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Life, liberty and property

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As America prepares for further editions of her Twenty-first Century Tea Parties, a more in-depth look back at events leading up to the Eighteenth Century Boston Tea Party might be informative and in order.

December 16 of this year will mark 236 years since the Original (Tea Party).

It might be also be in order to consider how most, if not all would-be tyrants eventually become full-blown despots were not the path to their hideous ambitions exposed and foiled by informed and active citizens (think Tea Party folks) bent on nothing more than a free and peaceful life with opportunity for prosperity to themselves, to their families and upon their property.

"Life, liberty and property" was a famous phrase coined by John Locke, a Seventeenth and early Eighteenth Century (1632 – 1704) British philosopher, Oxford academic and medical researcher whose philosophy might be pertinent and beneficial for current Tea Party participants.

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP) gives a snippet on John Locke, which might be applied to our own motivations and concerns and may even have had a part in leading us into Tea Party activism in the first place. If so, I guess we can just blame it on philosophy and on John Locke.

"[Locke’s] association with Anthony Ashley Cooper (later the First Earl of Shaftesbury) led him to become successively a government official charged with collecting information about trade and colonies, [an] economic writer, [an] opposition political activist, and finally a revolutionary whose cause ultimately triumphed in the Glorious Revolution of 1688 [and the overthrow of King James II of England].

"Much of Locke’s work is characterized by opposition to authoritarianism. This opposition is both on the level of the individual person and on the level of institutions such as government and church. For the individual, Locke wants each of us to use reason to search after truth rather than simply accept the opinion of authorities or be subject to superstition. He wants us to proportion assent to propositions to the evidence for them. On the level of institutions it becomes important to distinguish the legitimate from the illegitimate functions of institutions and to make the corresponding distinction for the uses of force by those institutions.

"The positive side of Locke’s anti-authoritarianism is that he believes that using reason to try to grasp the truth, and determining the legitimate functions of institutions will optimize human flourishing for the individual and society both in respect to its material and spiritual welfare. This in turn, amounts to following natural law and the fulfillment of the divine purpose for humanity.

"Locke’s monumental An Essay Concerning Human Understanding concerns itself with determining the limits of human understanding in respect to God, the self, natural kinds and artifacts, as well as a variety of different kinds of ideas. It thus tells us in some detail what one can legitimately claim to know and what one cannot.

"Locke also wrote a variety of important political, religious, and educational works including the Two Treatises of Government, the Letters Concerning Toleration, The Reasonableness of Christianity, and Some Thoughts Concerning Education."(Please understand some liberties could have been taken by SEP in stating what Locke may or may not have thought or in dividing his "positive side" from his negative when it departs from his actual words and give their own opinion of what he meant.)

At any rate, John Locke’s philosophy and words were well known by our own founding fathers and, in many cases, were utilized in America’s foundations.

Thomas Jefferson, for example, used Locke’s "life, liberty and property," modifying it to "life, liberty and pursuit of happiness" in his penning of the Declaration of Independence.

We of the Tea Party ilk can still use John Locke in helping to explain what we are about in this current powerful extension of the original Boston Harbor (tea-dumping) movement.

Actually, in many ways, we have held steadfast to Locke’s philosophy, though possibly not knowing specifically just where the words and ideas originated.

Now we may know just a little bit more about that.

In the words of Forrest Gump, "And that’s all I have to say about that." (for now, at least)

May God bless.


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