Chapter 10 of the forms of a Common-wealth - Granite Grok

Chapter 10 of the forms of a Common-wealth

John Locke

Locke begins by defining the three fundamental forms of government. When men first unite into a society, they have all the power of the community naturally in themselves.

If they should all meet together from time to time to make or amend the laws of the community, and to appoint officers to execute those laws; then the perfect form of government is a democracy.

If they put that power of making the laws and appointing the officers into the hands of a few select men, however, they are appointed, it is an oligarchy.

If they vest that power in the hands of one man, it is a monarchy.

If the power transfers to his heirs, it is a hereditary monarchy.

If the power ends with him, for him to nominate a new monarch, it is an elective monarchy.

If the power of making laws is temporary, then when the power reverts to the people, it is their discretion as to what form the government will take next. The form of government depends upon where they place the legislative power, the supreme power of making laws. It is impossible to conceive than an inferior power would prescribe to a superior power, therefore the legislative power is the supreme power in government.

A commonwealth is any form of government which the people choose. A commonwealth is that which is independent.

Of the States comprising the United States of America, most define themselves in their Constitutions as Commonwealths. New Hampshire and several others describe themselves as free-sovereign and independent States. They were all recognized as such in the Articles of Confederation.

Generally, governments are layered, small governments within large.

Towns and counties in our States are recognized as political subdivisions of the State; whereas the States are sovereign and independent, commonwealths.

New England is fairly unique in that the towns are generally democracies, where every inhabitant has a vote in the local ordinances. But as the size of the community is increased, democracy becomes unwieldy at best. The making of laws is placed in smaller groups of men. We see this in cities, where the form of government of the town is transitioned from the people at town meeting to a city council.

The form of government in all our larger communities is that of an oligarchy, a republic. What is important is how that oligarchy is selected. Being selected by the people directly they are democratic, the term of office, method of selection, and the extent of their powers being defined in written Constitutions; they are constitutional, democratic republics.

The formation of our States and our Declaration of Independence are often hailed as unique in the history of mankind. They are not.

The first implementation of Locke’s principles of government was the Glorious Revolution of 1689. James II having fled to Europe and raising an army to conquer England, the English declared themselves to be in a State of Nature. This was codified in the English Bill of Rights drafted by John Locke and adopted by Parliament.

The English Bill of Rights and our Declaration of Independence are eerily similar. Many of the indictments against king George were the same as those against king James. Parliament then elected William of Orange and Mary to be their king and queen, conditional on their acceptance of the Enlish Bill of Rights. It was considered an imperfect implementation of Locke’s principles as it resulted in a monarchy.

When the process was repeated in the American War for Independence, it was considered the first complete implementation of Locke’s principles.