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Locke and Civil Rights

            Within the bounds of the framework John Locke establishes in his Second Treatise on Government, a civil rights leader in the 1950’s and 1960’s could easily justify civil disobedience and possibly even all out armed rebellion. This framework for resistance and ultimately rebellion must follow from one of two scenarios. First, and least applicable through the lens of the civil rights movement: if the legislative alters or changes, the citizens have the right to resist the government. Secondly, and more important to this inquiry: if the legislative acts against the trust of the citizens by violating their natural rights, the citizens can resist. This second condition forms the foundation of Locke's theoretical support of the civil rights movement. .
             In order to understand Locke's argument in its entirety, we must first examine the limitations he puts on resisting government. Locke realizes that the right to resist a government may follow a slippery slope, leading a person to oppose a government because it causes minor grievances for him. He asserts that such unsubstantiated opposition creates “anarchy and confusion” (II.19.203, 401). .
             Locke presents three cases in which the citizens should be denied the right to dissolve or to resist the government. First, if the prince, or chief executive of a country is sacred according to the laws, then he must be secure from the harm and violence of resistance as he is the figurehead and the symbol of his country's stability and thereby essential to its well-being (19.205, 402). Second, Locke argues that the citizens do not have the right to resist the government if the injured party can improve his condition through an appeal to the law. If the hostile force does not threaten the life of the oppressed citizen, then he must allow the law to act to seek justice and not take matters into his own hands (19.206,402-403). The third case that Locke presents to limit resistance is the unwillingness of an oppressed minority or group of men to unite in opposition to the government.