Puritan or Pilgrim

My friend Ashok and I were at Starbucks today and along the way I mentioned to him my research I’ve begun on the Puritans. It lead to a question that he had for me about the difference between the Pilgrims and the Puritans. With it having been Thanksgiving a few weeks ago I think it is an important topic to discuss.

The Protestant Reformation had already hit England in many ways before Henry VIII formally separated from Rome. The Scottish were exposed to the Calvinist brand of Protestantism and formed the Presbyterian Church. Their beliefs and ideology spread down into mainland England in the aftermath of the English Reformation. There were pockets in England who believed that the King had not gone far enough in reforming the Church of England. Among those who believed this were a group that I will generally call English Calvinists. This group was made up of the Puritans and the Pilgrims; religious cousins if you will. Both groups subscribed to Calvin’s particular brand of Christianity and believed that the Church of England needed to be purified. The distinguishing difference between the two was what this purification meant. The Pilgrims quickly became a more radical brand of English Calvinism going so far as to flee England for the Netherlands.

The Pilgrims believed that the Church of England was beyond salvation and utterly corrupt. As an extension, because the King of England was also now the head of the Church of England the state itself was corrupt. The Puritans on the other hand held out faith that King Henry VIII, Queen Elizabeth and King James would all do their part to purify the Church more and more, eventually riding it of the Catholic influences. Puritans became integral members of their respective towns, including becoming political leaders. Puritans would even infiltrate the King’s own privy council with men like John Locke. And while members of the Puritan church did eventually leave England for the New World, their actions once they arrived separate them from the Pilgrims.

The Pilgrims received a charter to establish a colony in Northern Virginia along the Hudson Bay and immediately set sail for the New World along with others who they called “Strangers” on board the Mayflower. When they arrived the men on board decided to write a compact for the governance of their new colony. This compact was the first such document written by the people in the new world and while it was not a constitution, it was very much a proto-constitution. It also is significant because it did not come from the King nor Parliament and the men who wrote it did not have legal authority to do so. However, the Pilgrims had taken it upon themselves to govern their colony as they saw fit rather than depending upon the corrupt government in London to do so.

Unlike the Pilgrims, the Puritans did not write their own compact when they arrived in the New World in the 1630’s. Instead they had their own charter. And while they did have a government, it was not in the same manner we would recognize as in New Plymouth. Eventually such compacts would be written by Puritans in Connecticut, though. In all the Puritans were seeking religious separation but not necessarily legal or political separation from the state. Their charter was revoked in the 1690’s and the New Plymouth colony and the  Massachusetts Bay colony were merged.

The Declaration: A Review

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

What does the Declaration of Independence mean? We are clouded by over 200 years of historical and political interpretation that we can’t even make out what our founding document actually has to say.  In a class of students, if the question is asked, “how many self evident truths are present in the Declaration of Independence?” almost none can actually answer the question.

Thomas Jefferson wrote that there are certain truths that are self evident and immutable. Since the time of Abraham Lincoln and the Gettysburg Address, most Americans only see one self evident truth: that all men are created equal. Yet, what of the word “truths”? If Jefferson only wrote one truth, that all are created equal, then why did he write that there are “truths”; an implication that there is more than just the one truth to be found. The idea of self evident truths is connected with the belief in the Natural Law, which St. Thomas said is inscribed on the hearts of all men. John Locke, one of the many names attached to the Law of Nature, believed that there are certain precepts or truths that can be known but that most must be acquired through knowledge. Jefferson, a Lockean thinker, acknowledges that there are self evident truths and proceeds to name them.

That all men are created equal” is the first of Jefferson’s self evident truths. It might seem a bit wrong for those of us living today for a known slave holder to suggest that all men are created equal. It would seem even stranger for us to find that it was a well accepted truth that all men are created equal by the time Jefferson wrote his famous Declaration. First, Jefferson does not say that we are all created equally, but rather simply as equal. The word equally is an adverb, whereas the word equal can be a verb, adjective, or noun. If we were all created equally, then we’d be identical in manner or equal to a certain extent. However, we’re not created equally but rather equal. The word equal has a number of separate meanings, however, the one Jefferson is aiming towards is, “having adequate powers, ability, or means.” It is only if this basic truth is accepted that the others can be called self evident. It is because we are equal in power, ability and mean that we are able to say the other three truths.

It was because we are all created equal, a truth widely accepted by this point in history, that Jefferson was able to posit a modified version of Locke’s famous “life, liberty and property.”  Jefferson says, “that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Because we are all created equal, we have the same unalienable Rights. Even in absolute monarchies like France, Spain or Russia it would be accepted that the Sovereign cannot deprive someone of their life or their liberty without just cause. Again, it might seem odd to suggest that they believed that liberty is an unalienable right when there still existed slavery and serfdom in the western world. However, is slavery or serfdom opposed to liberty? Remember, the individual slave owners thought they were doing right by their slaves. It was assumed that the slaves couldn’t fully enjoy their natural rights unless they were enslaved. And remember, neither the Declaration nor the Constitution and its amendments say that all are to be treated equally; because we are only equal. Once again, it is because we are created equal and because we have unalienable rights that we can identify the third self evident truth.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Our ability to form governments is based upon two self evident truths: all men are created equal and we are endowed with certain unalienable rights. One cannot consent to be governed if they are inferior and lack certain unalienable rights. And while there were more monarchies than democracies in the world in 1776, the idea that the King was chosen by God to rule (Divine Right Monarchy) was not as widely accepted as it had been less than 100 years prior. The writings of Hobbes, Locke and Sidney had already permeated into the world and while Louis was King of France he ruled largely because the nobles allowed it. In England, the King ruled only with the consent of the people. The Declaration of Independence came less than a century after the Glorious Revolution and the English Interregnum. Kings Charles I and II both were overthrown by the people or parliament and ruled with their consent.

This leads to the final self evident truth as laid out by Thomas Jefferson:

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

 The idea that a people could overthrow their legitimate sovereign had always been a point of contention. When Europe was still Catholic, the Papacy held that it could alone severe the ties between Prince and his subjects. As was seen in England, the right to revolution was already well established in the aftermath of the Interregnum and the Glorious Revolution. However, the idea that a colony could revolt and establish itself as an independent nation was still a new idea. It is this self evident truth that Jefferson made central to his Declaration of Independence. The Right to Revolution is based entirely on the acceptance of the other self evident truths. As such, the fact that we were all created equal is both the least significant self evident truth and the most important since from it stems our understanding of the other truths.

John Locke and The Subjection of Eve.

Quotes taken from John Locke’s Two Treatises on Government

edited by Peter Laslett.

Up to this point John Locke has spoken against Sir. Filmer on the accounts of Adam’s claim to sovereignty by Donation, Creation, and Paternal & Regal authority. And at this point Locke turns his attention to the subject of Adam’s authority by way of Subjection of Eve. Filmer’s assertion, according to Locke, is based on the sixteenth passage of the third chapter of the book of Genesis, “And thy desire shall be to they Husband, and he shall rule over thee.”(Gen. 3:16.) Thus Filmer has established not only that monarchy is the only legitimate form of rule, but that patriarchal monarchy is the only legitimate form of rule. However, Locke asserts that God cannot violate the laws of speech, and therefore we must interpret what is said as though a human is speaking. This is especially true when Locke states , “he vouchsafes to speak to Men.” In this case, it cannot seem logical that God would chastise and degrade Eve for her disobedience when Adam himself also took part in the sin. In fact, God lowers Adam’s station by making him a day laborer and forcing him out of paradise. And so it would seem odd, Locke asserts, that on the same day that this happens, God grants Adam the prerogatives, privileges, dignity, authority, dominion and monarchy as well.

Here I must diverge for a moment to address Locke’s list. He specifically states, “granting Adam Prerogatives, and Privileges, investing him with Dignity and Authority, Elevating him to Dominion and Monarchy.” Prerogatives, Dignity, and Dominion all go together as they are something all men and women are capable of sharing in. All humans are given dignity because we are human, and made in the image of God. By granting us free will God has granted us prerogative as well. And finally all men, in the charge given to Adam by God, share in the dominion of the world and eventually their private lands. As such, it would be odd for God to grant only these to Adam when it is clear that we all possess them. As for the other three, Privileges, Authority and Monarchy, these are specific powers. Only those capable of ruling are possessed of these three powers, and according to Aristotle only he who is capable of sharing in the rule of the polis is called a citizen. As such, if Adam is being lowered because of his part in the disobedience against God, it would seem clear he is not capable of sharing in the rule (though this is what is meant when the Bible says God made man in his own image.) If Eve, therefore, is not included in the granting of all these powers, then neither can Adam for the first three are common to all men while the last only to those with the faculty to use them.

And so we are clear that Adam and Eve both possess either all or none of these powers, since both are guilty of the same sin. Further, we cannot change the understanding of a directive spoken to humans by God simply because it comes from God. Our understanding must remain consistent because God himself cannot break the laws of speech. Looking at the quote we will soon realize that God is speaking directly at Eve, not at Adam, and that God never uses a plural and so it cannot be assumed to apply to all women. Eve alone is subject to her husband, not all women. However, it can and has been taken as a statement to all women about their position to their husbands. Though, it is not a law just as it is not a law that all women must bring their child forth in sorrow and pain since there is a remedy for this. And if there is a remedy, it cannot be considered law. This is not a law placed on women or a grant given to men, but rather a mere observation of how nature has been ordered by God. The lot of women is to bring forth children in sorrow and pain, and to be subject to their husbands. The latter is evident by the mere fact that every nation has the custom that women are subject to their husbands. But as Locke asserts, would Queens Elizabeth or Mary be subject to their husbands politically? In modern times, Queen Elizabeth II is politically superior to her husband. The lot of women to bring forth children in sorrow and pain cannot be an indication of their inferior nature, it is a punishment for disobeying God’s command. As for the latter, Eve is subject to Adam because she is his wife, not because she is a woman. Man and Woman retain their equality, but within the familial the wife is subject to the husband. Consequently, neither directive from God can be seen as political since the former is merely punishment, and the latter is an isolated condition of women.

Locke then also demonstrates that political power is the power over life and death. If we look at the Bible it tells us that God made man in his own image; though we are not told what that image is. We can infer the answer through other Biblical passages. God tells both Adam and Eve to go forth and procreate, indicating that they have been given authority over life. Upon completion of the flood God tells Noah and his sons, “For if man sheds the blood of man, then by man shall his blood be shed.” (Genesis 9:6.) Indicating that God has given man the authority over death. Like God, man is sovereign of his world. However, Locke warns at the end that the authority of man over animals or the relationship between man and woman are both apolitical. Why is this? In the first case, political rule is the rule over rational animals. Animals are not rational, therefore man’s authority over animals is not political (it is more like master-slave, which according to Aristotle is also apolitical.) The relationship between husband and wife is that between equals; Adam is not superior to Eve and vice versa. As such Adam cannot hold the power of life and death over Eve and she cannot over him. This is a divergence from Aristotle because he asserts that the relationship of the husband and wife is political. The reason for this differing in opinion stems from the definition of political rule. For Locke it has been stated the political rule is that of life and death, while for Aristotle political rule is between equals. Thus the relationship to husband and wife for Locke is apolitical because it does not concern itself with life and death, but for Aristotle it is political.

Sovereignty by Donation: John Locke’s First Treatise of Government

Quotes taken from the New American Bible
Locke’s Two Treatises of Government edited by Peter Laslett

In the previous chapter John Locke discussed Sir Robert Filmer’s assertion that Adam had sovereignty over his children by creation. This next chapter, Locke discusses Filmer’s assertion that Adam had sovereignty by donation from God. There are by two methods Locke discerns from Filmer that Adam would have sovereignty: God gave Adam dominion over all the wild beasts and thereby was monarch, or that he had dominion over all creatures. Locke asserts that God did not give Adam authority over man, or his children and that he did not give him sole dominion over the beasts.

John Locke first examines the claim that Adam had sovereignty by having sole dominion over all living things. The Book of Genesis indicates in the first two chapters the order in which living things were created. On the 6th day God created what can amount to domesticated animals, and He created the wild beasts and reptiles. It is after the creation of the beasts and reptiles, and before the creation of Man, that God says, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” Locke draws specific attention to God’s usage of the word “them” when speaking of man. In normal linguistics this can be noted to say that God was speaking of the plural, and at this point in time the word “man” could be used in reference to either a single person of the male gender or all humans. Thus Locke argues, God gave all man guardianship over the cattle, animals who crawl on the ground, and the wild beasts. Locke also wishes to draw specific attention to note that at verse 28 God does not say to subdue cattle, but rather only those living things that move on the ground. From this Locke points that the Septuagint distinguishes that the living things that move on the ground can be divided into wild beasts and reptiles. Two verses before at 26, Locke points out that God states to create man to rule over creation, in the list provided by Moses of the things man is to have rule over wild beasts are left off.

A certain interesting distinction can be pointed to here, at one point man is given control over the natural and at another only over the political. Wild beasts are the distinction between the natural and political, as according to Aristotle man is either a beast or a god outside of the city. However, the most important aspect to God’s list of what man, or in Filmer’s point of view Adam, is to have dominion over God leaves off man both times. It is clear from this that God intended for man to share in his dominion and rule over the natural life, and is to subdue nature. Of the power granted to man initially, man is not granted the authority to kill. This does not come until Noah and his Sons receive their edict from God to replenish the Earth and eat of animals. The proclamation made to Noah and his Sons can more properly described as a political edict, because at this point man is given authority to kill–something that was left off from the initial proclamation.

Yet still, man does not receive the authority to rule over each other. In Locke’s opinion, if the reader is unable to see that Adam is not sovereign over the world, then they should see it when that same charter is claimed to be given to Noah. Noah does not have children after the flood, only his children do. When God gives His proclamation to Noah, his sons are present as well and receive the same proclamation. That being said, all men are equal after the flood with the same authority. Within this state outside of society, all men are granted dominion over the earth to subdue nature. No one man has authority over another, as Locke points that David in the 8th Psalm does not acknowledge that God granted Adam sovereign authority. By nature we are all equal in our authority.

Likewise, Eve is given the same dominion as Adam because God speaks of man in the plural sense at verse 28. At this point there were only two creatures who fell under the definition of man: Adam and Eve. Clearly, if God spoke in the plural and there were only two humans then both would have be granted the same dominion, not just the one. Eve, as man, has been created similar to Adam, “The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh…'” (Genesis 2:23.) Eve is an identical copy of Adam, she is fully man just as Adam is fully man. As such, Eve too is created in the Image of God and Locke states, “For wherein sover else the Image of God consisted, the intellectual Nature was certainly a part of it, and belong’d to the whole Species, and enabled them to have Dominion over the inferiour Creatures…” And therefore Adam lacks dominion over all living things, and only over those of the sea, and air and over cattle, wild beasts and reptiles.

Locke has asserted for the first time in a clear and percise manner that all men are created equal and that there is no natural government; man must consent to being ruled and is not naturally born into the precondition of being ruled. Man is not given the authority to take life until after the Flood, when God grants Noah and his children the authority to eat meat and to take the life of one who sheds the blood of man. The idea that man must consent to being governed is shown through England’s Manors. The Lord of the manor only has authority over the natural things, not over his tendents. He can order the slaughter of a calf, but not over those men who inhabit his land. The Lord of a Manor only has the authority granted to him by those who consent to his rule, no more or less. This is a strict departure from Hobbes who grants the Magistrate any authority once one consents to his rule. The only time man is able to refuse the Magistrate is when that Magistrate attempts to take the life of a subject. Locke is specifically stating here that man is given the authority to rule over another man by consent only, and that consent to be ruled is limited to what has been agreed upon.

As such, Locke has now asserted a design for his State of Nature where there is no government except the individual and that all are granted common rule over the earth. He has also demonstrated that man is given command to subdue the earth, which will become the authority to perfect nature in his Second Treatise. All men are created into a world of equal freedom and authority, only when entering into society does man consent to relinguish some of that freedom and authority but never more than what has been agreed upon.

Doctrine of Self Preservation


In the Summer of 1763 John Adams undertook the writing of an essay entitled “On Private Revenge.” The turmoil of the French and Indian War was only freshly over and the British Parliament in that same year adopted the Proclamation of 1763. The Proclamation granted control over the lands acquired through the Treaty of Paris to the British government, not the colonial governments. Within a decade the Parliament would go on to do more to seek retribution from the Colonies for the assistance England provided during the war. This enraged the passions of colonial Americans, specifically in New England in and around Boston. We must read Adams’ essay only in the light of these events. In his traditional style, Adams calls for law and order to persevere over chaos and anarchy.

The first paragraph of the essay sets up the plan Adams has laid out for his argument. In the Politics, Aristotle asserts that man outside of the city is either a beast or a god. Adams argues that man is distinguished from other animals because of his ability to unite and entire into society. The natural attributes of man are not enough to make him superior to other animals, but in fact Adams believes they would make man weakest of all other animals. What makes man superior is his ability to unite with others of his kind; thus agreeing with Aristotle partly by stating man outside of society is nothing more than a beast such as, “the bear or the tiger.” Within this man, like other animals, Adams argues, “As he comes originally from the hands of his Creator, self-love or self-preservation is the only spring that moves him.” Locke argues that the law of nature is only known through reason, with exception of the first law which is that of self-preservation. Hobbes too argues that within society the Magistrate is capable of ordering his subjects to do whatever he wishes, except if he desires to kill them in which case the law of self-preservation requires them to defy the Magistrate.  And thus Adams has created his argument; man is superior to other animals because he is able to unite himself within society. However, like other animals man has implanted in his soul self-preservation, which calls upon man to defend his life against all threats. How does one preserve his life and at the same time allow himself to exist in society? The law of self-preservation appears to grant man the authority to execute the law of nature. Society limits this ability and grants that authority to an impartial third-party.

Adams description of a state of nature comes closer to the description provided by Rousseau. He describes that in this state man is propogated, food is found on “the banks of clams and oysters”, weapons for war are present, and animal hide become clothing. Yet this society is void of friendship, trade, and human bonding unless instinct calls for it. In essence, man is truly free and independent without any other above him or below him. Adams defines the virtues of the “savage state, courage, hardiness, activity, and strength.” Take these four virtues and compare them to the four classical virtues, “Justice, Prudence, Fortitude, and Temperance.” Many view the virtue of courage as among the basest virtues, in fact Aristotle in the Ethics describes it almost immediately, indicating that it is the most base of all virtues. The man who is in charge in this society is the one who can kill the best, or run the fastest. This is the basis for tribal leadership, and possibly the roots of how one became king in ancient England, France, or Germany. This basis for determining who is superior will also result in the usage of revenge over justice; the man who perceives himself to be stronger and is beat by another will take it as an insult and attack the other man. Adams even argues that the idea of allowing a third-party to mediate the situation is indication  the deficiencies of the savage state. It is clear that Adams views revenge as the hallmark of a savage state. New Englanders within a few years of this essay will attempt to overthrow the established system and seek revenge for the ills done to them by the British parliament. Adams, in a possible prophetic statement argues that when a horse treads over a gouty toe, our passions are so excited that we feel we must kill the horse. The horse is a symbol of Aristocracy in philosophy, which can lead one to see the prophetic nature of the comment. The horse represents the British Parliament, which does end up stepping on the gouty toe of the colonies, who never really recover from the French and Indian War. Adams finishes this section by saying:

For the great distinction between savage nations and polite ones, lies in this,—that among the former every individual is his own judge and his own executioner; but among the latter all pretensions to judgment and punishment are resigned to tribunals erected by the public; a resignation which savages are not, without infinite difficulty, persuaded to make, as it is of a right and privilege extremely dear and tender to an uncultivated nature.

A stark contrast between the savage state and the polite state is clear,  in the one man is his own executioner while in the other he is not. Rousseau argues in the Social Contract:

The passage from the state of nature to the civil state produces in man a very remakable    change, by substituting in his conduct justice for instinct, and by giving his actions the moral quality that they previously lacked. It is only when the voice of duty succeeds physical impulse, and law succeeds appetite, that man, who till then had regarded only himself, sees that he is obliged to act on other principles, and to consult his reason before listening to his inclinations.

Rousseau’s sentiments are similar to Adams, in that when man passes into civil society he is expected to give up those habits which were present in him in nature.

This brings up the next point. If society should ever come to the point where we will give up our polite and noble nature, we will become worse than the Goths before becoming Christians. He compares the individual who believes that when offended one should draw his sword to that of the fowl, the bull, and stallion. The image of these three animals are simple, the bird can represent bloodshed, the bull destructive force, and the stallion life and death. It should be noted that he does not use horse, but rather stallion which indicates not the symbol of aristocracy specifically. Instead, the stallion represents the wild, unbridled passions of man and specifically can be seen as a symbol of life and death, which horses are known to symbolize. After initially using fowl, in his ending sentence of this paragraph Adams states, “But are cocks and bulls and horses the proper exemplars for the imitation of men, especially of men of sense, and even of the highest personages in the government!” The cock more specifically than fowl represents the underworld, passion and pride, and thus we arrive at how man is outside of nature: Prideful, passionate, destructive, and wild.

And finally Adams attacks the point that such images of gallantry have been argued from the military. Adams argument begins by stating that such images are not praised by the military, nor have they ever been. Instead, the dregs of society have idealized the Cock, Bull and Stallion as exemplars for man. He argues, “For every gentleman, every man of sense and breeding in the army, has a more delicate and manly way of thinking, and from his heart despises all such little, narrow, sordid notions.” Of these he mentions specifically Divines, Lawyers and Physicians. Divines represent religion, God; Lawyers represent the law; Physicians have a philosophic meaning behind them, in that whenever a Physician appears it represents healing of the body politic. In this instance, though it is much more likely that Adams is speaking that Physicians heal the body,  Adams suggests that they praise themselves above all others such as Divines and Lawyers do. The other set of professions he mentions include: husbandmen, manufacturers, and laborers. They lack the virtue of magnanimity and are instead short-sighted, little minded individuals believing their professions are the best in the world. It is likely then, that soldiers of lower ranks are just as likely to believe themselves superior to any other order. They are, as a result, prone to the, “principles of revenge, rusticity, barbarity, and brutality…” which Adams described earlier as the principles upheld by the savage. However, soldiers who are superior in their senses recognize the authority not only of their superiors but also of the civil society. Once again, in a similar prophetic nature as before, these soldiers recognize the superior nature of English law. Moving away from calling them soldiers, it is evident at this point that Adams is specifically referring to men in general, not just those who serve in the Army. England, being an image of the polite society, is superior to the savage society; some of his fellow New Englanders wish to rebel against English rule, thus stooping to this level. A truly polite and decent man would recognize the doctrine of self-preservation as indignant.

Adams having completed his argument has demonstrated that man who seeks the doctrine of private revenge has no regard for civil society, and therefore is only as good as a tiger or bear. Only within civil society is man able to full perfect his nature, which is where Adams demonstrates the Enlightenment principle that nature is created imperfect. It is man’s responsibility to perfect nature by building upon it, making things, and this is only possible in society. Likewise, man is only able to be fully man within society under the constrains of law and order which is characterized by justice; whereas man outside of society and in total chaos is characterized by the doctrine of self-preservation, or revenge.

The Good of the City and Man

Some in history have attempted to associate the good of the city with the good of man. In ancient times the Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle argued this very notion. The city, according to Aristotle, is developed to assist man in reaching the complete human life through the administering of the daily and non daily needs. Thus what is good for the city must in the end is ultimately good for man. Man’s own good is tied to the city because it is through the city that man is able to live the complete human life. Initially what develops is the family, which is unable to provide for the non daily needs of mankind. Thus families enter into compacts with others to form villages, which are unable to provide for the daily needs of man. Finally villages are forced to join to form cities, which are capable of providing both the daily and non daily needs and thus is the only order capable of allowing for the complete human life. The ultimate struggle at the root of Socratic dialogues of both Plato and Xenophon, and the treatises of Aristotle, is the question of whether or not it is better to live of life of activity (politics) or the contemplative life (studies.) The breaking point comes between the politician and the philosopher but it is never truly clear as to which is better. We are only left with the evidence that only in the city are both lives possible. Thus what is good for the city must ultimately be good for man as well.

By the time of the Renaissance philosophers began to look at the question of the city differently. In the 17th and 18th centuries England produced two of the greatest philosophers of the Enlightenment. Thomas Hobbes and John Locke helped to redefine what the city is and man’s relationship to the city. No longer was the city a natural order which helps man attain the complete human life. Rather, now the city is looked upon as an escape from the natural order. For Hobbes this natural order is a state of war because the only law is that of survival. Without a government to maintain order and ensure everyone obeys the laws of nature and maintains their contracts it is left to the individual to secure their rights. If you imagine the world before pan-national organizations like the United Nations or NATO you see this principle at work. Nations exist in a state of nature with each other, and thus in a state of war. There is no governing body able to enforce the laws of nature or maintain the contracts between two nations. Instead the nation becomes the judge, jury and executioner leading to a state of war. John Locke attempts to appear less savage than Hobbes but essentially reaches the same conclusion. Man exists in a state of nature, which is a state of pure freedom. Through reason man is able to know the law of nature. Yet in the state of nature man is responsible for enforcing the law of nature and contracts. Life is truly short and brutish in a state of nature as Locke states. Ultimately this state of nature dissolves into a state of war causing man to seek to escape nature and enter into society. For the moderns nature was something to be conquered and therefore society cannot be viewed as natural as the Greeks viewed it. Society is formed to allow for an impartial judge, and a common law which is enforced by an outside force. Outside of these responsibilities, society is useless to man. Hobbes defines society, as a Leviathan, the modern view of society is not as man’s friend but as his enemy. Unchecked society can do whatever it pleases whether it is for the good of man or not. For Hobbes the magistrate can do whatever he wants to his citizens and they must obey, save of course when one’s life is in danger and you are obligated by the law of nature to defend yourself. Thus for our Founders, students of men like Hobbes and Locke they would have viewed society, our Constitution, as a necessary evil.

Yet in recent times, namely the end of the 19th century, a new understanding has developed which does not exclude the Leviathan nature of society but does not reject society’s ultimate benefit to mankind either. The men who were associated with the German school of thought developed by men like Marx and Nietzsche associated society with being able to advance man. The central concern of Nietzsche is breaking man out of his “all too human” nature and the creation of the ubermensch. Marx viewed society as a tool to help advance man along the historical timeline to a period where no government would be necessary. In America we call the men and women associated with this line of thought the Progressives. It was their belief that in order for man to be moral the government had to instill that morality. For the moderns, morality was already present in the form of the law of nature. In order to understand morality one merely needs reason to understand the law of nature. Yet the German Historicist school of thought rejected a universal morality outside of the confines of the society. This notion was what helped spur on the Prohibitionists who believed it was government’s responsibility to ban alcohol to help better mankind. What developed was a notion similar to the ancient understanding that what is good for the city is good for man. Unfortunately, they were unable to temper the Leviathan and encouraged it to grow to control every aspect of human life. Through this belief came the rise of the Totalitarian states of Communist Russia, Fascist Italy and Spain, and Nazi Germany.

What makes the Progressive era different than the Enlightenment? The Enlightenment believed it was the responsibility of the government in a way to enforce the moral code. Yet the Enlightenment had the law of nature, which dictated right and wrong to society. Society was obligated to create laws in accordance with the law of nature or face being deemed illegitimate—they were able to hide the notion that really morality is whatever the majority willed. With the destruction of God by German philosophers came the destruction of the law of nature (ultimately rooted in the Divine Law.) Now it is whichever faction with the biggest guns makes the morality. The society for the Enlightenment is only charged with the safety of the people. Their complete perfection is left in the hands of the individual person. As Locke argues in his Letter on Toleration, society is permitted to promote religion but not religious beliefs—in other words it is man’s responsibility to find his way to salvation by whatever means he thinks best, but society is able to promote a religious lifestyle and prevent dangerous factions from existing within society. The Progressives were less worried about safety and more with perfection of humanity. The Ancients throw a wrench into the wheel of both movements by encouraging the notion that the city provides safety (non daily needs) and that the city provides for the complete human life. However, that safety doesn’t mean that the city should be ignored as in the case of the Enlightenment where individuals can essentially live and let live. Political activity was central in the Ancient understanding of the city. A man who refused to engage in Politics was called an idiot by the Greeks. Their definition of the complete human life had nothing to do with the divine—the idea of man’s salvation and perfectibility would have been lost on Aristotle in the Progressive sense. Rather, complete human life tends towards two arenas: Politics or Philosophy. Both lives potentially can lead to the complete human life. The obligation to be involved in the political life, more than merely casting a vote, is at the heart of why the city’s goods are good for man. By the Enlightenment man’s obligation to society was vested in merely voting. The interests of man at large are often mixed with the passions and interests of the individual. Progressives would view that it is important to have experts in positions of authority, so that their own private passions and interests are eliminated. Man is no longer able to make his own decisions, but is left to the dictates of supposed experts. Thus, since society should be dictated by those of superior intellect (experts in a given field), what is good for the city and man are intrinsically connected.

Locke’s First Treatise: Sovereignty by Creation

Quotes taken from Locke: Two Treatises of Government edited by Peter Laslett

At this point John Locke takes to task Sir Robert’s attempt to give Adams sovereignty of the world and man by his creation. The first struggle Locke faces is Sir. Robert’s assertion that to suppose natural freedom in mankind means to deny Adam’s creation. However, this is a subtle use of words that Locke writes concerning this assertion by Sir Robert. Locke states, “For I find no difficulty to suppose the Natural Freedom of Mankind, though I have always believed the Creation of Adam…” Anyone who reads this passage cannot help but notice the use of suppose and believed and how different they make the meaning of his thought. Supposition comes from the use of one’s reason while belief does not. To suppose implies that one can logically think it through and find proofs while belief does not. Therefore, Locke is stating contrary to Filmer that Natural Freedom of Man Kind cannot be denied because reason can attain them whereas reason cannot attain the creation of Adam.

Next Locke presents the second issue,  that by Appointment Adam was made governor of the world by God. There are three instances in which Locke states this Appointment was possible: “Providence orders, or the Law of Nature directs, or positive Revelation declares…” Of these he denies that Providence could have been the appointment of Adam, which will be discussed momentarily. The Law of Nature and and positive Revelation are two interesting terms for Locke to use. We can simplify and attempt to understand this better if we change positive to it’s other meaning: law. The Law of Nature we know is a bastardization of the Natural Law and of the Natural Right, which proceeded the Law of Nature in previous epochs. The most direct ancestor of the Law of Nature is Natural Law, which St. Thomas articulates in his Treatise on Law. The Natural Law is the way in which the Eternal Law, or Providence, participates in human reason. By denying Providence, Locke has denied that God participates in the reason of man all together. Positive Revelation, or the Bible or Divine Law comes directly from the Eternal Law and informs and corrects both the Natural Law and the Human Law.  The Law of Nature removes the Eternal Law and Divine Law and supplants it with a temporal understanding.  Locke excludes a discussion of Adam’s sovereignty by Creation by denying both the Eternal and Divine laws as a source of political authority.  If Adam’s sovereignty was granted to him prior to creation through Divine Providence, then it would mean Adam would have been governor from the moment the Eternal Law came into be. It would be silly he asserts for Adam to have received his governorship over the world by Providence, because there was nothing to govern.

Locke then looks at Sir Robert’s assertion from the Law of Nature perspective. Locke argues that to assert Adam’s governorship by the Law of Nature is like saying that Man is governor over his children by right of nature. However, in this instance Locke points that Adam could neither be governor of the world, nor father when he had no government or children to make him governor of the world or father by right of nature. However, Sir Robert’s responds to this by asserting that Adam was not governor in fact but in habit. Yet, let us look at the problem of making Adam governor of the world by his creation through a different method.

Locke asserts Adam could not have been made governor of the world by his creation because he has no government; government does not come until the Fall, which is long after Adam’s creation. In fact, if one looks at the Book of Genesis they will find that government does not exist among Adam, Eve and their two sons. In fact government is not created until Adam’s son Cain slays Abel and is banished to the land of Nod by God. Cain is the founder of the city, not Adam, which makes Cain-a killer- the founder of the City according to Moses. This is why Sir Robert’s assertion that Adam gains governorship over the world by creation. Cain, not Adam, is the first governor that we encounter in the Bible. In fact, the children of Adam reject government until the Jews insist God give them a king. They are enslaved by the greatest government of the day- the Egyptians. A murderer, a betrayer to his family and his God is the founder of the City. The City is founded  upon sin according to the Bible.

Adam was made king of the world by his creation, not a king in fact, but a king in act which according to Locke means he was no king at all. This same argument, made by Sir Robert Locke will argue, means that Noah too was king of the world by his creation because it was his destiny to outlive his brethren. Belief in Adam’s creation and to suppose Natural Freedom of Mankind do not counteract each other according to Locke. Because Adam’s creation did not mean he was absolute ruler of the world as has been shown, one can still suppose the Natural Freedom of Mankind.

Declaration of Independence part 1

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

The history of America is littered with government documents which pledge allegiance to the Monarchy of England. The oldest of these, the Mayflower Compact, argues: “Do by these Presents, solemnly and mutually, in the Presence of God and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid: And by Virtue hereof do enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions, and Officers, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general Good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due Submission and Obedience.” This argument lays down that the colonies have the authority, in the absence of the British parliament and King, to create laws and the various other legal documents for their protection and security.

The Declaration of Independence, a trans-colonial document, asserts from the outset that unlike previous colonial documents such as the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration is not being presented to maintain peace and security in the absence of the British government. Rather, the colonies for the first time are taking leave of their British government and setting out on their own to govern themselves. Furthermore, they are announcing that not only are they setting out on their own but that they have the right under the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God.

The assertion of the Laws of Nature is a slow process that has taken thousands of years since the ancient Greek philosophers announced Natural Right. In his Nicomachaean Ethics, Aristotle argues for two types of justice: that which is just everywhere, and that which is just only in the city. Furthermore, there are two specific types of justice: legal and ancestral. The latter is just or unjust based on how the ancestors viewed it while the other is just or unjust based on the positive law of the day. This was altered centuries later by St. Thomas Aquinas who introduced the Natural Law. The Natural Law is that law which is inscribed on the hearts of all mankind; it is the Divine Law. The first knowable law is Self Preservation, which argues that you have not only a right but an obligation to protect your life. By the time of the Enlightenment and modernity the Natural Law had become the Law of Nature; a law which can be derived through reason and logic based on observations of nature. Once again, the first knowable Law of Nature is Self Preservation.

By invoking the Law of Nature, Thomas Jefferson and the colonies are invoking the belief that a state is obligated and permitted to separate from a parent for the first sake of Self Preservation. In fact, the charges made against Parliament and the King strike at the heart of Self Preservation. Furthermore, the Law of Nature dictates that when the child has matured they are to split off from their parent, such as the Bible says. In this instance, it is only right for the colonies to split from Mother England to govern themselves.

Locke’s First Treatise Chapter II: Paternal and Regal Power

Quotes taken from John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government edited by Peter Laslett.

Help from Ashok

Having completed his introduction of Sir Robert Filmer’s work Patriarcha, Locke endeavors to explore the arguments made by Filmer. The first argument made is that of Paternal and Regal power. The argument for absolute monarchy according to Locke is far above anything man can think of, so high in fact “that Promises and Oaths, which tye the infinite Deity, cannot confine it.” This is a curious way of describing the idea behind absolute monarchy but upon further inspection one might find that even God cannot be described as an absolute Monarch in the manner in which Filmer uses the words. But if Locke is able to demonstrate that the logic used for absolute monarchy is faulty, then man can start a new with government by consent; Locke ends with “using their Reason to unite together into Society.”

The first instance of Absolute Monarchy is that of the parent over the child, which means that the child is not free and that the parents possess a regal authority over that child. At first glance one might think this is an argument against Filmer, but instead is actually against Aristotle who in the Politics argues that the relationship between a father and his child is that of kingly rule. Exactly what that fatherly authority is Locke and Filmer neglect to tell, instead Locke lays out three basic foundations in the beginning of the Patriarcha:

1. En Passant, Made his Obeysance to the Arcana Imperii.

2. Made his Compliment to the Rights and Liberties of this, or any other Nation which he is going presently to null and destroy.

3. Made his Leg to those Learned Men, who did not see so far into the Matter as himself.

In sum, Locke argues that Filmer’s use of absolute monarchy thumbs its nose at the idea of rule by consent of the majority. The basis for his argument of Fatherly authority stems from the Bible: Adam was the first human, our father who possessed absolute authority over the world; Noah and his sons reestablished the monarchy of Adam until the captivity of the Israelites; God re-established the line of king over Israel. And finally Filmer uses the commandment of Honor thy Father as proof of absolute fatherly authority. Locke immediately points out that this is only a half quote from the Ten Commandments and that the full commandment reads Honor thy Father and thy Mother. The problem of stating both Locke points out is that it would be a mixed monarchy, which ultimately leads to anarchy. It is for this reason that Filmer leaves out the latter part of the quote, which Locke calls Filmer “a wary Physician,… when he would have his Patient swallow some harsh or Corrosive Liquor…” for having done. Here Locke compares Filmer to the physician, who is representative of the legislative authority within philosophic thought.

It is then that Locke goes on to say “Without this, What Good could our A——do, or pretend to do, by erecting such an unlimited Power, but flatter the Natural Vanity and Ambition of Men, too apt of if it self to grow and encrease with the Possession of any Power?” The discussion of Absolute Monarchy, by extension of this argument, is the same as talking of anarchy. Locke finishes, “And by perswading those, who, by the consent of their Fellow-Men, are advanced to great, but limited degrees of it, that by that part which is given them, they have a Right to all, that was not so; and therefore may do what they please, because they have Authority to do more then others, and so tempt them to do what is neither for their own, nor the good of those under their Care, whereby great Mischiefs cannot but follow.” Everyone has a right to security and therefore they have the power to ensure their freedom, creating an anarchical state. Further, consent exists in the wrong system creating multiple centers of power as a result of Filmer’s argument.

From this Locke argues for three points for the argument of fatherly regal authority: Sovereignty of Adam, Absolute Power of Adam, and Adam’s Royal Authority. The first concerns with Adam’s authority over his own family, for Filmer argues that Adam had absolute power over his family including the power over life. In this the paternal powers becomes the regal power, and by extension calls into question maybe the polis and family. If Adam was not king by virtue of his title of father, then is the fatherly authority political, for if it is not then family is not by nature political which is contrary to the teachings of Aristotle. As for the second, Absolute Power of Adam, this is based on the authority of Adams over his posterity; this dominion then makes men nothing more than herds. Locke calls for Proofs and Reasons as to how Adam has gained this absolute authority, which creates two types of rule: reasonable and unreasonable. Filmer’s argument of Adam’s absolute power is an example of the unreasonable, because there lacks any proof or reason for such an assertion. Finally there is Adam’s Royal Authority, which is to say Adam’s paternal authority: Adam is king because he is father. While Filmer continues to argue for Adam’s Royal Authority, Locke points he fails to provide a proof. Analogously, the royal authority of Adam or the rule of absolute monarchy is the power of opinion or the power over the passions.

Locke’s argument against Paternal and Regal Authority is summed in that Filmer provides no proof of Adam’s authority as both father and king other than the half quote “Honor thy father.” Which itself is purposely cut short because the introduction of “honor thy mother” would imply a mixed monarchy and thus destroying any hopes of an absolute monarch. The argument for absolute monarchy does not exist within the realm of proofs or reason but rather in the power over opinion; which makes the argument far stronger because men are inclined to follower their passions. The Sovereignty of Adam, his absolute power, and is royal authority combine to make Adam a tyrant. He contains the power over life of his own family, he rules over his posterity like they are a herd and rules by appealing to human passions. This is juxtaposed to the idea the Law of Nature, social contract, and rule by reason. The first makes man a slave while the second provides for his security and safety.

A look at Book I of John Locke’s First Treatise of Government

Quotes taken from Two Treatises of Government edited by Peter Laslett published by the Cambridge Texts in History and Political Thought.

I would like to think Ashok for reading through the First Treatise with me.

John Locke begins the first chapter, “Slavery is so vile and miserable an Estate of Man, and so directly opposite to the generous Temper and Courage of our Nation; that tis hardly to be conceived, that an Englishman, much less a Gentleman, should plead for’t.” Locke starts his treatise with the theme of slavery, which according to him goes against the “temper and courage” of England. He claims astonishment that an English Lord (Englishman…much less a Gentleman) would write such a work. This individual that Locke is arguing against is Sir Robert Filmer, the writer of the work Patriarcha or The Natural Power of Kings. Locke uses Filmer’s work to refute the belief in Divine Right Monarchy. He calls Filmer’s work a “Rope of Sand” and a “Chain for all Mankind” whose business it is to “raise a Dust” that would “blind the People” but cannot bind those “who have their eyes open.” This is a very interesting argument against the work, Locke has set out on the stance that Divine Right Monarchy really means slavery and that Filmer’s treatise is only meant to blind the people into bondage.

Locke makes reference that Filmer’s work was long before his own First Treatise, and the editor notes that the Patriarcha was written in 1637-8 but not published until 1680. Filmer is called the “Champion of absolute Power” and anyone who reads his treatise cannot but think himself no longer a freeman. When published, Locke argues that Filmer’s treatise removed all liberty from the world. Furthermore, it intended to make itself the model of all politics for the future. However, Locke argues that the treatise by Filmer can be summed in two lines:

1. That all Government is absolute Monarchy

2. That no Man is born Free

These are two very dangerous beliefs for Locke, the champion of consent of the governed.

Authors of the generation in which Locke is writing, and the previous generations are said by him to have “flatter[ed] princes with an Opinion” this opinion being that despite the laws which constituted their authority, and are to govern under, they have absolute power under the title of Divine Right. They are not restrained by “Oaths and Promises” because their authority does not come from those, whom they govern, or from the laws but rather from God Himself. By making such an argument, these authors have stripped man of his natural rights and freedoms and made them subject to tyranny and oppression. Even more, Locke argues that they have “unsettled the Titles and shaken the Thrones of Princes.” Why is this? Because if there is such a thing as Divine Right monarchy, than all except them monarch are slaves to the monarch. Further, as Locke will argue, if Adam was made the first monarch then only one Prince in the world living has claim to that title passed down from Adam. All persons with the exception of that single heir have been made slaves and all government has been destroyed because of these Divine Right authors. If all are slaves then there cannot be politics and if there cannot be politics there cannot be government.

Yet, Locke argues that if we have to accept this argument, that we are all born Slaves, then it does not end. “Life and Thraldom” continue together until the former ends and we are released from the latter. But this notion of Divine Right monarchy, Locke claims, is a new idea. “Scripture or Reason I am sure doe not any where say so notwithstanding the noise of divine right, as if Divine Authority hath subjected us to the unlimited Will of another.” The notion that we are all slaves to a single human, a fallible person, is not present in our own human reason or in the Divine Scripture, where one would expect to find Divine Right authority promulgated first. Natural freedom and equality are the older opinions of mankind, not absolute Authority of a single man. Locke even argues that Filmer assents to this belief, that his opinion is the junior.

At this Locke leaves the argument of the age of this argument for historians to debate, but wishes to argue the point against Filmer who he believes was allowed to carry the opinion the furthest.


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