John Locke Essay On The Poor Law

John Locke (1632–1704) was a political philosopher known for advocating for human rights [2]. He is famously known for saying that men are by nature free and equal, and that all people have the inherent right to life, liberty, and property, regardless of governments [2]. While these statements portray him as an advocate for human rights, his stance on assisting the poor differs significantly from the sentiments expressed above. Locke’s essay on The Poor Law even seems to contradict some of the aforementioned principals he is so famously known for. In his essay, Locke states that the reason for the increasing poverty rates “can be [caused] by nothing else but the relaxation of discipline and corruption of manners…[such as] vice and idleness” [1]. Locke’s view that the poor are to be blamed for their poverty drives his suggested reforms, most of which are harsh and focused on disciplining the poor and instilling them with positive characteristics like hard work. The first step in Locke’s proposal for poor reform is the “suppressing of superfluous brandy shops and unnecessary alehouses,” which sets the tone for how his poor reform is based upon his beliefs that the poor are to blame for their situations [1]. Locke’s main proposal for poor reform centers around workhouses and his beliefs that for the “effectual restraining of idle vagabonds” the poor should be put to work. Vagrants could be forced into service in the army/navy, hard labor,  severe punishment, and working on plantations [1]. Locke’s proposed reform of the poor laws is based on his view that the purpose of poor reform is to suppress idle vagabonds, superseding providing assistance to the deserving poor, which seems to contradict the very ideals he is known for.

  1. Locke, John, and Mark Goldie. Locke: Political Essays. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997.
  2. Tuckness, Alex. “Locke’s Political Philosophy.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. November 09, 2005. Accessed January 22, 2018. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/locke-political/.

  1697

Letter to the … Bishop of Worcester [Presentation copies]   [1697?]

Location:   Bodleian Library, MS. Locke c. 25, f. 53v.

Description:   A list in Locke’s hand of persons to receive presentation copies of his Letter to the … Bishop of Worcester, in a column headed “1697”, on a sheet endorsed “Copys 95”. The list provides for 42 copies; the Letter was published in March.

The manuscript consists of on folded sheet, 310 × 193 mm; this list is in the second column on the second page.

Publication:

  1. The correspondence of John Locke / edited by E.S. de Beer. – Oxford : Clarendon Press, 1976-89. – (Clarendon edition of the works of John Locke) – vol. 8:452-453. [list H]
  2. John Locke, a descriptive bibliography / Jean S. Yolton. – Bristol, England : Thoemmes Press, 1998. – pp. 297-298.

Discussions:   De Beer, “Distribution lists for copies of Locke’s books,” publication #1 above; Yolton, publication #2 above, pp. 297-298; Goldie, “Distribution lists for copies of Locke’s books and Boyle’s General history of the air” (2004)

Redemption, Death   [May 1697 or later]

Location:   Bodleian Library, MS. Locke c. 27, ff. 112-113.

Description:   Two notes in Locke’s hand, written in two columns headed “Redemtion” [sic] and “Death” respectively. They are written on a single sheet of paper folded in half to form two leaves about 300 × 197 mm. The text occupies both sides of the first leaf (f. 112); f. 113r is blank; f. 113v contains Locke’s endorsement “Christianity”. The notes may be drafts for the further defense of the Reasonableness and its vindications.

On a single sheet folded to form four pages, 312 × 197 mm; f. 113 is blank.

Publications:

  1. “Testi teologico-filosofici lockiani dal MS. Locke c.27 della Lovelace Collection” / a cura di Mario Sina. // IN: Rivista di filosofia neo-scolastic. – 64 (1972):401-403.
  2. The reasonableness of Christianity as delivered in the scriptures / John Locke ; edited with an introduction, notes, critical apparatus and transcriptions of related manuscripts by John C. Higgins-Biddle. – Oxford : Clarendon Press, 1999. – (The Clarendon edition of the works of John Locke). – pp. 206-208 [Locke #655]

Discussions:   Sina, publication #1 above, pp. 400-401; Higgins-Biddle, publication #2 above, p. 205.

Reply [to the Bishop of Worcester] Copys 97   [1697?]

Location:   Bodleian Library, MS. Locke c. 25, f. 55r.

Description:   A list in Locke’s hand of persons to receive presentation copies of his Reply to the … Bishop of Worcester’s answer to his letter, in a column headed “Reply Copys 97”, and endorsed “Reply Copys97”. The list provides for 38 copies; the Letter was published in August.

A single sheet, 312 × 147 mm.

Publication:

  1. The correspondence of John Locke / edited by E.S. de Beer. – Oxford : Clarendon Press, 1976-89. – (Clarendon edition of the works of John Locke) – vol. 8:453. [list J]
  2. John Locke, a descriptive bibliography / Jean S. Yolton. – Bristol, England : Thoemmes Press, 1998. – p. 300.

Discussions:   De Beer, “Distribution lists for copies of Locke’s books,” publication #1 above; Yolton, publication #2 above, p. 300; Goldie, “Distribution lists for copies of Locke’s books and Boyle’s General history of the air” (2004)

Some of the Cheif Greivances of the present constitution of Virginia, with an Essay towards the Remedies thereof   [late August 1697]

Location:   Bodleian Library, MS. Locke e. 9, ff. 1-39.

Description:   A working paper for the Board of Trade, written in the hand of Locke’s manservant, Timothy Kiplin, except the title and opening lines in Locke’s hand. According to Kammen, the paper was written late in August 1697, based on answers by James Blair to a list of queries from Locke (MS. Locke e. 9, ff. 39-42). Blair’s answers directly influenced The present state of Virginia, and the College by Hartwell, Blair, and Chilton, and also formed the basis for instructions to the new Governor, Sir Francis Nicholson, in 1698.

Publications:

  1. “Virginia at the close of the seventeenth century : an appraisal” / by James Blair and John Locke ; edited by Michael G. Kammen. // IN: Virginia magazine of history of biography. – 74 (1966):141-169. – On p. 153-169.

Discussions:   Kammen (publication #1); R. Ashcraft, “Political theory and political reform” (1969).

Essay on the Poor Law   [1697 September-October]

Location:   Public Record Office, CO/388/5/86-95, ff. 232-249.
[cf. Bodleian Library, MS. Locke c. 30, ff. 86-95]

Description:   A paper drafted by Locke as a Commissioner of the Board of Trade. It bears the caption “Draught of a Rep[resentatio]n, containing {a} scheme of Methods for ye Imployment {of} ye poor. Proposed by Mr Locke ye 26th Octr 1697”. Endorsed “Trade Domestick | Draught of a Repres[entatio]n | containing a scheme of | Methods for ye Imployment | of the Poor. Proposed by | Mr Locke. | Octr 26th 1697 | B: 6. | Entrd fo. 127.”

Folio. 312 × 202 mm. [A]14[B]4. Pp. 1-34 (f. 249 blank)

The paper was drafted during September and October 1697, presented to the Board in October, and ultimately rejected.

Among Locke’s papers is a draft of part of the paper [MS. Locke c. 30, ff. 94-95] along with some notes on children and vagrants [MS Locke c. 30, ff. 86v-88r]. Neither of these papers have been published as such, although publication #3 below includes significant differences in the draft.

Publications:

  1. “Report of the Board of Trade to the Lords Justices, in the year 1697, respecting the relief and employment of the poor.” Drawn up by Mr. John Locke, one of the original Commissioners of that Board. // IN: An account of the origin, proceedings, and intentions of the Society for the Promotion of Industry in the Southern District of the Parts of Lindsey, in the County of Lincoln … The third edition. … Louth: printed at the expence, and sold for the benefit of the Institution … by R. Sheardown; and to be had of Messrs. Harrison, London; of the principal booksellers in town and country; and of the distributors to the Society of Industry. [1789]. 8o. Pages 101-149. [Locke #804]
  2. [Extracts] The life of John Locke / by H.R. Fox Bourne. – London : H.S. King ; New York : Harper, 1876. – vol. 2:377-390.
  3. Political essays / Locke ; edited by Mark Goldie. – Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 1997. – p. 183-198. [Locke #867+]. – Text from publication #1; notes significant differences in the draft [MS. Locke c. 30, ff. 94-95]

Discussions:   M. G. Mason, “John Locke’s proposals for work-house schools” (1962); E. J. Hundert, “The making of homo faber : John Locke between ideology and history” (1972); W. J. Scheasgreen, “John Locke and the charity school movement” (1986); A. L. Beier, “‘Utter strangers to industry, morality and religion’ : John Locke and the poor” (1988); Goldie, publication #3 above, pp. 182-183.

Education   (1697 September or October)

Location:   Bodleian Library, MS. Locke c. 24, ff. 196-197.

Description:   Draft letter in Locke’s hand to Carey Mordaunt, Countess of Peterborough, giving advice on the education of her son. The draft is endorsed “Education 97 To the Countesse of Peterborow.”

Publications:

  1. [extracts] The life of John Locke : with extracts from his correspondence, journals and common-place books / by Lord King. – London : H. Colburn, 1829. – pp. 5-6.
  2. The educational writings of John Locke : a critical edition / with introduction and notes by James L. Axtell. – Cambridge : University Press, 1968. – pp. 393-396. [Locke #562]
  3. The correspondence of John Locke / edited by E.S. de Beer. – Oxford : Clarendon Press, 1976-89. – vol. 6:212-216 [Locke #847, letter 2320]
  4. Selected correspondence / John Locke ; edited by Mark Goldie from the Clarendon edition by E.S. de Beer. – Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2002. – pp. 251-254.

Discussions:   Axtell, publication #2 above, pp. 392-393; De Beer, publication #3 above, vol. 6:211; Yolton & Yolton (ed.), Some thoughts concerning education (1989), p. 68.

Prophetia   (1697)

Location:   Adversaria 1661, pp. 318-319.

Description:   A note with the marginal caption “Prophetia” and dated [16]97. The hand is that of Timothy Kiplin and is not signed by Locke.

Publications:   None

Spirit, soul, and body   [1697 or later]

Location:   Bodleian Library, MS. Locke c. 27, ff. 131-137.

Description:   Miscellaneous undated notes by Locke on the concepts of spirit, soul, and body in the New Testament, relating to the interpretation of 1 Thessalonians V.23, to which Locke refers in the Preface to his Paraphrase and notes on the Epistles of St. Paul. The captions “Spirit, Soule, and body” and/or “1 Thess. V.23” appear on several pages of the manuscript. Some of the notes consist of lists of passages in the New Testament (ff. 134-136).

Publications:

  1. [ff. 131-134r only:] “Testi teologico-filosofici lockiani dal MS. Locke c.27 della Lovelace Collection” / a cura di Mario Sina. // IN: Rivista di filosofia neo-scolastica. – 64 (1972):405-408.
  2. [ff. 131-134r only:] A paraphrase and notes on the Epistles of St Paul to the Galatians, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Romans, Ephesians / John Locke ; edited by Arthur W. Wainwright. – Oxford : Clarendon Press, 1987. – (The Clarendon edition of the works of John Locke). – vol. 2:675-678. [Locke #720]

Discussions:   Sina, publication #1 above, pp. 403-405; Wainwright, publication #2 above, p. 675.

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