Why Did John Locke Support Slavery?

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Many cultural changes took place during the Enlightenment era in Europe. “This period is also sometimes referred to as the Age of Reason and is considered to begin with the close of the Thirty Years’ War in 1648 and ended with the French Revolution in 1789” (Encyclopedia). During the Enlightenment, citizens began to rethink the norms of society. Rulers were trying to reform old policies of the government and try to make it stronger. During the Age of Reason, thinkers believed that people should ensure in social justice and happiness in the world. A big question during this time was whether a government would bring better results to people than they would to themselves in the state of nature. Based on their life experiences and philosophical…show more content…
John Locke, especially, makes it challenging for historians to study his view on slavery. “Though the philosopher never left definitive evidence that concretely revealed his opinion either way, historians have formulated arguments that Locke’s theory did not justify the trade nor the slavery of Africans” (Craig). One factor that contributes to the argument that Locke did not support slavery is the fact that he did not have financial independence for most of his life. Locke had important titles in the workforce but he did not always receive a salary. One historian, Wayne Glausser, studied Locke’s finances. Glausser suggested that he was careful with his finances and that Locke investing in the slave trade would have been a risk for him. On the other hand, historians have also created arguments that show Locke did support slavery. Robert Bernasconi and Anika Mann are two historians that have studied Locke and conclude he was for slavery. These two historians argue that “Locke’s investment in the slave trade is proof that his philosophical theory of slavery was meant to legitimize the institution of African slavery” (Craig). David Brion Davis is also another historian who assumed that because “he was to become an investor in the Royal African Company, he clearly regarded slavery as a justiciable…show more content…
With this position, it is said that Locke helped draft the Fundamental Constitutions of 1669. This sanctioned slavery. Locke’s involvement in the Fundamental Constitution has made “historians look intently as this statement a litmus test to determine his opinion about slavery” (Craig). Thomas Hobbes also made his views on slavery difficult to study. “He did not put into writing his views of the African people or the transatlantic slave trade into which they were forced” (Hall). Hobbes views on slavery can be confusing because of the way he distinguishes a slave between a servant. “According to Hobbes, a slave is someone over whom no other person can have any legitimate authority, and this is by definition” (Hall). Hobbes also believes that a slave may voluntarily surrender their natural right to freedom and become a servant. Hobbes and Locke had certain ideas on who their rights and responsibilities extend to. “Locke looked on women as having “natural differences” from men, one that justified domination of women by men” (The Enlightenment and Liberalism). One of the main things that differed in Locke’s views was property rights. Locke did not believe that property rights should be extended to women, therefore denying women
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