This collection consists of deeds and grants with a large collection of papers concerning the Ashley and Cooper families, papers, diaries and correspondence relating to the first, second, third and fourth Earls of Shaftesbury; letters and papers of John Locke, including several pamphlets in his handwriting, and the original or 'First Set of the Fundamental Constitutions' for the government of Carolina; letters and papers relating to Carolina and the first settlement on Ashley River; and documents concerning Ireland, Jamaica, Barbados, Bahamas and other Foreign Plantations, and the East Indies: and a memoir of George Frederick Handel.
After the death of the fourth earl in 1771, the collection largely peters out. The later records relate mainly to matters of family, estate and local interest and illustrate the development of an aristocratic family in Dorset.
The census of Dorset seamen in 1664 is notable, among other papers dealing with impressment.
This collection was among the earliest gifts of private papers of public relevance deposited in the Public Record Office.
Anthony Ashley Cooper, 1st Baron Ashley; 1st Earl of Shaftesbury, 1621-1683
Anthony Ashley Cooper, 2nd Earl of Shaftesbury, 1652-1699
Anthony Ashley Cooper, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury, 1671-1713
Anthony Ashley Cooper, 4th Earl of Shaftesbury, 1711-1771
For the papers of the 1st Earl, see B Martyn and A Kippis, Life of the 1st Earl of Salisbury (G W Cooke ed, London, 1836), W D Christie, Life (2 vols, London, 1871) which largely incorporates his previous Memoirs, Letters and Speeches (London, 1859), and the biographies by L F Brown (London, 1933) and K H D Haley (Oxford, 1968). For Locke, see M Cranston, John Locke (London, 1957). For the 3rd Earl see B Rand, The Life, Unpublished Letters , Philosophical Regimen of Anthony, Earl of Shaftesbury (London, 1900) and R Voitle, The Third Earl of Shaftesbury 1671-1713 (London, 1984). Some of the 3rd Earl's correspondence was published in the 18th and 19th centuries. A sixteen volume edition (in English, with German translation) of his works, selected correspondence and papers, much of which is taken from PRO 30/24, is appearing (Sammelte Werke, ausgewählte Briefe und nachgelassenen Schriften, W Benda and G Hummerich eds, Stuttgart, 1981-). The first series consists of four volumes on Ästhetik (1981, 1989, 1992, 1993) ; of the second, on Moral Philosophie und Politik, three volumes have appeared (1984, 1987, 1992). The whole of PRO 30/24/48, relating to Carolina, is in the Calendar of State Papers (Colonial) Series, America and West Indies vols II, III and IV, W N Sainsbury ed, 1880, 1889, 1893.
|Administrative / biographical background:
Anthony Ashley Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury (1621-1683), was sometime Chancellor of the Exchequer and Lord Chancellor. He went on to become the first leader of the Whig opposition in Parliament, having previously served Charles I, Parliament, Cromwell, the Rump and Charles II in uneasy succession.
While in office, he acquired and retained numerous official papers, especially for the years 1659 to 1674. As one of the lords proprietors of the new colony of Carolina, he was a colonial pioneer, having previously invested in Barbados and the Bahamas, and he was much involved in the Council of Trade and Plantations, 1672-1674. His patronage of John Locke (1632-1704), the Whig philosopher whose writings and secretarial scrutiny permeate the later seventeenth century portion of the series, adds significantly to the general interest of the collection.
Locke was tutor to the 1st Earl's grandson, the future 3rd Earl (1671-1713) who despite his early death, which extinguished his political potential, acquired something of a European reputation as a moral philosopher in the eighteenth century. The 4th Earl, his son, a patron of the composer G F Handel, confined his political interests largely to the Dorset area, and sought to perpetuate the memory of the 1st and 3rd Earls.