Locke’s Early Work
From Vizor of Religion to Veil of Ignorance
There hath been no design so wicked which hath not worn the vizor of
—John Locke, First Tract on Government
I esteem toleration to be the chief characteristic mark of the true
—John Locke, Letter concerning Toleration
In this and the next chapter I show that liberalism’s recent turn to loyalty is not altogether unprecedented. Locke’s own thought went through an analogous, even if not identical, turn. Observing this helps us better understand the contours of his thought, as well as his influence on liberal thought even to this day. Our study of Locke begins before Locke even is Locke as we know him today: in his oft-overlooked younger days as an opponent of toleration. This chapter explores this Lockean prehistory and explains the emergence of the thinker that we now identify as the founder of political liberalism. We can learn much not just by observing that he did move from supporting enforced religious uniformity to toleration but also how and why he makes this change. His view changed because he realized something analogous to what the thinkers examined in chapter 1 came to realize and what the thinkers of chapter 2 take for granted. Humans are constituted by deep and abiding moral loyalties that sometimes put them in tension with others and with their political communities; because of their depth, these loyalties are not easily harmonized by the ruler.