"... whenever the Legislators endeavour to take away, and destroy the Property of the People, or to reduce them to Slavery under Arbitrary Power, they put themselves into a state of War with the People, who are thereupon absolved from any farther Obedience, and are left to the common refuge which God hath provided for all men against force and violence. ... [Power then] devolves to the People, who have a Right to resume their original Liberty, and, by the Establishment of a new Legislative (such as they shall think fit) provide for their own Safety and Security, which is the end for which they are in Society."
by:
John Locke
(1632-1704) English philosopher and political theorist. Considered the ideological progenitor of the American Revolution and who, by far, was the most often non-biblical writer quoted by the Founding Fathers of the USA.
Source:
Second Treatise of Civil Government [1690], #222 (Lasslet Edition, Cambridge University Press, 1960), p. 460-461; French translation by David Mazel (1691): Traité de gouvernement civil (Paris: Garnier-Flammarion, 1984), pp. 348-349
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Reader comments about this quote:
Interesting quote.... but the only way this is reflected in the Constitution is through the regular voting cycles. How, then, does one replace the Legislature if they are not acting in accordance with the people's instructions between elections?
 -- Bob, Reston, VA, USA     
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    Good question -- answered in about half the states by Initiative & Referendum. Otherwise ..."comes the revolution!" ...always an option which legislators don't think about. Until it's too late.
     -- Senor Reek, Corozal, Belize, Central America     
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    Every Legislator at every level of government from city to federal should be required to Memorize this quote and write an essay on what it means to them as a prerequisite for election to office after public scrutiny and rateings on their essays.
     -- KS, Queensbury,NY.     
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    The problem is the people are too ignorant to know that they have been warred upon until everything is lost. Mass brainwashing of the people by the powerful has never been as efficient and complete as it is now.
     -- Dick Trice, Fort Worth     
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    In other words, we are at war.
     -- P.M.     
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    With: "A well regulated militia, BEING NECESSARY ["to nip in the bud" all that ails a moral and discerning populace IN COMMAND of each part of THEIR OWN choice of LIMITED government]...!", need we more of a reminder that in its Eternal War On Individual Liberty, the only FINAL SOLUTION the reptilian conflagration of unlimited government can comprehend is the whole people addressing violations directly and in concert, AND WITH A VERY BIG STICK in hand? After all, is not the price of THEIR Liberty to BE PAID BY the whole people the very costly one of Eternal Vigilance? But one of the two fingers held high in the "V" For Victory sign, if that price is the index finger, is not the other finger the armed, discerning, and organized, citenzenry on guard, and at all times necessary, ready to stick the BIG STICK? Remember the VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT? Everyone is ready to fight the destruction of a home if, for no other reason, than they DEPEND ON THEIR NEIGHBORS, if the time comes, to help save theirs. Does not our hard-won American Liberty deserve THAT much security? If there ever could even be such a thing as "good" government, it has been said, Government AFRAID OF the people, is "good" government. THIS is The American Dream: well-watered allodial land, hard money, and IMMUNITIES from unlimited government.
     -- John Mills, Berkeley, California Republic     
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    Let me learn more about John Locke. that's it. That's what it's all about. Why, why, please tell me why politicians of today don't understand this!
     -- Bill, Chicago     
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    very nice
     -- Anon, Riverside     
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    The Supreme Court has been doing this to us for many years now. The President and the congress feel it is their turn now.
     -- cal, lewisville, tx     
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    Its time to clean up this mess and make a clean sweep of the bureaucrats, but to do this we must change the voting laws. If you don't pay taxes you don't vote, only citizens who pay taxes should be allowed to vote, anyone receiving a government subsidy, i.e. food stamps, supplemental housing, welfare or incarcerated should not be allowed to vote. Individual states must take back the authority that has been stolen by the federal government and the federal government must only be allowed to be involved in areas as mandated by the constitution.
     -- EAB, Glen St. Mary, FL     
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    It appears parts of the Declaration of Independence were eloquent reiterations of Locke. As stated, now that the executive and judiciary have joined in legislating tyranny, it is an individual right of We The People to re-institute an individual sovereign's representative republic of law and justice for safety and security, which is the end for which we are in society. No individual is safe or secure when foreign despots exercise compelled compliance, license, victimless crimes, larceny with impunity (theft of the noble laborer's fruits, funny money - having no intrinsic, tangible, or otherwise inherent value, redistribution of wealth contrary to individual right and/or centuries established rules and statutes, etc.), etc.
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
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    "We cannot but be astonished at the ease with which men resign themselves to ignorance about what is most important for them to know; and we may be certain that they are determined to remain invincibly ignorant if they once come to consider it as axiomatic that there are no absolute principles." ~ Frederic Bastiat
     -- J Carlton, Calgary     
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    Bill,Chicago, the politicians DO understand this, and they don't care. They are mainly into power and re-election.
     -- jim k, austin     
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     -- jim k, austin      
    The ability to destroy the Property of the People, or reduce them to Slavery under Arbitrary Power wears many disguises to fool its victims. When a form of tyranny is exposed, it is simply replaced with another. "Would you tell me please, Mr. Howard... why should I trade one tyrant 3,000 miles away for 3,000 tyrants one mile away?"
     -- Benjamin Martin, South Carolina     
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    Hmmm. He must have read the Bhagavad Gita (Chapet two). Good post John (no family connections to The John Mills?) A great book John Mill's on Liberty.
     -- RBESRQ     
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    A perfect discribtion of DEMOCRACY which we have had and improved upon since 1787. We have a new legislature every two years, with the election of the House and Senate.
     -- Waffler, Smith     
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    Just in case there are any new bloggers here, Waffler redefines words, and concepts like Democracy, freedom, and liberty and is very selective about what history he picks to give his despotic spin to. As defined in 1787, democracy was one of the most feared and despised forms of tyranny rejected by the founders, consequently guaranteeing a representative republic. And, the fascist theocracy that now occupies this land only allows the once sovereign to elect persons that represent the theocracy. We The People no longer have a representative republic.
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
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    One of Locke's main principles that made him such a revolutionary thinker is that he argued that man never abdicates his rights within a society, but merely delegates to a select group of men certain enumerated "duties" wherein this small group of men could act. "Abdicate" here is the key word, because it assumes that the people never "give up" anything whatsoever to government... and that once government has overstepped their bounds from the duties wherein the people could actually give them power, then all power returns to the people individually. Locke argued this in the face of Hobbes; Hobbes argued that man "gave up" his rights to government, and that once "given up" they could not be assumed except for wherein government would grant them back. This "license" that Hobbes built his political theory on was rejected by Locke who said that government had no natural or other ability to "license" anything whatsoever -- because government was not a separate institution from the people, but was in fact the people themselves. The masses could not do anything over the minority that one single individual could not do over another single individual.
     -- Logan, Memphis, TN     
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    Initiative .308 is always an option (7.62 will do too).
     -- Ken, Allyn, WA     
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    All of Mikes blashemous illiterate spewing forth changes nothing about what I said. With our DEMOCRACY we change our legislature(s) constanly. Logan ditto. These guys make long winded inane statements but fail to recognize the subtle, even humble straight forward fact that we have the legislatures that we want via constant elections throughtout the states and nation. Their failures to recoginize this goes a long way to understanding their lack of faith and trust in their fellow men, neighbors and citizens and you and I who go to the effort to send people of our choosing to these offices. They don't trust the legislatures because they don't trust us. They probably don't even trust themselves.
     -- Waffler, Smith     
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    There is nothing I dislike more than bad arguments for a cause I hold dear, Waffler. The quote is not about kicking the unjust out of office by voting in the 'right' people. It is saying that once legislators (elected or otherwise) take away or destroy the property of the people and attempt to exercise arbitrary rule over the People, it is WAR, and we have no duty to obey them nor wait until an election in hopes that they will lose their hold on power OVER the people. This is absolutely NOT about democracy, it is about the individual's right to conscience and holding the legislators to account. There is no obligation to follow unlawful statutes until they are repealed by legislation -- they will never be repealed if we continue to obey unjust legislation. I find it another clue to Waffler's character when he calls Mike's comments about his views as 'blasphemous'! 'Nuff said.
     -- E Archer, NYC     
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     -- Anonymous      
    "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." -- Thomas Jefferson Liberty is not about "voting in the right people". Liberty is about preventing the government (right people or wrong) from over stepping the bounds imposed upon them by the Constitution. Perhaps some have forgotten the first few lines of the Declaration? "When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation." IF the government refuses to respect liberty then that government MUST be overthrown (peacefully or not). Let the cowards cower on their porches and watch the smoke and flame of the rebirth of liberty (assuming they have the spine for even that). I need them not. Stand aside and let the real men restore the grand and glorious Republic.
     -- The Dude, Warrensburg     
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