With respect to the grounds and content of natural law, Locke is notcompletely clear. On the one hand, there are many instances where hemakes statements that sound voluntarist to the effect that lawrequires a law giver with authority (Essay 1.3.6, 4.10.7).Locke also repeatedly insists in the Essays on the Law ofNature that created beings have an obligation to obey theircreator (ELN 6). On the other hand there are statements thatseem to imply an external moral standard to which God must conform(Two Treatises 2.195; Works 7:6). Locke clearlywants to avoid the implication that the content of natural law isarbitrary. Several solutions have been proposed. One solutionsuggested by Herzog makes Locke an intellectualist by grounding ourobligation to obey God on a prior duty of gratitude that existsindependent of God. A second option, suggested by Simmons, is simplyto take Locke as a voluntarist since that is where the preponderanceof his statements point. A third option, suggested by Tuckness (andimplied by Grant), is to treat the question of voluntarism as havingtwo different parts, grounds and content. On this view, Locke wasindeed a voluntarist with respect to the question “why should weobey the law of nature?” Locke thought that reason, apart fromthe will of a superior, could only be advisory. With respect tocontent, divine reason and human reason must be sufficiently analogousthat human beings can reason about what God likely wills. Locke takesit for granted that since God created us with reason in order tofollow God's will, human reason and divine reason are sufficientlysimilar that natural law will not seem arbitrary to us.
Locke's most obvious solution to this problem is his doctrine of tacitconsent. Simply by walking along the highways of a country a persongives tacit consent to the government and agrees to obey it whileliving in its territory. This, Locke thinks, explains why residentaliens have an obligation to obey the laws of the state where theyreside, though only while they live there. Inheriting property createsan even stronger bond, since the original owner of the propertypermanently put the property under the jurisdiction of thecommonwealth. Children, when they accept the property of theirparents, consent to the jurisdiction of the commonwealth over thatproperty (Two Treatises 2.120). There is debate over whetherthe inheritance of property should be regarded as tacit or expressconsent. On one interpretation, by accepting the property, Lockethinks a person becomes a full member of society, which implies thathe must regard this as an act of express consent. Grant suggests thatLocke's ideal would have been an explicit mechanism of societywhereupon adults would give express consent and this would be aprecondition of inheriting property. On the other interpretation,Locke recognized that people inheriting property did not in theprocess of doing so make any explicit declaration about theirpolitical obligation.
Essays and Treatises on Several Subjects: V. 2: David …
It is sufficiently evident, from the respective charters, that the rights we now claim are coeval with the original settlement of these colonies. These rights have been, at different times, strenuously asserted, though they have been suffered to be violated in several instances, through inattention, or, perhaps, an unwillingness to quarrel with the mother country. I shall decline producing any other proofs of the sense of the other provinces than those already mentioned, and shall confine myself to a few extracts from the resolves of some assemblies of this province.
John Locke: Political Philosophy
“Political writers,” says a celebrated author, “have established it as a maxim, that, in contriving any system of government, and fixing the several checks and controls of the constitution, ought to be supposed a and to have no other end, in all his actions, but By this interest we must govern him, and by means of it notwithstanding his insatiable avarice and ambition. Without this we shall in vain boast of the advantages of and shall find, in the end, that we have no security for our liberties, and possessions except the of our rulers—that is, we should have
Essays, moral, political and literary David Hume Full view - 1793.
The first branch is: That “in every government, there must be a supreme, absolute authority lodged somewhere.” This position, when properly explained, is evidently just. In every civil society there must be a supreme power to which all the members of that society are subject, for otherwise there could be no supremacy or subordination—that is, no government at all. But no use can be made of this principle beyond matter of fact. To infer from thence, that unless a supreme, absolute authority be vested in one part of an empire over all the other parts there can be no government in the whole, is false and absurd. Each branch may enjoy a distinct, complete legislature, and still good government may be preserved everywhere. It is in vain to assert that two or more distinct legislatures cannot exist in the same state. If by the same state, be meant the same individual community, it is true. Thus, for instance, there cannot be two supreme legislatures in Great Britain, nor two in New York. But if by the same state be understood a number of individual societies or bodies politic united under one common head, then I maintain that there may be one distinct, complete legislature in each. Thus there may be one in Great Britain, another in Ireland, and another in New York; and still these several parts may form but one state. In order to do this there must indeed be some connecting, pervading principle; but this is found in the person and prerogative of the king. He it is that conjoins all these individual societies into one great body politic. He it is that is to preserve their mutual connection and dependence, and make them all co-operate to one common end—the general good. His power is equal to the purpose, and his interest binds him to the due prosecution of it.