While reading an article about the ‘Monster’ Petition of 1680 by Mark Knights,* I came across another reference to Daniel Coxe. He was a signer of the ‘Monster’ Petition, which meant he objected to the decision by Charles II to dissolve Parliament just before it was set to pass the Exclusion Act, which would have barred James Duke of York from becoming king, or anyone else belonging to the Catholic religion. This seems like a risky thing to do for someone who was “on the make,” as most historians describe Dr. Coxe.
Daniel Coxe the real estate speculator was also a physician and scientist. He was one of the first to study the effects of nicotine on animals. In 1679, he corresponded with John Locke, while Locke was in exile, on medical subjects like a cure for venereal disease. Locke even loaned him books, though I don’t know whether they were medical or political books. In 1680, Daniel Coxe was elected to the Royal College of Physicians.
During late 1679, early 1680 when the ‘Monster’ Petition was being circulated (it eventually had 18,000 signatures), Locke, who also signed it, may have been working on his Second Treatise on Civil Government, which was published in 1681. Knights proposed that the impetus behind the petition was the inspiration for Locke to write the Second Treatise, and that he may have been composing it at the time signatures were being collected. Coxe, as a signatory and also a correspondent with Locke, probably sympathethized with Locke’s ideas. So now we have Coxe the scientist, and Coxe the supporter of Parliamentary rights.
This was definitely risky. While the petition was circulating, the king issued a proclamation, declaring that “tumultuous petitioning” must be stopped. This brought the subscribers under the cloud of illegality. In 1679, Coxe was about 39 years old, too old to be a carefree, radical youth. Old enough to be headed towards his career of later years, when he was a well-established figure at court and a sharp businessman and investor. So, it seems to me that Coxe signed this petition deliberately, aware of the risks.
Why would an ambitious fellow like Coxe oppose the king, and on record? Coxe was not the only friend of Locke’s who signed the petition. Knights wrote that “Locke signed the same sheet as a number of other London radicals.” And Coxe was listed by Knights as one of those radicals.
What a concept! More tomorrow.
* Mark Knights, “Petitioning and the Political Theorists: John Locke, Algernon Sidney and London’s ‘Monster’ Petition of 1680.” Past & Present (Oxford Univ. Press), No. 138 (Feb 1993) pp. 94-111.