Second Treatise of Government
The IntroductionOf the State of NatureOf the State of WarOf SlaveryOf PropertyOf Paternal PowerOf Political or Civil SocietyOf the Beginning of Political SocietiesOf the Ends of Political Society and GovernmentOf the Forms of a CommonwealthOf the Extent of the Legislative PowerOf the Legislative, Executive, and Federative Power of the CommonwealthOf the Subordination of the Powers of the CommonwealthOf PrerogativeOf Paternal, Political, and Despotical Power, considered togetherOf ConquestOf UsurpationOf TyrannyOf the Dissolution of Government
About This Text
Author: John Locke
Composed: 1689 CE
John Locke was an English philosopher whose Second Treatise of Government, published in 1689, is one of the most consequential works of political philosophy in human history. Locke’s First Treatise was a refutation of a Robert Filmer’s argument for the divine right of kings. The Second Treatise contains Locke’s political philosophy. Locke argues that in a state of nature, people are naturally free and equal, governed only by the law of nature. According to the law of nature, all humans have the natural right to their life, the freedom to act as they please, and the fruits of their labor. Locke argues that men institute governments for a more certain enjoyment of their inherent rights to life, liberty, and property. Governments derive their legitimacy only from the consent of those free individuals relinquishing some of the freedom to have the protections offered by civil society. To ensure the rights of citizens are properly protected, a government must consist of an executive, legislative, and judicial branch to separate its powers. If the government instituted in a society grossly violates the rights of its citizens or ceases to protect them, Locke argues that those people have the natural right to institute a new government through revolution. Locke’s ideas have had a profound impact on the founding of the United States and continue to influence American political discourse to this day.