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Cabinet 03: Politics-philosophy

[John Locke], Two Treatises of Government. 2nd corrected ed. London: Printed for Awnsham and John Churchill, 1694. DeB Eb 1694 L

Locke tp Locke ep B 'Slavery is so vile and miserable an Estate of Man…' So begins John Locke's Two Treatises of Government, first published anonymously in 1690. The first treatise was a reasoned attack on Sir Robert Filmer's Patriarcha, which had supported the divine right of kings. The second dealt with the rights of man to freedom and property, and asserted that government should exist to protect those rights. The ideas conveyed in the first treatise laid the foundation for modern forms of democracy and influenced greatly the Founding Fathers and the American Constitution. Numerous printing errors marred the first printings of this work, and perhaps the second edition, here on display, should be called '2nd ed. corrupted'.

Wilkes and Liberty: Or, The Universal Prayer. London: Printed for J. Williams, 1764. DeB Eb 1762 B

Wilkes and Liberty John Wilkes (1725-1797), M.P. for Middlesex, and 'mercurial elusive rake' (John Brewer), was the iconic representative of 'liberty' in the eighteenth century. In 1763, he was prosecuted by Parliament for printing No. 45 (23 April) of the North Briton - the contents attacking Lord Bute and Company were termed 'false, scandalous, and seditious libel.' William Pitt denounced Wilkes further as 'the blasphemer of his God, and the Libeler of his King'; no wonder Wilkes was classed as an outlaw and escaped to France. As an advocate for freedom of expression, Wilkes gained support from the general populace and the cry of 'Wilkes and Liberty' resounded throughout Britain and America. There is no known author of this pamphlet, but it was printed by J. Williams who also printed the North Briton, and Wilkes's Observations on the papers relative to the rupture with Spain (1762).

David Hume, Essays, Moral and Political. 3rd ed. London: Printed for A. Millar,…and A. Kincaid, 1748. DeB Eb 1748 H

Hume Epitaph, page 7 Hume Epitaph, tp The philosopher David Hume (Epitaph: 'Born 1711, Died [_ _ _ _] Leaving it to posterity to add the rest.') is one of the most important figures in the history of Western philosophy and of the Scottish Enlightenment. After receiving bad press for his Treatise of Human Nature (1739; 1740), he began essays in the style and tradition of Montaigne and Bacon which he hoped would reach a wider reading public. Pre-publication censorship lapsed in 1695, an important year in the British book and printing history. Hume's essay 'Of the Liberty of the Press' evokes some of the freedoms emanating from that event and makes brief comparison with the more rigid scene in Europe. In general, the Essays were well received.