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date: 26 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Locke owned stock in slave trading companies and was secretary of the Lords Proprietors of the Carolinas, where slavery was constitutionally permitted. He had two notions of slavery: legitimate slavery was captivity with forced labor imposed by the just winning side in a war; illegitimate slavery was an authoritarian deprivation of natural rights. Locke did not try to justify either black slavery or the oppression of Amerindians. In The Two Treatises of Government, Locke argued against the advocates of absolute monarchy. The arguments for absolute monarchy and colonial slavery turn out to be the same. So in arguing against the one, Locke could not help but argue against the other. Examining the natural rights tradition to which Locke’s work belongs confirms this. Locke could have defended colonial slavery by building on popular ideas of his colleagues and predecessors, but there is no textual evidence that he did that or that he advocated seizing Indian agricultural land.

Keywords: John Locke, natural rights, just war, slavery, Indian agricultural lands

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