Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Newton Key


In this thesis, I examine the political theories of Sir Robert Filmer, John Locke, and James Tyrrell and, in turn, compare their respective conceptions of property which are at the foundation of their political theories. This political debate about property must be set amongst the political circumstances of the exclusion crisis. Arising from the Whig-Tory division, which arose in part from the Popish Plot, Filmer, Locke, and Tyrrell reveal the ideas of the parties they represented. Locke and Tyrrell, as Whig representatives, refuted the patriarchal theory of Filmer's Patriarcha, representative of the Tory party. In refuting Filmer, Locke and Tyrrell reveal the Whig movement from arguments focusing on history to their acceptance of natural law political theory. As natural law theorists, there are many similarities between the property theories of Locke and Tyrrell as presented in the Two Treatises and Patriarcha non Monarcha. However, in contrast to Locke, Tyrrell presents a definition of property which focuses on economic (and not ideological) rights and claims that occupancy is a right to property. In addition, he presents an argument in which an absolute monarchy can be accepted as legitimate, which Locke would never accept. I conclude that the work of James Tyrrell is most representative of the period's political debates and explain why.