NATURE, LABOR AND PROPERTY: JUSTIFYING EUROPEAN SETTLEMENT AND ESTABLISHING A GOVERNMENT IN THE AMERICAS

Topics: United States Declaration of Independence, John Locke, Political philosophy Pages: 7 (2487 words) Published: January 9, 2014
1492. A year just as important as the end of geological periods like the ice age according to Alfred W. Crosby. Or as Adam Smith calls the discovery of America as one of the greatest and most important event recorded in history of mankind (13). The encounter of the Old World with the New World has provided serious consequences for the European colonists as for the Indians. After the encounter, immigrants and colonizers decided to come to the Western hemisphere for various reasons; new opportunities, prosperity, spiritual obligation or to escape of the old authority from Europe. European settlers did not have in mind that the Indians already inhabited these grounds. However, the Europeans saw these grounds of America as an opportunity; according to John Locke, it could be their property when it is obtained with their labor. Europeans therefore seized the lands while Indians already inhabited these lands. The establishment of Europeans in the Americas has put forth the increasing value of the lands of America with labor, although it was at the expense of Indians. Although John Locke wrote his ‘Two Treaties of Government’ after the Europeans had already settled, his theory about nature, labor and property has justified Europeans seizing America for acquiring property at the expense of Indians. Moreover, his theory has had an impact on the American Revolution and the need of a government in the Americas. Locke’s theory begins with that all men are in a state of nature; all men are free “to order their actions, and dispose of their possession and persons, as they think fit, within the bound of the law of nature (par. 4). In the state of nature, one does not have to obey others, but one is a judge of oneself of what the law of nature requires. Locke furthermore argues that God gave the world to men in common, however it is not supposed to remain common and uncultivated (par. 34). The reason that it should not remain common and uncultivated because God gave it “to people for their benefit, and the greatest conveniences of life they were capable to draw from it” (par. 34). Locke then claims that with the labor of his body, and with the works of his hand, whatsoever then he removes out of the state that nature has provided. Therefore, “he has mixed his labor with and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property” (par. 26). Although God gave the world in common, people will draw benefit from these grounds with their labor and makes it their property, thus uncommon. Europeans saw opportunity in the lands of America, since it was yet uncultivated, common and the lands were seen as infinite. In Jacob Steendam his poem ‘The Praise of New-Netherland’, he gives a description of the land of America and its potential; “You seem the masterpiece of nature’s hand” (245). Steendam was also convinced that much of that land is yet uncultivated and not colonized by other countries: “That land, which, as I know, no proper rival has” (Steendam 61). If a piece of land such as the Americas will remain common for everybody and without agriculture, this piece of land will have little value. However, when labor is done on that piece of land, it will be much more valuable according to Locke; “labor puts the difference of value on everything” (par. 40). If labor is enhanced on a piece of land, “[one] will find, that the improvement of labor makes the far greater part of the value” (par. 40). Therefore, the ground of America has so little value, since it is without labor according to Locke (par. 36). The main reason why Indians did not include labor on their soil is because Indians had different views on the use, or exploiting the soil of Earth. Indians and settlers differ in “ [as] what they saw as resources and how they thought those resources should be utilized” (Cronon 166). Most of the resources Indians produced, were often for the consumption of their corresponding household whereas European...

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