The Works of John Locke, Vol. 9
Category: Ideas
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The Works of John Locke, Vol. 9 is a collection of writings and letters by the renowned physician and philosopher. He is known as the father of Liberalism and a major figure in Enlightenment thinking. Locke was one of the first British empiricists and believed in learning through experience. Read this collection of philosophical thoughts from an essential man in the field.

The Works of John Locke, Vol. 9

(Letters and Misc. Works)

John Locke

The Works of John Locke, Vol. 9

A Collection of Several Pieces of Mr.
John Locke

John Locke
23, 1719

To Hugh Wrottesley, Esquire

HAVING met with several of Mr. Locke’s works, which were never printed, I thought myself obliged to impart them to the public, together with some pieces of that illustrious writer, which had indeed been published before, but without his name to them, and were grown very scarce. The value you have for every thing that was written by Mr. Locke, and your esteem for some of his friends concerned in this collection, emboldens me to offer it to you; and I flatter myself that you will favour it with your acceptance.

The first piece in this collection, contains “The Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina.” You know, sir, that Charles II. made a grant of that country by letters patents, bearing date March 24th, 1663, to the duke of Albemarle, the earl of Clarendon, the earl of Craven, the lord Berkley of Stratton, the lord Ashley, sir George Carteret, sir William Berkley, and sir John Colleton; who thereupon became proprietors of that colony. My lord Ashley, afterwards so well known by the title of earl of Shaftesbury, was distinguished by an exquisite judgment, an uncommon penetration, and a deep insight into civil affairs. The other proprietors desired him to draw up the laws necessary for the establishment of their new colony; to which he the more readily consented, because he relied on the assistance of Mr. Locke, who had the good fortune to gain his friendship and confidence.

My lord Ashley well knew, that our philosopher had a peculiar right to a work of this nature. He called to his mind so many ancient philosophers, who had been legislators, and who, on this very account, had statues erected to them. And indeed, sir, if we consider on the one hand, that a philosopher makes Man his particular study, knows the reach of his mind, and the springs of his passions, in fine, his good and bad qualities; and that on the other hand, not being biassed by any motives of self-interest, he hath nothing in view but the general good of mankind; it will be granted, that nobody is better qualified than such an one, not only to civilize a barbarous people, but to prevent the inconveniences and disorders which even the most polite nations are apt to fall into. In this respect it is, that the philosopher hath the advantage over the courtier, or what we call the politician. For this latter, being accustomed to study the genius and inclinations of men for his own ends only, and to make his own advantage of them; it is impossible he should entirely overcome the force of custom, and the tyranny of prejudice, when the concerns of the public, and the welfare of society, are under deliberation. But the philosopher considers things in general, and as they really are in themselves. He examines the most difficult and important points of government, with the same accuracy, and the same disposition of mind, as his other philosophical speculations. And therefore as all his views are more extensive and impartial, they must needs be more beneficial and secure.

But though some may be of opinion, that in matters of state, the politician ought to have the preference of the philosopher, this will not in the least diminish the value of the Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina; since not only a philosopher, but a politician of the first rank, was concerned therein. No man is more capable of judging of the excellence of such constitutions, than yourself, sir, who not only have acquired a complete knowledge of our laws, but studied them as a philosopher, by looking for the motives and foundations of them, in the very nature of mankind.

For the rest, you have here those constitutions, printed from Mr. Locke’s copy, wherein are several amendments made with his own hand. He had presented it, as a work of his, to one of his friends, who was pleased to communicate it to me.

The second piece in this collection is, “A Letter from a Person of Quality, to his Friend in the Country.” It gives an account of the debates and resolutions of the house of lords, in April and May, 1675, concerning a bill, intitled, “An act to prevent the dangers, which may arise from persons disaffected to the government.” By that bill, which was brought in by the court-party, all such as enjoyed any beneficial office or employment, civil or military, to which was afterwards added, privy counsellors, justices of the peace, and members of parliament, were, under a penalty, to take the oath, and make the declaration and abhorrence following: “I A. B. do declare, that it is not lawful, upon any pretence whatsoever, to take up arms against the king; and that I do abhor that traitorous position, of taking arms by his authority against his person; or against those that are commissioned by him, in pursuance of such commission; and I do swear, that I will not, at any time, endeavour the alteration of the government, either in church or state. So help me God.”

Such of the lords as had no dependence upon the court, and were distinguished by the name of country-lords, looked upon this bill as a step the court was making to introduce arbitrary power; and they opposed it so vigorously, that the debate lasted five several days, before it was committed to a committee of the whole house; and afterwards it took up sixteen or seventeen whole days; the house sitting many times till eight or nine of the clock at night, and sometimes till midnight. However after several alterations, which they were forced to make, it passed the committee; but a contest then arising between the two houses, concerning their privileges, they were so inflamed against each other, that the king thought it adviseable to prorogue the parliament, so that the bill was never reported from the committee to the house.

The debates occasioned by that bill, failed not to make a great noise throughout the whole kingdom; and because there were but few persons duly apprized thereof, and every body spoke of it as they stood affected: my lord Shaftesbury, who was at the head of the country-party, thought it necessary to publish an exact relation of every thing that had passed upon that occasion; in order, not only to open the people’s eyes upon the secret views of the court, but to do justice to the country lords, and thereby to secure to them the continuance of the affection and attachment of such as were of the same opinion with themselves, which was the most considerable part of the nation. But though this lord had all the faculties of an orator; yet not having time to exercise himself in the art of writing, he desired Mr. Locke to draw up this relation; which he did under his lordship’s inspection, and only committed to writing what my lord Shaftesbury did in a manner dictate to him. Accordingly you will find in it a great many strokes, which could proceed from nobody but my lord Shaftesbury himself; and among others, the characters and eulogiums of such lords as had signalized themselves in the cause of public liberty.

This letter was privately printed soon afterwards; and the court was so incensed at it, that, at the next meeting of the parliament, towards the end of the year 1675, the court-party, who still kept the ascendant in the house of lords, ordered it to be burnt by the common hangman. “The particular relation of this debate, says the ingenious Mr. Marvel, which lasted many days with great eagerness on both sides, and the reasons but on one, was, in the next session, burnt by order of the lords, but the sparks of it will eternally fly in their adversaries faces.

This piece was grown very scarce. It is true it was inserted, in the year 1689, in the first volume of the State Tracts; but in such a manner, that it had been far better not to have reprinted it at all. And, indeed, among numbers of lesser faults, there are several whole periods left out; and many places appear to be designedly falsified. It is likely all this was occasioned by the compiler’s making use of the first printed copy that fell into his hands; without giving himself the trouble to look out for more exact ones. That I might not be guilty of the same fault, I have sought after all the editions I could possibly hear of; and have luckily met two printed in the year 1675, both pretty exact, though one is more so than the other. I have collated them with each other, and with that contained in the State Tracts. In short, that this piece might appear to the best advantage, I have taken the same care as if I had been to publish some Greek or Latin author from ancient manuscripts. And truly when a man undertakes to republish a work that is out of print, and which deserves to be made more easy to be come at, be it either ancient or modern, it is the same thing; the public is equally abused, if, instead of restoring it according to the best editions, and in the most correct manner that is possible, the editor gives it from the first copy he chances to light upon, without troubling himself whether that copy be defective or not.

The third piece in this collection consists of “Remarks upon some of Mr. Norris’s Books, wherein he asserts Father Malebranche’s Opinion, of our seeing all Things in God.” It is in a manner the sequel of a much larger discourse, printed in the year 1706, among the “Posthumous Works of Mr. Locke.” Our author had resolved to give that subject a thorough examination; and this small piece is but a sketch, containing some cursory reflections, which he had thrown together, in reading over some of Mr. Norris’s books. Accordingly, I find these words in his manucsript, written before those Remarks; “Some other thoughts, which I set down, as they came in my way, in a hasty perusal of some of Mr. Norris’s writings, to be better digested, when I shall have leisure to make an end of this argument.” And at the end of them, he hath added these words: “the finishing of these hasty thoughts must be deferred to another season.” But though this small piece is far from being perfected, it however contains many important reflections; and therefore, I was of opinion it deserved to be published; and I hope, sir, you will not disapprove my inserting it in this collection.

It is followed here by the “Elements of Natural Philosophy.” Mr. Locke had composed, or rather dictated, these Elements for the use of a young gentleman, whose education he had very much at heart. It is an abstract or summary of whatever is most material in natural philosophy; which Mr. Locke did afterwards explain more at large to that young gentleman. The same is practised in the universities, where, you know, it is customary for the professors to dictate such abridgments, to serve for the subject and rule of their lectures. And therefore this small tract is far from being what Mr. Locke would have made it, had he written upon that matter professedly, and designed to make it a complete work.

However, as the generality of men expect every thing should be perfect, that proceeds from such a writer as Mr. Locke, and do not enter into the occasions or designs which he proposed to himself in writing; I own that some persons, very good judges, whom I have taken the liberty to consult about the impression of some pieces in this collection, were of opinion that this little treatise had better been left out, for fear every reader should not make the proper allowances, and lest the memory of Mr. Locke should suffer by it. I yielded to their opinion; and was resolved to lay that piece aside. But being informed that there were several other copies of it abroad, which it was impossible to suppress, or hinder from falling, one time or other, into the hands of the printers, maimed and disfigured, as is too often the case on such occasions; I was obliged to take other measures; and I the more easily determined to publish it, because I could give it more complete, more correct, and in better order, than can possibly be pretended to, by the copies above mentioned.

After all, I may take upon me to say, that, in its kind, this piece is no way to be despised. We wanted such a work in English; and it would not have been an easy matter to find any other person, who could have comprehended so many things in so few words, and in so clear and distinct a manner. Great use may be made of it in the instruction of young gentlemen, as it was originally designed by Mr. Locke. And persons even of riper years may improve by it; either by recalling ideas that had slipt out of their memory; or by informing themselves of several things, which were unknown to them.

To this treatise are subjoined, “Some Thoughts concerning Reading and Study for a Gentleman.” Mr. Locke having one day, in conversation, discoursed upon the method that a young gentleman should take in his reading, and study; one of the company was so well pleased with it, that he desired him to dictate to him the substance of what he had been speaking; which Mr. Locke immediately did. This is one of the usual conversations of Mr. Locke, reduced into writing: from whence you may judge, sir, how agreeable and advantageous it was to converse with that great man.

Mr. Locke not only points out the sciences that a gentleman ought to study, whether as a private man, or one in a public capacity; but likewise directs to such books as treat of those sciences, and which, in his opinion, are the properest for that end. As you have acquired, sir, in Italy, the most refined taste for the politer arts, and have added that study to those Mr. Locke here recommends to a gentleman; you will perhaps wonder, that he says nothing of painting, sculpture, architecture, and other arts of this kind, which make an accomplished gentleman. But I desire you would consider, that there are but few persons in possession of the means necessary for attaining this sort of knowledge; and that Mr. Locke is speaking here of what may suit the circumstances of the generality of people. Besides he was very far from imagining, that an extemporary advice, which he was giving by his fire-side, would ever be exposed to common view. However, I presume to think, that after you have perused it, you will be of opinion it was not unworthy to be made public.

But among the works of Mr. Locke, contained in this volume, I do not know that any will afford you more pleasure than his Letters. Some of them are written upon weighty subjects; and are upon that very account exceeding valuable. Others are what Mr. Locke wrote out of the country to one of his friends in London, about private business. In these one would expect nothing but what was common and customary; but a subject so simple, and vulgar in itself, changes, as it were, its very nature, when managed by Mr. Locke; and becomes something considerable and of moment, by the turn and manner in which he expresses the sentiments of affection and gratitude he hath for his friend. And indeed, though true friendship be founded upon esteem; yet we may say, if friendship goes no farther, there is something in it austere, not to say dry, and rustic. But there is a certain agreeable and complaisant way of showing this esteem, wherein consists the greatest charm of friendship; as it is what supports it, and adds force and vigour to it. Now this is Mr. Locke’s peculiar talent; and it is impossible that a person of your nice taste should not be sensibly touched with the respectful, endearing, and affectionate manner in which he writes here to his friend; and which he still repeats with new graces. It is a pattern of urbanity, politeness, and gaiety. For our old philosopher hath nothing morose, nor uneasy. Whenever he speaks of his infirmities, it is by way of pleasantry, or that he may have an opportunity of saying some obliging thing to his friend.

The last piece in this collection contains the “Rules of a Society, which met once a Week for their Improvement in useful Knowledge, aad the promoting of Truth and Christian Charity.” Mr. Locke took a delight in forming such societies, wherever he made any stay. He had established one at Amsterdam in 1687, of which Mr. Limborch, and Mr. Le Clerc, were members. He settled this club at London soon after the Revolution; and drew up the rules you will find here. But his design in doing this, was not only to pass away time in an agreeable conversation of two or three hours; he had views far more solid and sublime. As there is nothing that more obstructs the advancement of truth, and the progress of real christianity, than a certain narrow spirit, which leads men to cantonise themselves, if I may so speak, and to break into small bodies, which at last grow into so many factions; Mr. Locke, zealous for the general good of mankind, would have gladly inspired them with sentiments of a higher and more extensive nature, and united those whom the spirit of prejudice or party had kept asunder. This is what continually employed his thoughts. He never loses sight of it throughout his works. Nay, it is the principal subject of them. But he did not confine himself to bare speculation; and he formed the society above mentioned with a design to render, as much as lay in his power, such a desirable union practicable. This appears from the disposition of mind he requires in those, who were to be members of it; and especially by the declaration they were obliged to subscribe, “that by their becoming of that society, they proposed to themselves an improvement in useful knowledge, and the promoting of truth and christian charity.”

But you will find, sir, the same mind, the same genius, not only in this small piece, but in all others in this collection. Mr. Locke every-where discovers a sincere love of truth, and an invincible aversion to whatever may do it the least wrong. To the quality of a great philosopher, he every-where joins that of a true christian. You see him full of love, respect, and admiration, for the christian religion. And thereby he furnishes us with the strongest presumption, that can be imagined, for the truth as well as excellency of that holy institution. For this is not the approbation of a vulgar mind, who is still fettered by the prejudices of infancy; it is the suffrage of a wit, a superior genius, who has laboured all his life to guard against error; who, in several important points, departed from the common opinion; and made christianity his study, without taking it upon trust. It is, doubtless, a great advantage, not to say an honour, for a doctrine to be embraced and countenanced by such a man. But let us return to our collection.

To make it more useful, I have added notes to illustrate certain passages, which suppose the knowledge of some facts that may be unknown to the reader, or which would not readily occur to his memory; and therefore these notes are merely historical. I pretend neither to approve nor disapprove the particulars they contain. I only act the part of an historian. There is but one of them that can be looked upon as critical; and even that is only intended to settle a matter of fact, misrepresented by a late historian. These notes are not very numerous; and I do not know but the fear of swelling them too much may have made me suppress some, which would not have been wholly useless.

As for what concerns the impression itself, in order to make it more beautiful, I have been obliged to recede, in several respects, from our usual way of printing; which, if I am allowed to speak freely, is extremely vicious. It is a matter of wonder, that in such a country as this, where there is so much encouragement for printing, there should prevail a sort of Gothic taste, which deforms our English impressions, and makes them not a little ridiculous. For can any thing be more absurd, than so many capital letters, that are not only prefixed to all noun substantives, but also often to adjectives, pronouns, particles, and even to verbs? And what shall we say of that odd mixture of italic, which, instead of helping the reader to distinguish matters the more clearly, does only perplex him; and breeds a confusion shocking to the eye? But you are not to be informed, sir, you, who every day enrich your library with books of the finest editions, that none of these faults were ever committed by the printers, who have been eminent in their art. Surely, if the authors on the one hand, and the readers on the other, would oppose this barbarism, it would be no difficult matter to restore a just taste, and a beautiful way of printing.

To the pieces already mentioned, I have prefixed the character of Mr. Locke, at the request of some of his friends; as you will see by the letter before it, which was sent to me together with that character.

These, sir, are all the pieces, which make up this volume. Why may I not, at the same time that I offer it to you, unfold to the view of the public so many perfections, which a too severe and scrupulous modesty conceals from it! Why may I not make known the rare endowments of your mind, as well as the noble and generous sentiments of your heart! But I fear I have already too much presumed upon your goodness, by prefixing your name to this discourse. And after having been so bold, as not to consult you, upon a thing which you would never have permitted; I ought to account myself very fortunate, if, on consideration of my passing over your excellent qualities in profound silence, you are pleased to forgive the freedom I have taken; and will give me leave to declare to you and all the world, how sensible I am of the friendship you honour me with, and to assure you that I shall always be, with the greatest respect,

Your most obedient,
and most humble servant,
March 23, 1719.

A Table of the Pieces Contained in This Collection

THE character of Mr. Locke, by Mr. Peter Coste.

The fundamental constitutions of Carolina.

A letter from a person of quality to his friend in the country; giving an account of the debates and resolutions of the house of lords, in April and May 1675, concerning a bill, intitled, “An act to prevent the dangers which may arise from persons disaffected to the government.”

Remarks upon some of Mr. Norris’s books, wherein he asserts F. Malebranche’s opinion of “our seeing all things in God.”

Elements of natural philosophy.

Some thoughts concerning reading and study for a gentleman.

A letter to Mr. Oldenburg, secretary to the Royal Society.

Letters to Anthony Collins, Esq.

A letter to the Rev. Mr. Richard King.

A letter to * * * on Dr. Pococke.

Letters to the Rev. Mr. Richard King.

Rules of a society which met once a week, for their improvement in useful knowledge, and for the promoting of truth and christian charity.

The Character of Mr.
Locke; by Mr. Peter Coste

with A LETTER relating to that Character, and to the Author of it.

John Locke
Feb. 4, 1720

A Letter to Mr. * * * * * *

Feb. 4, 1720.

BEING informed, that you design to publish several new pieces of Mr. Locke, I here send you, at the request of some of his friends, the translation of a letter, attempting his character, and containing several passages of his life and conversation; which you are desired to prefix before that collection.

The author of that letter is Mr. Peter Coste, who has translated into French Mr. Locke’s Thoughts concerning Education, his Reasonableness of Christianity, and Vindications thereof; with his principal work, the Essay concerning Human Understanding.

Mr. Coste lived in the same family with Mr. Locke, during the seven last years of that great man’s life; whereby he had all possible opportunities to know him.

The letter was written some time after Mr. Locke’s death; and appears to be the production of a man in raptures, and struck with the highest admiration of Mr. Locke’s virtue, capacity, and of the excellency of his writings; and under the deepest affliction for the loss of a person, to whom in his life-time he had paid the most profound respect, and for whom he had constantly expressed the greatest esteem, and that even in writings, whereof Mr. Locke did not know him to be the author.

And therefore Mr. Locke’s friends judge its publication necessary, not only, as they think it contains a just character of Mr. Locke, as far as it goes; but as it is a proper vindication of him against the said Mr. Coste, who in several writings, and in his common conversation throughout France, Holland, and England, has aspersed and blackened the memory of Mr. Locke, in those very respects, wherein he was his panegyrist before.

For, they conceive, the eulogium contained in the following letter must stand good, till Mr. Coste thinks fit either to deny his own experience, or to confess, that the same things, which he then thought praise-worthy, have since changed their nature. I am,

Your most obedient humble servant,

John Locke
Dec. 10, 1704
Mr. Locke

The Character of Mr.

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