LOCKE, JOHN (1632-1704, philosopher, natural scientist and founder of Empiricism)
John Locke is generally considered to be the most important figure in the history of English philosophy and political theory.
His influence has been immense: numbered in his debt are Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill, Berkeley, Hume, Rousseau, Voltaire, Montesquieu and Kant. Jefferson, who described Locke as one of 'the three greatest men that have ever lived, without any exception', relied heavily on his ideas on liberty, property and human rights. In the first draft of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson transcribed Locke's phrase 'Life, liberty and property', though this was later altered to 'Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness'. He has been hailed as 'the initiator of the Age of Enlightenment and Reason', the inspirer of the American Constitution ('America's political philosophy stems from the social contract theory of John Locke') and as a continuing powerful influence on life and thought in the West.
AUTOGRAPH MANUSCRIPTS OF LOCKE ARE EXTREMELY RARE. In the last thirty years only six other autograph letters have appeared at auction and only six manuscripts. The notebook containing a draft of the Essay on Human Understanding realised nearly $1m in the Garden Sale in 1989.
At the time of writing this letter, Locke, despite his ill-health, was an active member of the Council for Trade, which met five times a week. He had been specifically called to London in late January for an audience with the King. It is thought that the King proposed some important employment to him, perhaps to accompany the Earl of Portland's embassy to France after the peace of Ryswick.
The letter is not printed in The Correspondence, edited by E.S. de Beer.