Saturday, December 12, 2015

George H. Smith: "John Locke: In Search of the Radical Locke"

Check it out here. A taste:
[B]ut for now I wish to discuss the theory, accepted by virtually every modern Lockean scholar, that most of the Second Treatise was written years before the Glorious Revolution.

Early commentators, misled by Locke’s preface, assumed that Locke wrote the Second Treatise after William’s successful invasion of England. In 1960, Peter Laslett published his definitive edition of the Two Treatises, and his lengthy, detailed Introduction to the text changed the course of Lockean scholarship.

Laslett, after a meticulous examination of both textual and external evidence, concluded that most of the Two Treatises was written between 1679 and 1681 (around 18 years before the Glorious Revolution) during a political struggle known as the Exclusion Crisis. This was an unsuccessful parliamentary effort by Whigs, led by Lord Shaftesbury (Locke’s patron and, in some respects, his mentor) to prevent the Catholic Duke of York (brother of Charles II and later James II) and other Catholics from succeeding to the throne of England. (It should be understood that Catholicism in Locke’s day was commonly associated with the absolutist policies of Louis XIV.) As originally written, according to Laslett, the “Two Treatises in fact turns out to be a demand for a revolution to be brought about, not a rationalization of a revolution in need of defense.” Similarly, Maurice Cranston, in John Locke: A Biography (1957), drawing upon Laslett’s research before publication, concluded: “The Two Treatises of Government was not something written after the event to “justify” a revolution, but something written before the event to promote a revolution.”

1 comment:

Tom Van Dyke said...

Locke published it after the Glorious Revolution all right, but anonymously, I imagine in case the revolution didn't take. ;-)