11: Letters concerning Toleration

Locke’s plea for toleration in matters of belief has become classical. His Common-Place Book shows that his mind was clear on the subject more than twenty years before the publication of his first Letter. The topic, indeed, was in the air all through his life, and affected him nearly. When he was a scholar at Westminster, the powers of the civil magistrate in religious matters were the subject of heated discussion between presbyterians and independents in the assembly of divines that held its sessions within a stone’s throw of his dormitory; and, when he entered Christ Church, John Owen, a leader of the independents, had been recently appointed to the deanery.