Second Treatise of Government

Second Treatise of Government Character List

William Barclay

A Catholic Scottish jurist whose work De Regno et Regali potestate (1600) advocated the divine right of kings. Locke quotes and discusses Barclay in chapter XIX of the Second Treatise. Barclay garnered the approbation of the English King James I, but chose to reside in France instead of join James I’s court. Barclay’s last work, De Potestate Papae (1609), dealt with the impropriety of the pope exercising too much control over kings in earthly matters.

Sir Robert Filmer

An English political theorist whose work Patriarcha, or the Natural Rights of Kings posthumously published in 1680 was thoroughly critiqued and refuted by Locke in his First Treatise and again throughout the text of the Second Treatise. Filmer claimed God gave Adam dominion over all men; this is the basis for the divine right of kings and absolute monarchy as well as the dominion of a father over his family.

Thomas Hobbes

An English political philosopher whose work Leviathan (1651) established the basis of the social contract theory that Locke dealt with in his Second Treatise. Scholars dispute the degree to which Locke was explicitly responding to Hobbes in his own work (his name is never mentioned in the Two Treatises).

Richard Hooker

An English Anglican priest and theologian who Locke quotes extensively in the Second Treatise. Hooker’s book Of the Lawes of Ecclesiastical Politie (1593) was profoundly influential for Locke; it dealt with the governance of the church as well as the need for reason and tradition when interpreting the Bible.

King James I

English monarch whose reign lasted from 1567-1625. James I was an example of an absolute monarch.


A biblical character in the Book of Judges. He led the Israelites against the Ammonites, who had taken the Israelites’ land. Locke uses Jephthah as an example multiple times throughout the Second Treatise of someone who was in a state of war with another and could only rely upon the judgment of God after all earthly appeals were ignored.