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JOHN LOCKE AND POST-

REVOLUTIONARY POLITICS:
ELECTORAL REFORM AND THE
FRANCHISE*
Our perception of John Locke’s ideas and significance has under-
gone profound change in the last forty years. Once assumed to
have been a justification of the revolution of 1688, his Two
Treatises are now located amongst the radical Whig writings of
the late 1670s or early 1680s.1 Alongside the redating there has
been a fundamental re-evaluation of the work’s impact. As Mark
Goldie puts it, ‘where Locke was once assumed to be the ineluct-
able fountain of political wisdom, he has now come to have an
elusive and fugitive presence’.2 John Kenyon, Martyn Thomp-
son, Harry Dickinson, Quentin Skinner and John Pocock have all
questioned or minimized the influence that Locke’s political
ideology had, both at the time of its publication and throughout
much of the eighteenth century.3 The effect of marginalizing
Locke’s political discourse has changed our historical emphasis,
so that Locke’s political influence after the revolution of 1688 has

* I am grateful to Mark Goldie, Joanna Innes, Steve Pincus, and participants of


Cambridge and Yale seminars for their helpful comments. The Clarke (Sanford)
Papers at Somerset Record Office have been reclassified recently, so I have given
both the new and old shelfmarks. I am very grateful for permission to cite the
Sanford Papers.
1
Laslett’s edition was the key turning point: John Locke, Two Treatises of
Government, ed. Peter Laslett (Cambridge, 1960).
2
The historiography is synthesized in Mark Goldie, The Reception of Locke’s Politics,
6 vols. (London, 1999), i, intro.
3
J. P. Kenyon, ‘The Revolution of 1688: Resistance and Contract’, in Neil
McKendrick (ed.), Historical Perspectives: Studies in English Thought and Society, in
Honour of J. H. Plumb (London, 1974); J. P. Kenyon, Revolution Principles: The
Politics of Party, 1689–1720 (Cambridge, 1977), 17–20; Martyn P. Thompson, ‘The
Reception of Locke’s Two Treatises of Government, 1690–1715’, Political Studies,
xxiv (1976); H. T. Dickinson, Liberty and Property: Political Ideology in Eighteenth-
Century Britain (London, 1977), 125–34; H. T. Dickinson, ‘The Precursors of
Political Radicalism in Augustan Britain’, in Clyve Jones (ed.), Britain in the First
Age of Party, 1680–1750: Essays Presented to Geoffrey Holmes (London, 1987), 68–9;
Quentin Skinner, The Foundations of Modern Political Thought, ii, The Age of Refor-
mation (Cambridge, 1978), 347–8; J. G. A. Pocock, Virtue, Commerce, and History:
Essays on Political Thought and History, Chiefly in the Eighteenth Century (Cambridge,
1985), 228–30.

Past and Present, no. 213 (Nov. 2011) ß The Past and Present Society, Oxford, 2011
doi:10.1093/pastj/gtr004
42 PAST AND PRESENT NUMBER 213

appeared slight. Against this, however, something of a backlash


has developed. Mark Goldie, Richard Ashcraft and M. M. Gold-
smith have all offered important evidence about the pre-
revolution Locke and about the textual impact of his work;4
while Michael Zuckert’s ‘new republicanism’ seeks to locate
Locke much closer to the commonwealthsmen who influenced
America.5 And it was long ago established that Locke and his
friends, whom he called his ‘college’, played an active and
highly visible role in lobbying, policy-development and drafting
legislation in the 1690s.6 This article builds on the second of these
interpretations, which resists attempts to marginalize Locke, and
seeks to expand our understanding of that post-revolutionary
activity.
In particular, the article addresses one of the thorniest issues of
Lockean scholarship: his stance on the franchise. For some com-
mentators, such as Ashcraft, Tully and Hughes, Locke has to be
seen as a radical democrat, while for others, such as McNally,
Becker and Wood, Locke was no more than a Whig oligarch.7
4
Mark Goldie, ‘The Roots of True Whiggism, 1688–1694’, Hist. Polit. Thought, i
(1980); Mark Goldie, ‘John Locke’s Circle and James II’, Hist. Jl, xxxv (1992);
Richard Ashcraft and M. M. Goldsmith, ‘Locke, Revolution Principles, and the
Formation of Whig Ideology’, Hist. Jl, xxvi (1983); Richard Ashcraft, Revolutionary
Politics and Locke’s Two Treatises of Government (Princeton, 1986).
5
Michael P. Zuckert, Natural Rights and the New Republicanism (Princeton, 1994).
See also John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon, Cato’s Letters: or, Essays on Liberty, Civil
and Religious, and Other Important Subjects, ed. Ronald Hamowy (Indianapolis, 1995),
intro.
6
Peter Laslett, ‘John Locke, the Great Recoinage, and the Origins of the Board of
Trade, 1695–1698’, William and Mary Quart., 3rd ser., xiv (1957); Raymond Astbury,
‘The Renewal of the Licensing Act in 1693 and its Lapse in 1695’, Library, xxxiii
(1978); Locke on Money, ed. Patrick Hyde Kelly, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1991); Lee
Davison and Tim Keirn, ‘John Locke, Edward Clarke and the 1696 Guineas
Legislation’, Parliamentary Hist., vii (1988).
7
Ashcraft, Revolutionary Politics and Locke’s Two Treatises of Government; James
Tully, A Discourse on Property: John Locke and his Adversaries (Cambridge, 1980),
173–4; Martin Hughes, ‘Locke on Taxation and Suffrage’, Hist. Polit. Thought, xi
(1990); David McNally, ‘Locke, Levellers and Liberty: Property and Democracy in
the Thought of the First Whigs’, Hist. Polit. Thought, x (1989); Ron Becker, ‘The
Ideological Commitment of Locke: Freemen and Servants in the Two Treatises of
Government’, and Ellen Meiksins Wood, ‘Locke against Democracy: Consent,
Representation and Suffrage in the Two Treatises’, both in Hist. Polit. Thought, xiii
(1992); Ellen Meiksins Wood, ‘Radicalism, Capitalism and Historical Contexts:
Not Only a Reply to Richard Ashcraft on John Locke’, Hist. Polit. Thought, xv
(1994). For refutations of Locke as a radical, see also Neal Wood, John Locke and
Agrarian Capitalism (Berkeley 1984), 83–5; G. E. Aylmer, ‘Locke no Leveller’, in Ian
Gentles, John Morrill and Blair Worden (eds.), Soldiers, Writers and Statesmen of the
English Revolution (Cambridge, 1998).
LOCKE AND POST-REVOLUTIONARY POLITICS 43
The dispute appears difficult to resolve, since, it is claimed, ‘it is
not clear whether Locke wished to extend positive political rights
to all men because he did not make any explicit statements about
the franchise he favoured in England’.8 Yet Locke’s position on
the franchise need not, as most of these commentators have
assumed, be deduced from his published writings alone. A draft
bill among the papers of Locke’s closest ally Edward Clarke,
annotated by Locke himself, shows a very clear preference for
the type of franchise that both men wanted to prevail. Locke
and Clarke were concerned, like many Country or ‘true’ Whigs,
about the possibility of a corrupt legislature, and sought practical
remedies for the dangers outlined in the Second Treatise, where
Locke discussed how the legislature could be perverted. That
occurred, he argued, not only when the distribution of seats no
longer matched the socio-economic distribution of wealth and
population, but also when the ‘ways of Election’ were altered
‘contrary to the common Interest of the People’.9 The latter
were the issues that the draft bill sought to address.
The electoral bill is nevertheless more than an intriguing solu-
tion to a knotty but essentially abstract problem in the history of
political theory, for it raises two further, interrelated, questions
that this article also attempts to answer. The first is how the col-
lege’s electoral bill should be understood, both in its own day and
in the wider process of parliamentary reform. Reform at the turn
of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries did involve some con-
sideration of the distribution of seats and inequities of the fran-
chise. But we do not need to see this discussion simply as a step in
the long march towards 1832. Electoral reform was more often
seen in terms of regulation, necessitated not so much by shifts in
the socio-economic substrata as by the abuse of existing electoral
legislation and custom either by the crown or by political parties.
There were many attempts at such regulation in the 1690s, which
focused on preventing the machinery of elections from being
manipulated by the Court or by rival partisans, and preventing
opportunities for bribing and corrupting the electorate, as much
as if not more than the classic reform issues of the franchise and
8
Dickinson, ‘Precursors of Political Radicalism in Augustan Britain’, 68; see also
Aylmer, ‘Locke no Leveller’, 313.
9
John Locke, Second Treatise of Government (1690), paras. 157, 216; cf. Gilbert
Burnet, A Collection of Papers Relating to the Present Juncture of Affairs in England
([London], 1688), 11.
44 PAST AND PRESENT NUMBER 213

the redistribution of seats. The ‘regulation’ of elections should


also be seen as part of a broader, post-revolutionary effort to
regulate trade and social policy — not coincidentally two of
Locke’s other concerns. Wealth, population and representation
were intertwined. Indeed, as we shall see, there was a link between
these in the form of political arithmetic: the use of statistics to
argue political points, a way of arguing that was to play a large role
in the emerging study of political economy.10
Electoral regulation was thus a point of intersection for a variety
of different concerns, because the corruption of elections had a
bearing not only on politics but also on morality, since — unless
properly regulated — elections could corrupt voters, with bribes,
excessive drinking or eating, and could foster vices such as vio-
lence and fraud. The electoral legislation of the later Stuart period
exemplifies what Joanna Innes has identified for the later eight-
eenth and early nineteenth centuries: the long-standing dualistic
nature of ‘reform’ both as the recasting of abuse-ridden laws and
institutions, and as the correction of moral failings.11 The rash of
initiatives to prevent electoral corruption was part of the moral
reform agenda of the 1690s, set out in a previous issue of this
journal by David Hayton, who noted not only the prominence
of many moral reformers in electoral reform but also the par-
ticular part played by Clarke in promoting them. Consequently,
although most scholarly attention has naturally centred on the
pre-revolutionary Locke and the gestation of the Two Treatises,
the post-revolutionary Locke is in many ways just as interesting,
since he had opportunities to try to put theory into practice in a
climate of reform, which was also challenging because of the de-
mands of war.
Focusing on Locke and his allies thus also forces us to tackle the
second question raised by their attempt to regulate elections,
namely their place on the political spectrum and hence the
nature of Locke’s Whiggism. Locke and Clarke both held
Court office and are seen as champions of a ‘liberal’ strand of
Whig thought. Yet his circle emerges as sensitive to Country
Whig anxieties about corruption, concerns more often associated
10
On political arithmetic, see Julian Hoppit, ‘Political Arithmetic in Eighteenth-
Century England’, Econ. Hist. Rev., 2nd ser., xlix (1996).
11
Joanna Innes, ‘ ‘‘Reform’’ in English Public Life: The Fortunes of a Word’, in
Arthur Burns and Joanna Innes (eds.), Rethinking the Age of Reform: Britain, 1780–
1850 (Cambridge, 2003).
LOCKE AND POST-REVOLUTIONARY POLITICS 45
with the allegedly very different neo-Harringtonian strand of
Whiggery. What follows shows that Locke and his circle were
not simply new Whigs who had sold out to the Court; indeed,
attempts to portray them as such were part of a deliberate smear
campaign by a political rival. Rather, they were Court Whigs with
a Country conscience and a programme of action that included
parliamentary legislation to bring about change. Long desired by
the Country MPs of the 1670s and subsequently espoused by
‘Country’ MPs after the revolution, measures to regulate the pro-
cedure and conduct of elections were drafted and promoted by
Locke’s Court-leaning college. But perhaps as importantly, a
focus on Locke’s college also shows the extent to which Court
and Country were polemical, rhetorical constructs. A series of
masterly pieces of propaganda produced very soon after the
burst of Country-minded electoral reforming activity portrayed
the members of the college as the epitome of Modern or Court
Whigs. Yet although they were caricatured as having sold out,
they retained their reformist principles after the revolution and
after accepting government office; indeed, many in the 1690s
saw them as continuing a commonwealth tradition. Rather than
being marginal, Locke’s college thus emerges as a bridge between
a number of different strands of Whiggery at both a personal and
policy level.12 This became an increasingly difficult act to main-
tain once the Tories took over the Country mantle; partisanship
narrowed the space in which Country rhetoric and measures
could operate.
One final, methodological, issue arises from what follows. Not
only does the evidence presented here come from manuscript
rather than printed sources — and the huge deposit of Clarke’s
papers gives ample scope for a proper contextualization of
Locke’s ideas across a range of subjects — but the content of
the bill demands that we widen the context in which we place
‘political discourse’. Keith Thomas long ago gave a wonderful,
and still cited, exemplar of how a social context of a key political
term — ‘servant’ in the case he was examining, in relation to
Leveller ideology — was important to the understanding of its
use and meaning. More recently, Craig Muldrew has given a
12
For varieties of Whiggism, see J. G. A. Pocock, ‘The Varieties of Whiggism from
Exclusion to Reform: A History of Ideology and Discourse’, in his Virtue, Commerce,
and History; Edmund Ludlow, A Voyce from the Watch Tower, ed. A. B. Worden
(Camden Soc., 4th ser., xxi, London, 1978); Goldie, ‘Roots of True Whiggism’.
46 PAST AND PRESENT NUMBER 213

crucial social and cultural dimension to another key word of trea-


tises of political economy: ‘credit’.13 Towards the end of this art-
icle, I turn to thinking about how the social context of the state,
delineated by historians not normally associated with the history
of political discourse, might nevertheless offer us a rich source of
ideas to exploit.

I
THE COLLEGE AS COURT WHIGS?
Any attempt to understand Locke’s post-revolutionary politics,
including his position on the franchise and electoral corruption,
has to grapple with the character of his friends and their place in
the political structure. It is generally held that the new or Court
Whigs, headed by John Somers, Charles Montagu and Thomas
Wharton, broke away from the Country Whigs in the watershed
year of 1694 and abandoned their earlier principles. According to
J. H. Plumb’s account, ‘after 1694 all truck with moderate radic-
alism goes’ and there were no more attempts ‘to secure major
constitutional change on behalf of the independence of the legis-
lature’.14 Thus ‘with each passing year Country and Tory became
increasingly closely identified, and Whig and Country further
separated’.15 Court Whigs won out. Locke’s career does indeed
seem, at first sight, to fit this pattern. Having been secretary to a
leader of the first Whigs, the earl of Shaftesbury, he became a
friend of John Somers, the Court-nominated Lord Keeper and
a leader of the Whigs, and in 1696 was appointed to a royally
nominated Board of Trade, on £1,000 a year.16
13
Keith Thomas, ‘The Levellers and the Franchise’, in G. E. Aylmer (ed.), The
Interregnum: The Quest for Settlement, 1646–1660 (London, 1972); Craig Muldrew, The
Economy of Obligation: The Culture of Credit and Social Relations in Early Modern
England (Basingstoke, 1998).
14
J. H. Plumb, The Growth of Political Stability in England, 1675–1725 (London,
1967), 134.
15
Ibid., 134–5. For a more nuanced view, see David Hayton, ‘The ‘‘Country’’
Interest and the Party System, 1689–c.1720’, in Clyve Jones (ed.), Party and Party
Management in Parliament, 1660–1784 (Leicester, 1984); D. W. Hayton, The House of
Commons, 1690–1715, i, Introductory Survey (Cambridge, 2002), 489–99.
16
Somers and John Freke were defence counsel for the 1682 London rioters:
Memoirs of the Life of John Lord Somers (London, 1716), 15; it seems to have been
Freke (fellow Middle Templer and propagandist) who introduced Somers to Locke:
The Correspondence of John Locke, ed. E. S. de Beer, 8 vols. (Oxford, 1976–89), iii, 113.
LOCKE AND POST-REVOLUTIONARY POLITICS 47
Similarly the careers of the two key members of the college,
Edward Clarke and John Freke, also seem to confirm the aban-
donment of ‘true Whig’ principles. Clarke was made an excise
commissioner and steered much of the recoinage legislation
through the House of Commons. He was said to be thick with
both Somers and another leader of the Whigs, Charles Montagu,
who was to become chancellor of the exchequer in 1694.17 As
early as 1692 (before references to the college appear in Locke’s
correspondence), Clarke and Freke were identified in a tract as a
new Whig lobby, working alongside Somers and betraying the
public good. ‘Who can the people of England ere again confide
in’, wondered the author, ‘when Mr Edward Clarke and Mr John
Freak, the one within Parliament, the other in coffee houses, a
little too scandalously labour’d against the bill for trials in cases of
high treason?’, which had fallen short of Whig objectives in safe-
guarding against the abuses used against them in the 1680s. Freke
and Clarke were, the author of the tract continued, men in whose
hands he would once ‘not only have deposited all that is dear to
me in my private concerns, but also what I thank God is dearer to
me than all I have, my life and posterity too, I mean England’s
interest’; but now they had become puffed up by their own im-
portance and lost their way.18
The college’s closeness to Somers, and to a lesser extent to
Charles Montagu, did indeed leave its members vulnerable to
the charge of having embraced modern Whiggery tout court, and
17
For his biography and friendships, see The House of Commons, 1690–1715, iii,
Members A–F, ed. Eveline Cruickshanks, Stuart Handley and D. W. Hayton
(Cambridge, 2002), 576–98. For Locke, Clarke and Somers meeting in 1693, see
Correspondence of John Locke, ed. de Beer, iv, 678–9. Clarke lodged next door to the
lord chancellor in September 1699 at Tunbridge and was then invited to eat and drink
with him during his stay: Somerset Record Office (hereafter SRO), DD\SF/7/1/52
(formerly DD/SF 3077), Edward Clarke to Mary Clarke, 14 Sept. 1699. Clarke and
Montagu were also members of the Rose Club, existing from c.1694 to at least
February 1701, which seems to have been particularly concerned with financial mat-
ters and also served as a venue for Whig MPs to co-ordinate tactics: Poems on Affairs of
State: Augustan Satirical Verse, 1660–1714, ed. Frank H. Ellis, 7 vols. (New Haven,
1963–75), v, 430; Henry Horwitz, Parliament, Policy and Politics in the Reign of William
III (Manchester, 1977), 208–9.
18
Some Remarks upon our Affairs [London, 1692?], 1 sheet, side 2. The author may
have been their critical friend Charlwood Lawton. For Lawton, see Mark Goldie and
Clare Jackson, ‘Williamite Tyranny and the Whig Jacobites’, in Esther Mijers and
David Onnekink (eds.), Redefining William III: The Impact of the King-Stadholder in
International Context (Aldershot, 2007); Mark Knights, ‘Uncovering a Jacobite Whig?
The Commonwealth Principles of Henry Booth, 1st Earl of Warrington’,
Parliamentary Hist., xxviii (2009), 67.
48 PAST AND PRESENT NUMBER 213

two tracts in 1701 depicted them as the epitome of Court Whigs.


A fictional letter purporting to be from Clarke to Freke, The
Taunton-Dean Letter (1701), depicted Clarke as encouraging
Freke to stir up quarrels between the houses and encourage arti-
sans to riot, in order to divert the Commons attack on the Court
Whig leaders. The ‘reply’, A Letter from the Grecian Coffee-House of
the same year, is another exercise in satirical fiction: Freke is made
to claim that he had indeed helped to scupper the Country party’s
attack on the Court Whigs.19 Depicting him as a power-crazy spin
doctor, the pamphlet claimed that he disposed ‘of livings, places,
and pensions’ at will and thereby proved that ‘the common prin-
ciples of old Whigs is but for a shew’. The college was thus por-
trayed as the propaganda headquarters of the Whigs, with Clarke
and Freke as masters of lying and manipulation, responsible for
the impasse in parliament as well as public agitation.20 Freke, in
particular, was depicted as restlessly intent on gaining and exer-
cising power and reward. Great effort was put into the tracts’
distribution, for we know that at least forty copies were sent to
one MP.21 It would be hard, in the light of all this, to suggest that
Locke’s college had little political impact, or that its lobbying was
not very publicly known. And yet how far were the tracts’
19
The Taunton-Dean Letter from E.C. to J.F. at the Grecian Coffee-House (London,
1701); A Letter from the Grecian Coffee-House, in Answer to the Taunton-Dean Letter
(London, 1701). For a discussion of these important tracts, see J. A. Downie,
Robert Harley and the Press: Propaganda and Public Opinion in the Age of Swift and
Defoe (Cambridge, 1979), 50–3. Although ‘Freke’ is located at the Grecian, Letter
from the Grecian Coffee-House, 5, refers to friends at Richard’s Coffee-House, thereby
linking the two. John Arbuthnot, Proposals for Printing a Very Curious Discourse . . .
Intitled Pseudologia Politike: or, A Treatise of the Art of Political Lying, 2 vols. (London,
1712), offers the Grecian as one of the coffee-houses where subscriptions to his work
on lying could be made: Conal Condren, Satire, Lies and Politics: The Case of Dr
Arbuthnot (Basingstoke, 1997), 177.
20
Taunton-Dean Letter, 4, and Letter from the Grecian Coffee-House, 5, alleged that
Freke and Clarke ‘let loose’ the infamous ‘Legion Memorial’, usually ascribed to
Defoe. For allegations that Montagu had also been behind its publication, see
England’s Enemies Exposed, and its True Friends and Patriots Defended (London,
1701), which also (p. 28) implies that John Darby, the printer of much of the
Calves-Head group, produced it. For Darby, see Ludlow, Voyce from the Watch
Tower, ed. Worden, 18–21. England’s Enemies Exposed, 33, implied that the same au-
thors and publishers responsible for the Legion were also behind A Satyr upon Thirty
Seven Articles (London, 1701). Clarke was also depicted as a would-be author who
would ‘publish nothing till it has been well consider’d at the Colledg by my Ld
S[ome]rs and my Lord H[alifa]x, in conjunction with yourself, Jacob Tonson and
two or three more of the ablest politicians of our party’: Taunton-Dean Letter, 5.
Tonson and Somers also founded the Kit Cat Club.
21
Downie, Robert Harley and the Press, 52.
LOCKE AND POST-REVOLUTIONARY POLITICS 49
allegations a reflection or distortion of the truth? Was the college
really the spin-machine of the new Whigs?
The college certainly had experience in the art of political lob-
bying and using the press as a means of exerting political pres-
sure.22 And Freke was the epitome of the coffee-house habitué.
He is memorably described by Sarah Cowper (wife of another
Whig MP with independent inclinations) as ‘M:r Morose,
a Cynical Fellow who every Day goes his Rounds to Some Set
Place where . . . he intends to Stay the Pastime (tho’ in Company
of Ladys) in Smoaking Tobacco’.23 Ensconced in the coffee-
house, Freke spun politics through print as well as conversation.
Freke had published (even if he had not composed) a republican
poem in 1676 for which he was imprisoned, and he and his friends
had close connections with two publishing partners, John Starkey
and Awnsham Churchill.24 Starkey’s output was an interesting
mix, including a good deal of ancient constitutionalism;
Churchill was Locke’s usual publisher but was also his friend
and agent, and became one of the most important booksellers
of the post-revolutionary period.25 Freke was close enough to
appoint him as an executor of his will.26 We also know that printed
material was produced or encouraged into print by the college.
Early in 1697, for example, Freke was ‘for speedyly reprinting
a booke’;27 and in April 1700 Mary Clarke thought a printed
letter had been produced by the college.28 Clearly, the college
22
In 1692 Clarke distributed Locke’s Some Considerations of the Consequences of the
Lessening of Interest to MPs and was asked to liaise with Awnsham Churchill about the
publication and distribution of Locke’s Third Letter for Toleration: see House of
Commons, iii, ed. Cruickshanks, Handley and Hayton, 580–1. He also distributed
Locke’s Short Observations in 1695: ibid., 584.
23
Hertfordshire Record Office, Hertford, Panshanger MSS, D/EP F32, 115, Diary
of Sarah Cowper, entry for 8 Oct. 1707.
24
Mark Knights, ‘John Starkey and Ideological Networks in Late Seventeeth-
Century England’, in Joad Raymond (ed.), News Networks in Seventeenth Century
Britain and Europe (London, 2006).
25
House of Commons, iii, ed. Cruickshanks, Handley and Hayton, 538–40.
26
National Archives, London, Public Record Office (hereafter PRO), Prob. 11/559
sig.154.
27
Correspondence of John Locke, ed. de Beer, v, 762. This may refer to Reflections
upon a Scandalous Libel, Entituled, An Account of the Proceedings of the House of Commons
(London, 1697), which defended Clarke and Yonge as patriots (ridiculing Country
Tory claims to the label) and quoted Locke (pp. 3, 5–6, 22–4, 32, 34–5). It argued that
those who were ‘invidiously called the Court party truly showed themselves faithful
Representatives of the People of England’ (p. 39).
28
SRO, DD\SF/7/1/31 (formerly DD/SF 4515), Mary Clarke to Edward Clarke,
15 Apr. 1700: ‘the printed letter you sent I fancy was composed at the college’.
50 PAST AND PRESENT NUMBER 213

took advantage of a free press to engage in debate, counter mis-


perceptions and influence parliamentary proceedings.29 Indeed,
its members exploited that press to the full.
Yet, whilst certainly living up to its billing as a manipulator of
opinion, was the college really a pure Court Whig sell-out of
Country Whig principles? The answer to that question lies in
the machinations behind its portrayal in the 1701 propaganda;
and that leads us to Robert Harley, one of the most able but also
most slippery and ambitious of politicians. Harley’s father, Sir
Edward, had been one of the stalwarts of the Country party in
the 1670s, concerned with moral and electoral reform, and his
importance for the college will shortly become more apparent.
Robert Harley saw himself as inheriting this mantle. Initially he
had good relations with the college. He knew Freke during the
critical period of college activity, for Freke corresponded with him
in 1695 to give him ‘the view we get of [the elections] at the coffee
houses’.30 Thereafter, however, the two men drifted apart.
Harley saw Somers and his gang as corrupt and self-interested,
and therefore his allies as guilty by association, while he saw him-
self as a guardian of the Country heritage. So it comes as little
surprise to find that the first drafts of the 1701 satires of the col-
lege are in the hand of Robert Harley, who was now lashing out at
those known to be friends of the lord chancellor, who had been
impeached in parliament.31 Indeed, Harley may have been re-
taliating for an attack that he saw as originating from the college.
In the late summer of 1701, when there was a real struggle for
power between Somers and Harley, the latter had been pilloried
by a set of printed ‘queries’.32 There had been a printed reply to
those ‘queries’ but Harley thought it was ‘ill don’.33 He needed
a cleverer, more witty rebuttal, one that would damage Somers
through those near to him. So, too, did Charles Davenant, who

29
For their views on press freedom, see Correspondence of John Locke, ed. de Beer, v,
294–5; Locke: Political Essays, ed. Mark Goldie (Cambridge, 1997), 331, 337.
30
Historical Manuscripts Commission, Portland, iii, 387, 568, 570–2. Harley’s
postal address in 1691 was the Grecian: ibid., 472–3.
31
British Library (hereafter BL), Add. MS 70295, 3 Sept. 1701; Add. MS 70330, 6
Oct. 1701; Downie, Robert Harley and the Press, 50–1.
32
Some Queries, which May Deserve Consideration (London, 1701), queries 18, 19
(ironically also attacking John Toland).
33
Presumably a reference to the rather plodding Some Queries which Deserve No
Consideration (London, 1701).
LOCKE AND POST-REVOLUTIONARY POLITICS 51
was working with Harley to investigate the (Whig) misuse of
public money and who had also been attacked in the Whig
queries.34 Their response was twofold. First, Davenant published
one of the most brilliant satires of the period, The True Picture of a
Modern Whig (a tract that in many ways shapes our perception of
what a modern Whig was), and then revised Harley’s draft of the
two ‘college letters’, which neatly paralleled the accusations made
in the True Picture.35 In short, although the printed attacks on
Freke and Clarke are a real testimony to their importance, they
were also part of a public struggle in which the Harley/Davenant
and Somers/College factions each sought to represent the other
as unprincipled, self-interested liars and to claim the ‘Country’
tradition.36 We would do well to remember that the characteriza-
tion of the college as made up of Court Whigs — and indeed the
character type of the Court Whig — is partisan satire, all the more
bitter because the Harleian and Lockean circles’ interests had
previously coincided.37 ‘Country’ could thus represent a posture
and rhetoric to be invoked when trying to denigrate an opponent,
a useful tool in the battle for public opinion. We might therefore
be tempted simply to dismiss the labels ‘Court’ and ‘Country’
Whigs as meaningless polemical stereotyping when applied either
to the college or indeed more generally. To do so, however, would
be to miss a more interesting story about Country values and
principles in general and the character of the college in particular.
Telling it requires us to construct a picture of Clarke and Freke
not as archetypal Court Whigs but as men with a good track
record of anti-Court, even commonwealth, credentials.

34
Some Queries, which May Deserve Consideration, query 21. Charles Davenant had
earlier in 1701 published his Essays upon I. The Ballance of Power. II. The Right of
Making War, Peace, and Alliances. III. Universal Monarchy, which had been critical
of the timing of the recoinage and hence implicitly attacked the college:
Correspondence of John Locke, ed. de Beer, vii, 284. Locke had beaten him to a place
on the Board of Trade and he had been blackballed by Clarke for a post in the excise:
House of Commons, iii, ed. Cruickshanks, Handley and Hayton, 853.
35
The True Picture of a Modern Whig was published on 29 August 1701. The simi-
larities between the True Picture and the two Letters are noted by Downie, Robert
Harley and the Press, 50.
36
Throughout the period Harley sent polite messages of service to Locke via
Pawling, whom he actively sought out and treated in a friendly manner:
Correspondence of John Locke, ed. de Beer, vii, 427, 435–9, 468.
37
Harley was even personally upbraided by one of Locke’s friends for not treading
in his ‘father’s steps’: ibid., 427.
52 PAST AND PRESENT NUMBER 213

II
THE COLLEGE AS COMMONWEALTH OR COUNTRY WHIGS?
In so far as he has merited any discussion, Clarke comes across as
a diligent but apparently rather dull MP of second-rate import-
ance; and Freke is barely mentioned in most accounts of the
period. But both hold the key to understanding Locke.
Edward Clarke was particularly close to him.38 As early as 1679
Clarke received ‘great incouragem[en]ts’ from Locke’s patron
and champion of ‘Country principles’ the first earl of Shaftesbury
(whom he described as ‘my noble friend’) to stand as MP for
Taunton.39 Shaftesbury made Clarke one of his trustees, as did
Locke when he, too, was forced into exile in 1683. Clarke looked
after Locke’s concerns with a diligence that prompted the phil-
osopher to say he loved Edward ‘above all other men’, and Locke
sent him ‘many papers’ with power to burn whatever he disliked.
Clarke was apparently one of the few to know about the manu-
script of the Two Treatises. Politically the men had much in com-
mon as zealous Whigs. Clarke was almost certainly a member
of the Green Ribbon Club, which co-ordinated anti-Catholic
propaganda, and during the 1680s, though he was no revolution-
ary, he had fallen under government suspicion of sedition. In the
spring of 1684 he was ‘presented as dangerous’ by a jury, and in
1685 he was taken into custody on the suspicion that he ‘held
correspondence with traitors’; but he was released on bonds and,
in all likelihood, took no part in Monmouth’s rebellion. The revo-
lution proved the turning point for his fortunes. Although
blocked from election to parliament in 1689 by two machinating
Tories (he thus knew abuse of the polls first-hand), he finally won
victory in 1690 at Taunton, a constituency he was to represent
until his death in 1710. Although probably more comfortable in
private or coffee-house conversation than when holding the floor
of the House (MPs were said to leave ‘to make water’ when he rose
to his feet), he became the college’s mouthpiece and workhorse in
the Commons, constantly corresponding or meeting with Locke,
38
Unless otherwise stated, this paragraph summarizes House of Commons, iii, ed.
Cruickshanks, Handley and Hayton, 577–8, where full references are available. I
should like to repeat the thanks acknowledged there to Bridget Clarke for sharing
her transcripts with me of Clarke’s correspondence, now on deposit at the History
of Parliament Trust.
39
SRO, DD\SF/7/1/49 (formerly DD/SF 3082), Clarke to Trenchard, 1 Aug.
1679.
LOCKE AND POST-REVOLUTIONARY POLITICS 53
the better to inform the latter and discuss policy. He was a for-
midable expert in his own right on finance and his legal training
ensured an eye for detail useful in the drafting of legislation.
John Freke, who often actually penned the ‘joint’ letters that he
and Clarke sent to Locke,40 was similarly independently minded,
with a long history of links to the pre-revolutionary common-
wealthsmen. The poem for which he was arrested in May 1676
included the remarkable lines
Of kings curs’d be the power and name
let all the earth henceforth abhor ’em . . .
Then farewell, sacred Majesty
Let’s pull all brutish tyrants down!
Where men are born and still live free
There ev’ry head doth wear a crown.41
His spell in the Tower did not deter his opposition to the Court.
The following spring he was one of a group of radicals that
‘bought the faggots’ to celebrate the release of Francis Jenks,
the London radical (Leveller Walwyn’s son-in-law) who had
attempted to stir up London about the length of parliament’s
prorogation.42 Freke was a very active member of the Green
Ribbon Club, working in close association with John Ayloffe
(who shared Freke’s republican versifying) to recommend new
recruits.43 It was thus perhaps inevitable that Freke should fall
under governmental suspicion during the Rye House Plot scare
of 1683 and be arrested.44 During examination it became clear

40
The first surviving joint letter is dated 29 November 1694. The last is in March
1700.
41
Poems on Affairs of State, ed. Ellis, i, 243–51. For an account of the poem, see
Frank H. Ellis, ‘John Freke and The History of the Insipids’, in Philol. Quart., xliv (1965).
Freke was arrested and prosecuted but acquitted, ‘seeing there was but one wittness’
against him. Library of Congress, Washington, DC, Newdigate newsletters, no. 330, 2
June 1676; no. 331, 3 June 1676; no. 332, 7 June 1676; The Poems and Letters of Andrew
Marvell, ed. H. M. Margoliouth, revised Pierre Legouis and E. E. Duncan-Jones,
2 vols. (Oxford, 1971), ii, 349–50; Cal. State Papers, Domestic, 1676–7, 133, 318,
564. The poem reappeared in A Second Collection of the Newest and Most Ingenious
Poems, Songs, Catches, etc. against Popery (London, 1689).
42
Freke acted with Radford, who had also been arrested for the poem: Cal. State
Papers, Domestic, 1677–8, 22.
43
Magdalene College, Cambridge, Pepys Library, MS 2875, Green Ribbon Club
(GRC) minutes, fos. 479–80, 482; George de Forest Lord, ‘Satire and Sedition: The
Life and Work of John Ayloffe’, Huntington Lib. Quart., xxix (1966). Ayloffe left his
estate to Freke: PRO, Prob. 10/1196.
44
Freke appears to have been consulted about money for Argyle’s rebellion in 1683:
The Tryal and Process of High-Treason and Doom of Forfaulture against Mr. Robert Baillie
of Jerviswood, Traitor (London, 1685), 52.
54 PAST AND PRESENT NUMBER 213

that he ‘knew’ a number of active plotters, Robert Ferguson,


Nathaniel Wade, Richard Goodenough and Robert West, not
surprisingly, since all were fellow Green Ribboners.45 In 1684
Freke was legal defence for the hot-headed Lawrence Braddon,
who had claimed that the earl of Essex, who had been arrested
for his part in the plot, had been murdered in the Tower rather
than having committed suicide.46 Freke was again arrested
in May 1685, but once more released without charge.47 One report
in 1685 even places Freke, Sir Francis Yonge and Richard Duke
(two more of Locke’s friends and fringe members of the college)
at a meeting of the Calves Head Club, where they allegedly
celebrated the regicide.48 Freke was approached about prepara-
tions for Monmouth’s rebellion but was too shrewd to become
actively involved.49 Throughout his early life, therefore, Freke
mixed with plotters and alleged republicans. But what evidence
is there that either Clarke or Freke continued their Common-
wealth or Country associations after the revolution? Did they
simply turn their backs on their true Whig past, as Harley
alleged?50
Although he was certainly a strong Williamite, Clarke was no
Court stooge. In 1693 he opposed the king’s veto of place legis-
lation, supported the Triennial bill the following year, and backed
the Treason Trials bill in the face of royal disapproval; and then in
1700 he himself introduced a clause preventing MPs from man-
aging the excise (his own post), patriotically resigning his Court
45
Cal. State Papers, Domestic, July–Sept. 1683, 92, 100.
46
The Tryal of Laurence Braddon and Hugh Speke (London, 1684), 8. Freke nomi-
nated Braddon and his associate Hugh Westlake for Green Ribbon Club membership:
Magdalene College, Pepys Lib., MS 2875, GRC minutes, fos. 479, 482. In 1692
Braddon directed money collected on his behalf to be sent via Freke and Clarke:
SRO, DD\SF/13/5/4/15 (formerly DD/SF 1678(15)), Braddon to [—], 30 May 1692.
47
Cal. State Papers, Domestic, Feb.–Dec. 1685, 157.
48
BL, Lansdowne MS 1152, fos. 249–52, Rumsey to Sunderland, 24 July 1685.
Trenchard and Tiley were also said to have been at the meeting, the former a close
associate of Clarke. Freke nominated Tiley for membership of the Green Ribbon
Club: Magdalene College, Pepys Lib., MS 2875, GRC minutes, fo. 479. [Edward
Ward], The Secret History of the Calves-Head Club: or, The Republican Unmasqu’d
(London, 1703), printed verse anthems on the theme of the removal of tyrants, similar
in vein to the poem which had landed Freke in trouble.
49
Ford Lord Grey, The Secret History of the Rye-House Plot, and of Monmouth’s
Rebellion (London, 1754), 104.
50
According to Frank Ellis, Freke represents ‘the unmistakable figure of the revo-
lutionary growing more conservative with age’: Ellis, ‘John Freke and The History of the
Insipids’, 482.
LOCKE AND POST-REVOLUTIONARY POLITICS 55
office in order to retain his parliamentary seat.51 Equally inde-
pendently minded, Freke was the linchpin in a circle of
post-revolution radicals and religious freethinkers, the most im-
portant of whom was John Toland.52 Toland described Freke, at
around the time of the college’s formation, as the ‘primum mobile
of my happiness’.53 Indeed it may well have been Freke who in
1696 brokered Toland’s editorship of the regicide Edmund
Ludlow’s Memoirs.54 In April 1697, shortly before the standing-
army controversy, Toland remained in close touch with both
Freke and Clarke, together with another of Locke’s correspond-
ents, John Cary.55 As late as September 1704 Toland’s friend John
Methuen wrote to Sir William Simpson, frequenter of Toland’s
haunt the Grecian tavern, that ‘Mr Freke drinks your health at the
College’.56 Thus, as several commentators have noticed, ‘a coali-
tion of commonwealthsmen and freethinkers’ met at the Grecian,
including Locke’s two closest friends.57 All this serves to narrow
the gap between the branches of Whiggism during the mid 1690s
51
House of Commons, iii, ed. Cruickshanks, Handley and Hayton, 582–5.
52
Jonathan Duke-Evans, ‘The Political Theory and Practice of the English
Commonwealthsmen, 1695–1725’ (Univ. of Oxford D.Phil. thesis, 1980), 32–4.
53
A Collection of Several Pieces of Mr. John Toland, ed. Pierre des Maizeaux, 2 vols.
(London, 1726), ii, 294, letter of Toland, Jan. 1694. Both men shared an interest in
political poetry: for Toland’s verse, see Nigel Smith, ‘The English Revolution and the
End of Rhetoric: John Toland’s Clito (1700) and the Republican Daemon’, in Kate
Flint (ed.), Poetry and Politics (Essays and Studies, new ser., xlix, Cambridge, 1996).
54
Memoirs of Edmund Ludlow Esq., [ed. John Toland?], 2 vols. (Vevey, 1698). For a
discussion of Toland’s editorship, see Ludlow, Voyce from the Watch Tower, ed. Worden,
intro.
55
Lambeth Palace Library, London, MS 933/74, William Simpson to John Toland,
20 Apr. 1697, reporting that he had, as instructed, shown a letter from Toland to both
Freke and Clarke.
56
Kenneth Spencer Research Library, Kansas, Methuen Correspondence C163,
19 Sept. 1704, also noting Clarke’s melancholia. On 6 December 1701, Methuen
offered this ‘humble service to Mr Toland and Dr Tindal’ and intriguingly wished
that ‘the same college of politicians will be every night with us’: ibid., E82 no. 111. For
Freke visiting the Grecian in November 1701, see Correspondence of John Locke, ed. de
Beer, vii, 483.
57
Stephen H. Daniel, John Toland: His Methods, Manners and Mind (Kingston,
Ont., 1984), 213 (‘however there is no strong evidence linking all these men, including
Toland, to the college’); Duke-Evans, ‘Political Theory and Practice of the English
Commonwealthsmen’, 35. Toland’s patron, Sir Robert Clayton, was also known to
Freke, who was a member of his masonic lodge in the 1690s: Margaret C. Jacob, The
Radical Enlightenment: Pantheists, Freemasons and Republicans (London, 1981), 118,
151. See also Jonathan Harris, ‘The Grecian Coffee House and Political Debate in
London, 1688–1714’, London Jl, xxv (2000). Locke’s friend Thomas Day lodged at
the Grecian, where he drank ‘confution to Priestcrft and arbitrary pow’r’: SRO,
DD\SF/7/1/20 (formerly DD/SF 3094), Day to [—], 13 July 1707.
56 PAST AND PRESENT NUMBER 213

when college activity was at its height, and again in Anne’s reign,
after the alleged parting of the ways over disbanding the army.
Indeed, Locke’s circle was publicly associated with the common-
wealthsmen. In January 1695 Toland was in Oxford with Locke’s
friend James Tyrrell and heard a 30 January ‘regicide’ sermon that
pointedly criticized Locke; while Locke and the Calves Head
Club were associated together in at least two other, later, clerical
works.58
Locke’s friends were perceived as commonwealthsmen by their
enemies. Even the physical location of the college seemed to con-
firm contemporary suspicions about its pedigree.59 Evidence
points to meetings at Richard’s, or Dick’s, coffee-house on
Fleet Street, near Temple Bar. Richard’s was Clarke’s postal ad-
dress from 1693 through to at least Locke’s death in 1704, and
Locke’s letters ‘to the colledg’ were sent or left there.60 On 6 April
1696 Locke told the college that if clipped money was taken by
weight ‘at Richards Coffee house, the talke and example would
spread’.61 Clearly the coffee-house was well known to be habitu-
ated by Locke’s friends,62 and as late as 1704 Clarke and Freke
were spotted together there.63 The location is important because
of Richard’s long-standing radical and freethinking clientele,
which overlapped with that of the Grecian. Its owner loaned
£50 to the ‘protestant joiner’ Stephen College, who was executed
for treason in 1681, and the same year the Catholic publisher
58
Bodleian Library, Ballard MS 38, fo. 4, Thomas Hinton to Dr Charlett, 31 Jan.
1694/5; [William Baron], Regicides, no Saints nor Martyrs (London, 1700), 12; Luke
Milbourne, A Sermon Preach’d at the Parish Church of St. Ethelburga on Friday, Jan.
30th, 1707/8 (London, 1708), 16.
59
De Beer thought it unlikely that the college had a physical location:
Correspondence of John Locke, ed. de Beer, v, 199; but see SRO, DD\SF/7/1/31 (for-
merly DD/SF 4515), Mary Clarke to Edward Clarke ‘at the Colledge’, 1 Apr. 1700;
ibid., same to same, 31 Dec. 1701; DD\SF/7/1/15 (formerly DD/SF 3110), Freke to
Clarke, 21 Jan. 1701; Bridget Clarke, ‘The Marriage of John Locke’s ‘‘Wife’’,
Elizabeth Clarke’, Locke Newsletter, xxii (1991).
60
Correspondence of John Locke, ed. de Beer, iv, 737, and thereafter. Clarke may have
lodged at the coffee-house. Locke evidently knew it well. Some of his things were left
there in December 1690, and Robert Pawling, with whom Locke lodged, frequented
it, as did (beside Freke) his friend John Cary and his host, Sir Francis Masham, with
whom he stayed in Essex: ibid., iv, 176, 212; v, 603. Locke’s medical friend David
Thomas also used Richard’s as his address: ibid., iii, 410; iv, 617.
61
Ibid., v, 597–8.
62
In 1701 it was probably Masham who was satirized as ‘an Essex gentleman, who
was formerly us’d to haunt Richard’s coffee house’: Remarks by Way of Answer,
Paragraph by Paragraph, to the Character of a Modern Whig, &c (London, 1701), 8.
63
Correspondence of John Locke, ed. de Beer, viii, 274.
LOCKE AND POST-REVOLUTIONARY POLITICS 57
Nathaniel Thompson referred to Richard’s coffee-house as ‘the
damned Republican fanaticke coffe[e] house’.64 Tories alleged
that it was the rendezvous of ‘Fanatical Rebels’, and the accus-
ation had some substance.65 Both West and Holloway, convicted
Rye House Plotters, admitted that they had held discussions
there.66 Even after the revolution, the coffee-house retained its
reputation. ‘Treason is ye whole talk at Richard’s’, it was alleged
in 1690.67 Although the ‘jacobite-republican’ Charlwood Law-
ton upbraided ‘those that have taken the Degree of Doctors at
the King’s Head Club and at Richard’s Coffee-house’ for not
instituting constitutional change at the revolution, less sympa-
thetic critics viewed it as a nursery for the ‘Common-Wealths-
Men’, one even using the name of the coffee-house on the title
page in order to satirize its clientele.68 Indeed, it was alleged that
one of the most influential tracts justifying the revolution, Samuel
Johnson’s An Argument Proving that the Abrogation of King James
by the People of England from the Regal Throne, and the Promotion
of the Prince of Orange . . . in his Stead, Was According to the
Constitution of the English Government and Prescribed by It
(1692), had circulated among the ‘state-mongers, whisperers,
64
Bryant Lillywhite, London Coffee Houses: A Reference Book of Coffee Houses of the
Seventeenth, Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries (London, 1963), 190–1; John Timbs,
Club Life of London with Anecdotes of the Clubs, Coffee-Houses and Taverns of the
Metropolis: During the 17th, 18th, and 19th Centuries, 2 vols. (London, 1866), ii, 19–
21; Dr Williams Library, London, Morrice Entring Book, P317, 17 Nov. 1681, also
showing Ayloffe to be there. It was named after Richard Torner or Turner who
leased it in 1680.
65
The Protestant Cuckold: A New Ballad (London, 1681), broadside ballad, verse 8.
66
The Tryals of Thomas Walcot, William Hone, William Lord Russell, John Rous &
William Blagg: For High-Treason, for Conspiring the Death of the King, and Raising
Rebellion in this Kingdom (London, 1683), 17; The Free and Voluntary Confession and
Narrative of James Holloway (London, 1684), 5. Henry Trenchard, brother of Clarke’s
patron John Trenchard and a Green Ribboner accused of promoting Monmouth’s
claim, had a chamber at Richard’s: Cal. State Papers, Domestic, July–Sept. 1683, 146,
222.
67
Bodleian Lib., Ballard MS ss/15, James Harrington to Arthur Charlett, 28 Mar.
1690.
68
[Charlwood Lawton], Honesty is the Best Policy (London, 1689), 3; The Canonical
States-Man’s Grand Argument Discuss’d (London, 1693), title page. Lawton may also
have been the author of Better Late than Never (n.d.), which argued in favour of a
heavily limited monarchy, believed that there were ‘not in England so sensible and
worthy men as those who frequent the Rose and Richard’s and their Friends’, though
he thought ‘sometimes they are too refined Platonists, too Utopian’ and upbraided
them for missing the opportunity to explain their ‘new original contract’ (p. 1). Lawton
frequented the Grecian and knew Toland well. Liverpool Record Office, 920/MD/
174, Sir Willoughby Aston’s diary, 26 Apr. 1700.
58 PAST AND PRESENT NUMBER 213

writers, talkers / from Coffee-Dicks to Lobby-walkers’.69 Again in


1700, a tract suggested that the ‘factious, seditious, illiterate whig
lawyer’ and ‘antimonarchist’ was to be found ‘at Dicks, or the
Grecian coffee house’.70 In 1708, there was a warning that im-
pressionable young men would be taken ‘to Dick’s, or the Grecian
Coffee-House . . . or some such notable club’, to be led politically
astray.71 As late as 1712 the Tory author of a tract, ‘unfortunately
falling in to Dick’s t’other Ev’ning to see what News’, found him-
self ‘surrounded with a Crew of Old Committee Men, Seques-
trators and the like’.72 Locke’s friends, therefore, met at a venue
with an enduring reputation as a locale for commonwealthsmen
and old Whigs.73
Another alleged ‘commonwealthsman’ close to both Clarke
and Locke was Benjamin Furly, whose house at Rotterdam was
an entrepôt of freethinking.74 Locke stayed with Furly in 1687–8
and participated in a club held there, which he referred to as ‘the
diminutive colledg’.75 Shortly after the revolution Furly spent
eleven months in England ‘on no other task than that of using
his own and his friends’ influence to induce the Parliament to
establish freedom of worship’, and in the words of an admiring
contemporary, worked like a dog to advance lawful freedom in the
state.76 A series of letters between Furly and Clarke, to which we
shall return, shows that the friendship continued into the eight-
eenth century, and sheds light on their mutual interest in trade,
69
Canonical States-Man’s Grand Argument, 10–11, 13.
70
The Character of a Whig, under Several Denominations (London, 1700), 15, 18.
71
The Danger of Moderation: In a Letter to an Old Parliament-Man in the Country
[London, 1708], 5.
72
T.W., The K–ntish Spy: or, A Memorial of the C–ves H–d Club (London, 1712).
73
One tract thus distinguished between the ‘old Whigs’ who ‘whisper’d their re-
flections on King and Parliament in the corner of Richard’s coffee-house or over a
bottle at the King’s-head club’, and the new Whigs who frequented other ‘more
modish’ places: The Old and Modern Whig Truly Represented, 2nd edn (London,
1702), 21. The ‘orthodox frequenters of Richards Coffee House’ were said to
excuse ‘fanaticks’ from taking the oaths so that they could serve in the city magistracy,
and Clarke was named as one not zealous for the ‘orthodox Church of England’: BL,
Stowe MS 119, fo. 47v.
74
William I. Hull, Benjamin Furly and Quakerism in Rotterdam (Lancaster, Penn.,
1941), 77.
75
In calling it this he may have been referring to Collegiants, Socinians with whom
Furly had tangled, so called because they held ‘a college, that is, a meeting in which
every human being has freedom of speech’: an account by Petrus Rabus, cited by Hull,
Benjamin Furly and Quakerism in Rotterdam, 183.
76
Brief van een Heer van Rotterdam (Amsterdam, 1709), quoted by Hull, Benjamin
Furly and Quakerism in Rotterdam, 96.
LOCKE AND POST-REVOLUTIONARY POLITICS 59
international Protestantism and liberty.77 Furly was deeply re-
spected by both Locke and Clarke (as well as the more overtly
Country-minded third earl of Shaftesbury); and it was Furly who
introduced Toland to Locke in August 1693.78 Furly, like Freke,
links Clarke, Locke and the English religious freethinkers before
and after the revolution, and before and after the fracturing that
occurred in the later 1690s within the Whig party.
The evidence suggests, then, that Locke’s friends were not
archetypal Court Whigs but rather that they retained, and were
seen to retain, strong ties with the commonwealthsmen, religious
freethinkers and Country patriots. But could they have been both
Court Whigs and commonwealthsmen? In order to understand
this conundrum we must briefly analyse their programme and
language, neither of which were purely liberal or republican,
Court or Country, but rather a mixture of several strands and
‘languages’ of Whiggery. Indeed, they nicely illustrate how far
notions of public good and public-spiritedness permeated the
outlook of those associated with Somers. They also stress how
political ideology has to be related to social and moral concerns,
for in the minds of the college these were interconnected parts of
the same picture.
One of the key stresses placed by the college was on active
public duty. Locke was always nudging his friends into acting
for the public good and he and Clarke spoke the language of
virtue.79 Clarke was even called one of the nation’s ‘worthy pat-
riots’.80 Courtiers could also talk the language of the Country.
For Locke and his friends patriotism meant enhancing or utilizing
the powers of the participatory and consensual state in order to
effect public good, retaining balance between the monarch and
subject by means of a free press and legislative restraints on the
potential for corruption and self-interest that access to state re-
sources and power inevitably produced. This could be seen either
as Court Whiggery, supporting a fiscally powerful state, or as

77
Bodleian Lib., MS Eng. lett. d.2, fos. 318–38.
78
Correspondence of John Locke, ed. de Beer, iii, 328; iv, 710–11; Lawrence E. Klein,
Shaftesbury and the Culture of Politeness: Moral Discourse and Cultural Politics in Early
Eighteenth-Century England (Cambridge, 1994), 17.
79
See, for example, Correspondence of John Locke, ed. de Beer, vii, 261, 337.
80
SRO, DD\SF/7/1/56 (formerly DD/SF 3092), Roger Hoar to Clarke, 31 Jan.
1693/4.
60 PAST AND PRESENT NUMBER 213

Country Whiggery, curbing the excesses of partisanship and


working against the corruption of the public.
A sense of the college’s concern for the patriotic public good is
apparent in the exchange of letters between Clarke and Furly in
1700.81 Furly admired Clarke’s resignation as excise commis-
sioner that year,82 and wished that ‘all those worthy gentlemen
that shewed themselves lovers of their country in the last reigne
may follow yor noble example & shew all men that they had rather
serve their country than themselves’. The two men also shared a
devotion to the hybrid English ‘monarchical commonwealth’
constitution. Furly confided in his friend that England enjoyed
more liberty than the commonwealth of the United Provinces and
that ‘as great a commonwealthsman as I am accounted, I love the
English monarchy & prefer it to this commonwealth’. Yet both
men also saw danger to Holland and England from Catholic
France, and recognized the need for strong government. Furly
urged an alliance between the two countries to ‘prove a bulwark to
the Drooping Protestant interest’, otherwise ‘Europe must bow
its knees under the yoak of French tyranny and the reformation be
left to the rap of his mercyless dragoons’. Clarke agreed; but he
and Locke were consequently intensely frustrated that, a year
later, private animosities (the attack on their Junto friends) ‘had
laid aside all concern for the common safety of Europe or even of
our own together with all regard to justice truth or reason’.
Crucial, then, to the outlook of Locke’s friends was a sense of
international balance and a deep commitment to the public,
Protestant interest which, they believed, must override all private
interests. Indeed, they strongly believed that all men must serve
their country before themselves, and so Clarke worked indefatig-
ably to promote the interests of his constituents.
In order to preserve liberty, property and Protestantism the
college argued that a number of pragmatic measures had to be
taken.83 These included ensuring supply to fund the war (hence
the recoinage, the creation of the Bank and supervision of the
excise), as well as religious toleration, a free press, the extirpation
of vice, and reform of poor relief. That mixture makes it difficult
to define the college as merely Court Whig. Although recoinage,
81
Bodleian Lib., MS Eng lett. d.2, fos. 318–38.
82
Yonge resigned his post in 1701.
83
Clarke’s activities can be followed in House of Commons, iii, ed. Cruickshanks,
Handley and Hayton, 576–98.
LOCKE AND POST-REVOLUTIONARY POLITICS 61
the excise and trade were more often associated with a Court/New
Whig programme, moral reform together with measures for the
poor were, as David Hayton has highlighted, typical Country
concerns.84 The college combined the two because of its belief
that the economic and financial power of the state had to be
strengthened if the political power of consensual government,
and hence liberty, was to be safeguarded. Thus, although the
college’s activities in the financial sphere may seem to place it
squarely in the camp most abhorrent to the neo-Harringtonians,
they were performed within a rhetoric of public good and com-
mitment to public-spirited reform. Amongst the latter was a
desire to restrain electoral corruption.

III
ELECTORAL REFORM
Debate about electoral reform had thrived among ‘true’ or
Country Whigs in the 1670s, when Charles II’s prerogative
powers over parliamentary sessions were uppermost, and
increased from 1679 to 1681, when three elections in as many
years revealed widespread corruption. Locke, as secretary to the
first earl of Shaftesbury, must have known about the attempts to
enact reforming legislation. But action was given a new momen-
tum by the revolution of 1689, in part because James II’s attempts
to pack a parliament had highlighted the dangers of doing noth-
ing, and also because William had swept in on the tide of securing
a ‘free parliament’. The revolution sparked a serious and funda-
mental review of the concept and practice of representation, at the
same time as it ushered in a desire to effect moral reform.85 As
part of this reformist agenda, a bill curbing electoral corruption —
first proposed a decade before during the succession crisis, and
said to have been found amongst the first earl of Shaftesbury’s
84
David Hayton, ‘Moral Reform and Country Politics in the Late Seventeenth-
Century House of Commons’, Past and Present, no. 128 (Aug. 1990). Hayton rightly
queries ‘the extent to which neo-Harringtonianism supplied the intellectual under-
pinning for Country attitudes’ (p. 49), and recognizes Clarke’s dual role as moral
reformer and ‘henchman of Lord Somers’ (p. 83).
85
For the wider context, see also Mark Knights, Representation and Misrepresen-
tation in Later Stuart Britain: Partisanship and Political Culture (Oxford, 2005). For
the moral reform, see Hayton, ‘Moral Reform and Country Politics’; Dudley W. R.
Bahlman, The Moral Revolution of 1688 (New Haven, 1957); Tony Claydon, William
III and the Godly Revolution (Cambridge, 2004).
62 PAST AND PRESENT NUMBER 213

papers — was republished in 1689 in pamphlet form, Some


Observations Concerning the Regulating of Elections for Parliament.86
This called for a standard borough franchise, as parliament saw
fit, to remove the widespread ‘ambiguity and uncertainty’ and
consequent disputes.87 It also proposed to increase the county
qualification from the 40 shillings first established in 1430 to £40,
thereby reducing the county electorate ‘probably to a fourth
part of what they are now’.88 In order to square this reduction
with the participatory, consensual and self-governing nature of
the early modern state, a bold neo-Harringtonian or neo-Leveller
reform was suggested. Representation would be a parish-based
system by which the people as a whole would elect local parish
representatives from those worth more than £40, who would
in turn elect county representatives from a pool of gentry each
worth at least £10,000; in other words there would be a sort of
electoral pyramid of representatives choosing representatives.89
A second and fundamentally similar proposal was made in The
Necessity of Parliaments (1689) which had, like Some Observations
and Locke’s Two Treatises, been written during the restoration
succession crisis and reframed for the context of 1689. It re-
printed most of an earlier tract, Vox populi (1681) — itself notable
for its similarities with Locke’s argument90 — and added a new
section outlining the means to safeguard free elections. Appended

86
Some Observations Concerning the Regulating of Elections for Parliament Found
among the Earl of Shaftesbury’s Papers after his Death (London, 1689). For doubts
about authorship, see K. H. D. Haley, The First Earl of Shaftesbury (Oxford, 1968),
740. The argument and even wording of this tract is remarkably similar to parts
of N.T. [ John Wildman?], Some Remarks upon Government: And Particularly upon
the Establishment of the English Monarchy Relating to this Present Juncture (London,
1689), usually ascribed to Wildman. Locke saw the Convention as an opportunity
to provide for peace and security ‘by restoring our ancient government, the best pos-
sibly that ever was if taken and put together all of a piece in its originall constitution’:
Correspondence of John Locke, ed. de Beer, iii, 545–6. A copy at PRO, 30/24/19/23 is
endorsed ‘EH’, suggesting Edward Harley’s hand.
87
Some Observations Concerning the Regulating of Elections for Parliament, 9–10.
88
Ibid., 12. The figure of £40 was also suggested by N.T. [Wildman?], Some
Remarks upon Government, 24. For the uncertainty of the 40s. threshold, see also
[Michael Dalton], Officium vicecomitum: The Office and Authority of Sheriffs.
Gathered out of the Statutes and Books of the Common Laws of this Kingdom, 2nd edn
(London, 1682), 333–4.
89
The parish-based representational scheme had first been suggested by the
Levellers in the second Agreement of the People (Dec. 1648).
90
Ashcraft, Revolutionary Politics and Locke’s Two Treatises of Government, 316–17.
LOCKE AND POST-REVOLUTIONARY POLITICS 63
to the tract was an electoral bill introduced in April 1679, now
offered again ‘as advice to the consideration of the whole king-
dom’.91 One of that bill’s key provisions was for a universal scot
and lot borough franchise for men over twenty-one, with the
added qualification that county voters should be worth £200
in freehold land. Here, therefore, were two proposals, both
apparently from the Shaftesbury–Locke camp, that advocated a
uniform borough franchise predicated on scot and lot, a parish-
based tax, and a more restricted county franchise. Significantly,
in the 1690s, the college seems to have accepted the proposed
borough franchise, though not the higher landed qualification for
the counties.
It is worth exploring the history of the 1679 bill a little further,
not only because it was the basis of the legislation on which Clarke
and the college worked but also because its history reveals the
earlier co-operation with the Harleys over electoral reform. The
1679 bill, entrusted to Richard Hampden, was the long-
cherished project of Country MPs. After the early dissolution
of the 1679 parliament, the bill was reintroduced in 1680, to-
gether with another one tackling the bribery and debauchery
that had been evident at the polls in the two elections of 1679.
The bills were merged and Sir Edward Harley was ordered to
report ‘ye same at ye first opertunity’.92 The bill was unsuccessful,
but was again reintroduced in the 1681 parliament.93 The ‘Tory
reaction’ of 1681–5 and reign of James II prevented further pro-
gress. But on 26 February 1689, just a few days after the formal
acceptance of the crown by William and Mary, Hampden and
Harley were nominated to a committee responsible for a bill to
regulate elections.94 It was the elder Harley’s activity on electoral
reform that provides the link between the two camps, for amongst
the papers of Edward Clarke is a ‘bill of elections’, endorsed
‘S[i]r EH’ and ‘Mr Hampden’s papers’, clearly indicating its

91
The Necessity of Parliaments: With Seasonal Directions for the More Regular Election
of Parliament-Men (London, 1689), 25–31. For the 1679 bill and context, see Mark
Knights, Politics and Opinion in Crisis, 1678–81 (Cambridge, 1994), 197–8.
92
BL, Add. MS 70089, notes taken at the committee, 27 Nov. 1680. On the reverse
are notes, probably by Harley, explaining why the bribery bill was ‘layd aside’. See also
BL, Add. MS 70099, ‘Notes on the Bill for Elections 1679’.
93
BL, Add. MS 70089, unfoliated, bill endorsed ‘Bill for Regulating Elections
Amended’.
94
SRO, DD\SF/13/2/11 (formerly DD/SF 2790), notes on committee.
64 PAST AND PRESENT NUMBER 213

provenance.95 Indeed, on 25 September 1694 Locke asked Sir


Edward Harley to see him before parliament sat, and it might be
that he and Clarke wanted to tap Harley’s expertise about election
bills — in which case the college, which coalesced at around that
time, had electoral reform on its agenda from the very start.96
Clarke had good reason at a personal level for wishing to spon-
sor bills to regulate elections and to strengthen clauses against
armed intimidation at the polls.97 His candidature at Taunton
for the 1689 Convention Parliament had, as previously noted,
been frustrated by Tory candidates, Sir William Portman and
John Sanford, who employed men wielding ‘great cudgels or
clubs’ to attack his voters. Worse still, in 1696, apparently in the
expectation of a new election, Sanford circulated stories in
Taunton about Clarke’s involvement in the controversial recoin-
age scheme so that, when Clarke attempted to return home, he
was forced to flee to a local tavern for shelter from an angry mob,
‘conveyed out the back way’ to save his life. He had to spend the
rest of the summer apart from his wife, a ‘cruel separation forced
upon us by the pride and malice of the most wicked and revenge-
ful men living’. It was even suggested that a rabble would be lured
by a bull-baiting to go on to destroy Clarke’s house and ‘pull [him]
in pieces’. When another election was called, in 1698, Clarke
experienced first-hand the evils of a ‘cook’d up’ double return.
Clarke knew the pains of unscrupulous electioneering all too well.
Such corruption at the polls was common in the first age of
party.98 The means of subverting true representation were nu-
merous. Perhaps the most common was for candidates to spend
lavishly on their constituents (or even on those who might in turn
influence them) in order to bribe or inebriate them into voting the
right way. There are very many instances, far too numerous to list
here, of cases where ‘treating’ voters had become endemic, ex-
pected and costly. In other words, frequent elections threatened
95
SRO, DD\SF/13/2/44 (formerly DD/SF 2890), ‘A Bill of Elections’. This can be
compared with the bill among the Harley Papers at BL, Add. MS 70089, ‘The Bill for
Regulating Elections Amended’, which contains a number of revisions of the draft.
There is also a summary of the election bill, endorsed ‘Elections S[i]r EH’, at SRO,
DD\SF/7/1/30 (formerly DD/SF 3833, pt 3).
96
Correspondence of John Locke, ed. de Beer, v, 148.
97
This paragraph summarizes House of Commons, iii, ed. Cruickshanks, Handley
and Hayton, 578, 587–8.
98
For a succinct discussion of proposed remedies, see Hayton, House of Commons, i,
254–61.
LOCKE AND POST-REVOLUTIONARY POLITICS 65
to subvert the morals of the nation; and the immorality of some
voters in turn threatened to distort the true outcome of elections.
There was thus an intrinsic link between morality and political
reform. Other aspects of the electoral system also caused anxi-
eties and again raised long-standing Country concerns about
the power of the Court to corrupt elections; translated into
the world of party politics, this also meant concern about rival
partisans abusing the system. Thus one anxiety was that biased
electoral officials could manipulate the polls in a whole host of
different ways, including false counting, false polling, and using
the wrong franchise, a tactic that disputed custom and practice,
even in boroughs which had royal charters, made all too easy. A
final area for concern was the number of MPs in the Commons
who held Court office — the ‘placemen’ — who, it was feared, put
their loyalty to the Court above their duty to the people.99
All these weaknesses in the electoral system became more ob-
vious during the era of frequent parliaments that followed the
revolution and the Triennial Act of 1694.100 Indeed, if frequent
parliaments were a bulwark of liberty, as the Country Whigs had
long argued, then they necessitated reform of the electoral
system. A series of bills aimed at regulating the procedure at the
polls and the franchise for electors have not attracted much notice
from historians.101 Yet election bills were introduced in virtually
every session of parliament from the Restoration through to the
Hanoverian era, with a peak of activity in the 1690s. It comes as
no surprise to find Clarke playing a leading role in them. In
November 1692 he proposed that if any MP accepted an office
that prevented his attendance in parliament the constituency
should be allowed to choose a new member so that it was properly
represented.102 On 2 December 1692 he reported a bill to prevent

99
G. S. Holmes, ‘The Attack on ‘‘The Influence of the Crown’’, 1702–16’, Bull.
Inst. Hist. Research, xxxix (1966); David Hayton, ‘The Re-Orientation of Place
Legislation in England in the 1690s’, Parliaments, Estates and Representation, v (1985).
100
Clarke’s programme for reform bears striking similarities to that outlined by
those who thought the Triennial bill did not go far enough: All Souls College, Oxford,
Luttrell MS 152, vol. (a), unfoliated, ‘Arguments against and Observations upon this
Bill’.
101
See Hayton, House of Commons, i, 254–61.
102
He successfully urged a similar provision in 1700, a form of self-denying ordin-
ance that forced his own resignation. Notes on an election bill include provision for
triennial elections but also proscribe MPs from holding ‘any guift or place from ye
crown’ and stipulate that there should be ‘noe recommendation from ye king or other
(cont. on p. 66)
66 PAST AND PRESENT NUMBER 213

double returns and acted as teller ten days later, with Yonge, in
favour of its passage. In the next session, on 12 November 1692,
he obtained leave to present a new bill and subsequently guided it
through the House, carrying it up to the Lords, where it failed. On
7 November 1693 he was the first-named to the committee of
elections, and on 23 December he was appointed to a drafting
committee for a new elections bill. He and Yonge had also risked
royal wrath by supporting, and even strengthening, the bill
against placemen that the king vetoed. On 3 December 1695
Clarke was first-named to the drafting committee of a bill to pre-
vent double returns, and he duly presented it. Early in 1699 he
was again active on two election bills, one of which he steered
through the house.103
Locke’s friends thus sought to regulate elections, and when so
doing they reached back for Country precedents. And several
drafts in Clarke’s papers show Locke and the college working
together on the legislation, evidence of a clear commitment to
ensuring the passage of a key piece of the Country programme.104

IV
THE DRAFT ELECTION BILLS AND THEIR SIGNIFICANCE
There are five election bills among Clarke’s papers: two (Drafts A
and B) relate to the initiatives pioneered by the Country party in
the reign of Charles II, and three (Drafts C, D and E) are
post-revolutionary drafts of a bill to secure free elections.105
Draft A was a bill to regulate elections by reducing the scope
for ‘great expenses in procureing votes’ and by remedying ‘the
irregularities’ committed by sheriffs and mayors as returning

(n. 102 cont.)


great persons’, even providing that peers who meddled in elections should lose their
place in the Lords and their court offices: SRO, DD\SF/13/2/1 (formerly DD/SF 670).
103
Clarke’s activity on election legislation can be followed using the CD-ROM of
Commons activity.
104
Plumb suggested that the ‘purification of Parliaments’ was a concern only of
Country ‘extremists’, and that there was ‘little or no sense of the injustice of the rep-
resentational system’: Plumb, Growth of Political Stability in England, 140–1, 143.
105
There are also the heads of a bill at SRO, DD\SF/13/2/1 (formerly DD/SF 670).
This regulated procedures; provided for triennial parliaments; banned MPs from
holding Crown places; and proscribed influence on elections by the crown and
nobility.
LOCKE AND POST-REVOLUTIONARY POLITICS 67
officers.106 Draft B, endorsed ‘Copy of the Bill to regulate the
Elections of Members to serve in the Commons House of
Parliamt’, was more specifically aimed at eradicating ‘the corrupt
practices of sheriffs and other officers imployed in and about
Elections’.107 This was modelled on the 1679/80 bill. But the
focus of interest, so far as Locke is concerned, must be the four
closely related drafts of a bill to secure free elections. None is
dated, but 1699 seems a likely possibility.108
Draft C, in the hand of John Freke, listed the chief clauses of a
bill to secure free parliaments.109 As its preamble declared, it was
an attempt to ensure that ‘noe such Laws may be made for the
future by any Faction sect or party prevailing in Parlt, but that All
Members to serve in Parlt may be Freely and indifferently
Chosen’. Here, then, was an attempt to lay down a fundamental
election law to secure free parliaments. This formed the basis
of, but was also amplified by, Draft D, which was written in a
scribal hand and annotated by both Clarke and Locke (see
Appendix).110 Draft E was written in Clarke’s hand, incorporat-
ing some (but not all) of Locke’s suggestions, and making further
revisions.111 In other words, Freke mapped out some heads,
which were then written up, and Clarke seems to have given the
draft bill to Locke for his comments, drawing up a revised bill in

106
SRO, DD\SF/7/1/30 (formerly DD/SF 3833, pt 3).
107
SRO, DD\SF/2/119/44 (formerly DD/SF 3257).
108
The dating is uncertain and even problematic, since Clarke was involved in
electoral reform legislation throughout his career. The draft must be after 1694,
when Queen Mary died and Greenwich Hospital was founded. It might, therefore,
relate to the Commons investigation launched on 12 January 1695 into ‘how to pre-
vent undue Sollicitation and Practices in Elections . . . and also how to prevent false
Returns’, but this was never reported to the House. In 1695/6 Clarke and Yonge
drafted a bill to prevent double returns that became law as 7 & 8 Will. III, c. 7; its
provisions were different but may have grown out of the draft bills. Perhaps the most
likely date is 1699. On 31 January 1699 Edward Harley was granted leave to bring in a
bill to regulate the method of qualifying voters in cities, boroughs and Cinque Ports:
Journals of the House of Commons, 1697–9, xii, 466. That bill never emerged from
committee but Clarke was certainly present in the House that day and may have
been prompted into action. In February 1699 he chaired a bill to prevent irregular
proceedings of sheriffs and other officers in making returns (ibid., 521), and on 3
March he and his friend Roger Hoar were two of only three MPs named to draft a
bill to prevent clandestine elections and enforce the law ‘against denying a scrutiny’ of
polls. This was the peak period of Clarke’s parliamentary activity, when he was work-
ing so hard his health was in danger.
109
SRO, DD\SF/13/2/9 (formerly DD/SF 2785), endorsed ‘7 expedients’.
110
SRO, DD\SF/7/1/58 (formerly DD/SF 3842).
111
SRO, DD\SF/13/2/49 (formerly DD/SF 3078).
68 PAST AND PRESENT NUMBER 213

the light of them.112 This was how the college worked on other
bills, since the friends exchanged and discussed their views
frankly with each other, as any members of a policy think-tank
might.113 It was then usually up to Clarke to lay the concerted
matter before the Commons.
Draft D, the one annotated by Locke, repays closer examin-
ation. A good deal of its initial provisions concerned the regula-
tion of the electoral process. The draft first set out procedures for
the issue of writs for county elections, with a penalty of £500 ‘to
the use of the poor’ for failure to do this properly. The next pro-
vision was for the writ to be made public ‘in every Market towne’
at market time, and for county elections to be held ‘neare the
midst of the County’ and continued without adjournment. The
draft then provided that all elections were to be determined by
poll, ‘if it be demanded’, and that ‘to that end six polling places
shall be provided’. Candidates (or ‘competitors’ as the bill calls
them) and sheriff should nominate twenty-four clerks, from
which a dozen names were to be chosen by lot. Two of those
chosen were to man the six polling places and if either refused
to act the other could proceed without him. The draft then stipu-
lated that the clerks should ‘take the poll truly and indifferently’
and swear voters ‘(or witnesses for them)’ that they had sufficient
freehold and had not previously voted. The draft duly required
the sheriff to declare the result and make an indenture, which
twenty-four baronets, knights or esquires should sign.
The draft then turned to consider elections in all ‘Citys and
Boroughs (Except London and old Sarum)’.114 Having again
provided for the proper issue of the writ the draft outlined the
franchise:
That all the Inhabitants paying to the Church or poor or either of them
being personally present shall have a vote and none else and all Elections
to be determined by the Poll. That all Votes be taken by order as they stand
in the Church Rate and all persons be called to give their vote by it, and
after that Rate is gone through and those that have not voted being called

112
It is possible that Locke had already had a hand in this prior to the scribe copying
Draft A, since the epithet ‘usurper of Legislative Authority’ has a distinctly Lockean
ring about it.
113
See, for example, the collaboration over the licensing act: Correspondence of John
Locke, ed. de Beer, v, 292, 785–96.
114
Although exempted, there is no later clause dealing with either constituency.
Both epitomized the ‘flux’ that produced unequal representation as described in
Locke, Second Treatise, para. 157, which alludes to Old Sarum.
LOCKE AND POST-REVOLUTIONARY POLITICS 69
on the Poor Rate to be admitted as called on the Church rate and absent
Partyes on each Rate to be markt and recalled.115
The next three clauses ensured that the poll should be as public
and impartial as possible. First, the order in which parishes were
to be polled was to be published by means of a ‘note of the same on
the great door of every such parish church’. And, as at county
level, the corporation indentures were also to be signed by an
(unspecified) number of ‘the first voters of Every parish who
are present when the Election is declared’. The next provision
was to ensure that ‘all places of Ellection and polling be open
and free for all that please to have accesse to them’, forbidding
anyone armed to come to vote but allowing each candidate to
nominate ‘the guard of the doors of one polling place’.
The draft also imposed penalties for abuse. It provided that
anyone attempting to vote who had no right to do so should pay
£100 to the poor of the parish where he lived; and that the denial
of a vote to anyone entitled to poll would incur a similar forfeit
from the person who refused him. Any MP who was elected in
any other way was to be ‘adjudged an usurper of Legislative
Authority’. The reprobate was also, the draft determined, to
‘forfeit all his goods and Chattells’ to the party duly elected.
Moreover, the profit of his land was to go ‘during his life to the
King’ and he was to be made incapable of ever sitting in parlia-
ment. Similarly, any returning officer ‘not doing his duty’ was to
forfeit £1,000 to the aggrieved party, £1,000 to the king and a
further £1,000 to Christ’s Hospital, as well as being disabled from
acting in a legal capacity. The draft concluded with provisions
against bribery and against entertaining more than three electors
at any one time at the candidate’s own table, enforceable from the
date of the writ, on pain of being rendered ineligible to sit for that
constituency. Any elector accepting a bribe or a treat would be
disenfranchised for that election and would have to pay £100 to
the poor of the parish. Finally, the returning officer was to have
power to examine the voters on oath whether they had received
any bribe or reward or treat, and any voter who refused would not

115
This passage was annotated in Clarke’s hand. He added a marginal note that ‘ye
Electors [were] annually to choose ye officer that shall make ye Return’ and, in a
separate note, he queried ‘whither convenient to be recall’d’, expressing a doubt as
to the practicality of allowing absentees a second chance. Draft F thus incorporated
both these alterations, the first of which gave voters power over the returning officer.
70 PAST AND PRESENT NUMBER 213

be allowed to vote. No privilege of parliament could be pleaded in


any lawsuit that resulted from the act’s provisions.
Locke made seven significant amendments to the draft, all in
his own hand (see Plate 1). Five of these were written out at the
end of the draft, with numbering to indicate the parts of the bill to
which they related, and the third and seventh were added to the
body of the text or in a marginal note. The annotations are given
in detail in the Appendix, which also sets out precisely what
Clarke accepted and rejected. Locke’s amendments attempt to
strengthen measures in the bill. They relate to the appointment of
clerks to take polls; a provision to regulate county elections by
deciding by lot the order in which parishes could vote (an inter-
esting use of a mechanism usually associated with Harrington);
an attempt to ensure that mature, landed men of substance signed
the indenture verifying the election;116 safeguards for security at
the polls; and clarification of the appropriate penalties for elect-
oral corruption. For the latter Locke rejected the idea that prop-
erty should be forfeited and rents given to the king, but upheld
recourse to law for injured parties and a ban on either voting or
membership of parliament. Locke, in line with the Second Treatise,
evidently wanted to protect property but make law the umpire.
Whilst these annotations are intriguing, their importance lies
more in the fact that they indicate that Locke engaged actively
and intensely with the bill. He was prepared to offer precise and
frequent comment on the bill’s detail to ensure that it was right,
and even to redraft clauses that he found unsatisfactory. We can
conclude that what he left uncorrected met with his approval.
The franchise provisions in the draft bill are important. Church
rates and poor rates (scot and lot) were parish-based taxes, calcu-
lated on ability to pay.117 We can now say definitively that Locke
sought to correlate borough representation with local taxation, at
the same time as removing the customary variations in the fran-
chise (a measure not achieved until 1832) and leaving the county
franchise alone. At a stroke this provision would have defined
the urban electorate as the relatively better-off, economically

116
For Locke’s view that age should be given ‘a just precedency’, see Locke, Second
Treatise, para. 54.
117
In 1690 there were twenty-seven scot and lot constituencies, rising to thirty-five
by 1715: Hayton, House of Commons, i, 106–14. They included the boroughs of
Bridgwater and Shaftesbury.
1. Some of Locke’s annotations at the end of the draft bill.
Reproduced by permission of Somerset Heritage and Library Services.
72 PAST AND PRESENT NUMBER 213

independent but by no means rich inhabitants.118 This seriously


undermines Gerald Aylmer’s claim that Locke ‘nowhere pro-
posed a political programme designed to bring’ about ‘a society
dominated by small independent owner-occupiers and self-
employed craftsmen’.119 So, what was the significance of the
draft bill’s provisions and the taxpayer franchise it advocated,
and what does it tell us about Locke?
At first sight, the bill and the Two Treatises differ in emphasis.
The focus of Locke’s remarks in the Two Treatises related either to
the redistribution of seats or to the dangers that the executive
posed to the legislature because of its power to manipulate and
influence elections.120 The thrust of the election bill, however,
recognizes a related but slightly different threat, one that flowed
not so much from the possible abuse of executive power as from
the frequent elections that Locke also saw as vital to true repre-
sentation but which encouraged contending parties to act in their
own rather than the public interest. He had touched on this prob-
lem in paragraph 158 of the Second Treatise, where he stated that
corruption and decay could tend to ‘set up one part, or Party, with
a distinction from, and an unequal subjection of the rest’, though
here he seems to mean party as a subsection of the whole as much
as partisan groupings. But it is probably fair to say that the prob-
lem the election bills addressed arose most pressingly only after
the Tories were no longer the natural party of the Court and as
a result of the bitter party conflicts that divided England after
the revolution. Thus, although influenced by bills drafted by
the Country party in 1679–81 to curb the manipulation of the
executive, not least since these had also included provisions
against electoral debauchery, the 1690s legislation also sought
to remove the excesses of partisan behaviour, when Tories (and,
we might note, Whigs) distorted the will of the people, and cor-
rupted morals, for party and private gain. Locke had not included
such corruption as a cause for the dissolution of the legislature in
118
Sir Lewis Namier and John Brooke argued that scot and lot franchises ‘excluded
the lowest and poorest elements of the population, but included also many uneducated
and needy voters’: John Brooke, The House of Commons, 1754–1790, i, Introductory
Survey (London, 1968), 22. For the sobriety, orderliness and capacity to bear arms of
those who contributed to church and poor rates, see The Claims of the People of England
Essayed: In a Letter from the Country (London, 1701), 64–5.
119
Aylmer, ‘Locke no Leveller’, 316.
120
Locke, Second Treatise, paras. 157–8; see also ch. 19, ‘Of the Dissolution of
Government’.
LOCKE AND POST-REVOLUTIONARY POLITICS 73
his theory; but it was clearly a matter for regulation.121 The elem-
ent of popular festivity and misrule, characterized by Frank
O’Gorman for the eighteenth century as evidence of popular par-
ticipation and temporary inversion of the social order even in an
age of oligarchy, was nevertheless something that the college
wanted to remove.122 For its members, free elections did not
mean licentious ones.
Yet it is not at all clear that a rate-paying franchise would have
helped to achieve the orderly, sober and free elections that the
college sought (a problem still evident in the 1830s when muni-
cipal reform embraced the rate-paying franchise). By 1715 there
were just thirty-five such rate-paying boroughs (out of 203 bor-
ough constituencies), generally polling fewer than three hundred
votes; only four exceeded five hundred.123 They did include
Westminster, but its seven thousand voters were hardly an adver-
tisement for the virtues of the franchise: elections there were fre-
quently violent, unruly affairs in which it was difficult to make out
who was legally qualified. And Clarke must surely have known
about Bridgwater, next door to Taunton, which was a scot and lot
borough and where a by-election in 1692 had seen disputes about
who was entitled to vote according to the poor rates. As one of the
candidates, John Gardiner, pointed out, these were changed
every three months or more frequently ‘if the Magistrates and
Overseers please; so that the poor rate is a very uncertain way,
and may be made use of to serve particular Designs’.124 Clarke
and Locke made no attempt to tackle this problem; and Clarke’s
readiness to grant taxpayers the right to choose the returning of-
ficer would surely have led only to further abuses. Furthermore,
giving the franchise to those who paid church rates as well as poor
rates might be thought to have given power to the established
Church, to the prejudice of dissenters.125 Perhaps this was less
121
Defoe linked morality and electioneering in several of his tracts. He thus urged
voters to choose ‘men of morals’ because ‘till you have a reform’d parliament, you
cannot expect a Parliament of Reformers’ who could achieve a ‘reformation of man-
ners’: [Daniel Defoe], The Six Distinguishing Characters of a Parliament-Man: Address’d
to the Good People of England (London, 1700), 22.
122
Frank O’Gorman, ‘Campaign Rituals and Ceremonies: The Social Meaning of
Elections in England, 1780–1860’, Past and Present, no. 135 (May 1992).
123
For an overview, see Hayton, House of Commons, i, 106–8.
124
The State of the Case Concerning the Election at Bridgwater (London, 1692), broad-
side. Gardiner also queried why those paying other taxes might not also vote.
125
The notice of elections on church doors also seems curious in this respect.
74 PAST AND PRESENT NUMBER 213

of a contradiction for the tolerationist college than it seems, for,


while dissenters in the nineteenth century certainly resented sup-
porting the Church in this way, few in the seventeenth century
seem to have refused to pay it. Even so, it raises the question:
what, if there were significant disadvantages, were the advantages
of the taxpayer franchise? Why was scot and lot thought to be
better than other options?
The answer seems to be threefold. First, the franchise was one
with a long pedigree amongst reformers, arising from the Leveller
debates in the 1640s and representing something of a comprom-
ise between radicals who sought a very extensive electorate and
army grandees who wanted a more restricted one. Second, poor
rates have to be seen within the context of civic humanism and
urban commonwealths recently sketched for us by the work of
Phil Withington and others, and of the policies of poor relief that
were an essential part of the 1690s political agenda. And third, the
scot and lot franchise was the result of an attempt to link taxation
and representation, and was informed by the new science of pol-
itical arithmetic. The remainder of this article takes each of these
points in turn.
The ratepayers proposal had earlier precedent that accords
with the college’s ‘commonwealth principles’. The reorganiza-
tion under the Instrument of Government shared some similari-
ties with the document drafted by Ireton to represent the army
grandees’ modification of the Levellers’ second Agreement of the
People (December 1648 to January 1649). This promised to
create a ratepayer franchise, ‘such as are assessed ordinarily to-
wards the relief of the poor’ and hence to extend the franchise to
all economically independent males.126 Locke may not be the
straightforward heir of the Levellers, but it was perhaps not just
polemical abuse when the Harley/Davenant satire of Freke in
1701 portrayed him as the new Lilburne. The second Agreement
of the People, of course, represented something of a comprom-
ise between those who wanted a very wide, expansive electorate
and those who sought to restrict it; and scot and lot was thus
126
Constitutional Documents of the Puritan Revolution, 1625–1660, 3rd edn, ed.
Samuel Rawson Gardiner (Oxford, 1906), 359–63. See also Thomas, ‘Levellers and
the Franchise’; C. B. Macpherson, The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism:
Hobbes to Locke (Oxford, 1962), 114. For discussions of reform between 1640 and
1660, see Vernon F. Snow, ‘Parliamentary Reapportionment Proposals in the Puri-
tan Revolution’, Eng. Hist. Rev., lxxiv (1959).
LOCKE AND POST-REVOLUTIONARY POLITICS 75
something of a middle way between the very large freemen or
inhabitant franchises and the twenty-two narrow corporation
ones. A scot and lot qualification would thus actually have re-
stricted the unusually wide inhabitant franchises that operated
in a few towns, such as Clarke’s own Taunton, as it would also
have narrowed many freemen boroughs. Indeed, breaking the
link between economic and political freedoms would have been
something of a radical departure, for the two identities were
closely intertwined for many citizens.127 Clarke and Locke were
thus not radical democrats and were prepared to break with
dearly held custom in the pursuit of a uniform franchise.128 This
clearly chimed with Locke’s comment in the Second Treatise that
‘reason’ should prevail over ‘custom’ in relation to the represen-
tative system.129
Despite the break with custom, the scot and lot franchise
should be seen within the context of the ‘unacknowledged repub-
lic’ or civil commonwealth that has recently been illuminated
through the work of Patrick Collinson, Mike Braddick, Steve
Hindle, Mark Goldie and Phil Withington.130 Stress has been
placed by them on a participatory society in which office-holders
formed self-governing communities with clear values about what
made for a good citizen, that is to say, honesty, integrity, inde-
pendence, discretion, civility, regularized charity and a concern
for the public good.131 This code, as Withington in particular
has shown, was associated with the corporate life of boroughs;
and it was precisely these ideals of the civil commonwealth that
the draft election bill upheld, promoting an independent, respon-
sible, self-governing citizenry. The ratepayers were at the heart of
127
Jonathan Barry, ‘Civility and Civic Culture in Early Modern England: The
Meanings of Urban Freedom’, in Peter Burke, Brian Harrison and Paul Slack
(eds.), Civil Histories: Essays Presented to Sir Keith Thomas (Oxford, 2000).
128
Cf. The Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina (London, 1669), in which Locke
wanted to avoid ‘erecting a numerous democracy’.
129
Locke, Second Treatise, para. 158.
130
Patrick Collinson, ‘The Monarchical Republic of Queen Elizabeth I’, Bull. John
Rylands Lib., lxix (1986–7); Michael J. Braddick, State Formation in Early Modern
England, c.1550–1700 (Cambridge, 2000); Steve Hindle, The State and Social
Change in Early Modern England, c.1550–1640 (Basingstoke, 2000); Mark Goldie,
‘The Unacknowledged Republic: Office-Holding in Early Modern England’, in
Tim Harris (ed.), The Politics of the Excluded, c.1500–1850 (Basingstoke, 2001); Phil
Withington, The Politics of Commonwealth: Citizens and Freemen in Early Modern
England (Cambridge, 2005).
131
Withington, Politics of Commonwealth, 80, 111, 183.
76 PAST AND PRESENT NUMBER 213

the ‘unacknowledged republic’, and Locke wanted to enfranchise


the group of men that were the most active in communal
self-governance and who would, on paper at least, embody virtu-
ous resistance to electoral bribery and ‘treating’. That these were
also the virtues prized by the adherents of moral reform is no
coincidence — nor that the electoral bills fitted with the moral
reform agenda of the 1690s. Private and public virtue was
common to both. It is, therefore, worth noting that Clarke drafted
a bill for the suppression of vice and immorality, the preamble of
which stated that all civil societies were supported by morality and
virtue.132
An element common to both the commonwealth principles of
civic humanism and the moral reform agenda was the proper
treatment of the poor. The ideal of honestas required an equitable
distribution of the common wealth and a commitment to charity.
Schools, hospitals, houses of correction and the administration of
bequests were all part of the civic ideal, with the parish ratepayer
at its heart. As Withington puts it, ‘it was the parish that provided
the institutional context for assessment, collection and distribu-
tion of the dole: ratepayers and recipients were ostensibly ‘‘neigh-
bours’’; the key officers were parochial; and wealth was assessed
on the ‘‘common estimation’’ of parishioners . . . The poor rate
was saturated with honestas’. Poor relief was thus fully integrated
into the civic system; and the ‘principles informing its practice —
such as discretionary decision-making, the rhetoric of petition-
ing, and the requisites of moral, honest and ‘‘deserving’’ behav-
iour — made for communities that were self-consciously civil’.133
The money collected by rates benefited the young, the old and the
infirm, the ‘honest’ and morally deserving poor; and the ability to
pay rates reflected the moral worth of the taxpayer, since moral
virtues had helped to generate their wealth in the first place.134
The draft election bill was of a piece with this ethos. It conferred
the vote on taxpayers, who would exhibit the moral characteristics
necessary for free elections; and if they failed to live up to this
132
SRO, DD\SF/13/5/4/49 (formerly DD/SF 1678(49)).
133
Withington, Politics of Commonwealth, 181, 183. A pamphlet of 1701, Claims of
the People Essayed, argued that ‘all those who pay to the Church and Poor’ would
disdain joining popular tumults and even suppress them, and so were the best
suited to bear arms (pp. 64–6). The tract was Country Whig and championed the
self-governance of parishes and urban corporations.
134
Muldrew, Economy of Obligation, 151; Withington, Politics of Commonwealth,
189.
LOCKE AND POST-REVOLUTIONARY POLITICS 77
ideal, the fines they incurred were to be distributed among the
poor (and in the process thereby relieve other taxpayers who re-
mained virtuous). This was truly a virtuous circle.
Locke wrote elsewhere of the importance of nurturing the
worthy but punishing the idle poor, in phrases that bear closely
on the moral reform and regulatory agenda just outlined. In 1697
his Board of Trade report blamed the growth in the number of the
poor on ‘nothing less but the relaxation of discipline and corrup-
tion of manners; virtue and industry being as constant compan-
ions on the one side as vice and idleness are on the other’; the first
step was thus to be ‘a restraint of their debauchery by a strict
execution of the laws provided against it’.135 In February 1698
he also corresponded with the college about provision for poor
relief — ‘a matter that requires every Englishman’s best thoughts’
— sending a copy of his own scheme with the recommendation to
use it in parliament.136 And the following year he set out how
corporations for the poor might be erected, supervised by those
who paid over 2d. per week to the poor, with a rotation of
office-holders.137 Rate-paying and the virtuous and profitable
poor were thus intertwined.
It was equally clear to the college, as it was to others at the time,
that representation was part of this equation, and that wealth,
poverty, population, tax and votes were linked. In the Second
Treatise Locke had set out the principle that should govern repre-
sentation. His critique of an unequal and disproportionate rep-
resentation centred on a situation when ‘People, Riches, Trade,
Power’ had changed without a proportionate change in represen-
tation; and he suggested reordering the system to reflect those
‘that have a right to be distinctly represented, which no part of
the People however incorporated can pretend to, but in propor-
tion to the assistance, which it affords the publick’.138 Perhaps
foreshadowing the activity of the college, he added that whoever
brought the legislature to a ‘just’, ‘fair and equal representative . . .
is an undoubted Friend to and Establisher of the Government,
135
H. R. Fox Bourne, Life of John Locke, 2 vols. (London, 1876), ii, 378.
136
Correspondence of John Locke, ed. de Beer, vi, 329.
137
Bodleian Lib., Locke MS C.30, fo. 111. Clarke and Yonge sat on a committee in
November 1699 to inquire into ways to set the poor to work.
138
Locke, Second Treatise, para. 158. Cf. Algernon Sidney’s remark that ‘of
common right those only ought to have voices in elections who pay scot and lot’:
The Case of Algernon Sidney Esq. (London, 1680), 1.
78 PAST AND PRESENT NUMBER 213

and cannot miss the Consent and Approbation of the Com-


munity’. He had earlier outlined the rationale: government
cost money, and those who could should pay for it, but only by
consent ‘either by themselves or their Representatives chosen by
them’.139 He had thus envisaged a tax-paying electorate who re-
mained free because they consented to taxation at the local level
or had representatives in the national assembly.140 It was not land
per se that had to be represented, but the contribution that wealth
more generally made to the commonwealth.
Clarke and Locke were thus explicitly rejecting an alternative
strategy that was far more focused on securing the representation
of landed property and freeholders. As we have seen, the drafts
did nothing to alter the county franchise by increasing the landed
qualification, even though that measure seemed to many moral
reformers to offer the best means to secure the independence of
voters, or to allow freeholders to vote in boroughs or to increase
the proportion of county votes, both of which were advocated in
other parliamentary bills in the 1690s.141 The college resisted any
attempt to impose land qualifications that would prejudice the
urban trading magistracy. Indeed, in 1696 and 1697 Clarke and
the West Country constituencies of his friends were at the fore-
front of campaigns, in defence of ‘the tradeing parte of the
nation’, to prevent the imposition of a landed qualification for
borough representatives.142 Clearly the college did not agree
with the brand of Country policy (evident in the two proposals
published in 1689 discussed earlier and in electoral legislation
being considered in the 1690s) that placed land over movable
wealth as intrinsically more virtuous; instead Locke and Clarke
139
Locke, Second Treatise, paras. 158, 140.
140
The archival evidence thus supports Martin Hughes’s interpretation of para-
graph 158, but not his suggestion that Locke was restrained from suggesting a taxpayer
franchise ‘because of limitations of ‘‘practical politics’’ ’: Hughes, ‘Locke on Taxation
and Suffrage’, 431–3; cf. Ashcraft, Revolutionary Politics and Locke’s Two Treatises of
Government, 167–9, for a discussion of Locke’s appeal to tradesmen and artisans.
141
John Humfrey’s Letters to Parliament-Men (London, 1701) supported the bill to
require corporations to widen their franchise to take in all freeholders in the hundred
‘because it . . . will be a step forward towards remedying the grievances of inequity, as to
counties themselves’ and would ensure a free state, for ‘their liberty in the chief point
lies in this, that they are under no law to live by, but that themselves make in their
representatives’.
142
SRO, DD\SF/13/2/51 (formerly DD/SF 1088(3)), 18 Nov. 1696, letter signed
by nine Taunton inhabitants to Clarke; Journals of the House of Commons, 1693–7, xi,
592, 597; National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth, Canon Trevor Owen MSS,
Williams Papers, no. 194, preamble to 1695–6 bill.
LOCKE AND POST-REVOLUTIONARY POLITICS 79
valued urban taxpayers. This could be portrayed as a Lockean
departure from the Harringtonianism of his erstwhile patron
Shaftesbury, and certainly Locke did not choose to follow the
complex electoral model that Harrington and others put for-
ward.143 Yet it would be wrong to exaggerate the distance
between them. After all, the draft bill uses the favourite Harring-
tonian device of lots; and, more importantly, in the Two Treatises
Locke did not invoke natural rights when discussing represen-
tation. Indeed, he explicitly makes the ancient constitutional-
ist point that establishing the true representation of wealth and
people merely ‘restored the old’ legislature created by the original
contract.144 Moreover, it is interesting to note that Freke’s friend
Toland wrote a long encomium to London at the start of his 1700
edition of Harrington’s works, in which he very explicitly tried to
reconcile Oceana with the metropolis’s commercial and urban
Whig culture.145 At the same time, linking representation with
taxation denied no man a natural right to vote — any male had the
potential to qualify as a voter if he could achieve economic inde-
pendence — and the college sought to keep politics among the
populace, open to contest and as public as it felt was practic-
able.146 And in addition it would achieve a rough harmony be-
tween population and representation, at least in those boroughs
that had the franchise. It was a radical petty-bourgeois reform.
The attempt to relate representation to local taxation may also
allow us to place Locke’s more theoretical discussions in the third
key context: the emerging science of political economy. In the
Second Treatise Locke argues that the executive should, ‘not by
old custom, but true reason’, ensure the ‘true proportion’ of
143
See The Free State of Noland: or, The Frame and Constitution of that Happy, Noble,
Powerful, and Glorious State (1696), revised (London, 1701) for a contemporary adap-
tation of the Harringtonian model.
144
Locke, Second Treatise, para. 157. Locke’s statement that ‘Things of this World
are in so constant a Flux, that nothing remains long in the same State’ articulates an
important Harringtonian idea of change requiring rebalancing. The agrarianism
noted by commentators (cited in n. 7 above) is further evidence of common ground
between them.
145
The Oceana of James Harrington and his Other Works, ed. John Toland (London,
1700), dedication ‘To The Lord Mayor, Aldermen, Sherifs, and Common Council of
London’. Toland is of course also difficult to place in a Court–Country divide.
146
For Locke’s comments linking taxation, consent and representation, see his
Second Treatise, paras. 139–42. The Patriot’s Proposal to the People of England
Concerning the Ballot: The Best Way of Choosing their Representatives in Parliament
(London, 1705), 9, noted that ‘all Freemen of England i.e., those that are not servants
but can live of themselves and pay taxes, have a natural right to vote’.
80 PAST AND PRESENT NUMBER 213

representatives according ‘to the assistance’ which any part of the


people ‘affords to the publick’.147 It may be that Locke and his
friends had in mind here the type of political arithmetic practised
by Sir William Petty and others, to identify the political nation as
those who paid taxes and who were not a burden, because they
paid poor relief. Clarke and Locke were not alone in thinking
through the relationship between representation, taxation, pov-
erty and land. At almost the same time as the flurry of election
bills was considered in the mid to late 1690s, Gregory King and
Charles Davenant were making calculations about those who
contributed to or detracted from the national wealth, though
they both preferred to base elections on landed rather than mov-
able wealth.148 We need, therefore, briefly to sketch that political
economy debate as it related to parliamentary reform.
One of the problems apparent to contemporaries after 1689, a
time of unprecedented levels of war expenditure, was the large
number of non-taxpayers and hence the disparity between tax-
paying and representation. In 1693, for example, John Houghton
published a sixpenny sheet showing the amount of tax paid by
each county and the number of houses it contained, computa-
tions that Houghton said owed much to the help of Edmund
Halley.149 Dedicating his work to parliament, and noting how
some areas paid more, Houghton pointedly observed, ‘It seems
to me the places over-charged have about 150 Parliament Men:
those under-charged about 130 Men: those that have no reason to
complain, about 220 men. Whether this table may shew the
reason for alteration of the method of taxing I submit to proper
Judges’. Later in the 1690s John Smart, of the town clerk’s office
in London, produced a ‘Scheme of proportions’ showing the re-
lationship between the amount of tax paid and the number of
representatives returned by each county. By grouping the coun-
ties into regions, Smart showed that the six northern and five
western counties together paid about the same amount of land
tax in 1693 as the two wealthy counties of Middlesex and Essex,
147
Locke, Second Treatise, para. 158.
148
The Earliest Classics (by John Graunt and by Gregory King), ed. Peter Laslett
(Farnborough, 1973), esp. 249–50 for thoughts on franchise; Charles Davenant, An
Essay upon Ways and Means of Supplying the War (London, 1695); House of Commons,
iii, ed. Cruickshanks, Handley and Hayton, 853–4.
149
An Account of the Acres and Houses, with the Proportional Tax &c of Each County in
England and Wales (London, 1693), reproduced in A Collection for the Improvement of
Husbandry and Trade, 4 vols. (London, 1727–8), i, 74–8.
LOCKE AND POST-REVOLUTIONARY POLITICS 81
yet the latter returned only sixteen MPs while the eleven other
counties returned 216, over half the House of Commons. These
figures showed an even more obvious discrepancy in 1697, when
Middlesex and Essex paid almost twice the total of the eleven
counties towards the subsidy (see Plate 2).150 A similar scheme,
in manuscript, shows the proportions of tax paid in 1699, which
were exactly equal to the 1693 figures, and made exactly the same
point about the inequity of the representative system.151 The
under-representation of London and Middlesex was again ham-
mered home in 1702 by John Lacy.152 Political arithmetic proved
that England did not have a true representation in proportion to
its taxation or population.153
Much of this general discussion was related to the representa-
tion of London and the Home Counties in terms of nationally
determined tax rather than locally levied poor rates. It is therefore
interesting to find that Davenant published a table in 1695 show-
ing (amongst other data on county taxation) the figures for the
poor rates paid towards the end of Charles II’s reign.154 Indeed,
he thought the poor rates would be ‘very useful’ to anyone who
was ‘inquisitive into the Common Business of the Nation’; and we
150
A Scheme of the Proportions the Several Counties in England Paid to the Land Tax in
1693, and to the Subsidies in 1697 Compared with the Number of Members they Send to
Parliament [n.d., though probably 1698], at BL, 1890.e.4(7*) shows proportions of
several counties in England paid to the land tax and to the subsidies of 1697 compared
with the number of MPs sent. This was the ‘mighty pretty scheme of th[e] dispropor-
tion of our representative’ which Shaftesbury sent to Benjamin Furly ‘as a curiosity’:
PRO, 30/24/20, fos. 139–40, Shaftesbury to Furly, 27 Feb. 1702. John Humfrey’s
Letters to Parliament-Men (1701), 10, wanted parliament to ‘consider the number of
freeholders in all counties, and by an act adjust the numbers of representatives in each
county, proportionably to the number of people’.
151
BL, Add. MS 25277, fo. 104, ‘A Scheme Shewing ye Proportion Each County in
ENGLAND Payes to ye 3 Shilling Aid for the Year 1699 and ye Number of Members
Each County Sends to Parliament’.
152
He explicitly sought to avoid ‘any parallel of Oceana’s Agrarian or forming the
whole representative from the land, in prejudice of the burroughs of this kingdom’: see
John Lacy, The Representative of London and Westminster in Parliament, Examined and
Consider’d (London, 1702), 24.
153
The silence in the Clarke/Locke draft about reapportionment is nevertheless
striking.
154
Taken from Davenant, Essay upon Ways and Means of Supplying the War
(London, 1695), table facing p. 76. It may have been published separately: ‘A
Table’ at BL, T.100*(63). Bodleian Lib., Carte MS 81, fo. 766, ‘proposals’
(c.1689) on a variety of reforms includes the suggestion ‘that the city of London &
other cityes may chuse & send more burgesses & the severall countyes may chuse &
send more knights of the shire to the house of Comons according to the proportions
that the said respective Cityes & Countyes beare of ye paymt to publick taxes’.
82 PAST AND PRESENT NUMBER 213

know that Clarke read the table because he made notes from it.155
Political economy was important to Clarke, the commissioner of
excise, and to Locke, the member of the Board of Trade. Wealth
and taxation were thus related to representation from a very early
stage; and the college sought to reform the franchise in order to
address one of the inequities relating to the representations of
taxpayers, making its omission to do anything about the franchise
in, and the under-representation of, the counties even more glar-
ing. Locke and Clarke seem to have been more concerned with
urban rather than rural inequities, making it difficult to represent
them as ‘agrarian capitalists’; but we should not see trade and land
as opposites, for the college’s holistic approach saw the two as
linked.
* * *
Too often we succumb to the polarized portrayal of political div-
isions outlined in partisan propaganda. Whilst there were differ-
ent strands of Whiggery there were also linkages between them.
Rather than particular languages or clearly defined groups of pol-
iticians, we find instead a more interesting picture of overlap
and cross-fertilization, a hybridity that was artificially and in
some sense misleadingly simplified for polemical purposes.156
To be sure, we can discern a shift in the relationship between
the Court and the Whig party: Locke and Clarke, like many
others, did accept office and this did change how some viewed
them. But they were not stereotypical Court Whigs who had
simply abandoned their earlier principles in pursuit of power.
Rather they, and Freke, retained and displayed many Country
attitudes, including a commitment to moral and electoral

155
SRO, DD\SF/13/2/67 (formerly DD/SF 2618). Clarke was critical of
Davenant’s conclusion that the figures supported the case for a general excise.
156
See also SRO, DD\SF/7/1/36 (formerly DD/SF 3908), Clarke’s analysis of
Whig and Tory, which is both Lockean and, he claims, rooted in ‘History’, and in
which he attacks both parties for deserting the public good. For other blurring of the
liberal/republican/commonwealth boundaries, see Vickie B. Sullivan, Machiavelli,
Hobbes, and the Formation of a Liberal Republicanism in England (Cambridge, 2004);
Janelle Greenberg, The Radical Face of the Ancient Constitution (Cambridge, 2001);
Steve Pincus, ‘Neither Machiavellian Moment nor Possessive Individualism:
Commercial Society and the Defenders of the English Commonwealth’, Amer. Hist.
Rev., ciii (1998).
2. A calculation of imbalanced political representation in relation to taxation.
British Library, shelfmark: 1890.e.4(7*). ß British Library Board.
84 PAST AND PRESENT NUMBER 213

reform.157 Although this does not require us to abandon the


notion of Court Whiggery, the evidence suggests that Court
and Country Whig principles were not entirely incompatible, des-
pite the polemical advantage to critics to say that they were; but
they undoubtedly became more difficult to espouse once Harley
began to try to monopolize the Country stance and construct a
Country Tory party with its own polemicists. Partisanship nar-
rowed the scope for the expression of Country rhetoric and
values.
Locke’s parliamentary activity to help secure ‘free parliaments’
has escaped scholarly attention perhaps because, unlike the col-
lege’s other activity, his correspondence does not allow us to
follow the process of how and when views were exchanged; we
therefore have to work harder to recover context. But the result
shows how Locke’s ideas on the franchise championed econom-
ically independent, self-governing communities of ratepayers.
This proposal put reason over custom, linked taxation to repre-
sentation, and has to be seen in the context of the values of civility
and virtue associated with the payers of church and poor rates, as
well as in the interplay that contemporaries saw between repre-
sentation, wealth, poverty, population and taxation. Early parlia-
mentary reform might thus be better conceived of as a process of
regulation that encompassed politics, social policy, morality,
wealth-creation and the science of political arithmetic.
University of Warwick Mark Knights

157
Peter King, Locke’s heir, continued the independent Whig spirit of the college,
especially in terms of electoral reform, into the reign of Queen Anne.
LOCKE AND POST-REVOLUTIONARY POLITICS 85
APPENDIX
LOCKE’S AND CLARKE’S AMENDMENTS TO THE ELECTIONS
BILL (DRAFT D)
Locke’s first amendment related to the appointment of clerks in case
a poll was demanded. The draft had put their nomination in the
hands of the sheriff and the ‘competitors’. But Locke suggested
‘Instead of competitors I thinke it were better that it should be the 12
eldest men present that are Lords of Mannors, or 12 that have been sherifs
beginning with him yt was first sherif & soe down in order of the time of
their sherifalty, whereby not only ye dispute & wrangling contention wch
the undetermind meaning of Competitors will leave roome for will be
determind prevented, but men of condition age & indifferency as much
as may be will be securd’.
And, secondly, he suggested that if either of the two clerks taking
the poll refused to act ‘he yt named him to name another’. Locke’s
third amendment was the addition of a clause:
‘That to avoid confusion in voteing & ye better to know & dispatch the
voters, the parishes shall be drawen by lot wch shall poll first at each place
of polling & after such lots drawn lists shall be accordingly made of the
severall parishes to be pold in each polling place in the order they were
drawn & pasted up in severall quarters of the town & these parishes after’.
He then added a query ‘whether the parishes are to be calld over
ag[ai]n’. His fourth intervention was again to add, as subscribers
to the election indenture, the ‘Twenty four eldest men that are
Lords of Mannors’, rather than the ‘Baronets, Knights’ men-
tioned in the draft. Locke’s fifth alteration was to delete the para-
graph relating to the provision allowing candidates to nominate
guards at the polls, replacing it with a simpler clause ‘That each
place of polling shall be open & free to all people unarmed by
guards [deletion] set by ye sherif securd from ye approaches of any
man with armes’.1 Locke also deleted the clause concerning the
draconian punishment of sheriffs, replacing it with one of his own
devising:
That every sherif & officer yt makes a false returne shall &c wch the house
shall contrary to ye intention of this act & wch is judgd by the house [word
illegible] house soe irregular & failing in his duty in any other pt of this act
chall be liable to such punishmt And the Determination of yr guilt shall be
the Next Assizes that the person returnd be refus rejected shall forever be
uncapable of siting in parlmt & if any sherif & officer not doing his duty as
is herein prescribd shall forfeit &c to be recoverd by law.

1
Locke also made an insertion near here of the words ‘not responsible’ into a clause
about the recovery of money from clerks who refused legitimate voters.
86 PAST AND PRESENT NUMBER 213

Locke’s seventh and final alteration was to the clause relating to


the usurpers of legislative authority, the candidates who breached
the election law. Locke added here that the penalty was to apply ‘if he
were present at the Election’; he underlined the reference to the
forfeiture of all goods and chattels, revising this with words that he
then struck out and rendered illegible; replaced Chelsea College
with ‘the poore seamans Chest’ as the intended beneficiary;2 and
deleted the provision handing the rents of offenders to the king for
life. He then appears to have changed his mind about the whole
clause, seeking to replace everything relating to forfeiture of
money with the phrase ‘& shall be by the determination of the
house turnd out for being unduly elected & shall be for ever uncap-
able of siting in parlmt & shall moreover forfeit &c to be recoverd at
law’.
In Draft E, Clarke retained the provision that ‘competitors’ could
nominate clerks to take the poll but now added ‘or some indifferent
Persons present’ in order to meet Locke’s objections, though he re-
jected Locke’s second suggestion that if any clerk refused to act he
could be replaced by the person who nominated him. Clarke ac-
cepted in its entirety Locke’s clause about polling parishes in order
by lot; but omitted the suggestion that the eldest men who were lords
of the manor should subscribe the indenture.3 Clarke rejected
Locke’s simplification of the clause about arms at the polls and
even went further than Draft D, declaring that if any ‘come Arm’d
any Elector may require Him to wthdraw and in case of refusal to
seize & imprison Him for [——]4 And if ye Persons Arm’d cannot be
soe seised the Election to cease during theire being present’. Clarke
accepted, with very minor alteration, Locke’s rewriting of the clause
relating to penalties: ‘an usurper of Legislative Authority’; and he
also at first accepted Locke’s clause about penalties for corrupt sher-
iffs but then crossed out the whole paragraph.

2
Locke was a commissioner of Greenwich Hospital.
3
There is, however, a cross in the margin at this point, suggesting that the clause
needed some revision.
4
The time span is left blank in the manuscript.