The New (Old) John Locke Manuscript on Catholics

Reasons for Tolerating Papists Equally with Others

I read about it in the Guardian yesterday, and my cousin at St. John’s found the digital copy right there on the internet in plain sight. Apparently no one had attempted to transcribe it yet? It’s a confusing document–looks like reading notes from some separate document, as there are page numbers which appear out of order in the manuscript.

Here is a rough first effort. Please share edits! The folks who discovered the original manuscript in Annapolis have published a transcription at the end of this article–I used it to correct my transcription, though the remaining errors are mine. (Especially impressed by them figuring out “lex talionis” which was really irking me.) Congrats to Walmsley and Waldmann for showing that archival work can be rewarding!

7 Persecution disobliges the best sort amongst the papist as well as amongst others.

12 If liberty of conscience makes all men faily more and more to abhor popery, papists may be tolerated as well as others.

13 If liberty of conscience breed men up in an irreconcilable dislike to all imposition in religion, Papists may be safely tolerated.

If liberty of conscience unite the Protestants against the Papists, Papists may be safely tolerated.

15 If toleration be the way to convert Papists as well as others, they may equally be tolerated.

16 If Papists can be supposed to be as good subjects as others they may be equally tolerated

17 If all subjects should be equally countenanced and employed? by the Prince, the Papist have an equal title.

If ability alone ought to prefer men to employment and the King ought not to lose the use of any part of his subjects, Papists are to be tolerated.

If liberty of conscience oblige all parties to the Prince and made them wholly depend upon him, then the Papists may be tolerated.

18 If to force dissenters to one’s opinion be contrary to the rule of religion and to no purpose, Papists should be tolerated.

20 If suffering for it will promote any opinion, Papists are to be tolerated.


3 The papsist can be as little satisfied with or reconciled to the government by toleration as restraint. Liberty of conscience being here intended to unite the protestants under one common interest, under one protector in opposition to them, and so can not oblige them.

3 Persecution of them alone can as little make them unite with the other parties, as toleration can make them divide amongst themselves. Both which effects follow a general toleration or persecution of other dissenters.

4 In punishing papists for their religion, you are not so liable to mistake ??? (agreement?) by prosecuting that as faction which is indeed conscience. For those who are guided  as in persecuting other dissenters for those who are absolutely disposed of by an authority supposed infallible, whose interests is directly opposed to yours, must necessarily be all factions however some of them may be similarly conscientious. 

Though persecution usually makes other opinions be sought after and admired; yet perhaps it is less apt to recommend popery than any other religion. 1st because persecution is its own practice and so begets less pity. 2ndly The principle and doctrine of that religion seem less apt to take inquisitive heads or unstable minds, men commonly in their voluntary changes do rather pursue liberty an enthusiasm, wherein they seem their own disposers, rather than give themselves up to the authority and imposition of others. Besides Popery, having been brought in and continued by power and force joined with the art and industry of the clergy, it is the most likely of any religion


to decay, where the secular power handles them severely or at the least takes from them those encouragement and supports they receive from their own clergy.

Query: Whether the Papists or Protestants gains most proselytes by the persecution they suffer in those changes at the beginning of the reformation?

7 Standards-by will be less dissatisfied with severity used to papists then to others because it is lex talionis. Besides he cannot be thought to be punished merely for conscience who owns himself at the same time the subject and adherent to an enemy prince.

8 That a prince ought to encourage knowledge, from whence springs a variety of opinions on religion, matters not at all for papists who own an implicit faith and acquiesce in ignorance and who may as well submit to the imposition of their own lawful prince, as those of a foreigner. The infallibility of both sides as being equal.

All the rest that is said (on page 8) favours the toleration of papists less than others.

9 Twill be less dangerous to discontent the papist when the other parties are pleased then now. Especially when indulgence will less secure you of their fidelity to the government then that of others. Every subject has an interest in the natural prince, whilst he does not own subjection to another power.

Liberty will less destroy the hopes and pretensions of papists that desire public mischief, then of others. Because they are backed by the foreign power and are obliged to propagate their religion by force. 

A small part of the trade of English is (I think) managed by papists ad the imposition of religion will lessen their trade


It is perhaps a reason why they should not be tolerated.

10 If it be the King’s interest to be head of the Protestants this bespeaks no indulgence for Papists. Unless the persecuting of them here will draw the same wage or worse upon the protestants beyond sea. And how far own that may be advantageous to us in the present posture off of affairs, can only be determined by those who can judge whether the Hugonots in France or Papists in England and likeliest to make head[way], to disturb the respective governments.

11 I doubt whether upon protestant principles we can justify punishing of Papists for their speculative opinions on Purgatory, transubstantiation, as if they stopped there. But possibly no reason nor religion obliges us to tolerate those who practical principles necessarily lead them to the eager prosecution of all opinions and the utter destruction of all societies, but their own so that it is not the difference of opinion, but their dangerous and factious foments in reference to the state which are blended with and make a part of their religion that excludes them from the benefit of toleration who would think it fit to tolerate either Presbyterian or Independent, if they made it a part of their religion to pay an implicit subjection to a foreign infallible power?

13 Severity to papists only cannot make them unity with any other party. nor toleration disunite them among themselves.

Second Opinions