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Title: Second Treatise of Government

Author: John Locke

Posting Date: July 28, 2010 [EBook #7370]

Release Date: January, 2005

[Last updated: January 6, 2014]

Language: English


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1764 EDITOR’S NOTE The present Edition of this Book has not only been collated with the first three Editions, which were published during the Author’s Life, but also has the Advantage of his last Corrections and Improvements, from a Copy delivered by him to Mr. Peter Coste, communicated to the Editor, and now lodged in Christ College, Cambridge.


Reader, thou hast here the beginning and end of a discourse concerning government; what fate has otherwise disposed of the papers that should have filled up the middle, and were more than all the rest, it is not worth while to tell thee. These, which remain, I hope are sufficient to establish the throne of our great restorer, our present King William; to make good his title, in the consent of the people, which being the only one of all lawful governments, he has more fully and clearly, than any prince in Christendom; and to justify to the world the people of England, whose love of their just and natural rights, with their resolution to preserve them, saved the nation when it was on the very brink of slavery and ruin.

If these papers have that evidence, I flatter myself is to be found in them, there will be no great miss of those which are lost, and my reader may be satisfied without them: for I imagine, I shall have neither the time, nor inclination to repeat my pains, and fill up the wanting part of my answer, by tracing Sir Robert again, through all the windings and obscurities, which are to be met with in the several branches of his wonderful system.

The king, and body of the nation, have since so thoroughly confuted his Hypothesis, that I suppose no body hereafter will have either the confidence to appear against our common safety, and be again an advocate for slavery; or the weakness to be deceived with contradictions dressed up in a popular stile, and well-turned periods: for if any one will be at the pains, himself, in those parts, which are here untouched, to strip Sir Robert’s discourses of the flourish of doubtful expressions, and endeavor to reduce his words to direct, positive, intelligible propositions, and then compare them one with another, he will quickly be satisfied, there was never so much glib nonsense put together in well-sounding English.

If he think it not worth while to examine his works all thro’, let him make an experiment in that part, where he treats of usurpation; and let him try, whether he can, with all his skill, make Sir Robert intelligible, and consistent with himself, or common sense. I should not speak so plainly of a gentleman, long since past answering, had not the pulpit, of late years, publicly owned his doctrine, and made it the current divinity of the times.

It is necessary those men, who taking on them to be teachers, have so dangerously misled others, should be openly shewed of what authority this their Patriarch is, whom they have so blindly followed, that so they may either retract what upon so ill grounds they have vented, and cannot be maintained; or else justify those principles which they preached up for gospel; though they had no better an author than an English courtier: for I should not have writ against Sir Robert, or taken the pains to shew his mistakes, inconsistencies, and want of (what he so much boasts of, and pretends wholly to build on) scripture-proofs, were there not men among us,who, by crying up his books, and espousing his doctrine, save me from the reproach of writing against a dead adversary.

They have been so zealous in this point, that, if I have done him any wrong, I cannot hope they should spare me. I wish, where they have done the truth and the public wrong, they would be as ready to redress it, and allow its just weight to this reflection, viz. that there cannot be done a greater mischief to prince and people, than the propagating wrong notions concerning government; that so at last all times might not have reason to complain of the Drum Ecclesiastic. If any one, concerned really for truth, undertake the confutation of my Hypothesis, I promise him either to recant my mistake, upon fair conviction; or to answer his difficulties. But he must remember two things.

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

Secondly, That I shall not take railing for arguments, nor think either of these worth my notice, though I shall always look on myself as bound to give satisfaction to any one, who shall appear to be conscientiously scrupulous in the point, and shall shew any just grounds for his scruples.

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

Book II



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

That Adam had not, either by natural right of fatherhood, or by positive donation from God, any such authority over his children, or dominion over the world, as is pretended: That if he had, his heirs, yet, had no right to it:

That if his heirs had, there being no law of nature nor positive law of God that determines which is the right heir in all cases that may arise, the right of succession, and consequently of bearing rule, could not have been certainly determined:

That if even that had been determined, yet the knowledge of which is the eldest line of Adam’s posterity, being so long since utterly lost, that in the races of mankind and families of the world, there remains not to one above another, the least pretense to be the eldest house, and to have the right of inheritance:

All these premises having, as I think, been clearly made out, it is impossible that the rulers now on earth should make any benefit, or derive any the least shadow of authority from that, which is held to be the fountain of all power, Adam’s private dominion and paternal jurisdiction; so that he that will not give just occasion to think that all government in the world is the product only of force and violence, and that men live together by no other rules but that of beasts, where the strongest carries it, and so lay a foundation for perpetual disorder and mischief, tumult, sedition and rebellion, (things that the followers of that hypothesis so loudly cry out against) must of necessity find out another rise of government, another original of political power, and another way of designing and knowing the persons that have it, than what Sir Robert Filmer hath taught us.

Sect. 2. To this purpose, I think it may not be amiss, to set down what I take to be political power; that the power of a MAGISTRATE over a subject may be distinguished from that of a FATHER over his children, a MASTER over his servant, a HUSBAND over his wife, and a LORD over his slave. All which distinct powers happening sometimes together in the same man, if he be considered under these different relations, it may help us to distinguish these powers one from wealth, a father of a family, and a captain of a galley.

Sect. 3. 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.



Sect. 4. TO understand political power right, and derive it from its original, we must consider, what state all men are naturally in, 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, or depending upon the will of any other man.

A state also of equality, wherein all the power and jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having more than another; there being nothing more evident, than that creatures of the same species and rank, promiscuously born to all the same advantages of nature, and the use of the same faculties, should also be equal one amongst another without subordination or subjection, unless the lord and master of them all should, by any manifest declaration of his will, set one above another, and confer on him, by an evident and clear appointment, an undoubted right to dominion and sovereignty.

Sect. 5. This equality of men by nature, the judicious Hooker looks upon as so evident in itself, and beyond all question, that he makes it the foundation of that obligation to mutual love among men, on which he builds the duties they owe one another, and from whence he derives the great maxims of justice and charity. His words are,

The like natural inducement hath brought men to know that it is no  less their duty, to love others than themselves; for seeing those things which are equal, must needs all have one measure; if I cannot 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 have any part of my desire herein satisfied, unless myself be careful to satisfy the like desire, which is undoubtedly in other men, being of one and the same nature?

To have any thing offered them repugnant to this desire, must needs in all respects grieve them as much as me; so that if I do harm, I must look to suffer, there being no reason that others should shew greater measure of love to me, than they have by me shewed unto them: my desire therefore to be loved of my equals in nature as much as possible may be, imposeth upon me a natural duty of bearing to them-ward fully the like affection; from which relation of equality between ourselves and them that are as ourselves, what several rules and canons natural reason hath drawn, for direction of life, no man is ignorant, Eccl. Pol. Lib. 1.

Sect. 6. But though this be a state of liberty, yet it is not a state of license: though man in that state have an uncontrollable liberty to dispose of his person or possessions, yet he has not liberty to destroy himself, or so much as any creature in his possession, but where some nobler use than its bare preservation calls 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 all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions: for men being all the workmanship of one omnipotent, and infinitely wise maker; all the servants of one sovereign master, sent into the world by his order, and about his business; they are his property, whose workmanship they are, made to last during his, not one another’s pleasure: and being furnished with like faculties, sharing all in one community of nature, there cannot be supposed any such subordination among us, that may authorize us to destroy one another, as if we were made for one another’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 his station willfully, so by the like reason, when his own preservation comes not in competition, ought he, as much as he can, to preserve the rest of mankind, and may not, unless it be to do justice on an offender, take away, or impair the life, or what tends to the preservation of the life, the liberty, health, limb, or goods of another.

Sect. 7. And that all men may be restrained from invading others rights, and from doing hurt to one another, and the law of nature be observed, which willeth the peace and preservation of all mankind, the execution of the law of nature is, in that state, put into every man’s hands, whereby 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 would, as all other laws that concern men in this world ‘be in vain, if there were no body that 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.

Sect. 8. And thus, in the state of nature, one man comes by a power over another; but yet no absolute or arbitrary power, to use a criminal, when he has got him in his hands, according to the passionate heats, or boundless extravagancy of his own will; but only to retribute to him, sofar as calm reason and conscience dictate, what is proportionate to his transgression, which is so much as may serve for reparation and restraint: for these two are the only reasons, why one man may lawfully do harm to another, which is that we call punishment.

In transgressing the law of nature, the offender declares himself to live by another rule than that of reason and common equity, which is that measure God has set to the actions of men, for their mutual security; and so he becomes dangerous to mankind, the tie, which is to secure them from injury and violence, being slighted and broken by him. Which being a trespass against the whole species, and the peace and safety of it, provided for by the law of nature, every man upon this score, by the right he hath to preserve mankind in general, may restrain, or where it is necessary, destroy things noxious to them, and so may bring such evil on any one, who hath transgressed that law, as may make him repent the doing of it, and thereby deter him, and by his example others, from doing the like mischief. And in the case, and upon 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 doctrine to some men: but before they condemn it, I desire them to resolve me, by what right any prince or state can put to death, or punish an alien, for any crime he commits in their country. It is certain their laws, by virtue of any sanction they receive from the promulgated will of the legislative, reach not a stranger: they speak not to him, nor, if they did, is he bound to hearken to them. The legislative authority, by which they are in force over the subjects of that commonwealth, hath no power over him. Those who have the supreme power of making laws in England, France or Holland, are to an Indian, but like the rest of the world, men without authority: and therefore, if by the law of nature every man hath not a power to punish offenses against it, as he soberly judges the case to require, I see not how the magistrates of any community can punish an alien of another country; since, in reference to him, they can have no more power than what every man naturally 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 far becomes degenerate, and declares himself to quit the principles of human nature, and to be a noxious creature, there is commonly injury done to some person or other, and some other man receives damage by his transgression: in which case he who hath received any damage, has, besides the right of punishment common to him with other men, a particular right to seek reparation from him that has done it: and any other person, who finds it just, may also join with him that is injured, and assist him in recovering from the offender so much as may make satisfaction for the harm he has suffered.

Sect. 11. From these two distinct rights, the one of punishing the crime for restraint, and preventing the like offence, which right of punishing is in every body; the other of taking reparation, which belongs only to the injured party, comes it to pass that the magistrate, who by being magistrate hath the common right of punishing put into his hands, can often, where the public good demands not the execution of the law, remit the punishment of criminal offenses by his own authority, but yet cannot remit the satisfaction due to any private man for the damage he has received.

That, he who has suffered the damage has a right to demand in his own name, and he alone can remit: the damnified person has this power of appropriating to himself the goods or service of the offender, by right of self-preservation, as every man has a power to punish the crime, to prevent its being committed again, by the right he has of preserving all mankind, and doing all reasonable things 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 to deter others from doing the like injury, which no reparation can compensate, by the example of the punishment that attends it from every body, and also to secure men from the attempts of a criminal, who having renounced reason, the common rule and measure God hath given to mankind, hath, by the unjust violence and slaughter he hath committed upon one, declared war against all mankind, and therefore may be destroyed as a lion or a tiger, one of those wild savage beasts, with whom men can have no society nor security: and upon this is grounded that great law of nature, Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed. And Cain was so fully convinced, that every one had a right to destroy such a criminal, that after the murder of his brother, he cries out, Every one that findeth me, shall slay me; so plain was it writ in the hearts of all mankind.

Sect. 12. By the same reason may a man in the state of nature punish the lesser breaches of that law. It will perhaps be demanded, with death? I answer, each transgression may be punished to that degree, and with so much severity, as will suffice to make it an ill bargain to the offender, give him cause to repent, and terrify others from doing the like.

Every offence, that can be committed in the state of nature, may in the state of nature be also punished equally, and as far forth as it may, in a commonwealth: for though it would be besides my present purpose, to enter here into the particulars of the law of nature, or its measures of punishment; yet, it is certain there is such a law, and that too, as intelligible and plain to a rational creature, and a studier of that law, as the positive laws of commonwealths; nay, possibly plainer; as much as reason is easier to be understood, than the fancies and intricate contrivances of men, following contrary and hidden interests put into words; for so truly are a great part of the municipal laws of countries, which are only so far right, as they are founded on the law of nature, by which they are to be regulated and interpreted.

Sect. 13. To this strange doctrine, viz. That in the state of nature every one has the executive power of the law of nature, I doubt not but it will be objected, that it is unreasonable for men to be judges in their own cases, that self-love will make men partial to themselves and their friends: and on the other side, that ill nature, passion and revenge will carry them too far in punishing others; and hence nothingbut confusion and disorder will follow, and that therefore God hath certainly appointed government to restrain the partiality and violence of men.

I easily grant, that civil government is the proper remedy for the inconveniencies of the state of nature, which must certainly be great, where men may 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, will scarce be so just as to condemn himself for it: but I shall desire those who make this objection, to remember, that absolute monarchs are but men; and if government is to be the remedy of those evils, which necessarily follow from men’s being judges in their own cases, and the state of nature is therefore not to be endured, I desire to know what kind of government that is, and how much better it is than the state of nature, where one man, commanding a multitude, has the liberty to be judge in his own case, and may do to all his subjects whatever he pleases, without the least liberty to any one to question or control those who execute his pleasure? and in whatsoever he doth, whether led by reason, mistake or passion, must be submitted to? much better it is in the state of nature, wherein men are not bound to submit to the unjust will of another: and if he that judges, judges amiss in his own, or any other case, he is answerable for it to the rest of mankind.

Sect. 14. It is often asked as a mighty objection, where are, or ever were there any men in such a state of nature? To which it may suffice as an answer at present, that since all princes and rulers of independent governments all through the world, are in a state of nature, it is plain the world never was, nor ever will be, without numbers of men in that state.

I have named all governors of independent communities, whether they are, or are not, in league with others: for it is not every compact that puts an end to the state of nature between men, but only this one of agreeing together mutually to enter into one community, and make one body politic; other promises, and compacts, men may make one with another, and yet still be in the state of nature.

The promises and bargains for truck, &c. between the two men in the desert island, mentioned by Garcilasso de la Vega, in his history of Peru; or between a Swiss and an Indian, in the woods of America, are binding to them, though they are perfectly in a state of nature, in reference to one another: for truth and keeping of faith belongs to men, as men, and not as members of society.

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

The laws which have been hitherto mentioned, i.e. the laws of nature, do bind men absolutely, even as they are men, although they have never any settled fellowship, never any solemn agreement amongst themselves what to do, or not to do: but for asmuch as we are not by ourselves sufficient to furnish ourselves with competent store of things, needful for such a life as our nature doth desire, a life fit for the dignity of man; therefore to supply those defects and imperfections which are in us, as living single and solely by ourselves, we are naturally induced to seek communion and fellowship with others: this was the cause of men’s uniting themselves 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 themselves members of some politic society; and I doubt not in the sequel of this 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 and hasty, but a sedate settled design upon another man’s life, puts him in a state of war with him against whom he has declared such an intention, and so has exposed his life to the other’s power to be taken away by him, or any one that joins with him in his defence, and espouses his quarrel; it being reasonable and just, I should have a right to destroy that which threatens me with destruction: for, by the fundamental law of nature, man being to be preserved as much as possible, when all cannot be preserved, the safety of the innocent is to be preferred: and one may destroy a man who makes war upon him, or has discovered an enmity to his being, for the same reason that he may kill a wolf or a lion; becausesuch men are not under the ties of the common law of reason, have no other rule, but that of force and violence, and so may be treated asbeasts of prey, those dangerous and noxious creatures, that will be sure to destroy him whenever he falls into their power.

Sect. 17. And hence it is, that he who attempts to get another man into his absolute power, does thereby put himself into a state of war with him; it being to be understood as a declaration of a design upon his life: for I have reason to conclude, that he who would get me into his power without my consent, would use me as he pleased when he had got me there, and destroy me too when he had a fancy to it; for no body can desire to have me in his absolute power, unless it be to compel me by force to that which is against the right of my freedom, i.e. make me a slave. To be free from such force is the only security of my preservation; and reason bids me look on him, as an enemy to my preservation, who would take away that freedom which is the fence to it; so that he who makes an attempt to enslave me, thereby puts himself into a state of war with me.

He that, in the state of nature, would take away the freedom that belongs to any one in that state, must necessarily be supposed to have a design to take away every thing else, that freedom being the foundation of all the rest; as he that, in the state of society, would take away the freedom belonging to those of that society or commonwealth, must be supposed to design to take away from them every thing else, and so be looked on as in a state of war.

Sect. 18. This makes it lawful for a man to kill a thief, who has not in the least hurt him, nor declared any design upon his life, any farther than, by the use of force, so to get him in his power, as to take away his money, or what he pleases, from him; because using force, where he has no right, to get me into his power, let his pretense be what it will, I have no reason to suppose, that he, who would take away my liberty, would not, when he had me in his power, take away every thing else.

And therefore it is lawful for me to treat him as one who has put himself into a state of war with me, i.e. kill him if I can; for to that hazard does 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 the state of nature and the state of war, which however some men have confounded, 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 living together according to reason, without a common superior on earth, with authority to judge between them, is properly the state of nature. But force, or a declared design of force, upon the person of another, where there is no common superior on earth to appeal to for relief, is the state of war: and it is the want of such an appeal 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 cannot harm, but by appeal to the law, for having stolen all that I am worth, I may kill, when he sets on me to rob me but of my horse or coat; because the law, which was made for my preservation, where it cannot interpose to secure my life from present force, which, if lost, is capable of no reparation, permits me my own defense, and the right of war, a liberty to kill the aggressor, because the aggressor allows not time to appeal to our common judge, nor the decision of the law, formerly in a case where the mischief may be irreparable.

Want of a common judge with authority, puts all men in a state of nature: force without right, upon a man’s person, makes a state of war, both where there is,and is not, a common judge.

Sect. 20. But when the actual force is over, the state of war ceases between those that are in society, and are equally on both sides subjected to the fair determination of the law; because then there lies open the remedy of appeal for the past injury, and to prevent future harm: but where no such appeal is, as in the state of nature, for want of positive laws, and judges with authority to appeal to, the state of war once begun, continues, with a right to the innocent party to destroy the other whenever he can, until the aggressor offers peace, and desires reconciliation on such terms as may repair any wrongs he has already done, and secure the innocent for the future; nay, where an appeal to the law, and constituted judges, lies open, but the remedy is denied by a manifest perverting of justice, and a barefaced wresting of the laws to protect or indemnify the violence or injuries of some men, or party of men, there it is hard to imagine any thing but a state of war: for wherever violence is used, and injury done, though by hands appointed to administer justice, it is still violence and injury, however colored with the name, pretenses, or forms of law, the end whereof being to protect and redress the innocent, by an unbiased application of it, to all who are under it; wherever that is not bona fide done, war is made upon the sufferers, who having no appeal on earth to right them, they are left to the only remedy in such cases, an appeal to heaven.

Sect. 21. To avoid this state of war (wherein there is no appeal but to heaven, and wherein every the least difference is apt to end, where there is no authority to decide between the contenders) is one great reason of men’s putting themselves into society, and quitting the state of nature: for where there is an authority, a power on earth, from which relief can be had by appeal, there the continuance of the state of war is excluded, and the controversy is decided by that power. Had there been any such court, any superior jurisdiction on earth, to determine the right between Jephtha and the Ammonites, they had never come to a state of war: but we see he was forced to appeal to heaven.

The Lord the Judge (says he) be judge this day between the children of Israel and the children of Ammon, Judg. xi. 27. and then prosecuting, and relying on his appeal, he leads out his army to battle: and therefore in such controversies, where the question is put, who shall be judge? It cannot be meant, who shall decide the controversy; every one knows what 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 another hath put himself in a state of war with me, and whether I may, as Jephtha did, appeal to heaven in it? of that I myself can only be judge in my own conscience, as I will answer it, at the great day, to the supreme judge of all men.



Sect. 22. THE natural liberty of man is to be free from any superior power on earth, and not to be under the will or legislative authority of man, but to have only the law of nature for his rule. The liberty of man, in society, is to be under no other legislative power, but that established, by consent, in the commonwealth; nor under the dominion of any will, or restraint of any law, but what that legislative shall enact, according to the trust put in it. Freedom then is not what Sir Robert Filmer tells us, Observations, A. 55. a liberty for every one to do what he lists, to live as he pleases, and not to be tied by any laws: but freedom of men under government is, to have a standing rule to live by, common to every one of that society, and made by the legislative power erected in it; a liberty to follow my own will in all things, where the rule prescribes not; and not to be subject to the inconstant, uncertain, unknown, arbitrary will of another man: as freedom of nature is, to be under no other restraint but the law of nature.

Sect. 23. This freedom from absolute, arbitrary power, is so necessary to, and closely joined with a man’s preservation, that he cannot part with it, but by what forfeits his preservation and life together: for a man, not having the power of his own life, cannot, by compact, or his own consent, enslave himself to any one, nor put himself under the absolute, arbitrary power of another, to take away his life, when he pleases. No body can give more power than he has himself; and he that cannot take away his own life, cannot give another power over it.

Indeed, having by his fault forfeited his own life, by some act that deserves death; he, to whom he has forfeited it, may (when he has him in his power) delay to take it, and make use of him to his own service, and he does him no injury by it: for, whenever he finds the hardship of his slavery outweigh the value of his life, it is in his power, by resisting the will of his master, to draw on himself the death he desires.

Sect. 24. This is the perfect condition of slavery, which is nothing else, but the state of war continued, between a lawful conqueror and a captive: for, if once compact enter between them, and make an agreement for a limited power on the one side, and obedience on the other, the state of war and slavery ceases, as long as the compact endures: for, as has been said, no man can, by agreement, pass over to another that which he hath not in himself, a power over his own life.

I confess, we find among the Jews, as well as other nations, that men did sell themselves; but, it is plain, this was only to drudgery, not to slavery: for, it is evident, the person sold was not under an absolute,arbitrary, despotic power: for the master could not have power to kill him, at any time, whom, at a certain time, he was obliged to let go free out of his service; and the master of such a servant was so far from having an arbitrary power over his life, that he could not, at pleasure, so much as maim him, but the loss of an eye, or tooth, set him free,



Sect. 25. Whether we consider natural reason, which tells us, that men, being once born, have a right to their preservation, and consequently to meat and drink, and such other things as nature affords for their subsistence: or revelation, which gives us an account of those grants God made of the world to Adam, and to Noah, and his sons, it is very clear, that God, as king David says, Psal. cxv. 16. has given the earth to the children of men; given it to mankind in common. But this being supposed, it seems to some a very great difficulty, how any one should ever come to have a property in any thing: I will not content myself to answer, that if it be difficult to make out property, upon a supposition that God gave the world to Adam, and his posterity in common, it is impossible that any man, but one universal monarch, should have any property upon a supposition, that God gave the world to Adam, and his heirs in succession, exclusive of all the rest of his posterity.

But I shall endeavor to shew, how men might come to have a property in several parts of that which God gave to mankind in common, and that without any express compact of all the commoners.

Sect. 26. God, who hath given the world to men in common, hath also given them reason to make use of it to the best advantage of life, and convenience. The earth, and all that is therein, is given to men for the support and comfort of their being. And tho’ all the fruits it naturally produces, and beasts it feeds, belong to mankind in common, as they are produced by the spontaneous hand of nature; and no body has originally a private dominion, exclusive of the rest of mankind, in any of them, as they are thus in their natural state: yet being given for the use of men, there must of necessity be a means to appropriate them some way or other, before they can be of any use, or at all beneficial to any particular man.

The fruit, or venison, which nourishes the wild Indian, who knows no enclosure, and is still a tenant in common, must be his, and so his, i.e. a part of him, that another can no longer have any right to it, before it can do him any good for the support of his life.

Sect. 27. Though the earth, and all inferior creatures, be common to all men, yet every man has a property in his own person: this no body has any right to but himself. The labor of his body, and the work of his hands, we may say, are properly his. Whatsoever then he removes out of the state that nature hath provided, and left it in, he hath mixed his labor with, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property. It being by him removed from the common state nature hath placed it in, it hath by this labor something annexed to it, that excludes the common right of other men: for this labor being the unquestionable property of the laborer, no man but he can have a right to what that is once joined to, at least where there is enough,and as good, left in common for others.

Sect. 28. He that is nourished by the acorns he picked up under an oak, or the apples he gathered from the trees in the wood, has certainly appropriated them to himself. No body can deny but the nourishment is his. I ask then, when did they begin to be his? when he digested? or when he eat? or when he boiled? or when he brought them home? or when he picked them up? and it is plain, if the first gathering made them not his, nothing else could. That labor put a distinction between them and common: that added something to them more than nature, the common mother of all, had done; and so they became his private right. And will any one say, he had no right to those acorns or apples, he thus appropriated, because he had not the consent of all mankind to make them his? Was it a robbery thus to assume to himself what belonged to all in common?

If such a consent as that was necessary, man had starved, notwithstanding the plenty God had given him. We see in commons, which remain so by compact, that it is the taking any part of what is common, and removing it out of the state nature leaves it in, which begins the property; without which the common is of no use. And the taking of this or that part, does not depend on the express consent of all the commoners.

Thus the grass my horse has bit; the turfs my servant has cut; and the ore I have digged in any place, where I have a right to them in common with others, become my property, without the assignation or consent of anybody. The labor that was mine, removing them out of that common state they were in, hath fixed my property in them.

Sect. 29. By making an explicit consent of every commoner, necessary to any one’s appropriating to himself any part of what is given in common, children or servants could not cut the meat, which their father or master had provided for them in common, without assigning to every one his peculiar part. Though the water running in the fountain be every one’s, yet who can doubt, but that in the pitcher is his only who drew it out? His labor hath taken it out of the hands of nature, where it was common, and belonged equally to all her children, and hath thereby appropriated it to himself.

Sect. 30. Thus this law of reason makes the deer that Indian’s who hath killed it; it is allowed to be his goods, who hath bestowed his labor upon it, though before it was the common right of every one. And among those who are counted the civilized part of mankind, who have made and multiplied positive laws to determine property, this original law of nature, for the beginning of property, in what was before common, still takes place; and by virtue thereof, what fish any one catches in the ocean, that great and still remaining common of mankind; or what ambergris any one takes up here, is by the labor that removes it out of that common state nature left it in, made his property, who takes that pains about it. And even among us, the hare that any one is hunting, is thought his who pursues her during the chase: for being a beast that is still looked upon as common, and no man’s private possession; whoever has employed so much labor about any of that kind, as to find and pursue her, has thereby removed her from the state of nature, wherein she was common, and hath begun a property.

Sect. 31. It will perhaps be objected to this, that if gathering the acorns, or other fruits of the earth, &c. makes a right to them, then any one may in gross as much as he will. To which I answer, Not so. The same law of nature, that does by this means give us property, does also bound that property too. God has given us all things richly, 1 Tim. vi. 12. is the voice of reason confirmed by inspiration. But how far has he given it us? To enjoy. As much as any one can make use of to any advantage of life before it spoils, so much he may by his labor fix a property in: whatever is beyond this, is more than his share, and belongs to others. Nothing was made by God for man to spoil or destroy.

And thus, considering the plenty of natural provisions there was a long time in the world, and the few spenders; and to how small a part of that provision the industry of one man could extend itself, and ingross it to the prejudice of others; especially keeping within the bounds, set by reason, of what might serve for his use; there could be then little room for quarrels or contentions about property so established.

Sect. 32. But the chief matter of property being now not the fruits of the earth, and the beasts that subsist on it, but the earth itself; as that which takes in and carries with it all the rest; I think it is plain, that property in that too is acquired as the former. As much land as a man tills, plants, improves, cultivates, and can use the product of, so much is his property. He by his labor does, as it were, inclose it from the common. Nor will it invalidate his right, to say every body else has an equal title to it; and therefore he cannot appropriate, he cannot inclose, without the consent of all his fellow-commoners, all mankind. God, when he gave the world in common to all mankind, commanded man also to labor, and the penury of his condition required it of him.

God and his reason commanded him to subdue the earth, i.e. improve it for the benefit of life, and therein lay out something upon it that was his own, his labor. He that in obedience to this command of God, subdued, tilled and sowed any part of it, thereby annexed to it something that was his property, which another had no title to, nor could without injury take from him.

Sect. 33. Nor was this appropriation of any parcel of land, by improving it, any prejudice to any other man, since there was still enough, and as good left; and more than the yet unprovided could use. So that, in effect, there was never the less left for others because of his enclosure for himself: for he that leaves as much as another can make use of, does as good as take nothing at all.

No body could think himself injured by the drinking of another man, though he took a good draught, who had a whole river of the same water left him to quench his thirst: and the case of land and water, where there is enough of both, is perfectly the same.

Sect. 34. God gave the world to men in common; but since he gave it them for their benefit, and the greatest conveniences of life they were capable to draw from it, it cannot be supposed he meant it should always remain common and uncultivated. He gave it to the use of the industrious and rational, (and labor was to be his title to it;) not to the fancy or covetousness of the quarrelsome and contentious.

He that had as good left for his improvement, as was already taken up, needed not complain,

ought not to meddle with what was already improved by another s labor: if he did, it is plain he desired the benefit of another s pains, which he had no right to, and not the ground which God had given him in common with others to labor on, and whereof there was as good left, as that already possessed, and more than he knew what to do with, or his industry could reach to.

Sect. 35. It is true, in land that is common in England, or any other country, where there is plenty of people under government, who have money and commerce, no one can inclose or appropriate any part, without the consent of all his fellow-commoners; because this is left common by compact, i.e. by the law of the land, which is not to be violated. And though it be common, in respect of some men, it is not so to all mankind; but is the joint property of this country, or this parish.

Besides, the remainder, after such enclosure, would not be as good to the rest of the commoners, as the whole was when they could all make use of the whole; whereas in the beginning and first peopling of the great common of the world, it was quite otherwise. The law man was under, was rather for appropriating. God commanded, and his wants forced him to labor.

That was his property which could not be taken from him where-ever he had fixed it. And hence subduing or cultivating the earth, and having dominion, we see are joined together. The one gave title to the other. So that God, by commanding to subdue, gave authority so far to appropriate: and the condition of human life, which requires labor and materials to work on, necessarily introduces private possessions.

Sect. 36. The measure of property nature has well set by the extent of men’s labor and the conveniences of life: no man’s labor could subdue, or appropriate all; nor could his enjoyment consume more than a small part; so that it was impossible for any man, this way, to intrench upon the right of another, or acquire to himself a property, to the prejudice of his neighbor, who would still have room for as good, and as large a possession (after the other had taken out his) as before it was appropriated.

This measure did confine every man’s possession to a very moderate proportion, and such as he might appropriate to himself, without injury to any body, in the first ages of the world, when men were more in danger to be lost, by wandering from their company, in the then vast wilderness of the earth, than to be straitened for want of room to plant in. And the same measure may be allowed still without prejudice to any body, as full as the world seems: for supposing a man, or family, in the state they were at first peopling of the world by the children of Adam, or Noah; let him plant in some inland, vacant places of America, we shall find that the possessions he could make himself, upon the measures we have given, would not be very large, nor, even to this day, prejudice the rest of mankind, or give them reason to complain, or think themselves injured by this man’s encroachment, though the race of men have now spread themselves to all the corners of the world, and do infinitely exceed the small number was at the beginning.

Nay, the extent of ground is of so little value, without labor, that I have heard it affirmed, that in Spain itself a man may be permitted to plow, sow and reap, without being disturbed, upon land he has no other title to, but only his making use of it. But, on the contrary, the inhabitants think themselves beholden to him, who, by his industry on neglected, and consequently waste land, has increased the stock of corn, which they wanted. But be this as it will, which I lay no stress on; this I dare boldly affirm, that the same rule of propriety, (viz.) that every man should have as much as he could make use of, would hold still in the world, without straitening any body; since there is land enough in the world to suffice double the inhabitants, had not the invention of money, and the tacit agreement of men to put a value on it, introduced (by consent) larger possessions, and a right to them; which, how it has done, I shall by and by shew more at large.

Sect. 37. This is certain, that in the beginning, before the desire of having more than man needed had altered the intrinsic value of things, which depends only on their usefulness to the life of man; or had agreed, that a little piece of yellow metal, which would keep without wasting or decay, should be worth a great piece of flesh, or a whole heap of corn; though men had a right to appropriate, by their labor,each one of himself, as much of the things of nature, as he could use: yet this could not be much, nor to the prejudice of others, where the same plenty was still left to those who would use the same industry.

To which let me add, that he who appropriates land to himself by his labor, does not lessen, but increase the common stock of mankind: for the provisions serving to the support of human life, produced by one acre of inclosed and cultivated land, are (to speak much within compass) ten times more than those which are yielded by an acre of land of an equal richness lying waste in common. And therefore he that incloses land, and has a greater plenty of the conveniences of life from ten acres, than he could have from an hundred left to nature, may truly be said to give ninety acres to mankind: for his labor now supplies him with provisions out of ten acres, which were but the product of an hundred lying in common. I have here rated the improved land very low, in making its product but as ten to one, when it is much nearer an hundred to one: for I ask, whether in the wild woods and uncultivated waste of America, left to nature, without any improvement, tillage or husbandry, a thousand acres yield the needy and wretched inhabitants as many conveniences of life, as ten acres of equally fertile land do in Devonshire, where they are well cultivated?

Before the appropriation of land, he who gathered as much of the wild fruit, killed, caught, or tamed, as many of the beasts, as he could; he that so employed his pains about any of the spontaneous products of nature, as any way to alter them from the state which nature put them in, by placing any of his labor on them, did thereby acquire a propriety in them: but if they perished, in his possession, without their due use; if the fruits rotted, or the venison putrefied, before he could spend it, he offended against the common law of nature, and was liable to be punished; he invaded his neighbor’s share, for he had no right, farther than his use called for any of them, and they might serve to afford him conveniences of life.

Sect. 38. The same measures governed the possession of land too:whatsoever he tilled and reaped, laid up and made use of, before it spoiled, that was his peculiar right; whatsoever he enclosed, and could feed, and make use of, the cattle and product was also his. But if either the grass of his enclosure rotted on the ground, or the fruit of his planting perished without gathering, and laying up, this part of the earth, notwithstanding his enclosure, was still to be looked on as waste, and might be the possession of any other.

Thus, at the beginning, Cain might take as much ground as he could till, and make it his own land, and yet leave enough to Abel’s sheep to feed on; a few acres would serve for both their possessions. But as families increased, and industry inlarged their stocks, their possessions inlarged with the need of them; but yet it was commonly without any fixed property in the ground they made use of, till they incorporated, settled themselves together, and built cities; and then, by consent, they came in time, to set out the bounds of their distinct territories, and agree on limits between them and their neighbors; and by laws within themselves, settled the properties of those of the same society: for we see, that in that part of the world which was first inhabited, and therefore like to be best peopled, even as low down as Abraham’s time, they wandered with their flocks, and their herds, which was their substance, freely up and down; and this Abraham did, in a country where he was a stranger.

Whence it is plain, that at least a great part of the land lay in common; that the inhabitants valued it not, nor claimed property in any more than they made use of. But when there was not room enough in the same place, for their herds to feed together, they by consent, as Abraham and Lot did, Gen. xiii. 5. separated and enlarged their pasture, where it best liked them. And for the same reason Esau went from his father, and his brother, and planted in mount Seir, Gen. xxxvi. 6.

Sect. 39. And thus, without supposing any private dominion, and property in Adam, over all the world, exclusive of all other men, which can no way be proved, nor any one’s property be made out from it; but supposing the world given, as it was, to the children of men in common, we see how labor could make men distinct titles to several parcels of it, for their private uses; wherein there could be no doubt of right, no room for quarrel.

Sect. 40. Nor is it so strange, as perhaps before consideration it may appear, that the property of labor should be able to over-balance the community of land: for it is labor indeed that puts the difference of value on every thing; and let any one consider what the difference is between an acre of land planted with tobacco or sugar, sown with wheat or barley, and an acre of the same land lying in common, without any husbandry upon it, and he will find, that the improvement of labor makes the far greater part of the value. I think it will be but a very modest computation to say, that of the products of the earth useful to the life of man nine tenths are the effects of labor: nay, if we will rightly estimate things as they come to our use, and cast up the several expenses about them, what in them is purely owing to nature, and what to labor, we shall find, that in most of them ninety-nine hundredths are wholly to be put on the account of labor.

Sect. 41. There cannot be a clearer demonstration of any thing, than several nations of the Americans are of this, who are rich in land, and poor in all the comforts of life; whom nature having furnished as liberally as any other people, with the materials of plenty, i.e. a fruitful soil, apt to produce in abundance, what might serve for food, raiment, and delight; yet for want of improving it by labor, have not one hundredth part of the conveniences we enjoy: and a king of a large and fruitful territory there, feeds, lodges, and is clad worse than a day-laborer in England.

Sect. 42. To make this a little clearer, let us but trace some of the ordinary provisions of life, through their several progresses, before they come to our use, and see how much they receive of their value from human industry. Bread, wine and cloth, are things of daily use, and great plenty; yet notwithstanding, acorns, water and leaves, or skins, must be our bread, drink and clothing, did not labor furnish us with these more useful commodities: for whatever bread is more worth than acorns, wine than water, and cloth or silk, than leaves, skins or moss, that is wholly owing to labor and industry; the one of these being the food and raiment which unassisted nature furnishes us with; the other, provisions which our industry and pains prepare for us, which how much they exceed the other in value, when any one hath computed, he will then see how much labor makes the far greatest part of the value of things we enjoy in this world: and the ground which produces the materials, is scarce to be reckoned in, as any, or at most, but a very small part of it; so little, that even among us, land that is left wholly to nature, that hath no improvement of pasturage, tillage, or planting, is called, as indeed it is, waste; and we shall find the benefit of it amount to little more than nothing.

This shews how much numbers of men are to be preferred to largeness of dominions; and that the increase of lands, and the right employing of them, is the great art of government: and that prince, who shall be so wise and godlike, as by established laws of liberty to secure protection and encouragement to the honest industry of mankind, against the oppression of power and narrowness of party, will quickly be too hard for his neighbors: but this by the by.

To return to the argument in hand.

Sect. 43. An acre of land, that bears here twenty bushels of wheat, and another in America, which, with the same husbandry, would do the like, are, without doubt, of the same natural intrinsic value: but yet the benefit mankind receives from the one in a year, is worth 5l. and from the other possibly not worth a penny, if all the profit an Indian received from it were to be valued, and sold here; at least, I may truly say, not one thousandth. It is labor then which puts the greatest part of value upon land, without which it would scarcely be worth any thing: it is to that we owe the greatest part of all its useful products; for all that the straw, bran, bread, of that acre of wheat, is more worth than the product of an acre of as good land, which lies waste, is all the effect of labor: for it is not barely the plow-man’s pains, the reaper’s and thresher’s toil, and the baker’s sweat, is to be counted into the bread we eat; the labor of those who broke the oxen, who digged and wrought the iron and stones, who felled and framed the timber employed about the plow, mill, oven, or any other utensils, which are a vast number, requisite to this corn, from its being feed to be sown to its being made bread, must all be charged on the account of labor, and received as an effect of that: nature and the earth furnished only the almost worthless materials, as in themselves. It would be a strange catalogue of things, that industry provided and made use of, about every loaf of bread, before it came to our use, if we could trace them; iron, wood, leather, bark, timber, stone, bricks, coals, lime, cloth, dying drugs, pitch, tar, masts, ropes, and all the materials made use of in the ship, that brought any of the commodities made use of by any of the workmen, to any part of the work; all which it would be almost impossible, at least too long, to reckon up.

Sect. 44. From all which it is evident, that though the things of nature are given in common, yet man, by being master of himself, and proprietor of his own person, and the actions or labor of it, had still in himself the great foundation of property; and that, which made up the great part of what he applied to the support or comfort of his being, when invention and arts had improved the conveniences of life, was perfectly his own, and did not belong in common to others.

Sect. 45. Thus labor, in the beginning, gave a right of property, wherever any one was pleased to employ it upon what was common, which remained a long while the far greater part, and is yet more than mankind makes use of. Men, at first, for the most part, contented themselves with what unassisted nature offered to their necessities: and though afterwards, in some parts of the world, (where the increase of people and stock, with the use of money, had made land scarce, and so of some value) the several communities settled the bounds of their distinct territories, and by laws within themselves regulated the properties of the private men of their society, and so, by compact and agreement,settled the property which labor and industry began; and the leagues that have been made between several states and kingdoms, either expressly or tacitly disowning all claim and right to the land in the others possession, have, by common consent, given up their pretenses to their natural common right, which originally they had to those countries, and so have, by positive agreement, settled a property among themselves, in distinct parts and parcels of the earth; yet there are still great tracts of ground to be found, which (the inhabitants thereof not having joined with the rest of mankind, in the consent of the use of their common money) lie waste, and are more than the people who dwell on it do, or can make use of, and so still lie in common; tho’ this can scarce happen among that part of mankind that have consented to the use of money.

Sect. 46. The greatest part of things really useful to the life of man, and such as the necessity of subsisting made the first commoners of the world look after, as it doth the Americans now, are generally things of short duration; such as, if they are not consumed by use, will decay and perish of themselves: gold, silver and diamonds, are things that fancy or agreement hath put the value on, more than real use, and the necessary support of life. Now of those good things which nature hath provided in common, every one had a right (as hath been said) to as much as he could use, and property in all that he could effect with his labor; all that his industry could extend to, to alter from the state nature had put it in, was his. He that gathered a hundred bushels of acorns or apples, had thereby a property in them, they were his goods as soon as gathered. He was only to look, that he used them before they spoiled, else he took more than his share, and robbed others.

And indeed it was a foolish thing, as well as dishonest, to hoard up more than he could make use of. If he gave away a part to any body else, so that it perished not uselessly in his possession, these he also made use of. And if he also bartered away plums, that would have rotted in a week, for nuts that would last good for his eating a whole year, he did no injury; he wasted not the common stock; destroyed no part of the portion of goods that belonged to others, so long as nothing perished uselessly in his hands. Again, if he would give his nuts for a piece of metal, pleased with its color; or exchange his sheep for shells, or wool for a sparkling pebble or a diamond, and keep those by him all his life he invaded not the right of others, he might heap up as much of these durable things as he pleased; the exceeding of the bounds of his just property not lying in the largeness of his possession, but the perishing of any thing uselessly in it.

Sect. 47. And thus came in the use of money, some lasting thing that men might keep without spoiling, and that by mutual consent men would take in exchange for the truly useful, but perishable supports of life.

Sect. 48. And as different degrees of industry were apt to give men possessions in different proportions, so this invention of money gave them the opportunity to continue and enlarge them: for supposing an island, separate from all possible commerce with the rest of the world,wherein there were but an hundred families, but there were sheep, horses and cows, with other useful animals, wholesome fruits, and land enough for corn for a hundred thousand times as many, but nothing in the island, either because of its commonness, or perishable-ness, fit to supply the place of money; what reason could any one have there to enlarge his possessions beyond the use of his family, and a plentiful supply to its consumption, either in what their own industry produced, or they could barter for like perishable, useful commodities, with others?

Where there is not some thing, both lasting and scarce, and so valuable to be hoarded up, there men will not be apt to enlarge their possessions of land, were it never so rich, never so free for them to take: for I ask, what would a man value ten thousand, or an hundred thousand acres of excellent land, ready cultivated, and well stocked too with cattle, in the middle of the inland parts of America, where he had no hopes of commerce with other parts of the world, to draw money to him by the sale of the product? It would not be worth the enclosing, and we should see him give up again to the wild common of nature, whatever was more than would supply the conveniences of life to be had there for him and his family.

Sect. 49. Thus in the beginning all the world was America, and more so than that is now; for no such thing as money was any where known. Find out something that hath the use and value of money among his neighbors, you shall see the same man will begin presently to enlarge his possessions.

Sect. 50. But since gold and silver, being little useful to the life of man in proportion to food, raiment, and carriage, has its value only from the consent of men, whereof labor yet makes, in great part, the measure, it is plain, that men have agreed to a disproportionate and unequal possession of the earth, they having, by a tacit and voluntary consent, found out, a way how a man may fairly possess more land than he himself can use the product of, by receiving in exchange for the overplus gold and silver, which may be hoarded up without injury to anyone; these metals not spoiling or decaying in the hands of the possessor. This partage of things in an inequality of private possessions, men have made practicable out of the bounds of society, and without compact, only by putting a value on gold and silver, and tacitly agreeing in the use of money: for in governments, the laws regulate the right of property, and the possession of land is determined by positive constitutions.

Sect. 51. And thus, I think, it is very easy to conceive, without any difficulty, how labor could at first begin a title of property in the common things of nature, and how the spending it upon our uses bounded

  1. So that there could then be no reason of quarreling about title, nor any doubt about the largeness of possession it gave. Right and convenience went together; for as a man had a right to all he could employ his labor upon, so he had no temptation to labor for more than he could make use of. This left no room for controversy about the title, nor for encroachment on the right of others; what portion a man carved to himself, was easily seen; and it was useless, as well as dishonest, to carve himself too much, or take more than he needed.



Sect. 52. IT may perhaps be censured as an impertinent criticism, in a discourse of this nature, to find fault with words and names, that have obtained in the world: and yet possibly it may not be amiss to offer new ones, when the old are apt to lead men into mistakes, as this of paternal power probably has done, which seems so to place the power of parents over their children wholly in the father, as if the mother had no share in it; whereas, if we consult reason or revelation, we shall find, she hath an equal title. This may give one reason to ask, whether this might not be more properly called parental power? for whatever obligation nature and the right of generation lays on children, it must certainly bind them equal to both the concurrent causes of it.

And accordingly we see the positive law of God every where joins them together, without distinction, when it commands the obedience of children, Honor thy father and thy mother, Exod. xx. 12. Whosoever curseth his father or his mother, Lev. xx. 9. Ye shall fear every man his mother and his father, Lev. xix. 3. Children, obey your parents, &c. Eph. vi. 1. is the stile of the Old and New Testament.

Sect. 53. Had but this one thing been well considered, without looking any deeper into the matter, it might perhaps have kept men from running into those gross mistakes, they have made, about this power of parents; which, however it might, without any great harshness, bear the name of absolute dominion, and regal authority, when under the title of paternal power it seemed appropriated to the father, would yet have founded but oddly, and in the very name shewn the absurdity, if this supposed absolute power over children had been called parental; and thereby have discovered, that it belonged to the mother too: for it will but very ill serve the turn of those men, who contend so much for the absolute power and authority of the fatherhood, as they call it, that the mother should have any share in it; and it would have but ill supported the monarchy they contend for, when by the very name it appeared, that that fundamental authority, from whence they would derive their government of a single person only, was not placed in one, but two persons jointly.

Sect. 54. Though I have said above, Chap. II. That all men by nature are equal, I cannot be supposed to understand all sorts of equality: age over  virtue may give men a just precedence: excellency of parts and merit may place others above the common level: birth may subject some, and alliance or benefits others, to pay an observance to those to whom nature, gratitude, or other respects, may have made it due: and yet all this consists with the equality, which all men are in, in respect of jurisdiction or dominion one over another; which was the equality I there spoke of, as proper to the business in hand, being that equal right, that every man hath, to his natural freedom, without being subjected to the will or authority of any other man.

Sect. 55. Children, I confess, 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, when they come into the world, and for some time after; but it is but a temporary one. The bonds of this subjection are like the swaddling clothes they art wrapped up in, and supported by, in the weakness of their infancy: age and reason as they grow up, loosen them, till at length they drop quite off, and leave a man at his own free disposal.

Sect. 56. Adam was created a perfect man, his body and mind in full possession of their strength and reason, and so was capable, from the first instant of his being to provide for his own support and preservation, and govern his actions according to the dictates of the law of reason which God had implanted in him. From him the world is peopled with his descendants, who are all born infants, weak and helpless, without knowledge or understanding: but to supply the defects of this imperfect state, till the improvement of growth and age hath removed them, Adam and Eve, and after them all parents were, by the law of nature, under an obligation to preserve, nourish, and educate the children they had begotten; not as their own workmanship, but the workmanship of their own maker, the Almighty, to whom they were to be accountable for them.

Sect. 57. The law, that was to govern Adam, was the same that was to govern all his posterity, the law of reason. But his offspring having another way of entrance into the world, different from him, by a natural birth, that produced them ignorant and without the use of reason, they were not presently under that law; for no body can be under a law, which is not promulgated to him; and this law being promulgated or made known by reason only, he that is not come to the use of his reason, cannot be said to be under this law; and Adam’s children, being not presently as soon as born under this law of reason, were not presently free: for 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; and that ill deserves the name of confinement which hedges us in only from bogs and precipices. 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 humor 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.


Sect. 58. The power, then, that parents have over their children, arises

from that duty which is incumbent on them, to take care of their

off-spring, during the imperfect state of childhood. To inform the mind,

and govern the actions of their yet ignorant nonage, till reason shall

take its place, and ease them of that trouble, is what the children

want, and the parents are bound to: for God having given man an

understanding to direct his actions, has allowed him a freedom of will,

and liberty of acting, as properly belonging thereunto, within the

bounds of that law he is under. But whilst he is in an estate, wherein

he has not understanding of his own to direct his will, he is not to

have any will of his own to follow: he that understands for him, must

will for him too; he must prescribe to his will, and regulate his

actions; but when he comes to the estate that made his father a freeman,

the son is a freeman too.


Sect. 59. This holds in all the laws a man is under, whether natural or

civil. Is a man under the law of nature? What made him free of that law?

what gave him a free disposing of his property, according to his own

will, within the compass of that law? I answer, a state of maturity

wherein he might be supposed capable to know that law, that so he might

keep his actions within the bounds of it. When he has acquired that

state, he is presumed to know how far that law is to be his guide, and

how far he may make use of his freedom, and so comes to have it; till

then, some body else must guide him, who is presumed to know how far the

law allows a liberty. If such a state of reason, such an age of

discretion made him free, the same shall make his son free too. Is a man

under the law of England? What made him free of that law? that is, to

have the liberty to dispose of his actions and possessions according to

his own will, within the permission of that law? A capacity of knowing

that law; which is supposed by that law, at the age of one and twenty

years, and in some cases sooner. If this made the father free, it shall

make the son free too. Till then we see the law allows the son to have

no will, but he is to be guided by the will of his father or guardian,

who is to understand for him. And if the father die, and fail to

substitute a deputy in his trust; if he hath not provided a tutor, to

govern his son, during his minority, during his want of understanding,

the law takes care to do it; some other must govern him, and be a will

to him, till he hath attained to a state of freedom, and his

understanding be fit to take the government of his will. But after that,

the father and son are equally free as much as tutor and pupil after

nonage; equally subjects of the same law together, without any dominion

left in the father over the life, liberty, or estate of his son, whether

they be only in the state and under the law of nature, or under the

positive laws of an established government.


Sect. 60. But if, through defects that may happen out of the ordinary

course of nature, any one comes not to such a degree of reason, wherein

he might be supposed capable of knowing the law, and so living within

the rules of it, he is never capable of being a free man, he is never

let loose to the disposure of his own will (because he knows no bounds

to it, has not understanding, its proper guide) but is continued under

the tuition and government of others, all the time his own understanding

is uncapable of that charge. And so lunatics and ideots are never set

free from the government of their parents;



children, who are not as yet come unto those years whereat they may

have; and innocents which are excluded by a natural defect from

ever having; thirdly, madmen, which for the present cannot possibly

have the use of right reason to guide themselves, have for their

guide, the reason that guideth other men which are tutors over

them, to seek and procure their good for them,



says Hooker, Eccl. Pol. lib. i. sec. 7. All which seems no more than

that duty, which God and nature has laid on man, as well as other

creatures, to preserve their offspring, till they can be able to shift

for themselves, and will scarce amount to an instance or proof of

parents regal authority.


Sect. 61. Thus we are born free, as we are born rational; not that we

have actually the exercise of either: age, that brings one, brings with

it the other too. And thus we see how natural freedom and subjection to

parents may consist together, and are both founded on the same

principle. A child is free by his father’s title, by his father’s

understanding, which is to govern him till he hath it of his own. The

freedom of a man at years of discretion, and the subjection of a child

to his parents, whilst yet short of that age, are so consistent, and so

distinguishable, that the most blinded contenders for monarchy, by right

of fatherhood, cannot miss this difference; the most obstinate cannot

but allow their consistency: for were their doctrine all true, were the

right heir of Adam now known, and by that title settled a monarch in his

throne, invested with all the absolute unlimited power Sir Robert Filmer

talks of; if he should die as soon as his heir were born, must not the

child, notwithstanding he were never so free, never so much sovereign,

be in subjection to his mother and nurse, to tutors and governors, till

age and education brought him reason and ability to govern himself and

others? The necessities of his life, the health of his body, and the

information of his mind, would require him to be directed by the will of

others, and not his own; and yet will any one think, that this restraint

and subjection were inconsistent with, or spoiled him of that liberty or

sovereignty he had a right to, or gave away his empire to those who had

the government of his nonage? This government over him only prepared him

the better and sooner for it. If any body should ask me, when my son is

of age to be free? I shall answer, just when his monarch is of age to

govern. But at what time, says the judicious Hooker, Eccl. Pol. l. i.

sect. 6. a man may be said to have attained so far forth the use of

reason, as sufficeth to make him capable of those laws whereby he is

then bound to guide his actions: this is a great deal more easy for

sense to discern, than for any one by skill and learning to determine.


Sect. 62. Common-wealths themselves take notice of, and allow, that

there is a time when men are to begin to act like free men, and

therefore till that time require not oaths of fealty, or allegiance, or

other public owning of, or submission to the government of their



Sect. 63. The freedom then of man, and liberty of acting according to

his own will, is grounded on his having reason, which is able to

instruct him in that law he is to govern himself by, and make him know

how far he is left to the freedom of his own will. To turn him loose to

an unrestrained liberty, before he has reason to guide him, is not the

allowing him the privilege of his nature to be free; but to thrust him

out amongst brutes, and abandon him to a state as wretched, and as much

beneath that of a man, as their’s. This is that which puts the authority

into the parents hands to govern the minority of their children. God

hath made it their business to employ this care on their offspring, and

hath placed in them suitable inclinations of tenderness and concern to

temper this power, to apply it, as his wisdom designed it, to the

children’s good, as long as they should need to be under it.


Sect. 64. But what reason can hence advance this care of the parents due

to their off-spring into an absolute arbitrary dominion of the father,

whose power reaches no farther, than by such a discipline, as he finds

most effectual, to give such strength and health to their bodies, such

vigour and rectitude to their minds, as may best fit his children to be

most useful to themselves and others; and, if it be necessary to his

condition, to make them work, when they are able, for their own

subsistence. But in this power the mother too has her share with the



Sect. 65. Nay, this power so little belongs to the father by any

peculiar right of nature, but only as he is guardian of his children,

that when he quits his care of them, he loses his power over them, which

goes along with their nourishment and education, to which it is

inseparably annexed; and it belongs as much to the foster-father of an

exposed child, as to the natural father of another. So little power does

the bare act of begetting give a man over his issue; if all his care

ends there, and this be all the title he hath to the name and authority

of a father. And what will become of this paternal power in that part of

the world, where one woman hath more than one husband at a time? or in

those parts of America, where, when the husband and wife part, which

happens frequently, the children are all left to the mother, follow her,

and are wholly under her care and provision? If the father die whilst

the children are young, do they not naturally every where owe the same

obedience to their mother, during their minority, as to their father

were he alive? and will any one say, that the mother hath a legislative

power over her children? that she can make standing rules, which shall

be of perpetual obligation, by which they ought to regulate all the

concerns of their property, and bound their liberty all the course of

their lives? or can she inforce the observation of them with capital

punishments? for this is the proper power of the magistrate, of which

the father hath not so much as the shadow. His command over his children

is but temporary, and reaches not their life or property: it is but a

help to the weakness and imperfection of their nonage, a discipline

necessary to their education: and though a father may dispose of his own

possessions as he pleases, when his children are out of danger of

perishing for want, yet his power extends not to the lives or goods,

which either their own industry, or another’s bounty has made their’s;

nor to their liberty neither, when they are once arrived to the

infranchisement of the years of discretion. The father’s empire then

ceases, and he can from thence forwards no more dispose of the liberty

of his son, than that of any other man: and it must be far from an

absolute or perpetual jurisdiction, from which a man may withdraw

himself, having license from divine authority to leave father and

mother, and cleave to his wife.


Sect. 66. But though there be a time when a child comes to be as free

from subjection to the will and command of his father, as the father

himself is free from subjection to the will of any body else, and they

are each under no other restraint, but that which is common to them

both, whether it be the law of nature, or municipal law of their

country; yet this freedom exempts not a son from that honour which he

ought, by the law of God and nature, to pay his parents. God having made

the parents instruments in his great design of continuing the race of

mankind, and the occasions of life to their children; as he hath laid on

them an obligation to nourish, preserve, and bring up their offspring;

so he has laid on the children a perpetual obligation of honouring their

parents, which containing in it an inward esteem and reverence to be

shewn by all outward expressions, ties up the child from any thing that

may ever injure or affront, disturb or endanger, the happiness or life

of those from whom he received his; and engages him in all actions of

defence, relief, assistance and comfort of those, by whose means he

entered into being, and has been made capable of any enjoyments of life:

from this obligation no state, no freedom can absolve children. But this

is very far from giving parents a power of command over their children,

or an authority to make laws and dispose as they please of their lives

or liberties. It is one thing to owe honour, respect, gratitude and

assistance; another to require an absolute obedience and submission. The

honour due to parents, a monarch in his throne owes his mother; and yet

this lessens not his authority, nor subjects him to her government.


Sect. 67. The subjection of a minor places in the father a temporary

government, which terminates with the minority of the child: and the

honour due from a child, places in the parents a perpetual right to

respect, reverence, support and compliance too, more or less, as the

father’s care, cost, and kindness in his education, has been more or

less. This ends not with minority, but holds in all parts and conditions

of a man’s life. The want of distinguishing these two powers, viz. that

which the father hath in the right of tuition, during minority, and the

right of honour all his life, may perhaps have caused a great part of

the mistakes about this matter: for to speak properly of them, the first

of these is rather the privilege of children, and duty of parents, than

any prerogative of paternal power. The nourishment and education of

their children is a charge so incumbent on parents for their children’s

good, that nothing can absolve them from taking care of it: and though

the power of commanding and chastising them go along with it, yet God

hath woven into the principles of human nature such a tenderness for

their off-spring, that there is little fear that parents should use

their power with too much rigour; the excess is seldom on the severe

side, the strong byass of nature drawing the other way. And therefore

God almighty when he would express his gentle dealing with the

Israelites, he tells them, that though he chastened them, he chastened

them as a man chastens his son, Deut. viii. 5. i.e. with tenderness and

affection, and kept them under no severer discipline than what was

absolutely best for them, and had been less kindness to have slackened.

This is that power to which children are commanded obedience, that the

pains and care of their parents may not be increased, or ill rewarded.


Sect. 68. On the other side, honour and support, all that which

gratitude requires to return for the benefits received by and from them,

is the indispensable duty of the child, and the proper privilege of the

parents. This is intended for the parents advantage, as the other is for

the child’s; though education, the parents duty, seems to have most

power, because the ignorance and infirmities of childhood stand in need

of restraint and correction; which is a visible exercise of rule, and a

kind of dominion. And that duty which is comprehended in the word

honour, requires less obedience, though the obligation be stronger on

grown, than younger children: for who can think the command, Children

obey your parents, requires in a man, that has children of his own, the

same submission to his father, as it does in his yet young children to

him; and that by this precept he were bound to obey all his father’s

commands, if, out of a conceit of authority, he should have the

indiscretion to treat him still as a boy?


Sect. 69. The first part then of paternal power, or rather duty, which

is education, belongs so to the father, that it terminates at a certain

season; when the business of education is over, it ceases of itself, and

is also alienable before: for a man may put the tuition of his son in

other hands; and he that has made his son an apprentice to another, has

discharged him, during that time, of a great part of his obedience both

to himself and to his mother. But all the duty of honour, the other

part, remains never the less entire to them; nothing can cancel that: it

is so inseparable from them both, that the father’s authority cannot

dispossess the mother of this right, nor can any man discharge his son

from honouring her that bore him. But both these are very far from a

power to make laws, and enforcing them with penalties, that may reach

estate, liberty, limbs and life. The power of commanding ends with

nonage; and though, after that, honour and respect, support and defence,

and whatsoever gratitude can oblige a man to, for the highest benefits

he is naturally capable of, be always due from a son to his parents; yet

all this puts no scepter into the father’s hand, no sovereign power of

commanding. He has no dominion over his son’s property, or actions; nor

any right, that his will should prescribe to his son’s in all things;

however it may become his son in many things, not very inconvenient to

him and his family, to pay a deference to it.


Sect. 70. A man may owe honour and respect to an ancient, or wise man;

defence to his child or friend; relief and support to the distressed;

and gratitude to a benefactor, to such a degree, that all he has, all he

can do, cannot sufficiently pay it: but all these give no authority, no

right to any one, of making laws over him from whom they are owing. And

it is plain, all this is due not only to the bare title of father; not

only because, as has been said, it is owing to the mother too; but

because these obligations to parents, and the degrees of what is

required of children, may be varied by the different care and kindness,

trouble and expence, which is often employed upon one child more than



Sect. 71. This shews the reason how it comes to pass, that parents in

societies, where they themselves are subjects, retain a power over their

children, and have as much right to their subjection, as those who are

in the state of nature. Which could not possibly be, if all political

power were only paternal, and that in truth they were one and the same

thing: for then, all paternal power being in the prince, the subject

could naturally have none of it. But these two powers, political and

paternal, are so perfectly distinct and separate; are built upon so

different foundations, and given to so different ends, that every

subject that is a father, has as much a paternal power over his

children, as the prince has over his: and every prince, that has

parents, owes them as much filial duty and obedience, as the meanest of

his subjects do to their’s; and can therefore contain not any part or

degree of that kind of dominion, which a prince or magistrate has over

his subject.


Sect. 72. Though the obligation on the parents to bring up their

children, and the obligation on children to honour their parents,

contain all the power on the one hand, and submission on the other,

which are proper to this relation, yet there is another power ordinarily

in the father, whereby he has a tie on the obedience of his children;

which tho’ it be common to him with other men, yet the occasions of

shewing it, almost consich tho’ it be common to him with other men, yet

the occasions of shewing it, almost constantly happening to fathers in

their private families, and the instances of it elsewhere being rare,

and less taken notice of, it passes in the world for a part of paternal

jurisdiction. And this is the power men generally have to bestow their

estates on those who please them best; the possession of the father

being the expectation and inheritance of the children, ordinarily in

certain proportions, according to the law and custom of each country;

yet it is commonly in the father’s power to bestow it with a more

sparing or liberal hand, according as the behaviour of this or that

child hath comported with his will and humour.


Sect. 73. This is no small tie on the obedience of children: and there

being always annexed to the enjoyment of land, a submission to the

government of the country, of which that land is a part; it has been

commonly supposed, that a father could oblige his posterity to that

government, of which he himself was a subject, and that his compact held

them; whereas, it being only a necessary condition annexed to the land,

and the inheritance of an estate which is under that government, reaches

only those who will take it on that condition, and so is no natural tie

or engagement, but a voluntary submission: for every man’s children

being by nature as free as himself, or any of his ancestors ever were,

may, whilst they are in that freedom, choose what society they will join

themselves to, what commonwealth they will put themselves under. But if

they will enjoy the inheritance of their ancestors, they must take it on

the same terms their ancestors had it, and submit to all the conditions

annexed to such a possession. By this power indeed fathers oblige their

children to obedience to themselves, even when they are past minority,

and most commonly too subject them to this or that political power: but

neither of these by any peculiar right of fatherhood, but by the reward

they have in their hands to inforce and recompence such a compliance;

and is no more power than what a French man has over an English man, who

by the hopes of an estate he will leave him, will certainly have a

strong tie on his obedience: and if, when it is left him, he will enjoy

it, he must certainly take it upon the conditions annexed to the

possession of land in that country where it lies, whether it be France

or England.


Sect. 74. To conclude then, tho’ the father’s power of commanding

extends no farther than the minority of his children, and to a degree

only fit for the discipline and government of that age; and tho’ that

honour and respect, and all that which the Latins called piety, which

they indispensably owe to their parents all their life-time, and in all

estates, with all that support and defence is due to them, gives the

father no power of governing, i.e. making laws and enacting penalties on

his children; though by all this he has no dominion over the property or

actions of his son: yet it is obvious to conceive how easy it was, in

the first ages of the world, and in places still, where the thinness of

people gives families leave to separate into unpossessed quarters, and

they have room to remove or plant themselves in yet vacant habitations,

for the father of the family to become the prince of it;* he had been a

ruler from the beginning of the infancy of his children: and since

without some government it would be hard for them to live together, it

was likeliest it should, by the express or tacit consent of the children

when they were grown up, be in the father, where it seemed without any

change barely to continue; when indeed nothing more was required to it,

than the permitting the father to exercise alone, in his family, that

executive power of the law of nature, which every free man naturally

hath, and by that permission resigning up to him a monarchical power,

whilst they remained in it. But that this was not by any paternal right,

but only by the consent of his children, is evident from hence, that no

body doubts, but if a stranger, whom chance or business had brought to

his family, had there killed any of his children, or committed any other

fact, he might condemn and put him to death, or other-wise have punished

him, as well as any of his children; which it was impossible he should

do by virtue of any paternal authority over one who was not his child,

but by virtue of that executive power of the law of nature, which, as a

man, he had a right to: and he alone could punish him in his family,

where the respect of his children had laid by the exercise of such a

power, to give way to the dignity and authority they were willing should

remain in him, above the rest of his family.


(*It is no improbable opinion therefore, which the archphilosopher was

of, that the chief person in every houshold was always, as it were, a

king: so when numbers of housholds joined themselves in civil societies

together, kings were the first kind of governors amongst them, which is

also, as it seemeth, the reason why the name of fathers continued still

in them, who, of fathers, were made rulers; as also the ancient custom

of governors to do as Melchizedec, and being kings, to exercise the

office of priests, which fathers did at the first, grew perhaps by the

same occasion. Howbeit, this is not the only kind of regiment that has

been received in the world. The inconveniences of one kind have caused

sundry others to be devised; so that in a word, all public regiment, of

what kind soever, seemeth evidently to have risen from the deliberate

advice, consultation and composition between men, judging it convenient

and behoveful; there being no impossibility in nature considered by

itself, but that man might have lived without any public regiment,

Hooker’s Eccl. Pol. lib. i. sect. 10.)


Sect. 75. Thus it was easy, and almost natural for children, by a tacit,

and scarce avoidable consent, to make way for the father’s authority and

government. They had been accustomed in their childhood to follow his

direction, and to refer their little differences to him, and when they

were men, who fitter to rule them? Their little properties, and less

covetousness, seldom afforded greater controversies; and when any should

arise, where could they have a fitter umpire than he, by whose care they

had every one been sustained and brought up, and who had a tenderness

for them all? It is no wonder that they made no distinction betwixt

minority and full age; nor looked after one and twenty, or any other age

that might make them the free disposers of themselves and fortunes, when

they could have no desire to be out of their pupilage: the government

they had been under, during it, continued still to be more their

protection than restraint; and they could no where find a greater

security to their peace, liberties, and fortunes, than in the rule of a



Sect. 76. Thus the natural fathers of families, by an insensible change,

became the politic monarchs of them too: and as they chanced to live

long, and leave able and worthy heirs, for several successions, or

otherwise; so they laid the foundations of hereditary, or elective

kingdoms, under several constitutions and mannors, according as chance,

contrivance, or occasions happened to mould them. But if princes have

their titles in their fathers right, and it be a sufficient proof of the

natural right of fathers to political authority, because they commonly

were those in whose hands we find, de facto, the exercise of government:

I say, if this argument be good, it will as strongly prove, that all

princes, nay princes only, ought to be priests, since it is as certain,

that in the beginning, the father of the family was priest, as that he

was ruler in his own houshold.










Sect. 77. GOD having made man such a creature, that in his own judgment,

it was not good for him to be alone, put him under strong obligations of

necessity, convenience, and inclination to drive him into society, as

well as fitted him with understanding and language to continue and enjoy

  1. The first society was between man and wife, which gave beginning to

that between parents and children; to which, in time, that between

master and servant came to be added: and though all these might, and

commonly did meet together, and make up but one family, wherein the

master or mistress of it had some sort of rule proper to a family; each

of these, or all together, came short of political society, as we shall

see, if we consider the different ends, ties, and bounds of each of



Sect. 78. Conjugal society is made by a voluntary compact between man

and woman; and tho’ it consist chiefly in such a communion and right in

one another’s bodies as is necessary to its chief end, procreation; yet

it draws with it mutual support and assistance, and a communion of

interests too, as necessary not only to unite their care and affection,

but also necessary to their common off-spring, who have a right to be

nourished, and maintained by them, till they are able to provide for



Sect. 79. For the end of conjunction, between male and female, being not

barely procreation, but the continuation of the species; 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, so long

as is necessary to the nourishment and support of the young ones, who

are to be sustained by those that got them, till they are able to shift

and provide for themselves. This rule, which the infinite wise maker

hath set to the works of his hands, we find the inferior creatures

steadily obey. 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. The same is to be observed in all

birds, (except some domestic ones, where plenty of food excuses the cock

from feeding, and taking care of the young brood) whose young needing

food in the nest, the cock and hen continue mates, till the young are

able to use their wing, and provide for themselves.


Sect. 80. And herein I think lies the chief, if not the only reason, why

the male and female in mankind are tied to a longer conjunction than

other creatures, viz. because the female is capable of conceiving, and

de facto is commonly with child again, and brings forth too a new birth,

long before the former is out of a dependency for support on his parents

help, and able to shift for himself, and has all the assistance is due

to him from his parents: whereby the father, who is bound to take care

for those he hath begot, is under an obligation to continue in conjugal

society with the same woman longer than other creatures, whose young

being able to subsist of themselves, before the time of procreation

returns again, the conjugal bond dissolves of itself, and they are at

liberty, till Hymen at his usual anniversary season summons them again

to chuse new mates. Wherein one cannot but admire the wisdom of the

great Creator, who having given to man foresight, and an ability to lay

up for the future, as well as to supply the present necessity, hath made

it necessary, that society of man and wife should be more lasting, than

of male and female amongst other creatures; that so their industry might

be encouraged, and their interest better united, to make provision and

lay up goods for their common issue, which uncertain mixture, or easy

and frequent solutions of conjugal society would mightily disturb.


Sect. 81. But tho’ these are ties upon mankind, which make the conjugal

bonds more firm and lasting in man, than the other species of animals;

yet it would give one reason to enquire, why this compact, where

procreation and education are secured, and inheritance taken care for,

may not be made determinable, either by consent, or at a certain time,

or upon certain conditions, as well as any other voluntary compacts,

there being no necessity in the nature of the thing, nor to the ends of

it, that it should always be for life; I mean, to such as are under no

restraint of any positive law, which ordains all such contracts to be



Sect. 82. But the husband and wife, though they have but one common

concern, yet having different understandings, will unavoidably sometimes

have different wills too; it therefore being necessary that the last

determination, i. e. the rule, should be placed somewhere; it naturally

falls to the man’s share, as the abler and the stronger. But this

reaching but to the things of their common interest and property, leaves

the wife in the full and free possession of what by contract is her

peculiar right, and gives the husband no more power over her life than

she has over his; the power of the husband being so far from that of an

absolute monarch, that the wife has in many cases a liberty to separate

from him, where natural right, or their contract allows it; whether that

contract be made by themselves in the state of nature, or by the customs

or laws of the country they live in; and the children upon such

separation fall to the father or mother’s lot, as such contract does



Sect. 83. For all the ends of marriage being to be obtained under

politic government, as well as in the state of nature, the civil

magistrate doth not abridge the right or power of either naturally

necessary to those ends, viz. procreation and mutual support and

assistance whilst they are together; but only decides any controversy

that may arise between man and wife about them. If it were otherwise,

and that absolute sovereignty and power of life and death naturally

belonged to the husband, and were necessary to the society between man

and wife, there could be no matrimony in any of those countries where

the husband is allowed no such absolute authority. But the ends of

matrimony requiring no such power in the husband, the condition of

conjugal society put it not in him, it being not at all necessary to

that state. Conjugal society could subsist and attain its ends without

it; nay, community of goods, and the power over them, mutual assistance

and maintenance, and other things belonging to conjugal society, might

be varied and regulated by that contract which unites man and wife in

that society, as far as may consist with procreation and the bringing up

of children till they could shift for themselves; nothing being

necessary to any society, that is not necessary to the ends for which it

is made.


Sect. 84. The society betwixt parents and children, and the distinct

rights and powers belonging respectively to them, I have treated of so

largely, in the foregoing chapter, that I shall not here need to say any

thing of it. And I think it is plain, that it is far different from a

politic society.


Sect. 85. Master and servant are names as old as history, but given to

those of far different condition; for a freeman makes himself a servant

to another, by selling him, for a certain time, the service he

undertakes to do, in exchange for wages he is to receive: and though

this commonly puts him into the family of his master, and under the

ordinary discipline thereof; yet it gives the master but a temporary

power over him, and no greater than what is contained in the contract

between them. But there is another sort of servants, which by a peculiar

name we call slaves, who being captives taken in a just war, are by the

right of nature subjected to the absolute dominion and arbitrary power

of their masters. These men having, as I say, forfeited their lives, and

with it their liberties, and lost their estates; and being in the state

of slavery, not capable of any property, cannot in that state be

considered as any part of civil society; the chief end whereof is the

preservation of property.


Sect. 86. Let us therefore consider a master of a family with all these

subordinate relations of wife, children, servants, and slaves, united

under the domestic rule of a family; which, what resemblance soever it

may have in its order, offices, and number too, with a little

commonwealth, yet is very far from it, both in its constitution, power

and end: or if it must be thought a monarchy, and the paterfamilias the

absolute monarch in it, absolute monarchy will have but a very shattered

and short power, when it is plain, by what has been said before, that

the master of the family has a very distinct and differently limited

power, both as to time and extent, over those several persons that are

in it; for excepting the slave (and the family is as much a family, and

his power as paterfamilias as great, whether there be any slaves in his

family or no) he has no legislative power of life and death over any of

them, and none too but what a mistress of a family may have as well as

  1. And he certainly can have no absolute power over the whole family,

who has but a very limited one over every individual in it. But how a

family, or any other society of men, differ from that which is properly

political society, we shall best see, by considering wherein political

society itself consists.


Sect. 87. Man being born, as has been proved, with a title to perfect

freedom, and an uncontrouled enjoyment of all the rights and privileges

of the law of nature, equally with any other man, or number of men in

the world, hath by nature a power, not only to preserve his property,

that is, his life, liberty and estate, against the injuries and attempts

of other men; but to judge of, and punish the breaches of that law in

others, as he is persuaded the offence deserves, even with death itself,

in crimes where the heinousness of the fact, in his opinion, requires

  1. But because no political society can be, nor subsist, without having

in itself the power to preserve the property, and in order thereunto,

punish the offences of all those of that society; there, and there only

is political society, where every one of the members hath quitted this

natural power, resigned it up into the hands of the community in all

cases that exclude him not from appealing for protection to the law

established by it. And thus all private judgment of every particular

member being excluded, the community comes to be umpire, 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,

decides all the differences that may happen between any members of that

society concerning any matter of right; and punishes those offences

which any member hath committed against the society, with such penalties

as the law has established: whereby it is easy to discern, who are, and

who are not, in 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 executioner;

which is, as I have before shewed it, the perfect state of nature.


Sect. 88. And thus the commonwealth comes by a power to set down what

punishment shall belong to the several transgressions which they think

worthy of it, committed amongst the members of that society, (which is

the power of making laws) as well as it has the power to punish any

injury done unto any of its members, by any one that is not of it,

(which is the power of war and peace;) and all this for the preservation

of the property of all the members of that society, as far as is

possible. But though every man who has entered into civil society, and

is become a member of any commonwealth, has thereby quitted his power to

punish offences, against the law of nature, in prosecution of his own

private judgment, yet with the judgment of offences, which he has given

up to the legislative in all cases, where he can appeal to the

magistrate, he has given a right to the commonwealth to employ his

force, for the execution of the judgments of the commonwealth, whenever

he shall be called to it; which indeed are his own judgments, they being

made by himself, or his representative. And herein we have the original

of the legislative and executive power of civil society, which is to

judge by standing laws, how far offences are to be punished, when

committed within the commonwealth; and also to determine, by occasional

judgments founded on the present circumstances of the fact, how far

injuries from without are to be vindicated; and in both these to employ

all the force of all the members, when there shall be need.


Sect. 89. Where-ever therefore any number of men are so united into one

society, as to quit every one his executive power of the law of nature,

and to resign it to the public, there and there only is a political, or

civil society. And this is done, where-ever any number of men, in the

state of nature, enter into society to make one people, one body

politic, under one supreme government; or else when any one joins

himself to, and incorporates with any government already made: for

hereby he authorizes the society, or which is all one, the legislative

thereof, to make laws for him, as the public good of the society shall

require; to the execution whereof, his own assistance (as to his own

decrees) is due. And this puts men out of a state of nature into that of

a commonwealth, by setting up a judge on earth, with authority to

determine all the controversies, and redress the injuries that may

happen to any member of the commonwealth; which judge is the

legislative, or magistrates appointed by it. And where-ever there are

any number of men, however associated, that have no such decisive power

to appeal to, there they are still in the state of nature.


Sect. 90. Hence it is evident, that absolute monarchy, which by some men

is counted the only government in the world, is indeed inconsistent with

civil society, and so can be no form of civil-government at all: for the

end of civil society, being to avoid, and remedy those inconveniencies

of the state of nature, which necessarily follow from every man’s being

judge in his own case, by setting up a known authority, to which every

one of that society may appeal upon any injury received, or controversy

that may arise, and which every one of the society ought to obey;*

where-ever any persons are, who have not such an authority to appeal to,

for the decision of any difference between them, there those persons are

still in the state of nature; and so is every absolute prince, in

respect of those who are under his dominion.


(*The public power of all society is above every soul contained in the

same society; and the principal use of that power is, to give laws unto

all that are under it, which laws in such cases we must obey, unless

there be reason shewed which may necessarily inforce, that the law of

reason, or of God, doth enjoin the contrary, Hook. Eccl. Pol. l. i.

sect. 16.)


Sect. 91. For he being supposed to have all, both legislative and

executive power in himself alone, there is no judge to be found, no

appeal lies open to any one, who may fairly, and indifferently, and with

authority decide, and from whose decision relief and redress may be

expected of any injury or inconviency, that may be suffered from the

prince, or by his order: so that such a man, however intitled, Czar, or

Grand Seignior, or how you please, is as much in the state of nature,

with all under his dominion, as he is with therest of mankind: for

where-ever any two men are, who have no standing rule, and common judge

to appeal to on earth, for the determination of controversies of right

betwixt them, there they are still in the state of* nature, and under

all the inconveniencies of it, with only this woful difference to the

subject, or rather slave of an absolute prince: that whereas, in the

ordinary state of nature, he has a liberty to judge of his right, and

according to the best of his power, to maintain it; now, whenever his

property is invaded by the will and order of his monarch, he has not

only no appeal, as those in society ought to have, but as if he were

degraded from the common state of rational creatures, is denied a

liberty to judge of, or to defend his right; and so is exposed to all

the misery and inconveniencies, that a man can fear from one, who being

in the unrestrained state of nature, is yet corrupted with flattery, and

armed with power.


(*To take away all such mutual grievances, injuries and wrongs, i.e.

such as attend men in the state of nature, there was no way but only by

growing into composition and agreement amongst themselves, by ordaining

some kind of govemment public, and by yielding themselves subject

thereunto, that unto whom they granted authority to rule and govem, by

them the peace, tranquillity and happy estate of the rest might be

procured. Men always knew that where force and injury was offered, they

might be defenders of themselves; they knew that however men may seek

their own commodity, yet if this were done with injury unto others, it

was not to be suffered, but by all men, and all good means to be

withstood. Finally, they knew that no man might in reason take upon him

to determine his own right, and according to his own determination

proceed in maintenance thereof, in as much as every man is towards

himself, and them whom he greatly affects, partial; and therefore that

strifes and troubles would be endless, except they gave their common

consent, all to be ordered by some, whom they should agree upon, without

which consent there would be no reason that one man should take upon him

to be lord or judge over another, Hooker’s Eccl. Pol. l. i. sect. 10.)


Sect. 92. For he that thinks absolute power purifies men’s blood, and

corrects the baseness of human nature, need read but the history of

this, or any other age, to be convinced of the contrary. He that would

have been insolent and injurious in the woods of America, would not

probably be much better in a throne; where perhaps learning and religion

shall be found out to justify all that he shall do to his subjects, and

the sword presently silence all those that dare question it: for what

the protection of absolute monarchy is, what kind of fathers of their

countries it makes princes to be and to what a degree of happiness and

security it carries civil society, where this sort of government is

grown to perfection, he that will look into the late relation of Ceylon,

may easily see.


Sect. 93. In absolute monarchies indeed, as well as other governments of

the world, the subjects have an appeal to the law, and judges to decide

any controversies, and restrain any violence that may happen betwixt the

subjects themselves, one amongst another. This every one thinks

necessary, and believes he deserves to be thought a declared enemy to

society and mankind, who should go about to take it away. 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: for if it be asked,

what security, what fence is there, in such a state, against the

violence and oppression of this absolute ruler? the very question can

scarce be borne. They are ready to tell you, that it deserves death only

to ask after safety. Betwixt subject and subject, they will grant, there

must be measures, laws and judges, for their mutual peace and security:

but as for the ruler, he ought to be absolute, and is above all such

circumstances; because he has power to do more hurt and wrong, it is

right when he does it. To ask how you may be guarded from harm, or

injury, on that side where the strongest hand is to do it, is presently

the voice of faction and rebellion: as if when men quitting the state of

nature entered into society, they agreed that all of them but one,

should be under the restraint of laws, but that he should still retain

all the liberty of the state of nature, increased with power, and made

licentious by impunity. This is to think, that men are so foolish, that

they take care to avoid what mischiefs may be done them by pole-cats, or

foxes; but are content, nay, think it safety, to be devoured by lions.


Sect. 94. But whatever flatterers may talk to amuse people’s

understandings, it hinders not men from feeling; and when they perceive,

that any man, in what station soever, is out of the bounds of the civil

society which they are of, and that they have no appeal on earth against

any harm, they may receive from him, they are apt to think themselves in

the state of nature, in respect of him whom they find to be so; and to

take care, as soon as they can, to have that safety and security in

civil society, for which it was first instituted, and for which only

they entered into it. And therefore, though perhaps at first, (as shall

be shewed more at large hereafter in the following part of this

discourse) some one good and excellent man having got a pre-eminency

amongst the rest, had this deference paid to his goodness and virtue, as

to a kind of natural authority, that the chief rule, with arbitration of

their differences, by a tacit consent devolved into his hands, without

any other caution, but the assurance they had of his uprightness and

wisdom; yet when time, giving authority, and (as some men would persuade

  1. us) sacredness of customs, which the negligent, and unforeseeing

innocence of the first ages began, had brought in successors of another

stamp, the people finding their properties not secure under the

government, as then it was, (whereas government has no other end but the

preservation of* property) could never be safe nor at rest, nor think

themselves in civil society, till the legislature was placed in

collective bodies of men, call them senate, parliament, or what you

please. By which means every single person became subject, equally with

other the meanest men, to those laws, which he himself, as part of the

legislative, had established; nor could any one, by his own authority;

avoid the force of the law, when once made; nor by any pretence of

superiority plead exemption, thereby to license his own, or the

miscarriages of any of his dependents.** No man in civil society can be

exempted from the laws of it: for if any man may do what he thinks fit,

and there be no appeal on earth, for redress or security against any

harm he shall do; I ask, whether he be not perfectly still in the state

of nature, and so can be no part or member of that civil society; unless

any one will say, the state of nature and civil society are one and the

same thing, which I have never yet found any one so great a patron of

anarchy as to affirm.


(*At the first, when some certain kind of regiment was once appointed,

it may be that nothing was then farther thought upon for the manner of

goveming, but all permitted unto their wisdom and discretion, which were

to rule, till by experience they found this for all parts very

inconvenient, so as the thing which they had devised for a remedy, did

indeed but increase the sore, which it should have cured. They saw, that

to live by one man’s will, became the cause of all men’s misery. This

constrained them to come unto laws, wherein all men might see their duty

beforehand, and know the penalties of transgressing them. Hooker’s Eccl.

Pol. l. i. sect. 10.)


(**Civil law being the act of the whole body politic, doth therefore

over-rule each several part of the same body. Hooker, ibid.)










Sect. 95. MEN being, as has been said, by nature, all free, equal, and

independent, no one can be put out of this estate, and subjected to the

political power of another, without his own consent. The only way

whereby any one divests himself of his natural liberty, and puts on the

bonds of civil society, is by agreeing with other men to join and unite

into a community for their comfortable, safe, and peaceable living one

amongst another, in a secure enjoyment of their properties, and a

greater security against any, that are not of it. This any number of men

may do, because it injures not the freedom of the rest; they are left as

they were in the liberty of the state of nature. When any number of men

have so consented to make one community or government, they are thereby

presently incorporated, and make one body politic, wherein the majority

have a right to act and conclude the rest.


Sect. 96. 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: for that which acts any community, being

only the consent of the individuals of it, and it being necessary to

that which is one body to move one way; it is necessary the body should

move that way whither the greater force carries it, which is the consent

of the majority: or else it is impossible it should act or continue one

body, one community, which the consent of every individual that 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, impowered to act by positive laws, where no number is set by

that positive law which impowers them, the act of the majority passes

for the act of the whole, and of course determines, as having, by the

law of nature and reason, the power of the whole.


Sect. 97. And thus every man, by consenting with others to make one body

politic under one government, puts himself under an obligation, to every

one of that society, to submit to the determination of the majority, and

to be concluded by it; or else this original compact, whereby he with

others incorporates into one society, would signify nothing, and be no

compact, if he be left free, and under no other ties than he was in

before in the state of nature. For what appearance would there be of any

compact? what new engagement if he were no farther tied by any decrees

of the society, than he himself thought fit, and did actually consent

to? This would be still as great a liberty, as he himself had before his

compact, or any one else in the state of nature hath, who may submit

himself, and consent to any acts of it if he thinks fit.


Sect. 98. For if the consent of the majority shall not, in reason, be

received as the act of the whole, and conclude 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 ever to be had, if

we consider the infirmities of health, and avocations of business, which

in a number, though much less than that of a commonwealth, will

necessarily keep many away from the public assembly. To which if we add

the variety of opinions, and contrariety of interests, which unavoidably

happen in all collections of men, the coming into society upon such

terms would be only like Cato’s coming into the theatre, only to go out

again. Such a constitution as this would make the mighty Leviathan of a

shorter duration, than the feeblest creatures, and not let it outlast

the day it was born in: which cannot be supposed, till we can think,

that rational creatures should desire and constitute societies only to

be dissolved: for where the majority cannot conclude the rest, there

they cannot act as one body, and consequently will be immediately

dissolved again.


Sect. 99. Whosoever therefore out of a state of nature 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 expresly agreed in any number greater than the

majority. And this is done by barely agreeing to unite into one

political society, which is all the compact that is, or needs 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.


Sect. 100. To this I find two objections made. First, That there are no

instances to be found in story, of a company of men independent, and

equal one amongst another, that met together, and in this way began and

set up a government.


Secondly, It is impossible of right, that men should do so, because all

men being born under government, they are to submit to that, and are not

at liberty to begin a new one.


Sect. 101. To the first there is this to answer, That it is not at all

to be wondered, that history gives us but a very little account of men,

that lived together in the state of nature. The inconveniences of that

condition, and the love and want of society, no sooner brought any

number of them together, but they presently united and incorporated, if

they designed to continue together. And if we may not suppose men ever

to have been in the state of nature, because we hear not much of them in

such a state, we may as well suppose the armies of Salmanasser or Xerxes

were never children, because we hear little of them, till they were men,

and imbodied in armies. Government is every where antecedent to records,

and letters seldom come in amongst a people till a long continuation of

civil society has, by other more necessary arts, provided for their

safety, ease, and plenty: and then they begin to look after the history

of their founders, and search into their original, when they have

outlived the memory of it: for it is with commonwealths as with

particular persons, they are commonly ignorant of their own births and

infancies: and if they know any thing of their original, they are

beholden for it, to the accidental records that others have kept of it.

And those that we have, of the beginning of any polities in the world,

excepting that of the Jews, where God himself immediately interposed,

and which favours not at all paternal dominion, are all either plain

instances of such a beginning as I have mentioned, or at least have

manifest footsteps of it.


Sect. 102. He must shew a strange inclination to deny evident matter of

fact, when it agrees not with his hypothesis, who will not allow, that

shew a strange inclination to deny evident matter of fact, when it

agrees not with his hypothesis, who will not allow, that the beginning

of Rome and Venice were by the uniting together of several men free and

independent one of another, amongst whom there was no natural

superiority or subjection. And if Josephus Acosta’s word may be taken,

he tells us, that in many parts of America there was no government at



There are great and apparent conjectures, says he, that these men,

speaking of those of Peru, for a long time had neither kings nor

commonwealths, but lived in troops, as they do this day in Florida, the

Cheriquanas, those of Brazil, and many other nations, which have no

certain kings, but as occasion is offered, in peace or war, they choose

their captains as they please, 1. i. c. 25.


If it be said, that every man there was born subject to his father, or

the head of his family; that the subjection due from a child to a father

took not away his freedom of uniting into what political society he

thought fit, has been already proved. But be that as it will, these men,

it is evident, were actually free; and whatever superiority some

politicians now would place in any of them, they themselves claimed it

not, but by consent were all equal, till by the same consent they set

rulers over themselves. So that their politic societies all began from a

voluntary union, and the mutual agreement of men freely acting in the

choice of their governors, and forms of government.


Sect. 103. And I hope those who went away from Sparta with Palantus,

mentioned by Justin, 1. iii. c. 4. will be allowed to have been freemen

independent one of another, and to have set up a government over

themselves, by their own consent. Thus I have given several examples,

out of history, of people free and in the state of nature, that being

met together incorporated and began a commonwealth. And if the want of

such instances be an argument to prove that government were not, nor

could not be so begun, I suppose the contenders for paternal empire were

better let it alone, than urge it against natural liberty: for if they

can give so many instances, out of history, of governments begun upon

paternal right, I think (though at best an argument from what has been,

to what should of right be, has no great force) one might, without any

great danger, yield them the cause. But if I might advise them in the

case, they would do well not to search too much into the original of

governments, as they have begun de facto, lest they should find, at the

foundation of most of them, something very little favourable to the

design they promote, and such a power as they contend for.


Sect. 104. But to conclude, reason being plain on our side, that men are

naturally free, and the examples of history shewing, that the

governments of the world, that were begun in peace, had their beginning

laid on that foundation, and were made by the consent of the people;

there can be little room for doubt, either where the right is, or what

has been the opinion, or practice of mankind, about the first erecting

of governments.


Sect. 105. I will not deny, that if we look back as far as history will

direct us, towards the original of commonwealths, we shall generally

find them under the government and administration of one man. And I am

also apt to believe, that where a family was numerous enough to subsist

by itself, and continued entire together, without mixing with others, as

it often happens, where there is much land, and few people, the

government commonly began in the father: for the father having, by the

law of nature, the same power with every man else to punish, as he

thought fit, any offences against that law, might thereby punish his

transgressing children, even when they were men, and out of their

pupilage; and they were very likely to submit to his punishment, and all

join with him against the offender, in their turns, giving him thereby

power to execute his sentence against any transgression, and so in

effect make him the law-maker, and governor over all that remained in

conjunction with his family. He was fittest to be trusted; paternal

affection secured their property and interest under his care; and the

custom of obeying him, in their childhood, made it easier to submit to

him, rather than to any other. If therefore they must have one to rule

them, as government is hardly to be avoided amongst men that live

together; who so likely to be the man as he that was their common

father; unless negligence, cruelty, or any other defect of mind or body

made him unfit for it? But when either the father died, and left his

next heir, for want of age, wisdom, courage, or any other qualities,

less fit for rule; or where several families met, and consented to

continue together; there, it is not to be doubted, but they used their

natural freedom, to set up him, whom they judged the ablest, and most

likely, to rule well over them. Conformable hereunto we find the people

of America, who (living out of the reach of the conquering swords, and

spreading domination of the two great empires of Peru and Mexico)

enjoyed their own natural freedom, though, caeteris paribus, they

commonly prefer the heir of their deceased king; yet if they find him

any way weak, or uncapable, they pass him by, and set up the stoutest

and bravest man for their ruler.


Sect. 106. Thus, though looking back as far as records give us any

account of peopling the world, and the history of nations, we commonly

find the government to be in one hand; yet it destroys not that which I

affirm, viz. that the beginning of politic society depends upon the

consent of the individuals, to join into, and make one society; who,

when they are thus incorporated, might set up what form of government

they thought fit. But this having given occasion to men to mistake, and

think, that by nature government was monarchical, and belonged to the

father, it may not be amiss here to consider, why people in the

beginning generally pitched upon this form, which though perhaps the

father’s pre-eminency might, in the first institution of some

commonwealths, give a rise to, and place in the beginning, the power in

one hand; yet it is plain that the reason, that continued the form of

government in a single person, was not any regard, or respect to

paternal authority; since all petty monarchies, that is, almost all

monarchies, near their original, have been commonly, at least upon

occasion, elective.


Sect. 107. First then, in the beginning of things, the father’s

government of the childhood of those sprung from him, having accustomed

them to the rule of one man, and taught them that where it was exercised

with care and skill, with affection and love to those under it, it was

sufficient to procure and preserve to men all the political happiness

they sought for in society. It was no wonder that they should pitch

upon, and naturally run into that form of government, which from their

infancy they had been all accustomed to; and which, by experience, they

had found both easy and safe. To which, if we add, that monarchy being

simple, and most obvious to men, whom neither experience had instructed

in forms of government, nor the ambition or insolence of empire had

taught to beware of the encroachments of prerogative, or the

inconveniences of absolute power, which monarchy in succession was apt

to lay claim to, and bring upon them, it was not at all strange, that

they should not much trouble themselves to think of methods of

restraining any exorbitances of those to whom they had given the

authority over them, and of balancing the power of government, by

placing several parts of it in different hands. They had neither felt

the oppression of tyrannical dominion, nor did the fashion of the age,

nor their possessions, or way of living, (which afforded little matter

for covetousness or ambition) give them any reason to apprehend or

provide against it; and therefore it is no wonder they put themselves

into such a frame of government, as was not only, as I said, most

obvious and simple, but also best suited to their present state and

condition; which stood more in need of defence against foreign invasions

and injuries, than of multiplicity of laws. The equality of a simple

poor way of living, confining their desires within the narrow bounds of

each man’s small property, made few controversies, and so no need of

many laws to decide them, or variety of officers to superintend the

process, or look after the execution of justice, where there were but

few trespasses, and few offenders. Since then those, who like one

another so well as to join into society, cannot but be supposed to have

some acquaintance and friendship together, and some trust one in

another; they could not but have greater apprehensions of others, than

of one another: and therefore their first care and thought cannot but be

supposed to be, how to secure themselves against foreign force. It was

natural for them to put themselves under a frame of government which

might best serve to that end, and chuse the wisest and bravest man to

conduct them in their wars, and lead them out against their enemies, and

in this chiefly be their ruler.


Sect. 108. Thus we see, that the kings of the Indians in America, which

is still a pattern of the first ages in Asia and Europe, whilst the

inhabitants were too few for the country, and want of people and money

gave men no temptation to enlarge their possessions of land, or contest

for wider extent of ground, are little more than generals of their

armies; and though they command absolutely in war, yet at home and in

time of peace they exercise very little dominion, and have but a very

moderate sovereignty, the resolutions of peace and war being ordinarily

either in the people, or in a council. Tho’ the war itself, which admits

not of plurality of governors, naturally devolves the command into the

king’s sole authority.


Sect. 109. And thus in Israel itself, the chief business of their

judges, and first kings, seems to have been to be captains in war, and

leaders of their armies; which (besides what is signified by going out

and in before the people, which was, to march forth to war, and home

again in the heads of their forces) appears plainly in the story of

lephtha. The Ammonites making war upon Israel, the Gileadites in fear

send to lephtha, a bastard of their family whom they had cast off, and

article with him, if he will assist them against the Ammonites, to make

him their ruler; which they do in these words, And the people made him

head and captain over them, Judg. xi, ii. which was, as it seems, all

one as to be judge. And he judged Israel, judg. xii. 7. that is, was

their captain-general six years. So when lotham upbraids the Shechemites

with the obligation they had to Gideon, who had been their judge and

ruler, he tells them, He fought for you, and adventured his life far,

and delivered you out of the hands of Midian, Judg. ix. 17. Nothing

mentioned of him but what he did as a general: and indeed that is all is

found in his history, or in any of the rest of the judges. And Abimelech

particularly is called king, though at most he was but their general.

And when, being weary of the ill conduct of Samuel’s sons, the children

of Israel desired a king, like all the nations to judge them, and to go

out before them, and to fight their battles, I. Sam viii. 20. God

granting their desire, says to Samuel, I will send thee a man, and thou

shalt anoint him to be captain over my people Israel, that he may save

my people out of the hands of the Philistines, ix. 16. As if the only

business of a king had been to lead out their armies, and fight in their

defence; and accordingly at his inauguration pouring a vial of oil upon

him, declares to Saul, that the Lord had anointed him to be captain over

his inheritance, x. 1. And therefore those, who after Saul’s being

solemnly chosen and saluted king by the tribes at Mispah, were unwilling

to have him their king, made no other objection but this, How shall this

man save us? v. 27. as if they should have said, this man is unfit to be

our king, not having skill and conduct enough in war, to be able to

defend us. And when God resolved to transfer the government to David, it

is in these words, But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the Lord hath

sought him a man after his own heart, and the Lord hath commanded him to

be captain over his people, xiii. 14. As if the whole kingly authority

were nothing else but to be their general: and therefore the tribes who

had stuck to Saul’s family, and opposed David’s reign, when they came to

Hebron with terms of submission to him, they tell him, amongst other

arguments they had to submit to him as to their king, that he was in

effect their king in Saul’s time, and therefore they had no reason but

to receive him as their king now. Also (say they) in time past, when

Saul was king over us, thou wast he that reddest out and broughtest in

Israel, and the Lord said unto thee, Thou shalt feed my people Israel,

and thou shalt be a captain over Israel.


Sect. 110. Thus, whether a family by degrees grew up into a

commonwealth, and the fatherly authority being continued on to the

elder son, every one in his turn growing up under it, tacitly submitted

to it, and the easiness and equality of it not offending any one, every

one acquiesced, till time seemed to have confirmed it, and settled a

right of succession by prescription: or whether several families, or the

descendants of several families, whom chance, neighbourhood, or business

brought together, uniting into society, the need of a general, whose

conduct might defend them against their enemies in war, and the great

confidence the innocence and sincerity of that poor but virtuous age,

(such as are almost all those which begin governments, that ever come to

last in the world) gave men one of another, made the first beginners of

commonwealths generally put the rule into one man’s hand, without any

other express limitation or restraint, but what the nature of the thing,

and the end of government required: which ever of those it was that at

first put the rule into the hands of a single person, certain it is no

body was intrusted with it but for the public good and safety, and to

those ends, in the infancies of commonwealths, those who had it commonly

used it. And unless they had done so, young societies could not have

subsisted; without such nursing fathers tender and careful of the public

weal, all governments would have sunk under the weakness and infirmities

of their infancy, and the prince and the people had soon perished



Sect. 111. But though the golden age (before vain ambition, and amor

sceleratus habendi, evil concupiscence, had corrupted men’s minds into a

mistake of true power and honour) had more virtue, and consequently

better governors, as well as less vicious subjects, and there was then

no stretching prerogative on the one side, to oppress the people; nor

consequently on the other, any dispute about privilege, to lessen or

restrain the power of the magistrate, and so no contest betwixt rulers

and people about governors or government: yet, when ambition and luxury

in future ages* would retain and increase the power, without doing the

business for which it was given; and aided by flattery, taught princes

to have distinct and separate interests from their people, men found it

necessary to examine more carefully the original and rights of

government; and to find out ways to restrain the exorbitances, and

prevent the abuses of that power, which they having intrusted in

another’s hands only for their own good, they found was made use of to

hurt them.


(*At first, when some certain kind of regiment was once approved, it may

be nothing was then farther thought upon for the manner of governing,

but all permitted unto their wisdom and discretion which were to rule,

till by experience they found this for all parts very inconvenient, so

as the thing which they had devised for a remedy, did indeed but

increase the sore which it should have cured. They saw, that to live by

one man’s will, became the cause of all men’s misery. This constrained

them to come unto laws wherein all men might see their duty before hand,

and know the penalties of transgressing them. Hooker’s Eccl. Pol. l. i.

sect. 10.)


Sect. 112. Thus we may see how probable it is, that people that were

naturally free, and by their own consent either submitted to the

government of their father, or united together out of different families

to make a government, should generally put the rule into one man’s

hands, and chuse to be under the conduct of a single person, without so

much as by express conditions limiting or regulating his power, which

they thought safe enough in his honesty and prudence; though they never

dreamed of monarchy being lure Divino, which we never heard of among

mankind, till it was revealed to us by the divinity of this last age;

nor ever allowed paternal power to have a right to dominion, or to be

the foundation of all government. And thus much may suffice to shew,

that as far as we have any light from history, we have reason to

conclude, that all peaceful beginnings of government have been laid in

the consent of the people. I say peaceful, because I shall have occasion

in another place to speak of conquest, which some esteem a way of

beginning of governments.


The other objection I find urged against the beginning of polities, in

the way I have mentioned, is this, viz.


Sect. 113. That all men being born under government, some or other, it

is impossible any of them should ever be free, and at liberty to unite

together, and begin a new one, or ever be able to erect a lawful



If this argument be good; I ask, how came so many lawful monarchies into

the world? for if any body, upon this supposition, can shew me any one

man in any age of the world free to begin a lawful monarchy, I will be

bound to shew him ten other free men at liberty, at the same time to

unite and begin a new government under a regal, or any other form; it

being demonstration, that if any one, born under the dominion of

another, may be so free as to have a right to command others in a new

and distinct empire, every one that is born under the dominion of

another may be so free too, and may become a ruler, or subject, of a

distinct separate government. And so by this their own principle, either

all men, however born, are free, or else there is but one lawful prince,

one lawful government in the world. And then they have nothing to do,

but barely to shew us which that is; which when they have done, I doubt

not but all mankind will easily agree to pay obedience to him.


Sect. 114. Though it be a sufficient answer to their objection, to shew

that it involves them in the same difficulties that it doth those they

use it against; yet I shall endeavour to discover the weakness of this

argument a little farther. All men, say they, are born under government,

and therefore they cannot be at liberty to begin a new one. Every one is

born a subject to his father, or his prince, and is therefore under the

perpetual tie of subjection and allegiance. It is plain mankind never

owned nor considered any such natural subjection that they were born in,

to one or to the other that tied them, without their own consents, to a

subjection to them and their heirs.


Sect. 115. For there are no examples so frequent in history, both sacred

and profane, as those of men withdrawing themselves, and their

obedience, from the jurisdiction they were born under, and the family or

community they were bred up in, and setting up new governments in other

places; from whence sprang all that number of petty commonwealths in the

beginning of ages, and which always multiplied, as long as there was

room enough, till the stronger, or more fortunate, swallowed the weaker;

and those great ones again breaking to pieces, dissolved into lesser

dominions. All which are so many testimonies against paternal

sovereignty, and plainly prove, that it was not the natural right of the

father descending to his heirs, that made governments in the beginning,

since it was impossible, upon that ground, there should have been so

many little kingdoms; all must have been but only one universal

monarchy, if men had not been at liberty to separate themselves from

their families, and the government, be it what it will, that was set up

in it, and go and make distinct commonwealths and other governments, as

they thought fit.


Sect. 116. This has been the practice of the world from its first

beginning to this day; nor is it now any more hindrance to the freedom

of mankind, that they are born under constituted and ancient polities,

that have established laws, and set forms of government, than if they

were born in the woods, amongst the unconfined inhabitants, that run

loose in them: for those, who would persuade us, that by being born

under any government, we are naturally subjects to it, and have no more

any title or pretence to the freedom of the state of nature, have no

other reason (bating that of paternal power, which we have already

answered) to produce for it, but only, because our fathers or

progenitors passed away their natural liberty, and thereby bound up

themselves and their posterity to a perpetual subjection to the

government, which they themselves submitted to. It is true, that

whatever engagements or promises any one has made for himself, he is

under the obligation of them, but cannot, by any compact whatsoever,

bind his children or posterity: for his son, when a man, being

altogether as free as the father, any act of the father can no more give

away the liberty of the son, than it can of any body else: he may indeed

annex such conditions to the land, he enjoyed as a subject of any

commonwealth, as may oblige his son to be of that community, if he will

enjoy those possessions which were his father’s; because that estate

being his father’s property, he may dispose, or settle it, as he



Sect. 117. And this has generally given the occasion to mistake in this

matter; because commonwealths not permitting any part of their dominions

to be dismembered, nor to be enjoyed by any but those of their

community, the son cannot ordinarily enjoy the possessions of his

father, but under the same terms his father did, by becoming a member of

the society; whereby he puts himself presently under the government he

finds there established, as much as any other subject of that

commonwealth. And thus the consent of freemen, born under government,

which only makes them members of it, being given separately in their

turns, as each comes to be of age, and not in a multitude together;

people take no notice of it, and thinking it not done at all, or not

necessary, conclude they are naturally subjects as they are men.


Sect. 118. But, it is plain, governments themselves understand it

otherwise; they claim no power over the son, because of that they had

over the father; nor look on children as being their subjects, by their

fathers being so. If a subject of England have a child, by an English

woman in France, whose subject is he? Not the king of England’s; for he

must have leave to be admitted to the privileges of it: nor the king of

France’s; for how then has his father a liberty to bring him away, and

breed him as he pleases? and who ever was judged as a traytor or

deserter, if he left, or warred against a country, for being barely born

in it of parents that were aliens there? It is plain then, by the

practice of governments themselves, as well as by the law of right

reason, that a child is born a subject of no country or government. He

is under his father’s tuition and authority, till he comes to age of

discretion; and then he is a freeman, at liberty what government he will

put himself under, what body politic he will unite himself to: for if an

Englishman’s son, born in France, be at liberty, and may do so, it is

evident there is no tie upon him by his father’s being a subject of this

kingdom; nor is he bound up by any compact of his ancestors. And why

then hath not his son, by the same reason, the same liberty, though he

be born any where else? Since the power that a father hath naturally

over his children, is the same, where-ever they be born, and the ties of

natural obligations, are not bounded by the positive limits of kingdoms

and commonwealths.


Sect. 119. Every man being, as has been shewed, naturally free, and

nothing being able to put him into subjection to any earthly power, but

only his own consent; it is to be considered, what shall be understood

to be a sufficient declaration of a man’s consent, to make him subject

to the laws of any government. There is a common distinction of an

express and a tacit consent, which will concern our present case. No

body doubts but an express consent, of any man entering into any

society, makes him a perfect member of that society, a subject of that

government. The difficulty is, what ought to be looked upon as a tacit

consent, and how far it binds, i.e. how far any one shall be looked on

to have consented, and thereby submitted to any government, where he has

made no expressions of it at all. And to this I say, that 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



Sect. 120. To understand this the better, it is fit to consider, that

every man, when he at first incorporates himself into any commonwealth,

he, by his uniting himself thereunto, annexed also, and submits to the

community, those possessions, which he has, or shall acquire, that do

not already belong to any other government: for it would be a direct

contradiction, for any one to enter into society with others for the

securing and regulating of property; and yet to suppose his land, whose

property is to be regulated by the laws of the society, should be exempt

from the jurisdiction of that government, to which he himself, the

proprietor of the land, is a subject. By the same act therefore, whereby

any one unites his person, which was before free, to any commonwealth,

by the same he unites his possessions, which were before free, to it

also; and they become, both of them, person and possession, subject to

the government and dominion of that commonwealth, as long as it hath a

being. Whoever therefore, from thenceforth, by inheritance, purchase,

permission, or otherways, enjoys any part of the land, so annexed to,

and under the government of that commonwealth, must take it with the

condition it is under; that is, of submitting to the government of the

commonwealth, under whose jurisdiction it is, as far forth as any

subject of it.


Sect. 121. But since the government has a direct jurisdiction only over

the land, and reaches the possessor of it, (before he has actually

incorporated himself in the society) only as he dwells upon, and enjoys

that; the obligation any one is under, by virtue of such enjoyment, to

submit to the government, begins and ends with the enjoyment; so that

whenever the owner, who has given nothing but such a tacit consent to

the government, will, by donation, sale, or otherwise, quit the said

possession, he is at liberty to go and incorporate himself into any

other commonwealth; or to agree with others to begin a new one, in

vacuis locis, in any part of the world, they can find free and

unpossessed: whereas he, that has once, by actual agreement, and any

express declaration, given his consent to be of any commonwealth, is

perpetually and indispensably obliged to be, and remain unalterably a

subject to it, and can never be again in the liberty of the state of

nature; unless, by any calamity, the government he was under comes to be

dissolved; or else by some public act cuts him off from being any longer

a member of it.


Sect. 122. But submitting to the laws of any country, living quietly,

and enjoying privileges and protection under them, makes not a man a

member of that society: this is only a local protection and homage due

to and from all those, who, not being in a state of war, come within the

territories belonging to any government, to all parts whereof the force

of its laws extends. But this no more makes a man a member of that

society, a perpetual subject of that commonwealth, than it would make a

man a subject to another, in whose family he found it convenient to

abide for some time; though, whilst he continued in it, he were obliged

to comply with the laws, and submit to the government he found there.

And thus we see, that foreigners, by living all their lives under

another government, and enjoying the privileges and protection of it,

though they are bound, even in conscience, to submit to its

administration, as far forth as any denison; yet do not thereby come to

be subjects or members of that commonwealth. Nothing can make any man

so, but his actually entering into it by positive engagement, and

express promise and compact. This is that, which I think, concerning the

beginning of political societies, and that consent which makes any one a

member of any commonwealth.










Sect. 123. 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 no body, why will he part with his freedom? why

will he give up this empire, and subject himself to the dominion and

controul of any other power? To which it is obvious to answer, that

though in the state of nature he hath such a right, yet the enjoyment of

it is very uncertain, and constantly exposed to the invasion of others:

for all being kings as much as he, every man his equal, and the greater

part no strict observers of equity and justice, the enjoyment of the

property he has in this state is very unsafe, very unsecure. 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.


Sect. 124. The great and chief end, therefore, of men’s uniting into

commonwealths, and putting themselves under government, is the

preservation of their property. To which in the state of nature there

are many things wanting.


First, There wants an established, settled, known law, received and

allowed by common consent to be the standard of right and wrong, and the

common measure to decide all controversies between them: for though the

law of nature be plain and intelligible to all rational creatures; yet

men being biassed by their interest, as well as ignorant for want of

study of it, are not apt to allow of it as a law binding to them in the

application of it to their particular cases.


Sect. 125. Secondly, In the state of nature there wants a known and

indifferent judge, with authority to determine all differences according

to the established law: for every one in that state being both judge and

executioner of the law of nature, men being partial to themselves,

passion and revenge is very apt to carry them too far, and with too much

heat, in their own cases; as well as negligence, and unconcernedness, to

make them too remiss in other men’s.


Sect. 126. Thirdly, In the state of nature there often wants power to

back and support the sentence when right, and to give it due execution,

They who by any injustice offended, will seldom fail, where they are

able, by force to make good their injustice; such resistance many times

makes the punishment dangerous, and frequently destructive, to those who

attempt it.


Sect. 127. Thus mankind, notwithstanding all the privileges of the state

of nature, being but in an ill condition, while they remain in it, are

quickly driven into society. Hence it comes to pass, that we seldom find

any number of men live any time together in this state. The

inconveniencies that they are therein exposed to, by the irregular and

uncertain exercise of the power every man has of punishing the

transgressions of others, make them take sanctuary under the established

laws of government, and therein seek the preservation of their property.

It is this makes them so willingly give up every one his single power of

punishing, to be exercised by such alone, as shall be appointed to it

amongst them; and by such rules as the community, or those authorized by

them to that purpose, shall agree on. And in this we have the original

right and rise of both the legislative and executive power, as well as

of the governments and societies themselves.


Sect. 128. For in the state of nature, to omit the liberty he has of

innocent delights, a man has two powers.


The first is to do whatsoever he thinks fit for the preservation of

himself, and others within the permission of the law of nature: by which

law, common to them all, he and all the rest of mankind are one

community, make up one society, distinct from all other creatures. And

were it not for the corruption and vitiousness of degenerate men, there

would be no need of any other; no necessity that men should separate

from this great and natural community, and by positive agreements

combine into smaller and divided associations.


The other power a man has in the state of nature, is the power to punish

the crimes committed against that law. Both these he gives up, when he

joins in a private, if I may so call it, or particular politic society,

and incorporates into any commonwealth, separate from the rest of



Sect. 129. The first power, viz. of doing whatsoever he thought for the

preservation of himself, and the rest of mankind, he gives up to be

regulated by laws made by the society, so far forth as the preservation

of himself, and the rest of that society shall require; which laws of

the society in many things confine the liberty he had by the law of



Sect. 130. Secondly, The power of punishing he wholly gives up, and

engages his natural force, (which he might before employ in the

execution of the law of nature, by his own single authority, as he

thought fit) to assist the executive power of the society, as the law

thereof shall require: for being now in a new state, wherein he is to

enjoy many conveniencies, from the labour, assistance, and society of

others in the same community, as well as protection from its whole

strength; he is to part also with as much of his natural liberty, in

providing for himself, as the good, prosperity, and safety of the

society shall require; which is not only necessary, but just, since the

other members of the society do the like.


Sect. 131. But though men, when they enter into society, give up the

equality, liberty, and executive power they had in the state of nature,

into the hands of the society, to be so far disposed of by the

legislative, as the good of the society shall require; yet it being only

with an intention in every one the better to preserve himself, his

liberty and property; (for no rational creature can be supposed to

change his condition with an intention to be worse) the power of the

society, or legislative constituted by them, can never be supposed to

extend farther, than the common good; but is obliged to secure every

one’s property, by providing against those three defects above

mentioned, that made the state of nature so unsafe and uneasy. And so

whoever has the legislative or supreme power of any commonwealth, is

bound to govern by established standing laws, promulgated and known to

the people, and not by extemporary decrees; by indifferent and upright

judges, who are to decide controversies by those laws; and to employ the

force of the community at home, only in the execution of such laws, or

abroad to prevent or redress foreign injuries, and secure the community

from inroads and invasion. And all this to be directed to no other end,

but the peace, safety, and public good of the people.










Sect. 132. THE majority having, as has been shewed, upon men’s first

uniting into society, the whole power of the community naturally in

them, may employ all that power in making laws for the community from

time to time, and executing those laws by officers of their own

appointing; and then the form of the government is a perfect democracy:

or else may put the power of making laws into the hands of a few select

men, and their heirs or successors; and then it is an oligarchy: or else

into the hands of one man, and then it is a monarchy: if to him and his

heirs, it is an hereditary monarchy: if to him only for life, but upon

his death the power only of nominating a successor to return to them; an

elective monarchy. And so accordingly of these the community may make

compounded and mixed forms of government, as they think good. And if the

legislative power be at first given by the majority to one or more

persons only for their lives, or any limited time, and then the supreme

power to revert to them again; when it is so reverted, the community may

dispose of it again anew into what hands they please, and so constitute

a new form of government: for the form of government depending upon the

placing the supreme power, which is the legislative, it being impossible

to conceive that an inferior power should prescribe to a superior, or

any but the supreme make laws, according as the power of making laws is

placed, such is the form of the commonwealth.


Sect. 133. By commonwealth, I must be understood all along to mean, not

a democracy, or any form of government, but any independent community,

which the Latines signified by the word civitas, to which the word which

best answers in our language, is commonwealth, and most properly

expresses such a society of men, which community or city in English does

not; for there may be subordinate communities in a government; and city

amongst us has a quite different notion from commonwealth: and

therefore, to avoid ambiguity, I crave leave to use the word

commonwealth in that sense, in which I find it used by king James the

first; and I take it to be its genuine signification; which if any body

dislike, I consent with him to change it for a better.










Sect. 134. THE great end of men’s entering into society, being the

enjoyment of their properties in peace and safety, and the great

instrument and means of that being the laws established in that society;

the first and fundamental positive law of all commonwealths is the

establishing of the legislative power; as the first and fundamental

natural law, which is to govern even the legislative itself, is the

preservation of the society, and (as far as will consist with the public

good) of every person in it. This legislative is not only the supreme

power of the commonwealth, but sacred and unalterable in the hands

where the community have once placed it; nor can any edict of any body

else, in what form soever conceived, or by what power soever backed,

have the force and obligation of a law, which has not its sanction from

that legislative which the public has chosen and appointed: for without

this the law could not have that, which is absolutely necessary to its

being a law,* the consent of the society, over whom no body can have a

power to make laws, but by their own consent, and by authority received

from them; and therefore all the obedience, which by the most solemn

ties any one can be obliged to pay, ultimately terminates in this

supreme power, and is directed by those laws which it enacts: nor can

any oaths to any foreign power whatsoever, or any domestic subordinate

power, discharge any member of the society from his obedience to the

legislative, acting pursuant to their trust; nor oblige him to any

obedience contrary to the laws so enacted, or farther than they do

allow; it being ridiculous to imagine one can be tied ultimately to obey

any power in the society, which is not the supreme.


(*The lawful power of making laws to command whole politic societies of

men, belonging so properly unto the same intire societies, that for any

prince or potentate of what kind soever upon earth, to exercise the same

of himself, and not by express commission immediately and personally

received from God, or else by authority derived at the first from their

consent, upon whose persons they impose laws, it is no better than mere

tyranny. Laws they are not therefore which public approbation hath not

made so. Hooker’s Eccl. Pol. l. i. sect. 10.


Of this point therefore we are to note, that such men naturally have no

full and perfect power to command whole politic multitudes of men,

therefore utterly without our consent, we could in such sort be at no

man’s commandment living. And to be commanded we do consent, when that

society, whereof we be a part, hath at any time before consented,

without revoking the same after by the like universal agreement. Laws

therefore human, of what kind so ever, are available by consent. Ibid.)


Sect. 135. Though the legislative, whether placed in one or more,

whether it be always in being, or only by intervals, though it be the

supreme power in every commonwealth; yet:


First, It is not, nor can possibly be absolutely arbitrary over the

lives and fortunes of the people: for it being but the joint power of

every member of the society given up to that person, or assembly, which

is legislator; it can be no more than those persons had in a state of

nature before they entered into society, and gave up to the community:

for no body can transfer to another more power than he has in himself;

and no body has an absolute arbitrary power over himself, or over any

other, to destroy his own life, or take away the life or property of

another. A man, as has been proved, cannot subject himself to the

arbitrary power of another; and having in the state of nature no

arbitrary power over the life, liberty, or possession of another, but

only so much as the law of nature gave him for the preservation of

himself, and the rest of mankind; this is all he doth, or can give up

to the commonwealth, and by it to the legislative power, so that the

legislative can have no more than this. Their power, in the utmost

bounds of it, is limited to the public good of the society. It is a

power, that hath no other end but preservation, and therefore can never

have a right to destroy, enslave, or designedly to impoverish the

subjects.* The obligations of the law of nature cease not in society,

but only in many cases are drawn closer, and have by human laws known

penalties annexed to them, to inforce their observation. Thus the law of

nature stands as an eternal rule to all men, legislators as well as

others. The rules that they make for other men’s actions, must, as well

as their own and other men’s actions, be conformable to the law of

nature, i.e. to the will of God, of which that is a declaration, and the

fundamental law of nature being the preservation of mankind, no human

sanction can be good, or valid against it.


(*Two foundations there are which bear up public societies; the one a

natural inclination, whereby all men desire sociable life and

fellowship; the other an order, expresly or secretly agreed upon,

touching the manner of their union in living together: the latter is

that which we call the law of a common-weal, the very soul of a politic

body, the parts whereof are by law animated, held together, and set on

work in such actions as the common good requireth. Laws politic,

ordained for external order and regiment amongst men, are never framed

as they should be, unless presuming the will of man to be inwardly

obstinate, rebellious, and averse from all obedience to the sacred laws

of his nature; in a word, unless presuming man to be, in regard of his

depraved mind, little better than a wild beast, they do accordingly

provide, notwithstanding, so to frame his outward actions, that they be

no hindrance unto the common good, for which societies are instituted.

Unless they do this, they are not perfect. Hooker’s Eccl. Pol. l. i.

sect. 10.)


Sect. 136. Secondly, The legislative, or supreme authority, cannot

assume to its self a power to rule by extemporary arbitrary decrees, but

is bound to dispense justice, and decide the rights of the subject by

promulgated standing laws, and known authorized judges:* for the law of

nature being unwritten, and so no where to be found but in the minds of

men, they who through passion or interest shall miscite, or misapply it,

cannot so easily be convinced of their mistake where there is no

established judge: and so it serves not, as it ought, to determine the

rights, and fence the properties of those that live under it, especially

where every one is judge, interpreter, and executioner of it too, and

that in his own case: and he that has right on his side, having

ordinarily but his own single strength, hath not force enough to defend

himself from injuries, or to punish delinquents. To avoid these

inconveniences, which disorder men’s propperties in the state of nature,

men unite into societies, that they may have the united strength of the

whole society to secure and defend their properties, and may have

standing rules to bound it, by which every one may know what is his. To

this end it is that men give up all their natural power to the society

which they enter into, and the community put the legislative power into

such hands as they think fit, with this trust, that they shall be

governed by declared laws, or else their peace, quiet, and property will

still be at the same uncertainty, as it was in the state of nature.


(*Human laws are measures in respect of men whose actions they must

direct, howbeit such measures they are as have also their higher rules

to be measured by, which rules are two, the law of God, and the law of

nature; so that laws human must be made according to the general laws of

nature, and without contradiction to any positive law of scripture,

otherwise they are ill made. Hooker’s Eccl. Pol. l. iii. sect. 9.


To constrain men to any thing inconvenient doth seem unreasonable.

Ibid. l. i. sect. 10.)


Sect. 137. Absolute arbitrary power, or governing without settled

standing laws, can neither of them consist with the ends of society and

government, which men would not quit the freedom of the state of nature

for, and tie themselves up under, were it not to preserve their lives,

liberties and fortunes, and by stated rules of right and property to

secure their peace and quiet. It cannot be supposed that they should

intend, had they a power so to do, to give to any one, or more, an

absolute arbitrary power over their persons and estates, and put a force

into the magistrate’s hand to execute his unlimited will arbitrarily

upon them. This were to put themselves into a worse condition than the

state of nature, wherein they had a liberty to defend their right

against the injuries of others, and were upon equal terms of force to

maintain it, whether invaded by a single man, or many in combination.

Whereas by supposing they have given up themselves to the absolute

arbitrary power and will of a legislator, they have disarmed themselves,

and armed him, to make a prey of them when he pleases; he being in a

much worse condition, who is exposed to the arbitrary power of one man,

who has the command of 100,000, than he that is exposed to the arbitrary

power of 100,000 single men; no body being secure, that his will, who

has such a command, is better than that of other men, though his force

be 100,000 times stronger. And therefore, whatever form the

commonwealth is under, the ruling power ought to govern by declared and

received laws, and not by extemporary dictates and undetermined

resolutions: for then mankind will be in a far worse condition than in

the state of nature, if they shall have armed one, or a few men with the

joint power of a multitude, to force them to obey at pleasure the

exorbitant and unlimited decrees of their sudden thoughts, or

unrestrained, and till that moment unknown wills, without having any

measures set down which may guide and justify their actions: for all the

power the government has, being only for the good of the society, as it

ought not to be arbitrary and at pleasure, so it ought to be exercised

by established and promulgated laws; that both the people may know their

duty, and be safe and secure within the limits of the law; and the

rulers too kept within their bounds, and not be tempted, by the power

they have in their hands, to employ it to such purposes, and by such

measures, as they would not have known, and own not willingly.


Sect. 138. Thirdly, The supreme power cannot take from any man any part

of his property without his own consent: for the preservation of

property being the end of government, and that for which men enter into

society, it necessarily supposes and requires, that the people should

have property, without which they must be supposed to lose that, by

entering into society, which was the end for which they entered into it;

too gross an absurdity for any man to own. Men therefore in society

having property, they have such a right to the goods, which by the law

of the community are their’s, that no body hath a right to take their

substance or any part of it from them, without their own consent:

without this they have no property at all; for I have truly no property

in that, which another can by right take from me, when he pleases,

against my consent. Hence it is a mistake to think, that the supreme or

legislative power of any commonwealth, can do what it will, and dispose

of the estates of the subject arbitrarily, or take any part of them at

pleasure. This is not much to be feared in governments where the

legislative consists, wholly or in part, in assemblies which are

variable, whose members, upon the dissolution of the assembly, are

subjects under the common laws of their country, equally with the rest.

But in governments, where the legislative is in one lasting assembly

always in being, or in one man, as in absolute monarchies, there is

danger still, that they will think themselves to have a distinct

interest from the rest of the community; and so will be apt to increase

their own riches and power, by taking what they think fit from the

people: for a man’s property is not at all secure, tho’ there be good

and equitable laws to set the bounds of it between him and his fellow

subjects, if he who commands those subjects have power to take from any

private man, what part he pleases of his property, and use and dispose

of it as he thinks good.


Sect. 139. But government, into whatsoever hands it is put, being, as I

have before shewed, intrusted with this condition, and for this end,

that men might have and secure their properties; the prince, or senate,

however it may have power to make laws, for the regulating of property

between the subjects one amongst another, yet can never have a power to

take to themselves the whole, or any part of the subjects property,

without their own consent: for this would be in effect to leave them no

property at all. And to let us see, that even absolute power, where it

is necessary, is not arbitrary by being absolute, but is still limited

by that reason, and confined to those ends, which required it in some

cases to be absolute, we need look no farther than the common practice

of martial discipline: for the preservation of the army, and in it of

the whole commonwealth, requires an absolute obedience to the command

of every superior officer, and it is justly death to disobey or dispute

the most dangerous or unreasonable of them; but yet we see, that neither

the serjeant, that could command a soldier to march up to the mouth of a

cannon, or stand in a breach, where he is almost sure to perish, can

command that soldier to give him one penny of his money; nor the

general, that can condemn him to death for deserting his post, or for

not obeying the most desperate orders, can yet, with all his absolute

power of life and death, dispose of one farthing of that soldier’s

estate, or seize one jot of his goods; whom yet he can command any

thing, and hang for the least disobedience; because such a blind

obedience is necessary to that end, for which the commander has his

power, viz. the preservation of the rest; but the disposing of his goods

has nothing to do with it.


Sect. 140. It is true, governments cannot be supported without great

charge, and it is fit every one who enjoys his share of the protection,

should pay out of his estate his proportion for the maintenance of it.

But still it must be with his own consent, i.e. the consent of the

majority, giving it either by themselves, or their representatives

chosen by them: for if any one shall claim a power to lay and levy taxes

on the people, by his own authority, and without such consent of the

people, he thereby invades the fundamental law of property, and subverts

the end of government: for what property have I in that, which another

may by right take, when he pleases, to himself?


Sect. 141. Fourthly, The legislative cannot transfer the power of making

laws to any other hands: for it being but a delegated power from the

people, they who have it cannot pass it over to others. The people alone

can appoint the form of the commonwealth, which is by constituting the

legislative, and appointing in whose hands that shall be. And when the

people have said, We will submit to rules, and be governed by laws made

by such men, and in such forms, no body else can say other men shall

make laws for them; nor can the people be bound by any laws, but such as

are enacted by those whom they have chosen, and authorized to make laws

for them. The power of the legislative, being derived from the people by

a positive voluntary grant and institution, can be no other than what

that positive grant conveyed, which being only to make laws, and not to

make legislators, the legislative can have no power to transfer their

authority of making laws, and place it in other hands.


Sect. 142. 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 commonwealth, 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.











Sect. 143. THE legislative power is that, which has a right to direct

how the force of the commonwealth shall be employed for preserving the

community and the members of it. But because those laws which are

constantly to be executed, and whose force is always to continue, may be

made in a little time; therefore there is no need, that the legislative

should be always in being, not having always business to do. And because

it may be too great a temptation to human frailty, apt to grasp at

power, for the same persons, who have the power of making laws, to have

also in their hands the power to execute them, whereby they may exempt

themselves from obedience to the laws they make, and suit the law, both

in its making, and execution, to their own private advantage, and

thereby come to have a distinct interest from the rest of the community,

contrary to the end of society and government: therefore in wellordered

commonwealths, where the good of the whole is so considered, as it

ought, the legislative power is put into the hands of divers persons,

who duly assembled, have by themselves, or jointly with others, a power

to make laws, which when they have done, being separated again, they are

themselves subject to the laws they have made; which is a new and near

tie upon them, to take care, that they make them for the public good.


Sect. 144. But because the laws, that are at once, and in a short time

made, have a constant and lasting force, and need a perpetual execution,

or an attendance thereunto; therefore it is necessary there should be a

power always in being, which should see to the execution of the laws

that are made, and remain in force. And thus the legislative and

executive power come often to be separated.


Sect. 145. There is another power in every commonwealth, which one may

call natural, because it is that which answers to the power every man

naturally had before he entered into society: for though in a

commonwealth the members of it are distinct persons still in reference

to one another, and as such as governed by the laws of the society; yet

in reference to the rest of mankind, they make one body, which is, as

every member of it before was, still in the state of nature with the

rest of mankind. Hence it is, that the controversies that happen between

any man of the society with those that are out of it, are managed by the

public; and an injury done to a member of their body, engages the whole

in the reparation of it. So that under this consideration, the whole

community is one body in the state of nature, in respect of all other

states or persons out of its community.


Sect. 146. This therefore contains the power of war and peace, leagues

and alliances, and all the transactions, with all persons and

communities without the commonwealth, and may be called federative, if

any one pleases. So the thing be understood, I am indifferent as to the



Sect. 147. These two powers, executive and federative, though they be

really distinct in themselves, yet one comprehending the execution of

the municipal laws of the society within its self, upon all that are

parts of it; the other the management of the security and interest of

the public without, with all those that it may receive benefit or damage

from, yet they are always almost united. And though this federative

power in the well or ill management of it be of great moment to the

commonwealth, yet it is much less capable to be directed by antecedent,

standing, positive laws, than the executive; and so must necessarily be

left to the prudence and wisdom of those, whose hands it is in, to be

managed for the public good: for the laws that concern subjects one

amongst another, being to direct their actions, may well enough precede

them. But what is to be done in reference to foreigners, depending much

upon their actions, and the variation of designs and interests, must be

left in great part to the prudence of those, who have this power

committed to them, to be managed by the best of their skill, for the

advantage of the commonwealth.


Sect. 148. Though, as I said, the executive and federative power of

every community be really distinct in themselves, yet they are hardly to

be separated, and placed at the same time, in the hands of distinct

persons: for both of them requiring the force of the society for their

exercise, it is almost impracticable to place the force of the

commonwealth in distinct, and not subordinate hands; or that the

executive and federative power should be placed in persons, that might

act separately, whereby the force of the public would be under different

commands: which would be apt some time or other to cause disorder and











Sect. 149. THOUGH in a constituted commonwealth, standing upon its own

basis, and acting according to its own nature, that is, acting for the

preservation of the community, there can be but one supreme power, which

is the legislative, to which all the rest are and must be subordinate,

yet the legislative being only a fiduciary power to act for certain

ends, there remains still in the people a supreme power to remove or

alter the legislative, when they find the legislative act contrary to

the trust reposed in them: for all power given with trust for the

attaining an end, being limited by that end, whenever that end is

manifestly neglected, or opposed, the trust must necessarily be

forfeited, and the power devolve into the hands of those that gave it,

who may place it anew where they shall think best for their safety and

security. And thus the community perpetually retains a supreme power of

saving themselves from the attempts and designs of any body, even of

their legislators, whenever they shall be so foolish, or so wicked, as

to lay and carry on designs against the liberties and properties of the

subject: for no man or society of men, having a power to deliver up

their preservation, or consequently the means of it, to the absolute

will and arbitrary dominion of another; when ever any one shall go about

to bring them into such a slavish condition, they will always have a

right to preserve, what they have not a power to part with; and to rid

themselves of those, who invade this fundamental, sacred, and

unalterable law of self-preservation, for which they entered into

society. And thus the community may be said in this respect to be always

the supreme power, but not as considered under any form of government,

because this power of the people can never take place till the

government be dissolved.


Sect. 150. In all cases, whilst the government subsists, the legislative

is the supreme power: for what can give laws to another, must needs be

superior to him; and since the legislative is no otherwise legislative

of the society, but by the right it has to make laws for all the parts,

and for every member of the society, prescribing rules to their actions,

and giving power of execution, where they are transgressed, the

legislative must needs be the supreme, and all other powers, in any

members or parts of the society, derived from and subordinate to it.


Sect. 151. In some commonwealths, where the legislative is not always in

being, and the executive is vested in a single person, who has also a

share in the legislative; there that single person in a very tolerable

sense may also be called supreme: not that he has in himself all the

supreme power, which is that of law-making; but because he has in him

the supreme execution, from whom all inferior magistrates derive all

their several subordinate powers, or at least the greatest part of them:

having also no legislative superior to him, there being no law to be

made without his consent, which cannot be expected should ever subject

him to the other part of the legislative, he is properly enough in this

sense supreme. But yet it is to be observed, that tho’ oaths of

allegiance and fealty are taken to him, it is not to him as supreme

legislator, but as supreme executor of the law, made by a joint power of

him with others; allegiance being nothing but an obedience according to

law, which when he violates, he has no right to obedience, nor can claim

it otherwise than as the public person vested with the power of the law,

and so is to be considered as the image, phantom, or representative of

the commonwealth, acted by the will of the society, declared in its

laws; and thus he has no will, no power, but that of the law. But when

he quits this representation, this public will, and acts by his own

private will, he degrades himself, and is but a single private person

without power, and without will, that has any right to obedience; the

members owing no obedience but to the public will of the society.


Sect. 152. The executive power, placed any where but in a person that

has also a share in the legislative, is visibly subordinate and

accountable to it, and may be at pleasure changed and displaced; so that

it is not the supreme executive power, that is exempt from

subordination, but the supreme executive power vested in one, who having

a share in the legislative, has no distinct superior legislative to be

subordinate and accountable to, farther than he himself shall join and

consent; so that he is no more subordinate than he himself shall think

fit, which one may certainly conclude will be but very little. Of other

ministerial and subordinate powers in a commonwealth, we need not speak,

they being so multiplied with infinite variety, in the different customs

and constitutions of distinct commonwealths, that it is impossible to

give a particular account of them all. Only thus much, which is

necessary to our present purpose, we may take notice of concerning them,

that they have no manner of authority, any of them, beyond what is by

positive grant and commission delegated to them, and are all of them

accountable to some other power in the commonwealth.


Sect. 153. It is not necessary, no, nor so much as convenient, that the

legislative should be always in being; but absolutely necessary that the

executive power should, because there is not always need of new laws to

be made, but always need of execution of the laws that are made. When

the legislative hath put the execution of the laws, they make, into

other hands, they have a power still to resume it out of those hands,

when they find cause, and to punish for any maladministration against

the laws. The same holds also in regard of the federative power, that

and the executive being both ministerial and subordinate to the

legislative, which, as has been shewed, in a constituted commonwealth

is the supreme. The legislative also in this case being supposed to

consist of several persons, (for if it be a single person, it cannot but

be always in being, and so will, as supreme, naturally have the supreme

executive power, together with the legislative) may assemble, and

exercise their legislature, at the times that either their original

constitution, or their own adjournment, appoints, or when they please;

if neither of these hath appointed any time, or there be no other way

prescribed to convoke them: for the supreme power being placed in them

by the people, it is always in them, and they may exercise it when they

please, unless by their original constitution they are limited to

certain seasons, or by an act of their supreme power they have adjourned

to a certain time; and when that time comes, they have a right to

assemble and act again.


Sect. 154. If the legislative, or any part of it, be made up of

representatives chosen for that time by the people, which afterwards

return into the ordinary state of subjects, and have no share in the

legislature but upon a new choice, this power of chusing must also be

exercised by the people, either at certain appointed seasons, or else

when they are summoned to it; and in this latter case the power of

convoking the legislative is ordinarily placed in the executive, and has

one of these two limitations in respect of time: that either the

original constitution requires their assembling and acting at certain

intervals, and then the executive power does nothing but ministerially

issue directions for their electing and assembling, according to due

forms; or else it is left to his prudence to call them by new elections,

when the occasions or exigencies of the public require the amendment of

old, or making of new laws, or the redress or prevention of any

inconveniencies, that lie on, or threaten the people.


Sect. 155. It may be demanded here, What if the executive power, being

possessed of the force of the commonwealth, shall make use of that

force to hinder the meeting and acting of the legislative, when the

original constitution, or the public exigencies require it? I say, using

force upon the people without authority, and contrary to the trust put

in him that does so, is a state of war with the people, who have a right

to reinstate their legislative in the exercise of their power: for

having erected a legislative, with an intent they should exercise the

power of making laws, either at certain set times, or when there is need

of it, when they are hindered by any force from what is so necessary to

the society, and wherein the safety and preservation of the people

consists, the people have a right to remove it by force. In all states

and conditions, the true remedy of force without authority, is to oppose

force to it. The use of force without authority, always puts him that

uses it into a state of war, as the aggressor, and renders him liable to

be treated accordingly.


Sect. 156. The power of assembling and dismissing the legislative,

placed in the executive, gives not the executive a superiority over it,

but is a fiduciary trust placed in him, for the safety of the people, in

a case where the uncertainty and variableness of human affairs could not

bear a steady fixed rule: for it not being possible, that the first

framers of the government should, by any foresight, be so much masters

of future events, as to be able to prefix so just periods of return and

duration to the assemblies of the legislative, in all times to come,

that might exactly answer all the exigencies of the commonwealth; the

best remedy could be found for this defect, was to trust this to the

prudence of one who was always to be present, and whose business it was

to watch over the public good. Constant frequent meetings of the

legislative, and long continuations of their assemblies, without

necessary occasion, could not but be burdensome to the people, and must

necessarily in time produce more dangerous inconveniencies, and yet the

quick turn of affairs might be sometimes such as to need their present

help: any delay of their convening might endanger the public; and

sometimes too their business might be so great, that the limited time of

their sitting might be too short for their work, and rob the public of

that benefit which could be had only from their mature deliberation.

What then could be done in this case to prevent the community from being

exposed some time or other to eminent hazard, on one side or the other,

by fixed intervals and periods, set to the meeting and acting of the

legislative, but to intrust it to the prudence of some, who being

present, and acquainted with the state of public affairs, might make use

of this prerogative for the public good? and where else could this be so

well placed as in his hands, who was intrusted with the execution of the

laws for the same end? Thus supposing the regulation of times for the

assembling and sitting of the legislative, not settled by the original

constitution, it naturally fell into the hands of the executive, not as

an arbitrary power depending on his good pleasure, but with this trust

always to have it exercised only for the public weal, as the occurrences

of times and change of affairs might require. Whether settled periods of

their convening, or a liberty left to the prince for convoking the

legislative, or perhaps a mixture of both, hath the least inconvenience

attending it, it is not my business here to inquire, but only to shew,

that though the executive power may have the prerogative of convoking

and dissolving such conventions of the legislative, yet it is not

thereby superior to it.


Sect. 157. Things of this world are in so constant a flux, that nothing

remains long in the same state. Thus people, riches, trade, power,

change their stations, flourishing mighty cities come to ruin, and prove

in times neglected desolate corners, whilst other unfrequented places

grow into populous countries, filled with wealth and inhabitants. But

things not always changing equally, and private interest often keeping

up customs and privileges, when the reasons of them are ceased, it often

comes to pass, that in governments, where part of the legislative

consists of representatives chosen by the people, that in tract of time

this representation becomes very unequal and disproportionate to the

reasons it was at first established upon. To what gross absurdities the

following of custom, when reason has left it, may lead, we may be

satisfied, when we see the bare name of a town, of which there remains

not so much as the ruins, where scarce so much housing as a sheepcote,

or more inhabitants than a shepherd is to be found, sends as many

representatives to the grand assembly of law-makers, as a whole county

numerous in people, and powerful in riches. This strangers stand amazed

at, and every one must confess needs a remedy; tho’ most think it hard

to find one, because the constitution of the legislative being the

original and supreme act of the society, antecedent to all positive laws

in it, and depending wholly on the people, no inferior power can alter

  1. And therefore the people, when the legislative is once constituted,

having, in such a government as we have been speaking of, no power to

act as long as the government stands; this inconvenience is thought

incapable of a remedy.


Sect. 158. Salus populi suprema lex, is certainly so just and

fundamental a rule, that he, who sincerely follows it, cannot

dangerously err. If therefore the executive, who has the power of

convoking the legislative, observing rather the true proportion, than

fashion of representation, regulates, not by old custom, but true

reason, the number of members, in all places that have a right to be

distinctly represented, which no part of the people however incorporated

can pretend to, but in proportion to the assistance which it affords to

the public, it cannot be judged to have set up a new legislative, but to

have restored the old and true one, and to have rectified the disorders

which succession of time had insensibly, as well as inevitably

introduced: For it being the interest as well as intention of the

people, to have a fair and equal representative; whoever brings it

nearest to that, is an undoubted friend to, and establisher of the

government, and cannot miss the consent and approbation of the

community; prerogative being nothing but a power, in the hands of the

prince, to provide for the public good, in such cases, which depending

upon unforeseen and uncertain occurrences, certain and unalterable laws

could not safely direct; whatsoever shall be done manifestly for the

good of the people, and the establishing the government upon its true

foundations, is, and always will be, just prerogative, The power of

erecting new corporations, and therewith new representatives, carries

with it a supposition, that in time the measures of representation might

vary, and those places have a just right to be represented which before

had none; and by the same reason, those cease to have a right, and be

too inconsiderable for such a privilege, which before had it. ‘Tis not a

change from the present state, which perhaps corruption or decay has

introduced, that makes an inroad upon the government, but the tendency

of it to injure or oppress the people, and to set up one part or party,

with a distinction from, and an unequal subjection of the rest.

Whatsoever cannot but be acknowledged to be of advantage to the society,

and people in general, upon just and lasting measures, will always, when

done, justify itself; and whenever the people shall chuse their

representatives upon just and undeniably equal measures, suitable to the

original frame of the government, it cannot be doubted to be the will

and act of the society, whoever permitted or caused them so to do.










Sect. 159. WHERE the legislative and executive power are in distinct

hands, (as they are in all moderated monarchies, and well-framed

governments) there the good of the society requires, that several things

should be left to the discretion of him that has the executive power:

for the legislators not being able to foresee, and provide by laws, for

all that may be useful to the community, the executor of the laws having

the power in his hands, has by the common law of nature a right to make

use of it for the good of the society, in many cases, where the

municipal law has given no direction, till the legislative can

conveniently be assembled to provide for it. Many things there are,

which the law can by no means provide for; and those must necessarily be

left to the discretion of him that has the executive power in his hands,

to be ordered by him as the public good and advantage shall require:

nay, it is fit that the laws themselves should in some cases give way to

the executive power, or rather to this fundamental law of nature and

government, viz. That as much as may be, all the members of the society

are to be preserved: for since many accidents may happen, wherein a

strict and rigid observation of the laws may do harm; (as not to pull

down an innocent man’s house to stop the fire, when the next to it is

burning) and a man may come sometimes within the reach of the law, which

makes no distinction of persons, by an action that may deserve reward

and pardon; ’tis fit the ruler should have a power, in many cases, to

mitigate the severity of the law, and pardon some offenders: for the end

of government being the preservation of all, as much as may be, even the

guilty are to be spared, where it can prove no prejudice to the



Sect. 160. This power to act according to discretion, for the public

good, without the prescription of the law, and sometimes even against

it, is that which is called prerogative: for since in some governments

the lawmaking power is not always in being, and is usually too numerous,

and so too slow, for the dispatch requisite to execution; and because

also it is impossible to foresee, and so by laws to provide for, all

accidents and necessities that may concern the public, or to make such

laws as will do no harm, if they are executed with an inflexible rigour,

on all occasions, and upon all persons that may come in their way;

therefore there is a latitude left to the executive power, to do many

things of choice which the laws do not prescribe.


Sect. 161. This power, whilst employed for the benefit of the community,

and suitably to the trust and ends of the government, is undoubted

prerogative, and never is questioned: for the people are very seldom or

never scrupulous or nice in the point; they are far from examining

prerogative, whilst it is in any tolerable degree employed for the use

it was meant, that is, for the good of the people, and not manifestly

against it: but if there comes to be a question between the executive

power and the people, about a thing claimed as a prerogative; the

tendency of the exercise of such prerogative to the good or hurt of the

people, will easily decide that question.


Sect. 162. It is easy to conceive, that in the infancy of governments,

when commonwealths differed little from families in number of people,

they differed from them too but little in number of laws: and the

governors, being as the fathers of them, watching over them for their

good, the government was almost all prerogative. A few established laws

served the turn, and the discretion and care of the ruler supplied the

rest. But when mistake or flattery prevailed with weak princes to make

use of this power for private ends of their own, and not for the public

good, the people were fain by express laws to get prerogative determined

in those points wherein they found disadvantage from it: and thus

declared limitations of prerogative were by the people found necessary

in cases which they and their ancestors had left, in the utmost

latitude, to the wisdom of those princes who made no other but a right

use of it, that is, for the good of their people.


Sect. 163. And therefore they have a very wrong notion of government,

who say, that the people have encroached upon the prerogative, when they

have got any part of it to be defined by positive laws: for in so doing

they have not pulled from the prince any thing that of right belonged to

him, but only declared, that that power which they indefinitely left in

his or his ancestors hands, to be exercised for their good, was not a

thing which they intended him when he used it otherwise: for the end of

government being the good of the community, whatsoever alterations are

made in it, tending to that end, cannot be an encroachment upon any

body, since no body in government can have a right tending to any other

end: and those only are encroachments which prejudice or hinder the

public good. Those who say otherwise, speak as if the prince had a

distinct and separate interest from the good of the community, and was

not made for it; the root and source from which spring almost all those

evils and disorders which happen in kingly governments. And indeed, if

that be so, the people under his government are not a society of

rational creatures, entered into a community for their mutual good; they

are not such as have set rulers over themselves, to guard, and promote

that good; but are to be looked on as an herd of inferior creatures

under the dominion of a master, who keeps them and works them for his

own pleasure or profit. If men were so void of reason, and brutish, as

to enter into society upon such terms, prerogative might indeed be, what

some men would have it, an arbitrary power to do things hurtful to the



Sect. 164. But since a rational creature cannot be supposed, when free,

to put himself into subjection to another, for his own harm; (though,

where he finds a good and wise ruler, he may not perhaps think it either

necessary or useful to set precise bounds to his power in all things)

prerogative can be nothing but the people’s permitting their rulers to

do several things, of their own free choice, where the law was silent,

and sometimes too against the direct letter of the law, for the public

good; and their acquiescing in it when so done: for as a good prince,

who is mindful of the trust put into his hands, and careful of the good

of his people, cannot have too much prerogative, that is, power to do

good; so a weak and ill prince, who would claim that power which his

predecessors exercised without the direction of the law, as a

prerogative belonging to him by right of his office, which he may

exercise at his pleasure, to make or promote an interest distinct from

that of the public, gives the people an occasion to claim their right,

and limit that power, which, whilst it was exercised for their good,

they were content should be tacitly allowed.


Sect. 165. And therefore he that will look into the history of England,

will find, that prerogative was always largest in the hands of our

wisest and best princes; because the people, observing the whole

tendency of their actions to be the public good, contested not what was

done without law to that end: or, if any human frailty or mistake (for

princes are but men, made as others) appeared in some small declinations

from that end; yet ’twas visible, the main of their conduct tended to

nothing but the care of the public. The people therefore, finding reason

to be satisfied with these princes, whenever they acted without, or

contrary to the letter of the law, acquiesced in what they did, and,

without the least complaint, let them inlarge their prerogative as they

pleased, judging rightly, that they did nothing herein to the prejudice

of their laws, since they acted conformable to the foundation and end of

all laws, the public good.


Sect. 166. Such god-like princes indeed had some title to arbitrary

power by that argument, that would prove absolute monarchy the best

government, as that which God himself governs the universe by; because

such kings partake of his wisdom and goodness. Upon this is founded that

saying, That the reigns of good princes have been always most dangerous

to the liberties of their people: for when their successors, managing

the government with different thoughts, would draw the actions of those

good rulers into precedent, and make them the standard of their

prerogative, as if what had been done only for the good of the people

was a right in them to do, for the harm of the people, if they so

pleased; it has often occasioned contest, and sometimes public

disorders, before the people could recover their original right, and get

that to be declared not to be prerogative, which truly was never so;

since it is impossible that any body in the society should ever have a

right to do the people harm; though it be very possible, and reasonable,

that the people should not go about to set any bounds to the prerogative

of those kings, or rulers, who themselves transgressed not the bounds of

the public good: for prerogative is nothing but the power of doing

public good without a rule.


Sect. 167. The power of calling parliaments in England, as to precise

time, place, and duration, is certainly a prerogative of the king, but

still with this trust, that it shall be made use of for the good of the

nation, as the exigencies of the times, and variety of occasions, shall

require: for it being impossible to foresee which should always be the

fittest place for them to assemble in, and what the best season; the

choice of these was left with the executive power, as might be most

subservient to the public good, and best suit the ends of parliaments.


Sect. 168. The old question will be asked in this matter of prerogative,

But who shall be judge when this power is made a right use of one

answer: between an executive power in being, with such a prerogative,

and a legislative that depends upon his will for their convening, there

can be no judge on earth; as there can be none between the legislative

and the people, should either the executive, or the legislative, when

they have got the power in their hands, design, or go about to enslave

or destroy them. The people have no other remedy in this, as in all

other cases where they have no judge on earth, but to appeal to heaven:

for the rulers, in such attempts, exercising a power the people never

put into their hands, (who can never be supposed to consent that any

body should rule over them for their harm) do that which they have not a

right to do. And where the body of the people, or any single man, is

deprived of their right, or is under the exercise of a power without

right, and have no appeal on earth, then they have a liberty to appeal

to heaven, whenever they judge the cause of sufficient moment. And

therefore, though the people cannot be judge, so as to have, by the

constitution of that society, any superior power, to determine and give

effective sentence in the case; yet they have, by a law antecedent and

paramount to all positive laws of men, reserved that ultimate

determination to themselves which belongs to all mankind, where there

lies no appeal on earth, viz. to judge, whether they have just cause to

make their appeal to heaven. And this judgment they cannot part with, it

being out of a man’s power so to submit himself to another, as to give

him a liberty to destroy him; God and nature never allowing a man so to

abandon himself, as to neglect his own preservation: and since he cannot

take away his own life, neither can he give another power to take it.

Nor let any one think, this lays a perpetual foundation for disorder;

for this operates not, till the inconveniency is so great, that the

majority feel it, and are weary of it, and find a necessity to have it

amended. But this the executive power, or wise princes, never need come

in the danger of: and it is the thing, of all others, they have most

need to avoid, as of all others the most perilous.










Sect. 169. THOUGH I have had occasion to speak of these separately

before, yet the great mistakes of late about government, having, as I

suppose, arisen from confounding these distinct powers one with another,

it may not, perhaps, be amiss to consider them here together.


Sect. 170. First, then, Paternal or parental power is nothing but that

which parents have over their children, to govern them for the

children’s good, till they come to the use of reason, or a state of

knowledge, wherein they may be supposed capable to understand that rule,

whether it be the law of nature, or the municipal law of their country,

they are to govern themselves by: capable, I say, to know it, as well as

several others, who live as freemen under that law. The affection and

tenderness which God hath planted in the breast of parents towards their

children, makes it evident, that this is not intended to be a severe

arbitrary government, but only for the help, instruction, and

preservation of their offspring. But happen it as it will, there is, as

I have proved, no reason why it should be thought to extend to life and

death, at any time, over their children, more than over any body else;

neither can there be any pretence why this parental power should keep

the child, when grown to a man, in subjection to the will of his

parents, any farther than having received life and education from his

parents, obliges him to respect, honour, gratitude, assistance and

support, all his life, to both father and mother. And thus, ’tis true,

the paternal is a natural government, but not at all extending itself to

the ends and jurisdictions of that which is political. The power of the

father doth not reach at all to the property of the child, which is only

in his own disposing.


Sect. 171. Secondly, Political power is that power, which every man

having in the state of nature, has given up into the hands of the

society, and therein to the governors, whom the society hath set over

itself, with this express or tacit trust, that it shall be employed for

their good, and the preservation of their property: now this power,

which every man has in the state of nature, and which he parts with to

the society in all such cases where the society can secure him, is to

use such means, for the preserving of his own property, as he thinks

good, and nature allows him; and to punish the breach of the law of

nature in others, so as (according to the best of his reason) may most

conduce to the preservation of himself, and the rest of mankind. So that

the end and measure of this power, when in every man’s hands in the

state of nature, being the preservation of all of his society, that is,

all mankind in general, it can have no other end or measure, when in the

hands of the magistrate, but to preserve the members of that society in

their lives, liberties, and possessions; and so cannot be an absolute,

arbitrary power over their lives and fortunes, which are as much as

possible to be preserved; but a power to make laws, and annex such

penalties to them, as may tend to the preservation of the whole, by

cutting off those parts, and those only, which are so corrupt, that they

threaten the sound and healthy, without which no severity is lawful. And

this power has its original only from compact and agreement, and the

mutual consent of those who make up the community.


Sect. 172. Thirdly, Despotical power is an absolute, arbitrary power one

man has over another, to take away his life, whenever he pleases. This

is a power, which neither nature gives, for it has made no such

distinction between one man and another; nor compact can convey: for man

not having such an arbitrary power over his own life, cannot give

another man such a power over it; but it is the effect only of

forfeiture, which the aggressor makes of his own life, when he puts

himself into the state of war with another: for having quitted reason,

which God hath given to be the rule betwixt man and man, and the common

bond whereby human kind is united into one fellowship and society; and

having renounced the way of peace which that teaches, and made use of

the force of war, to compass his unjust ends upon another, where he has

no right; and so revolting from his own kind to that of beasts, by

making force, which is their’s, to be his rule of right, he renders

himself liable to be destroyed by the injured person, and the rest of

mankind, that will join with him in the execution of justice, as any

other wild beast, or noxious brute, with whom mankind can have neither

society nor security*. And thus captives, taken in a just and lawful

war, and such only, are subject to a despotical power, which, as it

arises not from compact, so neither is it capable of any, but is the

state of war continued: for what compact can be made with a man that is

not master of his own life? what condition can he perform? and if he be

once allowed to be master of his own life, the despotical, arbitrary

power of his master ceases. He that is master of himself, and his own

life, has a right too to the means of preserving it; so that as soon as

compact enters, slavery ceases, and he so far quits his absolute power,

and puts an end to the state of war, who enters into conditions with his



(*Another copy corrected by Mr. Locke, has it thus, Noxious brute that

is destructive to their being.)


Sect. 173. Nature gives the first of these, viz. paternal power to

parents for the benefit of their children during their minority, to

supply their want of ability, and understanding how to manage their

property. (By property I must be understood here, as in other places, to

mean that property which men have in their persons as well as goods.)

Voluntary agreement gives the second, viz. political power to governors

for the benefit of their subjects, to secure them in the possession and

use of their properties. And forfeiture gives the third despotical power

to lords for their own benefit, over those who are stripped of all



Sect. 174. He, that shall consider the distinct rise and extent, and the

different ends of these several powers, will plainly see, that paternal

power comes as far short of that of the magistrate, as despotical

exceeds it; and that absolute dominion, however placed, is so far from

being one kind of civil society, that it is as inconsistent with it, as

slavery is with property. Paternal power is only where minority makes

the child incapable to manage his property; political, where men have

property in their own disposal; and despotical, over such as have no

property at all.










Sect. 175. THOUGH governments can originally have no other rise than

that before mentioned, nor polities be founded on any thing but the

consent of the people; yet such have been the disorders ambition has

filled the world with, that in the noise of war, which makes so great a

part of the history of mankind, this consent is little taken notice of:

and therefore many have mistaken the force of arms for the consent of

the people, and reckon conquest as one of the originals of government.

But conquest is as far from setting up any government, as demolishing an

house is from building a new one in the place. Indeed, it often makes

way for a new frame of a commonwealth, by destroying the former; but,

without the consent of the people, can never erect a new one.


Sect. 176. That the aggressor, who puts himself into the state of war

with another, and unjustly invades another man’s right, can, by such an

unjust war, never come to have a right over the conquered, will be

easily agreed by all men, who will not think, that robbers and pyrates

have a right of empire over whomsoever they have force enough to master;

or that men are bound by promises, which unlawful force extorts from

them. Should a robber break into my house, and with a dagger at my

throat make me seal deeds to convey my estate to him, would this give

him any title? Just such a title, by his sword, has an unjust conqueror,

who forces me into submission. The injury and the crime is equal,

whether committed by the wearer of a crown, or some petty villain. The

title of the offender, and the number of his followers, make no

difference in the offence, unless it be to aggravate it. The only

difference is, great robbers punish little ones, to keep them in their

obedience; but the great ones are rewarded with laurels and triumphs,

because they are too big for the weak hands of justice in this world,

and have the power in their own possession, which should punish

offenders. What is my remedy against a robber, that so broke into my

house? Appeal to the law for justice. But perhaps justice is denied, or

I am crippled and cannot stir, robbed and have not the means to do it.

If God has taken away all means of seeking remedy, there is nothing left

but patience. But my son, when able, may seek the relief of the law,

which I am denied: he or his son may renew his appeal, till he recover

his right. But the conquered, or their children, have no court, no

arbitrator on earth to appeal to. Then they may appeal, as lephtha did,

to heaven, and repeat their appeal till they have recovered the native

right of their ancestors, which was, to have such a legislative over

them, as the majority should approve, and freely acquiesce in. If it be

objected, This would cause endless trouble; I answer, no more than

justice does, where she lies open to all that appeal to her. He that

troubles his neighbour without a cause, is punished for it by the

justice of the court he appeals to: and he that appeals to heaven must

be sure he has right on his side; and a right too that is worth the

trouble and cost of the appeal, as he will answer at a tribunal that

cannot be deceived, and will be sure to retribute to every one according

to the mischiefs he hath created to his fellow subjects; that is, any

part of mankind: from whence it is plain, that he that conquers in an

unjust war can thereby have no title to the subjection and obedience of

the conquered.


Sect. 177. But supposing victory favours the right side, let us consider

a conqueror in a lawful war, and see what power he gets, and over whom.


First, It is plain he gets no power by his conquest over those that

conquered with him. They that fought on his side cannot suffer by the

conquest, but must at least be as much freemen as they were before. And

most commonly they serve upon terms, and on condition to share with

their leader, and enjoy a part of the spoil, and other advantages that

attend the conquering sword; or at least have a part of the subdued

country bestowed upon them. And the conquering people are not, I hope,

to be slaves by conquest, and wear their laurels only to shew they are

sacrifices to their leaders triumph. They that found absolute monarchy

upon the title of the sword, make their heroes, who are the founders of

such monarchies, arrant Draw-can-sirs, and forget they had any officers

and soldiers that fought on their side in the battles they won, or

assisted them in the subduing, or shared in possessing, the countries

they mastered. We are told by some, that the English monarchy is founded

in the Norman conquest, and that our princes have thereby a title to

absolute dominion: which if it were true, (as by the history it appears

otherwise) and that William had a right to make war on this island; yet

his dominion by conquest could reach no farther than to the Saxons and

Britons, that were then inhabitants of this country. The Normans that

came with him, and helped to conquer, and all descended from them, are

freemen, and no subjects by conquest; let that give what dominion it

will. And if I, or any body else, shall claim freedom, as derived from

them, it will be very hard to prove the contrary: and it is plain, the

law, that has made no distinction between the one and the other, intends

not there should be any difference in their freedom or privileges.


Sect. 178. But supposing, which seldom happens, that the conquerors and

conquered never incorporate into one people, under the same laws and

freedom; let us see next what power a lawful conqueror has over the

subdued: and that I say is purely despotical. He has an absolute power

over the lives of those who by an unjust war have forfeited them; but

not over the lives or fortunes of those who engaged not in the war, nor

over the possessions even of those who were actually engaged in it.


Sect. 179. Secondly, I say then the conqueror gets no power but only

over those who have actually assisted, concurred, or consented to that

unjust force that is used against him: for the people having given to

their governors no power to do an unjust thing, such as is to make an

unjust war, (for they never had such a power in themselves) they ought

not to be charged as guilty of the violence and unjustice that is

committed in an unjust war, any farther than they actually abet it; no

more than they are to be thought guilty of any violence or oppression

their governors should use upon the people themselves, or any part of

their fellow subjects, they having empowered them no more to the one

than to the other. Conquerors, it is true, seldom trouble themselves to

make the distinction, but they willingly permit the confusion of war to

sweep all together: but yet this alters not the right; for the

conquerors power over the lives of the conquered, being only because

they have used force to do, or maintain an injustice, he can have that

power only over those who have concurred in that force; all the rest are

innocent; and he has no more title over the people of that country, who

have done him no injury, and so have made no forfeiture of their lives,

than he has over any other, who, without any injuries or provocations,

have lived upon fair terms with him.


Sect. 180. Thirdly, The power a conqueror gets over those he overcomes

in a just war, is perfectly despotical: he has an absolute power over

the lives of those, who, by putting themselves in a state of war, have

forfeited them; but he has not thereby a right and title to their

possessions. This I doubt not, but at first sight will seem a strange

doctrine, it being so quite contrary to the practice of the world; there

being nothing more familiar in speaking of the dominion of countries,

than to say such an one conquered it; as if conquest, without any more

ado, conveyed a right of possession. But when we consider, that the

practice of the strong and powerful, how universal soever it may be, is

seldom the rule of right, however it be one part of the subjection of

the conquered, not to argue against the conditions cut out to them by

the conquering sword.


Sect. 181. Though in all war there be usually a complication of force

and damage, and the aggressor seldom fails to harm the estate, when he

uses force against the persons of those he makes war upon; yet it is the

use of force only that puts a man into the state of war: for whether by

force he begins the injury, or else having quietly, and by fraud, done

the injury, he refuses to make reparation, and by force maintains it,

(which is the same thing, as at first to have done it by force) it is

the unjust use of force that makes the war: for he that breaks open my

house, and violently turns me out of doors; or having peaceably got in,

by force keeps me out, does in effect the same thing; supposing we are

in such a state, that we have no common judge on earth, whom I may

appeal to, and to whom we are both obliged to submit: for of such I am

now speaking. It is the unjust use of force then, that puts a man into

the state of war with another; and thereby he that is guilty of it makes

a forfeiture of his life: for quitting reason, which is the rule given

between man and man, and using force, the way of beasts, he becomes

liable to be destroyed by him he uses force against, as any savage

ravenous beast, that is dangerous to his being.


Sect. 182. But because the miscarriages of the father are no faults of

the children, and they may be rational and peaceable, notwithstanding

the brutishness and injustice of the father; the father, by his

miscarriages and violence, can forfeit but his own life, but involves

not his children in his guilt or destruction. His goods, which nature,

that willeth the preservation of all mankind as much as is possible,

hath made to belong to the children to keep them from perishing, do

still continue to belong to his children: for supposing them not to have

joined in the war, either thro’ infancy, absence, or choice, they have

done nothing to forfeit them: nor has the conqueror any right to take

them away, by the bare title of having subdued him that by force

attempted his destruction; though perhaps he may have some right to

them, to repair the damages he has sustained by the war, and the defence

of his own right; which how far it reaches to the possessions of the

conquered, we shall see by and by. So that he that by conquest has a

right over a man’s person to destroy him if he pleases, has not thereby

a right over his estate to possess and enjoy it: for it is the brutal

force the aggressor has used, that gives his adversary a right to take

away his life, and destroy him if he pleases, as a noxious creature; but

it is damage sustained that alone gives him title to another man’s

goods: for though I may kill a thief that sets on me in the highway, yet

I may not (which seems less) take away his money, and let him go: this

would be robbery on my side. His force, and the state of war he put

himself in, made him forfeit his life, but gave me no title to his

goods. The right then of conquest extends only to the lives of those who

joined in the war, not to their estates, but only in order to make

reparation for the damages received, and the charges of the war, and

that too with reservation of the right of the innocent wife and



Sect. 183. Let the conqueror have as much justice on his side, as could

be supposed, he has no right to seize more than the vanquished could

forfeit: his life is at the victor’s mercy; and his service and goods he

may appropriate, to make himself reparation; but he cannot take the

goods of his wife and children; they too had a title to the goods he

enjoyed, and their shares in the estate he possessed: for example, I in

the state of nature (and all commonwealths are in the state of nature

one with another) have injured another man, and refusing to give

satisfaction, it comes to a state of war, wherein my defending by force

what I had gotten unjustly, makes me the aggressor. I am conquered: my

life, it is true, as forfeit, is at mercy, but not my wife’s and

children’s. They made not the war, nor assisted in it. I could not

forfeit their lives; they were not mine to forfeit. My wife had a share

in my estate; that neither could I forfeit. And my children also, being

born of me, had a right to be maintained out of my labour or substance.

Here then is the case: the conqueror has a title to reparation for

damages received, and the children have a title to their father’s estate

for their subsistence: for as to the wife’s share, whether her own

labour, or compact, gave her a title to it, it is plain, her husband

could not forfeit what was her’s. What must be done in the case? I

answer; the fundamental law of nature being, that all, as much as may

be, should be preserved, it follows, that if there be not enough fully

to satisfy both, viz, for the conqueror’s losses, and children’s

maintenance, he that hath, and to spare, must remit something of his

full satisfaction, and give way to the pressing and preferable title of

those who are in danger to perish without it.


Sect. 184. But supposing the charge and damages of the war are to be

made up to the conqueror, to the utmost farthing; and that the children

of the vanquished, spoiled of all their father’s goods, are to be left

to starve and perish; yet the satisfying of what shall, on this score,

be due to the conqueror, will scarce give him a title to any country he

shall conquer: for the damages of war can scarce amount to the value of

any considerable tract of land, in any part of the world, where all the

land is possessed, and none lies waste. And if I have not taken away the

conqueror’s land, which, being vanquished, it is impossible I should;

scarce any other spoil I have done him can amount to the value of mine,

supposing it equally cultivated, and of an extent any way coming near

what I had overrun of his. The destruction of a year’s product or two

(for it seldom reaches four or five) is the utmost spoil that usually

can be done: for as to money, and such riches and treasure taken away,

these are none of nature’s goods, they have but a fantastical imaginary

value: nature has put no such upon them: they are of no more account by

her standard, than the wampompeke of the Americans to an European

prince, or the silver money of Europe would have been formerly to an

American. And five years product is not worth the perpetual inheritance

of land, where all is possessed, and none remains waste, to be taken up

by him that is disseized: which will be easily granted, if one do but

take away the imaginary value of money, the disproportion being more

than between five and five hundred; though, at the same time, half a

year’s product is more worth than the inheritance, where there being

more land than the inhabitants possess and make use of, any one has

liberty to make use of the waste: but there conquerors take little care

to possess themselves of the lands of the vanquished, No damage

therefore, that men in the state of nature (as all princes and

governments are in reference to one another) suffer from one another,

can give a conqueror power to dispossess the posterity of the

vanquished, and turn them out of that inheritance, which ought to be the

possession of them and their descendants to all generations. The

conqueror indeed will be apt to think himself master: and it is the very

condition of the subdued not to be able to dispute their right. But if

that be all, it gives no other title than what bare force gives to the

stronger over the weaker: and, by this reason, he that is strongest will

have a right to whatever he pleases to seize on.


Sect. 185. Over those then that joined with him in the war, and over

those of the subdued country that opposed him not, and the posterity

even of those that did, the conqueror, even in a just war, hath, by his

conquest, no right of dominion: they are free from any subjection to

him, and if their former government be dissolved, they are at liberty to

begin and erect another to themselves.


Sect. 186. The conqueror, it is true, usually, by the force he has over

them, compels them, with a sword at their breasts, to stoop to his

conditions, and submit to such a government as he pleases to afford

them; but the enquiry is, what right he has to do so? If it be said,

they submit by their own consent, then this allows their own consent to

be necessary to give the conqueror a title to rule over them. It remains

only to be considered, whether promises extorted by force, without

right, can be thought consent, and how far they bind. To which I shall

say, they bind not at all; because whatsoever another gets from me by

force, I still retain the right of, and he is obliged presently to

restore. He that forces my horse from me, ought presently to restore

him, and I have still a right to retake him. By the same reason, he that

forced a promise from me, ought presently to restore it, i.e. quit me of

the obligation of it; or I may resume it myself, i.e. chuse whether I

will perform it: for the law of nature laying an obligation on me only

by the rules she prescribes, cannot oblige me by the violation of her

rules: such is the extorting any thing from me by force. Nor does it at

all alter the case to say, I gave my promise, no more than it excuses

the force, and passes the right, when I put my hand in my pocket, and

deliver my purse myself to a thief, who demands it with a pistol at my



Sect. 187. From all which it follows, that the government of a

conqueror, imposed by force on the subdued, against whom he had no right

of war, or who joined not in the war against him, where he had right,

has no obligation upon them.


Sect. 188. But let us suppose, that all the men of that community, being

all members of the same body politic, may be taken to have joined in

that unjust war wherein they are subdued, and so their lives are at the

mercy of the conqueror.


Sect. 189. I say this concerns not their children who are in their

minority: for since a father hath not, in himself, a power over the life

or liberty of his child, no act of his can possibly forfeit it. So that

the children, whatever may have happened to the fathers, are freemen,

and the absolute power of the conqueror reaches no farther than the

persons of the men that were subdued by him, and dies with them: and

should he govern them as slaves, subjected to his absolute arbitrary

power, he has no such right of dominion over their children. He can have

no power over them but by their own consent, whatever he may drive them

to say or do; and he has no lawfull authority, whilst force, and not

choice, compels them to submission.


Sect. 190. Every man is born with a double right: first, a right of

freedom to his person, which no other man has a power over, but the free

disposal of it lies in himself. Secondly, a right, before any other man,

to inherit with his brethren his father’s goods.


Sect. 191. By the first of these, a man is naturally free from

subjection to any government, tho’ he be born in a place under its

jurisdiction; but if he disclaim the lawful government of the country he

was born in, he must also quit the right that belonged to him by the

laws of it, and the possessions there descending to him from his

ancestors, if it were a government made by their consent.


Sect. 192. By the second, the inhabitants of any country, who are

descended, and derive a title to their estates from those who are

subdued, and had a government forced upon them against their free

consents, retain a right to the possession of their ancestors, though

they consent not freely to the government, whose hard conditions were by

force imposed on the possessors of that country: for the first conqueror

never having had a title to the land of that country, the people who are

the descendants of, or claim under those who were forced to submit to

the yoke of a government by constraint, have always a right to shake it

off, and free themselves from the usurpation or tyranny which the sword

hath brought in upon them, till their rulers put them under such a frame

of government as they willingly and of choice consent to. Who doubts but

the Grecian Christians, descendants of the ancient possessors of that

country, may justly cast off the Turkish yoke, which they have so long

groaned under, whenever they have an opportunity to do it? For no

government can have a right to obedience from a people who have not

freely consented to it; which they can never be supposed to do, till

either they are put in a full state of liberty to chuse their government

and governors, or at least till they have such standing laws, to which

they have by themselves or their representatives given their free

consent, and also till they are allowed their due property, which is so

to be proprietors of what they have, that no body can take away any part

of it without their own consent, without which, men under any government

are not in the state of freemen, but are direct slaves under the force

of war.


Sect. 193. But granting that the conqueror in a just war has a right to

the estates, as well as power over the persons, of the conquered; which,

it is plain, he hath not: nothing of absolute power will follow from

hence, in the continuance of the government; because the descendants of

these being all freemen, if he grants them estates and possessions to

inhabit his country, (without which it would be worth nothing)

whatsoever he grants them, they have, so far as it is granted, property

  1. The nature whereof is, that without a man’s own consent it cannot be

taken from him.


Sect. 194. Their persons are free by a native right, and their

properties, be they more or less, are their own, and at their own

dispose, and not at his; or else it is no property. Supposing the

conqueror gives to one man a thousand acres, to him and his heirs for

ever; to another he lets a thousand acres for his life, under the rent

of 50_l_. or 500_l_. per arm. has not the one of these a right to his

thousand acres for ever, and the other, during his life, paying the said

rent? and hath not the tenant for life a property in all that he gets

over and above his rent, by his labour and industry during the said

term, supposing it be double the rent? Can any one say, the king, or

conqueror, after his grant, may by his power of conqueror take away all,

or part of the land from the heirs of one, or from the other during his

life, he paying the rent? or can he take away from either the goods or

money they have got upon the said land, at his pleasure? If he can, then

all free and voluntary contracts cease, and are void in the world; there

needs nothing to dissolve them at any time, but power enough: and all

the grants and promises of men in power are but mockery and collusion:

for can there be any thing more ridiculous than to say, I give you and

your’s this for ever, and that in the surest and most solemn way of

conveyance can be devised; and yet it is to be understood, that I have

right, if I please, to take it away from you again to morrow?


Sect. 195. I will not dispute now whether princes are exempt from the

laws of their country; but this I am sure, they owe subjection to the

laws of God and nature. No body, no power, can exempt them from the

obligations of that eternal law. Those are so great, and so strong, in

the case of promises, that omnipotency itself can be tied by them.

Grants, promises, and oaths, are bonds that hold the Almighty: whatever

some flatterers say to princes of the world, who all together, with all

their people joined to them, are, in comparison of the great God, but as

a drop of the bucket, or a dust on the balance, inconsiderable, nothing!


Sect. 196. The short of the case in conquest is this: the conqueror, if

he have a just cause, has a despotical right over the persons of all,

that actually aided, and concurred in the war against him, and a right

to make up his damage and cost out of their labour and estates, so he

injure not the right of any other. Over the rest of the people, if there

were any that consented not to the war, and over the children of the

captives themselves, or the possessions of either, he has no power; and

so can have, by virtue of conquest, no lawful title himself to dominion

over them, or derive it to his posterity; but is an aggressor, if he

attempts upon their properties, and thereby puts himself in a state of

war against them, and has no better a right of principality, he, nor any

of his successors, than Hingar, or Hubba, the Danes, had here in

England; or Spartacus, had he conquered Italy, would have had; which is

to have their yoke cast off, as soon as God shall give those under their

subjection courage and opportunity to do it. Thus, notwithstanding

whatever title the kings of Assyria had over Judah, by the sword, God

assisted Hezekiah to throw off the dominion of that conquering empire.

And the lord was with Hezekiah, and he prospered; wherefore he went

forth, and he rebelled against the king of Assyria, and served him not,

2 Kings xviii. 7. Whence it is plain, that shaking off a power, which

force, and not right, hath set over any one, though it hath the name of

rebellion, yet is no offence before God, but is that which he allows and

countenances, though even promises and covenants, when obtained by

force, have intervened: for it is very probable, to any one that reads

the story of Ahaz and Hezekiah attentively, that the Assyrians subdued

Ahaz, and deposed him, and made Hezekiah king in his father’s lifetime;

and that Hezekiah by agreement had done him homage, and paid him tribute

all this time.










Sect. 197. AS conquest may be called a foreign usurpation, so usurpation

is a kind of domestic conquest, with this difference, that an usurper

can never have right on his side, it being no usurpation, but where one

is got into the possession of what another has right to. This, so far as

it is usurpation, is a change only of persons, but not of the forms and

rules of the government: for if the usurper extend his power beyond what

of right belonged to the lawful princes, or governors of the

commonwealth, it is tyranny added to usurpation.


Sect. 198. In all lawful governments, the designation of the persons,

who are to bear rule, is as natural and necessary a part as the form of

the government itself, and is that which had its establishment

originally from the people; the anarchy being much alike, to have no

form of government at all; or to agree, that it shall be monarchical,

but to appoint no way to design the person that shall have the power,

and be the monarch. Hence all commonwealths, with the form of government

established, have rules also of appointing those who are to have any

share in the public authority, and settled methods of conveying the

right to them: for the anarchy is much alike, to have no form of

government at all; or to agree that it shall be monarchical, but to

appoint no way to know or design the person that shall have the power,

and be the monarch. Whoever gets into the exercise of any part of the

power, by other ways than what the laws of the community have

prescribed, hath no right to be obeyed, though the form of the

commonwealth be still preserved; since he is not the person the laws

have appointed, and consequently not the person the people have

consented to. Nor can such an usurper, or any deriving from him, ever

have a title, till the people are both at liberty to consent, and have

actually consented to allow, and confirm in him the power he hath till

then usurped.










Sect. 199. AS usurpation is the exercise of power, which another hath a

right to; so tyranny is the exercise of power beyond right, which no

body can have a right to. And this is making use of the power any one

has in his hands, not for the good of those who are under it, but for

his own private separate advantage. When the governor, however intitled,

makes not the law, but his will, the rule; and his commands and actions

are not directed to the preservation of the properties of his people,

but the satisfaction of his own ambition, revenge, covetousness, or any

other irregular passion.


Sect. 200. If one can doubt this to be truth, or reason, because it

comes from the obscure hand of a subject, I hope the authority of a king

will make it pass with him. King James the first, in his speech to the

parliament, 1603, tells them thus,



I will ever prefer the weal of the public, and of the whole

commonwealth, in making of good laws and constitutions, to any

particular and private ends of mine; thinking ever the wealth and

weal of the commonwealth to be my greatest weal and worldly

felicity; a point wherein a lawful king doth directly differ from a

tyrant: for I do acknowledge, that the special and greatest point

of difference that is between a rightful king and an usurping

tyrant, is this, that whereas the proud and ambitious tyrant doth

think his kingdom and people are only ordained for satisfaction of

his desires and unreasonable appetites, the righteous and just king

doth by the contrary acknowledge himself to be ordained for the

procuring of the wealth and property of his people.



And again, in his speech to the parliament, 1609, he hath these words:



The king binds himself by a double oath, to the observation of the

fundamental laws of his kingdom; tacitly, as by being a king, and

so bound to protect as well the people, as the laws of his kingdom;

and expressly, by his oath at his coronation, so as every just

king, in a settled kingdom, is bound to observe that paction made

to his people, by his laws, in framing his government agreeable

thereunto, according to that paction which God made with Noah after

the deluge. Hereafter, seed-time and harvest, and cold and heat,

and summer and winter, and day and night, shall not cease while the

earth remaineth. And therefore a king governing in a settled

kingdom, leaves to be a king, and degenerates into a tyrant, as

soon as he leaves off to rule according to his laws.



And a little after,



Therefore all kings that are not tyrants, or perjured, will be glad

to bound themselves within the limits of their laws; and they that

persuade them the contrary, are vipers, and pests both against them

and the commonwealth.



Thus that learned king, who well understood the notion of things, makes

the difference betwixt a king and a tyrant to consist only in this, that

one makes the laws the bounds of his power, and the good of the public,

the end of his government; the other makes all give way to his own will

and appetite.


Sect. 201. It is a mistake, to think this fault is proper only to

monarchies; other forms of government are liable to it, as well as that:

for wherever the power, that is put in any hands for the government of

the people, and the preservation of their properties, is applied to

other ends, and made use of to impoverish, harass, or subdue them to the

arbitrary and irregular commands of those that have it; there it

presently becomes tyranny, whether those that thus use it are one or

many. Thus we read of the thirty tyrants at Athens, as well as one at

Syracuse; and the intolerable dominion of the Decemviri at Rome was

nothing better.


Sect. 202. Where-ever law ends, tyranny begins, if the law be

transgressed to another’s harm; and whosoever in authority exceeds the

power given him by the law, and makes use of the force he has under his

command, to compass that upon the subject, which the law allows not,

ceases in that to be a magistrate; and, acting without authority, may be

opposed, as any other man, who by force invades the right of another.

This is acknowledged in subordinate magistrates. He that hath authority

to seize my person in the street, may be opposed as a thief and a

robber, if he endeavours to break into my house to execute a writ,

notwithstanding that I know he has such a warrant, and such a legal

authority, as will impower him to arrest me abroad. And why this should

not hold in the highest, as well as in the most inferior magistrate, I

would gladly be informed. Is it reasonable, that the eldest brother,

because he has the greatest part of his father’s estate, should thereby

have a right to take away any of his younger brothers portions? or that

a rich man, who possessed a whole country, should from thence have a

right to seize, when he pleased, the cottage and garden of his poor

neighbour? The being rightfully possessed of great power and riches,

exceedingly beyond the greatest part of the sons of Adam, is so far from

being an excuse, much less a reason, for rapine and oppression, which

the endamaging another without authority is, that it is a great

aggravation of it: for the 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; but is so much the worse in him, 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 counsellors, to be more knowing in the measures of right

and wrong.


Sect. 203. 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

polities, and, instead of government and order, leave nothing but

anarchy and confusion.


Sect. 204. To this I answer, that force is to be opposed to nothing, but

to 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, as is often suggested: for,


Sect. 205. First, As, in some countries, the person of the prince by the

law is sacred; and so, whatever he commands or does, his person is still

free from all question or violence, not liable to force, or any judicial

censure or condemnation. But yet opposition may be made to the illegal

acts of any inferior officer, or other commissioned by him; unless he

will, by actually putting himself into a state of war with his people,

dissolve the government, and leave them to that defence which belongs to

every one in the state of nature: for of such things who can tell what

the end will be? and a neighbour kingdom has shewed the world an odd

example. In all other cases the sacredness of the person exempts him

from all inconveniencies, whereby he is secure, whilst the government

stands, from all violence and harm whatsoever; than which there cannot

be a wiser constitution: for the harm he can do in his own person not

being likely to happen often, nor to extend itself far; nor being able

by his single strength to subvert the laws, nor oppress the body of the

people, should any prince have so much weakness, and ill nature as to be

willing to do it, the inconveniency of some particular mischiefs, that

may happen sometimes, when a heady prince comes to the throne, are well

recompensed by the peace of the public, and security of the government,

in the person of the chief magistrate, thus set out of the reach of

danger: it being safer for the body, that some few private men should be

sometimes in danger to suffer, than that the head of the republic should

be easily, and upon slight occasions, exposed.


Sect. 206. Secondly, But this privilege, belonging only to the king’s

person, hinders not, but they may be questioned, opposed, and resisted,

who use unjust force, though they pretend a commission from him, which

the law authorizes not; as is plain in the case of him that has the

king’s writ to arrest a man, which is a full commission from the king;

and yet he that has it cannot break open a man’s house to do it, nor

execute this command of the king upon certain days, nor in certain

places, though this commission have no such exception in it; but they

are the limitations of the law, which if any one transgress, the king’s

commission excuses him not: for the king’s authority being given him

only by the law, he cannot impower any one to act against the law, or

justify him, by his commission, in so doing; the commission, or command

of any magistrate, where he has no authority, being as void and

insignificant, as that of any private man; the difference between the

one and the other, being that the magistrate has some authority so far,

and to such ends, and the private man has none at all: for it is not the

commission, but the authority, that gives the right of acting; and

against the laws there can be no authority. But, notwithstanding such

resistance, the king’s person and authority are still both secured, and

so no danger to governor or government.


Sect. 207. Thirdly, Supposing a government wherein the person of the

chief magistrate is not thus sacred; yet this doctrine of the lawfulness

of resisting all unlawful exercises of his power, will not upon every

slight occasion indanger him, or imbroil the government: for where the

injured party may be relieved, and his damages repaired by appeal to the

law, there can be no pretence for force, which is only to be used where

a man is intercepted from appealing to the law: for nothing is to be

accounted hostile force, but where it leaves not the remedy of such an

appeal; and it is such force alone, that puts him that uses it into a

state of war, and makes it lawful to resist him. A man with a sword in

his hand demands my purse in the high-way, when perhaps I have not

twelve pence in my pocket: this man I may lawfully kill. To another I

deliver 100 pounds to hold only whilst I alight, which he refuses to

restore me, when I am got up again, but draws his sword to defend the

possession of it by force, if I endeavour to retake it. The mischief

this man does me is a hundred, or possibly a thousand times more than

the other perhaps intended me (whom I killed before he really did me

any); and yet I might lawfully kill the one, and cannot so much as hurt

the other lawfully. The reason whereof is plain; because the one using

force, which threatened my life, I could not have time to appeal to the

law to secure it: and when it was gone, it was too late to appeal. The

law could not restore life to my dead carcass: the loss was irreparable;

which to prevent, the law of nature gave me a right to destroy him, who

had put himself into a state of war with me, and threatened my

destruction. But in the other case, my life not being in danger, I may

have the benefit of appealing to the law, and have reparation for my 100

pounds that way.


Sect. 208. Fourthly, But if the unlawful acts done by the magistrate be

maintained (by the power he has got), and the remedy which is due by

law, be by the same power obstructed; yet the right of resisting, even

in such manifest acts of tyranny, will not suddenly, or on slight

occasions, disturb the government: for if it reach no farther than some

private men’s cases, though they have a right to defend themselves, and

to recover by force what by unlawful force is taken from them; yet the

right to do so will not easily engage them in a contest, wherein they

are sure to perish; it being as impossible for one, or a few oppressed

men to disturb the government, where the body of the people do not think

themselves concerned in it, as for a raving mad-man, or heady malcontent

to overturn a well settled state; the people being as little apt to

follow the one, as the other.


Sect. 209. But if either these illegal acts have extended to the

majority of the people; or if the mischief and oppression has lighted

only on some few, but in such cases, as the precedent, and consequences

seem to threaten all; and they are persuaded in their consciences, that

their laws, and with them their estates, liberties, and lives are in

danger, and perhaps their religion too; how they will be hindered from

resisting illegal force, used against them, I cannot tell. This is an

inconvenience, I confess, that attends all governments whatsoever, when

the governors have brought it to this pass, to be generally suspected of

their people; the most dangerous state which they can possibly put

themselves in, wherein they are the less to be pitied, because it is so

easy to be avoided; it being as impossible for a governor, if he really

means the good of his people, and the preservation of them, and their

laws together, not to make them see and feel it, as it is for the father

of a family, not to let his children see he loves, and takes care of



Sect. 210. But if all the world shall observe pretences of one kind, and

actions of another; arts used to elude the law, and the trust of

prerogative (which is an arbitrary power in some things left in the

prince’s hand to do good, not harm to the people) employed contrary to

the end for which it was given: if the people shall find the ministers

and subordinate magistrates chosen suitable to such ends, and favoured,

or laid by, proportionably as they promote or oppose them: if they see

several experiments made of arbitrary power, and that religion underhand

favoured, (tho’ publicly proclaimed against) which is readiest to

introduce it; and the operators in it supported, as much as may be; and

when that cannot be done, yet approved still, and liked the better: if a

long train of actions shew the councils all tending that way; how can a

man any more hinder himself from being persuaded in his own mind, which

way things are going; or from casting about how to save himself, than he

could from believing the captain of the ship he was in, was carrying

him, and the rest of the company, to Algiers, when he found him always

steering that course, though cross winds, leaks in his ship, and want of

men and provisions did often force him to turn his course another way

for some time, which he steadily returned to again, as soon as the wind,

weather, and other circumstances would let him?










Sect. 211. HE that will with any clearness speak of the dissolution of

government, ought in the first place to distinguish between the

dissolution of the society and the dissolution of the government. That

which makes the community, and brings men out of the loose state of

nature, into one politic society, is the agreement which every one has

with the rest to incorporate, and act as one body, and so be one

distinct commonwealth. The usual, and almost only way whereby this

union is dissolved, is the inroad of foreign force making a conquest

upon them: for in that case, (not being able to maintain and support

themselves, as one intire and independent body) the union belonging to

that body which consisted therein, must necessarily cease, and so every

one return to the state he was in before, with a liberty to shift for

himself, and provide for his own safety, as he thinks fit, in some other

society. Whenever the society is dissolved, it is certain the government

of that society cannot remain. Thus conquerors swords often cut up

governments by the roots, and mangle societies to pieces, separating the

subdued or scattered multitude from the protection of, and dependence

on, that society which ought to have preserved them from violence. The

world is too well instructed in, and too forward to allow of, this way

of dissolving of governments, to need any more to be said of it; and

there wants not much argument to prove, that where the society is

dissolved, the government cannot remain; that being as impossible, as

for the frame of an house to subsist when the materials of it are

scattered and dissipated by a whirl-wind, or jumbled into a confused

heap by an earthquake.


Sect. 212. Besides this over-turning from without, governments are

dissolved from within.


First, When the legislative is altered. Civil society being a state of

peace, amongst those who are of it, from whom the state of war is

excluded by the umpirage, which they have provided in their legislative,

for the ending all differences that may arise amongst any of them, it is

in their legislative, that the members of a commonwealth are united, and

combined together into one coherent living body. This is the soul that

gives form, life, and unity, to the commonwealth: from hence the

several members have their mutual influence, sympathy, and connexion:

and therefore, when the legislative is broken, or dissolved, dissolution

and death follows: for the essence and union of the society consisting

in having one will, the legislative, when once established by the

majority, has the declaring, and as it were keeping of that will. The

constitution of the legislative is the first and fundamental act of

society, whereby provision is made for the continuation of their union,

under the direction of persons, and bonds of laws, made by persons

authorized thereunto, by the consent and appointment of the people,

without which no one man, or number of men, amongst them, can have

authority of making laws that shall be binding to the rest. When any

one, or more, shall take upon them to make laws, whom the people have

not appointed so to do, they make laws without authority, which the

people are not therefore bound to obey; by which means they come again

to be out of subjection, and may constitute to themselves a new

legislative, as they think best, being in full liberty to resist the

force of those, who without authority would impose any thing upon them.

Every one is at the disposure of his own will, when those who had, by

the delegation of the society, the declaring of the public will, are

excluded from it, and others usurp the place, who have no such authority

or delegation.


Sect. 213. This being usually brought about by such in the commonwealth

who misuse the power they have; it is hard to consider it aright, and

know at whose door to lay it, without knowing the form of government in

which it happens. Let us suppose then the legislative placed in the

concurrence of three distinct persons.


(<i>1</i>). A single hereditary person, having the constant, supreme,

executive power, and with it the power of convoking and dissolving the

other two within certain periods of time.


(<i>2</i>). An assembly of hereditary nobility.


(<i>3</i>). An assembly of representatives chosen, pro tempore, by the

people. Such a form of government supposed, it is evident,


Sect. 214. First, That when such a single person, or prince, sets up his

own arbitrary will in place of the laws, which are the will of the

society, declared by the legislative, then the legislative is changed:

for that being in effect the legislative, whose rules and laws are put

in execution, and required to be obeyed; when other laws are set up, and

other rules pretended, and inforced, than what the legislative,

constituted by the society, have enacted, it is plain that the

legislative is changed. Whoever introduces new laws, not being thereunto

authorized by the fundamental appointment of the society, or subverts

the old, disowns and overturns the power by which they were made, and so

sets up a new legislative.


Sect. 215. Secondly, When the prince hinders the legislative from

assembling in its due time, or from acting freely, pursuant to those

ends for which it was constituted, the legislative is altered: for it is

not a certain number of men, no, nor their meeting, unless they have

also freedom of debating, and leisure of perfecting, what is for the

good of the society, wherein the legislative consists: when these are

taken away or altered, so as to deprive the society of the due exercise

of their power, the legislative is truly altered; for it is not names

that constitute governments, but the use and exercise of those powers

that were intended to accompany them; so that he, who takes away the

freedom, or hinders the acting of the legislative in its due seasons, in

effect takes away the legislative, and puts an end to the government.


Sect. 216. Thirdly, When, by the arbitrary power of the prince, the

electors, or ways of election, are altered, without the consent, and

contrary to the common interest of the people, there also the

legislative is altered: for, if others than those whom the society hath

authorized thereunto, do chuse, or in another way than what the society

hath prescribed, those chosen are not the legislative appointed by the



Sect. 217. Fourthly, The delivery also of the people into the subjection

of a foreign power, either by the prince, or by the legislative, is

certainly a change of the legislative, and so a dissolution of the

government: for the end why people entered into society being to be

preserved one intire, free, independent society, to be governed by its

own laws; this is lost, whenever they are given up into the power of



Sect. 218. Why, in such a constitution as this, the dissolution of the

government in these cases is to be imputed to the prince, is evident;

because he, having the force, treasure and offices of the state to

employ, and often persuading himself, or being flattered by others, that

as supreme magistrate he is uncapable of controul; he alone is in a

condition to make great advances toward such changes, under pretence of

lawful authority, and has it in his hands to terrify or suppress

opposers, as factious, seditious, and enemies to the government: whereas

no other part of the legislative, or people, is capable by themselves to

attempt any alteration of the legislative, without open and visible

rebellion, apt enough to be taken notice of, which, when it prevails,

produces effects very little different from foreign conquest. Besides,

the prince in such a form of government, having the power of dissolving

the other parts of the legislative, and thereby rendering them private

persons, they can never in opposition to him, or without his

concurrence, alter the legislative by a law, his consent being necessary

to give any of their decrees that sanction. But yet, so far as the other

parts of the legislative any way contribute to any attempt upon the

government, and do either promote, or not, what lies in them, hinder

such designs, they are guilty, and partake in this, which is certa inly

the greatest crime which men can partake of one towards another.


Sec. 219.There is one way more whereby such a government may be

dissolved, and that is: When he who has the supreme executive power,

neglects and abandons that charge, so that the laws already made can no

longer be put in execution. This is demonstratively to reduce all to

anarchy, and so effectually to dissolve the government: for laws not

being made for themselves, but to be, by their execution, the bonds of

the society, to keep every part of the body politic in its due place and

function; when that totally ceases, the government visibly ceases, and

the people become a confused multitude, without order or connexion.

Where there is no longer the administration of justice, for the securing

of men’s rights, nor any remaining power within the community to direct

the force, or provide for the necessities of the public, there certainly

is no government left. Where the laws cannot be executed, it is all one

as if there were no laws; and a government without laws is, I suppose, a

mystery in politics, unconceivable to human capacity, and inconsistent

with human society.


Sect. 220. In these and the like cases, when the government is

dissolved, the people are at liberty to provide for themselves, by

erecting a new legislative, differing from the other, by the change of

persons, or form, or both, as they shall find it most for their safety

and good: for the society can never, by the fault of another, lose the

native and original right it has to preserve itself, which can only be

done by a settled legislative, and a fair and impartial execution of the

laws made by it. But the state of mankind is not so miserable that they

are not capable of using this remedy, till it be too late to look for

any. To tell people they may provide for themselves, by erecting a new

legislative, when by oppression, artifice, or being delivered over to a

foreign power, their old one is gone, is only to tell them, they may

expect relief when it is too late, and the evil is past cure. This is in

effect no more than to bid them first be slaves, and then to take care

of their liberty; and when their chains are on, tell them, they may act

like freemen. This, if barely so, is rather mockery than relief; and men

can never be secure from tyranny, if there be no means to escape it till

they are perfectly under it: and therefore it is, that they have not

only a right to get out of it, but to prevent it.


Sect. 221. There is therefore, secondly, another way whereby governments

are dissolved, and that is, when the legislative, or the prince, either

of them, act contrary to their trust.


First, The legislative acts against the trust reposed in them, when they

endeavour to invade the property of the subject, and to make themselves,

or any part of the community, masters, or arbitrary disposers of the

lives, liberties, or fortunes of the people.


Sect. 222. The reason why men enter into society, is the preservation of

their property; and the end why they chuse and authorize a legislative,

is, that there may be laws made, and rules set, as guards and fences to

the properties of all the members of the society, to limit the power,

and moderate the dominion, of every part and member of the society: for

since it can never be supposed to be the will of the society, that the

legislative should have a power to destroy that which every one designs

to secure, by entering into society, and for which the people submitted

themselves to legislators of their own making; whenever the legislators

endeavour to take away, and destroy the property of the people, or to

reduce them to slavery under arbitrary power, they put themselves into a

state of war with the people, who are thereupon absolved from any

farther obedience, and are left to the common refuge, which God hath

provided for all men, against force and violence. Whensoever therefore

the legislative shall transgress this fundamental rule of society; and

either by ambition, fear, folly or corruption, endeavour to grasp

themselves, or put into the hands of any other, an absolute power over

the lives, liberties, and estates of the people; by this breach of trust

they forfeit the power the people had put into their hands for quite

contrary ends, and it devolves to the people, who have a right to resume

their original liberty, and, by the establishment of a new legislative,

(such as they shall think fit) provide for their own safety and

security, which is the end for which they are in society. What I have

said here, concerning the legislative in general, holds true also

concerning the supreme executor, who having a double trust put in him,

both to have a part in the legislative, and the supreme execution of the

law, acts against both, when he goes about to set up his own arbitrary

will as the law of the society. He acts also contrary to his trust, when

he either employs the force, treasure, and offices of the society, to

corrupt the representatives, and gain them to his purposes; or openly

preengages the electors, and prescribes to their choice, such, whom he

has, by sollicitations, threats, promises, or otherwise, won to his

designs; and employs them to bring in such, who have promised

before-hand what to vote, and what to enact. Thus to regulate candidates

and electors, and new-model the ways of election, what is it but to cut

up the government by the roots, and poison the very fountain of public

security? for the people having reserved to themselves the choice of

their representatives, as the fence to their properties, could do it for

no other end, but that they might always be freely chosen, and so

chosen, freely act, and advise, as the necessity of the commonwealth,

and the public good should, upon examination, and mature debate, be

judged to require. This, those who give their votes before they hear the

debate, and have weighed the reasons on all sides, are not capable of

doing. To prepare such an assembly as this, and endeavour to set up the

declared abettors of his own will, for the true representatives of the

people, and the law-makers of the society, is certainly as great a

breach of trust, and as perfect a declaration of a design to subvert the

government, as is possible to be met with. To which, if one shall add

rewards and punishments visibly employed to the same end, and all the

arts of perverted law made use of, to take off and destroy all that

stand in the way of such a design, and will not comply and consent to

betray the liberties of their country, it will be past doubt what is

doing. What power they ought to have in the society, who thus employ it

contrary to the trust went along with it in its first institution, is

easy to determine; and one cannot but see, that he, who has once

attempted any such thing as this, cannot any longer be trusted.


Sect. 223. To this perhaps it will be said, that the people being

ignorant, and always discontented, to lay the foundation of government

in the unsteady opinion and uncertain humour of the people, is to expose

it to certain ruin; and no government will be able long to subsist, 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 forms, as some are apt to suggest. They are

hardly to be prevailed with to amend the acknowledged faults in the

frame they have been accustomed to. And if there be 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. This slowness and aversion in the people

to quit their old constitutions, has, in the many revolutions which have

been seen in this kingdom, in this and former ages, still kept us to,

or, after some interval of fruitless attempts, still brought us back

again to our old legislative of king, lords and commons: and whatever

provocations have made the crown be taken from some of our princes

heads, they never carried the people so far as to place it in another



Sect. 224. But it will be said, this hypothesis lays a ferment for

frequent rebellion. To which I answer,


First, No more than any other hypothesis: for when the people are made

miserable, and find themselves exposed to the ill usage of arbitrary

power, cry up their governors, as much as you will, for sons of Jupiter;

let them be sacred and divine, descended, or authorized from heaven;

give them out for whom or what you please, the same will happen. The

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 the opportunity, which in the change,

weakness and accidents of human affairs, seldom delays long to offer

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



Sect. 225. Secondly, I answer, such revolutions happen not upon every

little mismanagement in public affairs. Great mistakes in the ruling

part, many wrong and inconvenient laws, and all the slips of human

frailty, will be born by the people without mutiny or murmur. But if a

long train of abuses, prevarications and artifices, all tending the same

way, make the design visible to the people, and they cannot but feel

what they lie under, and see whither they are going; it is not to be

wondered, that they should then rouze themselves, and endeavour to put

the rule into such hands which may secure to them the ends for which

government was at first erected; and without which, ancient names, and

specious forms, are so far from being better, that they are much worse,

than the state of nature, or pure anarchy; the inconveniencies being all

as great and as near, but the remedy farther off and more difficult.


Sect. 226. Thirdly, I answer, that this doctrine of a power in the

people of providing for their safety a-new, by a new legislative, when

their legislators have acted contrary to their trust, by invading their

property, is the best fence against rebellion, and the probablest 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 rebellare, that is, bring back again the

state of war, and are properly rebels: which they 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 properest way to prevent the evil, is to shew them the danger

and injustice of it, who are under the greatest temptation to run into



Sect. 227. In both the fore-mentioned cases, when either the legislative

is changed, or the legislators act contrary to the end for which they

were constituted; those who are guilty are guilty of rebellion: for if

any one by force takes away the established legislative of any society,

and the laws by them made, pursuant to their trust, he thereby takes

away the umpirage, which every one had consented to, for a peaceable

decision of all their controversies, and a bar to the state of war

amongst them. They, who remove, or change the legislative, take away

this decisive power, which no body can have, but by the appointment and

consent of the people; and so destroying the authority which the people

did, and no body else can set up, and introducing a power which the

people hath not authorized, they actually introduce a state of war,

which is that of force without authority: and thus, by removing the

legislative established by the society, (in whose decisions the people

acquiesced and united, as to that of their own will) they untie the

knot, and expose the people a-new to the state of war, And if those, who

by force take away the legislative, are rebels, the legislators

themselves, as has been shewn, can be no less esteemed so; when they,

who were set up for the protection, and preservation of the people,

their liberties and properties, shall by force invade and endeavour to

take them away; and so they putting themselves into a state of war with

those who made them the protectors and guardians of their peace, are

properly, and with the greatest aggravation, rebellantes, rebels.


Sect. 228. But if they, who say it lays a foundation for rebellion, mean

that it may occasion civil wars, or intestine broils, to tell the people

they are absolved from obedience when illegal attempts are made upon

their liberties or properties, and may oppose the unlawful violence of

those who were their magistrates, when they invade their properties

contrary to the trust put in them; and that therefore this doctrine is

not to be allowed, being so destructive to the peace of the world: they

may as well say, upon the same ground, that honest men may not oppose

robbers or pirates, because this may occasion disorder or bloodshed. If

any mischief come in such cases, it is not to be charged upon him who

defends his own right, but on him that invades his neighbours. If the

innocent honest man must quietly quit all he has, for peace sake, to him

who will lay violent hands upon it, I desire it may be considered, what

a kind of peace there will be in the world, which consists only in

violence and rapine; and which is to be maintained only for the benefit

of robbers and oppressors. Who would not think it an admirable peace

betwix the mighty and the mean, when the lamb, without resistance,

yielded his throat to be torn by the imperious wolf? Polyphemus’s den

gives us a perfect pattern of such a peace, and such a government,

wherein Ulysses and his companions had nothing to do, but quietly to

suffer themselves to be devoured. And no doubt Ulysses, who was a

prudent man, preached up passive obedience, and exhorted them to a quiet

submission, by representing to them of what concernment peace was to

mankind; and by shewing the inconveniences might happen, if they should

offer to resist Polyphemus, who had now the power over them.


Sect. 229. The end of government is the good of mankind; and which is

best for mankind, that the people should be always exposed to the

boundless will of tyranny, or that the rulers should be sometimes 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?


Sect. 230. Nor let any one say, that mischief can arise from hence, as

often as it shall please a busy head, or turbulent spirit, to desire the

alteration of the government. It is true, such men may stir, whenever

they please; but it will be only to their own just ruin and perdition:

for till the mischief be grown general, and the ill designs of the

rulers become visible, or their attempts sensible to the greater part,

the people, who are more disposed to suffer than right themselves by

resistance, are not apt to stir. The examples of particular injustice,

or oppression of here and there an unfortunate man, moves them not. But

if they universally have a persuation, grounded upon manifest evidence,

that designs are carrying on against their liberties, and the general

course and tendency of things cannot but give them strong suspicions of

the evil intention of their governors, who is to be blamed for it? Who

can help it, if they, who might avoid it, bring themselves into this

suspicion? Are the people to be blamed, if they have the sense of

rational creatures, and can think of things no otherwise than as they

find and feel them? And is it not rather their fault, who put things

into such a posture, that they would not have them thought to be as they

are? I grant, that the pride, ambition, and turbulency of private men

have sometimes caused great disorders in commonwealths, and factions

have been fatal to states and kingdoms. But whether the mischief hath

oftener begun in the peoples wantonness, and a desire to cast off the

lawful authority of their rulers, or in the rulers insolence, and

endeavours to get and exercise an arbitrary power over their people;

whether oppression, or disobedience, gave the first rise to the

disorder, I leave it to impartial history to determine. This I am sure,

whoever, either ruler or subject, by force goes about to invade the

rights of either prince or people, and lays the foundation for

overturning the constitution and frame of any just government, is highly

guilty of the greatest crime, I think, a man is capable of, being to

answer for all those mischiefs of blood, rapine, and desolation, which

the breaking to pieces of governments bring on a country. And he who

does it, is justly to be esteemed the common enemy and pest of mankind,

and is to be treated accordingly.


Sect. 231. That subjects or foreigners, attempting by force on the

properties of any people, may be resisted with force, is agreed on all

hands. But that magistrates, doing the same thing, may be resisted, hath

of late been denied: as if those who had the greatest privileges and

advantages by the law, had thereby a power to break those laws, by which

alone they were set in a better place than their brethren: whereas their

offence is thereby the greater, both as being ungrateful for the greater

share they have by the law, and breaking also that trust, which is put

into their hands by their brethren.


Sect. 232. Whosoever uses force without right, as every one does in

society, who does it without law, puts himself into a state of war with

those against whom he so uses it; and in that state all former ties are

cancelled, all other rights cease, and every one has a right to defend

himself, and to resist the aggressor. This is so evident, that Barclay

himself, that great assertor of the power and sacredness of kings, is

forced to confess, That it is lawful for the people, in some cases, to

resist their king; and that too in a chapter, wherein he pretends to

shew, that the divine law shuts up the people from all manner of

rebellion. Whereby it is evident, even by his own doctrine, that, since

they may in some cases resist, all resisting of princes is not

rebellion. His words are these. Quod siquis dicat, Ergone populus

tyrannicae crudelitati & furori jugulum semper praebebit? Ergone

multitude civitates suas fame, ferro, & flamma vastari, seque, conjuges,

& liberos fortunae ludibrio & tyranni libidini exponi, inque omnia vitae

pericula omnesque miserias & molestias a rege deduci patientur? Num

illis quod omni animantium generi est a natura tributum, denegari debet,

ut sc. vim vi repellant, seseq; ab injuria, tueantur? Huic breviter

responsum sit, Populo universo negari defensionem, quae juris naturalis

est, neque ultionem quae praeter naturam est adversus regem concedi

debere. Quapropter si rex non in singulares tantum personas aliquot

privatum odium exerceat, sed corpus etiam reipublicae, cujus ipse caput

est, i.e. totum populum, vel insignem aliquam ejus partem immani &

intoleranda saevitia seu tyrannide divexet; populo, quidem hoc casu

resistendi ac tuendi se ab injuria potestas competit, sed tuendi se

tantum, non enim in principem invadendi: & restituendae injuriae

illatae, non recedendi a debita reverentia propter acceptam injuriam.

Praesentem denique impetum propulsandi non vim praeteritam ulciscenti

jus habet. Horum enim alterum a natura est, ut vitam scilicet corpusque

tueamur. Alterum vero contra naturam, ut inferior de superiori

supplicium sumat. Quod itaque populus malum, antequam factum sit,

impedire potest, ne fiat, id postquam factum est, in regem authorem

sceleris vindicare non potest: populus igitur hoc amplius quam privatus

quispiam habet: quod huic, vel ipsis adversariis judicibus, excepto

Buchanano, nullum nisi in patientia remedium superest. Cum ille si

intolerabilis tyrannus est (modicum enim ferre omnino debet) resistere

cum reverentia possit, Barclay contra Monarchom. 1. iii. c. 8.


In English thus:


Sect. 233. But if any one should ask, Must the people then always lay

themselves open to the cruelty and rage of tyranny? Must they see their

cities pillaged, and laid in ashes, their wives and children exposed to

the tyrant’s lust and fury, and themselves and families reduced by their

king to ruin, and all the miseries of want and oppression, and yet sit

still? Must men alone be debarred the common privilege of opposing force

with force, which nature allows so freely to all other creatures for

their preservation from injury? I answer: Self-defence is a part of the

law of nature; nor can it be denied the community, even against the king

himself: but to revenge themselves upon him, must by no means be allowed

them; it being not agreeable to that law. Wherefore if the king shall

shew an hatred, not only to some particular persons, but sets himself

against the body of the commonwealth, whereof he is the head, and

shall, with intolerable ill usage, cruelly tyrannize over the whole, or

a considerable part of the people, in this case the people have a right

to resist and defend themselves from injury: but it must be with this

caution, that they only defend themselves, but do not attack their

prince: they may repair the damages received, but must not for any

provocation exceed the bounds of due reverence and respect. They may

repulse the present attempt, but must not revenge past violences: for it

is natural for us to defend life and limb, but that an inferior should

punish a superior, is against nature. The mischief which is designed

them, the people may prevent before it be done; but when it is done,

they must not revenge it on the king, though author of the villany. This

therefore is the privilege of the people in general, above what any

private person hath; that particular men are allowed by our adversaries

themselves (Buchanan only excepted) to have no other remedy but

patience; but the body of the people may with respect resist intolerable

tyranny; for when it is but moderate, they ought to endure it.


Sect. 234. Thus far that great advocate of monarchical power allows of



Sect. 235. It is true, he has annexed two limitations to it, to no



First, He says, it must be with reverence.


Secondly, It must be without retribution, or punishment; and the reason

he gives is, because an inferior cannot punish a superior. First, How to

resist force without striking again, or how to strike with reverence,

will need some skill to make intelligible. He that shall oppose an

assault only with a shield to receive the blows, or in any more

respectful posture, without a sword in his hand, to abate the confidence

and force of the assailant, will quickly be at an end of his resistance,

and will find such a defence serve only to draw on himself the worse

usage. This is as ridiculous a way of resisting, as juvenal thought it

of fighting; ubi tu pulsas, ego vapulo tantum. And the success of the

combat will be unavoidably the same he there describes it:



—–Libertas pauperis haec est:

Pulsatus rogat, et pugnis concisus, adorat,

Ut liceat paucis cum dentibus inde reverti.



This will always be the event of such an imaginary resistance, where men

may not strike again. He therefore who may resist, must be allowed to

strike. And then let our author, or any body else, join a knock on the

head, or a cut on the face, with as much reverence and respect as he

thinks fit. He that can reconcile blows and reverence, may, for aught I

know, desire for his pains, a civil, respectful cudgeling where-ever he

can meet with it.


Secondly, As to his second, An inferior cannot punish a superior; that

is true, generally speaking, whilst he is his superior. But to resist

force with force, being the state of war that levels the parties,

cancels all former relation of reverence, respect, and superiority: and

then the odds that remains, is, that he, who opposes the unjust

agressor, has this superiority over him, that he has a right, when he

prevails, to punish the offender, both for the breach of the peace, and

all the evils that followed upon it. Barclay therefore, in another

place, more coherently to himself, denies it to be lawful to resist a

king in any case. But he there assigns two cases, whereby a king may

un-king himself. His words are,


Quid ergo, nulline casus incidere possunt quibus populo sese erigere

atque in regem impotentius dominantem arma capere & invadere jure suo

suaque authoritate liceat? Nulli certe quamdiu rex manet. Semper enim ex

divinis id obstat, Regem honorificato; & qui potestati resistit, Dei

ordinationi resisit: non alias igitur in eum populo potestas est quam si

id committat propter quod ipso jure rex esse desinat. Tunc enim se ipse

principatu exuit atque in privatis constituit liber: hoc modo populus &

superior efficitur, reverso ad eum sc. jure illo quod ante regem

inauguratum in interregno habuit. At sunt paucorum generum commissa

ejusmodi quae hunc effectum pariunt. At ego cum plurima animo

perlustrem, duo tantum invenio, duos, inquam, casus quibus rex ipso

facto ex rege non regem se facit & omni honore & dignitate regali atque

in subditos potestate destituit; quorum etiam meminit Winzerus. Horum

unus est, Si regnum disperdat, quemadmodum de Nerone fertur, quod is

nempe senatum populumque Romanum, atque adeo urbem ipsam ferro flammaque

vastare, ac novas sibi sedes quaerere decrevisset. Et de Caligula, quod

palam denunciarit se neque civem neque principem senatui amplius fore,

inque animo habuerit interempto utriusque ordinis electissimo quoque

Alexandriam commigrare, ac ut populum uno ictu interimeret, unam ei

cervicem optavit. Talia cum rex aliquis meditator & molitur serio, omnem

regnandi curam & animum ilico abjicit, ac proinde imperium in subditos

amittit, ut dominus servi pro derelicto habiti dominium.


Sect. 236. Alter casus est, Si rex in alicujus clientelam se contulit,

ac regnum quod liberum a majoribus & populo traditum accepit, alienae

ditioni mancipavit. Nam tunc quamvis forte non ea mente id agit populo

plane ut incommodet: tamen quia quod praecipuum est regiae dignitatis

amifit, ut summus scilicet in regno secundum Deum sit, & solo Deo

inferior, atque populum etiam totum ignorantem vel invitum, cujus

libertatem sartam & tectam conservare debuit, in alterius gentis

ditionem & potestatem dedidit; hac velut quadam regni ab alienatione

effecit, ut nec quod ipse in regno imperium habuit retineat, nec in eum

cui collatum voluit, juris quicquam transferat; atque ita eo facto

liberum jam & suae potestatis populum relinquit, cujus rei exemplum unum

annales Scotici suppeditant. Barclay contra Monarchom. 1. iii. c. 16.


Which in English runs thus:


Sect. 237. What then, can there no case happen wherein the people may of

right, and by their own authority, help themselves, take arms, and set

upon their king, imperiously domineering over them? None at all, whilst

he remains a king. Honour the king, and he that resists the power,

resists the ordinance of God; are divine oracles that will never permit

it, The people therefore can never come by a power over him, unless he

does something that makes him cease to be a king: for then he divests

himself of his crown and dignity, and returns to the state of a private

man, and the people become free and superior, the power which they had

in the interregnum, before they crowned him king, devolving to them

again. But there are but few miscarriages which bring the matter to this

state. After considering it well on all sides, I can find but two. Two

cases there are, I say, whereby a king, ipso facto, becomes no king, and

loses all power and regal authority over his people; which are also

taken notice of by Winzerus.


The first is, If he endeavour to overturn the government, that is, if he

have a purpose and design to ruin the kingdom and commonwealth, as it is

recorded of Nero, that he resolved to cut off the senate and people of

Rome, lay the city waste with fire and sword, and then remove to some

other place. And of Caligula, that he openly declared, that he would be

no longer a head to the people or senate, and that he had it in his

thoughts to cut off the worthiest men of both ranks, and then retire to

Alexandria: and he wisht that the people had but one neck, that he might

dispatch them all at a blow, Such designs as these, when any king

harbours in his thoughts, and seriously promotes, he immediately gives

up all care and thought of the commonwealth; and consequently forfeits

the power of governing his subjects, as a master does the dominion over

his slaves whom he hath abandoned.


Sect. 238. The other case is, When a king makes himself the dependent of

another, and subjects his kingdom which his ancestors left him, and the

people put free into his hands, to the dominion of another: for however

perhaps it may not be his intention to prejudice the people; yet because

he has hereby lost the principal part of regal dignity, viz. to be next

and immediately under God, supreme in his kingdom; and also because he

betrayed or forced his people, whose liberty he ought to have carefully

preserved, into the power and dominion of a foreign nation. By this, as

it were, alienation of his kingdom, he himself loses the power he had in

it before, without transferring any the least right to those on whom he

would have bestowed it; and so by this act sets the people free, and

leaves them at their own disposal. One example of this is to be found in

the Scotch Annals.


Sect. 239. In these cases Barclay, the great champion of absolute

monarchy, is forced to allow, that a king may be resisted, and ceases to

be a king. That is, in short, not to multiply cases, in whatsoever he

has no authority, there he is no king, and may be resisted: for

wheresoever the authority ceases, the king ceases too, and becomes like

other men who have no authority. And these two cases he instances in,

differ little from those above mentioned, to be destructive to

governments, only that he has omitted the principle from which his

doctrine flows: and that is, the breach of trust, in not preserving the

form of government agreed on, and in not intending the end of government

itself, which is the public good and preservation of property. When a

king has dethroned himself, and put himself in a state of war with his

people, what shall hinder them from prosecuting him who is no king, as

they would any other man, who has put himself into a state of war with

them, Barclay, and those of his opinion, would do well to tell us. This

farther I desire may be taken notice of out of Barclay, that he says,

The mischief that is designed them, the people may prevent before it be

clone: whereby he allows resistance when tyranny is but in design. Such

designs as these (says he) when any king harbours in his thoughts and

seriously promotes, he immediately gives up all care and thought of the

commonwealth; so that, according to him, the neglect of the public good

is to be taken as an evidence of such design, or at least for a

sufficient cause of resistance. And the reason of all, he gives in these

words, Because he betrayed or forced his people, whose liberty he ought

carefully to have preserved. What he adds, into the power and dominion

of a foreign nation, signifies nothing, the fault and forfeiture lying

in the loss of their liberty, which he ought to have preserved, and not

in any distinction of the persons to whose dominion they were subjected.

The peoples right is equally invaded, and their liberty lost, whether

they are made slaves to any of their own, or a foreign nation; and in

this lies the injury, and against this only have they the right of

defence. And there are instances to be found in all countries, which

shew, that it is not the change of nations in the persons of their

governors, but the change of government, that gives the offence. Bilson,

a bishop of our church, and a great stickler for the power and

prerogative of princes, does, if I mistake not, in his treatise of

Christian subjection, acknowledge, that princes may forfeit their power,

and their title to the obedience of their subjects; and if there needed

authority in a case where reason is so plain, I could send my reader to

Bracton, Fortescue, and the author of the Mirrour, and others, writers

that cannot be suspected to be ignorant of our government, or enemies to

  1. But I thought Hooker alone might be enough to satisfy those men, who

relying on him for their ecclesiastical polity, are by a strange fate

carried to deny those principles upon which he builds it. Whether they

are herein made the tools of cunninger workmen, to pull down their own

fabric, they were best look. This I am sure, their civil policy is so

new, so dangerous, and so destructive to both rulers and people, that as

former ages never could bear the broaching of it; so it may be hoped,

those to come, redeemed from the impositions of these Egyptian

under-task-masters, will abhor the memory of such servile flatterers,

who, whilst it seemed to serve their turn, resolved all government into

absolute tyranny, and would have all men born to, what their mean souls

fitted them for, slavery.


Sect. 240. Here, it is like, the common question will be made, Who shall

be judge, whether the prince or legislative act contrary to their trust?

This, perhaps, ill-affected and factious men may spread amongst the

people, when the prince only makes use of his due prerogative. To this I

reply, The people shall be judge; for who shall be judge whether his

trustee or deputy acts well, and according to the trust reposed in him,

but he who deputes him, and must, by having deputed him, have still a

power to discard him, when he fails in his trust? If this be reasonable

in particular cases of private men, why should it be otherwise in that

of the greatest moment, where the welfare of millions is concerned, and

also where the evil, if not prevented, is greater, and the redress very

difficult, dear, and dangerous?


Sect. 241. But farther, this question, (Who shall be judge?) cannot

mean, that there is no judge at all: for where there is no judicature on

earth, to decide controversies amongst men, God in heaven is judge. He

alone, it is true, is judge of the right. But every man is judge for

himself, as in all other cases, so in this, whether another hath put

himself into a state of war with him, and whether he should appeal to

the Supreme Judge, as Jeptha did.


Sect. 242. If a controversy arise betwixt a prince and some of the

people, in a matter where the law is silent, or doubtful, and the thing

be of great consequence, I should think the proper umpire, in such a

case, should be the body of the people: for in cases where the prince

hath a trust reposed in him, and is dispensed from the common ordinary

rules of the law; there, if any men find themselves aggrieved, and think

the prince acts contrary to, or beyond that trust, who so proper to

judge as the body of the people, (who, at first, lodged that trust in

him) how far they meant it should extend? But if the prince, or whoever

they be in the administration, decline that way of determination, the

appeal then lies no where but to heaven; force between either persons,

who have no known superior on earth, or which permits no appeal to a

judge on earth, being properly a state of war, wherein the appeal lies

only to heaven; and in that state the injured party must judge for

himself, when he will think fit to make use of that appeal, and put

himself upon it.


Sect. 243. To conclude, The power that every individual gave the

society, when he entered into it, can never revert to the individuals

again, as long as the society lasts, but will always remain in the

community; because without this there can be no community, no

commonwealth, which is contrary to the original agreement: so also when

the society hath placed the legislative in any assembly of men, to

continue in them and their successors, with direction and authority for

providing such successors, the legislative can never revert to the

people whilst that government lasts; because having provided a

legislative with power to continue for ever, they have given up their

political power to the legislative, and cannot resume it. But if they

have set limits to the duration of their legislative, and made this

supreme power in any person, or assembly, only temporary; or else, when

by the miscarriages of those in authority, it is forfeited; upon the

forfeiture, or at the determination of the time set, it reverts to the

society, and the people have a right to act as supreme, and continue the

legislative in themselves; or erect a new form, or under the old form

place it in new hands, as they think good.











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