John Locke (1632-1704) was born at Wrington, in the English county of Somerset. His father was a Puritan who had fought on the Parliamentary side in the Civil War. Locke obtained a degree at Oxford and considered a career in the church. However, he found he had developed a lively interest in mathematics and science, and decided to study medicine.

 

Locke did not go so far as to obtain a medical degree, but this was not a bar to practicing in Oxford in 1666. There, he successfully treated Lord Ashley, who later became Earl of Shaftesbury and Chancellor of the Exchequer. They got on well together and Locke became Shaftesbury’s confidential secretary, the two sharing similar concerns for liberty in civil, religious, and philosophical matters. Locke appears to have spent the next decades working out his ideas on the nature of human understanding, and on government and religious tolerance.

 

It is not surprising that Locke turned to these ideas, because he grew up in one of the most tumultuous periods in English history: parliamentary and royalist forces fought a civil war, and violent religious disputes took place between Anglicans, Catholics, and Puritans. A king was executed, the House of Lords abolished, and a dictator installed. Later, a king and parliamentary rule were restored, but religious dissent intensified. A king was then deposed in a bloodless coup. During this period, Locke’s natural sympathy with the Puritans was lessened by the intolerance of the Presbyterians and the fanaticism of the Independents.

 

With the rise in power of the royal court in England after 1675, Shaftsbury and Locke came under suspicion of sedition, and both left for Holland, the birthplace of Erasmus and Grotius and more tolerant of freedom of thought. When Locke arrived there in 1683 his fear of arrest by English agents made him keep his address secret, as Descartes had done before him. However, he finally had the leisure to put his thoughts down in writing.

 

A change in the situation in England enabled Locke to burst into print with several publications in his late fifties. He returned to England after the Glorious ("bloodless") Revolution of 1688 and published his Letter on Toleration in the following year. Two Treatises on Government followed within a few months, arguing that ultimate sovereignty rested with the people not with a monarch. Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding appeared in 1690, the first of his writings that was not launched anonymously. 

 

Locke became a guest at a manor house at Otes, Essex, where he continued writing and responded to attacks on his ideas. During this time he put forward views on education, on raising the value of money, and on interpreting the Bible.

 

As regards the life of the individual, Locke was very much concerned with what one could legitimately claim to know. As such, he is regarded as the father of empirical philosophy. He consequently saw that it was both foolish and wrong to persecute people for beliefs that were not verifiable, and that tolerance was the most prudent course. As regards institutions, Locke was at pains to define what were their legitimate spheres of action, and what were not. Thus he saw that state and church had jurisdiction over totally different matters and should be separate from one another. He saw the use of force as a matter for civil institutions, not religious ones. As regards nations, Locke was concerned with the origin of sovereign power, which he concluded came solely from the people. However, to avoid abuse of power he argued for a system oc checks and balances, with power divided among executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. Many of Locke's ideas were embodied in the 1689 English Bill of Rights, of which he was the principal author. In turn, these rights helped clarify the ideas that supported the American Revolution and led to the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights..

 

The extracts given below exemplify his ideas on toleration and government.

 

 

 

Toleration of Religious Differences

 

1    Now, I appeal to the consciences of those that persecute, torment, destroy, and kill other men upon pretence of religion, whether they do it out of friendship and kindness towards them or not. And I shall believe they do so indeed, and not until then, when I shall see those fiery zealots correcting in the same manner their friends and familiar acquaintance for the manifest sins they commit against the precepts of the Gospel; when I shall see them persecute with fire and sword the members of their own communion that are tainted with enormous vices and without correction are in danger of eternal perdition; and when I shall see them thus express their love and desire of the salvation of their souls by the infliction of torments and exercise of all manner of cruelties.

 

2    The toleration of those that differ from others in matters of religion is so agreeable to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to the genuine reason of mankind, that it seems monstrous for men to be so blind as not to perceive the necessity and advantage of it in so clear a light. I will not here censure the pride and ambition of some, the passion and uncharitable zeal of others. These are faults from which human affairs can perhaps scarce ever be perfectly freed. But they are such that nobody will take responsibility for such faults without covering them with some colorful excuse that enables them to commend themselves even when carried away by their own irregular passions. Some may color their spirit of persecution and unchristian cruelty with a pretence of care of public well-being and observation of the laws. Others, under pretence of religion, may seek impunity for their libertinism and licentiousness. Others may impose either upon themselves or others, by the pretence of loyalty and obedience to the prince, or of tenderness and sincerity in the worship of God.

 

3    To prevent such things, I esteem it above all things necessary to distinguish exactly the business of civil government from that of religion, and to settle the just bounds that lie between the one and the other. If this is not done, there can be no end put to the controversies that will be always arising between those that have—or at least pretend to have—on the one side, a concern for the interest of men's souls, and on the other side, a care for the commonwealth.

 

 

Civil Rights

 

4    The commonwealth seems to me to be a society of men constituted only for the procuring, preserving, and advancing their own civil interests.

    Civil interests [rights] I call life, liberty, health, and freedom from suffering; and the possession of outward things, such as money, lands, houses, furniture, and the like.

 

5    It is the duty of the civil magistrate, by the impartial execution of equal laws, to secure for all the people in general, and for every one of his subjects in particular, the just possession of these things belonging to this life. If anyone presume to violate the laws of public justice and equity, established for the preservation of those things, his presumption is to be checked by the fear of punishment, consisting of the deprivation or diminution of those civil interests, or goods, which otherwise he might and ought to enjoy. As no man willingly allows himself to be punished by the deprivation of any part of his goods, and much less of his liberty or life, the magistrate is therefore armed with the force and strength of all his people to be able to punish those that violate any other man's rights.

 

 

Limits of State Authority

 

6    Now, the following considerations seem to me to demonstrate abundantly that the whole jurisdiction of the magistrate reaches only to these civil concerns. That is, all civil power, right and dominion, is bounded and confined only to the care of promoting these things; and that it neither can nor ought in any manner to be extended to the salvation of souls.

 

7    First, because the care of souls is not committed to the civil magistrate, any more than to other men. It is not committed unto him, I say, by God; because it does not appear that God has ever given any such authority to one man over another as to compel anyone to his religion. Nor can any such power be vested in the magistrate by the consent of the people, because no man can so far abandon the care of his own salvation as blindly to leave to the choice of any other, whether prince or subject, to prescribe to him what faith or worship he shall embrace. For no man can, even if he wanted to, adjust his faith to the dictates of another. All the life and power of true religion consist in the inward and full persuasion of the mind; and faith is not faith without believing.

 

8    In the second place, the care of souls cannot belong to the civil magistrate, because his power consists only in outward force. But true and saving religion consists of the inward persuasion of the mind, without which nothing can be acceptable to God. And such is the nature of the understanding, that it cannot be compelled to the belief of anything by outward force. Confiscation of estate, imprisonment, torments—nothing of that nature can have any such efficacy as to make men change the inward judgment that they have framed of things.

 

9    In the third place, the care of the salvation of men's souls cannot belong to the magistrate; because, though the rigor of laws and the force of penalties may be able to convince and change men's minds, yet they would not help at all in the salvation of their souls. For there being but one truth, one way to heaven, what hope is there that more men would be led into it if they had no rule but the religion of the court? What hope is there if they were thus forced to quit the light of their own reason, and oppose the dictates of their own consciences, and blindly to resign themselves to the will of their governors, and to the religion that either ignorance, ambition, or superstition had chanced to establish in the countries where they were born?

 

10    These considerations, to omit many others that might have been urged to the same purpose, seem unto me sufficient to conclude that all the power of civil government relates only to men's civil interests, is confined to the care of the things of this world, and has nothing to do with the world to come.

 

 

Limits of Church Authority

 

11    Let us now consider what a church is. A church, then, I take to be a voluntary society of men, joining themselves together of their own accord for the public worship of God in such manner as they judge acceptable to him, and effective for the salvation of their souls.

 

12    I say it is a free and voluntary society. Nobody is born a member of any church; otherwise the religion of parents would descend to children by the same right of inheritance as their temporal estates, and everyone would hold his faith by the same tenure he does his lands, than which nothing can be imagined more absurd. Thus, therefore, that matter stands. No man by nature is committed to any particular church or sect, but everyone joins voluntarily the society in which he believes he has found a doctrine and worship truly acceptable to God. As the only cause of his entrance into that communion is the hope of salvation, so this can be the only reason for his stay there. For if afterwards he should discover anything either erroneous in the doctrine or incongruous in the worship of that society he has joined, why should he not be as free to go out as to enter? No member of a religious society can be tied with any other bonds but those proceeding from the certain expectation of eternal life. A church, then, is a society of members voluntarily uniting to that end.

 

13    No society, however free, or upon whatsoever slight occasion instituted—whether of philosophers for learning, of merchants for commerce, or of men of leisure for mutual conversation and discourse—no society, church or company, I say, can in the least subsist and hold together but will soon dissolve and break in pieces unless it is regulated by some laws, and the members all consent to observe some order. Place and time of meeting must be agreed on; rules for admitting and excluding members must be established; descriptions of officers, and putting things into a regular course, and suchlike, cannot be omitted. But since the joining together of several members into this church-society, as has already been demonstrated, is absolutely free and spontaneous, it necessarily follows that the right of making its laws can belong to none but the society itself; or, at least (which is the same thing), to those whom the society by common consent has authorized to do so.

 

14    The end of a religious society (as has already been said) is the public worship of God and, by means thereof, the acquisition of eternal life. All its discipline ought, therefore, to tend to that end, and all ecclesiastical laws to be confined to that end. Nothing ought nor can be transacted in this society relating to the possession of civil and worldly goods. No force is here to be made use of upon any occasion whatever. For force belongs wholly to the civil magistrate, and the possession of all outward goods is subject to his jurisdiction.

 

 

Separation of Church and State

 

15    Having determined these things, let us inquire next how far the duty of toleration extends, and what is required from everyone by it.

 

16    And, first, I hold that no church is bound, by the duty of toleration, to retain any such person in her bosom who, after admonition, continues obstinately to offend against the laws of the society. For, these being the condition of communion and the bond of the society, if the breach of them were permitted without any adverse criticism the society would immediately be thereby dissolved. But, nevertheless, in all such cases care is to be taken that the sentence of excommunication, and the execution thereof, carry with it no rough usage of word or action whereby the ejected person may in any way be caused loss or damage to body or estate. For all force (as has often been said) belongs only to the magistrate. No private persons ought at any time to use force, unless it be in self-defense against unjust violence. Excommunication neither does, nor can, deprive the excommunicated person of any of those civil goods that he formerly possessed.

 

17    Secondly, no private person has any right in any manner to prejudice another person in his enjoyment of civil life because he is of another church or religion. All the rights and franchises that belong to him as a man, or as an inhabitant, are inviolably to be preserved to him. These are not the business of religion. . . If any man deviates from the right way, it is his own misfortune, not an injury to you; nor therefore are you to punish him in the things of this life because you assume he will be miserable in that which is to come.

 

18    In summary, nobody, therefore, neither single persons nor churches—not even commonwealths—have any just title to invade the civil rights and worldly goods of each other upon pretence of religion. Those that are of another opinion would do well to consider with themselves how pernicious a seed of discord and war, how powerful a provocation to endless hatred, plundering, and slaughter they thereby impose on mankind. No peace and security, not even so much as common friendship, can ever be established or preserved amongst men so long as the opinion prevails that sovereignty is founded on grace and that religion is to be propagated by force of arms.

 

19    Let us see what the duty of toleration requires from those who are distinguished from the rest of mankind (from the laity, as they please to call us) by some ecclesiastical character and office, whether they be bishops, priests, presbyters, ministers, or however else dignified or distinguished. It is not my business to inquire here into the original of the power or dignity of the clergy. This only I say, that, from wherever their authority has sprung, since it is ecclesiastical, it ought to be confined within the bounds of the church. Nor can the authority of the clergy in any manner be extended to civil affairs, because the church itself is a thing absolutely separate and distinct from the commonwealth.

 

 

Duty of a Magistrate

 

20    In the last place, let us now consider what is the magistrate's duty in the business of toleration, which certainly is very considerable.

    We have already proved that the care of souls does not belong to the magistrate. I mean that it is not a magisterial care (if I may so call it), which consists in prescribing by laws and compelling by punishments. It is a charitable care, which consists in teaching, admonishing, and persuading, and cannot be denied to any man. The care, therefore, of every man's soul belongs to himself and is to be left to himself.

    But what if he neglects the care of his soul? I answer, what if he neglect the care of his health or of his estate? These things are related closer to the function of the magistrate than the other. Will the magistrate provide by an express law that such a one shall not become poor or sick? Laws provide, as much as is possible that the goods and health of subjects be not injured by the fraud and violence of others. They do not guard them from the negligence or ill-husbandry of the possessors themselves.

 

21    Further, the magistrate ought not to forbid the preaching or professing of any speculative opinions in any Church, because these have no manner of relation to the civil rights of the subjects. If a Roman Catholic believe what another man calls bread to be really the body of Christ, he does no injury thereby to his neighbor. If a Jew do not believe the New Testament to be the Word of God, he does not thereby alter anything in men's civil rights. If an irreligious person doubts both testaments, he is not therefore to be punished as a pernicious citizen. The power of the magistrate and the estates of the people may be equally secure whether any man believe such things or not.

 

22    A good life, which consist not in the least part of religion and true piety, concerns also the civil government; and in it lies the safety both of men's souls and of the commonwealth. Moral actions belong, therefore, to the jurisdiction both of the outward and inward court—both of the civil and domestic governor—I mean both of the magistrate and conscience. Here, therefore, is great danger, lest one of these jurisdictions trespass upon the other, and discord arise between the keeper of the public peace and the overseer of souls. But if what has been already said concerning the limits of both these governments be rightly considered, all difficulty in this matter will easily be removed.

 

23    From this explanation, it is easy to see to what end the legislative power ought to be directed and by what measures regulated; and that is toward the temporal good and outward prosperity of the society. For this is the sole reason of men's entering into society, and the only thing they seek and aim for in it. And it is also evident what liberty remains to men in reference to their eternal salvation; and that is that every one should do what he in his conscience is persuaded to be acceptable to the Almighty, on whose good pleasure and acceptance depends his eternal happiness.

 

 

Activities not Tolerated

 

24    But to come to particulars. I say, first, no opinions contrary to human society, or to those moral rules which are necessary to the preservation of civil society, are to be tolerated by the magistrate. But of these, indeed, examples in any Church are rare. For no sect can easily arrive to such a degree of madness as that it should think fit to teach as doctrines of religion such things as manifestly undermine the foundations of society and are, therefore, condemned by the judgment of all mankind; because their own interest, peace, reputation, everything would be thereby endangered.

 

25    Another more secret evil, but more dangerous to the commonwealth, is when men arrogate to themselves, and to those of their own sect, some peculiar prerogative covered over with a specious show of deceitful words, but in effect opposite to the civil right of the community. For example, we cannot find any sect that teaches, expressly and openly, that men are not obliged to keep their promise; that princes may be dethroned by those that differ from them in religion; or that the dominion of all things belongs only to themselves. For these things, proposed thus nakedly and plainly, would soon draw on them the eye and hand of the magistrate and awaken all the care of the commonwealth to a watchfulness against the spreading of so dangerous an evil.

    But, nevertheless, we find those that say the same things in other words. What else do they mean who teach that faith is not to be kept with heretics? Their meaning, in truth, is that the privilege of breaking faith belongs to themselves alone; for they declare all that are not of their communion to be heretics, or at least may declare them so whenever they think fit.

    What can be the meaning of their asserting that excommunicated kings forfeit their crowns and kingdoms? It is evident that they thereby arrogate unto themselves the power of deposing kings, because they challenge the power of excommunication, as the peculiar right of their hierarchy.

    That sovereignty is founded in grace is also an assertion by which those that maintain it do plainly lay claim to the possession of all things. For they are not so wanting to themselves as not to believe, or at least as not to profess themselves to be the truly pious and faithful.

    These, therefore, and their like, who attribute to the faithful, religious, and orthodox (that is, in plain terms, to themselves) any peculiar privilege or power above other mortals, in civil concerns—or who upon pretence of religion challenge any manner of authority over those not associated with them in their ecclesiastical communion—I say these have no right to be tolerated by the magistrate, because they will not accept and teach the duty of tolerating all men in matters of mere religion. For what do all these and the like doctrines signify, but that their adherents are ready upon any occasion to seize the Government and possess themselves of the estates and fortunes of their fellow subjects? They only ask leave to be tolerated by the magistrate until they find themselves strong enough to effect this.

 

 

Discrimination as the Source of Revolt

 

26    Just and moderate governments are everywhere quiet, everywhere safe. But oppression raises ferments and makes men struggle to cast off an uneasy and tyrannical yoke. I know that seditions are very frequently raised upon pretence of religion, but it is as true that people are frequently ill treated and live miserably because of their religion. Believe me, the revolts proceed not from any peculiar temper of this or that church or religious society, but from the common disposition of all mankind, who when they groan under any heavy burden endeavor naturally to shake off the yoke that galls their necks.

 

27    Suppose this business of religion were put aside, and that there were some other distinction made between men and men upon account of their different complexions, shapes, and features, so that those who have black hair (for example) or gray eyes should not enjoy the same privileges as other citizens. Suppose that they should not be permitted either to buy or sell, or live by their callings; that parents should not be able to govern and educate their own children; that all should either be excluded from the benefit of the laws, or be subject to partial judges. Can it be doubted that these persons, thus distinguished from others by the color of their hair and eyes, and united together by one common persecution, would be as dangerous to the magistrate as any others that had associated themselves merely upon the account of religion? Some enter into company for trade and profit, others for lack of occupation have their wine clubs. Neighborhood unites some, and religion others. But there is only one thing which gathers all people into seditious revolt, and that is oppression.

 

 

Man in a State of Nature

 

28    To understand political power right, and derive it from its original, we must consider, the original state of men in nature. That is a state of perfect freedom to choose 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. It is a state also of equality, wherein all the power and jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having more than another. There is nothing more evident than that creatures of the same species and rank, born without discrimination to all the same advantages of nature, and having the use of the same faculties, should also be equal one amongst another without subordination or subjection. .

 

29    . . . in that state, the execution of the law of nature is put into every man's hands. That is, every one has a right to punish the transgressors of that law to such a degree, as may hinder its violation. For the law of nature—as with all other laws that concern men in this world—would be in vain if nobody in the state of nature had a power to execute that law, and thereby preserve the innocent and restrain offenders. And if any one in the state of nature may punish another for any evil he has done, every one may do so. For in that state of perfect equality, where naturally there is no superiority or jurisdiction of one over another, what any may do in prosecution of that law, every one must needs have a right to do.

 

30    If man in the state of nature be so free, as has been said; if he be absolute lord of his own person and possessions, equal to the greatest, and subject to nobody, why will he part with his freedom? Why will he give up this empire, and subject himself to the dominion and control of any other power? To which the obvious answer is, that though in the state of nature he has such a right, yet the enjoyment of it is very uncertain, and constantly exposed to the invasion of others. Because all are kings as much as he is, every man is his equal. And since most of them are no strict observers of equity and justice, the enjoyment of the property he has in this state is very unsafe, very insecure. This makes him willing to quit a condition which, however free, is full of fears and continual dangers. And it is not without reason, that he seeks out, and is willing to join in, society with others who are already united (or have a mind to unite) for the mutual preservation of their lives, liberties and estates, which I call by the general name, property.

 

 

Formation of Political Society

 

31    . . . there only is political society where every one of the members has relinquished his power of the natural state and assigned it to the hands of the community in all cases that do not exclude him from appealing for protection to the its laws. And thus all private judgment by every particular member being excluded, the community becomes the umpire. It does so by settled standing rules, indifferent and the same to all parties, and by men having authority from the community for the execution of those rules. They rule on all differences that may arise between any members of that society concerning any matter of right; and they punish those offences that any member has committed against the society, with such penalties as the law has established. By this means it is easy to discern, who are, and who are not, in a political society together. 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 executor; which is, as I have shown before, the true state of nature.

 

 

Rule of the Majority

 

32    For when any number of men have, by the consent of every individual, made a community, they have thereby made that community one body, with a power to act as one body, which is only by the will and determination of the majority. Any community acts only by the consent of the individuals in it. This is necessary for one body to move one way. It is necessary that the body should move in the direction the greater force carries it, which is the consent of the majority. Otherwise it is impossible that it should act or continue as one body, one community, which the consent of every individual united into it agreed that it should. And so every one is bound by that consent to be concluded by the majority. And therefore we see that in assemblies empowered to act by positive laws, where no number is set by that positive law which empowers them, the act of the majority passes for the act of the whole and, of course, determine the power of the whole, by the law of nature and reason.

 

33    For if the consent of the majority shall not, in reason, be received as the act of the whole, and include every individual, nothing but the consent of every individual can make any thing to be the act of the whole. But such a consent is next to impossible, if we consider that illness or occupation with business in a number of people, though much less than that of a commonwealth, will necessarily keep many away from the public assembly.

    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 defense of the commonwealth from foreign injury; and all this only for the public good.

 

34    Therefore, those who leave a state of nature and unite into a community must be understood to give up all the power necessary to the ends for which they unite into society, to the majority of the community (unless they expressly agreed in any number greater than the majority). And this is done simply by agreeing to unite into one political society, which is all the compact that is, or needs to be, between the individuals that enter into or make up a commonwealth. And thus that which begins and actually constitutes any political society, is nothing but the consent of any number of freemen capable of a majority to unite and incorporate into such a society. And this is that, and that only, which did, or could give beginning to any lawful government in the world.

 

 

Opposition to Tyranny

 

35    Wherever law ends, tyranny begins, if the law is transgressed to another's harm. Whoever in authority exceeds the power given him by the law, and makes use of the force he has under his command to impose that upon the subject which the law does not allow, ceases in that to be a magistrate. Acting without authority, he may be opposed, as may any other man who by force invades the rights of another. This is acknowledged in subordinate magistrates. He that has authority to seize my person in the street may be opposed as a thief and a robber if he endeavors to break into my house to execute a writ, even if I know he has a warrant and the legal authority that empowers him to arrest me outside. And why this should not hold in the highest, as well as in the most inferior magistrate, I would gladly be informed. . . exceeding the bounds of authority is no more a right in a great, than in a petty officer; no more justifiable in a king than a constable. It is so much worse in a king, in that he has more trust put in him, has already a much greater share than the rest of his brethren, and is supposed, from the advantages of his education, employment, and counselors, to be more aware of the measures of right and wrong.

 

36    May the commands then of a prince be opposed? May he be resisted as often as any one shall find himself aggrieved, and but imagine he has not right done him? This will unhinge and overturn all political organizations and leave—instead of government and order—nothing but anarchy and confusion.

    To this I answer, that force is to be opposed to nothing but unjust and unlawful force. Whoever makes any opposition in any other case, draws on himself a just condemnation both from God and man; and so no such danger or confusion will follow. . .

 

 

Retaining or Replacing Governments

 

37    To this perhaps it will be said, that the people are ignorant, and always discontented. Therefore to lay the foundation of government in the unsteady opinion and uncertain humor of the people, is to expose it to certain ruin. That is, no government will be able to subsist long, if the people may set up a new legislative whenever they take offence at the old one. To this I answer, quite the contrary. People are not so easily got out of their old life, as some are apt to suggest. They can hardly be prevailed upon to amend the acknowledged faults in the framework they have become accustomed to. And if there are any original defects, or adventitious ones introduced by time or corruption; it is not an easy thing to get them changed, even when all the world sees there is an opportunity for it.

 

38    But it will be said, this hypothesis lays a ferment for frequent rebellion. To which I answer this way. First, it does so no more than any other hypothesis. For when the people are made miserable and find themselves exposed to the ill usage of arbitrary power, you can appeal to their supreme authority as much as you like, be they sons of Jupiter, sacred and divine, descended or authorized from heaven—appeal to whom or what you please—the same will happen. People generally ill treated and contrary to right will be ready upon any occasion to ease themselves of a burden that sits heavy upon them. They will wish and seek for any opportunity, which in the change, weakness and accidents of human affairs, seldom delays long in offering itself. He must have lived but a little while in the world who has not seen examples of this in his time. And he must have read very little, who cannot produce examples of it in all sorts of governments in the world.

 

39    Secondly, I answer, such revolutions do not happen upon every little mismanagement in public affairs. Great mistakes by the ruling party, many wrong and inconvenient laws, and all the slips of human frailty, will be born by the people without mutiny or murmur. But it is a different matter when a long train of abuses, prevarications and artifices, all tending the same way, make the design visible to the people, and they cannot but recognize what oppresses them and see where they are going. Then, it is not to be wondered that they should rouse themselves, and endeavor to put the rule into such hands which may secure to them the ends for which government was at first erected. . .

 

40    Thirdly, I answer, that this doctrine of a power in the people of providing for their safety anew by a new legislative, when their legislators have acted contrary to their trust by invading their property, is the best fence against rebellion. It is the most probable means to hinder it: for rebellion being an opposition, not to persons, but authority, which is founded only in the constitutions and laws of the government, those, whoever they be, who by force break through, and by force justify their violation of them, are truly and properly rebels. For when men, by entering into society and civil-government, have excluded force, and introduced laws for the preservation of property, peace, and unity amongst themselves, those who set up force again in opposition to the laws, do revolt, that is, bring back again the state of war, and are properly rebels. As those who are in power, (by the pretence they have to authority, the temptation of force they have in their hands, and the flattery of those about them) being likeliest to do; the most proper way to prevent the evil, is to show them the danger and injustice of it, who are under the greatest temptation to run into it.

 

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

        

       

Appendix: The English Bill of Rights

   

   

 

Sources

 

1-27    Adapted from A Letter Concerning Toleration, by John Locke, translated by William Popple.

 

28-41  Adapted from Concerning Civil Government, Second Essay, by John Locke, translated by William Popple.

 

An on-line version of A Letter Concerning Toleration is provided at the Electronic Text Center of the University of Michigan.

 

An on-line version of Locke's Second Treatise on Government is provided at the Liberty Library of Constitutional Classics.

 

An on-line version of Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding is provided by Oregon State University.

 

Introduction and adaptation of  extracts Copyright © Rex Pay 2003