Excerpts from John Locke, Two Treatises of Government, The Second Treatise. Published 1690, but written earlier.

Collected by Laura Mandell

Sec. 27. Though the Earth, and all inferior Creatures be common to all Men, yet every Man has a Property in his own Person. This no Body had any Right to but himself. The Labour of his Body, and the Work of his Hands, we may say, are properly his. Whatsoever then he removes out of the State that Nature hath provided, and left it in, he hath mixed his Labour with, and joyned to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his Property. It being by him removed from the common state Nature placed it in, it hath by this labour something annexed to it, that excludes the common right of other Men. For this Labour being the unquestionable Property of the Labourer, no Man but he can have a right to what that is once joyned to, at least where there is enough, and as good left in common for others.

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Sec. 39. And thus, without supposing any private Dominion, and property in Adam, over all the World, exclusive of other Men, which can no way be proved, nor any ones Property be made out [i.e., traced in lines of inheritance and descent] from it [Locke spent all of the First Treatise refuting such a claim made by Sir Robert Filmer's Patriarcha]; but supposing the World given as it was to the Children of Men in common, we see how labour could make Men distinct titles to several parcels of it, for their private uses; wherein there could be no doubt of Right, no room for quarrel.

Sec. 40. Nor is it so strange, as perhaps before consideration it may appear, that the Property of labour should be able to over-ballance the Community of Land. For 'tis Labour indeed that puts the difference of value on every thing . . . .

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Sec. 43. . . . . 'Tis Labour then which puts the greatest part of Value upon Land, without which it would scarcely be worth any thing . . . . For 'tis not barely the Plough-man's Pains, the Reaper's and Thresher's Toil, and the Bakers [sic.] Sweat, is to be counted into the Bread we eat; the Labour of those who broke the Oxen, who digged and wrought the Iron and Stones, who felled and framed the Timber imployed about the Plough, Mill, or Oven, or any other Utensils, which are a vast Number, requisite to this Corn, from its being seed to be sown to its being made Bread, must all be charged on the account of Labour, and received as an effect of that: Nature and the Earth furnished only the almost worthless Materials, as in themselves. . . .

Sec. 44. From all which it is evident, that though the things of Nature are given in common, yet Man (by being Master of himself, and Proprietor of his own Person, and the Actions or Labour of it) had still in himself the great Foundation of Property; and that which made up the great part of what he applyed [sic.] to the Support or Comfort of his being, when Invention and Arts had improved the conveniencies of Life, was perfectly his own, and did not belong in common to others.

Sec. 45. Thus Labour, in the Beginning, gave a Right of Property, where-ever any one was pleased to imploy it, upon what was common, which remained, a long while, the far greater part, and is yet more than Mankind makes use of. Men, at first, for the most part, contented themselves with what un-assisted Nature offered to their Necessities: and though afterwards, in some parts of the World, (where the Increase of People and Stock, with the Use of Money) had made Land scarce, and so of some Value, the several Communities settled the Bounds of their distinct Territories, and by Laws within themselves, regulated the Properties of the private Men of their Society, and so, by Compact and Agreement, settled the Property which Labour and Industry began; and the Leagues that have been made between several States and Kingdoms, either expressly or tacitly disowning all Claim and Right to the Land in the others [sic.] Possession, have, by common Consent, given up their Pretences to their natural common Right, which originally they had to those Countries, and so have, by postive agreement, settled a Property amongst themselves, in distinct Parts and parcels of the Earth: yet there are still great Tracts of Ground to be found, which (the Inhabitants thereof not having joyned with the rest of Mankind, in the consent of the Use of their common Money) lie waste, and are more than the People, who dwell on it, do, or can make use of, and so still lie in common. Tho' this can scarce happen amongst that part of Mankind, that have consented to the use of Money.

Sec. 46. The greatest part of things really useful to the Life of Man, and such as the necessity of subsisting made the first Commoners of the World look after, as it doth the Americans now, are generally things of short duration; such as, if they are not consumed by use, will decay and perish of themselves . . . . Now . . . every one . . . had a Property in all that he could affect with his Labour . . . . He was only to look that he used them before they spoiled . . . . And indeed it was a foolish thing, as well as dishonest, to hoard up more than he could make use of. If . . . . he bartered away Plumbs that would have rotted in a Week, for Nuts that would last good for his eating a whole Year, he did no injury; he wasted not the common Stock . . . . Again, if he would give his Nuts for a piece of Metal . . . or a Diamond, . . . he invaded not the Right of others; he might heap up as much of these durable things as he pleased; the exceeding of the bounds of his just Property not lying int he largeness of his Possession, but the perishing of any thing uselessly in it.

Sec. 47. And thus came in the use of Money, some lasting thing that Men might keep without spoiling, and that by Mutual concsent Men would take in exchange for the truly useful, but perishable Supports of Life.

Sec. 48. . . . . For supposing an Island, separate from all possible Commerce with the rest of the World . . . : What reason could any one have there to enlarge his Possessions beyond the use of his Family, and a plentiful supply to its Consumption . . . ? For I ask, What would a Man value Ten Thousand, or an Hundred Thousand Acres of excellent Land, ready cultivated, and well stocked too with Cattle, in the middle of the in-land Parts of America, where he had no hopes of Commerce with other Parts of the World, to draw him Money by the Sale of the Product? It would not be worth the inclosing, and we should see him give up again to the wild Common of Nature, whatever was more than would supply the Conveniences of Life . . . .

Sec. 49. Thus in the beginning all the World was America, and more so than that is now; for no such thing as Money was any where known. Find out something that hath the Use and Value of Money amongst his Neighbours, you shall see the same Man will begin presently to enlarge his Possessions.

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Laura Mandell / Department of English / Miami University / Oxford, OH 45056 / Voice Phone: 513-529-5276 / FAX: 513-529-1392 / Email:lmandell@miamiu.muohio.edu