A new paper in the Historical Journal by 2016 Hume Fellow Dr Felix Waldmann and his colleague Dr J.C. Walmsley outlines their discovery of a previously unknown manuscript by John Locke. Entitled Reasons for tolerateing Papists equally with others, the manuscript is dated 1667 and has lain undisturbed in the archives of St John’s College, Annapolis for many years. In a recent blog, Waldmann and Walmsley describe their exciting find and its implications for our understanding of Locke:
Our article investigates the provenance and significance of the manuscript, showing how its content reveals that Locke is commenting on a book by Sir Charles Wolseley (1629/30-1714) called 'Liberty of conscience, the magistrates interest' (1668), as a way of asking whether Catholics can be tolerated.
This question places the Essay concerning toleration in a new light, since it appears that the Reasons is most likely the immediate antecedent of – and inspiration for – the Essay, and may reveal Locke’s initial interest in writing about toleration: his belief that Charles II would issue a Declaration of Indulgence for Protestant dissenters and Catholics in 1667-8.