6 Locke, Newton

Dangers of Covenant Theology, Part 6: A Critique of Gary North’s Anti-Constitutionalism

Copyright 2006, updated Section 5, 2012.

Vern Crisler

Rough Draft

1.  Introduction

2.  Thomas Hobbes and Unlimited Government

3.  John Locke and Limited Government

4.  Isaac Newton: Founding Father?

5.  Appendix: Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Forced Freedom

1.  Introduction

Gary North points out that defenders of liberty in the American colonies appealed to the second of John Locke’s two treatises of government in defending political liberty, but this is not seen by North in a positive light:

“The fact remains, however, that John Locke, who was a cautious trinitarian, made no mention of Christianity in presenting the case for political liberty in his Second Treaties of Government….”  (Conspiracy in Philadelphia, p. 26.)

The fact that Locke made no mention of Christianity in his second treatise means precisely what?  Apparently, in North’s view, it ultimately led to an American Enlightenment that was hostile to Christianity, even though subdued for political reasons.  (Ibid., p. 28.)  “What we must understand,” says North, “is that the U.S. Constitution is in large part a product of a rhetorical Enlightenment appeal back to the Greco-Roman world, yet it was in fact something quite modern: specifically, a reaction against the Puritanism of both seventeenth-century American colonialism and the Puritanism of the Cromwellian revolution of 1642-60.”   (Ibid., p. 30.)

While North is right that Locke does not discuss Christianity in his second treatise, Locke still cited at least one New Testament verse (Chap. VI:52), and also cited the Old Testament quite frequently, especially the story of Jephthah (Chap. VIII:109).  The reason Locke discusses the Old Testament so much is that the history of Israel provides examples of the formation of government, which is to Locke’s purpose.  Moreover, the defenders of absolutism often appealed to the Bible to support their positions, and Locke felt it necessary to undermine such views by affirming the true teaching of the Bible.  As North admits, Locke was a trinitarian (cautious or not), and he did after all write a defense of Christianity.  Moreover, the founder of contract theory, Thomas Hobbes, had written extensively about Christian theology in Leviathan and other works, so there was no need for Locke to repeat all of it.

Before discussing Locke, it will help us to understand him better if we consider the other great political philosopher of the age, Thomas Hobbes.

2.  Thomas Hobbes and Unlimited Government

Thomas Hobbes began modern political science with a book called Leviathan.  Born under the reign of Elizabeth I, he came late to philosophy and mathematics, not having written much before he was 52 years old.  The storm and strife leading to the English civil war stirred up his pen, and he came down on the side of the royalists, blaming the Calvinistic universities for stirring up rebellion in England.  He feared Parliamentary retaliation for his political writings (Elements of Law), so he left for France before the actual outbreak of civil war between the Parliament and King Charles I.  While there he became a tutor for Charles II, who would one day favor Hobbes after the Restoration.  Hobbes died of a stroke in 1679, and one epitaph, playing on Hobbes’ theistic materialism, said:

“Ninety years’ eating and immortal jobs

Here matter lies, and there’s an end of Hobbes!”

Some have claimed that Hobbes was an atheist or that his philosophy led to atheism, but Hobbes denied that either view could be inferred from his writings.  Anyone who has ever read Leviathan or his other important works, Human Nature or De Corpore Politico (both from The Elements of Law) can see that Hobbes is a devout Christian.  He for instance speaks of the “coming again of our blessed Saviour,” and that the “writers of the New Testament lived all in less than an age after Christ’s ascension, and had all of them seen our Saviour,” etc. (Cf., Leviathan, Part 3, “Of a Christian Commonwealth,” passim.)  In fact, a great deal of Hobbes’ writings are taken up with expositions of the Bible, and discussions of theological topics.  The second part of Leviathan involves many polemical arguments against Roman Catholicism, and a chapter in Human Nature (XVIII) attempts to show that Hobbes’ political philosophy is consistent with biblical teachings, etc.

From our perspective, aside from Hobbes’ absolutist view of government, his basic problem is not atheism, but nominalism.  His understanding of theological topics is comparable to his understanding of geometry—he is like a bull in a china shop.  If it could be said of Thomas Jefferson in a later day that he had no mind for theology, it could be said of Hobbes that he certainly had a mind for it, but no talent.  Just as he was always trying to square the circle in geometry, so Hobbes was attempting to square nominalism with biblical theology, and in both cases, the attempt was doomed to failure.  (Cf., Leviathan, Chapter XXXIV, where he denies any meaning, in nominalistic fashion, to the concept of incorporeal substance.)

Hobbes’ basic political philosophy starts with the premiss that the state of nature (man’s natural state) is one of constant warfare, of man against man:

“Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of war, where every man is enemy to every man….In such condition, there is…continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”  (Leviathan, Part I, Chapter 13:9.)

In order for man to free himself from this state, a compact is formed in which each man gives up the natural right to all things.  Hobbes denies that this compact is a covenant with God (Ibid., Chap. 14:23; 18:3), since such a covenant would require supernatural mediation (as in ancient Israel).  He would thus reject covenant theology, and the idea that a national covenant with God can undermine the sovereign’s authority (e.g., the Scots’ national covenant vis-à-vis Charles I).  Once the compact is agreed to, the resulting state of peace is based on natural laws (justice, equity, mercy, etc.), discernable by reason, and the common power that enforces these laws is the sovereign (Ibid., Chap. 17:2, 13-15).  The compact does not involve a covenant between the people and the sovereign, since the compact is an agreement that the people make with each other before the mode of sovereignty is chosen.  Once a compact is established, and the sovereign set up by the majority, any man or group of men who violently dissent from the sovereign’s will are returning to the state of nature, and may be “destroyed by any man whatsoever” (Ibid., Chap. 18:5).

There can be no division of powers in a commonwealth, for such a division leads to civil war (Ibid., Chap. 18:16).  The sovereign must be unlimited in power in order to keep men from sliding back into the state of war, and the subjects cannot change the form of government without leave of the sovereign (Ibid., Chap 18:3, 20).  Men cannot lawfully resist the sovereign power.  (De Corpore, XXVII:4.)  Nor can the sovereign power be subject to any law except the law of God, though this latter subjection appears to be inconsistent with Hobbes’ absolutist view of the sovereign power.  (Ibid., XXVII:6.)  Nevertheless, in Hobbes’ view, no sovereign can be justly punished, or be deposed, or be put to death.  (Ibid., XXVII:10.)  Since in a social compact, every subject is the author of the sovereign’s acts, to punish a sovereign is to punish another for one’s own actions.  (Leviathan, Chap 18:7.)

Would not this governmental absolutism lead to the evil consequences of despotism and oppression?  Hobbes answer is that there are worse things than these:

“So that it appears plainly, to my understanding, both from reason, and Scripture, that the sovereign power…is as great, as possibly men can be imagined to make it.  And though of so unlimited a power, men may fancy many evil consequences, yet the consequences of the want of it, which is perpetual war of every man against his neighbor, are much worse.”  (Leviathan, Chap. 21:18.)

Thus, Hobbes believed that the calamities and miseries that accompany civil war far outweigh any evils that are brought about by despotism.  Men become so focused on little grievances about the sovereign that they cannot see far away to the consequences of civil collapse.  (Ibid., Chap. 18:20.)

One can undermine Hobbes’ argument for governmental absolutism in two ways.  First suppose that what Hobbes says is true, that nature is bloody in tooth and claw.  Why does it require an unlimited government as the solution?  Why not just enough government in order to counteract the state of nature, which Hobbes believes is a state of war?  Hobbes’ mistake is a disjunctive fallacy, wherein he fails to exhaust all the alternatives.  Perpetual war in the state of nature, and absolute government in the state of society are simply not the only alternatives.  A second way to undermine Hobbes’ conclusion would be to attack his premiss that the state of nature is a state of war.  This was Locke’s argument, that the state of nature is not nasty, poor, brutish, and short, as Hobbes had claimed, and if it is not so bad, then it does not require an absolute government to counteract it.  A limited government would be sufficient as an alternative to the infelicities or insecurities of nature.

3.  John Locke and Limited Government

John Locke was born in 1632 and died in 1704, a period of time that saw the English civil wars and the dethronement and execution of Charles I, the rise of Cromwell and the Protectoral administration, the Restoration of Charles II, and finally the Glorious Revolution under William and Mary.  These were certainly momentous times for political theory.  Locke’s father had served with the Parliamentary forces under Alexander Popham during the first civil war.  Through Popham’s influence in Parliament, the son was able to attend the superior Westminster School, and Locke would later spend many years studying medicine and the natural philosophy of the day.  Ironically, Locke’s earliest political views were similar to those of Hobbes—though somewhat less authoritarian—but he never published these views.  He even welcomed the Restoration under Charles 2, defended Anglicanism, and believed that government should establish the church.  However, his views changed considerably over time, and began to reflect the political tradition coming out of the English civil wars during the days of Cromwell.  (Cf., ed. Peter Laslett, Locke’s Two Treatises of Government, 1960, p. 21.)

Locke would later be associated with Anthony Cooper, the earl of Shaftesbury, first by directing an operation that saved his life in a medical operation, then becoming a confidante in matters of government, and an instructor to his grandchildren; also, a writer on philosophical topics, and even an economist.  One need only think of Franklin, Madison, and Jefferson combined in order to understand Locke’s brilliance and the variety of his interests.  The association with Shaftesbury helped to stir up Locke’s political interests, and he would later support the earl’s attempts to persuade Charles II to reject his brother James II from the succession.  After the Rye House Plot brought suspicion on all critics of government, Locke had to go into exile until the Glorious Revolution of 1688.  His debt of gratitude to his deceased friend Shaftsbury turned out to be his last work, a defense of the earl.

Locke believed in the right of revolution.  This is what sets him apart from Hobbes, and it is also what distinguishes him so much in the eyes of Americans.  If the circumstances warrant it–if the despotism of the king or parliament became too great–the people had the right to resist by violent means.  Locke did not confuse the abstract and the concrete.  In fact, his argument that the people can resist tyranny assumes that the concrete situation can be compared with the ideal situation, so they must remain distinct.

According to Locke, men originally exist in a state of nature and are free to act, or regulate their property or persons as they wish, subject only to the laws of nature.  (Second Treatise, 4; hereafter II:n.)  As noted, he did not believe this state of nature was as brutish as Hobbes believed, and his view of government was not perforce authoritarian as a remedy.  In Locke’s state of nature, men are equal unless God declares by express revelation that a particular individual has the right to rule.  The liberty that exists in the state of nature is not one of licentiousness, for men do not have the right to destroy themselves, or kill other men–as they would kill mere animals.  All men are the “workmanship of one omnipotent, and infinitely wise Maker; all the servants of one sovereign Master…; they are his property, whose workmanship they are, made to last during his, not one another’s pleasure.”  (II:6.)  Because of their status as created beings in the image of God, men are not naturally subordinate to each other, and furthermore must seek to preserve the life of their fellow men.  In the state of nature, every man has the right to defend himself from invasion, or to help those who are threatened with harm.  (II:7.)  Thus, the executive power in the state of nature is with each individual, and its purpose is to uphold divine legislation—the law of God in nature.  (II:13.)  Offenders against these laws are punished in terms of proportionate retribution, for criminals offend against reason and equity, which is “that measure God has set to the actions of men, for their mutual security.”  (II:8.)  Punishment involves either reparation (to a living victim) or deterrence (execution in order to warn others).  (II:11.)

Civil government is instituted, not to rescue men from a Hobbesian state of nature, but as a remedy for the great “inconveniences” of the state of nature.  (II:13.)  Locke brings up an often-repeated question about social contract theory–where have men ever really been in a state of nature?  Locke’s answer is that the state of nature exists with respect to the nations of the world.  Since nations A, B, or C (to illustrate) do not have a higher power over them that can enforce anything upon them, they are in a state of nature with respect to one other, subject only to natural law.  For Locke, a mere contract or agreement is not a state of society.  Alliances between sovereign states or countries are not compacts in the sense intended by social contract theory.  As an example, we might compare the Articles of Confederation with the Constitution.  The first had no real enforcement mechanisms against the sovereign States, so each State was really in a state of nature with respect to every other State.  However, when the Constitution was ratified, with its supremacy clause over national matters, the States left the state of nature and became part of the state of society, a body politic.  (Cf., II:14.)

The laws of nature are absolute, so that no compact can be formed that violates these universal principles.  The purpose of the social compact is to give men a dignified life, so that the hardships of the natural state, of natural independence, can be mitigated through collective organization into political societies.  (II:15.)  The state of nature is clearly distinguished from the state of war.  This is where Locke’s disagreement with Hobbes is the clearest.  A state of nature is merely the lack of a common judge or authority over men (or nations).  The state of war, however, involves a violation of natural law, of the natural rights that men have in the state of nature.  It is the use of “force without right.”  (II:19.)  Those who are subject to such war can only make an “appeal to heaven.”  Locke cites the example of Jephthah and the Ammonites: “May the Lord the Judge, render judgment this day between the children of Israel, and the people of Ammon.”  (NKJV; Judg. 11:27.)  To avoid this state of war, this need to appeal to heaven, is “one great reason of men’s putting themselves into society, and quitting the state of nature.”  (II:21.)

When men enter into a state of society through the social compact they consent to establish a legislative power.  This is freedom under government, but it does not entail a submission so great as to result in slavery to an absolute or arbitrary power:

“For a man, not having the power of his own life, cannot, by compact, or his own consent, enslave himself to any one, nor put himself under the absolute, arbitrary power of another, to take away his life, when he pleases.”  (Second Treatise, 23.)

Men who compact together in a state of society only turn over part of their powers or rights to the collective.  They do not sign away their lives or their liberties for the benefits of civil society.  There would be no point in it.  Being enslaved to an absolute, arbitrary government would outweigh any inconveniences of the state of nature, where men at least have freedom under natural law.  What would be the incentive to join the social compact in such a case?

All men have property in their own persons, which includes labor.  During the early days of the world, land was plentiful and the population was much lower.  (II:27.)  Man was commanded to fill the earth and subdue it, and to have dominion over its wildlife (Gen. 1:28)  Each man therefore had the right to appropriate any land or goods necessary to fulfill this task.  (II:35.)  A man’s application of labor to property set its boundaries, and gave him title to it.  The “enclosure” of land was limited by the work of one’s hands, and all other land not so enclosed was common land.  Much of the world was still held in common, and Locke interestingly refers to America of the 17th century as an example of common land.  The sea was also common, and for the most part still is, so that men can keep any fish they catch in the sea.  Whatever of land or product of land or sea that was necessary for subsistence was a man’s private property.  (II:36.)  During Abraham’s day, his flocks wandered on common land, but due to population pressure (strife among the herdsmen), he and Lot had to separate by consent to different common lands (Gen. 13:5).

Locke made the mistake of thinking that labor conferred value on land (the labor theory of value).  (II:40.)  He should have kept with the original idea that labor confers only title to land or property.  As Menger and other economists have shown, it is the subjective valuation of market participants that confers value on any economic commodity, including land.  Indeed, scarcity and location may be more important to market participants than any previous labor of the landowner.  However, Locke says that labor conveys most of the value of land, not all of it.  And it seems reasonable to suppose that the application of labor to land (in growing crops, or building a house) does make it more valuable in the eyes of the market participants, even if there is no intrinsic value to land itself.

In saying that all men by nature are equal, Locke does not mean that there are no inequalities in life.  Children, for example are not born into the full state of equality.  (II:54.)  Adam was created a perfect man, something not shared by his progeny, and the law of nature demands that parents will raise their imperfect children to maturity and prepare them for a life of freedom.  (II:55.)  Men are born free, but they are not born with the full use of reason, and so a child is free under his father’s protection and authority.  However, the right of a father to control his minor children is not to be compared to a man living under a ruler in society.  The “blinded contenders for monarchy” fail to distinguish these two situations, for it is precisely the full use of reason that allows a man to recognize and follow the moral law.  (II:63.)  Thus, reasonable men are not children and are not to be treated as such in a civil society.  Locke argues, too, that even fathers do not have absolute, arbitrary dominion over their children.  By lack of care, nourishment or education, fathers may lose custody of their children.  Moreover, fathers are under the power of the magistrate in society, and may not deprive their children of their lives or property.  (II:65.)  While children are certainly required to honor their parents all their lives, this is not a right of perpetual command given to parents.  (II:66.)  Thus, even granting an analogy between parenting and civil rulership, the latter cannot be absolute or arbitrary any more than parenting can be.

When men form the social compact, they agree to submit to the administration of that compact by government.  The first act in forming the social contract is by universal consent—“the consent of every individual.”  (II:95.)  The second act is to set up an instrument of government that will proceed by the determinations of the majority.  (II:97.)  If some of the individuals who formed the original contract subsequently refuse to submit to the majority, then the contract thus formed was meaningless.  The “original compact would signify nothing, and be no compact.”  (Idem.)  In addition, the consent of the majority is the only practical way to govern given that first, not all men have the means to participate in the public assembly, and second, that men have contrary opinions on any given subject.  Universal consent on any issue is next to impossible and would destroy the commonwealth.  “Such a constitution as this,” says Locke, “would make the mighty Leviathan of a shorter duration, than the feeblest creatures; and not let it outlast the day it was born in….”  (II:98.)  However, Locke seems somewhat inconsistent on this point.  It is true that submission to the majority rather than unanimous vote is one of the conditions that all must agree to in forming the social compact.  But Locke appears to suggest that the formation of the compact itself is accomplished by majority vote.  (II:99.)  However, this is only due to the convoluted language of the paragraph.  What Locke is saying is that those who form the social contract turn over relevant power to the majority.  He is not saying that the social contract itself is a matter of majority vote, since as noted above, such a social contract requires the consent of every individual.  The question Locke is discussing in section 99 is what exactly are all these individuals consenting to, and his answer is that they are consenting to be governed by the determinations of the majority.

Logically those who disagree with the majority in forming the original compact are simply not participants in the social compact.  They choose to remain in the state of nature.  The social compact itself must be agreed to by all members, or tacitly agreed to by all those who are born to the original members, or who immigrate to the new polity.  Majority rule—a rule that must not violate natural law—only begins after the original compact is formed.  Locke also reaffirms a little later the necessity of universal consent in forming the social compact when he says that political societies “all began from a voluntary union, and the mutual agreement of men freely acting in the choice of their governors, and forms of government.”  (II:102.)  Locke would therefore not have agreed with Rousseau’s formulation that the social contract leads people to be “forced to be free.”  (For further, see our discussion of Rousseau in Section 5, appendix.)

The fact that so many governments have been formed by force or empire rather than by any obvious social contract does not render the social contract invalid as an explanation of how governments should be formed.  Locke clearly denies that ought can be derived from is.  (II:103.)  However, the social compact is an explanation of how the first governments were formed, the information of which is now lost to history.  Locke is really using a kind of utopian critique of current society, but in an indirect way.  He appeals to original commonwealths and to the America Indians as examples of societies that involved cooperation between different families in a state of nature.  (II:105.)  Eventually, it was found to be useful to set up monarchy as the form of government for the earliest societies, but as society became more complex, and the encroachments of the monarch more inconvenient, it became necessary to balance the power of government, by dividing it into different hands.  (II:107.)  This is another major area where Locke disagrees with Hobbes, who objected to the division of powers in government.

Under certain circumstances men have the freedom to separate themselves from their governments or communities.  (II:115.)  If a man has made no explicit declaration of loyalty to a commonwealth, he is free to leave it, and if he has property which is under the jurisdiction of the commonwealth, he must donate or sell the property to the government.  If he fulfills these conditions, he must either join a new polity, or relocate to another place that is free, or that is not possessed by anyone else.  On the other hand, if a man expressly declares his consent to be part of his original commonwealth, he is “perpetually and indispensably obliged to be and remain unalterably a subject to it, and can never be again in the liberty of the state of nature.”  (II:20.)

Locke does not discuss the question of whether the consent of the whole is necessary for any individual to quit the social contract.  He is thinking more in terms of individuals going to other countries—such as France—and declaring themselves citizens of those countries.  Or he is thinking of governments being dissolved, in which case the individual returns to the state of nature by default.  (Idem.)  Thus, Locke does not explicitly address the question of whether someone can unilaterally leave the social contract on the one hand, or must receive the universal consent of all on the other.  If we might anticipate a later discussion, let us refer to Abraham Lincoln’s view on the social contract.  He argued that those who voluntarily enter into a social compact with the consent of all, cannot leave the social compact without the consent of all.  This is a rejection of unilateralism in social contract theory, and it is why he opposed the actions of the southern States when they seceded from the union¾for they did not have the consent of all the members of the union when they separated.  We would regard Lincoln’s universal consent theory as an improvement on Locke’s contract theory.  If it were possible to ask Locke his opinion of the American Civil War, he would probably have said that the South, in order to protect its liberties, had the right of revolution against the Union (just as African slaves would have the right of revolution against the South).  Strangely, the southern states did not appeal to this right, but claimed that they were working within the Constitutional tradition established by the framers.

For Locke, the quitting of individuals from a government—whether legitimate or not—is the origin of the several nations of the world.  (II:113; 115.)  Again, each man must expressly declare his consent either to the old polity or to his new polity, i.e., he must become a citizen.  Foreigners can live quietly in a commonwealth and enjoy its privileges and protections, but this “no more makes a man a member of that society…than it would make a man a subject to another in whose family he found it convenient to abide for some time….”  (II:122.)  A man can only become a member of another family by legal adoption, so a man can only become a member of a body politic by his public consent.  Some forms of separation, however, are not merely by geography or change of citizenship.  Some attack the very society itself in an act of revolution.  Given the voluntary nature of the social compact, how is the theory of revolution compatible with it?  Isn’t Hobbes right that when people form a contract, they give up the right to overturn the government?  Have they not transferred their powers or natural liberties over to the state, which tolerates no rebellion?

In Locke’s view, sovereignty in the abstract (or considered as an ideal) is not to be disobeyed, but in the concrete situation, if a particular king or government strays from the rule of law, this particular king or government can be resisted.  Locke holds that the only supreme power in a commonwealth is the legislative power (in England, the Parliament).  This is not an absolute power, for “there remains still in the people a supreme power to remove or alter the legislative, when they find the legislative act contrary to the trust reposed in them.”  (II:149.)  In addition, the individual ruler or king has almost a supreme power in carrying out the will of the legislature, but his authority is limited.  He cannot, for instance, refuse the meeting and acting of the legislative when circumstances require their sitting.  (II:155.)

This determination of resistance should not be made for light or unimportant reasons.  It is ultimately the people who decide whether the reasons are sufficient to alter the government.  Nevertheless, this “appeal to heaven” (Jephthah being Locke’s favorite example) does not lay a foundation for perpetual disorder.  “But this,” says Locke, “the executive power, or wise princes, never need come in the danger of:  And ’tis the thing of all others, they have most need to avoid, as of all others the most perilous.”  (II:168).  The best way to avoid social unrest is for the ruler to seek the common good rather than his own will and appetite.  (II:200.)  “Wherever law ends, tyranny begins,” says Locke, so that for Locke as long as men have an appeal to law, there should not be any use of force or resistance against civil magistrates.  (II:201; 207.)  Nor is it necessary that men take up arms for every oppression against a few men, for it is only when the majority of the commonwealth are made to feel oppression, that resistance is legitimate.  Men can turn the course of the ship of state only “if a long train of actings show the councils all tending that way [to arbitrary power].”  (II:210.) Locke says:

“[S]uch revolutions happen not upon every little mismanagement in public affairs.  Great mistakes in the ruling part, many wrong and inconvenient laws, and all the slips of human frailty will be borne by the people, without mutiny or murmur.  But if a long train of abuses, prevarications, and artifices, all tending the same way, make the design visible to the people…’tis not to be wondered, that they should then rouse themselves, and endeavor to put the rule into such hands, which may secure to them the ends for which government was at first erected….”  (Second Treatise, 225.)

Far from being a supporter of rebellion and revolution, Locke pointed out that overturning the constitution of a just government is the greatest of crimes.  “And he who does it, is justly to be esteemed the common enemy and pest of mankind; and is to be treated accordingly.”  (II:230.)  Again, Locke answers the question as to who is to determine whether a government is just, or whether a ruler or legislative power acts in a way that is contrary to their trust.  “The people shall judge,” says Locke, for the people are the source of all power in a commonwealth and are the proper umpires of controversies between ruler and ruled.  (II:242.)  Nevertheless, power can revert to the people, and the legislative power devolve back to the people, only if the rulers forfeit their right to rule, and then the people have a right to set up a new government.  (II:243.)

One of Locke’s later critics was Robert L. Dabney, formerly chief of staff to Stonewall Jackson of Civil War fame.  Dabney wrote a fine Systematic Theology, but was also a defender of the Old South, a critic of voting rights for blacks and women, and notoriously a defender of the “righteousness of slavery.”  (Cf., R. L. Dabney, A Defense of Virginia and the South, 1867, Ch. 7:3.)  He blames the social contract theory of Hobbes and Locke for providing the “ground of opposition to slavery.”  Hobbes is dismissed as an atheist (which shows that Dabney must have gotten his Hobbes at second hand) and Locke is regarded as the “baptized image” of Hobbes, “that atheistical philosopher.”  Dabney rightly notes that Locke limits man’s autonomy in the state of nature by natural law, and he further claims that from social contract theory “the injustice of slavery is deduced.”  At one point Dabney shows that he may not have even read Locke first hand:

“Last, all commonwealths have found it necessary to arm the magistrate with some powers, which individuals could not have conferred by a social compact, because they never possessed them.  One of these is the power of life and death.  No man’s life is his own: it belongs to God alone.  One cannot bargain away what is not his own.”

Of course, that is precisely Locke’s argument for limited government.

“For a man,” says Locke, “not having the power of his own life, cannot, by compact, or his own consent, enslave himself to any one, nor put himself under the absolute, arbitrary power of another, to take away his life, when he pleases.”  (II:23.)

It is probably a backhanded compliment to Locke that one of his chief critics was a defender of not only the existence, but also of the righteousness, of slavery.

Is Locke’s political philosophy compatible with Christianity?  Was he a rationalist?  The latter seems unlikely.   The first sentence of his Letters Concerning Toleration says, “The toleration of those that differ from others in matters of religion, is so agreeable to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and to the genuine reason of mankind, that it seems monstrous for men to be so blind as not to perceive the necessity and advantage of it in so clear a light.”  Of course, in Locke’s view (like the American founding fathers) religious toleration did not mean moral pluralism: “Moral actions belong therefore to the jurisdiction both of the outward and inward court; both of the civil and domestic governor; I mean both of the magistrate and conscience.”  Locke was a philosopher and a medical man, not a theologian, and he got himself into needless trouble with the ministers of the day for some of his doctrinal speculations.  For instance, is it an article of faith that our resurrection bodies will be exactly the same as our pre-resurrection bodies down to the last particle of matter?  (Wise men tread lightly in the mine fields of theological debate.)  Hobbes, too, was a school teacher who found theology late, and for his amateurish speculations only brought grief to himself from theologians.  He could at least comfort himself in the knowledge that his geometrical and mathematical speculations faired no better from the mathematicians.  Should philosophers and school teachers be held to as high a standard as theologians?  One expects that philosophers will not always get it right with respect to theology¾perhaps even less than school-teachers.  It should be noted, too, that our founding fathers were mainly lawyers.  Would it not be rather much to expect lawyers to do better than philosophers and school-teachers in understanding the fine points of divinity?

On another question, we might ask whether Locke’s view of the state of nature is more in keeping with the Christian view of things than was Hobbes’.  Some might read the apostle Paul’s discussion of the progressive nature of the sin and idolatry of man and conclude that a Hobbesian state of nature is justified:

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness….For…although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Professing to be wise, they became fools….Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves….God gave them up to vile passions….over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness….”  (Romans 1:18-32.)

And the list goes on, but the Hobbesians forget to read a little farther, for there are actually men who work what is good rather than evil.  These are men who do not have the Mosaic law, like the Jews, but still by nature do good works.

“[F]or when Gentiles, who do not have the [Mosaic] law, by nature do the things contained in the law…who show the work of the law written in their hearts…” (Rom. 2:14-15).

The existence of natural law¾equivalent to the basic moral principles of the law of Moses¾provides the background for the laws of the Gentiles.  Indeed, the Gentiles had very great legal systems (Rome especially), and since these manifestly good laws (in the main) were a reality, they must have come from a divine source.  What they demonstrate is that God has written the work of natural law into the hearts of man, strengthened by conscience, so that men do “by nature” the things contained in the Mosaic law.  It would seem, then, that Locke’s understanding of the state of nature is more in accord with Paul’s teaching than is Hobbes’, for the latter cannot explain how his nasty and brutish state of nature is compatible with the work of the law written on the hearts of men.  These men “by nature” obey the universal moral laws of God (also found in the law of Moses).

Thus, we conclude that there is nothing rationalistic or atheistic in Locke’s view of the human situation, and we can in fact regard Locke as one of the great Christian philosophers of the age.

4.  Isaac Newton: Founding Father?

Gary North makes much ado about the influence of Isaac Newton on the American founding fathers.  (Conspiracy in Philadelphia, pp. 39ff.)  This, however, is one of the wilder claims made by North, and is easily refuted.  Donald Lutz and Charles Hyneman provided a statistical analysis of the sources of the founding father’s ideas.  Surprisingly, in the days before and during the Revolution, the Bible was cited more times than anything else except Enlightenment writers, but as the years led up to the Constitutional period and after, Enlightenment writers were cited less and the Bible was cited more.  (American Political Science Review, 189; 1984, pp. 189-97; tables provided in John Eidsmoe, Christianity and the Constitution, 1987, p. 52.)  The following is a list of the authors most cited by the founding fathers:

1.         Montesquieu                           19.       Shakespeare
2.         Blackstone                              20.       Livy
3.         Locke                                      21.       Pople
4.         Hume                                      22.       Milton
5.         Plutarch                                   23.       Tacitus
6.         Becdaria                                  24.       Coxe
7.         Trenchard & Gordon                 25.       Plato
8.         Delolme                                   26.       Abbé Raynal
9.         Pufendorf                                 27.       Mably
10.       Coke                                        28.       Machiavelli
11.       Cicero                                      29.       Vattel
12.       Hobbes                                    30.       Petyt
13.       Robertson                                31.       Voltaire
14.       Grotius                                    32.       Robison
15.       Rousseau                                 33.       Sidney
16.       Bolingbroke                              34.       Somers
17.       Bacon                                      35.       Harrington
18.       Price                                        36.       Rapin

An examination of the above list shows that Isaac Newton, for all his genius and contributions to science, was not a major source for the founders in regard to political philosophy or constitution making.  The main sources are Montesquieu, Blackstone, and Locke, while Newton does not even show up on the list.  Baron Charles Montesquieu’s The Spirit of the Laws (1748) argued for a separation of powers–that power should be checked by power—and this is why he is the most cited by the framers, who wanted to set up checks and balances in the U.S. Constitution.  Regarding the waxing and waning of the different sources cited by the founders from pre-Revolutionary times to the Constitutional period, Eidsmoe says,

“Locke led in the 1760s and 1770s when America’s foremost concern was independence and the rights of man; Montesquieu and Blackstone led in the 1780s and 1790s when attention was focused on the practical problems of forming a government to secure those rights.”  (Christianity and the Constitution, p. 53.)

Jefferson regarded Bacon, Locke, and Newton as the three great men of the age.  In this he was following the opinion of Voltaire (“On Bacon and Newton,” from his Letters Concerning the English Nation, 1733.)  That they may have been great men is granted, but that Newton had any large influence on the political thought of the American colonists is without foundation in fact.  Even Bacon is not cited much, though he does make the list at number 17.  I looked through the Cambridge Companion to Newton for a chapter on Newton’s political philosophy, but the search was in vain.  At best, Newton was something of a scriptural dabbler, a private anti-trinitarian, perhaps even a closet anabaptist, but as a scientist, he was no more likely to get all of his theology right than a philosopher or lawyer.  Eidsmoe says:  “The main contribution of these scientists to the founding fathers’ knowledge was the concept of a universe, created and sustained by God himself, which operates according to fixed, unchanging natural laws.”  (Eidsmoe, p. 49.).

North thinks that Newton was the pivotal figure in history in turning men away from trinitarianism to deism.  Since North wants to see the U.S. Constitution as a deistic document, he must trace it back to Newton’s private deism in some way.  Despite the complete lack of real evidence for this, North continues to propagate the theory of Newton as the evil éminence grise behind the rise of the modern (secular) world.  Poor Newton.  When the storm that signaled the approaching death of Oliver Cromwell, the great Protector of England, came crashing down upon England, Isaac was not contemplating the tremendous political changes of the era.  Rather, during the storm the 15 year old boy “amused himself by jumping first with the storm and then against it to compute its force by the difference.”  (Antonia Fraser, Cromwell, p. 673.)

5.  Appendix: Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Forced Freedom

We include this appendix in order to gain some perspective on Locke’s philosophy.  In some ways, Rousseau’s philosophy is both the same and also importantly different from Locke’s views, and seeing this will help us better to understand Locke.

Rousseau was born in 1712 in the town of Geneva, famous for having been the place of residence of John Calvin, principle Reformer after Martin Luther.  In 1728, Rousseau left Geneva, converted to Catholicism, and eventually had an affair with Madame de Warens, who also taught him music.  He later made friends with the editor of the Encyclopédie, Denis Diderot, though he disliked his atheism; then bore five children to a laundry-maid, subsequently sending all five to an orphanage; then reconverted to Calvinism, and praised his city of origin, Geneva (though it burned his books).

The political philosophy of Rousseau appears to follow Hobbes to some extent.  When the social contract is formed, the members of the compact give up all of their natural rights or specific wills in order to form what Rousseau called the “general will.”  Because of this, the will of the sovereign cannot be contrary to the will of the subjects who agreed to the contract.  On the other hand, it is possible for a subject to “have a private will contrary to, or different from, the general will….”  As a remedy for this, Rousseau claims that:

“whoever refuses to obey the general will shall be constrained to do so by the whole body, which means nothing other than that he shall be forced to be free.”  (Social Contract, Book I:7.)

Rousseau did not intend this to sound quite as absurd as it does, but we must reserve a discussion of his meaning to a later point in this essay.  Right now it is important to note that Rousseau takes a different view of the state of nature from either Hobbes or Locke.  For Rousseau, the state of nature may never have existed:

“It has not even entered into the heads of most of our writers to doubt whether the state of nature ever existed; but it is clear from the Holy Scriptures that the first man, having received his understanding and commandments immediately from God, was not himself in such a state; and that, if we give such credit to the writings of Moses as every Christian philosopher ought to give, we must deny that, even before the deluge, men were ever in the pure state of nature….”  (A Dissertation on the Origin and Foundation of the Inequality of Mankind, Introduction to the First Part.)

Instead of trying to search out history for a state of nature, Rousseau advises that we simply look at the question from a hypothetical point of view.  In modern (Einsteinian) terminology, this would be called a “thought experiment.”  For Rousseau, the creation of man by God does not rule out inferences drawn from a study of man himself.  “Religion…,” he says, “does not forbid us to form conjectures based solely on the nature of man, and the beings around him, concerning what might have become of the human race, if it had been left to itself.”  (Idem.)

Using hypothetical reasoning, Rousseau gives an evolutionary account of men.  In this view, man in a state of nature (shorn of any gifts the Creator may have given him, or that society may have conferred upon him) exists at a subsistence level.  He only cares to find food, to quench his thirst, and to find a place to sleep.  (Ibid., First Part.)  Illustrations of this are found among “negroes and savages,” the “Caraibs” of Venezuela, “Hottentots” of the Cape of Good Hope, and the “savages of America.”  Essentially, Rousseau is constructing an anthropology of man, not a history of man (though it is recognizably proto-Darwinian).  He differs from Locke in thinking that this anthropological state was a primitive state, where man does not use reason on a higher level.  Locke saw man as exercising reason in the state of nature, and only coming out of it when all parties agreed to an enforceable contract.  Hobbes also did not see the state of nature as one of mere subsistence, where man is only concerned with supporting himself and does not bother others, but saw it as a state of nearly continual warfare.  Rousseau complained that social contract theorists had too often shifted things from the state of society back into the state of nature, including reason and knowledge of natural laws.  Hence, Rousseau’s state of nature is minimalist to a degree neither Hobbes nor Locke would have countenanced.

For Rousseau, men do not own property in the state of nature, and hence have no reason to be either good or bad, virtuous or vicious.  The passions that lead to Hobbesian nastiness and brutality are really products of society rather than nature.  Primitive man—in Rousseau’s hypothetical construct—does not know passion, and is ignorant of vice.  Being wild does not mean being wicked, and “mine and thine” does not occur in the state of nature.  In the primitive state, the quality of compassion is what moderates the principle of self-interest or self-preservation.  Primitive men, Rousseau claims, are the most peaceable and the least jealous of all people in matters of love.

Continuing his “thought-experiment” Rousseau argues that the real founder of civil society is the first man to enclose a piece of ground.  (Ibid., Second Part.)  At some point primitive men began to cooperate with one another (e.g., in hunting game), and soon families began living under the same roof.  Conjugal love and parental affection were increased, though man lost some of his strength and ferocity by settling down.  Under this arrangement, leisure time increased, and this further weakened the body and mind of man.  Nevertheless, the settled life led to the growth of nations, where each nation was distinguished by character, manner, and climate.  In settled society, men began to compare things with things, to form ideas of beauty, merit, and preference.  Physical looks and talent began to be appreciated and thus social inequality was born.  The state of innocence was lost and men became bloody and cruel, and thus it was the state of first settlement that provided the conditions for the state of war, and not as Hobbes claimed the state of nature itself.  The introduction of property is the leaven that spoiled the happiness of the state of nature, and Rousseau agrees with Locke that where there is no property, there can be no injury.  (Ibid., Second Part.)

Unlike Rousseau, however, Locke believed that man in the state of nature owned property.  God gave the earth to Adam, and therefore to all men.  Since it was given for the use of man, men must appropriate the fruits of the earth in order for it to be of any benefit to them.  Even at a subsistence level, whatever man collects by his own labor, however small, is still his, and “another can no longer have any right to it….”  (Locke, Second Treatise, 26.)  Labor applied to the earth confers title to the laborer, and God meant for man to cultivate the earth: “He gave it to the use of the industrious and rational,” says Locke.  (Ibid., 34.)  In the dominion mandate in Genesis, God gave authority to mankind to acquire property, and man’s labor is what gives him a right to the property.  (Ibid., 35; 45.)

For Rousseau, however, property gave rise to the first rules of justice, which protected title to property.  Now that men had something to lose, they wanted to protect what was theirs.  In addition, the desire to surpass others gave rise to jealousy, rivalry, competition, and conflicting interests.  “All these evils were the first effects of property, and the inseparable attendants of growing inequality.” (Ibid., Second Part.)  In Rousseau’s theory, then, the state of war was not in nature but in society.  “Such was, or may well have been, the origin of society and law, which bound new fetters on the poor, and gave new powers to the rich; which irretrievably destroyed natural liberty, eternally fixed the law of property and inequality, converted clever usurpation into unalterable right, and, for the advantage of a few ambitious individuals, subjected all of mankind to perpetual labor, slavery and wretchedness.”  (Ibid., Second Part.)

This is a fundamental idea that has been picked up by many utopians, especially leftists.  It is the greatest mistake Rousseau made in his political philosophy.  Under this theory, if property could be uniformly distributed, inequality and misery would be things of the past.  The fundamental assumption is that if men were equal, the natural goodness of humanity would shine forth, while man’s actual wickedness would be ended, and peace would reign in place of slavery.  This conclusion, however, would go through only if men were in fact naturally good.  Rousseau had claimed that man was naturally good, even though actually wicked (in society).  However, if men have the fundamental characteristics of both natural good and natural evil, then equalization of property may have the opposite effect, bringing in more strife, for instance, than peace.

A real world test came during the 19th century when several utopian colonies were set up in America.  In these little colonies, property was shared, and capitalism was abolished.  Most fell apart within a decade.  Their main characteristics were authoritarianism, fractiousness and violent disagreements–and even the longer-lasting colonies were marked by poverty or subsistence level living.  (For an overview of American utopianism, see Richard Ellis, The Dark Side of the Left, 1998, pp. 44-72.)  Thus, Rousseau’s claim that inequality was the cause of mankind’s problems, and that social harmony would be achieved by going back to a state of nature, is not founded on fact.  It is a thought-experiment gone critical, so to speak.  While one does not need to go as far as William Golding’s Lord of the Flies in undermining Rousseau’s “noble savage” concept (since men also are governed by natural law), there can be no doubt that Rousseau’s understanding of “primitive” man (such as American Indians) is romantic.  In our day, one can find such a philosophy of romantic primitivism in the Tarzan novels, and in Zane Grey westerns.  Such a naive anthropology basically fails to see that such “noble savages” are often plagued by cruelty, disease, sub-surface social stratification, hostility to other “noble savages,” fear, war, and even cannibalism.

Let us look more closely at the notion of the general will.  Rousseau’s particular take on the relation between the ruler and the ruled is that while the sovereign cannot have any interest contrary to the subjects who form it, the subjects may have private wills that are contrary to the general will.  (Ibid., Bk. 1, Ch. 7.)  It is implied in the social contract that the general will is supreme and force can be used by the whole body politic against those who disobey.  As Rousseau says, dissenters are forced to be free.

What exactly is the general will that forces all to be free?  In Rousseau’s thought, it is a combination of all the individual wills of the people, with the “pluses and minuses” (or disagreements) canceling each other out.  After the disagreements have been canceled out, the resulting balance of common agreement is the general will.  “From the deliberations of a people properly informed…the great number of small differences will always produce a general will and the decision will always be good.”  (Ibid., Bk. 2, Ch. 3.)  It is clear from this that for Rousseau the general will is not the original will of those who formed the contract, but is a subsequent manifestation of the elective franchise.  This is not quite the same as majority vote.  Here is an illustration.  Assume that there are five voters, or perhaps five political parties, or five factions, who hold to different political positions represented by the letters A through Z.  The following table involves the five voters as columns, and the vertical columns contain the various political policies each voter holds.  For instance, voter 1 hold to position A, which could be building a public library in his home district, while voter 4 holds to position N which could be funding a museum in a fellow politician’s district, who has agreed to support something voter 4 wants in his own district.  All the political positions are different except for the one political position they all have in common, represented by the letter B, which I have highlighted:

1 2 3 4 5 6
A F J B R V
B G K N S B
C B L O T X
D H M P U Y
E I B Q B Z

 

The letter B may represent funding for e.g., an increase in the military budget due to wartime necessity.  It could represent any number of policies as long as all the voters are in agreement with it.  In the above table, B represents what social contract theorists call the common interest since it is the only thing every voter or faction agrees on.  In Rousseau’s view, when voters vote to pass B and exclude all other “letters” or special wills they have expressed the general will, which is binding on all.  Using a biological metaphor reminiscent of Aristotle, Rousseau says:

“Just as nature gives each man an absolute power over all his own limbs, the social pact gives the body politic an absolute power over all its members; and it is this same power which, directed by the general will, bears, as I have said, the name of sovereignty.”  (Social Contract, Bk. 2, Ch. 4.)

And yet why, aside from a specious whole-part analogy, should the social contract give the sovereign absolute power (albeit following the general will) over the members of the contract?  After all, Rousseau taught that man only alienates a part of his power, his goods, and liberty to the concern of the community.  Is this not a limitation on sovereign power from the very start?  In addition, the sovereign is further limited in terms of its own purpose for being, for it “may not impose on the subjects any burden which is not necessary to the community….”  (Ibid., Bk. 2, Ch. 4.)  Thus, the general will is directed toward those purposes which are of common interest to the community, not to those of special or private interests.  Thus, the general will is what the sovereign power enforces.  By definition, the general will cannot deal with an individual case.

Is Rousseau being deliberately paradoxical in his formulations?  On the one hand, he says the sovereign power, has absolute power over all its members, and yet on the other, he limits the sovereign power to whatever serves the common interest.  “From this,” says Rousseau, “it is clear that the sovereign power, wholly absolute, wholly sacred, wholly inviolable as it is, does not go beyond and cannot go beyond the limits of the general covenants….”  (Ibid., Bk. 2, Ch. 4.)  On this premiss, it seems absurd to talk about forcing subjects to be free.  Does not the social compact—“the limits of the general covenants”—presuppose that the subjects have not been forced to be free?  Does it not presuppose that the subjects have chosen freely to become part of the contract?  It would seem that a social compact by its nature means that its members freely choose to live under the constitutional conditions of the compact, or its instruments of government, or its modes of administration—that they freely chose to subject themselves to the common interest.  Rousseau admits as much when he says the social pact is the most voluntary act in the world.  (Ibid., Bk. 4, Ch. 2.)

Once the compact is agreed to, and the form of government chosen, and the sovereign is chosen to enforce the common interest or general will, those who disobey the rules of the new government are subject to punishment.  Such people are not being forced to be free, as Rousseau maintains, since they are already free.  Rather, they are simply being forced to obey the law.  Despite all the talk of absolutism, Rousseau ends up sounding like a virtual Lockean in his view of government.  He says: “It is true that such changes [of government] are always dangerous, and that one should never touch an established government unless it has become incompatible with the public welfare….”  (Ibid., Bk., 3, Ch. 18.)  Rousseau’s idea that a government can become incompatible with the public welfare, and that the people can change it in such a circumstance, is a decisive rejection of Hobbes and an embracing of Locke.  Thus, Rousseau was superficially Hobbesian—at least in some of his terminology—but basically Lockean.

Some claim that Rousseau is responsible for totalitarianism, or at least authoritarianism.  This is based on a misunderstanding of what Rousseau meant by the general will.  After all, the democratic Swiss cantons provided Rousseau with a model of the type of society he wanted to see.  These were free, simple, rustic, and small societies.  In some ways, Rousseau’s ideal society is surprisingly reactionary.

Besides his mistake regarding property as the source of all evil, Rousseau also errs in his views concerning Christianity and the state.  In book IV, Chapter 8 of his Social Contract book, Rousseau discusses three ways in which religion can be connected with society.  The first is the “religion of the man,” of inward devotion to God and morality.  It is the “pure and simple religion of the Gospel, the true theism, and might be called the divine natural law.”  The second is the “religion of the citizen,” of outward conformity to dogmas, rituals, external liturgies.  It is the religion of the ancients, and Rousseau calls it “civil” religion.  The third is the dualistic kind, one that divides man between the state and religion—“two legislative orders, two rulers, two homelands,” etc.  Rousseau cites Roman Catholicism as an example of this.  “From a political point of view,” says Rousseau, “each of these three kinds of religion has its defects.”  The third is rejected out of hand as destructive of social unity.  The second kind—“theocracy”–is rejected as based on “error and lies.”  It “buries the true worship of God in empty ceremonials,” and makes a people “bloodthirsty and intolerant….”  With respect to the first religion, Rousseau says that it is the “religion of humanity, or Christianity, not the Christianity of today, but that of the Gospel.”  He argues that this religion has “no specific connection with the body politic” because it is a “wholly spiritual religion.”  In a sense, Rousseau is right.  Christians do seek another world, and regard the things of this world with contempt (relatively speaking).  There can be no such thing as a “Christian republic,” for such a notion is contradictory.  Christ’s kingdom is not of this world.  (What is it about “not of this world” that is so hard to understand?)  Yet Rousseau infers from this that “Christianity preaches only servitude and submission.  Its spirit is too favorable to tyranny for tyranny not to take advantage of it.  True Christians are made to be slaves; they know it and they hardly care; this short life has too little value in their eyes.”

What Rousseau is forgetting, however, is that Christian servitude and slavery are part of the spiritual category of things, not of the political category.  In secular employments, and in war, Christians are to excel in every way.  “It is said,” claims Rousseau, “that Christian troops are excellent.  I deny it.  Show me these Christian troops.  Personally I know of none.”  Nevertheless, Rousseau’s ignorance cannot settle the matter.  When the crusades are mentioned, or the bravery of Christian soldiers under pagan emperors, Rousseau gratuitously denies that these were Christian soldiers.  Such a convenient denial of basic facts, however, cannot prove the argument.  Closer to home, one need only point to Cromwell and the New Model Army (made up of Christians) to disprove the idea that Christians cannot make good soldiers.  Rousseau is surely right when he says that the “Gospel never sets up any national religion,” but it is a non-sequitur to argue from this that Christians do not make good citizens.

In fact, the New Testament shows no hostility to Christian involvement with political affairs, or with secular employments in general.  After all, Paul appealed to Caesar, thus making use of the Roman legal system (Acts 25:11).  He speaks of the good ruler as a “minister of God” whose sword of punishment is directed against evil.  Echoing Jesus, Paul says that Christians should render taxes to whom taxes are due (Rom. 13:1ff.)  This was not a blanket endorsement of every government, but only of those that behaved lawfully “for your good.”  Disobedience was in fact enjoined in cases where the truth of the gospel was at stake.  The disciples of Jesus refused to obey the Jews not to preach the gospel, and Christians refused to bow to the divinity of Caesar, leading to martyrdom for many.  Nevertheless, involvement with mundane matters was never condemned by the New Testament (e.g., Paul was a tentmaker, Matthew was a tax collector, Peter was a fisherman, etc.).  It is true that Christians qua Christians cannot be involved in war, but Christians qua citizens can certainly go to war for just reasons.  War can never be justified in the name of Christianity because Christianity is not a state.  War is a matter of one earthly kingdom against another, and since Christ’s kingdom is not of this world, it cannot fight with the sword.  Its mode of conquest is spiritual rather than earthly.  (It is somewhat amusing, though pathetic, to see sports teams praying to God or Jesus for victory in competition.  We can make the same point above in saying that Christians cannot compete in sports as Christians, but only as sportsmen.  Competing as Christians qua Christians implies that God must concern himself with the trivialities of league football or baseball!  The movie Chariots of Fire took this sports romanticism to an absurd, though entertaining, length.)

Despite errors and infelicities in his discussion of the subject of Christianity and government, Rousseau ends up sounding very similar to Cromwell, Jefferson, and the American founding fathers, who eschewed the connection of theological dogma and the state, but enjoined public morality and the state:

“Now it is very important to the state that each citizen should have a religion which makes him love his duty, but the dogmas of that religion are of interest neither to the state nor its members, except in so far as those dogmas concern morals and the duties which everyone who professes that religion is bound to perform towards others.”  (Social Contract, Bk. IV, Ch. 8.)

Rousseau recommends a civil profession of faith involving the doctrines of the existence of God, the life to come, the rewarding of the just and punishment of sinners, the sanctity of contract and law, and no intolerance of others, both in the theological and civil realms.  This latter point is problematic, for why should a religion that regards itself as being the only means of salvation be excluded from civil society?  After all, it is only a dogma of that religion, not a principle of the civil order.  Does not Rousseau say above that the state has no interest in dogmas or theological formulations except in so far as they have a bearing on morals?  In any case, aside from Rousseau’s (political) intolerance toward exclusivist dogmas, his view of civil religion seems very close to that of the American founding fathers.  However, he only shows up as number 15 on the above list, well below Locke and Montesquieu, so it is unlikely that he had any profound influence on the founding fathers.

Finis