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Aphorisms: or, The True Maxims of Government Displayed, in 1690.17
The author of the Aphorisms remains unknown, but the text is remarkable
for its pastiche of snatches, sometimes extending to whole passages,
of the Vindiciae, the then-anonymous Two Treatises of Government and
various other pamphlets of the allegiance controversy.18 More remarkable
still is not only that it reappeared in two more editions by 1691, but
that it was repeatedly reprinted À with occasional augmentations À under
two successively new titles in no less than twelve editions between 1709
and 1810. In this process of reprinting and partial redaction, Political
Aphorisms first reappeared as the Vox Populi, Vox Dei of 1709,19 itself
the target of numerous polemical replies. But it found renewed life as


15
The materials from the Vindiciae appeared in July, 1643, appended to The fourth part of
The soveraigne power of parliaments and kingdoms. In August the full four-part text appeared,
again with the appendix demonstrating the superiority of parliaments and other collective
bodies over and above individual rulers.
16
Tutino 2005, pp. 15À16.
17
A gesture in the subtitle of the first edition specifies its target and addresses by describing it as
˜a challenge to Dr. William Sherlock, and Ten other New Dissenters, and Recommended as proper
to be Read by all Protestant Jacobites™. The editions of 1691 excised the ˜challenge™ to Sherlock
et al. from the title.
18
The latter are Burnet 1688; Ferguson 1689; and the anonymous pamphlets The Doctrine
of Passive Obedience and Jure Divino Disproved 1689 and The Letter which was sent to the
Author of the The Doctrine of Passive Obedience and Jure Divino Disproved, Answered 1689.
For discussions see Goldie 1999, i, pp. xxxiii, 2; Ashcraft and Goldsmith 1983.
19
Vox Populi, Vox Dei 1709.
242 kirstie m. mcclure
The Judgment of Whole Kingdoms and Nations, a book issued in various
formats in 1710,20 1713, 1714, 1716, 1747, 1771, 1773, 1774, 1781, 1795, and
1810. These, as some have noted, doubtless contributed to the dissemi-
nation of ˜Lockean™ ideas and to the association of the Treatises with the
radical or populist wing of Whig politics. But so, too, did they extend
the critical edge of the Vindiciae long beyond its last early-modern
Englishing of 1689.
Here we have the curious phenomenon of an ostensibly ephemeral
´
text, a stitched-together melange of assorted fragments on resistance and
the limits of obedience, that retained political currency for more than
a century. Unlike earlier appropriations of the Vindiciae, these editions
soon took on a relatively stable discursive form. Their temporal and
geographical spread, however, as well as their varied material forms,
spun their orientation to political action into increasingly diverse venues
of political controversy. Whoever may have been their original compiler,
a succession of subscribers and printers in England, Ireland and three
American colonies continued to find the work either politically attractive,
commercially vendible or, perhaps more likely, both. Thus despite, or
rather because of the stability of its contents, this too becomes a matter
of interest, for the vernacular Englishing of the book made it resonate
both within and against the politics of the metropolitan core of a growing
empire.
The original editions of Political Aphorisms, as well as the 1709 editions
of Vox Populi and the initial issue of The Judgment of Whole Kingdoms
and Nations, were nasty little pamphlets. Printed on poor paper, their
text was crowded, sometimes over-inked and compressed into cheap
tracts of between thirty-one and seventy-one pages.21 In 1710, however,
the publisher announced the upscaling of the book in the preface to the
fourth edition: ˜Many gentlemen having desired to have this book in
a large print, this is to give notice that it is now printed on nine sheets
and a quarter, of very fine paper at 1s. per book™.22 Soon after, a fifth
edition appeared, a full 131 pages in octavo with fourteen pages of

20
The Judgment of Whole Kingdoms and Nations 1710.
21
Political Aphorisms 1690 and 1691 runs thirty-one pages in quarto, not including the title
page and advertisement; the 1709 Vox Populi ran forty-one pages in octavo. Containing minor
emendations and additions, the smaller formats remained cheap tracts, crowded with print.
For details see Ashcraft and Goldsmith 1983.
22
Quoted by Ashcraft and Goldsmith 1983, p. 794. As they observe, the notice ˜also declared
that any person may buy this book of most booksellers in London and Westminster and read
it for two days for nothing, provided they do not damage it™.
Reflections on Political Literature 243
prefatory materials and another advertisement À a performance that
was repeated in one printing of 1713. Numerous other ˜editions™ of 1710,
1713, 1714, and 1747 retained the smaller and less expensive material
form with little if any alteration of content. While doubtless the better-
off could purchase the cheap tracts, the finer and more expensive variants
were unlikely to find their way into the hands of the poorer sort; thus
these differences speak in part to the book™s circulation at different
levels of the social hierarchy. But with each sale a bit of the Vindiciae
lived on, sharing a spine with the bits of other works to which it had
been bound.
As The Judgment of Whole Kingdoms and Nations found diverse readers
in England, it also migrated outward, first to Ireland, then to various
American colonies. Another large octavo saw print in Dublin in 1716,
while a flurry of further substantial octavos À on good paper with large
print and wide margins À appeared in the 1770s not only in London
(1771), but in Boston (1773?), Philadelphia (1773), and Newport, Rhode
Island (1774). This format marked a Dublin edition of 1781 as well,
and the run of these better printings suggests that the book was finding
an audience in all these places among those with the wherewithal to buy
it. Finally, amidst the Irish echoes of the French Revolution, another
cheap print edition was issued in Dublin in 1795. Again titled The
Judgment of Whole Kingdoms and Magistrates, this variant cited the
London original of 1710 and noted that it was being ˜re-printed by an
enemy of despotic power, for the information of the swinish multitude™.
Neither the addressees nor the intentions of the anonymous printer
are easy to mistake, for this was one of a number of pamphlets that
took direct aim at Burke™s recent reference to ˜the swinish multitude™ in
his Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790).23 By the late eighteenth
century, in short, the pamphlet had ridden the centrifugal and centripetal
eddies of English, British and colonial politics alike, and its justifications
of resistance were promiscuously open to all suitors with an interest in
such possibilities.

iii. glossing, editing, and updating: a slice of the
life of ˜the second treatise of government™
If, in the print history of the Vindiciae, the change of speaking subjects
that marked its rearticulation as a political ˜utterance™ was largely

23
For a sparkling discussion of these polemics see Herzog 1998, esp. ch. 12.
244 kirstie m. mcclure
populated by translators, compilers, subscribers and printers, that of the
Two Treatises of Government both included and extended beyond these
to other sorts of appropriations. Let me take my starting point, though,
from that odd centaur of a creature, half-man, half-beast, generally
known today as ˜Lockean liberalism™. The term itself should be irritating
to the historically minded. From the time of the text™s composition
through the first century of its history it was simply not possible to
be a ˜liberal™. There were, of course, the liberal arts and sciences. And
it was indeed possible to possess the virtue of liberality, just as it was
possible to offer liberal interpretations of Scripture. ˜Liberal™, however,
was not a term of political art as a marker of partisan identity or political
positioning. It became one, to be sure, in the nineteenth century, as
Locke™s writings on toleration and education figured prominently in
what was then being built as a liberal tradition. Even at the turn of the
twentieth century, however, Sir Frederick Pollock could voice his regrets
that Locke™s Treatises were neglected by scholars and confidently charac-
terize them as part of the heritage of ˜ancient constitutionalism™.24 It was
in short, rather later and quite posthumously that the author of the
Treatises became a ˜Lockean liberal™ À in the United States, as best as I can
tell, in the decade following the Second World War.25
It is nonetheless the case that Locke™s Two Treatises, and more partic-
ularly the Second Treatise, had long served many as a thorny critique
of arbitrary power and privilege.26 This, as we saw with its pairing
alongside the Vindiciae and other resistance tracts in Political Aphorisms,
was clearly an important part of its eighteenth-century dissemination
and reception. It was, of course, also printed in a number of eighteenth-
century editions, most of them either octavos including a portrait of the
by then famous Locke, or expensive folios of his Works. But while the

24
See Pollock 1903À1904, pp. 237À49. In recent scholarship Locke appears as a ˜modern
constitutionalist™, equally curious given the print history of the Treatises: see McClure 2003.
25
The phrasing is characteristic of F. S. C. Northrop: see Northrop 1946 and Northrop 1947. The
term, of course, may have circulated outside the academy, but going back to the late nineteenth
century the J-STOR journal archives have no record of it. Though Laski 1936, and others had
associated Locke with various ideological currents within liberalism, the precise terminology
of a ˜Lockean liberalism™ achieves solid scholarly currency in the USA by the mid-1950s through
the challenge of, and responses to, Hartz 1955. But see also Hartz 1948, which explores ˜The
Myth of Laissez-faire™ economics as a deeply rooted American phenomenon and ties the
ideology of economic individualism to Locke through a case study of Pennsylvania.
26
Strangely, there seems to have been no American edition of the work between 1773 and the
1880s, a period roughly corresponding to that which Hartz identifies with the rise of laissez-faire
economics and corporate power.
Reflections on Political Literature 245
Treatises were both generally known and widely read, their publishing
history independent of periodic editions of the Works tends to follow the
vicissitudes of British politics, and this on both sides of the Atlantic.
Here, then, I shall focus on three publications that suggest some of the
ways in which the ˜utterance™ of the Treatises could be transformed by
later readers.
The first, and one that runs sharply against the grain of the radical
positions woven into Political Aphorisms, was an anonymous pamphlet
of 1753 that advertised itself as a ˜Theory™ that had been ˜extracted from
Mr. Locke™s Essay on Civil Government™. Titled Of Civil Polity, it offers
what might best be called a flat but creative gloss on the Second Treatise.27
Like Political Aphorisms and its successors, the tract is richly larded
with other sources, now including an array of works by latitudinarian and
Whig churchmen. The ˜theory™ here ˜extracted™ substantially reorganizes
the Treatise™s order of presentation into ten short topical sections and,
as Goldie aptly notes, it significantly domesticates the earlier book ˜into
a series of Hanoverian commonplaces™. Its discussion of divorce, for
instance, makes Locke ˜more ethically respectable™, while its section on
˜the Establishment of RELIGION™ turns him ˜into a pillar of the
Established Church™.28 Of note here, too, is a distinctly eighteenth-
century emphasis in an opening section on ˜the Social Nature of Man™,
drawn verbatim from William Parker™s 1752 sermon on The Grounds
of Submission to Government. A good part of the publication, to be sure,
takes its language and often whole sentences from the Second Treatise ;
but there is little said, and that with little emphasis, on any of the
Treatise™s discussions of resistance right save for the tract™s brief treatment
of conquest. There we find that the vanquished might ˜find it prudent™
to consent to the protection of their conqueror. The conqueror too
might follow prudence by ˜quieting the minds™ of the ˜conquered Vassals
from the Fears of Oppression™, even to the point of ˜consenting to some
Limitation in the Exercise™ of power. But should these recommendations
of prudence fall on deaf ears, ˜Insolence and Oppression on the Part of
the Governors would naturally occasion Remonstrance and Resistance
on the Part of Subjects™. This discussion, however, ascribes to such
˜remonstrance and resistance™ the origin of ˜those several Forms of
Civil Government which are established in different Parts of the World™,

27
A slightly abbreviated version is printed in Goldie 1999, ii, pp. 359À77.
28
Goldie 1999, i, p. 358.
246 kirstie m. mcclure
as well as the ˜Distinction of Authority into its several Branches™ À
arguments notably absent in its ostensible source.29
Subsequent years saw various sorts of engagement with the Treatises,
but let me focus on two examples of the kinds of ˜responsive under-
standing™ to which the latter work opened itself in the last decade of the
eighteenth century. The first of these, published in 1794, is The Spirit
of John Locke on Civil Government, revived by the Constitutional Society
of Sheffield. This, too, is a creative appropriation, albeit one that runs
in a political direction quite contrary to that of Civil Polity. And yet,
at the same time, it remains in a sense more faithful to the text of the
Second Treatise À at least, to those parts of the text that it reproduces.
But of that more in a moment, for there are a few initial aspects of this
text that merit attention.
The Spirit is a short pamphlet of forty-two pages, introduced by
a preface addressed ˜TO THE PEOPLE™. Noting that the publication
was promised at a public meeting, that preface observes that, given the
times, ˜no apology should be made to the Public for reducing, into as
small a compass as possible, every popular writing which has a tendency
to improve or confirm the reasoning and morals of our Countrymen™.30
On the whole, the preface is a paean both to Locke and to late
eighteenth-century radicals™ interpretations of the Revolution of 1688.
The ˜immortal™ Paine comes off well; Filmer, ˜Dagger Burke™, and the
clergy come off badly, principally for their support of passive obedience.
The first of Locke™s Treatises is dismissed as essentially obsolete, while
the second, called The Discourse on Civil Government, is touted as
˜applicable to the present times™ for its capacity ˜to open the eyes of our
deluded Countrymen, who are persecuting and hating us because we are
vindicating the ancient liberties of our Country™. Indeed, it will ˜expose
the fallacious reasoning of those who would persuade the People that
they have no other rights but what their rulers choose to give them™, and
will ˜prove passive obedience to be folly, and RESISTANCE AGAINST
OPPRESSION to be the duty of the people™.31 Mentioned, too, are the
examples of Nero, Caligula and Claudius, as well as ˜the tyranny of
Tarquin™ À and the argument is that God approves of resistance to such
abusive rulers. The preface™s rhetoric rises to heights of moral outrage

29
Goldie 1999, ii, pp. 368À9.
30
[Yorke?] 1794, p. 3. The author may have been Henry (alias Redhead) Yorke.
31
[Yorke?] 1794, p. iv.
Reflections on Political Literature 247
against arguments to the contrary, and its closing paragraphs invoke
the dying words of Algernon Sidney, ˜one of the most dignified Patriots
that ever adorned the archives of human kind™.32 After a last compliment
to Locke, the writers ask: ˜Will our oppressors denounce this work,
too, as SEDITIOUS! À If they do, they must blush for the treason
of their ancestors, and they must reprobate the Revolution of 1688, as
a usurpation, and not as a benefice™. Finally, in an address to ˜FELLOW
CITIZENS™, the writers polemicize what they take themselves to be
doing in publishing such a work:
Power can never deter us from recalling from the inglorious tomb, those sages
who have, in former days, enlightened and instructed our Country. À We shall
rescue their works from oblivion. We shall arm ourselves with them as irresistible
weapons. In the mean time, we commit to your wisdom and prudential
reflection, the following Abstract from a book, difficult to be purchased, and,
throughout the greatest part, uninteresting even when purchased. We have
declined making any notes to the body of the work. But he who runs may
read, and the Man who cannot take a broad hint from the last century, must
not expect one from the present.33
The pamphlet™s closing lines pinion Edmund Burke (the ˜Knight Errant

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