Historical and Commemorative
Collection of Benjamin Weiss
DASSIER, Jean: England, ca.1733, Bronze, 43 mm
John Locke (1632-1704), philosopher and political
exponent, was the inspirer of the Age of Enlightenment and Reason in England
and France, and influenced greatly the writers of the U.S. Constitution.
Locke was born in Somersetshire, and was educated at Westminster and Oxford.
He lived in Holland during the reign of James II, but returned to England at
the accession of William and Mary with the fleet which brought the Prince of
Orange to England. Locke is noted for his works on Toleration and Civil
Government, to which the reverse of this medal alludes. In particular, it
refers to his Essay Concerning Human Understanding and to the Two Treatises
on Government. The former is regarded as the founding text of empiricism.
Locke rejected the concept of "innate ideas" and held that
knowledge is gained from sense-experience. In the latter essay, Locke held
that the state exists to safeguard the natural rights of its citizens (life,
liberty and property), and that relations between government and the
governed are based on a social contract to preserve those rights. He
denounced absolutism and justified civil disobedience in response to a
government that breaks the social contract. In 1695 Locke published his
Reasonableness of Christianity. He disliked religious fanaticism, however,
and felt that any act of persecution in the name of religious truth is
wholly unjustified, since our knowledge and understanding are so confined.
Locke's writings had, and still have, an enormous influence on the life and
political thought of numerous societies, particularly in England and North
America (O'Brien, p. 243).
LINK to Biography of John Locke (from Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
LINK to Engraving of John Locke by George Vertue, after Sir Godfrey Kneller (from National Portrait Gallery)
LINK to Portrait of John Locke by Sir Godfrey Kneller (from arthermitage.org)