Excerpts from Second Treatise of Civil Government
Of the State of Nature
To understand political power aright, and derive it from its original, we must consider what estate 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 hounds of the laws of Nature, without asking leave
or depending upon the will of any other man.
A state also of equality, wherein all the power and jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having more than
another, there being nothing more evident than that creatures of the same species and rank,
promiscuously born to all the same advantages of Nature, and the use of the same faculties, should also
be equal one amongst another, without subordination or subjection, unless the lord and master of them
all should, by any manifest declaration of his will, set one above another, and confer on him, by an
evident and clear appointment, an undoubted right to dominion and sovereignty ....
But though this be a state of liberty, yet it is not a state of license; though man in that state have an
uncontrollable liberty to dispose of his person or possessions, yet he had not liberty to destroy himself,
or so much as any creature in his possession, but where some nobler use than its bare preservation calls
for it. The state of Nature has a law of Nature to govern it, which obliges everyone, and reason, which is
that law, teaches all mankind who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought
to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions .... And, being furnished with like faculties,
sharing all in one community of Nature, there cannot be supposed any such subordination among us
that may authorize us to destroy one another, as if we were made for one another's uses, as the inferior
ranks of creatures are for ours. Everyone as he is bound to preserve himself, and not to quit his station
willfully, so by the like reason, when his own preservation comes not in competition, ought be as much
as he can to preserve the rest of mankind, and not unless it be to do justice on an offender, take away or
impair the life, or what tends to the preservation of life, the liberty, health, limb, or goods of another.
And that all men may be restrained from invading others' rights, and from doing hurt to one another,
and the law of Nature be observed, which willed the peace and preservation of all mankind, the
execution of the law of Nature is in that state put into every man's hands, whereby everyone has a right
to punish the transgressors of that law to such a degree as may hinder its violation. For the law of
Nature would, as all other laws that concern men in this world, be in vain if there were nobody that in
the state of Nature had a power to execute that law, and thereby preserve the innocent and restrain
offenders; and if anyone in the state of Nature may punish another for any evil he has done, everyone
may do so. For in that state of perfect equality, where naturally there is no superiority or jurisdiction of
one over another, what any may do in prosecution of that law, everyone must needs have a right to do.
And thus, in the state of Nature, one man comes by a power over another, but yet no absolute or
arbitrary power to use a criminal, when he has got him in his hands, according to the passionate heats or
boundless extravagancy of his own will, but only to reattribute him so far as calm reason and conscience
dictate, what is proportionate to his transgression, which is so much as may serve for reparation and restraint.
Every offence that can be committed in the state of Nature may, in the state of Nature, be also punished
equally, and as far forth, as it may, in a commonwealth. For-though it would be beside my present
purpose to enter here into the particulars of the law of Nature, or its measures of punishment, yet it is
certain there is such a law, and that too as intelligible and plain to a rational creature and a studier of
that law as the positive laws of commonwealths, nay, possibly plainer; as much as reason is easier to be
understood than the fancies and intricate contrivances of men, following contrary and hidden interests
put into words.
Of the Ends of Political, Society and Government
If man in the state of Nature be so free as has been said, if he be absolute lord of his own person and
possessions, equal to the greatest and subject to nobody, why will he part with his freedom, this empire,
and subject himself to the dominion and control of any other power? To which it is obvious to answer,
that though in the state of Nature he hath such a right, yet the enjoyment of it is very uncertain and constantly
exposed to the invasion of others; for all being kings as much as he, every man his equal, and the
greater part no strict observers of equity and justice, the enjoyment of the property he has in this state
is very unsafe, very insecure. This makes him willing to quit this condition which, however free, is full of
fears and continual dangers; and it is not without reason that he seeks out and is willing to join in society
with others who are already united, or have a mind to unite for the mutual preservation of their lives,
liberties, and estates, which I call by the general name- property.
The great and chief end, therefore, of men uniting into commonwealths, and putting themselves under
government, is the preservation of their property; to which in the state of Nature there are many things
Firstly, there wants an established, settled, known law, received and allowed by common consent to be
the standard of right and wrong, and the common measure to decide all controversies between them.
For though the law of Nature be plain and intelligible to all rational creatures, yet men, being biased by