We should stop here and consider Locke's historical context for a moment. Locke was writing in a time in which rulers often claimed divine right over their subjects; in other words, they justified their absolute power by ascribing it to the word of God, or by actually claiming to be descended from God. Locke's Treatise establishes a new framework for executive power, in which kings and leaders become accountable for their actions, which must meet with public approval.

What then are to we to make of Locke's appeal to "heaven" for judgment on the question of executive prerogative at the end of Chapter 14? When Locke speaks here of the "law antecedent and paramount to all positive laws of men," he refers to the law of nature. If the ruler is abusing executive prerogative, then the people are in a worse position under that leadership than they would be in the state of nature. In this case, they must consult their own rational understanding of natural law--their natural rights and privileges--and see if these rights have been violated. If so, the people must rebel against that leader. Locke almost always returns to the situation in which the people have the right to rebel. Remember that his immediate aim is to defend the Whig Rebellion, to describe the circumstances surrounding the overthrow of King James II and the replacement of William and Mary.

Chapter 15 is simply a rephrasing of material covered before, enhanced by Locke's bolstered explanations of consensual political power, and how it differs from the natural, limited power granted parents over their children, and from the unnatural, unlimited power seized by despots over the life and property of others (See Chapters 3 (Of the State of War), 6 (Of Paternal Power), and 7 (Of Political or Civil Society) for a fuller discussion of all of these conditions).

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