Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and Samuel Rutherford

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In 1642 England was starting to seek for changes in the way their government was set up. John Locke and Samuel Rutherford were the leaders of this change, calling for the removal of an absolute monarch. Their works would be opposed by the ideas of Thomas Hobbes, during this eighteen-year civil war in England. The ideas represented in this period would heavily influence the way England’s government would be set up in the eighteenth century. In 1644 Bishop Ross, also known as John Maxwell, published Sacro-Sancta Regum Majestas.The article’s ideas centered on Calvinist resistance theory and the political theory of Spanish neo-scholastics. In response Samuel Rutherford came out with his publication, Lex Rex, which translates to “Law is King”. This was the first document proposing rule by law and consisted of 44 questions. In Rutherford’s opinion, power was immediately from God in root. With that being his focus he concluded that not only should the king not be above the law but should also be subject to it. Lex Rex is the “Greatest work on the foundation, nature and constitutional government, the Civil Magistrate, and the separate but mutual relationship of Church and State” (Ford).

The contents of Lex Rex develop the idea of a separation of powers between legislative, executive and judicial functions. They are to balance one another in no particular order to combine the best features of monarchic, aristocratic and democratic forms of government. He believes that the real sovereign is the people and that all government officials, including the monarch, should be subject to the rule of law and the rule of men as well. A monarch is contrary to God’s will because it requires subjects to surrender total control to a fallible ruler. The position of an absolute ruler is an intoxicating and corruptive force that would potentially lead to negative outcomes. The implementation of laws and government serving as a check upon the ruler would be in the best interest of the people (Auchter). In his preferred government the King’s power would be lost when he violates the law because it is a right and even more a duty for the people to resist such an infraction.

The ideas contributed in Lex Rex provided a bridge between early natural law philosophers and those who would further develop these ideas. The publication planted the seeds to the type of government that would be laid not only in England but in America as well. Shortly into his reign as king, Charles II made it illegal to own a copy of the publication and had them all burned. There are only four confirmed copies left today.

John Locke was a philosopher and political theorist from England. He is greatly known for his contributions to liberalism and empiricism. His faith relied in that of human reasoning and believed that just societies were those, which infringed minimally on natural rights and freedoms of its subjects. He claimed that a legitimate government depended on the consent of those being governed. This philosophy was taken greatly into consideration when the founding fathers were drawing up the United States’ Declaration of Independence. Locke was known to preach private property and limited government. Locke’s association with Anthony Cooper (First Earl of Shaftesbury) led him to become successively a government official charged with collecting information about trade and colonies, economic writer, opposition political activist, and and finally a revolutionary whose cause ultimately triumphed in the Glorious Revolution of 1688 (Uzgalis). Locke’s two major contributiong pieces of work are Two Treatises of Government and Essay Concerning Human Understanding.

In Two Treatises of Government, Locke claims that the sovereignty resides in the people and he explains that humans naturally lived in a state of absolute freedom and quality with no government of any sorts. The earliest form of humans only had to follow the law of Nature. During this time individuals allowed...
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