Article V and John Locke

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When the time arrived to put independence into writing, our Founders turned to John Locke (1632-1704).

Given the simplicity of Locke’s fundamentals, and the exposure he received as 18th century events cascaded into our Revolution, one doesn’t need a PhD in philosophy to grasp the elements of his theory. America 2016 would do well to embrace the precepts of the man who so influenced our revolutionary era, for within his framework is the salvation of the American experiment in free government.

In his Two Treatises of Government, Locke starts from a standpoint not questioned seriously until recent decades: “When men think of themselves as organized with each other they must remember who they are. They do not make themselves, they do not own themselves, they do not dispose of themselves, they are the workmanship of God. They are his servants, sent into the world on his business, they are even his property.” To Locke, this was biblical and common sense. It is the initial proposition of a work which appeals to common sense and reason throughout.

Second, we are naturally born in a state of nature, of perfect freedom, in which we may act and dispose of our possessions as we see fit, subject only to the Law of Nature (Natural Law). Here, no man need ask permission of, nor depend upon the will of, any other man. This is also a state of equality, for God does not create one man with power and jurisdiction over another. The Law of Nature is, equivalently, the Law of Reason, and reason informs us that freedom and liberty are not license; we may not harm ourselves, others or their property as manifest in one’s life, health, liberty or possessions. When questioned on this, Locke pointed to England’s distant Celtic ancestors and American Indians as living in a state of nature.

In the state of nature, all men are duty-bound to enforce the Law of Nature. When one assaults the property (person, life, liberty, estate, possessions) of another, the victim may resist with deadly force. Individual enforcement of the Law of Nature, to punish transgressors of it, constitutes the executive power within each of us. This Natural Law, the Law of Reason, applies to all men at all times.

Needless to say, there are what Locke regarded as “inconveniences” associated with life in the state of nature. Not only are individuals charged with executive power to enforce the Law of Nature, all must use judgement to arrive at executive decisions. In this, in judging their own situations, men are often deficient and prone to misapply Natural Law.

To deal with these inconveniences, men gather in society. The unmistakable sign of civil society having come into being is when every individual has resigned up to society his individual duty to exercise the executive power within the Law of Nature to protect his property. Society forms a compact, a constitution of government that sets up legislative, executive and judicial powers to put the Law of Nature into practice. Governing powers are twice limited; first, by the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God, and second, by the consent of the governed.

So, governors are only entrusted with the powers granted for attaining certain ends. If those ends are neglected, government is dissolved and its powers devolve to the society that granted them. Locke defined usurpation as the exercise of power entitled to another; tyranny is the exercise of power beyond right, which nobody can have a power to. It is for the sovereign people through their society to decide when their servants in government have acted contrary to their trust. Should the governors resist such judgement or threaten the people, they become rulers and outlaws. Under the rulers’ oppression, society is rendered into a confused multitude, and the people are once again cast back into a state of nature.

In this extreme situation, when government and society are gone, individuals are subject only to the Law of Nature and no earthly judge, but rather, as our Founders declared, “The Supreme Judge of the World.” This isn’t speculative theory; we can see pockets of life in the state of nature, where government is largely absent, in areas of Chicago and Detroit, and when mayors turn their streets over to BLM thugs.

What passes for legitimate government, one that comports with Natural Law and our consent, left the American scene long ago.  Usurpation of Article I legislative powers by the executive branch developed quickly under FDR, when his scotus judges condoned executive branch lawmaking.  THAT was the time for an Article V state amendments convention, to deal with usurpations, with breaches in our governing form. Since then, usurpation has devolved into outright tyranny, where governors became rulers unencumbered by the Constitution or Natural Law.  This breach of trust forfeits the power the sovereign people put into their hands.

It devolves to the sovereign people, who have the Natural Law right to resume their original liberty and establish a new legislative to provide for their own safety and security.  Without such action, the nation is reduced to a situation worse than the state of nature. In this anarchy, the inconveniences are all as great and as near, while the remedy is further off and more difficult as rulers increasingly use raw force to remain in power.

Having endured a destructive revolution, our Framing generation provided peaceful means in Article V to deal with usurpation and tyranny. History will not look well upon a people who skulked and avoided their obligations to themselves and future generations. We are the many; our oppressors are the few. Be proactive. Be a Re-Founder. Join Convention of States.

Sign our COS Petition.

Reference:

Locke, J. (2010). Two Treatises of Government, Edited by Peter Laslett. Cambridge: University Press.

13 thoughts on “Article V and John Locke

  1. Carol Menges

    See how the sovereign states can begin to remedy the federal mess we’re in. This week! Citizens for Self-Governance is hosting a first-ever simulated Convention of States (COSSIM) from Sept. 21 – 23 in Williamsburg, Virginia! Three sitting legislators from each state have been invited to that historic district to participate and experience the process of proposing and debating new amendments to the US Constitution. The rules for the convention are already laid out and published at the website so the commissioner’s (delegate’s) time can be devoted to debating various proposals. An actual Convention of States would set up its own rules and not be under the same type of time constraint. COS Project language for the topic of the convention is wide enough to allow for a great scope of amendment proposals; however, any that don’t fit the parameters of imposing fiscal restraints on the federal government, of reining in its power, or of term limits for officials and Congress will be out of order and not allowed by the parliamentarian. This is according to historical precedent regarding meetings between smaller conventions of state officials that have occurred many times, especially before the Civil War, the latest in 1922. Sign up to watch the live streaming of Friday’s plenary sessions which will take place from 8:45 a.m. to 4:45 p.m ET. All meetings will be recorded for later online viewing at your convenience. Get involved! http://www.conventionofstates.com/livestreamrsvp

  2. Fred Yerrick

    Given this Republic by our Founding Fathers with the only requirement is to maintain her, why not? We continue to grow “Enlightened Citizens at conventionofstates.com. Please join us and we thank you.

  3. Glenn Randolph

    Rodney, thanks for posting this on Locke. I had forgotten in today’s crazy environment, “…they are the workmanship of God. They are his servants, sent into the world on his business, they are even his property.” It was good to be reminded.
    I, too, am looking forward to the COS simulation later this week and hope it will embolden many new recruits to our cause. Join us in preserving liberty at http://www.cosaction.com/?recruiter_id=9461

  4. Bob Buckley

    I have read books before on who were most influential on our Founders when they framed the Constitution. This article was the most profound in drilling down to who was the most influential. Can we digress for a blissful moment and imagine the state of our Country if all public schools were required to teach the founding of our Country with references to Locke. Article 5 would more than likely have remained unused.

    1. Rodney Dodsworth Post author

      Agree. If the Ten Commandments and Bill of Rights had been posted in every K-16 classroom these past sixty years, I doubt we’d be in our present difficulty.

  5. Sharon Correll

    “They do not make themselves, they do not own themselves, they do not dispose of themselves, they are the workmanship of God. They are his servants, sent into the world on his business, they are even his property.”

    Yes, this is a great quote. I’ve never studied these things so this explanation is really helpful to me. Having recently gotten involved in the Convention of States movement I’m seeing a need to better understand the ideals that the Founders were aiming for – that we have moved so far away from.

    1. Rodney Dodsworth Post author

      I was a car-carrying Libertarian for about fifteen years. When it occurred to me that its philosophy so much as disregarded the Laws of Nature’s God, I had to look elsewhere.

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