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Handout D: Analysis: James Otis and John Locke’s Theory of Natural Rights


Excerpts from John Locke’s Second Treatise of Civil Government (1690)

Directions: After reading the excerpts from James Otis’s The Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved (1764) on Handout C and excerpts from John Locke’s Second Treatise of Civil Government (1690) below, write a sentence summarizing the main ideas of each paragraph. Then, write a sentence explaining how Otis was influenced by the natural rights theory of John Locke.

1. Men [are] by nature all free, equal, and independent. No one can be put out of this estate and subjected to the political power of another without his own consent, which is done by agreeing with other men, to join and unite into a community for their comfortable, safe, and peaceable living, one amongst another, in a secure enjoyment of their properties, and a greater security….

2. But though men when they enter into society give up the equality, liberty, and . . . power they had in the state of Nature into the hands of the society . . . yet it [is for] the better to preserve himself, his liberty and property. . . . And all this to be directed to no other end but the peace, safety, and public good of the people.

3. [Men are in] a state . . . of equality . . . and 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.

4. [Men] 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 . . . putting themselves under government, is the preservation of their property.

Source: “Second Treatise of Civil Government.” The Constitution Society. <>.

Paragraphs Otis’s Main Idea Locke’s Main Idea How was Otis influenced by natural rights theory?