Locke study notes: Used for presentation.

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Locke Presentation

Geoffrey Tang


The mid seventeenth century saw a protest England nervous about the Catholic sympathies that the royal family harboured.

They were worried about the monarchies power to rule without the consent of the Parliament. They were concerned about their inability to control the monarch's power to levy taxes or to operate an absolutist monarchy, this was not helped by their aforementioned suspicions of the monarchies Catholic sympathies.

Tensions came to a head in the exclusion crisis when Parliament attempted to change the rule of hereditary succession, essentially shifting power from the monarchy to parliament.

Since Two Treatise to Government was Locke's vehicle to attack Patriarcha by Filmer, it is important to understand the main thrust of Filmer's argument.

Filmer's Argument:

Filmer argues that all rightful authority is derived from God's original grant to Adam over the Earth and over his family (Eve)

Although he is not asserting that an uninterrupted line can be drawn from Adam down to the present monarchy, he does assert that kings, as heads of clans, were biological heads of families, and that their authority descends naturally through the act of procreation, in the same way that paternal authority does.

Since God's grant to Adam was unconditional, it followed that monarchical rule could not be limited. As a result, all positions of power or authority, and power that representative bodies such as the parliament have are held at the pleasure of, and are revocable by, the monarch.

In a similar vein there is no justification for complaining to the monarchy taxing or taking property away from their subjects, since such rights and properties were given by the King in the first place.

Although one could wonder how such an argument could be convincing, any deficiencies in Filmer's argument...