John Locke: Second Treatise on Civil Government

(1690)

Audience

Locke's intended audience for the Two Treatises of Government has been a matter of considerable scholarly debate. The orthodox view is that his primary audience was the aristocracy of England. The aristocracy had been the motive force behind the Glorious Revolution, and the views expressed in the Second Treatise seem to provide a justification for that revolution. However, the aristocracy never really accepted Locke's views, regarding them as too radical. Other scholars have argued that Locke's primary audience was the landed gentry, yet this class also regarded Locke as too radical, even though Locke was outlining a theory of government that would have provided stability for the landed class, particularly in his defense of private property. Still other scholars contend that Locke's true audience consisted of such people as city merchants, tradespeople, artisans, and minor gentry. These classes would have found Locke's views congenial, for his essential argument is...

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John Locke (Library of Congress)

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