Why did John Locke reject absolute monarchy?

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thetall | (Level 3) Educator

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John Locke was a strong supporter of classical liberalism, which backed the need for representative democracy based on political freedom and civil liberties. The idea behind classical liberalism was in conflict with the tradition of monarchy rule because in a monarchy the choice of a leader was predetermined and not based on the people’s will, but rather the individual’s blood-line. Leadership was inherited within the royal family and the titles placed the royal family above the rule of law. This meant that even though the citizens were completely subject to the law, the laws were rendered unstable since they could not apply to the leadership and would be changed to suit the needs of the aristocracy.

John Locke also supported social contract theory, which guaranteed inalienable natural rights (an idea reflected in the United States Declaration of Independence). He also asserted that the government’s authority was not absolute as it was subject to God’s law. His opinion on this conflicted with that of Thomas Hobbes, another social contract adherent.

It is in his work on the Second Treatise of Government that John Locke opposed the notion of an absolute monarchy. He supported his opinion by stating that the people possessed freedoms that could not be violated under the rule of law and it was only with their consent that a government could be formed to safeguard their collective interests.

To understand political power right, and derive it from its original, we must consider, what state all men are naturally in, and that is, a state of perfect freedom to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions and persons, as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of nature,

the power of the husband being so far from that of an absolute monarch, that the wife has in many cases a liberty to separate from him, where natural right, or their contract allows it; whether that contract be made by themselves in the state of nature, or by the customs or laws of the country they live in;

Hence it is evident, that absolute monarchy, which by some men is counted the only government in the world, is indeed inconsistent with civil society, and so can be no form of civil-government at all: for the end of civil society, being to avoid, and remedy those inconveniencies of the state of nature, which necessarily follow from every man's being judge in his own case, by setting up a known authority, to which every one of that society may appeal upon any injury received, or controversy that may arise, and which every one of the society ought to obey; where-ever any persons are, who have not such an authority to appeal to, for the decision of any difference between them, there those persons are still in the state of nature; and so is every absolute prince, in respect of those who are under his dominion.

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