From the History Today Companion to British History:
LOCKE, JOHN (1632-1704), philosopher. Son of an ATTORNEY who had fought on the PARLIAMENTARIAN SIDE in the CIVIL WARS, Locke both studied and taught at OXFORD UNIVERSITY. IN 1667, he became attached to the household of Anthony Ashley COOPER, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury, henceforth his political patron. Holding minor office when Shaftesbury was in power, Locke went to France when the Earl was out of favour (1676-9), and to Holland when the exposure of the RYE HOUSE PLOT shattered his circle. The GLORIOUS REVOLUTION allowed him to come back to England in 1689, and from 1696 he once more played a part in public life, serving as one of the most active members of the newly founded BOARD OF TRADE.
His writings, published only after 1689 although much was written earlier, include three Letters advocating religious toleration (1689, 1690, 1692); Two Treatises of Government &1680), a classic exposition both of the right to resist misgovernment and limit its activities, and of the right to hold private property; and An Essay on Human Understanding (1690), a book which was to be hailed as seminal by thinkers of the ENLIGHTENMENT for its advocacy of the primacy of human experience in the perception of truth. Some Thoughts Concerning Education (1693) and The Reasonableness of Christianity (1695) followed; the latter became a key text for LATITUDINARIANS and DEISTS (although Locke himself disapproved of the description 'Deist'). Like HOBBES, Locke began his analyisis with man in a state of nature; otherwise there is little resemblance in their political theory. For Hobbes, the state of nature is so terrifying that men willingly accept the arbitrary rule of an all-powerful sovereign; for Locke, the state of nature has sufficient inconveniences to persuade men to join together and to entrust limited powers (defined in terms of executive, federative, and legislative functions) to a government to act for the common good. What make Locke's Two Treatises appear subersive to his more conservative readers, then and later, was his justification of the subject's right to resisteance should the ruler (or governing authority) violate the trust invested in him. And Locke seems to have been well aware of the work's radical thrust; not only did he publish it anonymously, but he also consistently denied authorship, though frequently taxed with it, until his death. His political ideas were to have a considerable influence on the American colonists in their breach with Britain (see SIDNEY, ALGERNON).
From The Oxford Companion to English Literature, ed. Margaret Drabble:
LOCKE, John (1632-1704), born at Wrington, Somerset, educated at Westminster and Christ Church. He held various academic posts at that university, and became physician to the household of the first earl of *Shaftesbury in 1667. He held official positions and subsequently lived at Oxford, then fled to Holland in 1683 as a consequence of Shaftesbury's plotting for Monmouth; how far he was himself involved is not certain. In 1687 he joined William of Orange at Rotterdam; on his return to England he became commissioner of appeals and member of the council of trade. His last years were spent in Essex in the home of Sir Francis and Lady Mashm, the latter being the daughter of Ralph Cudworth, one of the *Cambridge Platonists.
Locke's principal philosophical work is the *Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), a work which led J. S. *Mill to call him the 'unquestioned founder of the analytic philosophy of mind'. always critical of 'enthusiasm', he was originally opposed to freedom of religion, and never supported Catholic emancipation; but in his maturity he defended the rights of the Dissenters on both moral and economic grounds. He published three Letters on Toleration between 1689 and 1692; a fourth was left unfinished at his death. His defence of simple biblical religion in The Reasonableness of Christianity, without resort to creed or tradition, led to a charge of *Socinianism, which Locke replied to in two Vindications (1695, 1697). He was also involved in an extensive pamphlet war with Edward Stillingfleet (1696-8) over the alleged compatibility of his Essay with Socinianism and *Deism.
Locke published in 1690 two Treatises of Government designed to combat the theory of the divine right of kings. He finds the origin of the civil state in a contract. The 'legislative', or government, 'being only a fiduciary power to act for certain ends, there remains still in the people the supreme power to remove or alter the legislative when they find the legislative act contrary to the trust reposed in them'. Throughout, Locke in his theory of the 'Original Contract' opposes absolutism; the first Treatise is specifically an attack on Sir Robert Filmer's Patriarcha. Although Locke in his early manuscripts was closer to *Hobbes's authoritarianism and continues to share with Hobbes the view that civil obligations are founded in contract, he strongly rejected Hobbes's view that the sovereign is above the law and no party to the contract. He published a volume on education in 1693, and on the rate of interest and the value of money in 1692 and 1695. The first edition of his collected works appeared in 1714. A full critical edition of his works, including eight volumes of correspondence, was launched in 1975.
Locke's writings had an immense influence on the literature of succeeding generations, and he was very widely read; his Thoughts Concerning Education, which are concerned with practical advice on the upbringing of 'sons of gentlemen', were given to *Richardson's Pamela by Mr. B—, and to his son by *Chesterfield, and their influence is seen in *Rousseau's *Émile; his view of the child's mind as a tabula rasa, and his distinctions between wit and judgement, were the subject of much discussion during the *Augustan age. The anit-philosophy jokes of the *Scriblerus Club demonstrate the currency of his ideas; *Addison was his champion in many essays. But perhaps his greatest impact was on *Sterne, who quotes him frequently in *Tristram Shandy, and who was deeply interested in his theories of the random association of ideas, of the measuring of time, of the nature of sensation, etc. On this subject, see Kenneth MacLean, John Locke and English Literature of the Eighteenth Century (1936).
An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1975), ed. Peter H. Nidditch; A Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistles of St Paul, ed. Arthur W. Wainwright (2 vols, 1987); The Correspondence of John Locke, ed. E. S. de Beer (8 vols, 1976-89). (See also RESTORATION).