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Mill Vs Locke Essay, Research Paper
Dred Scott was the name of an African-American slave. He was taken by his master, an
officer in the U.S. Army, from the slave state of Missouri to the free state of Illinois and
then to the free territory of Wisconsin. He lived on free soil for a long period of time.
When the Army ordered his master to go back to Missouri, he took Scott with him back to
that slave state, where soon after his master died. In 1846, Scott was helped by
Abolitionist(anti-slavery) lawyers to sue for his freedom in court, claiming he should be
free since he had lived on free soil for a long time. The case went all the way to the
United States Supreme Court. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Roger B. Taney,
was a former slave owner from Maryland. In March of 1857, Scott lost the decision as
seven out of nine Justices on the Supreme Court declared no slave or descendant of a slave
could be a U.S. citizen, or even had been a U.S. citizen. As a non-citizen, the court stated,
Scott had no rights and could not sue in a Federal Court and must remain a slave.
At that time there were nearly 4 million slaves in America. The courts ruling
affected the status of every enslaved and free African-American in the United States. The
ruling served to turn back the clock concerning the rights of African-Americans, ignoring
the fact that black men in five of the original States had been full voting citizens dating
back to the Declaration of Independence in 1776. The Supreme Court also ruled that
Congress could not stop slavery in the newly emerging territories. The Court also declared
that it violated the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution which prohibits Congress from
depriving persons of their property without due process of law. Anti-slavery leaders in the
North cited the controversial Supreme Court Decision as evidence that Southerners wanted
to extend slavery throughout the nation and ultimately rule the nation itself. Southerners
approved the Dred Scott decision believing Congress had no right to prohibit slavery in the
territories. The subject of this paper is to take a United States law, policy, or court ruling
and analyze it from the perspective of both John Stuart Mill and John Locke.
John Stuart Mill was a famous utilitarian philosopher, who had a Deontological
world view. What that means is you should do things because they are right, and not
worry about the consequences. If Mill were to look at the Dred Scott decision, he would
deem it unjust because the Supreme Court did not do the right thing they were more
concerned with the consequences of limiting the Southerners rights to have slaves.
According to Mill you are not free to lose your freedom. ? He is no longer free; but is
thenceforth in a position which has no longer the presumption in its favour, that would be
afforded by his voluntarily remaining in it. The principle of freedom cannot require that he
should be free not to be free. It is not freedom to be allowed to alienate his freedom.?(
Mill pg 536) That is informally known as Mill?s Anti-Slavery principle. Mill would also
argue that the Supreme Court took part in what he dubs ? the tyranny of the majority? in
deciding the Dred Scott case. ? The Tyranny of the majority? is when you do something
solely based on public opinion. ?the tyranny of the majority? is now generally included
among the evils against which society requires to be on its guard. Like other tyrannies, the
tyranny of the majority was at first, and is still vulgarly held in dread, chiefly as operating
through the acts of the public authorities.But reflecting persons perceived that when
society is itself the tyrant-society collectively over the separate individuals who compose
it-its means of tyrannising are not restricted to the acts which it may do by the hands of its
political functionaries.?( Mill pg 517) Mill would argue that the Supreme Court made its
ruling solely based on public opinion rather than a true moral decision. The information
that I have provided thus far, would implicate, in Mill?s eyes that Dred Scott should be a
free man and he was wronged and stripped of his inalienable right to be free by the
Supreme Court of the United States.
On further analysis of Mill?s arguments he provides a disillusioned counterexample
to the information thus shown. Mill believes that the only reason why your liberty may be
limited by the state is to insure that you do not harm someone else.
? The object of this essay is to assert one very simple principle, as entitled to govern
absolutely the dealings of society with the individual in the way of compulsion and
control, whether the means used be physical force in the form of legal penalties or the
moral coercion of public opinion. That principle is, that the sole end for which mankind
are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of
their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully
exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm
to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot
rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because
it will make him happier, because, in the opinions of others, to do so would be wise or
even right. These are good reasons for remonstrating with him, or reasoning with him, to
persuading him, or entreating him, but not for compelling him or visiting him with any evil
in case he do otherwise. To justify that, the conduct from which it is desired to deter him
must be calculated to produce evil to someone else. The only part of the conduct of
anyone, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part
which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over
his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.?(Mill pgs 517-18)
Does Mill?s General Harm Principle apply to all people? No it does not apply to all
people. It excludes children, and those that are not white. To Mill they are considered to
be needy of the white man. ?…we may leave out of consideration those backward states of
society in which the race itself may be considered as in its nonage.?(Mill pg 518) Mill?s
general harm principle does not apply to the Dred Scott case either because indeed he is a
person of color. If indeed Dred Scott was a white man, Mill?s general harm principle
would apply to him. Mill goes on to say that if we make engagements with another
person, no matter what the case, that they must be kept.
?Not only persons are not held to engagements which violate the rights of third parties, but
it is sometimes considered a sufficient reason for releasing them from an engagement, that
it is injurious to themselves. In this and most other civilized countries, for example, an
engagement by which a person should sell himself, or allow himself to be sold,as a slave,
would be null and void; neither enforced by law nor by opinion. The ground for thus
limiting his power of voluntarily disposing of his own lot in life, is apparent, and is very
clearly seen in this extreme case. The reason for not interfering unless for the sake of
others, with a person?s voluntary acts, is consideration for his liberty. His voluntary choice
is evidence that what he so chooses is desirable, or at least endurable, to him, and his
good is on the whole best provided for by allowing him to take his own means of pursuing
it. But by selling himself for a slave, he abdicates his liberty; he foregoes any future use of
it beyond that single act.?(Mill pg536)
Mill?s counterexample can be disproved by simple analysis of this quotation. He states ?by
an engagement which a person should sell himself, or allow himself to be sold?; in Dred
Scott?s case he did not have a say in the matter whether he wanted to be sold into slavery
or not. He was simply taken against his will, and forced to give up his inalienable right of
freedom by the United States. I say ?against his will? because honestly who would want to
be sold into slavery? The mentioning of the United States forcing Dred Scott to give up his
inalienable right is true because they(U.S. government) permitted slavery in their country.
By enslaving someone you force them to give up there rights.
Now we will look at John Locke?s perspective on the Dred Scott ruling. John
Locke is often referred to as ?the philosopher of the revolution.? This is so because most
of his writings were written during that time frame. If Locke were to analyze the Dred
Scott case and would primarily argue that the natural right of man is to be free from any
power other than the law of Nature. ? The natural liberty of man is to be free from any
superior power on Earth, and not to be under the will or legislative authority of man, but to
have only the law of Nature for his rule.?( Locke pg 359 verse 22) Locke implies in the
same verse that every man should be commonly treated in a society. ?…freedom of men
under government, is, to have a standing rule to live by, common to everyone of that
society…?(Locke pg 359 verse 22) According to Locke a man cannot part with his
freedom, in doing so he parts with his life as well. Freedom and the ability to rule ones life
are interdependent systems.
?For a man, not having the power of his own life, cannot, by compact, or his own consent,
enslave himself to anyone, nor put himself under the absolute, arbitrary power of another,
to take away his life, when he pleases. Nobody can give more power than he has himself;
and he that cannot take his own life, cannot give another power over it. Indeed having, by
his fault, forfeited his own life, by some act that deserves death; he to whom he has
forfeited it, may(when he has him in his power) delay to take it, and make use of him to
his own service, and he does him no injury by it. For, whenever he finds the hardship of
his slavery out weigh the value of his life, it is in his power, by resisting the will of his
master,. to draw on himself the death he desires.?(Locke pg 359 verse 23)
Locke would view Scott?s case as an unjust one because a man?s liberty(freedom) was
taken from him, without his consent. Dred Scott like everyone else is a man, in Locke?s
eyes men are to be treated as common in society. So why should this man(Dred Scott) be
denied his freedom? Is it because he is a man of color and he is not white? The answer to
that question in Locke?s eyes is that he is a man no matter what, you can not change that
attribute. Regardless of color he is still a man in Locke?s eyes and should be granted his
natural right to freedom and his life.
Now we will look at Locke?s counterexample for this argument.
?Master and servant are names as old as history,but given to those of far different
condition; for a freeman makes himself a servant to another, by selling him for a certain
time, the service he undertakes to do, in exchange for wages he is to receive: and though
this commonly puts him into the family of his master, and under the ordinary discipline
thereof; yet it gives the master but a temporary power over him, and no greater, than what
is contained in the contract between them. But there is another sort of servants, which by a
peculiar name we call slaves, who being captives taken in a just war, are by the right of
nature subjected to the absolute dominion and arbitrary power of their masters. These men
having, as I say, forfeited their lives, and with it their liberties, and lost their estates; and
being in the state of slavery, not capable of any property, cannot in that state be considered
as any part of civil society; the chief end whereof is the preservation of property.?
(Locke pg 372 verse 85)
What Locke is saying here is false because Dred Scott did not ?Forfeit? his freedom,
rather it was taken from him. He is contradicting himself in saying that they(slaves) should
not be considered a part of civil society. Before he was saying that all men should be
treated commonly in a society, but now he is changing his tune and saying that they should
not be a part of society. ?Man being born, as has been proved, with a title to perfect
freedom, and an uncontrolled enjoyment of all rights and privileges of law of Nature,
equally with any other man, or number of men in the world, has by nature a power, not
only to preserve his property, that is, his life, liberty and estate, against the injuries and
attempts of other men;…?(Locke pgs 372-373 verse 87) Locke proves himself wrong with
this quotation because he does not distinguish between men and slaves as he did before.
Furthermore a man can not be deemed another man?s property unless they commit to a
contract with that individual. In Dred Scott?s case he did not commit to any sort of
contract, he was taken against his will and purchased by a United States Army Officer.
Thus Scott is entitled to his freedom according to Locke?s quotation above, eventhough
Locke believes that slaves ?forfeit? there freedom. Scott is entitled to his freedom because
he is a man who is a rational being.
In evaluating both Mill?s and Locke?s perspectives upon the Supreme Court?s
ruling for the Dred Scott case, a few things can be concluded from both sides. From Mill?s
point of view it is your inalienable right to have freedom. In his counter example though he
states that you lose your freedom when you sell yourself into slavery. That argument does
not apply however to Dred Scott?s case, because he was forced into slavery, and his
inalienable rights were stripped from him. From Locke?s point of view man was born free
from any superior power on earth, he(man) was only to have the law of Nature as his
ruler. Locke also believed that all men should be treated commonly in a society. In his
counterexample he states that slaves ?forfeit? there right to freedom and control of there
lives. Actually this is wrong if you look at the Dred Scott case once again you see that he
did not ?forfeit? his freedom rather it was stripped away from him. In doing so he lost the
power to govern his own life, which Locke deems a necessity in order to live. By
analyzing passages from both of the respective philosopher?s they make a case that Dred
Scott was deprived of his inalienable right to freedom and to govern his own life. They
also provide contradictory statements that say that he ?forfeited? his right to freedom, and
also that some things do not apply to him because he was a man of color. There statements
are self-contradictory because he is indeed a man regardless of his color, and they both
state that a man should not be deprived of his right to freedom. Although both philosophers
have self-contradictory statements about this topic of slavery and freedom, the Supreme
Court made there decision based on there own perspectives.
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