Political Writings

Political Writings

Political Writings

Political Writings

Synopsis

John Locke's 'Second Treatise of Government' (c1681) is perhaps the key founding liberal text. 'A Letter Concerning Toleration', written in 1685 (a year when a Catholic monarch came to the throne of England and Louis XVI unleashed a reign of terror against Protestants in France), is a classic defence of religious freedom. Yet many of Locke's other writings -- not least the 'Constitutions of Carolina', which he helped draft -- are almost defiantly anti-liberal in outlook. This comprehensive collection brings together the main published works (excluding polemical attacks on other people's views) with the most important surviving evidence from among Locke's papers relating to his political philosophy. David Wootton's wide-ranging and scholarly Introduction sets the writings in the context of their time, examines Locke's developing ideas and unorthodox Christianity, and analyses his main arguments. The result is the first fully rounded picture of Locke's political thought in his own words.

Excerpt

Two events mark the beginning of modern Locke scholarship: Eric Stokes’s discovery, in 1944 or 1945, in the library of Christ’s College, Cambridge, of a revised text of the Two Treatises of Government, prepared by Locke for the printer (Laslett in Locke 1967b, xiv); and the purchase of the Earl of Lovelace’s collection of Locke manuscripts by the Bodleian Library in 1947 (Long 1959). The first event gave rise to Peter Laslett’s brilliant edition of the Two Treatises (1960), and to the work of a long series of Locke scholars trained in Cambridge, including John Dunn, Patrick Kelly, Philip Abrams, Richard Tuck, and James Tully. The second led to the Clarendon Edition of Locke’s works, which is still in progress, and to the work of scholars such as Peter Nidditch, E. S. De Beer, W. von Leyden, and G. A. J. Rogers. Meanwhile a series of North American scholars–John Yolton, Leo Strauss, C. B. Macpherson, Richard Ashcraft, and others–have provided sharply contrasting accounts of Locke’s intellectual commitments.

It is this distinguished body of modern scholarship that makes a selection of Locke’s political writings timely, for students and a wider public need to have easy access to the texts that scholars have long been debating. Where this is the first wide-ranging selection from Locke’s political works, there are by now numerous competing introductions to Locke’s political thought: my Introduction is not intended to replace them, but to help those reading Locke for the first time to find their way among them and, at the same time, to provide a new account of the place of religion in Locke’s political thought (an account that places particular stress on Socinianism), and a new account of the development of Locke’s political ideas (an account that emphasizes the importance of James Tyrrell’s Patriarcha non Monarcha).

My main principle of selection has been a straightforward one. I simply excluded those works by Locke that were primarily polemical, and concentrated instead on those in which he was mainly concerned to express his own views. This meant excluding the . . .

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