About the BookTwo Treatises of Government is a work of political philosophy published anonymously in 1689 by John Locke. The First Treatise is a scathing criticism of patriarchalism and presents a forceful refutation of Robert Filmer’s Patriarcha. Locke proceeds by contesting Filmer’s proofs from Scripture and ridicules them as senseless, concluding that no government can be justified by an appeal to the divine right of kings.
The Second Treatise describes Locke’s ideas for a more civilized society based on natural rights and contract theory. Locke begins by describing the state of nature, much more stable than Thomas Hobbes’ state of “war of every man against every man,” and argues that all men are created equal in the state of nature by God. Then he explains the hypothetical rise of property and civilization, in the process saying that the only legitimate governments are those that have the consent of the people.
Locke also defines the state of nature saying that in order to “properly understand political power and trace its origins, we must consider the state that all people are in naturally. That is a state of perfect freedom of acting and disposing of their own possessions and persons as they think fit within the bounds of the law of nature.”
According to Locke, if man in the state of nature be so free, and if he be absolute lord of his own person and possessions, equal to the greatest, and subject to nobody, he will never part with his freedom. He won’t give up this empire to subject himself to the dominion and control of any other power. Though nature has given him such rights, yet he is constantly exposed to the invasion of others. The enjoyment of the property he has in this state is very unsafe, very unsecure. This makes him willing to quit a condition, which, however free, is full of fears and continual dangers.
Locke’s political philosophy contained in the book provides rich scholarship for common people, particularly the students of politics.About the Author/sJOHN LOCKE (1632 – 1704), was a philosopher and physician regarded as one of the most influential English thinkers. He is known as the “Father of Classical Liberalism”, and is considered one of the first British empiricists following the tradition of Sir Francis Bacon.
Locke obtained a bachelor of medicine in 1674, having studied medicine extensively during his time at Oxford and worked with such noted scientists and thinkers as Robert Boyle, Thomas Willis, Robert Hooke and Richard Lower. He became involved in politics when Lord Anthony Ashley Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury, whom he served as his personal physician, became Lord Chancellor in 1672. Around 1679, most likely at Shaftesbury’s prompting, Locke composed the bulk of the Two Treatises of Government. While it was once thought that Locke wrote the Treatises to defend the Glorious Revolution of 1688, recent scholarship has shown that the work was composed well before this date. The work is now viewed as a more general argument against absolute monarchy and for individual consent as the basis of political legitimacy.
Locke fled to the Netherlands in 1683, under strong suspicion of involvement in the Rye House Plot. He spent most of his time re-working the Essay and composing the Letter on Toleration. He did not return home until after the Glorious Revolution. The bulk of Locke’s publishing took place upon his return from exile—his Essay Concerning Human Understanding, the Two Treatises of Civil Government and A Letter Concerning Toleration—all appearing in quick succession.
Locke’s writings had great influence on Voltaire and Rousseau and many Scottish Enlightenment thinkers. His arguments concerning liberty and the social contract later influenced the written works of Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and other Founding Fathers of the United States. His contributions to classical republicanism and liberal theory are reflected in the United States Declaration of Independence.