Second Treatise of Government

Publication history

Two Treatises was first published, anonymously, in December 1689 (following printing conventions of the time, its title page was marked 1690). Locke was unhappy with this edition, complaining to the publisher about its many errors. For the rest of his life, he was intent on republishing the Two Treatises in a form that better reflected his meaning. Peter Laslett, one of the foremost Locke scholars, has suggested that Locke held the printers to a higher "standard of perfection" than the technology of the time would permit.[3] Be that as it may, the first edition was indeed replete with errors. The second edition was even worse, and finally printed on cheap paper and sold to the poor. The third edition was much improved, but Locke was still not satisfied.[4] He made corrections to the third edition by hand and entrusted the publication of the fourth to his friends, as he died before it could be brought out.[5]

The Two Treatises begin with a Preface announcing what Locke hopes to achieve, but he also mentions that more than half of his original draft, occupying a space between the First and Second Treatises, has been irretrievably lost.[6] Peter Laslett maintains that, while Locke may have added or altered some portions in 1689, he did not make any revisions to accommodate for the missing section; he argues, for example, that the end of the First Treatise breaks off in mid-sentence.[7]

In 1691 Two Treatises was translated into French by David Mazzel, a French Huguenot living in the Netherlands. This translation left out Locke's "Preface," all of the First Treatise, and the first chapter of the Second Treatise (which summarised Locke's conclusions in the First Treatise). It was in this form that Locke's work was reprinted during the 18th century in France and in this form that Montesquieu, Voltaire and Rousseau were exposed to it.[8] The only American edition from the 18th century was printed in 1773 in Boston; it, too, left out all of these sections. There were no other American editions until the 20th century.[9]

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