‘Property I have nowhere found more clearly explained, than in a book entitled, Two Treatises of Government.’ This remark was made by John Locke in 1703, not much more than a year before he died. It must be a rare thing for an author to recommend one of his own works as a guide to a young gentleman anxious to acquire ‘an insight into the constitution of the government, and real interest of his country’. It must be even rarer for a man who was prepared to do this, to range his own book alongside Aristotle's Politics and Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity, to write as if the work were written by somebody else, somebody whom he did not know. Perhaps it is unique in a private letter to a relative. What could possibly be the point of concealing this thing, from a man who probably knew it already?
Odd as it is, this statement of Locke anticipates the judgement of posterity. It was not long before it was universally recognized that Locke on Government did belong in the same class as Aristotle's Politics, and we still think of it as a book about property, in recent years especially. It has been printed over a hundred times since the 1st edition appeared with the date 1690 on the title-page. It has been translated into French, German, Italian, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Norwegian, Hebrew, Arabic, Japanese and Hindi: probably into other languages too.