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This article explores the ways in which John Locke was claimed by liberalism and refashioned in its image. It was Locke's fate to become the hero of what I term ‘the fable of liberalism’, the story liberalism recounts to itself about its origins and purposes. Locke is a pivotal figure – perhaps the pivotal figure – in this story, because he put into currency conceptions which contributed centrally to the emergence and spread of liberal ways of thinking about politics which continue to ramify. It was Locke who established that the legitimacy of a political authority was a necessary condition of obedience to it and that its legitimacy was a product of the consensual route by which it came into existence; it was Locke who established that the route by which it came into existence determined the ends for which it existed and, with these, the scope of its authority. All this was explained in an exemplary way by Locke (the story goes), and he remains the great exemplar for understanding and conducting politics legitimately even today. This article puts question marks beside the Locke who emerges from this story. It substitutes a new and very different Locke in his place.

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Department of Politics, University of York, Heslington, York, yo10
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1 Quentin Skinner, ‘The place of history in public life’, History & Policy policy papers, no. 35, Dec. 2005:

2 Ibid. For three contrasting accounts of the importance of stories of this kind, compare Oakeshott, Michael, ‘History is a fable’, in O'Sullivan, L., ed., What is history and other essays (Exeter, 2004), pp. 3244; MacIntyre, Alasdair, ‘Epistemological crises, dramatic narrative and the philosophy of science’, The Monist, 60 (1977), pp. 453–72; and Williams, Bernard, ‘Life as narrative’, European Journal of Philosophy, 17 (2007), pp. 305–14.

3 See Bell, Duncan, ‘What is liberalism?’, Political Theory, 42 (2014), pp. 682715, repr. in Reordering the world: essays on liberalism and empire (Princeton, NJ, 2016), ch. 3, and compare Samuel, Herbert, Liberalism: an attempt to state the principles and proposals of contemporary liberalism in England (London, 1902); Hobhouse, L. T., Liberalism (London, 1911); Ruggiero, Guido de, The history of European liberalism, trans. Collingwood, R. G. (Oxford, 1927); Watkins, Frederick Mundell, The political tradition of the West: a study in the development of modern liberalism (Cambridge, MA, 1948); Givertz, Harry K., From wealth to welfare: the evolution of liberalism (Stanford, CA, 1950); Schapiro, J. Salwyn, Liberalism: its meaning and history (Princeton, NJ, 1958); Wolin, Sheldon S., Politics and vision: continuity in Western political thought (Boston, MA, 1960), pp. 286351; Vachet, André, L'idéologie liberale: l'individu et sa propriété (Paris, 1970); Manning, D. J., Liberalism (London, 1976); Mansfield, Harvey C. Jr, The spirit of liberalism (Cambridge, MA, 1978); Dunn, John, Western political theory in the face of the future (Cambridge, 1979), ch. 2, passim; Arblaster, Anthony, The rise and decline of Western liberalism (Oxford, 1984); Gray, John, Liberalism (Minneapolis, MN, 1995); Leonhard, Jörn, Liberalismus: Zur historischen Semantik eines europäischen Deutungsmusters (Munich, 2001); Kelly, P. J., Liberalism (Cambridge, 2005); Losurdo, Domenico, Controstoria del liberalismo (Rome, 2005); Paul, Ellen Frankel, Miller, Fred D. Jr, and Paul, Jeffrey, eds., Liberalism: old and new (Cambridge, 2007); Ryan, Alan, The making of modern liberalism (Princeton, NJ, 2012); Alexander, James, ‘The major ideologies of liberalism, socialism, and conservatism’, Political Studies, 63 (2014), pp. 980–94; Fawcett, Edmund, Liberalism: the life of an idea (Princeton, NJ, 2014); Freeden, Michael, Liberalism (Oxford, 2015); Wall, Steven, ed., The Cambridge companion to liberalism (Cambridge, 2015). Additional literature will be identified at appropriate points as the article advances.

4 For Hobbes as a liberal, see (in chronological sequence) Austin, John, The province of jurisprudence determined (London, 1832), pp. 276–80ff; Taylor, A. E., Hobbes (London, 1908), pp. 91–2, and compare Seth, Andrew, English philosophers and schools of philosophy (London, 1925), p. 73; Gauthier, David, The logic of Leviathan (Oxford, 1969); Rawls, John, ‘The idea of an overlapping consensus’ (1987), in Freeman, Samuel, ed., Collected papers (Cambridge, MA, 1999), pp. 421–48, at p. 442n (distinguishing ‘the Hobbesian strand in liberalism’); Hobbes, Thomas, Leviathan, ed. Tuck, Richard (Cambridge, 1991), pp. xxxivxlv; Flathman, Richard, Thomas Hobbes: skepticism, individuality, and chastened politics (Newbury Park, CA, 1993); Ryan, Alan, ‘Hobbes's political philosophy’, in Sorell, Tom, ed., The Cambridge companion to Hobbes (Cambridge, 1996), pp. 208–45, at p. 237; Skinner, Quentin, Liberty before liberalism (Cambridge, 1998), esp. ch. 2; Israel, Jonathan, Radical enlightenment: philosophy and the making of modernity (Oxford, 2001); van Mill, David, Liberty, rationality and agency in Hobbes's Leviathan (Albany, NY, 2001); Martinich, A. P., ‘Hobbes's reply to republicanism’, in Foisneau, Luc and Wright, George, eds., Nuove prospecttive critiche sul Leviatano di Hobbes (Milan, 2004), pp. 227–39, at p. 228; Sullivan, Vickie B., Machiavelli, Hobbes, and the formation of a liberal republicanism in England (Cambridge, 2004), p. 105; Owen, J. Judd, ‘The tolerant Leviathan: Hobbes and the paradox of liberalism’, Polity, 37 (2005), pp. 130–48, Tuck, Richard, ‘Hobbes and democracy’, in Brett, A. S., Tully, James, with Hamilton-Bleakley, Holly, eds., Rethinking the foundations of modern political thought (Cambridge, 2006), pp. 171–90; Jaume, L., ‘Hobbes and the philosophical sources of liberalism’, in Springborg, Patricia, ed., The Cambridge companion to Hobbes's Leviathan (Cambridge, 2007), pp. 199216; Skinner, Quentin, Hobbes and republican liberty (Cambridge, 2008); Seagrave, S. Adam, The foundations of natural morality: on the compatibility of natural law and natural rights (Chicago, IL, 2014); Malcolm, Noel, ‘Thomas Hobbes: liberal illiberal’, Journal of the British Academy, 4 (2016), pp. 113–36.

5 For Locke as a liberal, see Vialatoux, Joseph, ‘La philosophie libérale de Locke’, in Philosophie économique: études critique sur le naturalisme (Paris, 1932), pp. 117–56; Stocks, J. L., ‘Locke's contribution to political theory’, in John Locke: tercentenary addresses (Oxford, 1933), pp. 313, at p. 7: ‘Probably it is historically correct to describe Locke's Civil Government as the first adequate formulation of the principles of the Liberal State’; Orton, W. A., The liberal tradition: a study of the social and spiritual conditions of freedom (New Haven, CT, 1945), pp. 108–14; Kelsen, Hans, ‘Foundations of democracy’, Ethics, 66 (1955), pp. 1101, esp. pp. 86–90; Seliger, Martin, The liberal politics of John Locke (London, 1968); Germino, Dante, Modern Western political thought: Machiavelli to Marx (Chicago, IL, 1972), ch. 5 (‘Locke and the origins of modern liberalism’); Elshtain, Jean Bethke, Public man, private woman: women in social and political thought (Princeton, NJ, 1981), pp. 108–27; Eisenach, Eldon J., Two worlds of liberalism: religion and politics in Hobbes, Locke, and Mill (Chicago, IL, 1981), part 2; Grant, Ruth W., John Locke's liberalism (Chicago, IL, 1987); Dworetz, Steven M., The unvarnished doctrine: Locke, liberalism, and the American revolution (Durham, NC, 1990); Myers, Peter C., Our only star and compass: Locke and the struggle for political rationality (Lanham, MD, 1998); Jaume, Lucien, La liberté et la loi: les origines philosophiques du libéralisme (Paris, 2000); Rawls, John, Lectures on the history of political philosophy, ed. Freeman, Samuel (Cambridge, MA, 2007), pp. 103–73; Salzborn, Samuel, Der Staat des Liberalismus: die liberale Staatstheorie von John Locke (Baden-Baden, 2010); Collins, Jeffrey, ‘The early modern foundations of classic liberalism’, in Klosko, George, ed., The Oxford handbook of the history of political philosophy (Oxford, 2011), pp. 258–81; Perry, John, The pretenses of loyalty: Locke, liberal theory, and American political theology (Oxford, 2011); Arneson, Richard J., ‘Locke and the liberal tradition’, in Stuart, Matthew, ed., A companion to Locke (Oxford, 2015), pp. 528–45, esp. pp. 542–5. That it is by now almost a cliché to refer to Locke in these terms is elegantly exposed by Goldie, Mark, ‘Mary Astell and John Locke’, in Kolbrener, W. and Michelson, M., eds., Mary Astell: reason, gender, faith (Aldershot, 2007), pp. 6585, at p. 65, dramatizing a contrast between ‘Mary Astell, “the first English feminist”, and John Locke, “the father of liberalism.”’

6 The classic statements being Strauss, Leo, Natural right and history (Chicago, IL, 1953); and Macpherson, C. B., The political theory of possessive individualism: Hobbes to Locke (Oxford, 1962). For an early comment, see Berlin, Isaiah, ‘Hobbes, Locke, and Professor Macpherson’, Political Quarterly, 35 (1964), pp. 444–68, at 461n: ‘Hobbes is a ravening wolf who looks like one. Locke is a…wolf in medieval, natural law, sheep's clothes.’ As Berlin went on to observe, ‘This puts Mr. Macpherson into paradoxical proximity to…Strauss and his followers: if Hobbes and Locke turn out to be bedfellows, so are those who (from very opposite corners) so regard them.’

7 For an earlier and suggestive use of this phrase, see Mitchell, Joshua, ‘Religion and the fable of liberalism: the case of Hobbes’, Theoria, 115 (2008), pp. 116.

8 For one such, see Skinner, Hobbes and republican liberty, pp. 211–16, and, at length, Skinner, Quentin and Gelderen, Martin van, eds., Republicanism: a shared European heritage (2 vols., Cambridge, 2002).

9 For the classical genres of fabulae, see Diomedes, Ars grammatica, 1.489.23–91.3 in Keil, Heinrich, ed., Grammatici latini, i (Leipzig, 1857). See also Augustine, Soliloquia, bk 2, ch. 11, §19, in Migne, J. P., ed., Patrologia Latina, xxxii (Paris, 1875), col. 894: ‘siquidem est fabula compositum ad utilitatem delectationemve mendacium’ (‘a fabula is a falsehood composed for benefit or delight’).

10 Compare Hegel, G. W. F., Elements of the philosophy of right, ed. Wood, A. W. and H. B., trans. Nisbet (Cambridge, 1991), §§121–3, 144–9, 185R, 187, 206R, and 268; and idem, Lectures on the philosophy of world history: introduction: reason in history, trans. ed., and Nisbet, H. B. (Cambridge, 1975), pp. 3443; Marx, Karl, Early political writings, trans. ed., and O'Malley, J., with R. A. Davis (Cambridge, 1994), pp. 46, 18–47, 73–80, 95–6; and Leopold, David, The young Karl Marx: German philosophy, modern politics, and human flourishing (Cambridge, 2007), pp. 133–49. For broader discussion, see Renaut, Alain, The era of the individual: a contribution to a history of subjectivity, trans. DeBevoise, M. B. and Philip, F. (Princeton, NJ, 1997).

11 See e.g. David Hume, ‘Of civil liberty’ and Of the rise and progress of the arts and sciences’, in Haakonssen, K., ed., Political essays (Cambridge, 1994), pp. 5177; Smith, Adam, An inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations, ed. Campbell, R. H. and Skinner, A. S., with Todd, W. B. (2 vols., Oxford, 1976), i, pp. 28–9; and idem, The theory of moral sentiments, ed. Raphael, D. D. and Macfie, A. L. (Oxford, 1976), pp. 966; Benjamin Constant, ‘The spirit of conquest and usurpation’ and The liberty of the ancients compared with that of the moderns’, in Fontana, B., ed., Political writings (Cambridge, 1988), esp. pp. 53, 307–28; Tocqueville, Alexis de, Democracy in America, ed. Nolla, E., trans. Schliefer, J. T. (4 vols., Indianapolis, IN, 2010), iv, pp. 987–94. See Mitchell, ‘Religion and the fable’, pp. 2–5.

12 Collingwood, R. G., Speculum mentis, or, the map of knowledge (Oxford, 1924), [p. 23]. See also Powicke, F. M., The Christian life in the middle ages, and other essays (Oxford, 1935), pp. 130, 74–91; idem, Ways of medieval life and thought (London, 1949), pp. 130–48, esp. p. 134; Ullmann, Walter, The individual and society in the middle ages (London, 1967), esp. pp. x–xi and lectures 1 and 2; idem, Principles of government and politics in the middle ages (London, 1961), pp. 215–34; Kempshall, M., The common good in late medieval political thought (Oxford, 1999).

13 Minogue, Kenneth, ‘Locke, Kant, and the foundations of liberalism’, in Thompson, Martyn P., ed., John Locke und Immanuel Kant: Historische Rezeption und gegenwärtige Relevanz (Berlin, 1991), pp. 269–83, at p. 274. For an original and instructive account of continuity and change across these two epochs, see Brett, A. S., Changes of state: nature and the limits of the city in early modern natural law (Princeton, NJ, 2011).

14 Sir Filmer, Robert, Patriarcha and other writings, ed. Sommerville, J. P. (Cambridge, 1991), p. 2: ‘the common people everywhere embrace [freedom] as being most plausible to flesh and blood, for that it prodigally distributes a portion of liberty to the meanest of the multitude, who magnify liberty as if the height of human felicity were only to be found in it – never remembering that the desire for liberty was the cause of the fall of Adam’.

15 Paradigmatically, Aquinas, Thomas, Summa theologiae, ed. Gilby, T. (60 vols., Cambridge, 1963–80), xxviii, ia iiae, q. 93. See more generally Lottin, Odon, Le droit naturel chez S. Thomas d'Aquin et ses prédecesseurs (Bruges, 1931), and more narrowly Zuckert, M. P., Natural rights and the new republicanism (Princeton, NJ, 1994), p. xv: ‘In the beginning, all the English were Christian Aristotelians.’

16 See A historical and critical account of the science of morality, section xxix, prefixed to Barbeyrac's translation (into French) of Pufendorf's, Samuel De jure naturae et gentium, English edn, The law of nature and nations (London, 1729). Compare Sidgwick, Henry, Outlines of the history of ethics (London, 1896), pp. 160–3; Rommen, Heinrich, Die ewige wiederkehr des Naturrechts (Leipzig, 1936), ch. 3; and Tuck, Richard, ‘The “modern” theory of natural law’, in Pagden, Anthony, ed., The languages of political theory in early-modern Europe (Cambridge, 1987), pp. 99119.

17 Tierney, Brian, The idea of natural rights (Grand Rapids, MI, 1997), p. 50; Oakley, Francis, Natural law, laws of nature, natural rights (New York, NY, 2005), p. 69. For Suárez on natural law, see Gordley, James, ‘Suárez and natural law’, in Hill, B. and Lagerlund, H., eds., The philosophy of Francisco Suárez (Oxford, 2011), pp. 209–29.

18 Grotius, Hugo, De jure belli ac pacis as The rights of war and peace, ed. Tuck, R. (3 vols., Indianapolis, IN, 2005), i, Preliminary discourse, xi, pp. 89–90. On which, see Crowe, M. B., ‘The “impious hypothesis”: a paradox in Hugo Grotius’, Tijdschrift voor Filosofie, 38 (1976), pp. 379410.

19 Grotius, The rights of war and peace, i, Preliminary discourse, viiviii, pp. 82–6.

20 Compare Montesquieu, The spirit of the laws, ed. Kohler, A. M., Miller, B. C., and Stone, H. S. (Cambridge, 1989), i.3–4, pp. 22–5; Tocqueville, Alexis de, On the state of society in France before the Revolution of 1789, trans. Reeve, H. (London, 1873), pp. 136–7; Nietzsche, Friedrich, Ecce homo, trans. Kaufmann, W. (New York, NY, 1969), i, §2.

21 Tocqueville, On the state of society, pp. 147–8. See Mitchell, ‘Religion and the fable’, pp. 2–3.

22 Tocqueville, On the state of society, p. 170. Cf. Manent, Pierre, Tocqueville et la nature de la démocratie (2nd edn, Paris, 1993), pp. 1329; and Rosanvallon, Pierre, ‘L'histoire du mot démocratie à l’époque moderne’, in Gauchet, M., Manent, P., and Rosanvallon, P., eds., La penseé politique, i: Situations de la démocratie (Paris, 1993), pp. 23–6.

23 See e.g. Aron, Raymond, Progress and disillusion: the dialectics of modern society (Harmondsworth, 1972), [pp. 25–6]. While distinguishing the story of the democratic intellect from the individualism story, I would wish to underline the inter-relations between them at this point especially. It may be that the two lines of development identified here are better seen as flowing out of the individualism story through the ‘modern’ theory of natural law, perhaps (as Barbeyrac speculated) from Francis Bacon into Grotius. I am obliged to Alan Kahan for correspondence which highlighted a need for clarification of this matter.

24 Smith, Adam, Lectures on jurisprudence, ed. Meek, R. L., Raphael, D. D., and Stein, P. G. (Oxford, 1978), p. 540. Compare Montesquieu, The spirit of the laws, iv.20, p. 338.

25 As recounted in Hirschman, Albert O., The passions and the interests (Princeton, NJ, 1977).

26 See e.g. Baldwin, Summerfield, The organization of medieval Christianity (New York, NY, 1929), pp. 43–4; Weber, Max, The Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism, trans. Parsons, T. (London, 1930), pp. 116–17.

27 Arendt, Hannah, ‘Augustine and Protestantism’ (1930), in Essays in understanding, 1930–1954, ed. Kohn, J. (New York, NY, 1994), pp. 24–7, esp. p. 27: ‘With increasing secularization, religious self-reflection before God lost its meaning. There was no longer an authority to confess to, and religious self-reflection therefore became simply reflection on one's own life.’

28 See Andrew, Edward G., Conscience and its critics: Protestant conscience, Enlightenment reason, and modern subjectivity (Toronto, ON, 2001).

29 For which, see at length Gauchet, Marcel, Le désenchantement du monde (Paris, 1985); and, at even greater length, Taylor, Charles, A secular age (Cambridge, MA, 2007).

30 As memorably brought to life in Parsons's translation of Weber, The Protestant ethic, pp. 160–83.

31 Some of these currents flowed into intellectual streams from other sources of scholarship and were carried forward in the tidal surge of ‘modernization theory’ that came to dominate the social sciences after the Second World War. Modernization theory consolidated the two stories I have been discussing into a two-stage history of humanity, in which human beings liberate themselves from the shackles of an inherited order. Its watery outlines, drawn from Karl Mannheim, are discernible in Laslett's early work on Filmer and more thickly present in e.g. Hartz, Louis, The liberal tradition in America (New York, NY, 1955). For an overview, see Tipps, Dean C., ‘Modernization theory and the comparative study of societies: a critical perspective’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, 15 (1973), pp. 199226. I am grateful to the anonymous reviewer for encouraging me to make this connection explicit.

32 Thus, we find V. I. Lenin complaining, as early as 1905, that the ‘name “socialist”…has…been appropriated by supporters of English bourgeois liberalism (“We are all socialists now”, said [Sir William] Harcourt)’. See Two tactics of social-democracy in the democratic revolution (Moscow, 1977), p. 127.

33 Oakeshott, Michael, The social and political doctrines of contemporary Europe (Cambridge, 1939), p. xxii.

34 E.g. Friedrich, Carl Joachim, whose Constitutional government and politics (New York, NY, 1937) was intended as ‘a wheelbarrow of stuff’ (p. xvi) toward the defence and abutment of the constitutional order. For émigré anxieties about liberalism at this time, see Gunnell, John G., Imagining the American polity: political science and the discourse of democracy (University Park, PA, 2004), pp. 200–17.

35 Curti, Merle, ‘The great Mr. Locke: America's philosopher, 1783–1861’, Huntington Library Bulletin, 11 (1937), pp. 107–51.

36 Laski, Harold J., The rise of European liberalism: an essay in interpretation (London, 1936), repr. as The rise of liberalism: the philosophy of a business civilization (New York, NY, 1936). For discussion, see Kramnick, Isaac, ‘Liberalism, Marxism, and the Enlightenment: the case of Harold Laski’, in Yack, Bernard, ed., Liberalism without illusions: essays on the liberal theory and political vision of Judith N. Shklar (Chicago, IL, 1996), pp. 138–48.

37 Laski, European liberalism, pp. 9, 98.

38 Ibid., pp. 107–15; for Hobbes, see pp. 86–7 and compare idem, The foundations of sovereignty, and other essays (New York, NY, 1921), pp. 1724.

39 Strauss, Natural right and history, pp. 181–2.

40 Strauss, Leo, The political philosophy of Hobbes: its basis and genesis, trans. Sinclair, Elsa M. (Oxford, 1936), pp. 50–1, 120–3.

41 Ibid., pp. 118–19. Compare Eric Voegelin, The new science of politics (Chicago, IL, 1952), pp. 180–2.

42 Strauss, The political philosophy of Hobbes, pp. 156–7.

43 Sabine, George H., A history of political theory (New York, NY, 1937), pp. 528–9.

44 Ibid., p. 529.

45 Strauss, Natural right and history, pp. 202–51. This argument was made before the publication of Locke's Essays on the law of nature, ed. von Leyden, W. (Oxford, 1954), the contents of which present significant obstacles to it; but its proponent was undeterred. See, subsequently, Locke's doctrine of natural law’, in his What is political philosophy? And other studies (Glencoe, IL, 1959), pp. 197220.

46 Zuckert, Michael P., Launching liberalism: on Lockean political philosophy (Lawrence, KA, 2002).

47 Manent, Pierre, Histoire intellectuelle du libéralisme: dix leçons (Paris, 1987), trans. as, Rebecca Balinski An intellectual history of liberalism (Princeton, NJ, 1994).

48 For the relationship between the two, see Peter Lamb and Morrice, David, ‘Ideological reconciliation in the thought of Harold Laski and C. B. Macpherson’, Canadian Journal of Political Science, 35 (2002), pp. 795810.

49 Macpherson, The political theory of possessive individualism, pp. 220–38.

50 Walzer, Michael, ‘Liberalism and the art of separation’, Political Theory, 12 (1984), pp. 315–30, at p. 324.

51 Gutmann, Amy, ‘Communitarian critics of liberalism’, Philosophy & Public Affairs, 14 (1985), pp. 308–22, at p. 320. A survey of similar positions is supplied in Beiner, Ronald, What's the matter with liberalism? (Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA, 1992), ch. 2.

52 Waldron, Jeremy, ‘Theoretical foundations of liberalism’, Philosophical Quarterly, 37 (1987), pp. 127–50, at pp. 128 and 149 respectively. Emphasis added.

53 Rawls, Lectures, pp. 13, 107.

54 Locke, John, Two treatises of government, ed. Laslett, P. (Cambridge, 1988), and Epistola de tolerantia/A letter on toleration, trans. Gough, J. W., and ed. Klibansky, R. (Oxford, 1968).

55 See Rawls, Lectures, pp. 124–5. Compare e.g. Simmons, A. John, On the edge of anarchy: Locke, consent and the limits of society (Princeton, NJ, 1993), pp. 206–7; Ashcraft, Richard, Locke's Two treatises of government (London, 1987), pp. 89: Locke posited ‘the natural right of every man to give his personal consent to the government as a condition of his definition of political society’.

56 ‘General introduction’ (by the editors) to Locke, John, An essay concerning toleration and other writings on law and politics, 1667–1683, ed. Milton, J. R. and Milton, Philip (Oxford, 2006), p. 32. Compare e.g. Marshall, John, Locke, toleration and early Enlightenment culture (Cambridge, 2006), p. 538 (religion is ‘a private affair of the individual’); Mortimer, Sarah, ‘Religion and Enlightenment’, in Whatmore, Richard and Young, Brian, eds., A companion to intellectual history (Oxford, 2016), pp. 345–57, at p. 350 (Locke makes Christianity ‘a private matter’).

57 ‘Introduction’ (by the editor) to Locke, John, A letter concerning toleration and other writings, ed. Goldie, Mark (Indianapolis, IN, 2010), p. xiii. Compare Ward, Lee, John Locke and modern life (Cambridge, 2010), p. 234, for ‘rational consent underlying [Locke's] accounts of political obligation and religious communion’.

58 Ward, John Locke and modern life, p. 234.

59 Locke, An essay concerning toleration, ‘General introduction’, p. 32.

60 Ward, John Locke and modern life, p. 235.

61 Simmons, A. John, Justification and legitimacy: essays on rights and obligations (Cambridge, 2001), pp. 102–21. To be clear, Simmons's view is that this removes any strong moral presumption in favour of obedience to, or compliance with, existing states, not that it entails a strong moral imperative to oppose or eliminate them.

62 Charles Leslie, The Rehearsal, 58 (Sat. 1 Sept. to Sat. 8 Sept. 1705), in A view of the times, their principles and practices (5 vols., London, 1750), i, p. 355.

63 See e.g. ibid., i, p. 232 (Locke confutes himself, his account of popular government ‘nonsense and an impossibility’), i, p. 234 (Locke's ‘stupid notions still prevail, still bewitch this wretched nation’), i, p. 235 (his ‘senseless stuff’ and ‘silly sayings’ about government); The Rehearsal, 49, i, p. 302 (demonstrably ‘impossible’); The Rehearsal, 55, i, p. 333 (Locke's arguments would not ‘pass from a school-boy…Besides the utter contempt of, and burlesquing the holy scriptures’); The Rehearsal, 59, i, pp. 359–60 (Locke accused of ‘deceit’), i, p. 364 (and of ‘romance, contradiction, and impossibility’); The Rehearsal, 109, ii, p. 214 (‘weakness and contradiction…prov'd upon him’). On Locke and Leslie, see Dunn, John, ‘The politics of Locke in England and America in the eighteenth century’, in Yolton, John W., ed., John Locke: problems and perspectives (Cambridge, 1969), pp. 4580, esp. pp. 63–5.

64 For Hoadly, see Gibson, William, Enlightenment prelate: Benjamin Hoadly, 1676–1761 (Cambridge, 2004), esp. ch. 5, and, for details of the controversy, Starkie, Andrew, The Church of England and the Bangorian controversy, 1716–1721 (Woodbridge, 2007).

65 Leslie, Charles, The finishing stroke: being a vindication of the patriarchal scheme of government (London, 1711), p. 87.

66 Leslie, The Rehearsal, 14, i, p. 86.

67 Ward, Wilfrid, ed., Newman's Apologia pro vita sua, the two versions of 1864 & 1865: preceded by Newman's and Kingsley's pamphlets (Oxford, 1913), p. 493. See, in this connection, Langford, J. A., The old liberals and the new: a tract for the times (Birmingham, 1886), and Essays for the people: two prize essays by W. T. H. and W. V. K. Young, respectively on liberalism in England, and its demoralising effects on our national religion and liberties (London, 1881).

68 Leslie, The Rehearsal, 14, i, p. 86.

69 Mill, John Stuart, On liberty, ch. 1, in his Collected works, ed. Robson, John M. et al. (33 vols., London, 1963–95), xviii, p. 224.

70 See Rawls, Lectures, p. 107: ‘In Locke…legitimate government can be founded only on the consent of free and equal…persons, …all being…equally sovereign over themselves.’ Compare e.g. Ryan, Alan, ‘Self-ownership, autonomy, and property rights’, Social Philosophy & Policy, 11 (1994), pp. 241–58; Seagrave, The foundations of natural morality, ch. 2 (‘Self-consciousness, self-ownership, and natural rights’); Waldron, Jeremy, The right to private property (Oxford, 1988), pp. 398412; Zuckert, Launching liberalism, p. 194: ‘The foundation or ground of rights, is, according to Locke, self-ownership’; and, among libertarians, Nozick, Robert, Anarchy, state and utopia (New York, NY, 1974), p. 172; Otsuka, Michael, ‘Self-ownership and equality: a Lockean reconciliation’, Philosophy & Public Affairs, 27 (1998), pp. 6592; Paul, Jeffrey and Paul, Ellen Frankel, ‘Locke's usufructuary theory of self-ownership’, Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 61 (1980), pp. 384–95.

71 See Perry, The pretenses of loyalty, pp. 5–9, 204–16.

72 Dryden, John, ‘Almanzor and Almahide, or, The conquest of Granada, The first part’, act i, scene i, lines 207–15, in The works of John Dryden (20 vols., Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA, 1978), xi, p. 30.

73 On Dryden and Hobbes, see Parkin, Jon, Taming the leviathan: the reception of the political and religious ideas of Thomas Hobbes in England, 1640–1700 (Cambridge, 2007), pp. 302–4.

74 [Cooper, Anthony Ashley, third earl of Shaftesbury], Several letters written by a noble Lord to a young man at the university (London, 1716), p. 39.

75 Cooper, Anthony Ashley, third earl of Shaftesbury, Characteristicks of men, manners, opinions, times (3 vols., Indianapolis, IN, 2001), i, pp. 68–9: ‘’TIS ridiculous to say, there is any Obligation on Man to act sociably, or honestly, in a form'd Government; and not in that which is commonly call'd the State of Nature’; see p. 72 for ‘that social Love, and common Affection, which is natural to Mankind’. For Locke and Shaftesbury, see Stuart-Buttle, Tim, ‘Shaftesbury reconsidered: Stoic ethics and the unreasonableness of Christianity’, Locke Studies, 15 (2015), pp. 163213.

76 Hume, David, An enquiry concerning the principles of morals, ed. Beauchamp, T. L. (Oxford, 1998), p. 165.

77 Hume, David, A treatise of human nature, ed. Norton, D. F. and Norton, M. (Oxford, 2000), 3.2.8, p. 347.

78 Ibid., 3.2.9, pp. 353–4; idem, ‘Of the original contract’, in Haakonssen, ed., Political essays, pp. 186–201, esp. p. 189: ‘Were you to preach, in most parts of the world, that political connexions are founded altogether on voluntary consent…the magistrate would soon imprison you, as seditious, for loosening the ties; if your friends did not before shut you up as delirious, for advancing such absurdities.’

79 Hume, ‘Of the original contract’, pp. 189–90.

80 See R. G. Collingwood, ‘The nature and aims of a philosophy of history’, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, n.s., 25 (1924–5), pp. 151–74, at pp. 171–2: ‘The world of every historian is limited by the limits of his knowledge…Any two historians will find that they share a large number of interests, of problems, of beliefs, but that each has a number of problems, urgent for himself, which for the other are wholly non-existent…Each historian sees history from his own centre, at an angle of his own: and therefore he sees some problems which no other sees, and sees every problem from a point of view, and therefore under an aspect, peculiar to himself.’ My interest in Locke was ignited and cultivated by the teaching of Ian Harris, who (typically) directed me to Dunn's, John seminal work, The political thought of John Locke (Cambridge, 1969) rather than to his own monograph, The mind of John Locke (Cambridge, 1994). In giving central place to Locke's (natural) theology, readers will recognize this article's debt to both works, even as it implicitly dissents from some of the conclusions drawn there, as e.g. the conclusion that ‘the key to Locke's moral vision lies…in the traditional conception of the calling’ (Dunn, The political thought of John Locke, p. 245).

81 That is to say, it sets out what Locke actually presupposed in the course of his thinking as opposed to what he did not. I do not claim that it exhausts what is true. See Collingwood, ‘The nature and aims’, p. 172, continuing directly from the passage cited above: ‘No one historian, therefore, can see more than one aspect of the truth; and even an infinity of historians must always leave an infinity of aspects unseen.’ For presuppositions, see idem, An essay on metaphysics (Oxford, 1940), pp. 2157. A fuller discussion of the methodological commitments which underpin this peremptory assertion is offered in Stanton, Timothy, ‘Logic, language and legitimation in the history of ideas: a brief view and survey of Bevir and Skinner’, Intellectual History Review, 21 (2011), pp. 7184.

82 Locke, Two treatises,, p. 306.

83 Ibid.,, p. 309.

84 Ibid.,, p. 309; compare, p. 305.

85 Locke, John, An essay concerning human understanding, ed. Nidditch, P. H. (Oxford, 1975), iii.xi.16, p. 517: ‘For were there a Monkey, or any other Creature to be found, that had the use of Reason, to such a degree, as to be able to understand general Signs, and to deduce Consequences about general Ideas, he would no doubt be subject to Law, and, in that sense, be a Man, how much soever he differ'd in Shape from others of that Name.’

86 Locke, Two treatises, ii.ii.6, p. 271.

87 Locke, Essays on the law of nature, no. 7, p. 194.

88 Locke, Two treatises, ii.ii.5, p. 270. On which, see Ian Harris, ‘Locke on justice’, in M. A. Stewart, ed., English philosophy in the age of Locke (Oxford, 2000), pp. 46–85, esp. pp. 64–9.

89 Locke, Two treatises, i.iv.42, p. 170.

90 Ibid., ii.viii.101, p. 334.

91 John Locke, ‘Defence of nonconformity’ (1681–2), Bodleian MS Locke c. 34, pp. 19, 23, 76–7. For this document, see Stanton, Timothy, ‘The name and nature of Locke's “Defence of nonconformity”’, Locke Studies, 6 (2006), pp. 143–72.

92 Locke, ‘Defence of nonconformity’, pp. 76–7.

93 Ibid., p. 23, for the ‘great ends of religion to be attaind onely in societyes’ – the edification of their members, the public worship of God, and the propagation of truth – ‘one of these [the second] containing my duty to God the other [the third] to my neighbour, & the other [the first] to my self’; see p. 108, for Christians uniting ‘into one body & Society by the Common tyes of charity brotherly love & kindnesse’ as ‘their duty’; p. 148, for ‘Love to one another’ as the bond of, and the bond between, these ‘separate communions’. See also ‘Pacifick Christians’ (1688), Bodleian MS Locke c. 27, fo. 80, and compare Dunn, John, ‘From applied theology to social analysis: the break between John Locke and the Scottish Enlightenment’, in Rethinking modern political theory: essays, 1979–1983 (Cambridge, 1985), pp. 5567, at p. 61, for the Lockean church as ‘a tissue of…friendship’.

94 Harris, Ian, ‘John Locke and natural law: free worship and toleration’, in Parkin, Jon and Stanton, Timothy, eds., Natural law and toleration in the early Enlightenment, Proceedings of the British Academy, 186 (Oxford, 2013), pp. 59105, at pp. 82–7.

95 John Locke, ‘Pleasure and pain: the passions’ (1676), Bodleian MS Locke f. 1, pp. 325–47, printed (from Locke's shorthand) in Essays on the law of nature, pp. 265–72, at pp. 266–7. For an interesting discussion of the implications of this position, see Sheridan, Patricia, ‘Locke's latitudinarian sympathies: an exploration of sentiment in Locke's moral theory’, Locke Studies, 15 (2015), pp. 131–62.

96 John Locke, ‘Amor’ (1679), Bodleian MS Locke d. 1, p. 57.

97 Matt. 7:12. See Locke, John, The reasonableness of Christianity as delivered in the Scriptures, ed. Higgins-Biddle, J. C. (Oxford, 1999), pp. 123–4, and compare Two treatises, ii.ii.5, p. 270, and ii.vii.93, p. 328, there expressed as ‘Love of Mankind and Society, and such a Charity as we all owe one to another.’

98 John Locke, ‘Law’ (1693?), Bodleian MS Locke c. 28, fo. 141.

99 Locke, An essay concerning human understanding, ii.xxi.55, pp. 269–70.

100 The ‘image of God’ has at least two aspects in Locke. In the first place, it refers to an assumed similarity between man and God in the make of their intellects. In the second place, it refers to a destiny which extends beyond the present life into immortality. See respectively Locke, Two treatises, i.iv.31, p. 162: ‘God makes [man] in his own Image after his own Likeness, makes him an intellectual Creature…For wherein soever else the Image of God consisted, the intellectual Nature was certainly a part of it, and belong'd to the whole species’, and The reasonableness of Christianity, pp. 113–15, esp. p. 115: ‘we shall, at the Resurrection…after [Christ's] Image, which is the Image of the Father, become Immortal’. On the first, going beyond Locke, see Craig, Edward, The mind of God and the works of man (Oxford, 1987), and Waldron, Jeremy, ‘The image of God: rights, reason, and order’, in Witte, J. Jr and Alexander, F. S., eds., Christianity and human rights (Cambridge, 2010), pp. 216–35.

101 See Locke, Two treatises, ii.ii.6, p. 270.

102 Ibid., ii.xviii.199–200, pp. 399–400, ii.xix.228, pp. 416–17.

103 John Locke, A second vindication of the reasonableness of Christianity, in Vindications of the reasonableness of Christianity, ed. Nuovo, V. (Oxford, 2012), p. 71. This tripartite division of freedom echoes Dunn, James D. G., Christian liberty: a New Testament perspective (Carlisle, 1993), pp. 6971.

104 Locke, A letter, p. 64. See Essays on the law of nature, no. 4, pp. 156–8, and ‘Defence of nonconformity’, p. 23, respectively for duties to God, one's neighbour, and oneself, at once cognoscible by sense experience and reason and ‘plainly set downe in Scripture’.

105 Dunn, John, ‘Consent in the political theory of John Locke’, Historical Journal, 10 (1967), pp. 153–82.

106 Harris, ‘John Locke and natural law’, passim.

107 The central point in Locke's political theory is that man owes everything to God. The liberal assumes, by contrast, that ‘the fundamental debt is the one owed to the self’. See Alexander, ‘The major ideologies’, p. 986.

108 Mark Goldie, ‘Introduction’ to Locke, A letter, p. xiii.

109 Waldron, Jeremy, God, Locke, and equality: Christian foundations in Locke's political thought (Cambridge, 2002). Readers must judge whether any were located.

110 Matt. 26:11. The same point might be made by observing just how idiosyncratic and difficult to assimilate to existing regimes of thought appear those accounts of modern European intellectual history in which liberalism is disregarded as a distraction or discounted as an irrelevance. Compare Pocock, J. G. A., Barbarism and religion (6 vols., Cambridge, 1999–2015), and Oakeshott, Michael, On human conduct (Oxford, 1975), esp. ‘On the character of a modern European state’, in conjunction with his Lectures in the history of political thought, ed. Nardin, T. and O'Sullivan, L. (Exeter, 2006). Pocock expressed himself about Locke and liberalism in characteristically stimulating terms in The myth of John Locke and the obsession with liberalism’, in Pocock, J. G. A. and Ashcraft, R., eds., John Locke (Clark Library Lectures, 1980), pp. 124.

111 Waldron, God, Locke, and equality, p. 20.

112 Ibid., pp. 206, 215. Waldron seeks to explain away that absence as indicative of a strategy ‘on Locke's part to avoid unnecessary controversy’ (p. 216), a strategy which, if it existed, was conspicuously unsuccessful. Compare Goldie, Mark, ed., The reception of Locke's politics (6 vols., London, 1999), esp. ‘Introduction’, i, pp. xxx–xlix, and i and ii generally; and, for an alternative explanation, Stanton, Timothy, ‘Christian foundations; or some loose stones? Toleration and the philosophy of Locke's politics’, Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, 14 (2011), pp. 323–47.

113 The germ of the mature position is evident in John Locke, ‘Lex na[tur]a’ (1678), Bodleian MS Locke f. 3, pp. 201–2: ‘God having given man above other creatures of this habitable part of the univers a knowledg of himselfe wch the beasts have not, he is thereby under obligations wch the beasts are not, for knowing god to be a wise agent he cannot but conclude yt he has that knowledge & those facultys wch he findes in himself above the other creatures given him for some use & end. If therefor he comprehend the relation between father and son & finde it reasonable that his son whom he hath begot (only in pursuance of his pleasure without thinkeing of his son) & nourishd should obey love & reverence him & be gratefull to him, he cannot but finde it much more reasonable yt he & every other man should obey & rever love & thank the author of their being to whom they owe all that they are. If…he findes it reasonable that his children should assist & help one another & expects it from them as their duty will he not also by ye same reason conclude that god expects ye same of all men one to another. If he findes that god has made him & all other men in a state wherein they cannot subsist without society & has given them judgmt to discerne what is capeable of preserveing yt society can he but conclude that he is obleiged & yt god requires him to follow those rules wch conduce to ye preserveing of society.’

114 See Skinner, Quentin, ‘Introduction: seeing things their way’, in Visions of politics, i: Regarding method (Cambridge, 2002), pp. 17.

An earlier version of this article was given as the third Balzan-Skinner lecture, delivered at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities (CRASSH) at the University of Cambridge. I should like to thank Michelle Maciejewska and the administrative staff of CRASSH for the hard work of organizing the lecture and associated colloquium; Jeffrey Collins, Ian Harris, Sarah Mortimer, Jon Parkin, and John Perry for participating in the colloquium; and Duncan Bell, Annabel Brett, John Dunn, Mark Goldie, Simon Goldhill, Duncan Kelly, John Robertson, Ruth Scurr, and Quentin Skinner for helpful discussion and encouragement. For improving the argument I am indebted to John Dunn, Ian Harris, James Harris, Alan Kahan, Quentin Skinner, and an anonymous reviewer for this journal. I am grateful to Dr Chris Fletcher for permission to quote from Locke's manuscripts owned by Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford. I held the Balzan-Skinner fellowship in 2012, when my elder son Owen was not yet two and my wife Fran was pregnant with our second child, James, who was born in the week that the lecture was originally due to have been delivered. Without her love, patience, and support, then and now, this article could not have been written. I dedicate it to all three of them with all my love.

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