Law of equal liberty

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The law of equal liberty (a.k.a. the law of equal freedom), or equal liberty, is the fundamental precept of classical liberalism. It has been stated in various ways by many thinkers, but can be summarized as the view that all persons must have equality under the law.

John Locke in his Second Treatise of Government (1689) wrote "A state also of equality, wherein all the power and jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having more than another; there being nothing more evident, than that creatures of the same species and rank, promiscuously born to all the same advantages of nature, and the use of the same faculties, should also be equal one amongst another without subordination or subjection, unless the lord and master of them all should, by any manifest declaration of his will, set one above another, and confer on him, by an evident and clear appointment, an undoubted right to dominion and sovereignty." [1]

Alexander Hamilton, in 1774, wrote "All men have one common original, they participate in one common nature, and consequently have one common right. No reason can be assigned why one man should exercise any power over his fellow creatures more than another, unless they voluntarily vest him with it." [2]

Herbert Spencer in Social Statics (1851) defined it as a natural law "that every man may claim the fullest liberty to exercise his faculties compatible with the possession of like liberty to every other man." Stated another way by Spencer, "each has freedom to do all that he wills provided that he infringes not the equal freedom of any other."[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ John Locke, Second Treatise of Government, chp 2
  2. ^ Alexander Hamilton, “A Full Vindication of the Measures of the Congress” (December 15, 1774), at Founders Online, National Archives ( Source: The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, vol. 1, 1768–1778, edited by Harold C. Syrett (New York: Columbia University Press, 1961), pp. 45–78.
  3. ^ Herbert Spencer, Social Statics, c. 4, § 3.