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disobedience to that light which he had, and that rule which was suitable to his
nature . . . if rational creatures will not live up to the rule of their reason, who
shall excuse them? If you will admit them to forsake reason in one point, why
not in another? Where will you stop? (RC: ±±).

  µ
From manuscript fragment: Locke, “Of Ethic in General,” p. °. Ibid. Ibid.
·
“The Democratic Intellect”
As for the content of natural law, Locke insists that God™s commands
are necessarily reasonable: God gave man reason, “and with it a law:
that could not be otherwise than what reason should dictate; unless we
should think, that a reasonable creature should have an unreasonable
law” (RC: ±µ·). The ¬nal thing that reason undertakes to show is that
God™s will “is suf¬ciently made known to all mankind,” which again is
not the same as establishing the content of what has been made known.
Locke™s philosophical agenda would be satis¬ed if reason pointed us
reliably in the direction of moral revelation, and if reason also provided
resources for establishing the veracity of revelation and for ¬guring out
its (complex) relation to reason. And again Locke thinks that work is
done, in Book IV of the Essay. So it is a little insensitive to the complexity
involved to say that Locke simply balked at the task of establishing a
rational foundation for morality. The task has many parts, and many
parts of it were in fact completed, in Locke™s work, more or less to his
satisfaction, if not to that of all his readers.
Once the groundwork had been laid, once the in-principle possibil-
ity of a rational demonstration of morality had been established, Locke
could afford to acknowledge the practical and real-life dif¬culties of ac-
tually accomplishing the demonstration. The practical dif¬culties might
well be formidable. “Moral Ideas,” says Locke, “are commonly more com-
plex than those of the Figures ordinarily considered in Mathematics”
(E: ..±). Even in mathematics, things are not always straightforward.
As he observes in the Third Letter for Toleration, “It is demonstration that
±· is the product of ·±· divided by ·, and yet I challenge you
to ¬nd one man of a thousand, to whom you can tender this proposition
with demonstrative or suf¬cient evidence to convince him of the truth
of it in a dark room.”· Though ultimately deductive reasoning is just
perception of the agreement and disagreement of ideas, yet “it is not
without pains and attention” (E: ..). It proceeds “by single and slow
Steps, and long poring in the dark” (E: ..), and it requires “steddy ap-
plication and pursuit,” and “a Progression by steps and degrees, before
the Mind can in this way arrive at Certainty” (E: ..).
Thomas Hobbes once remarked that the success of any intellectual
enterprise is often adversely affected by con¬‚icts of interest. We may not
expect this in science or mathematics, though even there, he said,
I doubt not, but if it had been a thing contrary to any man™s right of dominion,
or to the interest of men that have dominion, that the three Angles of a Triangle
 · Locke, Third Letter for Toleration, p. ·.
Ibid.
 God, Locke, and Equality
should be equal to two Angles of a Square, that doctrine should have been, if
not disputed, yet by the burning of all books of Geometry suppressed, as far as
he whom it concerned was able.
In ethics and in natural law reasoning, by contrast, interest and ambition
are pervasively present, and they present a constant threat to the integrity
of our thinking. I have already mentioned the passage in which Locke
notices how “the busie mind of Man” is as capable of carrying us to
absurdity and monstrosity, as to truth, reason, and light: “nor can it
be otherwise in a Creature, whose thoughts are more than the Sands,
and wider than the Ocean” (±st T: µ). There is, in Locke as there is in
Hobbes, something like a radical version of what John Rawls calls “the
burdens of judgment” “ the many obstacles and pitfalls that beset our
reasoning and, in a practical sense, obstruct any arrival at consensus or
agreement. “Our Reason is often puzzled, and at a loss, because of the
obscurity, Confusion, or Imperfection of the Ideas it is employed about; and there
we are involved in Dif¬culties and Contradictions” (E: .±·.±°). And
again:
The Mind, by proceeding upon false principles is often engaged in Absurdities and
Dif¬culties, brought into Straits and Contradictions, without knowing how to
free it self: And in that case it is in vain to implore the help of Reason, unless it
be to discover the falsehood, and reject the in¬‚uence of those wrong Principles.
Reason is so far from clearing the Dif¬culties which the building upon false
foundations brings a Man into, that if he will pursue it, it entangles him the
more, and engages him deeper in Perplexities. (E: .±·.±)
The burdens of judgement are particularly heavy in moral reasoning, for
in addition to the inherent dif¬culty of the subject, and almost inevitable
distortions introduced by self-interest, we have to contend also with the
in¬‚uence of “depraved Custom and ill Education” (E: ±..°). Custom,
Locke says, is “a greater power than Nature” and often makes people
“worship for Divine, what she hath inured them to bow their Minds, and
submit their Understandings to” (E: ±..µ). This is true of children and
the illiterate and it is, Locke thinks, scarcely less true of those who have
the “leisure, parts, and will” to engage in abstract moral inquiry. Even
among this class,
[w]ho is there almost that dare shake the foundations of all his past Thoughts
and Actions, and endure to bring upon himself the shame of having been a
long time wholly in mistake and error? Who is there hardy enough to contend
with the reproach which is everywhere prepared for those who dare venture
 
Hobbes, Leviathan, Ch. ±±, p. ·. Rawls, Political Liberalism, pp. µ“.

“The Democratic Intellect”
to dissent from the received Opinions of their Country or Party? And where
is the man to be found that can patiently prepare himself to bear the name of
Whimsical, Sceptical, or Atheist; which he is sure to meet with, who does in the
least scruple any of the common Opinions? (E: ±..µ)
We all feel the in¬‚uence of fashion and custom to some extent. But those
of higher social status are particularly vulnerable to it, and so there is no
question but that Locke recognized the special danger they were in, in
their reasoning on moral and political matters.
All this leads our author towards what is in the end a quite pessimistic
view of what reason and scholarly intellect can accomplish in the way
of a socially useful demonstration of morality. Such pessimism ¬nds its
culmination in The Reasonableness of Christianity, where Locke™s conclusion
is stark:
Experience shows, that the knowledge of morality, by mere natural light . . .
makes but a slow progress, and little advance in the world. And the reason
of it is not hard to be found in men™s necessities, passions, vices and mistaken
interests . . . or whatever else was the cause, it is plain, in fact, that human reason
unassisted failed men in its great and proper business of morality. It never from
unquestionable principles, by clear deductions, made out an entire body of the
law of nature. (RC: ±°)
I know we are supposed to be very careful about the continuity between
the Essay and the Two Treatises, on the one hand, and the sober pic-
ture that is painted of “human reason unassisted” in the Reasonableness
of Christianity, on the other. John Dunn says it is “historically inept to
see the Essay as implying the Reasonableness of Christianity or indeed the
Reasonableness implying the Essay.”° The Essay was launched with an as-
piration that, by the time the Reasonableness was written, Locke had come
to see as impossible of ful¬llment, so there is in some sense a dynamic
rather than a static relation between them.± Still, as Dunn also points
out, Locke published editions of the Essay after as well as before writing
the Reasonableness. We have seen that many of the doubts that surface
¬nally in the Reasonableness are adumbrated in the Essay. Certainly the
critique of the contribution of professional philosophy is there. It is, after
all, in the Essay that Locke observes that “the increase brought into the
° Dunn, Political Thought of John Locke, p. ±.
± See also Kato, “The Reasonableness in the Historical Light of the Essay,” pp. µ“·.
 “[S]ince Locke wrote the Reasonableness at least in part after two editions of the Essay had been
published and proceeded to complete two further editions of the Essay in his own lifetime, he
must have regarded the implications of the two works as compatible.” (Dunn, Political Thought of
John Locke.)
±°° God, Locke, and Equality
Stock of real Knowledge, has been very little, in proportion to the Schools,
Disputes, and Writings, the World has been ¬lled with” (E: ..°). All
that the Reasonableness does is apply that to the particular topic of moral-
ity: “[H]e that shall collect all the moral rules of the philosophers . . . will
¬nd them to come short of the morality delivered by our Savior, and
taught by his apostles; a college made up, for the most part of ignorant,
but inspired ¬shermen.” (RC: ±°). I know also that we are supposed to
pay attention to the particular theological disputes in which Locke was
embroiled at the time of writing the Reasonableness. He was responding to
the accusation “ perhaps not entirely unjusti¬ed “ of Socinianism, and
searching for a way to express his own hesitations about Protestant Trini-
tarianism. Certainly these were the themes to which the ¬rst generation
of readers of the Reasonableness responded; they seem to have been more
or less completely uninterested in Locke™s comments, towards the end of
the work, about the moral failings of “human reason unassisted.” But
that doesn™t make the latter comments any less part of Locke™s position,
particularly when they tend to put on display “ as I think they do “ Locke™s
refusal to accord greater credit or privilege to the reasoning of the moral
philosopher than to the moral thinking of the poor and the illiterate to
whom the Christian message was in the ¬rst instance entrusted.
The verdict of the Reasonableness on the failure of moral philosophy is
really quite remarkable: “it is too hard a task for unassisted reason to
establish morality in all its parts, upon its true foundation” (RC: ±).
The Greeks were as smart as can be, says Locke (RC: ±), but we know
how unsuccessful the attempts of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Solon
were in this regard before the Christian era. “Philosophy seemed to
have spent its strength, and done its utmost” (RC: ±µ“), to little avail.
He poses a hypothetical question from the ancient world: if Brutus or
Cassius had asked a contemporary philosopher for natural law guidance
on their rights and duties against Caesar, where would the philosopher
have turned for advice?
Where might they ¬nd the law they were to live by, and by which they should
be charged or acquitted, as guilty, or innocent? If to the sayings of the wise, and
the declarations of philosophers, he sends them into a wild wood of uncertainty,
to an endless maze, from which they should never get out. (RC: ±)

 There is an excellent account in Marshall, John Locke, pp. “±. We are also supposed to
attend to the fact that the Reasonableness was addressed to deists who thought that morality could
survive perfectly well without Christianity (see Woltersdorff, John Locke and the Ethics of Belief,
p. ±), which is closer to the dimension of Locke™s project that I am going to emphasize.
 See the extracts collected in Nuovo (ed.) John Locke and Christianity.
±°±
“The Democratic Intellect”
And the ability of “christian philosophers,” i.e. those who study moral
philosophy in the era since the ministry of Jesus Christ, to do any better
is not due to the quality of their philosophizing but to their having been
given by revelation certain basic truths to work with (RC: ±°). They
may credit their reason with these truths, and that is an understandable
artifact of the vanity that is everywhere associated with philosophical
skills. But the credit is mis-assigned:

A great many things which we have been bred up in the belief of, from our
cradles . . . we take for unquestionable obvious truths, and easily demonstrable;
without considering how long we might have been in doubt or ignorance of
them, had revelation been silent. And many are beholden to revelation, who
do not acknowledge it. It is no diminishing to revelation, that reason gives its
suffrage too, to the truths revelation has discovered. But it is our mistake to think,
that because reason con¬rms them to us, we had the ¬rst certain knowledge of
them from thence; and in that clear evidence we now possess them. (RC: ±µ)

I will return to this theme at the end of Chapter , as part of Locke™s
answer to the secular egalitarian, who disdains the bene¬t of a religious
argument for equality.µ
What exactly is it that Locke says has been lacking in the autonomous
efforts of moral philosophy? Ian Harris says that Locke™s view in the
Reasonableness was that “[i]t was the obligation rather than the content
of natural law that was lacking.” After all, it is not as though the New
Testament adds very much to our moral and political philosophy. It gives
us the Golden Rule, certainly, and Locke seems to have subscribed to the
conventional view that the Golden Rule epitomized the rest of natural
law. It is certainly crucial to our understanding of equality.· Even so, if
the problem with moral philosophy was that it failed to set out all the
parts and details of the natural law (RC: ±), the Gospels don™t seem
to have done much better. They certainly do not yield up a complete
moral and political philosophy; if anything they seek deliberately to avoid
the topic as much as possible. On Harris™s view, then, Locke™s position
in the Reasonableness was that the philosophers may have succeeded in
setting out the content of the natural law, but they failed to provide an
adequate account of its normativity.

µ  Harris, Mind of John Locke, p. °.
See Chapter , pp. ± “.
· See particularly the argument, drawn partly from Hooker, connecting basic equality with the
Golden Rule in nd T: µ. I discuss this in Chapter  at pp. ±µµ“.
 See Chapter · for a full account of the problem of the relation between New Testament teaching
and the Two Treatises of Government.
±° God, Locke, and Equality
The issue of normativity that Harris mentions is certainly a prominent
theme in Locke™s critique of moral philosophy. Even if we grant that the
philosophers knew the content of morality before the ministry of Jesus,
“[w]hat will all this do, to give the world a complete morality, that may
be to mankind the unquestionable rule of life and manners?” (RC ±±).
Did the saying of Aristippus, or Confucius, give it an authority? Was Zeno a
law-giver to mankind? If not, what he or any other philosopher delivered, was
but a saying of his. Mankind might hearken to it, or reject it, as they pleased; or
as it suited their interest, passions, principles or humors. They were under no
obligation: the opinion of this or that philosopher was of no authority . . . [T]hese
incoherent apophthegms of philosophers, and wise men, however excellent in
themselves, and well intended by them . . . could never rise to the force of a law,
that mankind could with certainty depend on. (RC: ±± “)
The same applies if we think of a systematic deduction of morality along
broadly utilitarian lines. “The law of nature, is the law of convenience
too” (RC: ±), and as such its principles have been understood “as bonds
of society, and conveniences of common life, and laudable practices”
(RC: ±). But still that™s not morality. Locke™s complaint raises some-
thing like the issue that was raised in the middle of the twentieth century
by students of Hobbes™s thought: it is one thing to present the laws of
nature as theorems conducive to survival; it is quite another to present
them deontologically as laws.µ°
But Locke™s assumption here “ granting that the philosophers knew
the content of morality before the ministry of Jesus “ is made in the
Reasonableness purely for the sake of argument. What he actually says is:
“let it be granted (though not true) that all the moral precepts of the gospel
were known by somebody or other, amongst mankind before” (RC: ±±,
my emphasis). Now, the point is not that nothing but revelation can pro-
vide moral certainty. Locke denies that outright in the Essay (E: .±.µ), and
there is no reason to suppose he went back on that denial. But in the end
it is a matter of content. Locke believed that there were certain elements
of morality which are just not accessible to reason in the ordinary way.
The philosophers “depended on reason and her oracles, which contain
nothing but truth: but yet some parts of that truth lie too deep for our
natural powers easily to reach, and make plain and visible to mankind;
without some light from above to direct them” (RC: ±).

 See also Woltersdorff, John Locke and the Ethics of Belief, pp. ±“.
µ° Hobbes, Leviathan, Ch. ±µ, p. ±±±. See also Taylor, “The Ethical Doctrine of Hobbes”; and Brown,
“Hobbes: The Taylor Thesis.”
±°
“The Democratic Intellect”
“[T]oo deep for our natural powers”: in the light of this sort of claim, it
is starting to be clear, by the time of writing the Reasonableness, that Locke
no longer believed that reason and revelation were two alternative ways “
two complete alternative ways “ of apprehending the content of the law
of nature. One might lead us so far; but it could not lead us further. Its
perplexities and inconclusiveness were therefore bound to cast doubt on
any claim to social or political privilege based on one™s ability to set off
down this route. Even those with the leisure and resources to begin that
journey would ¬nd eventually that they had to turn around and take the
lower, safer route.
It will not, then, seem remarkable that Locke™s prescription for the
impasse which reason seemed to have reached in regard to morality
was not a prescription for more and better philosophy. It is not a ques-
tion of the philosophers having failed and being sent away to do better:
“If any one shall think to excuse human nature, by laying blame on
men™s negligence, that did not carry morality to an higher pitch; and
make it out entire in every part, with that clearness of demonstration
which some think it capable of; he helps not the matter” (RC: ±“).
What was needed was not more expert philosophy, or more studious
attention to the deliverances of good philosophy by those who were
capable only of bad. What was needed was something different alto-
gether: that people should be told their duties by “one manifestly sent
from God, and coming with visible authority from him” (RC: ±). The
speci¬c resource which, according to Locke, affords the clearest basis
for our knowledge of and obedience to natural law and morality, is the
Christian religion, the teachings of Jesus Christ,µ± underwritten by the
miracles that demonstrate His credentials, inspired by the example of
His life and ministry, and taught as by “one having authority” (RC: ±
and ±).µ This prescription turns out to be crucial in underwriting
the claims Locke is making on behalf of the ordinary intellect. Locke™s
Christianity, I am going to argue, is intimately connected with his faith
in the democratic intellect. It is, he says, “a religion suited to vulgar
capacities” (RC: ±µ·). It was preached, in the ¬rst instance, to “poor,
ignorant, illiterate men” (RC: ), “a college made up, for the most part,

µ± So far as the revelation to ancient Israel was concerned, Locke says that “that revelation was shut
up in a little corner of the world, amongst a people, by that very law, which they received with it,
excluded from a commerce and communication with the rest of mankind” (RC: ±·), whereas
“our Savior, when he came, threw down this wall of partition” between Jews and Gentiles
(RC: ±).
µ Matthew ·:.
±° God, Locke, and Equality
of ignorant, but inspired ¬shermen” (RC, ±°),µ and it contains a mes-
sage as well as a method that privileges the humbler human intellects of
the world:
Had God intended that none but the learned scribe, the disputer, or wise of
this world, should be Christians . . . thus religion should have been prepared for
them, ¬lled with speculations and niceties, obscure terms, and abstract notions.
But men of that expectation, men furnished with such acquisitions, the apostle tells us I Cor. i.
are rather shut out from the simplicity of the gospel . . . That the poor had the gospel
preached to them; Christ makes a mark, as well as business of his mission,
Matt. xi. µ And if the poor had the gospel preached to them, it was, without
doubt, such a gospel as the poor could understand; plain and intelligible.
(RC: ±µ, my emphasis)
In other words, not only did Locke de¬ne the threshold of equality (as we
saw in Chapter ) around very ordinary capacities; he also understood
that in the end these were the capacities on which the appeal of natural
law, morality, and religion were going to have to be based, specialist
philosophy having “spent its strength, and done its utmost” (RC: ±).
C. B. Macpherson reads the passages I have been considering
as having a different tendency.µ He says that Locke™s argument in
The Reasonableness of Christianity is further evidence of his “assumption
that the members of the labouring class are in too low a position to
be capable of a rational life “ that is, capable of regulating their lives
by those moral principles Locke supposed were given by reason.”µµ He
µ Locke connects this point to Jesus Christ™s modesty about his mission:
Men, great or wise in knowledge, of the ways of the world, would hardly have been kept from
prying more narrowly into his design or conduct; or from questioning him about the ways or
measures he would take . . . Abler men, of higher births or thoughts, would hardly have been
hindered from whispering . . . that their master was the Messiah . . . Whether twelve other men,
of quicker parts, and of a station or breeding, which might have given them any opinion of
themselves, or their own abilities, would have been so easily kept from meddling, beyond just
what was prescribed them . . . I leave to be considered. (RC: “)
For a somewhat overwrought gloss on the element of concealment in this, see Strauss, Natural
Right and History, pp. °·“ and Rabieh, “The Reasonableness of Locke,” pp. “µ.
µ I am going to criticize Macpherson™s account, but I should note at once that he is quite right
to say that the Reasonableness “is not, as might be thought, a plea for a simple rationalist ethical
religion to replace the disputations of the theologians” (Macpherson, Political Theory of Possessive
Individualism, p. µ). It is not like Kant™s Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone. On the contrary,
what Locke extols about Christianity in the Reasonableness is the ¬rmness and authority of Jesus™
teaching, and even some of the threats associated with it, not its intellectualism; it is in these
respects that he compares it favorably with moral philosophy.
µµ Macpherson, Political Theory of Possessive Individualism, p. . Again, I am pleased to ¬nd that
my discussion is very close to that of Ashcraft, Locke™s Two Treatises of Government, pp. µ“.
±°µ
“The Democratic Intellect”
takes particular note of Locke™s argument to the effect that a successful
philosophical explication of the natural law would not provide a basis
for teaching morality to members of the working class:
The greatest part of mankind want leisure or capacity for demonstration;
nor can carry a train of proofs, which in that way they must always depend
upon for conviction, and cannot be required to assent to, until they see the
demonstration. Wherever they stick, the teachers are always put upon proof,
and must clear the doubt by a thread of coherent deductions from the ¬rst
principle, how long, or how intricate soever they be. And you may as soon
hope to have all the day-labourers and tradesmen, the spinsters and dairy-
maids, perfect mathematicians, as to have them perfect in ethics this way.
(RC: ±)

It is undeniable that Locke says a lot along these lines:µ “The greatest
part cannot know and therefore they must believe” (RC: ±). But we
also need to emphasize the proposition that Locke conjoins with this:
that there is no philosophical demonstration of morality; there is no
other way than this to uncover and teach the basics of morality. It is
not a case of Locke thinking that there is Gospel teaching available
for the poor and illiterate, and moral philosophy equally available for
the rich and educated. Locke doesn™t think that anyone “ philosopher,
bourgeois or dairy-maid “ can “be satis¬ed in the rules and obligations
of all parts of their duties” (RC: ±) except through teaching drawn
from or inspired by elementary Christian doctrine. Towards the end of
his discussion, Macpherson provides a rather shamefaced recognition of
this when he concedes that “Locke was, of course, recommending this
simpli¬ed Christianity for all classes.”µ· And then he scrambles to save
his interpretation by making it a matter of emphasis:
But the ability of his fundamental Christian doctrine to satisfy men of higher
capacities Locke regards as only a secondary advantage. His repeated emphasis
on the necessity of the labouring class being brought to obedience by believing

I refer readers particularly to his account of the “ludicrous” character of Macpherson™s claim that
the Reasonableness of Christianity credits the intellectual credentials of “members of the propertied
classes in seventeenth-century England” (ibid., p. µµ).
µ Locke also says: “The greatest part of mankind have not leisure for learning and logic, and
super¬ne distinctions of the schools. When the hand is used to the plough and the spade, the
head is seldom . . . exercised in mysterious reasoning. It is well if men of that rank (to say nothing
of the other sex) can comprehend plain propositions, and a short reasoning about things familiar
to their minds, and nearly allied to their daily experience. Go beyond this, and you . . . may as
well talk Arabic to a poor day-laborer.” (RC: ±µ·)
µ· Macpherson, Political Theory of Possessive Individualism, p. µ.
±° God, Locke, and Equality
in divine rewards and punishments leaves no doubt about his main concern.
The implication is plain: the labouring class, beyond all others, is incapable of
leading a rational life.µ
But this really will not do. The emphasis in the Reasonableness and in
the Essay is all the other way. The mode of access that the laboring classes
have to what has become, on account of the Christian revelation, widely
dispersed moral common sense is the only reliable mode of access: it
involves reasoning to the existence of God using the basic capacities of
human rationality and to the idea of oneself as a person required to obey
Him; and then it requires attention to what God has taught and revealed,
and the integration of all that into a roughly reasoned compendium of
duty. “The writers and wranglers” (RC: ±µ·) might spurn the speci¬cally
Christian element and try their hand at a more elaborate intellectual
approach; but they are taking a very grave risk.µ And Locke does not
believe that that risk is mitigated by the social distance set between them
and “the illiterate and contemned Mechanick” (E: .±°.). If anything it
is compounded, for high social status makes one™s “unassisted reason”
all the more vulnerable to the assistance of established fashion, craft, and
folly.

©
My theme in this chapter has been the democratic intellect. I hope it is
clear from the excursus we made into The Reasonableness of Christianity that
we cannot take any of this seriously “ we cannot take seriously Locke™s
insistence on the role of Jesus Christ™s teaching in clarifying natural law,
and the nature of the audience for whom His message was intended
and by whom His message was received, and the contrast that he draws
between this and the confused state of philosophical intellect on moral
matters “ without seeing, in Locke™s account of the connection between
the theological and epistemic basis of morality, a profound validation
of the claims of the ordinary intellect. That validation, I submit, lies
at the heart of Locke™s commitment to equality, and in that capacity
it pervades every page of his politics. In Chapter  we saw that his
theory of equality was predicated upon a quite modest estimation of the
intellectual capacities that established the special place of human beings

µ Ibid., p. .
µ See Moore, “Locke on the Moral Need for Christianity,” p. , for Locke™s analogy between this
risk and the risk undertaken by those who hope for salvation from their own good works alone.
±°·
“The Democratic Intellect”
in the moral structure of the universe. Now in this chapter we have seen
that, despite Locke™s own vocational respect for intellectual excellence,
he does not fall into the trap of differentiating humans in their merit
or moral or political standing by the sophistication of their intellects.
The properties on which his theory of equality is grounded are matched
by the properties that he respects, and which he regards as socially and
politically suf¬cient for a practical grasp of morality.
µ

Kings, Fathers, Voters, Subjects, and Crooks




It is important to remind ourselves “ in the midst of our otherwise ab-
struse discussion of nominal essences, real resemblances, and range prop-
erties “ that we are still proceeding with an eye to a practical principle of
basic equality. John Locke has set basic equality some important political
work to do, and that work has to be done among the variety of beings
we call ordinary humans. Equality is supposed to tell us something fun-
damental about political life. One preliminary way of drawing it out is
as follows. Between any de facto ruler and any de facto subject intent upon
challenging that ruler, defending himself against that ruler, or even just
calling that ruler to account, the egalitarian claim is that we will not see
such a difference in faculties as to entitle us to say that the one is a natural
superior to the other. A morally astute observer will see that on both sides
of the comparison, the individuals in question have faculties suf¬ciently
similar to put them on a par, so far as moral status is concerned. This fun-
damental equality means that the subject™s demand or grievance cannot
be dismissed as simple impudence or insubordination. The subject who
challenges his ruler is owed an answer because, from a God™s-eye point
of view, he is as much a king as his ruler, his interests count for as much in
politics as his ruler™s interests, and his will is as much a source of authority.
The moral status of the lowliest subject is the same as that of any noble or
scholar or statesman or king: “all the Servants of one Sovereign Master,
sent into the World by his order, and about his business, . . . made to last
during his, not one another™s Pleasure” (nd T: ). Even if the beings that
Locke called human oysters (E: ..±), i.e. lunatics, idiots, and dotards,
do not ¬gure in these comparisons (except perhaps as kings in degenerate
hereditary monarchies), still the argument is radical enough to give the
bene¬t of this foundational equality to more or less anyone who has the
wit to claim it.
The Second Treatise is the place where Locke gives the clearest account
of the implications of this position for politics. It may not be the best guide
±°
±°
Kings, Fathers, Voters, Subjects, and Crooks
to Locke™s own political opinions on the particular issues that occupied
Englishmen in the late ±·°s and ±°s.± But it provides the clearest
indication from Locke of what a well-thought-through set of political
opinions ought to be based on. This chapter will focus rather more
closely on the Second Treatise than the previous chapters have done. For
I now want to consider what Locke™s underlying egalitarianism implies
so far as equality and inequality of power and authority are concerned.

©
That the starting point of the Second Treatise is egalitarian is beyond de-
nial. It is there on the page (nd T: “). But the way in which Locke
develops his theory of politics beyond its premises in this work does not
seem particularly radical at ¬rst glance. He may begin with the claim that
all men are equal, and “born with a Title to perfect Freedom . . . equally
with any other Man, or Number of Men in the World” (nd T: ·). But
we are very quickly introduced in the pages of the Second Treatise to a cast
of characters that is depressingly familiar from the sordid reality of ordi-
nary inegalitarian politics. At the very beginning of the Two Treatises, we
are told that they were written to vindicate the title of a king “ “to establish
the Throne of our Great Restorer, Our present King William” “ and in the midst
of what purports to be a theory of radical resistance and revolution we
are supposed to be reassured when Locke says, at the end of the work,
that political turmoil always brings the English “back again to our old
Legislative of King, Lords, and Commons” (nd T: ). In the context
of this sort of reassurance, the prospects for a general characterization
of Locke™s theory as pervasively egalitarian do not look promising. Far
from the single-status political community that one might expect, the so-
cial and political roles that Locke countenances in the book seem quite
unequal. Think of some of the asymmetries Locke envisages in a well-
ordered civil society. Besides the difference between husbands and wives
that troubled us in Chapter , he seems to envisage unequal relations of
power between parents and children, tutors and students, masters and
servants, guardians and madmen, ministers and congregation, owners
and paupers, farmers and laborers, residents and foreigners, represen-
tatives and constituents, majorities and out-voted minorities, nobles and
± See Wootton, “John Locke and Richard Ashcraft™s Revolutionary Politics,” p. , distinguishing
between a radical text and a more compromised author.
 Locke, Two Treatises, Preface, p. ±·. For some observations on Locke™s enthusiasm for William™s
title, see Wootton, “John Locke and Richard Ashcraft™s Revolutionary Politics,” p. .
±±° God, Locke, and Equality
commoners, subjects and magistrates, law-abiding citizens and crimi-
nals, and conquerors and vanquished aggressors in a just war.
True, from time to time, Locke imagines forms of human society that
might be characterized by rough equality of status and outcome. But he
associates that possibility with the primitive and the impoverished: “The
equality of a simple poor way of liveing con¬neing their desires within
the narrow bounds of each mans smal propertie made few controversies
and so no need of many laws to decide them.” (nd T: ±°·). The more
people there are, it seems, the more complex their interactions in an
advanced society; and the more prosperous the economy and the greater
the proliferation of science and technology, the more variegated and
unequal the society will be in wealth, status, and power.
So, if we are going to argue that a Lockean political theory appropriate
for an advanced society is still fundamentally an egalitarian theory, every-
thing will depend on our ability to show that a variety of outcomes which
are not themselves equal are traceable nevertheless to a premise of equal-
ity, and justi¬able in a way that respects the importance of that equality
even in an argument for difference and distinction. Now, we know from
modern discussions of equality in political philosophy that this is not
out of the question. It is not permissible to infer unequal moral status
from a prescription of unequal shares or unequal outcomes. Still, even
when that inference is avoided, there is hard work to be done. Can we
show that an array of apparently unequal roles and outcomes (including
inequalities of political authority) can be derived from a premise of basic
equality, and derived in a way that still entitles the theory as a whole to
be called egalitarian?

©©
One issue that an egalitarian social theory has to confront is the issue
of children. What are we to say about the place of babies, infants, and
young children in what purports to be, at base, a single-status political
community?
Consider a young child, aged (say) one or two. The child has some
intellectual capacities that are recognizably human: he is beginning to
speak, to connect ideas, to generalize to some elementary abstractions,
and even “ as every parent knows “ to hold his own in argument, albeit

 See, for example, Dworkin, Taking Rights Seriously, p. ·, distinguishing between the right to equal
treatment and the deeper right to treatment as an equal. See also Chapter ±, above, pp.  and .
±±±
Kings, Fathers, Voters, Subjects, and Crooks
in a way that is often uncontaminated by logic. Still the child™s reasoning
is unlike that of most adults. Locke characterizes the difference in an in-
teresting way. Some of what he says implies that the child has fewer ideas
and less to work with, intellectually, because the child is less experienced.
And sheer lack of experience might be important in the moral realm:
John Marshall notes that in an amendment to a late edition of Some
Thoughts Concerning Education, Locke had observed that it is dif¬cult to
explain the idea of justice to a child, because the idea of justice includes
the idea of acquiring property by labor, and children often don™t know
what it is like to labor. But it™s not just a matter of experience and input;
it is also a matter of the development of appropriate mental structures.
The ability to form and manipulate abstract ideas “ which, as we have
seen, is key to moral status, for it is the basis of one™s reasoning to and
from the existence of God “ is an ability that grows. It is not given to
humans at birth: there are “few signs of a soul accustomed to much
thinking in a new-born child” (E: .±.±). Adults have it; children don™t.
And without this ability, there is no question of the child™s being able to
¬gure out the natural law. Moreover, in the case of a young child, there
is also the question of an appropriate linkage being established between
his intellectual capacities (such as they are) and his agency or will. What-
ever understanding of natural law the child has needs to be connected
to his will “that so he might keep his actions within the bounds of it”
(nd T: µ). Of course, nobody™s will is connected perfectly to his rea-
son “ that, I think, was part of the point about corporeal rationality, which
we developed in Chapter .µ Locke may have had doubts about original
sin, but only in its literal form of inherited fault, not in the looser sense of
our nature being inapt for perfectly rational control of our actions. He
did think that the linkage between understanding and will had to grow
and that it required nurture and education. In young children, it was
pretty much non-existent: the infrastructure was still being laid down.
So in this respect too, there was a radical difference between the child™s
situation and that of an adult, even an adult possessed only of the quite
modest capabilities we discussed in the previous chapter.
Now, think back to the idea that I de¬ned in Chapter  “ the idea of
a scale of intellectual abilities, and the idea of a range property marking
 Marshall, John Locke, pp. “·. (Marshall wonders why Locke didn™t recall that most children of
the poor did labor, and most children of the rich did not experience laboring-for-a-living even
when they grew up.)
µ See above, p. ·±.
 Harris, The Mind of John Locke, pp. “. But see also Marshall, John Locke, p. , for the
possibility that Locke envisaged human perfectibility.
±± God, Locke, and Equality
out and privileging an area on that scale. There is clearly a gap between
the reasoning power of a normal human adult and that of an infant. But
we know that the idea of a range property is capable of accommodating
large scalar gaps. So the question we must now ask is this: is the gap
between the reasoning power of a normal human adult and that of an
infant to be regarded as an interval within the range, or as an interval
between points within the range and points outside it. (In terms of the
analogy we used: is it like the distance between Princeton and Hoboken,
so far as the range property being in New Jersey is concerned, or is it
like the distance between Hoboken and Manhattan? I use this example,
as always, to emphasize that it is not the sheer size of the gap that
matters; it is its character relative to the interest that de¬nes the range
property.)
Egalitarians may take one of two approaches to questions like this.
One approach starts from the premise that of course the child is human, and
proceeds to de¬ne the relevant range accordingly. If we know that we
want to include infants (and perhaps also people who are profoundly
disabled mentally), then we will have to de¬ne the range of the human
suf¬ciently broadly so that it includes both the child and the adult (and
the disabled human as well). And then we announce: “Anything within
this broad range gets the bene¬t of the principle of basic human equal-
ity.” (Of course it wouldn™t follow that children and the disabled are to be
treated the same as adults “ as we have seen, a principle of basic equality
is not the same as a principle of equal treatment “ but it lays the founda-
tion for moral thinking about appropriate treatment.) But there are two
further challenges we face. (a) We have to accept the consequences of
de¬ning the range so widely “ namely, that if the range is broad enough to
accommodate human babes in arms and profoundly disabled humans,
it will almost certainly accommodate many non-human animals as well,
such as adult chimpanzees and dolphins. (b) We also have to be able
to defend the range, so de¬ned; that is, we have to be able to show that
its generous scope and shape make sense in terms of some underlying
interest or value “ some interest or value important enough to be the
foundation of basic equality.
Animal rights theorists sometimes embrace (a), but forget about (b).
They have in mind an outcome they want to reach “ that certain higher
primates are our equals “ and certain assumptions they think we have
embraced already “ that not just human adults, but children and the
profoundly disabled are persons with rights too. And they think nothing
more than that is necessary to sustain the very generous range of equality
±±
Kings, Fathers, Voters, Subjects, and Crooks
that they are aiming at. But unless the delineation of that range is inde-
pendently supported, the strength of this argument is no greater than the
strength of the intuitions on which it builds. And if someone proposes
a different account of appropriate moral treatment for the children and
the profoundly disabled, there will be nothing left to motivate the draw-
ing of the circle wide enough to include chimpanzees and dolphins as
our equals.
The alternative approach, which is John Locke™s approach, is to draw
the range of normal human reason more narrowly, but then de¬ne a
special relation of the human infant to that range.· What Locke does is to
say, ¬rst, that infants are not at the moment within the relevant range,
but, secondly, that human children are destined to grow up into the adult
range: in the felicitous phrasing of the Second Treatise, children are born
to this basic equality, even though they are not born in it (nd T: µµ).
Parents therefore may not treat their children as simple unequals, and
neglect or exploit them as such, as though they were animals. They have
a responsibility to treat them as potential equals and to educate them, lead
them out to the adult equality which is their natural destiny.
Of course, this approach makes no sense so long as the range of
human equality is de¬ned generously enough to include infants already.
Then there is nothing to lead them on to; and basic equality will lack
this teleological dimension. Paradoxically, then, the narrower way of
de¬ning the range makes better sense of parents™ speci¬cally equality-
oriented duties in respect to their children. It is, I think, important to
take the point this way, because it helps us understand that the principle
of basic equality is not just a matter of recognizing those who currently
are our equals; it is also a matter of an af¬rmative duty to nurture the
basis of equality in those who may become, and are evidently intended
by God to become, our equals. Equality works here as a principle of
responsibility not just rights. We have dwelt a lot on the passage from the
beginning of the Second Treatise where Locke talks about persons as God™s
property, “whose Workmanship they are, made to last during his, not
one anothers Pleasure” (nd T: ). In the First Treatise, he makes fun of
· This is also John Rawls™s approach to the problem of the profoundly disabled. Rawls insists that
the idea of a range property is not supposed to solve problems posed by marginal cases such as
humans who are so severely intellectually disabled as to be incapable of many of the forms of
functioning we regard as “human” (see Rawls, Theory of Justice, p. µ°). The idea is that once a
range property is speci¬ed, cases of disability may be dealt with as tragedies in relation to the
broad human range, rather than being treated as extensions of the range™s outer limits. (However,
see Wikler, “Paternalism and the Mildly Retarded,” for cases where it is unclear which of these
approaches to take.)
±± God, Locke, and Equality
the idea that children are really their fathers™ workmanship (±st T: µ“).
There Locke™s case is a rebuttal of an af¬rmative claim of Filmer™s, but
in the Second Treatise, he develops the workmanship point as a principle of
obligation: “[A]ll parents were, by the Law of Nature, under an obligation to
preserve, nourish, and educate the Children they had begotten; not as their own
Workmanship, but the Workmanship of their own Maker, the Almighty,
to whom they were to be accountable for them” (nd T: µ). They have
a role to play in their children™s formation, but it is a role governed by
the equality that is grounded on God™s vision for their offspring.
It also puts into perspective the parent™s authority, the power that the
parent currently has over the child. As we consider whether Locke™s
allocation of authority is really egalitarian or inegalitarian, it is tempting
to focus simply on the point I noticed earlier about the will “ Locke™s
point about the necessity of the parent™s will acting as a substitute for
the undeveloped will of the child: “[W]hilst he is in an Estate, wherein
he has not Understanding of his own to direct his Will, he is not to have
any Will of his own to follow: He that understands for him, must will for
him too; he must prescribe to his Will, and regulate his Actions” (nd
T: µ). But the parent™s role is not just to be the child™s will; it is also
to nurture and bring on a will in the child (related in the appropriate
way to the child™s developing understanding), a will that will eventually
make the substitution of the parent™s will for the child™s will unnecessary.
So, as I said, the child is to be brought up and educated to a state of
equality with adults. In addition, Locke emphasizes the importance of
educating the child for equality, so that he can take his place in a com-
munity of equals. Children, Locke thought, have a natural love of power
and dominion, that reveals itself in greed for possessions, a need to boss
others about, and peevishness when their desires are frustrated. These
inclinations must be replaced, through education, with more moderate
desires and a more respectful attitude towards others if the child is going
to be able to take his place in the natural community of equals, and in
any set of plausible social and political arrangements built up on that
basis.

©©©
Let us turn now to relations of political equality and inequality, superior-
ity and inferiority, among adults in a Lockean commonwealth. I said at
 Locke, Some Thoughts Concerning Education, pp.  ff.
±±µ
Kings, Fathers, Voters, Subjects, and Crooks
the beginning of Chapter  that I would not talk about Locke™s views on
the suffrage, nor would I take this occasion to enter the lists in support of
Richard Ashcraft™s suggestion that Locke™s political radicalism led him
in the direction of arguing in favor of manhood suffrage. I am pretty
much persuaded by Ashcraft™s arguments, but nothing much turns on
that here, because the question I want to explore is not John Locke™s
own political opinions on the suffrage, but the egalitarian basis he laid
in his political philosophy for thinking about issues like this. Even some
of those who reject Ashcraft™s account acknowledge that the theory set
out in the Two Treatises is about as radical as Ashcraft claims Locke™s
opinions were: they just don™t think that Locke™s opinions or his politi-
cal practice are best understood through the prism of his most abstract
political theorizing.±°
I don™t myself understand why our interest should be diverted away
from the argument of the Two Treatises to the opinions and practices of
Locke the political agitator (assuming that Ashcraft™s critics are correct
and the two diverge). It is the Treatises that have stood the test of time
and excited our thinking, not John Locke as an archetype of political
activism. We read Locke because we are interested in the question of
how to argue in politics, not because we want to do as Locke did so far
as various forms of conspiracy or political compromise are concerned.
I guess the assumption is that if we pay attention to what Locke did in
real-world contexts, we will be in a better position to understand what he
said in the way of abstract political theory. But I have my doubts about
this as a matter of hermeneutics. First, few theorists have managed suc-
cessfully to establish a perfect unity between theory and practice, and
when they have it has usually been in the context of institutional op-
portunities (academic tenure in a political environment already made
safe for dissent) that are quite different from the environment in which
Locke wrote. (I will develop this point further in Chapter ·, when we
consider Locke™s views on slavery.) And even apart from the question
of environment, most of us wrestle with inconsistencies and hypocrisies
of one sort or another: I wouldn™t want my writings to be read through
the prism of my mostly half-hearted and poorly thought-through polit-
ical interventions. Secondly “ and this will be one of my themes in the
sections that follow “ often Locke™s political practice or the assumptions
that may plausibly be attributed to all of Locke™s contemporaries (such
as “Of course women will be excluded from politics,” or “Of course,
 Ashcraft, Revolutionary Politics, pp. µµ ff.
±° See Wootton, “John Locke and Richard Ashcraft™s Revolutionary Politics,” p. .
±± God, Locke, and Equality
there is no question of day-laborers having the vote”) are cited not so
much to clarify arguments in the Two Treatises that would otherwise be
obscure or ambiguous, but to call in doubt the most obvious reading of
passages which “ apart from the citation of these assumptions “ would be
perfectly clear in their radicalism. Locke says, for example, no one can
be subjected to the political power of another without his own consent
and that therefore everyone who lives under the rule of a political com-
munity is entitled to participate in choosing the form of government for
that community. That seems pretty clear, and one has to work very hard
to make it dif¬cult to an extent that the dif¬culty is thought tractable
only by imputing to Locke what we think is the opinion of his contem-
poraries, that “everyone” did not include day-laborers or women and
that “the people” means “the set of forty-shilling property holders.” I™m
inclined to agree with Ashcraft that “[i]t is time . . . to take the language
of the Two Treatises seriously,”±± to read it as it stands and to follow it
where it leads, without any substantive assumptions about what Locke
“must have” meant. That may not be the best guide to John Locke™s
practice; but it may be the best explanation of why people of all sorts,
in our day and his own, have found this work challenging, as well as
interesting.±
The best reason for not saying much in a work of this kind about
whether Locke was really in favor of giving all adults the vote was that
Locke made it perfectly clear, as a matter of abstract political theory,
that this was an open question: it was something for the members of
each political community to decide. The people, when they set up a
government, may organize its legislature, which Locke regarded as the
“supream Power” in any commonwealth (nd T: ±), any way they
please. (It™s a choice they make on the basis of majority-decision: I will
discuss this aspect later in the chapter, in section V.) They might organize
their legislative power as a direct democracy or they might “put the
power of making laws into the hands of a few select men” (ibid.), trusted
±± Ashcraft, Revolutionary Politics, p. µ·.
± In this regard, I ¬nd the following observation by Ashcraft in “Simple Objections and Complex
Reality,” p. ±°, very helpful, as a basis for thinking about the interpretation of Locke in the
context of late seventeenth-century England:
We can easily discover Anglican clergy who clearly perceive the politically radical features of the
Lockean argument, including the placing of electoral power in the hands of the “meaner” people.
We can discover the endorsement of the Lockean argument by other radicals in the ±°s. What
we cannot ¬nd is the aristocratic landlord proudly waving his copy of the Two Treatises to beat
back the tide of radicalism . . . Until such a context can be recovered from the ±°s rather than
being arbitrarily foisted upon the text by contemporary interpreters, it simply does not have the
evidential basis to make it a plausible reading of the text.
±±·
Kings, Fathers, Voters, Subjects, and Crooks
nobles or oligarchs, or representatives, or even into the hands of one
man, perhaps electively or on a hereditary basis (nd T: ±). They
do this as they please, and Locke is adamant that the people™s choice
in this regard “ their “positive and voluntary Grant and Institution”
(nd T: ±±) “ is to be accorded the utmost respect, and is not to be
trumped by any theorist™s conclusion as to what the best or the wisest
choice would be. The legislature is the heart of the civil union:
[It] is in their Legislative, that the Members of a Commonwealth are united,
and combined together into one coherent living Body. This is the Soul that gives
Form, Life, and Unity, to the Common-wealth: From hence the several Members
have their mutual In¬‚uence, Sympathy, and Connexion. (nd T: ±)±

And so the legislative power, Locke says, is “sacred and unalterable in
the hands here the Community have once placed it” (nd T: ±), and
any attempt to alter it triggers the right to revolution immediately.
This does not mean that Locke had no views on the wisest choice
to be made in this regard. He had quite ¬rm views but, like Thomas
Hobbes before him, he thought that his own views on the best form of
government were matters of prudence, not principle. Hobbes acknowl-
edged that his argument for monarchy was “not demonstrated but put
with probability,”± and Locke, I think, would say the same about the
arguments he adduced in favor of the form of legislature he thought most
prudent “ an assembly of part-time representatives, elected from among
the people. His arguments were partly arguments of convenience: “It is
not necessary, no, nor so much as convenient, that the Legislative should
be always in being . . . Constant frequent meetings of the Legislative, and long
Continuations of their Assemblies, without necessary occasion, could
not but be burdensome to the People” (nd T: ±µ). But mostly it was a
familiar rule-of-law argument about the importance of having the legis-
lators actually live among the people, and be bound as much as anyone
by the laws they had made. To ensure that there would be “one rule
for rich and poor, for the favourite at court, and the country man at
plough” (nd T: ±), Locke argued for what he called “variable” legisla-
tive assemblies “ “collective Bodies of Men” drawn for each session from
among the ordinary members of the community (nd T: ). You can
“call them Senate, Parliament, or what you please” (ibid.), but these as-
semblies ought to be legislatures “whose Members upon the Dissolution

± For further re¬‚ection on this passage, see Waldron, The Dignity of Legislation, pp. µ and ±.
± Hobbes, On the Citizen, Preface, p. ±.
±± God, Locke, and Equality
of the Assembly, are Subjects under the common Laws of their Country,
equally with the rest” (nd T: ±).

By [this] means every single person became subject, equally with other the
meanest Men, to Those Laws, which he himself, as part of the Legislative, had
established: nor could any one, by his own Authority, avoid the force of the Law,
when once made, nor by any pretence of Superiority, plead exemption, thereby
to License his own, or the Miscarriages of any of his Dependents. (nd T: )±µ

The argument, as I have said, is intended to be a prudential one and
sensitive to the circumstances and culture of the society in question.
Human frailty may be “apt to grasp at Power” in any circumstances
(nd T: ±), but in some societies it has been easier to trust to the
civic virtue of leaders and representatives than in others. In the early
ages of the world, “before Vain ambition, and . . . evil Concupiscence,
had corrupted Men™s minds” (nd T: ±±±), it might have been possible
to vest undifferentiated political authority in a father-king or a general-
king, without much worry that it would be abused. In contemporary
circumstances, however, that would be very unwise. I will say more about
the distinctions of political virtue that this presupposes later in the chapter
(section VII). For the moment, I raise it just to reinforce the point about
the acknowledged contingency of the case that Locke is making for a
representative legislative assembly.
One thing he is insistent upon, and this is not a prudential matter.
Locke believed, as a matter of principle, that if his suggestions as to
the general constitution of the legislature were not followed, it would
be important to constitute a speci¬c assembly of property-owners or
taxpayers, to give (or withhold) consent to taxation. Governments “must
not raise Taxes on the Property of the People, without the Consent of the People,
given by themselves, or their Deputies” (nd T: ±). It is tempting to
read this as an argument for a property franchise. But that gets Locke™s
±µ The argument is connected also with an early version of the constitutionalist argument for the
separation of powers:
And because it may be too great a temptation to human frailty, apt to grasp at Power, for the
same Persons, who have the Power of making Laws, to have also in their hands the power to
execute them, whereby they may exempt themselves from Obedience to the Laws they make,
and suit the Law, both in its making, and execution, to their own private advantage, and thereby
come to have a distinct interest from the rest of the Community, contrary to the end of Society
and Government: Therefore in well order™d Commonwealths . . . the Legislative Power is put into
the hands of divers Persons, who duly Assembled, have by themselves, or jointly with others, a
Power to make Laws, which when they have done, being separated again, they are themselves
subject to the Laws they have made; which is a new and near tie upon them, to take care, that
they make them for the public good. (nd T: ±)
±±
Kings, Fathers, Voters, Subjects, and Crooks
point exactly the wrong way around. He is saying, and he says it several
times, that a special convocation of property-holders or their deputies
is necessary only if legislative power is vested in one man or a few with
an interest evidently distinct from the people. Otherwise an ordinary
representative legislature will take care of the matter (nd T: ±).± Let
me reiterate: I am not saying that Locke opposed a more robust property
quali¬cation “ a forty shilling franchise or whatever. He leaves it open
whether the people might think this prudent, and his remarks about the
basis on which elections would be organized for the sort of representative
assembly he favors are quite sketchy, and mostly concerned with issues of
fairness and proportionality in the redistricting of rotten boroughs (nd
T: ±µ·). The only principled case that he makes in the Second Treatise is
that, one way or another, property-owners “ the owners of any property
liable to taxation “ must be represented. He does not set out to make
the case that a legislature must exclude everyone other than property-
holders. There is no trace of any explicit argument for that proposition,
not even a prudential argument.

©
Locke said the people can constitute any form of legislative institution
they like, and that once they do, the legislative power is “sacred and
unalterable in the hands where the Community have once placed it” (nd
T: ±). But who are “the people,” for the purposes of this proposition?
Even if he did not argue speci¬cally for a property franchise, might he
not have restricted the meaning of “the people” so that it only included
people with a certain amount of property? If the class of persons who
are supposed to consent to government and who are supposed to agree
to the institution of a legislature already excludes (say) paupers, laborers,
and women, then we do not need to worry about the details of Locke™s
thoughts about the franchise. His theory of politics would already be
founded on a platform of inequality and exclusion.
What we have seen so far is that you cannot run an argument in
the other direction. From the fact that X is one of “the people,” whose
consent is required before he can be subject to political power, and who is
entitled to participate along with the rest of “the people” in determining
the constitution of the legislature, we cannot infer that he is entitled to
± Or, as Locke puts it in nd T: ±: “[T]his properly concerns only such governments where
the legislative is always in being, or at least where the people have not reserved any part of the
legislative to deputies, to be from time to time chosen by themselves.”
±° God, Locke, and Equality
vote in the election of legislative representatives. For X (and the rest
of “the people”) might have chosen to institute a non-representative
legislature or a legislature elected on the basis of a restricted franchise
that excluded X. Ellen Meiksins Wood offers a further argument in this
direction.±· Locke thought the basic consent that one might give to the
institution of political society could be given tacitly (nd T: ±±); it is not
necessary that it be given in the form of anything like a formal vote. In
Locke™s day, it was common to run the two issues together “ consent to be
governed and the basis of the franchise.± But Locke is evidently setting
his face against that con¬‚ation in his doctrine of tacit consent, making it
necessary (if one wants to make a case for universal suffrage) to make it
in two stages: ¬rst, an argument for the right of each person not to have
authority exercised over him without his own consent; and secondly, an
argument that each person who has the right to be ruled only by consent
also has a right to be ruled only by a representative assembly and a
right, too, to be included in the electorate for the purposes of choosing
representatives. As we have seen, Locke does not make any argument
of principle at the second stage. So let™s focus our attention now on the
¬rst.
Who are “the people”? Of whom is it true that political power may not
be exercised over them, except by their own consent? If we can answer
these questions, we can give an account of the primary constituents of a
Lockean polity, whether they are also voters (for representatives) or not.
The questions are fundamental in Locke™s theory, for they ask about the
link between (±) the foundations of natural law and () Locke™s speci¬c
doctrine that government is based on the consent of the governed. Thus,
the Second Treatise begins with (±) an account of the “State all Men are
naturally in” (nd T: ), which is an elemental account of their relation
to their Creator and their relation to others in virtue of their relation
to their Creator, and it proceeds to () an account of what is required
before anyone can be subjected to the political power of another: “Men
being, as has been said, by nature, all free, equal, and independent, no
one can be put out of this estate, and subjected to the political power
of another, without his own consent” (nd T: µ). Beyond (), there is
also the possibility of () an account of individuals™ rights to be repre-
sented in and to vote for representatives to the legislature. Now whatever
the relationship between () and () “ and I have conceded already that
±· Wood, “Locke Against Democracy,” pp. ·“.
± See, for example, the argument of the army radicals in the Putney Debates, in Sharp (ed.)
The English Levellers, p. ±±±.
±±
Kings, Fathers, Voters, Subjects, and Crooks
that relation is problematic “ it seems to me that the relation between
() and (±) is very tight indeed. With a few exceptions, which I will say
something about in a moment, any exclusion at the level of () “ whose
consent is required? “ has to be represented as an exclusion at the level of
(±) “ to whom does natural law apply? And that is quite serious because
(±) is the basis not only of a person™s elementary rights, but also of his
subjection to the duties of natural law. Unless a wedge can be driven
between () and (±), it would seem to follow that if some individual X is
not one of “the people” for the purposes of (), he cannot plausibly
be represented as obligated by the laws of nature, and so authority
cannot legitimately be exercised over him on the basis that he is so
obligated.
Locke™s logic is very tight at this point. I don™t think we are in a position
to say, for example, that there is a person or group of persons in a given
community who have a natural duty to defer to the rest of the community
or its rulers without their own consent.± If they have a natural duty to
obey, then they must be subject to natural law. And if they are subject
to natural law, they are, in Locke™s phrase, “free of [i.e. free under] that
law” (nd T: µ); they must have the status of naturally free individuals, of
whom it is the case that they cannot be ruled without their own consent.
If they have not given their consent, they may of course be punished by
others for any violations of natural law: they are subject to the executive
power of the law of nature. But they may also exercise that power, for it is
a primal power possessed (on Locke™s account) by anyone and everyone
to whom the law of nature applies. So, as persons subject to the natural
law, they have the power to enforce it and to make whatever contribution
they think ¬t for the preservation of man under it, until such time as they
themselves yield up those powers to the community (nd T: ±).
The case of children ¬ts this schema quite nicely. Though they are, in
a loose sense, members of the political community to which their parents
belong, they are not so by their own consent. They are basically under
the parental authority of their fathers and mothers (nd T: ±±). Now, as
we saw in section II of this chapter, that parental authority is regulated
by the law of nature. But the child himself is not directly subject to the
law of nature during this period of parental authority, “for no Body can
be under a Law, which is not promulgated to him, and this Law being
promulgated or made known by Reason only, he that is not come to the
± For the idea of natural duty as opposed to consent-based political obligation, see Rawls,
Theory of Justice, pp. ±±“±· and “. See also Waldron, “Special Ties and Natural Duties,”
pp.  ff.
± God, Locke, and Equality
use of Reason, cannot be said to be under this law” (nd T: µ·). Thus
the child is not actually “ though he is potentially “ covered by (±), and
for that reason, as long as he is a child, he is not covered by () either: he
is not one of those whose consent is required so far as the constitution
of the community™s political structure is concerned. But as soon as he
is actually covered by (±) “ as soon as he becomes subject to the law of
nature in a direct sense “ then ipso facto it becomes appropriate for his
consent to be asked before political power is exercised over him or over
any community to which he belongs. The one quali¬cation brings the
other with it.
Now let™s try a more controversial case “ women. Women seem to
present a harder case, but I think the dif¬culty arises only on account
of the inconsistency in Locke™s discussion of the status of women, which
we noticed in Chapter . I imagine that many of my readers will throw
up their hands in despair when I say that I think “the people” in the
Second Treatise should be read to include women as well as men. Even
Ashcraft doesn™t go this far: he seems to think “the people” includes only
adult males (though it includes all of them).° After all, women weren™t
enfranchised in English public life for another °° years, and do we
really want to say that Locke was this far ahead of his time? Well, re-
member that we have already distinguished between () membership of
“the people” and () possession of the franchise. The fact (if, as I shall
argue, it is a fact) that Locke thought women were covered by () doesn™t
show that he thought they were covered by (), though it would cer-
tainly follow that () was not out of the question so far as women were
concerned. Basically, though, the application of (±) and () to women is
a matter of what the arguments in the text will support, and the argu-
mentative basis in Locke™s text for the inclusion of women is really quite
considerable.
First, Locke recognizes that women may be monarchs and he denies
that their political power is affected by the fact of their marriage (±st
T: ·).± When he talks of queens, he makes none of the disparaging

° Ashcraft, Revolutionary Politics, pp. µ·“.
± There is a complication here. It has to do with Locke™s attitude to the joint monarchy of William
and Mary. In the Preface to the Two Treatises, Locke writes as though only the throne of “King
William” deserved his support (Locke, Two Treatises, p. ±·). Laslett notes in his “Introduction,”
p. µ n., that supporters of the Glorious Revolution were initially divided on the question of
joint sovereignty, and that the faction that Locke belonged to initially supported sovereignty for
William only. But I see no warrant for Laslett™s suggestion (ibid., p. ±·) that Locke would not
have made the argument he made in ±st T: · after April ±, when Mary Stuart was crowned
joint sovereign with William. That event might have complicated his statement of the point, but
±
Kings, Fathers, Voters, Subjects, and Crooks
remarks he makes about other controversial cases “ for example, fools
and infants wearing the crown in actually existing monarchies (±st T: ±).
Second, as we saw in Chapter , Locke insists often and stridently on
the point that women share parental authority under natural law equally
with the father of their children (±st T: °“ and nd T: µ“). Parental
authority may not be the same as political authority, but one would
not expect that the rational quali¬cations for the exercise of the former
would be less than the rational quali¬cations for participation in the latter.
Third, women may be property-holders in their own right, and they are
entitled to control their own property (nd T: ±). Fourth, women™s status
in marriage is determined by a contract to which the woman is a full
and equal partner: “Conjugal society is made by a voluntary Compact
between man and Woman” (nd T: ·). Even Locke™s notorious comment
about the husband having the ¬nal say in the marriage which gave us so
much trouble in Chapter  (and I™ll say a little more about it in a moment)
is presented only as a weak and defeasible default condition for the
contract, something that the parties may bargain around or something
that may permissibly be displaced by a positive law stipulation of equality
(nd T: ). Fifth, once the children are provided for (nd T: °), Locke
is at pains to emphasize that women have a right to separate from their
husbands, if they like, and resume a life as independent members of
the community (nd T: ± “). All of this seems to indicate that women
are regarded in the Second Treatise as ordinary functioning persons, with
all the rights and protections of ordinary functioning persons, under
natural law. Locke recognizes that as ordinary functioning persons, they
are entitled to promote and protect their rights through contract, and
the logic of contractarianism “ “no rational Creature can be supposed to
change his condition with an intention to be worse” (nd T: ±±) “ applies
to them too. This he applies explicitly to marriage, and it is impossible
to see how its logic could fail to provide also for the process by which
political authority is established over a woman. Her husband has no
political authority over her (nd T: ), and it would seem that the only
way such authority can be established over her, as over any member of
“the people,” is by her own consent.
Against this, those who think Locke excludes women from “the peo-
ple” may cite two points. First, a verbal point. Locke™s basic doctrine of
consent is always and everywhere stated in terms of “man” and “men”
it would not have derogated from the point itself (viz. that political authority should not be at the
mercy of obstetrics). See also Wootton, “John Locke and Richard Ashcraft™s Revolutionary Politics,”
p. .
± God, Locke, and Equality
and using masculine pronouns (nd T: ·, µ, ±±, and ±). But this, I
think, is inconclusive. It is true that Locke sometimes uses “man” in a
signi¬cantly gendered sense, as for example in his discussion of marriage
(nd T: · and ). But he makes it clear in his own account of the forma-
tion of the concept man in the Essay Concerning Human Understanding that
its main use generalizes over males and females (E: ..·). Moreover,
as we saw in Chapter , Locke rests an important argument in the First
Treatise on the point that “Man” and “Mankind” have to be suf¬ciently
capacious to accommodate Eve as well as Adam. Attentive readers will
remember that in this passage Locke also argues for an inclusive reading
of pronouns; and more substantively, he argues too that women as well
as men bear the intellectual nature, which is the likeness of God.
The other dif¬culty is Locke™s espousal of the view that, unless their
particular marriage contract provides otherwise, women are subject to
the will of their husbands in “the Things of their common Interest and
Property” (nd T: ). This, as we have seen, is inconsistent with most
of the rest of what Locke says about women, and for that reason it is a
weak foundation on which to base their exclusion from “the people.” But
even if it were not, it is hard to see how this doctrine could support any
general or fundamental exclusion. It applies only to married women,
not single women, widows or divorcees, who as we have seen may be
property-owners in their own right. Locke himself is at pains to deny
that it has anything to do with political authority. He emphasizes also
that it may be displaced by the civil law of a particular community (nd
T: ). Now this is an important point. If it is accepted, then I think it
is logically impossible for the matrimonial subordination of women to
be the basis of their exclusion from civil society. Civil society makes its
decisions, ¬rst, and that frames the establishment of rights and duties
within marriage (to the extent that they are not left to contract); not
vice versa. This makes women™s rights within marriage rather more like
the suffrage on the account I have been giving. The people must decide
whether to keep the right of election in themselves or vest it in some
subset of the people; but even if it adopts the latter course, those who
are not in the privileged subset are of course parties to the decision to
vest the right of election in this subset. Similarly, unless there is some
other reason for excluding women from “the people” (and Locke at any
rate, as opposed to the custom of his day, provided none), women as
well as men will be parties at some level directly or indirectly to the

 
The passage is cited above, Chapter  ( p. ·, note ·). See above, p. µ.
±µ
Kings, Fathers, Voters, Subjects, and Crooks
legislative decisions that are made about the structure of marriage: they
will either be direct participants in that legislation about family law or
at least members of the community that decided who should have the
power to legislate on issues like this.
There is one class of individuals subject to natural law who may not
be regarded as members of “the people” who constitute a particular
political community. This is the class of aliens and foreigners, who spend
time in a territory subject to the community in question, but belong to
some other community that rules some other territory. Locke offers
two different accounts of the community™s jurisdiction over aliens, but
they are complementary rather than inconsistent. On the one hand,
power may be exercised over them as a matter of basic natural law, the
magistrates of the community in whose territory they reside having no
less power over them “than what every Man naturally may have over
another “ (nd T: ). On the other hand, they may be thought to have
given their consent for the time being to the authority of that community
simply by virtue of living there (nd T: ±).
Can the second of these accounts serve as a basis for the attribution to
Locke of a more far-reaching exclusion of certain classes from “the peo-
ple”? Some have thought so. They have discerned an analogy between
foreigners, who “by living all their lives under another government, and
enjoying the Privileges and Protection of it . . . are bound . . . to submit
to its Administration, as far forth as any Denison; yet do not thereby
come to be Subjects or Members of that Commonwealth” (nd T: ±),
and propertyless members of the laboring class whose political status also
does not derive from their having a ¬xed stake in the community but sim-
ply from their “very being . . . within the Territories of that Government”
(nd T: ±±). It has been suggested too that this distinction can be aligned
with the distinction between express consent and tacit consent. Full mem-
bers of civil society, with a tangible stake in the community give their
consent to belong “by actual Agreement, and . . . express Declaration”
(nd T: ±±), whereas in the case of mere sojourners (and laborers, if the
analogy works) their consent, such as it is, is simply inferred from the fact
that they inhabit the territory, lodge within it, and travel the highways
(nd T: ±±).

 For a communitarian strand in Locke™s thought, which suggests that in the case of foreigners
the problem of political obligation may be overlaid with additional elements of distrust, see nd
T: ±°·: “[T]hose, who like one another so well as to joyn into Society, cannot but be supposed
to have some Acquaintance and Friendship together, and some Trust one in another; they could
not but have greater Apprehensions of others, than of one another”.
± God, Locke, and Equality
Now certainly this last alignment will not work, for Locke associates
tacit consent primarily with the inheritance of landed property rather
than with the situation of the propertyless (nd T: ±°). But the more
general scheme could work to accommodate something like a class dis-
tinction of the sort that Macpherson and others have attributed to Locke.
The only problem is that there is no evidence that Locke intended to
use it in this way. He certainly made no explicit argument to this effect;
and though this is not conclusive, it is telling, since Locke had little to
lose politically or reputationally by arguing explicitly for the exclusion of
the laboring classes if he intended to allow for such exclusion. Certainly,
we cannot read any such argument into his frequent statements that
the point of men™s entering civil society is “the secure Enjoyment of their
Properties” (nd T: µ). Locke uses “property” in a wide sense and a nar-
row sense; in the narrow sense it means tangible possessions, particularly
private ownership of land, whereas in the wider sense it includes life and
liberty as well. Macpherson thinks that Locke always uses the narrower
sense when he is talking about the people constituting a government to
protect their property.µ But this is not so. In the section which introduces
his chapter “Of the Ends of Political Society and Government,” we are
told that the point of the enterprise is a willingness “to join in Society
with others, who are already united, or have a mind to unite, for the mu-
tual Preservation of their Lives, Liberties and Estates, which I call by the
general name, Property” (nd T: ±). Locke™s use of the wider meaning
of “property” to describe the ends of government corresponds to a sense
that everyone “ rich and poor, owner and laborer “ has proprietorial
rights in his person and God-given liberty, which he may intelligibly en-
ter society to protect and which he may legitimately defend himself, if
need be, against despotical encroachment. And in his catalogue of the
horrors of absolute government, Locke lists not just the monarch™s power
over the people “to alienate their Estates,” but also his power “to sell,
castrate, or use their Persons as he pleases, they being all his Slaves”
(±st T: ), and in general his ability arbitrarily and violently to restrict
the liberty of the people (nd T: , ±·, and ±°). But even if we were
to concede that it is all about property in the narrow sense, it is cer-
tainly not true that it would comprise only large landed estates. The best
example Locke gives of property™s immunity from expropriation even
by a legitimate power is, tellingly, the property of a common soldier:
µ Macpherson, Political Theory of Possessive Individualism, pp. ·“µ°.
 See also nd T: ±·±: Political power “can have no other end or measure, when in the hands of the
Magistrate, but to preserve the Members of that Society in their Lives, Liberties, and Possessions.”
±·
Kings, Fathers, Voters, Subjects, and Crooks
And to let us see, that even absolute Power, where it is necessary, is not Arbitrary by be-
ing absolute, but is still limited by that reason, and con¬ned to those ends, which
required it in some Cases to be absolute, we need look no farther than the com-
mon practice of Martial Discipline: for the Preservation of the Army . . . requires
an absolute Obedience to the Command of every Superior Of¬cer . . . but yet we
see, that neither the Serjeant, that could command a Souldier to march up to
the mouth of a Cannon, or stand in a Breach, where he is almost sure to perish,
can command that Souldier to give him one penny of his Money; nor the General,
that can condemn him to Death for deserting his Post, or for not obeying the
most desperate Orders, can yet, with all his absolute Power of Life and Death,
dispose of one Farthing of that Souldier™s Estate, or seize one jot of his Goods.
(nd T: ±)
The signi¬cance of this example would not have been lost on Locke™s
audience, for they were well aware that it was from the army in the
late ±°s that the most strident arguments had been made “that the
poorest he that is in England has a life to live as the greatest he; and
therefore . . . every man who is to live under a government ought ¬rst
by his own consent to put himself under that government,” and that the
common soldiers “would fain know what we have fought for” in the Civil
War if this claim were denied.·
Let me say ¬nally that I am not convinced by David Wootton™s argu-
ment that, since Locke approved of the Convention of ± which set-
tled the English constitution after the ¬‚ight and abdication of James II,
a function corresponding to that assigned to “the people” at the end of
the Second Treatise (nd T: ), he must have approved also of the de¬ni-
tion of “the people” that the Convention enshrined, namely the ordinary
property franchise. One™s actual political stances are always relative to
a set of available options; and it seems absurd to infer from them any
limitation on one™s theory of the options that ought to be available. (For all
I know, John Rawls voted Democrat in the ± Presidential election; but
that doesn™t mean that we should read the policies of Bill Clinton back
into A Theory of Justice!) There is often a gap between what a theorist says
and does as a political animal, and what he thinks he can justify theoreti-
cally. If someone wants to press the point, I™ll say we should be interested
in both. But I see no reason why one should dominate the other, nor do I
see why our theoretical interest in his arguments should be held hostage
to his political actions. I certainly don™t think we should be in the business

· Colonel Rainborough at the Putney Debates (±·), in Sharp (ed.) The English Levellers, pp. ±°
and ±±±.
 Wootton, “John Locke and Richard Ashcraft™s Revolutionary Politics,” pp. “·.
± God, Locke, and Equality
of rewriting the theorist™s work to give it a spurious consistency with the
principles that we think we can discern in his political activism.



Whoever they are, Locke thinks that the people must make their decisions
by voting and majority-decision, which he regards as a natural rather
than a conventional basis for decision-making. It can™t be conventional,
on his account, for any conventional decision-procedure must itself be
the product of a prior decision by the people and that decision must be
framed by a procedure. Locke argues moreover that majority-decision
is the default decision-rule for any constituted body: “[I]n Assemblies
impowered to act by positive Laws where no number is set by that pos-
itive Law which empowers them, the act of the Majority passes for the act
of the whole, and of course determines, as having by the law of Nature
and Reason, the power of the whole” (nd T: ). Now it is worth
noting that this too is a matter of equality. In its emphasis on assemblies,
numbers, and majorities, this part of Locke™s theory of politics embod-
ies a respect for the average or ordinary participant, rather than those
who exhibit extraordinary intellect or outstanding political virtue. We
saw earlier (in section III) that legislation works best for Locke when the
legislators are drawn from among the people, rather than being con-
stituted as a separate and expert political caste. If anything, it is their
lack of distinction “ I mean distinction from the other ordinary men
and women of the community “ that counts for Locke, so far as the
composition of a responsible legislature is concerned. And the same is
true of the more primal decisions he attributes to the people. The sta-
tus of each participant is that of one ordinary and equal person among
others, and so majority-decision is a natural basis for their decision-
making.
As I argued in The Dignity of Legislation, John Locke is in fact one of
very few political philosophers who bother to pay much attention to the
defense of majority-decision.° Most political philosophers either deni-
grate it or ignore it. The account Locke gives is not all that substantial;
it comprises just a few paragraphs, at the beginning of Chapter  of the
Second Treatise. The key to the argument is this passage:

 For a similar view about decisions on taxation, if there is a distinct assembly constituted for that
purpose, see nd T: ±°.
° See the discussion in Waldron, Dignity of Legislation, Ch. ·.
±
Kings, Fathers, Voters, Subjects, and Crooks
That which acts any Community, being only the consent of the individuals of it,
and it being necessary to that which is one body to move one way; it is necessary
the Body should move that way whither the greater force carries it, which is the
consent of the majority: or else it is impossible it should act or continue one Body,
one Community, which the consent of every individual that united into it, agreed
that it should; and so every one is bound by that consent to be concluded by the
majority. (nd T: )
The ¬rst impression one gets from this is that Locke is trying to explicate
majoritarianism on the basis of an analogy with physics or natural sci-
ence. In nature, a body moves with the greater force: in politics, similarly,
a political body moves at the behest of the majority, because qua major-
ity it is stronger. We are asked to imagine a composite body, impelled
internally by the various motions of its constituent parts or elements, to
move in various directions. Some of the parts tend to move north, some
of them south, and the body as a whole moves either north or south in
accordance with the tendency of the greater number of its elements, as
a result of their cumulative motion. (Or think of the body as a scrum
in a rugby match; some players are pushing one way, the others in the
opposite direction; and the scrum as a whole moves in accordance with
the greater force. Now if one side has a full eight members in the scrum
and the other side only six or seven, we would expect the weaker side
to give way and the whole mass to move up¬eld, to the weaker side™s
disadvantage.)
Various commentators have criticized this argument for majority-
decision.± Does a body always move in the direction of the greater
number of its parts? No, they say, it depends how massive and powerful
the parts are. An All Black pack comprising just seven players may push
an eight-man English pack up¬eld, because they are heavier or stronger
or because they bind and push with better technique. And similarly in
politics, numbers are not everything: they are not necessarily the same
as power to move the body politic. Different individuals strive politically
with greater intensity and often they have unequal political resources at
their disposal. So the analogy between the numerical majority and “the
greater force” in Locke™s argument does not work.
I think the critique is misconceived, and misconceived precisely in re-
lation to the issues we have been discussing, about consent and equality.
Though Locke uses the language of force and motion “ “it is necessary
the Body should move that way whither the greater force carries it”
(nd T: ) “ he does not intend this to be read in a physicalist way.
± See, for example, Kendall, John Locke and the Doctrine of Majority-Rule, p. ±±·.
±° God, Locke, and Equality
John Dunn has suggested a more interesting reading which takes “force”
and “motion” as quite abstract conceptions, almost logical terms, which
may be imbued with various content, depending on whether we are deal-
ing with material interactions or interactions of some different kind.
And in fact Locke makes it clear that the physics he has in mind is
a physics of individual consent, not a physics of individual strength or
power. He prefaces the passage I quoted a little while ago by saying that
“that which acts any Community” “ that which moves it “ is nothing but
“the consent of the individuals of it” (idem). And it is on that basis that
he goes on to say that since it is “necessary to that which is one body to
move one way; it is necessary the Body should move that way whither
the greater force carries it, which is the consent of the majority” (nd T: ).
Consent does not carry physical force or even pure political force; rather,
it carries moral force with regard to the purposes for which consent is
required. So Locke is not making a factual claim, that the movement of
a political body depends on the force of individuals™ participation. The
Lockean physics of consent is more in the nature of a normative theory.
The claim is that the only thing which properly moves a political body is
the consent of the individuals who compose it. For the purpose of that
normative proposition, consent is a matter of individual authorization.
People may vary in their political in¬‚uence and know-how. But that is not
the same as a variation on the normative force of individual consent. In
that dimension we are equals, and the numerical account is the correct
one.
So Locke™s insistence that, whatever the other variations among us,
we are each other™s equals so far as authority is concerned (nd T: µ)
turns out to be crucial to the case for majority-decision. Our natural
state, out of which the principle of majority-decision is to be conjured,
is a state “of Equality, wherein all Power and Jurisdiction is reciprocal, no
one having more than another” (nd T: ). The importance of consent
is based purely on this natural equality of legitimating authority, and
that carries through to make irrelevant any other differences in political
effectiveness among us, so far as the elements of political decision-making
are concerned. The premise of equality is therefore indispensable for
an understanding of how sheer numbers can do the work they do in
Locke™s majoritarian argument. I am not saying that Locke anticipated
the modern demonstration in social choice theory that no other principle
 Dunn, Political Thought of John Locke, p. ± n., suggests that it is “as plausible to see the concept
of force as moralized by the notion of consent as it is to see the notion of consent turned into a
term of social coercion.”
±±
Kings, Fathers, Voters, Subjects, and Crooks
respects equality of input more than majority-decision; no other princi-

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