Two Treatises on Government (1680-1690)

John Locke

Of Fatherhood and Property Considered Together as Fountains of Sovereignty

§ 73. In the foregoing chapters we have seen what Adam’s monarchy was, in our A–’s opinion, and upon what titles he founded it. The foundations which he lays the chief stress on, as those from which he thinks he may best derive monarchical power to future princes, are two, viz. “fatherhood and property,” and therefore the way he proposes to remove the absurdities and inconveniences of the doctrine of natural freedom, is, “to maintain the natural and private dominion of Adam,” O. 222. Conformable hereunto, he tells us, “the grounds and principles of government necessarily depend upon the original of property,” O. 108. “The subjection of children to their parents is the fountain of all regal authority,” p. 12. And “all power on earth is either, derived or usurped from the fatherly power, there being no other original to be found of any power whatsoever,” O. 158. I will not stand here to examine how it can be said without a contradiction, that the “first grounds and principles of government necessarily depend upon the original of property,” and yet, “that there is no other original of any power whatsoever, but that of the father:” it being hard to understand how there can be “no other original but fatherhood,” and yet that the “grounds and principles of government depend upon the original of property;” property and fatherhood being as far different as lord of a manor and father of children. Nor do I see how they will either of them agree with what our A– says, O. 244, of God’s sentence against Eve, Gen. 3:16, “That it is the original grant of government:” so that if that were the original, government had not its original by our A–’s own confession, either from property or fatherhood; and this text which he brings as a proof of Adam’s power over eve, necessarily contradicts what he says of the fatherhood, that it is “the sole fountain of all power.” For if Adam had any such regal power over Eve, as our A– contends for, it must be by some other title than that of begetting.

§ 74. But I leave him to reconcile these contradictions as well as many others, which may plentifully be found in him by anyone, who will but read him with a little attention, and shall come now to consider how these two originals of government, “Adam’s natural and private dominion,” will consist, and serve to make out and establish the titles of succeeding monarchs, who, as our A– obliges them, must all derive their power from these fountains. Let us then suppose Adam made “by God’s donation” lord and sole proprietor of the whole earth, in as large and ample a manner as Sir Robert could wish; let us suppose him also “by right of fatherhood” absolute ruler over his children with an unlimited supremacy, I ask then upon Adam’s death what becomes of both his natural and private dominion, and I doubt not it will be answered, that they descended to his next heir, as our A– tells us in several places. But this way it is plain, cannot possibly convey both his natural and private dominion to the same person. For should we allow that all the property, all the estate of the father ought to descend to the eldest son, (which will need some proof to establish it) and so he has by that title all the private dominion of the father, yet the father’s natural dominion, the paternal power cannot descend to him by inheritance. For it being a right that accrues to a man only by begetting, no man can have this natural dominion over anyone he does not beget: unless it can be supposed, that a man can have a right to anything, without doing that upon which that right is solely founded. For if a father by begetting, and no other title, has natural dominion over his children, he that does not beget them, cannot have this natural dominion over them: and therefore be it true or false that our A– says, O. 156, that “every man that is born, by his very birth becomes a subject to him that begets him,” this necessarily follows, viz. that a man by his birth cannot become a subject to his brother, who did not beget him: unless it can be supposed that a man by the very same title can come to be under the natural and absolute dominion of two different men at once, or it be sense to say, that a man by birth is under the natural dominion of his father, only because he begat him, and a man by birth also is under the natural dominion of his eldest brother, though he did not beget him.

§ 75. If then the private dominion of Adam, i.e. his property in the creatures, descended at his death all entirely to his eldest son, his heir; (for if it did not, there is presently an end of all Sir Robert’s monarchy) and his natural dominion, the dominion a father has over his children by begetting them, belonged immediately upon Adam’s decease equally to all his sons who had children, by the same title their father had it, the sovereignty founded upon property, and the sovereignty founded upon fatherhood, come to be divided: since Cain as heir had that of property alone, Seth and the other sons that of fatherhood equally with him. This is the best can be made of our A–’s doctrine, and of the two titles of sovereignty he sets up in Adam, one of them will either signify nothing, or if they both must stand, they can serve only to confound the rights of princes, and disorder government in his posterity. For by building upon two titles to dominion, which cannot descend together, and which he allows may be separated (for he yields that “Adam’s children had their distinct territories by right of private dominion,” O. 210, p. 40) he makes it perpetually a doubt upon his principles where the sovereignty is, or to whom we owe our obedience, since fatherhood and property are distinct titles, and began presently upon Adam’s death to be in distinct persons. And which then was to give way to the other?

§ 76. Let us take the account of it, as he himself gives it us. He tells us out of Grotius, that Adam’s children, by donation, assignation, or some kind of cession before he was dead, had their distinct territories by right of private dominion; Abel had his flocks and pastures for them; Cain had his fields for corn, and the land of Nod where he built him a city, O. 210. Here it is obvious to demand which of these two after Adam’s death, was sovereign? Cain, says our A– p. 19. By what title? “As heir; for heirs to progenitors, who were natural parents of their people, are not only lords of their own children, but also of their brethren,” says our A– p. 19. What was Cain heir to? Not the entire possessions, not all that which Adam had private dominion in, for our A– allows that Abel by a title derived from his father, “had his distinct territory for pasture by right of private dominion.” What then Abel had by private dominion, was exempt from Cain’s dominion. For he could not have private dominion over that, which was under the private dominion of another, and therefore his sovereignty over his brother is gone with this private dominion, and so there are presently two sovereigns, and his imaginary title of fatherhood is out of doors, and Cain is no prince over his brother: Or else if Cain retain his sovereignty over Abel, notwithstanding his private dominion, it will follow that the “first grounds and principles of government” have nothing to do with property, whatever our A– says to the contrary. It is true, Abel did not outlive his father Adam, but that makes nothing to the argument, which will hold good against Sir Robert in Abel’s issue, or in Seth, or any of the posterity of Adam, not descended from Cain.

§ 77. The same inconvenience he runs into about the three sons of Noah, who, as he says, p. 13, “had the whole world divided amongst them by their father.” I ask then in which of the three shall we find the establishment of regal power after Noah’s death? If in all three, as our A– there seems to say; then it will follow, that regal power is founded in property of land, and follows private dominion, and not in paternal power or natural dominion, and so there is an end of paternal power as the fountain of regal authority, and the so much magnified fatherhood quite vanishes. If the regal power descended to Shem as eldest, and heir to his father, then “Noah’s division of the world by lot to his sons, or his ten years sailing about the Mediterranean to appoint each son his part,” which our A– tells of, p. 15, was labour lost, his division of the world to them, was to ill, or to no purpose. For his grant to Ham and Japheth was little worth if Shem, notwithstanding this grant, as soon as Noah was dead, was to be lord over them. Or, if this grant of private dominion to them over their assigned territories, were good, here were set up two distinct sorts of power, not subordinate one to the other, with all those inconveniences which he musters up against the “power of the people,” O. 158, which I shall set down in his own words, only changing property for people: “All power on earth is either derived or usurped from the fatherly power, there being no other original to be found of any power whatsoever: for if there should be granted two sorts of power, without any subordination of one to the other, they would be in perpetual strife which should be supreme, for two supremes cannot agree: if the fatherly power be supreme, then the power grounded on private dominion must be subordinate, and depend on it, and if the power grounded on property be supreme, then the fatherly power must submit to it, and cannot be exercised without the license of the proprietors, which must quite destroy the frame and course of nature.” This is his own arguing against two distinct independent powers, which I have set down in his own words, only putting power rising from property, for power of the people; and when he has answered what he himself has urged here against two distinct powers, we shall be better able to see how, with any tolerable sense, he can derive all regal authority “from the natural and private dominion of Adam,” from fatherhood and property together, which are distinct titles that do not always meet in the same person; and it is plain, by his own confession, presently separated as soon both as Adam’s and Noah’s death made way for succession: though our A– frequently in his writings jumbles them together, and omits not to make use of either, where he thinks it will sound best to his purpose. But the absurdities of this will more fully appear in the next chapter, where we shall examine the ways of conveyance of the sovereignty of Adam, to princes that were to reign after him.