A Must Read for Your Christian History Library: John Locke: Philosopher of American Liberty, by Mary-Elaine Swanson

Guest essay by Ruth Smith

Over 30 years ago, I had the opportunity of meeting Mrs Swanson for the first time. During these many years, we had a number of opportunities to be together, teaching at the same conferences, hosting her at Pilgrim Institute events, or her teaching a course on rhetoric to the students in the Pilgrim Institute Collegiate classes. During those years, she was working on a number of projects, including the American Covenant with Marshall Foster, the biographical sketches for the historic volumes produced by Verna Hall of the Foundation for American Christian Education, writing a Study Guide for the Christian History of the Constitution: Self-Government with Union, and producing the excellent biography, The Education of James Madison: A Model for Today.

However, from that first meeting, her desire was to finish the volume on John Locke, which she had begun before we ever met. This final work reflects a lifetime of research and reasoning, always with the desire that John Locke would be properly understood and recognized for the great contribution he made to the government of the United States of America. Her hope was that the misrepresentation of Locke by many of this generation might be reconsidered and his reputation for Biblical reasoning be restored as part of the restoration of the nation.

Each opportunity we had to be together was always a positive event, as she entertained us with her talent on harpsichord, joined her husband Nils to show us their well-manicured flower garden, treated us with a tasty meal, and, on my last visit to her home in North Carolina, a personal tour of the sights of Ashville, point out the history and distinctive architecture of the area.

Her teaching was often enhanced by speaking with the accent of the individual whose work she was sharing. One of the best times was when we taught a one-week course together in Florida, using the Study Guide for Self-Government with Union, an intense time for both teachers and students as we taught through the entire volume in one week. This course was recorded on video and became one of the correspondence courses offered by Pilgrim Institute. Efforts are currently being made to update the media and make this course available once again through our Online Courses.


During our last visit, Mrs. Swanson was so pleased to be putting the final touches on the manuscript for the John Locke volume, seeking to confirm all of the many resources which she had included, and to work through any questions which had arisen during the process of proofing and editing.

If you desire more of Mary-Elaine Swanson’s teaching or publications, use the search function in Pilgrim Institute’s store. Type in Mary-Elaine Swanson and you will receive a full list of the current materials which we have available, including audio downloads, such as John Locke and the Law of Nature and John Locke and Property. We are in the process of adding additional recordings, as appropriate editing is completed.

Ruth Smith is co-founder and president of Pilgrim Institute, Mishawaka, Indiana, author and master teacher. Pilgrim Institute seeks to restore the faith and knowledge that produced the free institutions of Christian America.

© 2014 Used by permission

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