State of War - John Locke

Bruce Anderson
Marvin Stern
Development of the American Experience
24 November 2009
The Constituents of a State of War
John Locke defines the state of war, and the rightful response of a man to it, as follows.
The State of War is a state of enmity and destruction: And therefore declaring by word or action, not a passionate and hasty, but a sedate settled design upon another man’s life, puts him in a state of war with him against whom he has declared such an intention, and so has exposed his life to the other’s power to be taken away by him, or any one that joins with him in his defence, and espouses his quarrel: it being reasonable and just I should have a right to destroy that which threatens me with destruction. (Locke 689)
In 1776, the Declaration of Independence was written by Thomas Jefferson in response to the improper treatment of the American people under the rule of the British King. In it is a list of grievances, actions taken by the King that violate what the American people see as their rights. Some of them are listed as, “he has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, & destroyed the lives of our people” (Jefferson 138) and “he has dissolved representative houses repeatedly & continually for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people” (Jefferson 137). It was clear that the King has enacted some sort of design upon the lives of the American people, one in which he and Britain reaped the benefits of. This list of grievances is lengthy, suggesting that the wrong doings described had accumulated over the years. This means that this document is a response to the moment in which Jefferson and America recognized that if the King was willing to commit all these atrocities, there is no reason that he might not go farther, and completely destroy their lives. With this, it is clear that America had been forced into a state of war with Britain. In this position, America would be acting within its...