John Locke Was Born in Wrington, Somerset Term Paper

Pages: 5 (1540 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 5  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Government

John Locke was born in Wrington, Somerset, England on August 29, 1704 to John Locke and Agnes Keene, who were both Puritans (Uzgalis 2001, Wikipedia 2006, Microsoft Encarta 2006). His father, after whom he was named, served as captain of cavalry for the Parliamentarian forces in the early part of the English Civil War. His family later moved to Pensford and Locke grew up in a rural Tudor house in Belluton. He attended the Westminster School in London in 1647 under Alexander Popham, a member of Parliament and his father's former commander. Then he was admitted at the Christ Church College at Oxford University, where he developed greater interest in modern philosophy, such as Rene Descartes', than the school's classical material. He earned a bachelor's degree in 1656, a master's degree in 1658 and a bachelor of medicine degree in 1674. He worked with renowned scientists and thinkers, like Robert Boyle, Thomas Willis, Robert Hooke and Richard Lower. In 1666, he met Anthony Ashley Cooper, the first Earl of Shaftesbury, who was then seeking treatment for a liver infection. Cooper got impressed with Locke and convinced him to move into Lord Ashley's home in 1667 as his personal physician. Locke then resumed his medical studies under Thomas Sydenham who would later influence Locke's thinking. Meantime, Locke coordinated with several other physicians on the life-threatening condition of Shaftesbury's liver condition and persuaded the latter to submit to surgery to remove the cyst. The surgery was successful and Shaftesbury credited Locke with saving his life. In that period, Locke served as Secretary of the Board of Trade and Plantations and as Secretary to the Lords and Proprietors of the Carolinas (Microsoft Encarta, Wikipedia, Uzgalis).

Term Paper on John Locke Was Born in Wrington, Somerset, Assignment

Shaftesbury was a founder of the Whig Movement and thus had great influence on Locke's political thinking (Wikipedia 2006, Microsoft Encarta 2006, Uzgalis 2001). Locke got involved in politics when Shaftesbury became Lord Chancellor in 1672. Around 1679, Locke wrote his two treatises of government in defense of the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and to oppose the philosophy of Sir Robert Filmer and Thomas Hobbes. While in the Netherlands in 1683, he had the chance to rework his Essay and to compose his Letter on Toleration. After the Glorious Revolution, he accompanied the wife of William of Orange back to England in 1688. He spent time at the country house of his friend, Lady Masham, where he met and discussed matters with prominent thinkers like John Dryden and Isaac Newton. He had bouts of asthma and his health continued to decline until he died in 1704. Locke never married or have any children. Main events, which occurred in his lifetime, were the English Restoration, the Great Plague of London and the Great Fire of London. He was unable to witness the Act of Union of 1707 although the same monarch ruled both England and Scotland in his lifetime. Constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy were new during that period. Locke's influence was most marked on philosophy and politics, particularly liberalism, and specifically on Voltaire. His arguments on liberty and social contract had impact on the written works of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and other founding fathers of the United States. His critics say that Locke was a major investor in the English slave-trade through the Royal Africa Company and that he participated in the drafting of the Fundamental Constitution of the Carolinas while serving as Shaftesbury's secretary. This Constitution, Locke's critics say, established a feudal aristocracy and absolute power over slaves. They believe that Locke's statements on un-enclosed property as justifying the displacement of Native Americans. His opposition to aristocracy and slavery, expressed through his writings, is viewed as proof of his hypocrisy and his partiality for liberty only of English capitalists (Wikipedia, Microsoft Encarta, Uzgalis).

Locke proposed a labor theory of property derived from the concept of natural law whereby human labor was connected with an object, which became his by virtue of his labor (Microsoft Encarta 2006, Wikipedia 2006, Uzgalis 2001). But he also set boundaries to ownership of private property to that which could be enjoyed and used. These constraints, he believed, would make an economy run smoothly and efficiently because property then would not be wasted, spoiled or hoarded. He saw property as largely confined to material goods. Not only did Karl Marx later adapt Locke's theory on property but also that his idea inspired the Preamble of the U.S. Constitution. He believed that all people had the natural rights to life, liberty and property. He perceived that the original state of nature was one of reason and tolerance wherein all people were equal and independent and no one wanting to harm another's life, health, liberty or possessions. This condition, he believed, was formed out of some kind of social contact among people in which each was his own judge. There was no protection against those who violated this condition as it was guided by natural law. Today's government policy on checks and balances, as detailed in the U.S. Constitution, was conceived by Locke. According to the doctrine, revolution in some circumstances is not only a right but also an obligation (Microsoft Encarta, Wikipedia, Uzgalis).

Locke believed that man, through his labor, appropriates the products of nature and makes them his property (Uzgalis 2001, Microsoft Encarta 2006, Wikipedia 2006). In his view, labor is not only the origin of property but also sets the difference of value in everything. He attributes 99% of everything to labor and 1% to what nature contributes. Nature, thus, precedes government and that, therefore, government cannot dispose of the people's estates unreasonably. Labor acquires or creates property but its accumulation is limited by man's capacity to produce and consume. The introduction of money culminated this process, as money would enable the accumulation of property without causing waste through spoilage or hoarding. But the use of money also eliminates the limits of that accumulation and inequality. Locke, however, stressed that such inequality was due to some tacit agreement on the use of money and not by his concept of social contract, which would establish civil society or the law of the land to regulate property. He was not unaware of the eventual problem of unlimited accumulation but saw that it was the task of government to moderate it and which principles of government would apply to that task. He deemed that money would serve both as measure of value and a pledge as claim to goods and that the ratio of a country's money stock to its trade must not be far less than in other countries, or that country would lose its trade. His idea formed basis for the mercantilist concept of a favorable balance of trade (Microsoft, Wikipedia, Uzgalis).

In his second treatise, Locke recognized the family as the first type of social and voluntary organization, designed to secure the propagation of the human species through generations (Kemerling 2002). All individuals are required by the natural law to voluntarily surrender to fixed rules of conduct in adjudicating property disputes. That natural law, which secures social order through the establishment of a government, requires the direct consent of the governed. Locke envisioned that the will of the majority would suffice as basis for the determining of the rules for compliance by all the governed. This compliance would cover the lives and property of the governed. The form of government was not as important as their direct consent to be governed equally by these rules. This free and direct consent is the source of legislative power in creating social order and the common good through standing laws for the acquisition, preservation and transfer of property. Locke argued that because the rules applied to all the government equally, these would secure the rights of all. He saw that the legislative body of… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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