David Armitage : ‘John Locke, Treaties, and the Two Treatises of Government’ (2 fév.)

Maison de la Recherche, 28 rue Serpente, Paris 6e, de 17h à 18h30, Salle D421 (La séance aura lieu en présentiel uniquement. Un enregistrement sera diffusé ultérieurement sur la chaine youtube du séminaire).
Jeudi 2 février 2023 à 17h. David Armitage, Harvard/ Queen Mary University London: ‘John Locke, Treaties, and the Two Treatises of Government’

In the Two Treatises of Government (1690), John Locke offered an account of the separation of powers that was at once novel and almost entirely without influence. In chapter XII of the Second Treatise, he divided the powers of government conventionally between the legislative and the executive; unprecedentedly, the third power he enumerated was the “federative,” “the power of War and Peace, Leagues and Alliances, and all the Transactions, with all Persons and Communities without the Commonwealth”. Just why Locke highlighted the federative in this way—and then almost immediately collapsed it back into the executive power—presents a conundrum. This paper accounts for its prominence by tracing Locke’s engagement with treaties and treaty-making across his career, from his earliest appearance in print (with two poems celebrating a treaty), via his early diplomatic activities, his trafficking in treaties in France and the Netherlands, his notes on treaties in his journals and elsewhere, and his engagement with treaties as a colonial administrator in both the early 1670s and the late 1690s. It shows that Locke was deeply immersed in the burgeoning treaty culture of his time and that this hitherto unremarked interest shaped his peculiar and mostly unparalleled account of the royal prerogative as it stood on the eve of the Glorious Revolution. The paper concludes with reflections on how we might construe the relationship between Locke the diplomatic actor and student of treaties on the one hand and Locke the constitutional analyst and political theorist on the other. 

David Armitage is the Lloyd C. Blankfein Professor of History at Harvard University and currently also an Honorary Senior Visiting Fellow at the Centre for the Study of the History of Political Thought, Queen Mary University of London. He is the author or editor of eighteen books, among them The Ideological Origins of the British Empire (2000), The Declaration of Independence: A Global History (2007), Foundations of Modern International Thought (2013) and Civil Wars: A History in Ideas (2017). He is currently completing an edition of John Locke’s colonial writings for the Clarendon Edition of the Works of John Locke and working on a new global history of Britain through its treaties and on a study of opera and international law.