But they needed the state to maintain peace and order, provide them with essential services, and settle their quarrels and conflicts. Thus, in a social contract to which they voluntarily consented, they created the state for the purpose of promoting and preserving their natural rights to life, liberty and property. Hobbes’ social contract was not really a special contract, since there was no contract or covenant between the ruler and the subjects. The sovereign had no obligations to his subjects nor could they limit his exercise of absolute power.
It was John Locke who painted a picture of liberty of citizens and authority of government in tones which were far moderate than that of Thomas Hobbes. Men in a state of nature could make use of their perfect freedom for their own good, since they were reasonable men. To John Locke, men did not abuse their Liberty. They did not threaten the lives of their neighbors. He wrote:
Though this is a state of liberty, yet it is not a state of license…. The state of nature of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges everyone; and reason, which is that law that teaches all mankind who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent; no one has a right to harm another in his life, health, liberty of possessions. 1
Locke’s social contract favored men quitting the state of nature to form themselves into a civil society. In this society men instituted the state where a social contract or covenant was formulated between citizens and government, a trustee which they could dismiss if it did not maintain the freedom and equality that men originally knew and enjoyed. In other words, when government no longer served the citizens’ interests and welfare, it might be resisted or overthrown.
Why, because government had violated its obligations under the social contract to the extent that it had broken it. What were these obligations? The government as trustee had to protect and