Richard Price

British philosopher, preacher and mathematician (1723–1791)

Richard Price (23 February 1723 – 19 April 1791) was a Welsh moral philosopher, nonconformist preacher and mathematician. He was also a political pamphleteer, active in radical, republican, and liberal causes such as the American Revolution. He was well-connected and fostered communication between many people, including several of the Founding Fathers of the United States.

Price in 1784

Price spent most of his adult life as minister of Newington Green Unitarian Church, on the then outskirts of London. He also wrote on issues of demography and finance, and was a Fellow of the Royal Society.

Quotes edit

  • [T]he LIBERTY we are blessed with. There is no country where this is enjoyed in such extent and perfection. The greatest part of the rest of mankind are slaves. ... While other nations groan under slavery, we rejoyce in the possession of liberty and independency. Our rights and properties are, in general, secured to us beyond the possibility of violation. ... But our religious liberty is the crown of all our national advantages. There are other nations who enjoy civil liberty as well as we, tho' perhaps not so completely. But with respect to religious liberty we are almost singular and unparalleled.
    • Britain's Happiness, and the proper improvement of it, represented in a sermon, preach'd at Newington-Green, Middlesex, on Nov. 29. 1759. Being the Day appointed for a General Thanksgiving (1759), quoted in Richard Price, Political Writings, ed. D. O. Thomas (1991), pp. 3–4
  • What is now passing in France is an object of my anxious attention. I am by no means properly informed about the nature and circumstances of the struggle; but as far as it is a struggle for a free constitution of government and the recovery of their rights by the people I heartily wish it success whatever may be the consequence to this country, for I have learnt to consider myself more as a citizen of the world than of any particular country, and to such a person every advance that the cause of public liberty makes must be agreeable.
    • Letter to Thomas Jefferson (26 October 1788), quoted in The Correspondence of Richard Price, Volume III: February 1786–February 1791, ed. D. O. Thomas (1983), p. 182

A Discourse on the Love of Our Country (1789) edit

  • What has the love of their country hitherto been among mankind? What has it been but a love of domination; a desire of conquest, and a thirst for grandeur and glory, by extending territory, and enslaving surrounding countries? What has it been but a blind and narrow principle, producing in every country a contempt of other countries, and forming men into combinations and factions against their common rights and liberties? ... What was the love of their country among the Jews, but a wretched partiality to themselves, and a proud contempt of all other nations? What was the love of their country among the old Romans? We have heard much of it; but I cannot hesitate in saying that, however great it appeared in some of its exertions, it was in general no better than a principle holding together a band of robbers in their attempts to crush all liberty but their own.
    • pp. 5–6
  • Our Lord and his Apostles ... recommended that UNIVERSAL BENEVOLENCE which is an unspeakably nobler principle than any partial affections. They have laid such stress on loving all men, even our enemies, and made an ardent and extensive charity so essential a part of virtue, that the religion they have preached may, by way of distinction from all other religions, be called the Religion of Benevolence. Nothing can be more friendly to the general rights of mankind; and were it duly regarded and practised, every man would consider every other man as his brother, and all the animosity that now takes place among contending nations would be abolished.
    • p. 8
  • The noblest principle in our nature is the regard to general justice, and that good-will which embraces all the world. ... Though our immediate attention must be employed in promoting our own interest and that of our nearest connexions; yet we must remember, that a narrower interest ought always to give way to a more extensive interest. In pursuing particularly the interest of our country, we ought to carry our views beyond it. We should love it ardently, but not exclusively. We ought to seek its good, by all the means that our different circumstances and abilities will allow; but at the same time we ought to consider ourselves as citizens of the world, and take care to maintain a just regard to the rights of other countries.
    • p. 10
  • The chief blessings of human nature are the three following:—TRUTHVIRTUE—and LIBERTY.—These are, therefore, the blessings in the possession of which the interest of our country lies, and to the attainment of which our love of it ought to direct our endeavours. By the diffusion of KNOWLEDGE it must be distinguished from a country of Barbarians: by the practice of religious VIRTUE, it must be distinguished from a country of gamblers, Atheists, and libertines: and by the possession of LIBERTY, it must be distinguished from a country of slaves.
    • p. 11
  • Ignorance is the parent of bigotry, intolerance, persecution and slavery. Inform and instruct mankind; and these evils will be excluded.
    • p. 13
  • Had I been to address the King on a late occasion, I should have been inclined to do it in a style very different from that of most of the addressers, and to use some such language as the following:—“I rejoice, Sir, in your recovery. I thank God for his goodness to you. I honour you not only as my King, but as almost the only lawful King in the world, because the only one who owes his crown to the choice of his people. ... May you be led to such a just sense of the nature of your situation, and endowed with such wisdom, as shall render your restoration to the government of these kingdoms a blessing to it, and engage you to consider yourself as more properly the Servant than the Sovereign of your people.”
    • pp. 25–26
  • Let us, in particular, take care not to forget the principles of the Revolution. ... I will only take notice of the three following:
    First; The right to liberty of conscience in religious matters.
    Secondly; The right to resist power when abused.
    And, Thirdly; The right to chuse our own governors; to cashier them for misconduct; and to frame a government for ourselves.
    • p. 34
  • The most important instance of the imperfect state in which the Revolution left our constitution, is the INEQUALITY OF OUR REPRESENTATION. I think, indeed, this defect in our constitution so gross and so palpable, as to make it excellent chiefly in form and theory. You should remember that a representation in the legislature of a kingdom is the basis of constitutional liberty in it, and of all legitimate government; and that without it a government is nothing but an usurpation.
    • p. 39
  • What an eventful period is this! I am thankful that I have lived to it; and I could almost say, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation. I have lived to see a diffusion of knowledge, which has undermined superstition and error—I have lived to see the rights of men better understood than ever; and nations panting for liberty, which seemed to have lost the idea of it.—I have lived to see THIRTY MILLIONS of people, indignant and resolute, spurning at slavery, and demanding liberty with an irresistible voice; their king led in triumph, and an arbitrary monarch surrendering himself to his subjects.—After sharing in the benefits of one Revolution, I have been spared to be a witness to two other Revolutions, both glorious.—And now, methinks, I see the ardor for liberty catching and spreading; a general amendment beginning in human affairs; the dominion of kings changed for the dominion of laws, and the dominion of priests giving way to the dominion of reason and conscience.
    • pp. 49–50
  • Tremble all ye oppressors of the world! Take warning all ye supporters of slavish governments, and slavish hierarchies! Call no more (absurdly and wickedly) REFORMATION, innovation. You cannot now hold the world in darkness. Struggle no longer against increasing light and liberality. Restore to mankind their rights; and consent to the correction of abuses, before they and you are destroyed together.
    • pp. 50–51

Quotes about Price edit

  • Dr. Price considers this inadequacy of representation as our fundamental grievance... To this he subjoins a note in these words:—"A representation chosen chiefly by the Treasury, and a few thousands of the dregs of the people, who are generally paid for their votes." You will smile here at the consistency of those democratists who, when they are not on their guard, treat the humbler part of the community with the greatest contempt, whilst, at the same time, they pretend to make them the depositories of all power.
  • Indeed the systems of Dr. Price and Mr. Burke (as he states his own in 1790) differ little from each other, when fairly contrasted. Dr. Price says, a king may be deposed for misconduct; Mr. Burke says, No! every misconduct will not justify resistance, but there must be a grave and over-ruling necessity accompanying it.
    • Samuel Heywood, High Church Politics: being a seasonable appeal to the friends of the British constitution, against the practices and principles of high churchmen: as exemplified in the late opposition to the repeal of the test laws, and in the riots at Birmingham (1792), p. 186

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