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Rethinking liberal theory 2: The outlaw John Locke, terrorist, liberal, and advocate of freedom of property

by John MacBeath Watkins

By the time the British government set out to arrest John Locke, he'd set out for France, fleeing his native country under suspicion of conspiring to kill the British king, Charles II.

Yes, that's the same Charles II whose reign Thomas Hobbes went to so much trouble to legitimize. Hobbes wanted him to take his father's throne, and Locke wanted him to leave it feet first. He faced arrest as one of the conspirators involved in the Rye House Plot.

This was a plot to trap the king's carriage in a narrow street overlooked by Rye House, a sturdy stone structure, and rain fire down on it with muskets until all within died. Word got out, the king changed his route, and many of the conspirators were rounded up and several executed.

Locke was the sort of fellow the Department of Homeland Security now calls a terrorist.

Locke is remembered fondly as one of the giants of liberal theory, the man who made freedom all about property. Students forced to study …

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