John Locke and Justice

Group 6

In looking at how Locke’s Treatise is still in circulation today, an article was found about the Ferguson case. About the issue in discussion, Michael Brown was a black teen that was shot dead by a white police officer, Darren Wilson. Racial protests and injustice screams were heard around the states. The author of this article, Ta-Nehisi Coates, brings up a quote from Locke’s Treatise to help prove his point about how Wilson got off on a lesser punishment than an ordinary citizen would have received. The part quoted was in Chapter XVI, Section 176:

The injury and the crime is equal, whether committed by the wearer of a crown, or some petty villain. The title of the offender, and the number of his followers, make no difference in the offence, unless it be to aggravate it. The only difference is, great robbers punish little ones, to keep them in their obedience; but the great ones are rewarded with laurels and triumphs, because they are too big for the weak hands of justice in this world, and have the power in their own possession, which should punish offenders. What is my remedy against a robber, that so broke into my house?”

In this context, the Ferguson’s trial outcome violated Locke’s way of thinking. Locke says that the title of the offender should make no difference, yet Coates is arguing that in this case it did. There is an absence of justice that is occurring in Ferguson. Coates agrees with Locke, and says that the government needs to put as much pressure on the law enforces as they do the law followers.

Locke also states in his Treatise that if  justice is denied, appeals should be made. His feelings that no one should be exempt from the law and that people need to be brought to justice so that everyone else can feel protected of their lives and property apply to this situation. If everyone was to go free like Wilson, it would be a disgrace to the government that Locke was trying to establish.

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