Locke's Second Treatise on Civil Government

by: John Locke

Chapters 14–15: Of Prerogative and Of Paternal, Political, and Despotical Power (treated together)

1

[B]ut if there comes to be a question between the executive power and the people, about a thing claimed as a prerogative; the tendency of the exercise of such prerogative to the good or hurt of the people, will easily decide that question.

2

That the reigns of good princes have been always most dangerous to the liberties of their people: for when their successors, managing the government with different thoughts, would draw the actions of those good rulers into precedent, and make them the standard of their prerogative, as if what had been done only for the good of the people was a right in them to do, for the harm of the people, if they so pleased[.]

3

And where the body of the people, or any single man, is deprived of their right, or is under the exercise of a power without right, and have no appeal on earth, then they have a liberty to appeal to heaven, whenever they judge the cause of sufficient moment.

4

Despotical power is an absolute, arbitrary power one man has over another, to take away his life, whenever he pleases.