Hobbes asserted that liberty brought chaos, that the worst government was better than no government—and that people owed allegiance to their ruler, right or wrong. Locke welcomed the restoration of the Stuart monarchy and subsequently wrote two tracts that defended the prerogative of government to enforce religious conformity. In November , as a result of his Oxford connections, Locke was appointed to a diplomatic mission aimed at winning the Elector of Brandenburg as an ally against Holland. The mission failed, but the experience was a revelation. Brandenburg had a policy of toleration for Catholics, Calvinists, and Lutherans , and there was peace.
During the summer of , the rich and influential Anthony Ashley Cooper visited Oxford where he met Locke who was then studying medicine. Cooper suffered from a liver cyst that threatened to become swollen with infection. Cooper asked Locke, apparently competent, courteous, and amusing, to be his personal physician.
Locke was about to embark on adventures which would convert him to a libertarian. But he was dismissed amidst Puritan purges. He was arrested for conspiring to overthrow the Puritan Commonwealth and bring back the Stuarts. Soon Shaftesbury spearheaded opposition to the Restoration Parliaments, which enacted measures enforcing conformity with Anglican worship and suppressing dissident Protestants. He became a member of the four-man cabinet and served briefly as Lord High Chancellor, the most powerful minister.
Shaftesbury championed religious toleration for all except Catholics because he had seen how intolerance drove away talented people and how religious toleration helped Holland prosper.
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He invested in ships, some for the slave trade. He developed Carolina plantations. Locke is believed to have drafted virtually the entire Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina , providing for a parliament elected by property owners, a separation of church and state , and—surprisingly—military conscription.
The grateful Shaftesbury encouraged Locke to develop his potential as a philosopher.
This led him to further explore the issues by writing early drafts of An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Shaftesbury retained Locke to analyze toleration, education, trade, and other issues, which spurred Locke to expand his knowledge. For example, Locke opposed government regulation of interest rates :.
For, since it is impossible to make a law that shall hinder a man from giving away his money or estate to whom he pleases, it will be impossible by any contrivance of law, to hinder men Locke was in the thick of just about everything Shaftesbury did. Locke helped draft speeches. He recorded the progress of bills through Parliament. He kept notes during meetings.
He evaluated people considered for political appointments. Shaftesbury formed the Whig party, and Locke, then in France, carried on a correspondence to help influence Parliamentary elections. Shaftesbury was imprisoned for a year in the Tower of London, then he helped pass the Habeas Corpus Act , which made it unlawful for government to detain a person without filing formal charges or to put a person on trial for the same charge twice.
In March , Charles II dissolved Parliament, and it soon became clear that he did not intend to summon Parliament again. Consequently, the only way to stop Stuart absolutism was rebellion. Such an attack was risky since it could easily be prosecuted as an attack on King Charles II. Locke wrote a second treatise, which presented an epic case for liberty and the right of people to rebel against tyrants. While he drew his principles substantially from Tyrrell, he pushed them to their radical conclusions: namely, an explicit attack on slavery and defense of revolution.
As Charles II intensified his campaign against rebels, Shaftesbury fled to Holland in November and died there two months later. On July 21, , Locke might well have seen the powers that be at Oxford University burn books they considered dangerous. When Locke feared his rooms would be searched, he initially hid his draft of the two treatises with Tyrrell. Locke moved out of Oxford, checked on country property he had inherited from his father, then fled to Rotterdam September 7.
The English government tried to have Locke extradited for trial and presumably execution. He told people he was in Holland because he enjoyed the local beer. He defied Parliament. He replaced Anglican Church officials and sheriffs with Catholics. He staffed the army with Catholic officers.
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In Holland, Locke worked on his masterpiece, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding , which urged people to base their convictions on observation and reason. He waged war for years against England and Holland—France had a population around 20 million, about four times larger than England and 10 times larger than Holland.
On June 10, , James II announced the birth of a son, and suddenly there was the specter of a Catholic succession. This convinced Tories, as English defenders of royal absolutism were known, to embrace Whig ideas of rebellion. On November 5, , William crossed the English Channel with ships and soldiers. Within a month, James II fled to France. Locke resolved to return home, but there were regrets. For example, he wrote the minister and scholar Philip van Limborch:.
I almost feel as though I were leaving my own country and my own kinsfolk; for everything that belongs to kinship, good will, love, kindness—everything that binds men together with ties stronger than that of blood—I have found among you in abundance. I seem to have found in your friendship alone enough to make me always rejoice that I was forced to pass so many years amongst you.
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Locke sailed on the same ship as the soon-to-be Queen Mary, arriving in London, February 11, During the next 12 months, his major works were published, and suddenly he was famous. Locke did not take religious toleration as far as his Quaker compatriot William Penn—Locke was concerned about the threat atheists and Catholics might pose to the social order—but he opposed persecution. He went beyond the Toleration Act , specifically calling for toleration of Anabaptists, Independents, Presbyterians, and Quakers.
If a Roman Catholick believe that to be really the Body of Christ, which another man calls Bread, he does no injury therby to his Neighbour. If a Heathen doubt of both Testaments, he is not therefore to be punished as a pernicious Citizen. He defended the natural law tradition whose glorious lineage goes back to the ancient Jews: the tradition that rulers cannot legitimately do anything they want because there are moral laws applying to everyone. This no Body has any Right to but himself. The Labour of his Body, and the Work of his Hands, we may say, are properly his. Locke believed people legitimately turned common property into private property by mixing their labor with it, improving it.
Marxists liked to claim this meant Locke embraced the labor theory of value, but he was talking about the basis of ownership rather than value. He insisted that people, not rulers, are sovereign. For this would be in effect to leave them no Property at all. Locke had enormous foresight to see beyond the struggles of his own day, which were directed against monarchy:. For where-ever 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.
Whensoever therefore the Legislative shall transgress this fundamental Rule of Society; and either by Ambition, Fear, Folly or Corruption, endeavor 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.
To help assure his anonymity, he dealt with the printer through his friend Edward Clarke. Locke denied rumors that he was the author, and he begged his friends to keep their speculations to themselves. Locke destroyed the original manuscripts and all references to the work in his writings. His only written acknowledgment of authorship was in an addition to his will, signed shortly before he died.
Ironically, the two treatises caused hardly a stir during his life.
He challenged the traditional doctrine that learning consisted entirely of reading ancient texts and absorbing religious dogmas. He maintained that understanding the world required observation. He encouraged people to think for themselves. He urged that reason be the guide. And therefore he that incloses land, and has a greater plenty of the conveniencies of life from ten acres, than he could have from an hundred left to nature, may truly be said to give ninety acres to mankind: for his labour now supplies him with provisions out of ten acres, which were but the product of an hundred lying in common.
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I have here rated the improved land very low, in making its product but as ten to one, when it is much nearer an hundred to one: for I ask, whether in the wild woods and uncultivated waste of America, left to nature, without any improvement, tillage or husbandry, a thousand acres yield the needy and wretched inhabitants as many conveniencies of life, as ten acres of equally fertile land do in Devonshire, where they are well cultivated?
Before the appropriation of land, he who gathered as much of the wild fruit, killed, caught, or tamed, as many of the beasts, as he could; he that so imployed his pains about any of the spontaneous products of nature, as any way to alter them from the state which nature put them in, by placing any of his 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 putrified, 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.
The same measures governed the possession of land too: whatsoever he tilled and reaped, laid up and made use of, before it spoiled, that was his peculiar right; whatsoever he enclosed, and could feed, and make use of, the cattle and product was also his. But if either the grass of his enclosure rotted on the ground, or the fruit of his planting perished without gathering, and laying up, this part of the earth, notwithstanding his enclosure, was still to be looked on as waste, and might be the possession of any other. Thus, at the beginning, Cain might take as much ground as he could till, and make it his own land, and yet leave enough to Abel's sheep to feed on; a few acres would serve for both their possessions.
But as families increased, and industry inlarged their stocks, their possessions inlarged with the need of them; but yet it was commonly without any fixed property in the ground they made use of, till they incorporated, settled themselves together, and built cities; and then, by consent, they came in time, to set out the bounds of their distinct territories, and agree on limits between them and their 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.
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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. And for the same reason Esau went from his father, and his brother, and planted in mount Seir, Gen.
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.
Nor is it so strange, as perhaps before consideration it may appear, that the property of labour should be able to over-balance the community of land: for it is labour indeed that puts the difference of value on every thing; and let any one consider what the difference is between an acre of land planted with tobacco or sugar, sown with wheat or barley, and an acre of the same land lying in common, without any husbandry upon it, and he will find, that the improvement of labour makes the far greater part of the value.