The Works of John Locke, Vol. 9 , John Locke
The Works of John Locke, Vol. 9
John Locke
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John Locke FRS was an English philosopher and physician, widely regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers and commonly known as the "Father of Liberalism". Considered one of the first of the British empiricists, following the tradition of Sir Francis Bacon, Locke is equally important to social contract theory. His work greatly affected the development of epistemology and political philosophy. His writings influenced Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and many Scottish Enlightenment thinkers, as well as the American Revolutionaries. This volume includes a collection of letters of John Locke as well as miscellaneous works.

The Works of John Locke, Vol. 9

(Letters and Misc. Works)

John Locke

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.

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