Locke and Blake: A Conversation across the Eighteenth Century

By Wayne Glausser | Go to book overview

Chapter 5
Seditious Plots

The most obvious biographical parallel between Locke's life and Blake's is that both were accused of sedition. The law that both allegedly broke--subverting public confidence in the king--was defined essentially the same way in 1685 and in 1803, despite the political changes that the intervening century produced. Blake, of course, was challenging the curtailed monarchy put into place by Locke et al. in the seditious success of the Glorious Revolution. Given the operative definitions of the crime, both men were guilty; but both found ways to maintain their innocence, and neither was convicted. Full details of the two cases will never be known. Locke went into exile and successfully kept much of his activity secret. Blake was not ordinarily very good at keeping things secret, but in this case he made a much better effort. If Blake's case was nothing of particular importance for the larger society--merely a local incident involving an eccentric artist--his trial raised issues of law and innocence that deserve comparison with Locke's more influential political activities and writings.


WHO SHALL BE JUDGE?

Unlike Blake, Locke was never formally indicted and brought to trial for sedition. But his name was included on a 1685 list of treasonous or seditious radicals whom the king wanted to have arrested and extradited from Holland, where they were living in exile. Charles Middleton, one of James II's under secretaries of state, sent a list to the English envoy in Holland, Bevil Skelton. This first list did not include Locke's name, but Skelton was asked to add any names that might have been inadvertently omitted. He added Locke, among others. Some scholars have assumed that the accusation was a flimsy one and merely the work of Skelton. But as Richard Ashcraft points out, Middleton sent a second list of names before he had received Skelton's addendum, and apparently this

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Locke and Blake: A Conversation across the Eighteenth Century
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Chapter 1 from Caricature to Conversation 1
  • Chapter 2 Mothers, the Matrix, and Marriage 13
  • Chapter 3 Two English Physicians 43
  • Chapter 4 Slavery 62
  • Chapter 5 Seditious Plots 92
  • Chapter 6 Possessions 121
  • Chapter 7 Printing 141
  • Chapter 8 Epitaphs 163
  • Notes 166
  • Bibliography 183
  • Index 191
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