John Locke pp 151-156 | Cite as

The Foundation of Government

  • J. D. Mabbott
Part of the Philosophers in Perspective book series


It was the view of Locke that government emerged in history from a pre-existing state of nature. ‘That which begins and actually constitutes any political society is nothing but the consent of any number of freemen capable of a majority to unite and incorporate into such a society. And this is that and that only which could give beginning to any lawful government in the world.’1 It may be objected, says Locke, that there is no record of any such historical beginning. The reply is that this is not surprising because government is everywhere antecedent to records.2 Rome and Venice were in fact founded by just such voluntary agreements. And, if it is said that the state of nature nowhere existed but all men are born under government, Joseph Acosta may be quoted as maintaining ‘that in many parts of America there was no government at all’.3 ‘In the beginning’, Locke observes ‘all the world was America.’4


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© J. D. Mabbott 1973

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  • J. D. Mabbott

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