Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. III.: An Enquiry how far either the Revolution in England,— or the Reduction of Ireland,— or the present Proceedings of the Congress in America, can or may be justified according to the leading Principles of Mr. Locke, and his Followers. - A Treatise Concerning Civil Government in Three Parts
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CHAP. III.: An Enquiry how far either the Revolution in England,— or the Reduction of Ireland,— or the present Proceedings of the Congress in America, can or may be justified according to the leading Principles of Mr. Locke, and his Followers. - Josiah Tucker, A Treatise Concerning Civil Government in Three Parts 
A Treatise Concerning Civil Government in Three Parts (London: T. Cadell, 1781).
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An Enquiry how far either the Revolution in England,—or the Reduction of Ireland,—or the present Proceedings of the Congress in America, can or may be justified according to the leading Principles of Mr.Locke,and his Followers.
Of theRevolutionin England.
IT is allowed on all Hands, and it has been the continual Boast of the Friends and Admirers of Mr. Locke, that he wrote his Essay on Government with a View to justify the Revolution. We have therefore a Right to expect, that his fundamental, political Maxims tend immediately and directly to vindicate this necessary Measure. How great therefore will be our Disappointment, if the quite contrary should appear!
The grand Objections against King James the Second were, that his Government was tyrannical, and his Proceedings illegal;—that he assumed Powers which the Constitution had expressly denied him;—that he had repeatedly broken his solemn Coronation-Oath, and forfeited his Royal Word;—and that, in short, his Actions proved him to be an Enemy both to Civil Liberty, and to the Protestant Religion.
Now grant these Objections to be well founded (which I think no Man at this Day, even the warmest Friend of the Stuart Family, will pretend to deny;) and the Inference is plain, that such a Prince deserved to be deposed, and that the Nation did very right in deposing him.—So far therefore we are all agreed: For Mr. Locke’s Principles serve admirably well for the Purposes of Demolition in any Case whatever, as far as mere Demolition is concerned. But alas! after we have pulled down, how are we to build up? For something of this Kind must certainly be done, and that speedily. The Nation was then in a State of Anarchy and Confusion, without Law, or Government: The Legislative Power could not assemble, according to the prescribed antient Forms of the Constitution: Nor could the Executive legally act for want of being authorised so to do. In such a Situation the Principle of Self-Defence would naturally suggest to a Nation in general, and to every reasonable Man in particular,—to do the best they could without Loss of Time, and not to stand upon mere legal Punctilios, where the Essentials of the Constitution, and the Happiness of Millions were at Stake: Moreover common Prudence and sound Policy would likewise suggest, that as few Innovation of the antient Form of Government should be introduced, and as many of its Laws and Ordinances be retained, as the Good of the whole, and the public Safety would permit. This, I say, seems to be a fair, and honest, and upright Mode of Proceedure;—a Mode which all impartial Men would allow to be reasonable, and every Lover of his Country would approve and justify:—And in short, this was the very Proceedure adopted at the Revolution.
Now, let us see, what Methods ought to have been taken according to the System of Mr. Locke;—and whether his Plan, and the Revolution Plan, co-incide with each other.
By the Desertion, or Abdication, or Forfeiture, or Deposition of King James [take which Term you please] the Government was dissolved, and no new one was yet appointed. So far we are again agreed. But says a Lockian (if he will reason consistently with his own Principles) this Dissolution of Government set the Nation free from all Ties and Obligations: So that they were no longer the Subjects of a Government, which itself did not exist: And if they were not the Subjects of an annihilated Government, they could be under no Obligation to any other. They were therefore actually returned back to a State of Nature;—that happy State, wherein there is a perfect Equality of Rights of all Kinds whatever; and where no one Man can pretend to have a better Claim than another either to Lands, or Legislations, to Power or Pre-eminence of any Kind. Admirable! Cataline himself could not have wished for a more ample Scope.—not only for paying all his own Debts, and those of his Followers,—but also for coming in for a considerable Share in the general Scramble, on a new Division of Property. Nay, his Speech in Sallust seems to indicate, as if he had some such Notion in his Head, had his Genius been sertile enough to have drawn it out into Form, and to have methodized it into a System.
But evidently as these Conclusions slow from Mr. Locke’s fundamental Maxims, I do by no Means allow myself to suppose, that either he or any of his Followers, with whom I have now Concern, would grant, that these Conclusions are justly and fairly drawn. On the contrary, I do verily believe, that they thought they were serving the Cause of rational Liberty, when they were advancing such Positions, as, if carried into Execution, would unavoidably introduce the most shocking Scenes of Despotism on the one Hand, and of Slavery on the other. [Just as a rank Antinomian wildly imagines, that he is consulting the Glory of God and the Good of Mankind whilst he is instilling such Doctrines, as necessarily derogate from the Supreme Being, by making him the Author of Sin; and as necessarily turn human Creatures into ravenous Beasts to bite and devour one another, by destroying all moral Obligation.]
Therefore I observe, that though all these shocking Consequences are justly chargeable on the Principles of a Lockian, yet I do not charge the Man, the Individual, with the Guilt of them, provided he declare his Abhorrence of such Inferences. Now, taking it for granted that he would disavow them, were the Question asked, I will charitably suppose, that if Mr. Locke and his Followers, had the Management of an Event similar to that of the Revolution in 1688, they would not dissolve the Bands of Society any farther, than was just necessary for compassing their Ends of a free and general Election, according to their peculiar Ideas of Freedom, and of the unalienable Right of human Nature. I will therefore suppose also, that they would permit Men to enjoy unmolested their hereditary Honours and hereditary Estates, and Property of all Kinds, notwithstanding that their Principles necessarily tend to level every thing without Distinction, and to bring us back to a State of Nature: Nay, I will suppose, that they would admit a Majority of the Voters present to include not only the Minority present, but also the great Majority, who might happen to be absent:—Though the Lockian Principles have in themselves a very different Tendency; as I have fully made to appear in the preceding Chapter. However, granting all this with a liberal Hand; and granting also for Argument’s Sake, that it is consistent with this modern System of unalienable Rights, to exclude every Male under twenty-one Years of Age, and Females of every Age, from the unalienable Right of voting:—And then we have still remaining all the Males in England of twenty-one Years of Age and upwards, to compose an Assembly of Legislators, Electors, and Directors, according to the Lockian System. A goodly Number truly! All Voters by the unalienable Rights of Nature! All equal, free, and independent! This being the Case, the first Step to be taken is, to summon all these adult male Voters throughout the Kingdom to meet at some certain Place, in order to consult about erecting a new Government, after pulling down the old one: Here therefore I make a Pause;—and ask a Question, Was this done at the Revolution? No. Was it attempted to be done? No. Were there any Meetings appointed in different Parts of the Kingdom, from whence Deputies could be sent up to represent these Meetings, and to act in their Name? No. Was there then, [tho’ that at best is a very preposterous Mode of Representation, according to Mr. Locke, yet] was there a previous general Election of Members of Parliament, in order that there might be at least a new Parliament to elect a new King? No, not even that, according to any legal, or constitutional Forms.—What then was that great national Vote which established the Revolution?—A few Scores of Noblemen, and a few Hundreds of Gentlemen, together with some of the Aldermen and Common Council of London, met at Westminster, [but without any Commission from the Body of the People authorising them to meet] and requested (thereby empowering) the Prince and Princess of Orange to assume the Royal Prerogative, and to summon a new Parliament. They summoned one accordingly, which was called the Convention Parliament: This Assembly put the Crown on their Heads [the Power of which they had exercised before] The Crown, I say, not only of England, but also of Ireland, and of all the English Dominions throughout every Part of the Globe, and this too, not only without asking the Consent, but even without acquainting the People of those other Countries with their Intentions. Now if this Transaction can be said to be carried on agreeably to Mr. Locke’s Plan, or if it can be justified by his Principles, I own myself the worst Judge of Reason and Argument, and of a plain Matter of Fact, that ever scribbled on Paper. Nay, I appeal to all the World, whether the whole Business of this famous Revolution, from whence nevertheless we have derived so many national Blessings, ought not to be looked upon as a vile Usurpation, and be chargeable with the Guilt of robbing the good People of England, of Ireland, and of all the Colonies of their unalienable Rights, if Mr. Locke’s Principles of Government are the only true and just ones. But I ask further, Was the Convention itself unanimous in its Decisions? No, very far from it. On the contrary, it is a well-known Fact, that the Members of it [I mean a Majority of the Members] would never have voted the Crown to the Prince of Orange, had it not been for his threatening Message, that he would leave them to the Resentment of King James, unless they complied with such a Demand. So that even a Majority of this very Convention would have acted otherwise than they did, had they remained unawed, and uninfluenced. And thus, Reader, it is demonstrated to thee, that this samous Convention [and in them the whole Nation] was self-governed, and self-directed, according to the Lockian Principle, in establishing the glorious Revolution!
The Reduction of Ireland about the Year 1690 is another capital Affair, which is to receive Sentence either of Justification, or Condemnation, at Mr. Locke’s Tribunal. For if Ireland was reduced, and the Constitution thereof peaceably settled according to the Lockian Plan, the Founder of this Sect and his Followers have certainly a good deal to glory in. But if the very Reverse should prove to have been the Case, what shall we say?—And with what Front could Mr. Molineux, the Friend of Mr. Locke, dedicate his Book on the Independency of Ireland to King William, if King William’s own Conduct in the Reduction of that Kingdom was altogether repugnant to the Principles of his Book? Now it unfortunately happens, that all the Lockians have precluded themselves from making Use of the very best Arguments, which could be brought in Justification of this memorable Event:—I say, they have precluded themselves, by chusing to rest the Merits of their Cause on one single Point,—The Universality of Consent;—that is to say, the Consent of the People,—at least of the major Part of them, expressly obtained, and freely given. For they have solemnly declared over and over, and do continue to declare, that no Title whatever in the reigning Powers can be valid, if this be wanting. Mr. Molineux’s own Words will best speak his Sentiments, and those of his Party on this Occasion; which therefore I shall beg Leave to repeat.
“I shall venture to assert, that the Right of being subject only to such Laws, to which Men give their own Consent, is so inherent in all Mankind, and founded on such immutable Laws of Nature and Reason, that ’tis not to be aliened, or given up by any Body of Men whatever.” And a little lower: “I have no Notion of Slavery, but being bound by a Law, to which I do not consent.—If one Law may be imposed without Consent, any other Law whatever may be imposed on us without our Consent. This will naturally introduce Taxing us without our Consent. And this as necessarily destroys our Property. I have no other Notion of Property, but a Power of disposing of my Goods, as I please, and not as another shall command. Whatever another may rightfully take from me, I have certainly no Property in. To tax me without Consent is little better, if at all, than down-right robbing me.”
And now, Reader, having just observed, that this Mr. Molineux of Ireland was to all Intents and Purposes, the Precursor of the Congress of America, let us consider what Right had King William to invade Ireland at first, and what Pretensions could be have afterwards for establishing a Protestant Constitution in that Popish Country, according to the Principles of Messrs. Locke and Molineux.
King James the Second fled from England, and, after having made some Stay in France, landed in Ireland, and was received by the whole Body of the Irish Nation with open Arms. A few Protestants in the North made some Opposition; and at last, being driven to Despair, they made a most surprizing Resistance, under the Conduct of the Rev. Mr Walker, Governor of Londonderry. But it is their Number, as haying an unalienable Right to vote,—and not their Courage or Valour, as Heroes, which is the subject Matter of our present Inquiry. Now in respect to this, the Protestants were vastly the Minority of the Natives, and are so still, according to every Mode of Computation. Why therefore if the Votes or Consents of a Majority are to decide the Question,—Why, I say, did these few Protestants resist at all?—Or if a Lockian will not submit to be governed by this Rule of a Majority concluding the Minority [for sometimes he will, and at other Times he will not] Why did not the Handful of Protestants desire Leave to retire peaceably into some other Country, instead of committing Hostilities in that? Nay more, why did they send to England for Succours, to drive out King James, and establish King William? For surely according to the Lockian Hypothesis, that every Man ought to be governed only by Laws of his own appointing,—the great Majority of the Irish Nation had at least as good a Right to refuse Obedience to King William, as the Minority had to refuse it to King James. But notwithstanding all this, King William sailed with a large Reinforcemement of Troops to Ireland; he landed, and he conquered; and in a short Space of Time the Peace of the Country was settled by the Capitulation and Treaty of Limeric.
Now in order to reconcile the Reduction of Ireland to the Lockian Standard of Right and Wrong, of just Government, and of Usurpation, we must believe first of all, that this Handful of Protestants, who appeared in Arms at Inniskillen and Londonderry, were the great Majority of the Irish Nation: And when we have digested this Pill, we must believe further that all Things were quite inverted, or in other Words, That the few Natives of Ireland, who were Papists [not more perhaps than ten to one Protestant] we must believe, I say, that these few Papist all voluntarily consented to be governed by the many, who were Protestants: And having proceeded thus far in our Credulity, we must not hesitate at swallowing the rest, viz. That the Papists of Ireland sent an Embassy to invite King William to come over, and offered to swear Fealty and Allegiance to him at the Battle of the Boyne;—yea, and that all the Laws successively made afterwards for disarming them, for taking their Estates from them, for banishing them, for exciting their own Children to rebel against them, and for subjecting them to Fines and Imprisonments, and to Pains and Penalties in Thousands of Instances;—we must believe, I say, that all these Laws were made with the whole Assent, and Consent, Will, and Agreement of the Papists of Ireland. O Genius of Popish Legends, confess thou art fairly outdone by Protestant Patriots! O Purgatory of St. Patrick, hide thy diminished Head!
The Cafe of the presentCongressin America.
It has been observed at the Beginning of this Treatise, that the Lockian System is an universal Demolisher of all Civil Governments, but not the Builder of any. And it has been distinctly shewn, that this Observation has been sound to be remarkably verified in two memorable Instances, [those very Instances which were pretended to correspond the most with the Plan of Mr. Locke] the Revolution in England, and the Reduction of Ireland. Come we now therefore to a 3d Instance, the Revolt of the Colonies in North America.
When it is seriously enquired, what were the chief Grievances which the Colonies had to complain of against the Mother Country, the Answer is, and must be, that she governed, or attempted to govern them in such a Manner as was not agreeable to the Lockian System. For the imposing Laws on them of any Kind, whether good or bad in themselves, and whether for the Purposes of Taxation, or for other Purposes, without their own Consent, is, according to this hypothesis, a most intolerable Grievance! a Robbery! and an Usurpation on the unalienable Rights of Mankind. Nay, we are repeatedly told, that the very Essence of Slavery consists in the being obliged to submit to be governed by such Laws as these. Therefore if you want to know the very Root and Foundation of the present American Rebellion, it is this very Principle: And the Fact is so far from being denied, that it is gloried in by Dr. Price, and others their warmest Advocates. In short, the brave Americans were resolved not to be Slaves; but Slaves, it seems, they must have been (according to the Lockian Idea) had they acknowledged the Right of the Mother Country, even in a single Instance, to make Laws to bind them without their Consent:—I say, even in a single Instance; for the Lockian Mode of Reasoning is, that there is no Difference between being vested with discretionary Power, and with despotic Power. “Inasmuch as, if a Government has any Right to rule me without my Consent in some Cases, it has a Right to rule me in every Case; consequently it has a Right to levy every Kind of Tax, good or bad, reasonable, or exorbitant upon me, and to inflict all Sorts of Punishments whatever.”
But Dr. Price himself, the great Champion of the Americans, has so expressly applied this Train of Reasoning to the American Cause, that I think myself happy in co-inciding with him in Sentiments on this Occasion. “Our Colonies in North America, faith the Doctor, appear to be now* determined to risque, and suffer every Thing under the Persuasion, that Great-Britain is attempting to rob them of that Liberty, to which every Member of Society, and all civil Communities have a natural, and unalienable Right.”
Here therefore the Case is plain: For every Member of Society, as well as the Community at large, hath, according to Dr. Price, not only a natural, but an unalienable Right to be self-governed, and self-directed. Be it so: And then comes the important Question, “Is this the Case at present with every Member of Society in North-America, now groaning under the Dominion of the Congress?” And as Dr. Price has taken such Pains to extoll the American Mode of Government to the Skies,—a most happy Mode, without Bishops, without Nobles, without Kings! I wish he would return a plain Answer to the plain Question here propounded. In Honour and Conscience he is certainly called upon so to do. But tho’ the Doctor loves to set Controversies on Foot, we learn from his own Words, that he loves his Ease too well, to clear up the Objections arising from them. Consequently being deprived of the Doctor’s Assistance, unless he should think proper to change his declared Resolution, we must do the best we can without him.
Here therefore be it observed, that without taking any Advantage from the Arguments that may be deduced from the tarring and feathering of their numerous Mobs; and without insisting on the burning and plundering of the Houses, and destroying the Property of the Loyalists by the American Republicans, even before they had openly thrown off the Masque, and set up for Independence;—I say, without bringing these Instances as Proofs that they would not grant that Liberty to others, for which they so strenuously contended for themselves;—let us come to that very Period, when they had established various Civil Governments in their respective Provinces, and had new-modelled their several Constitutions according to their own good Liking:—I ask therefore, Was any one of these Civil Governments at first formed, or is it now administered, and conducted according to the Lockian Plan? And did, or doth any of their Congresses, general or provincial, admit of that fundamental Maxim of Mr. Locke, that every Man has an unalienable Right to obey no other Laws, but those of his own making? No; no;—so far from it, that there are dreadful Fines and Confiscations, Imprisonments, and even Death made use of, as the only effectual Means for obtaining that Unanimity of Sentiment so much boasted of by these new-sangled Republicans, and so little practiced. In one Word, let the impartial World be the Judge, whether the Americans, in all their Contests for Liberty, have even once made use of Mr. Locke’s System for any other Purpose, but that of pulling down, and destroying; and whether, when they came to erect a new Edifice of their own on the Ruins of the former,—they have not abandoned Messrs. Locke, Molineux, Priestly, and Price, with all their visionary Schemes of universal Freedom, and Liberty of Choice.
[* ]Happy would it have been for Great Britain, had the Colonies come to this Determination 50 or 60 Years ago; for then we should have avoided two most expensive and bloody Wars, and, to speak the honest Truth, very unjust ones, entered into for their Sakes. But better late, than never. America ever was a Mill-Stone hanging on the Neck of this Country; and is we would not cast it off, the Americans have done it for us.