March 2, 2024

168. The old question will be asked in this matter of prerogative, “But who shall be judge when this power is made a right use of?”  I answer: Between an executive power in being with such a prerogative and a legislative that depends upon his will for their convening there can be no judge on earth. As there can be none between the legislative and the people should either the executive or the legislative, when they have got the power in their hands, design, or go about to enslave or destroy them, the people have no other remedy in this, as in all other cases where they have no judge on earth, but to appeal to Heaven; for the rulers in such attempts, exercising a power the people never put into their hands, who can never be supposed to consent that anybody should rule over them for their harm do that which they have not a right to do. And where the body of the people, or any single man, are deprived of their right, or are under the exercise of a power without right, having no appeal on earth they have a liberty to appeal to Heaven whenever they judge the cause of sufficient moment. And therefore though the people can not be judge, so as to have, by the constitution of that society any superior power to determine and give effective sentence in the case, yet they have reserved that ultimate determination to themselves which belongs to all mankind, where there lies no appeal on earth, by a law antecedent and paramount to all positive laws of men whether they have just cause to make their appeal to Heaven. And this judgment they cannot part with, it; being out of a man’s power so to submit himself to another as to give him a liberty to destroy him God and Nature never allowing a man so to abandon himself as to neglect his own preservation. And since he cannot take away his own life, neither can he give another power to take it.” – John Locke, from Two Treatises on Civil Government. — (This passage by Locke is thought to be the  inspiration for George Washington’s An Apeal To Heaven naval flag design.)