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by John Locke
Chapter I
Of Political Power

1. It having been shown in the foregoing discourse:*

* An Essay Concerning Certain False Principles.

Firstly. That Adam had not, either by natural right of fatherhood or
by positive donation from God, any such authority over his children,
nor dominion over the world, as is pretended.
Secondly. That if he had, his heirs yet had no right to it.
Thirdly. 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.
Fourthly. 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 pretence to be
the eldest house, and to have the right of inheritance.
All these promises 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.
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
another, and show the difference betwixt a ruler of a commonwealth,
a father of a family, and a captain of a galley.
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 defence of the
commonwealth from foreign injury, and all this only for the public
Chapter II
Of the State of Nature

4. To understand political power aright, and derive it from its
original, we must consider what estate 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.
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 amongst 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 weak, being of one
and the same nature: to have anything 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 show greater measure of love to me than they have by me
showed 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 themward 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. i.)*

* Richard Hooker, The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity.

6. But though this be a state of liberty, yet it is not a state of
licence; 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 authorise us to destroy one another, as if we were made for
one another's uses, as the inferior ranks of creatures are for ours.
Every one as he is bound to preserve himself, and not to quit his
station wilfully, 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 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.
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 nobody 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.
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
so far 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 this case, and upon this
ground, every man hath a right to punish the offender, and be
executioner of the law of Nature.
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
legislature, 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 offences 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.
10. Besides the crime which consists in violating the laws, 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,
and some person or other, 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 hath 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 hath suffered.
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 everybody, 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 offences by his
own authority, but yet cannot remit the satisfaction due to any
private man for the damage he has received. That he who hath
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 everybody, 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.
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 beside
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 truly so 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.
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, ill-nature, passion, and
revenge will carry them too far in punishing others, and hence nothing
but 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 inconveniences 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 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 question or control
of those who execute his pleasure? and in whatsoever he doth,
whether led by reason, mistake, or passion, must be submitted to?
which men in the state of Nature are not bound to do one to 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.
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 never 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, etc., between
the two men in Soldania, in 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.
15. To those that say there were never any men in the state of
Nature, I will not oppose the authority of the judicious Hooker (Eccl.
Pol. i. 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 as much 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 uniting
themselves as 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
Chapter III
Of the State of War

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
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, because they are not under the ties of the common law of
reason, have no other rule but that of force and violence, and so
may be treated as a beast of prey, those dangerous and noxious
creatures that will be sure to destroy him whenever he falls into
their power.
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 nobody
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 everything 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 everything else, and so be looked on as in a state of war.
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 pretence 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 everything
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.
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, goodwill, 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, though 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
defence 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, for remedy 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.
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
subject to the judge; 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 judge in my own conscience, as I will answer it
at the great day to the Supreme Judge of all men.
Chapter IV
Of Slavery

21. 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: "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 that rule prescribes not, 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.
22. 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. Nobody 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
23. 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, despotical 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 (Exod. 21.).
Chapter V
Of Property

24. 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 (Psalm 115. 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
anything, 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
endeavour to show 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.
25. 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 though 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
nobody 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 men. 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.
26. Though the earth and all inferior creatures be common to all
men, yet every man has a "property" in his own "person." This nobody
has any right to but himself. The "labour" 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 labour with it, 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 placed it in, it hath by this
labour something annexed to it that excludes the common right of other
men. For this "labour" being the unquestionable property of the
labourer, 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
27. 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. Nobody can deny but the nourishment is
his. I ask, then, when did they begin to be his? when he digested?
or when he ate? 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 labour 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 labour that was mine, removing them out of that common state
they were in, hath fixed my property in them.
28. 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 labour 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.
29. 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
labour upon it, though, before, it was the common right of every
one. And amongst those who are counted the civilised 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 amber-gris any one takes up here is by
the labour that removes it out of that common state Nature left it in,
made his property who takes that pains about it. And even amongst
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 labour 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.
30. It will, perhaps, be objected to this, that if gathering the
acorns or other fruits of the earth, etc., makes a right to them, then
any one may engross 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." 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 labour 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
engross 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
31. 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 labour does, as it were, enclose it
from the common. Nor will it invalidate his right to say everybody
else has an equal title to it, and therefore he cannot appropriate, he
cannot enclose, 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 labour, 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 labour. 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.
32. 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. Nobody 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.
33. God gave the world to men in common, but since He gave it them
for their benefit and the greatest conveniencies 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 labour 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 labour; 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 labour 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.
34. It is true, in land that is common in England or any other
country, where there are plenty of people under government who have
money and commerce, no one can enclose 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 propriety 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 labour. That was his property, which could not be
taken from him wherever 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 labour and materials to work
on, necessarily introduce private possessions.
35. The measure of property Nature well set, by the extent of
men's labour and the conveniency of life. No man's labour 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
entrench upon the right of another or acquire to himself a property to
the prejudice of his neighbour, 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. Which measure did confine every man's
possession to a very moderate proportion, and such as he might
appropriate to himself without injury to anybody 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.
36. The same measure may be allowed still, without prejudice to
anybody, 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 labour that
I have heard it affirmed that in Spain itself a man may be permitted
to plough, 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 anybody,
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 show more at large.
37. This is certain, that in the beginning, before the desire of
having more than men 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 labour,
each one to 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
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 Nature
put them in, by placing any of his labour 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 neighbour's share, for he
had no right farther than his use called for any of them, and they
might serve to afford him conveniencies of life.
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 enlarged their stocks, their possessions
enlarged 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
neighbours, 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. 36. 6).
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 labour 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.
40. Nor is it so strange as, perhaps, before consideration, it may
appear, that the property of labour should be able to overbalance
the community of land, for it is labour indeed that puts the
difference of value on everything; 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 labour 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 labour. 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 labour- we shall find
that in most of them ninety-nine hundredths are wholly to be put on
the account of labour.
41. There cannot be a clearer demonstration of anything 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 labour, have
not one hundredth part of the conveniencies we enjoy, and a king of
a large and fruitful territory there feeds, lodges, and is clad
worse than a day labourer in England.
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 labour
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 labour 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 labour 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
amongst 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.
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 one in a year is worth five
pounds, and 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 labour, then, which puts
the greatest part of value upon land, without which it would
scarcely be worth anything; 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 labour. For it is
not barely the ploughman's pains, the reaper's and thresher's toil,
and the baker's sweat, is to be counted into the bread we eat; the
labour of those who broke the oxen, who digged and wrought the iron
and stones, who felled and framed the timber employed about the
plough, mill, oven, or any other utensils, which are a vast number,
requisite to this corn, from its sowing to its being made bread,
must all be charged on the account of labour, 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, dyeing-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.
44. From all which it is evident, that though the things of Nature
are given in common, man (by being master of himself, and proprietor
of his own person, and the actions or labour 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.
45. Thus labour, 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 labour 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 other's possession, have, by common
consent, given up their pretences to their natural common right, which
originally they had to those countries; and so have, by positive
agreement, settled a property amongst themselves, in distinct parts of
the world; 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; though this can scarce happen
amongst that part of mankind that have consented to the use of money.
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 hath a right (as
hath been said) to as much as he could use; and had a property in
all he could effect with his labour; all that his industry could
extend to, to alter from the state Nature had put it in, was his. 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 anybody 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 colour, 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 anything uselessly in it.
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.
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 a 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
perishableness, 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 something 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
49. Thus, in the beginning, all the world was America, and more so
than that is now; for no such thing as money was anywhere known.
Find out something that hath the use and value of money amongst his
neighbours, you shall see the same man will begin presently to enlarge
his possessions.
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 labour yet makes in great part
the measure- it is plain that the consent of men have agreed to a
disproportionate and unequal possession of the earth- I mean out of
the bounds of society and compact; for in governments the laws
regulate it; they having, by consent, found out and agreed in a way
how a man may, rightfully and without injury, possess more than he
himself can make use of by receiving gold and silver, which may
continue long in a man's possession without decaying for the overplus,
and agreeing those metals should have a value.
51. And thus, I think, it is very easy to conceive, without any
difficulty, how labour could at first begin a title of property in the
common things of Nature, and how the spending it upon our uses bounded
it; so that there could then be no reason of quarrelling about title,
nor any doubt about the largeness of possession it gave. Right and
conveniency went together. For as a man had a right to all he could
employ his labour upon, so he had no temptation to labour for more
than he could make use of. This left no room for controversy about
the title, nor for encroachment on the right of others. What portion
a man carved to himself was easily seen; and it was useless, as well
as dishonest, to carve himself too much, or take more than he needed.
Chapter VI
Of Paternal Power

52. IT may perhaps be censured 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 has an equal title, which 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
everywhere joins them together without distinction, when it commands
the obedience of children: "Honour thy father and thy mother" (Exod.
20. 12); "Whosoever curseth his father or his mother" (Lev. 20. 9);
"Ye shall fear every man his mother and his father" (Lev. 19. 3);
"Children, obey your parents" (Eph. 6. 1), etc., is the style of the
Old and New Testament.
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
sounded but oddly, and in the very name shown the absurdity, if this
supposed absolute power over children had been called parental, and
thereby 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. But to let this of names pass.
54. Though I have said above (2) "That all men by nature are equal,"
I cannot be supposed to understand all sorts of "equality." Age or
virtue may give men a just precedency. 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 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.
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 are wrapt 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.
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 instance of his being to provide for his own support and
preservation, and govern his actions according to the dictates of
the law of reason 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
had 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.
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 nobody can be
under a law that 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 a 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; and
is not, as we are told, "a liberty for every man to do what he lists."
For who could be free, when every other man's humour might domineer
over him? But a liberty to dispose and order freely 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.
58. The power, then, that parents have over their children arises
from that duty which is incumbent on them, to take care of their
offspring 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 no 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 free
man, the son is a free man too.
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, an estate
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, somebody 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 twenty-one, 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 this 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.
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 incapable of that charge. And so lunatics and
idiots 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., s. 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
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 it, are so consistent and so
distinguishable that the most blinded contenders for monarchy, "by
right of fatherhood," cannot miss of it; the most obstinate cannot but
allow of it. 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 anybody 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., lib. i., s.
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."
62. Commonwealths 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 countries.
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 theirs. 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.
64. But what reason can hence advance this care of the parents due
to their offspring 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
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 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? And if the father die whilst the children are
young, do they not naturally everywhere 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, and enforce 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 theirs,
nor to their liberty neither when they are once arrived to the
enfranchisement of the years of discretion. The father's empire then
ceases, and he can from thenceforward 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 licence from Divine authority to "leave father and
mother and cleave to his wife."
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 he himself is free
from subjection to the will of anybody else, and they are both 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 shown by all outward expressions, ties up the child
from anything 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 on his throne owes his mother, and yet this
lessens not his authority nor subjects him to her government.
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, to more or less, as the
father's care, cost, and kindness in his education has been more or
less, and this ends not with minority, but holds in all parts and
conditions of a man's life. The want of distinguishing these two
powers 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
offspring, 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 bias 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. 8. 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.
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
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 nevertheless 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 sceptre
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.
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 of making laws to any one over him from
whom they are owing. And it is plain all this is due, not 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 expense, is often employed
upon one child more than another.
71. This shows 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, and 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 theirs, and can therefore contain
not any part or degree of that kind of dominion which a prince or
magistrate has over his subject.
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, though it be common to him with other men, yet the occasions of
showing it, almost constantly happening to fathers in their private
families and in 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.
73. This is no small tie to 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, that his compact held
them; whereas, it being only a necessary condition annexed to the land
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 enforce
and recompense such a compliance, and is no more power than what a
Frenchman has over an Englishman, 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.
74. To conclude, then, though 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
though that honour and respect, and all that which the Latins called
piety, which they indispensably owe to their parents all their
lifetime, 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 exacting penalties on his children; though by 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 and
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 when they were grown up,
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, be in the father, where it seemed, without
any change, barely to continue. And 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 nobody 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 act, he might condemn and
put him to death, or otherwise have punished him as well as any of his
children. which 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
arch-philosopher was of, That the chief person in every household
was always, as it were, a king; so when numbers of households joined
themselves in civil societies together, kings were the first kind of
governors among 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 regimen that has been received
in the world. The inconveniencies of one kind have caused sundry
others to be devised, so that, in a word, all public regimen, 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
regimen." Hooker, Eccl. Pol., i. 10.

75. Thus it was easy and almost natural for children, by a tacit and
almost natural 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 was 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 nowhere find a greater security to their
peace, liberties, and fortunes than in the rule of a father.
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 manors, according as
chance, contrivance, or occasions happened to mould them. But if
princes have their titles in the father's 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 household."
Chapter VII
Of Political or Civil Society

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 it. 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 these.
78. Conjugal society is made by a voluntary compact between man
and woman, and though 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 offspring, who have a
right to be nourished and maintained by them till they are able to
provide for themselves.
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 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 vivaporous 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 offspring 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 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 wings and provide for themselves.
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 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 choose new mates.
Wherein one cannot but admire the wisdom of the great Creator, who,
having given to man an ability to lay up for the future as well as
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.
81. But though these are ties upon mankind which make the conjugal
bonds more firm and lasting in a man than the other species of
animals, yet it would give one reason to inquire 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 perpetual.
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 true possession
of what by contract is her peculiar right, and at least gives the
husband no more power over her than she has over his life; 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 determine.
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 these
countries where the husband is allowed no such absolute authority. But
the ends of matrimony requiring no such power in the husband, it was
not at all necessary to it. The condition of conjugal society put it
not in him; but whatsoever might consist with procreation and
support of the children till they could shift for themselves- mutual
assistance, comfort, and maintenance- might be varied and regulated by
that contract which first united them in that society, nothing being
necessary to any society that is not necessary to the ends for which
it is made.
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
anything of it; and I think it is plain that it is far different
from a politic society.
85. Master and servant are names as old as history, but given to
those of far different condition; for a free man 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 servant 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.
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, with 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 he. 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.
87. Man being born, as has been proved, with a title to perfect
freedom and an uncontrolled 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 it. 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, and by understanding indifferent
rules and men authorised by the community for their execution, 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 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 showed it, the perfect
state of Nature.
88. And thus the commonwealth comes by a power to set down what
punishment shall belong to the several transgressions 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 entered into society has
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 up 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 judgements, 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 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.
89. Wherever, therefore, any number of men so unite 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 wherever 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 authorises 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
wherever 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
90. And hence it is evident that absolute monarchy, which by some
men is counted for the only government in the world, is indeed
inconsistent with civil society, and so can be not form of civil
government at all. For the end of civil society being to avoid and
remedy those inconveniences 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.* Wherever any persons are who have not such
an authority to appeal to, and decide 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 showed which may necessarily enforce that
the law of reason or of God doth enjoin the contrary." Hooker, Eccl.
Pol., i. 16.

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 whence relief and redress may be
expected of any injury or inconveniency that may be suffered from him,
or by his order. So that such a man, however entitled, Czar, or
Grand Signior, or how you please, is as much in the state of Nature,
with all under his dominion, as he is with the rest of mankind. For
wherever 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 woeful 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, according to the best of his power to maintain it; but 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 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 government public, and by
yielding themselves subject thereunto, that unto whom they granted
authority to rule and govern, 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, ibid. 10.

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 to the contrary. He that would
have been insolent and injurious in the woods of America would not
probably be much better on 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.
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 a power to do more hurt and wrong, it is
right when he does it. To ask how you may be guarded from 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 polecats or foxes, but are content, nay, think it safety, to be
devoured by lions.
94. But, whatever flatterers may talk to amuse people's
understandings, it never hinders men from feeling; and when they
perceive that any man, in what station soever, is out of the bounds of
the civil society 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 showed 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 us, sacredness to 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
legislative was so 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
dependants. 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.*(2)

* "At the first, when some certain kind of regimen was once
appointed, it may be that nothing was then further 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 beforehand, and know the penalties of
transgressing them." Hooker, Eccl. Pol. i. 10.
*(2) "Civil law, being the act of the whole body politic, doth
therefore overrule each several part of the same body." Hooker, ibid.
Chapter VIII
Of the Beginning of Political Societies

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, which is done 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.
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 one body, must 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 empowered to act by positive
laws where no number is set by that positive law which empowers
them, the act of the majority passes for the act of the whole, and
of course determines as having, by the law of Nature and reason, the
power of the whole.
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, who may submit himself and consent to any acts of it if he
thinks fit.
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 anything to be
the act of the whole, which, considering 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; and the variety of opinions and contrariety of interests
which unavoidably happen in all collections of men, it is next
impossible ever to be had. And, therefore, if coming into society be
upon such terms, it will be only like Cato's coming into the
theatre, tantum ut exiret. 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.
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 expressly 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
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.
100. To this I find two objections made: 1. 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. 2. 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.
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 inconveniencies of
that condition, and the love and want of society, no sooner brought
any number of them together, but they presently united and in
corporated 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 embodied in armies. Government
is everywhere 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 anything of it, they are beholding 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.
102. He must show 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 all. "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" (lib. i. cap. 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 away
not 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.
103. And I hope those who went away from Sparta, with Palantus,
mentioned by Justin, 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 least an argument from what
has been to what should of right be of 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.
104. But, to conclude: reason being plain on our side that men are
naturally free; and the examples of history showing 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.
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 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 incapable, they
pass him by, and set up the stoutest and bravest man for their ruler.
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.
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 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 inconveniencies 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 where there was but very little property, and
wanted not variety of rulers and abundance of officers to direct and
look after their execution where there were but few trespassers and
few offenders. Since, then, those who liked 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 choose 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.
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, though the war
itself, which admits not of pluralities of governors, naturally
evolves the command into the king's sole authority.
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 at the heads of their forces) appears plainly in the
story of Jephtha. The Ammonites making war upon Israel, the
Gileadites, in fear, send to Jephtha, 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" (Judges
11. 11), which was, as it seems, all one as to be judge. "And he
judged Israel" (Judges 12. 7)- that is, was their captain-general-
"six years." So when Jotham 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 for, and
delivered you out of the hands of Midian" (Judges 9. 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"
(1 Sam. 8. 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" (ch. 9. 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" (ch. 10. 1). And therefore those who, after Saul being
solemnly chosen and saluted king by the tribes at Mispah, were
unwilling to have him their king, make no other objection but this,
"How shall this man save us?" (ch. 10. 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" (ch. 13. 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 leddest 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."
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, united 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. It was given
them for the public good and safety, and to those ends, in the
infancies of commonwealths, they commonly used it; and unless they had
done so, young societies could not have subsisted. Without such
nursing fathers, without this care of the governors, all governments
would have sunk under the weakness and infirmities of their infancy,
the prince and the people had soon perished together.
111. But the golden age (though 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 entrusted in another's hands, only for
their own good, they found was made use of to hurt them.

* "At the first, when some certain kind of regimen was once
approved, it may be that nothing was then further 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 beforehand, and know the
penalties of transgressing them." Hooker, Eccl. Pol. 1. 10.

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 choose 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 jure 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 show 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
The other objection, I find, urged against the beginning of
polities, in the way I have mentioned, is this, viz.:
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
government." If this argument be good, I ask, How came so many
lawful monarchies into the world? For if anybody, upon this
supposition, can show me any one man, in any age of the world, free to
begin a lawful monarchy, I will be bound to show 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 show us which that is, which, when they have done, I doubt
not but all mankind will easily agree to pay obedience to him.
114. Though it be a sufficient answer to their objection to show
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.
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 but only
one universal monarchy if men had not been at liberty to separate
themselves from their families and their 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.
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 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 anybody 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 pleases.
117. And this has generally given the occasion to the 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 commonweal. And thus the consent of free men, 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.
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 Englishwoman 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 whoever was judged as a traitor 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 nor government.
He is under his father's tuition and authority till he come to age
of discretion, and then he is a free man, 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 being a
subject of that 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 anywhere else? Since the power that a
father hath naturally over his children is the same wherever they be
born, and the ties of natural obligations are not bounded by the
positive limits of kingdoms and commonwealths.
119. Every man being, as has been showed, 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. Nobody 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 possession or enjoyment of
any part of the dominions of any government doth hereby give his tacit
consent, and is as far forth obliged to obedience to the laws of
that government, during such enjoyment, as any one under it, whether
this his possession be of land to him and his heirs for ever, or a
lodging only for a week; or whether it be barely travelling freely
on the highway; and, in effect, it reaches as far as the very being of
any one within the territories of that government.
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, annexes 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, and the property 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, purchases permission, or otherwise
enjoys any part of the land so annexed to, and under the government of
that commonweal, 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.
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 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 commonweal, 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
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; it 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 law 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
denizen, 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
Chapter IX
Of the Ends of Political Society and Government

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 nobody, why will he part with his freedom,
this empire, and subject himself to the dominion and control 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 insecure. This
makes him willing to quit this 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.
124. The great and chief end, therefore, of men 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.
Firstly, 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 biased 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
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, make them too remiss in other men's.
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.
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 that 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 authorised 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.
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 viciousness of degenerate men, there would be no need
of any other, no necessity that men should separate from this great
and natural community, and associate into lesser combinations. 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 political
society, and incorporates into any commonwealth separate from the rest
of mankind.
129. The first power- viz., of doing whatsoever he thought fit 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 Nature.
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.
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.
Chapter X
Of the Forms of a Commonwealth

132. THE majority having, as has been showed, 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 a 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 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.
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 Latins 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" does not
(for there may be subordinate communities in a government), and "city"
much less. And therefore, to avoid ambiguity, I crave leave to use the
word "commonwealth" in that sense, in which sense I find the word used
by King James himself, which I think to be its genuine
signification, which, if anybody dislike, I consent with him to change
it for a better.
Chapter XI
Of the Extent of the Legislative Power

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 anybody 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 nobody 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 entire
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, ibid. 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
"Laws therefore human, of what kind soever, are available by
consent." Hooker, Ibid.

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 it up to the community. For nobody
can transfer to another more power than he has in himself, and
nobody 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 enforce 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, expressly or secretly agreed upon,
touching the manner of their union in living together. The latter is
that which we call the law of a commonweal, 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 regimen 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, Eccl. Pol. i. 10.

136. Secondly, the legislative or supreme authority cannot assume to
itself 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 authorised judges. For the law
of Nature being unwritten, and so nowhere 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 aught, 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 punish delinquents. To
avoid these inconveniencies which disorder men's properties 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 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, Eccl. Pol. iii. 9.
"To constrain men to anything inconvenient doth seem
unreasonable." Ibid. i. 10.

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 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 that is exposed to the
arbitrary power of one man who has the command of a hundred thousand
than he that is exposed to the arbitrary power of a hundred thousand
single men, nobody being secure, that his will who has such a
command is better than that of other men, though his force be a
hundred thousand 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 due
bounds, and not be tempted by the power they have in their hands to
employ it to purposes, and by such measures as they would not have
known, and own not willingly.
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 theirs, that nobody hath a right to
take them, or any part of them, 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, though 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.
139. But government, into whosesoever hands it is put, being as I
have before shown, entrusted 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
sergeant 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 not
obeying the most desperate orders, cannot 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
anything, 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.
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?
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, and be governed by
laws made by such men, and in such forms," nobody else can say other
men shall make laws for them; nor can they be bound by any laws but
such as are enacted by those whom they have chosen and authorised to
make laws for them.
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 countryman 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: Legislative
neither must nor can transfer the power of making laws to anybody
else, or place it anywhere but where the people have.
Chapter XII
The Legislative, Executive, and Federative Power
of the Commonwealth

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. 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 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 well-ordered 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.
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.
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, are 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, so 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.
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 name.
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 itself 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.
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 ruin.
Chapter XIII
Of the Subordination of the Powers of the Commonwealth

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 anybody, 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, whenever 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.
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 every member of the society prescribing rules to their actions,
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.
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 though 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; the members owing no
obedience but to the public will of the society.
152. The executive power placed anywhere 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.
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
mal-administration 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 shown, 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 legislative 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.
154. If the legislative, or any part of it, be of representatives,
chosen for that time by the people, which afterwards return into the
ordinary state of subjects, and have no share in the legislative but
upon a new choice, this power of choosing 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.
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.
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 imminent hazard on one side or the
other, by fixed intervals and periods set to the meeting and acting of
the legislative, but to entrust 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 entrusted 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 show 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.
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 time 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, send 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; though 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 it. 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.
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 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 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. It is 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 choose 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 proposed to them
so to do.
Chapter XIV
Of Prerogative

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; nay, 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; it is fit
the ruler should have a power in many cases to mitigate the severity
of the law, and pardon some offenders, since 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 innocent.
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 law-making 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 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.
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 or questioning of prerogative
whilst it is in any tolerable degree employed for the use it was
meant- that is, 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.
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 suppled
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 declared limitations of prerogative in those 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.
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 anything 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 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 anybody; since nobody 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, such as
have set rulers over themselves, to guard and promote that good; but
are to be looked on as a 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 people.
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 a 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 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.
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, or if any human
frailty or mistake (for princes are but men, made as others)
appeared in some small declinations from that end, yet it was
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 enlarge their prerogative as they pleased,
judging rightly that they did nothing herein to the prejudice of their
laws, since they acted conformably to the foundation and end of all
laws- the public good.
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 anybody 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."
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 occasion
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 best subservient to the public good and best suit the ends of
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?" I
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 anybody 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, are deprived of their right, or
are under the exercise of a power without right, having no appeal on
earth 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 reserved that ultimate determination to themselves
which belongs to all mankind, where there lies no appeal on earth,
by a law antecedent and paramount to all positive laws of men, whether
they have just cause to make their appeal to Heaven. And this
judgement 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 inconvenience is so great that the majority feel it, and
are weary of it, and find a necessity to have it amended. And 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.
Chapter XV
Of Paternal, Political and Despotical Power,
Considered Together

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.
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 free men under that law. The
affection and tenderness God hath planted in the breasts 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 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 anybody else, or keep the child in subjection to the will of
his parents when grown to a man and the perfect use of reason, any
farther than as 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, it is 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.
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.
172. Thirdly, despotical power is an absolute, arbitrary power one
man has over another, to take away his life whenever he pleases; and
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
peaceable ways which that teaches, and made use of force to compass
his unjust ends upon another where he has no right, he renders himself
liable to be destroyed by his adversary whenever he can, as any
other noxious and brutish creature that is destructive to his being.
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 captive.
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 property.
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.
Chapter XVI
Of Conquest

175. THOUGH governments can originally have no other rise than
that before mentioned, nor polities be founded on anything 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 a 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.
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
pirates 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 Jephtha 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.
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 free men 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 show they are sacrifices to their leader's 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 free men and no
subjects by conquest, let that give what dominion it will. And if I or
anybody 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.
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.
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 injustice
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 conqueror's 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.
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 swords.
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.
182. But because the miscarriages of the father are no faults of the
children, who 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, and
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 through infancy or
choice, they have done nothing to forfeit them, nor has the
conqueror any right to take them away by the bare right 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, but 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 children.
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 is come 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 hers. 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.
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 of an extent any way coming near
what I had overrun of his, and equally cultivated too. 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 phantastical 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
disseised, 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 thousand; 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 their 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.
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.
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 inquiry 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., choose 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 anything 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 breast.
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.
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.
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
free men, 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 lawful
authority, whilst force, and not choice, compels them to submission.
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.
191. By the first of these, a man is naturally free from
subjection to any government, though 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.
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 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 (which they can never be supposed
to do, till either they are put in a full state of liberty to choose
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 nobody can take away any part of it without their own
consent, without which, men under any government are not in the
state of free men, but are direct slaves under the force of war).
And who doubts but the Grecian Christians, descendants of the
ancient possessors of that country, may justly cast off the Turkish
yoke they have so long groaned under, whenever they have a power to do
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 free men, 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 in; the nature whereof is, that, without a man's own consent,
it cannot be taken from him.
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 L50 or L500 per
annum. 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 but power enough to
dissolve them at any time, and all the grants and promises of men in
power are but mockery and collusion. For can there be anything more
ridiculous than to say, I give you and yours 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?
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. Nobody, 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!
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, and 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 be conquered Italy, 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" (II Kings
18. 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 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 till this time.
Chapter XVII
Of Usurpation

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.
198. In all lawful governments the designation of the persons who
are to bear rule being as natural and necessary a part as the form
of the government itself, and 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,
yet appoint no way to design the person that shall have the power
and be the monarch- all commonwealths, therefore, with the form of
government established, have rules also of appointing and conveying
the right to those who are to have any share in the public
authority; and 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
Chapter XVIII
Of Tyranny

199. As usurpation is the exercise of power which another hath a
right to, so tyranny is the exercise of power beyond right, which
nobody 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 entitled, 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.
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, in his speech to the
Parliament, 16O3, 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, pests, both against them
and the commonwealth." Thus, that learned king, who well understood
the notions 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.
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.
202. Wherever 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 empower 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 exceeding
the bounds of authority is no more a right in a great than a petty
officer, no more justifiable in a king than a constable. But so much
the worse in him as that he has more trust put in him, is supposed,
from the advantage of education and counsellors, to have better
knowledge and less reason to do it, having already a greater share
than the rest of his brethren.
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.
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.
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
showed 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.
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 authorises 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 empower 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.
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, endanger him or embroil 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 on the highway, when
perhaps I have not 12d. in my pocket. This man I may lawfully kill. To
another I deliver L100 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. 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 might have the benefit of appealing to the law, and
have reparation for my L100 that way.
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
madman or heady malcontent to overturn a well-settled state, the
people being as little apt to follow the one as the other.
209. But if either these illegal acts have extended to the
majority of the people, or if the mischief and oppression has light
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 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 them.
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, though 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, and a long train of acting show the counsels 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 a 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?
Chapter XIX
Of the Dissolution of Government

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 entire 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 a house to
subsist when the materials of it are scattered and displaced by a
whirlwind, or jumbled into a confused heap by an earthquake.
212. Besides this overturning 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 connection; 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
authorised 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 anything 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.

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:-
First, 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. Secondly, an assembly of
hereditary nobility. Thirdly, an assembly of representatives chosen,
pro tempore, by the people. Such a form of government supposed, it
is evident:
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 enforced 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 authorised, 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.
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.
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
authorised thereunto do choose, or in another way than what the
society hath prescribed, those chosen are not the legislative
appointed by the people.
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 entire, free, independent society to be governed by
its own laws, this is lost whenever they are given up into the power
of another.
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 incapable of control; he alone is
in a condition to make great advances towards 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 certainly the
greatest crime men can be guilty of one towards another.
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 effectively 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
connection. 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 inconceivable to
human capacity, and inconsistent with human society.
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 free men. 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.
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.
For 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.
222. The reason why men enter into society is the preservation of
their property; and the end while they choose and authorise a
legislative is that there may be laws made, and rules set, as guards
and fences to the properties of all 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
employs the force, treasure, and offices of the society to corrupt the
representatives and gain them to his purposes, when he openly
pre-engages the electors, and prescribes, to their choice, such whom
he has, by solicitation, threats, promises, or otherwise, won to his
designs, and employs them to bring in such who have promised
beforehand 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 that 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.
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 [that] 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 line.
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 authorised
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 world.
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 borne 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 rouse 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.
226. Thirdly: I answer, that this power in the people of providing
for their safety anew by a new legislative when their legislators have
acted contrary to their trust by invading their property, is the
best fence against rebellion, and the probable means to hinder it. For
rebellion being an opposition, not to persons, but authority, which is
founded only in the constitutions and laws of the government: those,
whoever they be, who, by force, break through, and, by force,
justify their violation of them, are truly and properly rebels. For
when men, by entering into society and civil government, have excluded
force, and introduced laws for the preservation of property, peace,
and unity amongst themselves, those who set up force again in
opposition to the laws, do 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 proper way to prevent the evil is to show them the danger
and injustice of it who are under the greatest temptation to run
into it.
227. In both the forementioned 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 nobody can have but by the
appointment and consent of the people, and so destroying the authority
which the people did, and nobody else can, set up, and introducing a
power which the people hath not authorised, 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 anew to the state of war. And if
those, who by force take away the legislative, are rebels, the
legislators themselves, as has been shown, 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.
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 neighbour's. 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 kind of a 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 betwixt 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. 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 showing [what] inconveniencies might happen if they should offer to
resist Polyphemus, who had now the power over them.
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?
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 persuasion 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 in such a posture that they
would not have them thought 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
people's 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, he is 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.
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.
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 show 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 et furori jugulum semper
praebebit? Ergone multitudo civitates suas fame, ferro, et flamma
vastari, seque, conjuges, et liberos fortunae ludibrio et tyranni
libidini exponi, inque omnia vitae pericula omnesque miserias et
molestias a rege deduci patientur? Num illis quod omni animantium
generi est a natura tributum, denegari debet, ut sc. vim vi repellant,
seseque 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 et
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: et restituendae injuriae
illatae, non recedendi a debita reverentia propter acceptum
injuriam. Praesentem denique impetum propulsandi non vim praeteritam
ulciscendi jus habet. Horum enim alterum a natura est, ut vitani
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 tyrannis est (modicum enim ferre
omnino debet) resistere cum reverentia possit."- Barclay, Contra
Monarchomachos, iii. 8.
In English thus:
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 show 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 tyrannise 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."
234. Thus far that great advocate of monarchical power allows of
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 anybody 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, deserve for his pains a civil, respectful
cudgelling wherever 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 aggressor 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 unking himself. His words are:
"Quid ergo, nulline casus incidere possunt quibus populo sese
erigere atque in regem impotentius dominantem arma capere et
invadere jure suo suaque authoritate liceat? Nulli certe quamdiu rex
manet. Semper enim ex divinis id obstat, Regem honorificato, et qui
potestati resistit, Dei ordinationi resistit; 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 et superior efficitur, reverso ad
eum scilicet 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 et omni honore et 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 meditatur
et molitur serio, omnem regnandi curam et animum ilico abjicit, ac
proinde imperium in subditos amittit, ut dominus servi pro derelicto
habiti, dominium.
236. "Arlter casus est, si rex in alicujus clientelam se contulit,
ac regnum quod liberum a majoribus et 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 amisit, ut summus scilicet in regno secundum Deum sit, et
solo Deo inferior, atque populum etiam totum ignorantem vel invitum,
cujus libertatem sartam et tectam conservare debuit, in alterius
gentis ditionem et potestatem dedidit; hac velut quadam rengi
abalienatione 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 et suae potestatis populum relinquit,
cujus rei exemplum unum annales Scotici suppeditant."- Barclay, Contra
Monarchomachos, I. iii., c. 16.
Which may be thus Englished:
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 wished 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.
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."
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 that he
instances 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. 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 "Mirror," and others, writers that
cannot be suspected to be ignorant of our government, or enemies to
it. 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-taskmasters, 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- slavery.
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?
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 Jephtha did.
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 such 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 nowhere 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.
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 of their rulers, 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 place it in a
new form, or new hands, as they think good.


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