Daniel Mielgo Bregazzi

John Locke's Two Tracts on Government

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract

Keywords: Locke; Toleration; Adiaphora.

This paper assesses the immediate background to John Locke's earliest political writings in the context of the Stuart restoration of 1660. Posthumously published for the first time in 1961, the "Two Tracts on Governmment" reveal a very different Locke from the author of the famous "Letter on Toleration" and the "Two Treatises on Government". Contrary to what he held in his later political works, the young Locke vigourously opposed a doctrine of toleration and staunchly defended the unlimited powers of the civil magistrate to impose ecclesiastical discipline in «indifferent things» ("adiaphora"). Although the "Two Tracts" did little else than to rehearse conventional Anglican doctrines, this paper argues that their real interest lies elsewhere. The article seeks to explain the possible motivations behind Locke's early authoritarian stance. Indeed, a close look at the context suggests that Locke arrived at such views after changing his mind on the subject, and that he did so over a relatively short period of time for reasons that seem quite plausible.

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