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A Discourse on the Love of Our Country, delivered on Nov. 4, 1789, at the Meeting-House in the Old Jewry, to the Society for Commemorating the Revolution in Britain. With an Appendix. Second edition (London: T. Cadell, 1789).
Price gave this sermon to commemorate the 101st anniversary of the Glorious Revolution of 1688. As a vigorous supporter of this revolution as well as the American and French Revolutions he incurred the wrath of Edmund Burke who wrote his famous critique of the French Revolution partly in order to rebut Price.
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Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem, whither the tribes go up; the tribes of the Lord unto the testimony of Israel. To give thanks to the name of the Lord, for there sit the thrones of judgment; the throne of the House of David. Pray for the peace ofJerusalem.They shall prosper that love thee. Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces. For my brethren and companions sake I will now say peace be within thee. Because of the House of the Lord our God, I will seek thy good.
IN these words the Psalmist expresses, in strong and beautiful language, his love of his country, and the reasons on which he founded it; and my present design is, to take occasion from them to explain the duty we owe to our country, and the nature, foundation, and proper expressions of that love to it which we ought to cultivate.
I reckon this a subject particularly suitable to the services of this day, and to the Anniversary of our deliverance at the Revolution from the dangers of popery and arbitrary power; and should I, on such an occasion, be led to touch more on political subjects than would at any other time be proper in the pulpit, you will, I doubt not, excuse me.
The love of our country has in all times been a subject of warm commendations; and it is certainly a noble passion; but, like all other passions, it requires regulation and direction. There are mistakes and prejudices by which, in this instance, we are in particular danger of being misled.—I will briefly mention some of these to you, and observe,
First, That by our country is meant, in this case, not the soil or the spot of earth on which we happen to have been born; not the forests and fields, but that community of which we are members; or that body of companions and friends and kindred who are associated with us under the same constitution of government, protected by the same laws, and bound together by the same civil polity.
Secondly, It is proper to observe, that even in this sense of our country, that love of it which is our duty, does not imply any conviction of the superior value of it to other countries, or any particular preference of its laws and constitution of government. Were this implied, the love of their country would be the duty of only a very small part of mankind; for there are few countries that enjoy the advantage of laws and governments which deserve to be preferred. To found, therefore, this duty on such a preference, would be to found it on error and delusion. It is, however, a common delusion. There is the same partiality in countries, to themselves, that there is in individuals. All our attachments should be accompanied, as far as possible, with right opinions.—We are too apt to confine wisdom and virtue within the circle of our own acquaintance and party. Our friends, our country, and in short every thing related to us, we are disposed to overvalue. A wise man will guard himself against this delusion. He will study to think of all things as they are, and not suffer any partial affections to blind his understanding. In other families there may be as much worth as in our own. In other circles of friends there may be as much wisdom; and in other countries as much of all that deserves esteem; but, notwithstanding this, our obligation to love our own families, friends, and country, and to seek, in the first place, their good, will remain the same.
Thirdly, It is proper I should desire you particularly to distinguish between the love of our country and that spirit of rivalship and ambition which has been common among nations.—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? This is the principle that has been too often cried up as a virtue of the first rank: a principle of the same kind with that which governs clans of Indians or tribes of Arabs, and leads them out to plunder and massacre. As most of the evils which have taken place in private life, and among individuals, have been occasioned by the desire of private interest overcoming the public affections; so most of the evils which have taken place among bodies of men have been occasioned by the desire of their own interest overcoming the principle of universal benevolence: and leading them to attack one another’s territories, to encroach on one another’s rights, and to endeavour to build their own advancement on the degradation of all within the reach of their power—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. What is now the love of his country in a Spaniard, a Turk, or a Russian? Can it be considered as any thing better than a passion for slavery, or a blind attachment to a spot where he enjoys no rights, and is disposed of as if he was a beast?
Let us learn by such reflexions to correct and purify this passion, and to make it a just and rational principle of action.
It is very remarkable that the founder of our religion has not once mentioned this duty, or given us any recommendation of it; and this has, by unbelievers, been made an objection to Christianity. What I have said will entirely remove this objection. Certain it is, that, by inculcating on men an attachment to their country, Christianity would, at the time it was propagated, have done unspeakably more harm than good. Among the Jews, it would have been an excitement to war and insurrections; for they were then in eager expectation of becoming soon (as the favourite people of Heaven) the lords and conquerors of the earth, under the triumphant reign of the Messiah. Among the Romans, likewise, this principle had, as I have just observed, exceeded its just bounds, and rendered them enemies to the peace and happiness of mankind. By inculcating it, therefore, Christianity would have confirmed both Jews and Gentiles in one of the most pernicious faults. Our Lord and his Apostles have done better. They have 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. If you want any proof of this, think of our Saviour’s parable of the good Samaritan. The Jews and Samaritans were two rival nations that entertained a hatred of one another the most inveterate. The design of this parable was to shew to a Jew, that even a Samaritan, and consequently all men of all nations and religions, were included in the precept, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
But I am digressing from what I had chiefly in view; which was, after noticing that love of our country which is false and spurious, to explain the nature and effects of that which is just and reasonable. With this view I must desire you to recollect that we are so constituted that our affections are more drawn to some among mankind than to others, in proportion to their degrees of nearness to us, and our power of being useful to them. It is obvious that this is a circumstance in the constitution of our natures which proves the wisdom and goodness of our Maker; for had our affections been determined alike to all our fellow-creatures, human life would have been a scene of embarrassment and distraction. Our regards, according to the order of nature, begin with ourselves; and every man is charged primarily with the care of himself. Next come our families, and benefactors, and friends; and after them our country. We can do little for the interest of mankind at large. To this interest, however, all other interests are subordinate. The noblest principle in our nature is the regard to general justice, and that good-will which embraces all the world.—I have already observed this; but it cannot be too often repeated. 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.
The enquiry by what means (subject to this limitation) we may best promote the interest of our country is very important; and all that remains of this discourse shall be employed in answering it, and in exhorting you to manifest your love to your country, by the means I shall mention.
The chief blessings of human nature are the three following:—Truth—Virtue—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.—I will dwell for a few moments on each of these heads:
Our first concern, as lovers of our country, must be to enlighten it.—Why are the nations of the world so patient under despotism?—Why do they crouch to tyrants, and submit to be treated as if they were a herd of cattle? Is it not because they are kept in darkness, and want knowledge? Enlighten them and you will elevate them. Shew them they are men, and they will act like men. Give them just ideas of civil government, and let them know that it is an expedient for gaining protection against injury and defending their rights , and it will be impossible for them to submit to governments which, like most of those now in the world, are usurpations on the rights of men, and little better than contrivances for enabling the few to oppress the many. Convince them that the Deity is a righteous and benevolent as well as omnipotent being, who regards with equal eye all his creatures, and connects his favour with nothing but an honest desire to know and do his will; and that zeal for mystical doctrines which has led men to hate and harass one another will be exterminated. Set religion before them as a rational service, consisting not in any rites and ceremonies, but in worshipping God with a pure heart and practising righteousness from the fear of his displeasure and the apprehension of a future righteous judgment, and that gloomy and cruel superstition will be abolished which has hitherto gone under the name of religion, and to the support of which civil government has been perverted.—Ignorance is the parent of bigotry, intolerance, persecution and slavery. Inform and instruct mankind; and these evils will be excluded.—Happy is the person who, himself raised above vulgar errors, is conscious of having aimed at giving mankind this instruction. Happy is the Scholar or Philosopher who at the close of life can reflect that he has made this use of his learning and abilities: but happier far must he be, if at the same time he has reason to believe he has been successful, and actually contributed, by his instructions, to disseminate among his fellow-creatures just notions of themselves, of their rights, of religion, and the nature and end of civil government. Such were Milton, Locke, Sidney, Hoadly, &c. in this country; such were Montesquieu, Fenelon, Turgot, &c. in France. They sowed a seed which has since taken root, and is now growing up to a glorious harvest. To the information they conveyed by their writings we owe those revolutions in which every friend to mankind is now exulting.—What an encouragement is this to us all in our endeavours to enlighten the world? Every degree of illumination which we can communicate must do the greatest good. It helps to prepare the minds of men for the recovery of their rights, and hastens the overthrow of priestcraft and tyranny.—In short, we may, in this instance, learn our duty from the conduct of the oppressors of the world. They know that light is hostile to them, and therefore they labour to keep men in the dark. With this intention they have appointed licensers of the press; and, in Popish countries, prohibited the reading of the Bible. Remove the darkness in which they envelope the world, and their usurpations will be exposed, their power will be subverted, and the world emancipated.
The next great blessing of human nature which I have mentioned is virtue. This ought to follow knowledge, and to be directed by it. Virtue without knowledge makes enthusiasts; and knowledge without virtue makes devils; but both united elevates to the top of human dignity and perfection.—We must, therefore, if we would serve our country, make both these the objects of our zeal. We must discourage vice in all its forms; and our endeavours to enlighten must have ultimately in view a reformation of manners and virtuous practice.
I must add here, that in the practice of virtue I include the discharge of the public duties of religion. By neglecting these we may injure our country essentially. But it is melancholy to observe that it is a common neglect among us; and in a great measure owing to a cause which is not likely to be soon removed: I mean, the defects (may I not say, the absurdities?) in our established codes of faith and worship. In foreign countries, the higher ranks of men, not distinguishing between the religion they see established and the Christian religion, are generally driven to irreligion and infidelity. The like evil is produced by the like cause in this country; and if no reformation of our established formularies can be brought about, it must be expected that religion will go on to lose its credit, and that little of it will be left except among the lower orders of people, many of whom, while their superiors give up all religion, are sinking into a barbarism in religion lately revived by Methodism, and mistaking, as the world has generally done, the service acceptable to God for a system of faith souring the temper, and a service of forms supplanting morality.
I hope you will not mistake what I am now saying, or consider it as the effect of my prejudices as a Dissenter from the established church. The complaint I am making, is the complaint of many of the wisest and best men in the established church itself, who have been long urging the necessity of a revisal of its Liturgy and Articles . These were framed above two centuries ago, when Christendom was just emerging from the ignorance and barbarity of the dark ages. They remain now much the same they were then; and, therefore, cannot be properly adapted to the good sense and liberality of the present times.—This imperfection, however, in our public forms of worship, affords no excuse to any person for neglecting public worship. All communities will have some religion; and it is of infinite consequence that they should be led to that which, by enforcing the obligations of virtue and putting men upon loving instead of damning one another, is most favourable to the interest of society.
If there is a Governor of the world, who directs all events, he ought to be invoked and worshipped; and those who dislike that mode of worship which is prescribed by public authority, ought (if they can find no worship out of the church which they approve) to set up a separate worship for themselves; and by doing this, and giving an example of a rational and manly worship, men of weight, from their rank or literature, may do the greatest service to society and the world. They may bear a testimony against that application of civil power to the support of particular modes of faith, which obstructs human improvement, and perpetuates error; and they may hold out an instruction which will discountenance superstition, and at the same time recommend religion, by making it appear to be (what it certainly is when rightly understood) the strongest incentive to all that is generous and worthy, and consequently the best friend to public order and happiness.
Liberty is the next great blessing which I have mentioned as the object of patriotic zeal. It is inseparable from knowledge and virtue, and together with them completes the glory of a community. An enlightened and virtuous country must be a free country. It cannot suffer invasions of its rights, or bend to tyrants.—I need not, on this occasion, take any pains to shew you how great a blessing liberty is. The smallest attention to the history of past ages, and the present state of mankind, will make you sensible of its importance. Look round the world, and you will find almost every country, respectable or contemptible, happy or miserable, a fruitful field or a frightful waste, according as it possesses or wants this blessing. Think of Greece, formerly the seat of arts and science, and the most distinguished spot under heaven; but now, having lost liberty, a vile and wretched spot, a region of darkness, poverty, and barbarity.—Such reflexions must convince you that, if you love your country, you cannot be zealous enough in promoting the cause of liberty in it. But it will come in my way to say more to this purpose presently.
The observations I have made include our whole duty to our country; for by endeavouring to liberalize and enlighten it, to discourage vice and to promote virtue in it, and to assert and support its liberties, we shall endeavour to do all that is necessary to make it great and happy.—But it is proper that, on this occasion, I should be more explicit, and exemplify our duty to our country by observing farther, that it requires us to obey its laws, and to respect its magistrates.
Civil government (as I have before observed) is an institution of human prudence for guarding our persons, our property, and our good name, against invasion; and for securing to the members of a community that liberty to which all have an equal right, as far as they do not, by any overt act, use it to injure the liberty of others. Civil laws are regulations agreed upon by the community for gaining these ends ; and civil magistrates are officers appointed by the community for executing these laws. Obedience, therefore, to the laws and to magistrates, are necessary expressions of our regard to the community; and without this obedience the ends of government cannot be obtained, or a community avoid falling into a state of anarchy that will destroy those rights and subvert that liberty, which government is instituted to protect.
I wish it was in my power to give you a just account of the importance of this observation. It shews the ground on which the duty of obeying civil governors stands, and that there are two extremes in this case which ought to be avoided.—These extremes are adulation and servility on one hand; and a and licentious contempt on the other. The former is the extreme to which mankind in general have been most prone; for it has oftener happened that men have been too passive than too unruly; and the rebellion of Kings against their people has been more common, and done more mischief, than the rebellion of people against their Kings.
Adulation is always odious, and when offered to men in power it corrupts them, by giving them improper ideas of their situation; and it debases those who offer it, by manifesting an abjectness founded on improper ideas of themselves. I have lately observed in this kingdom too near approaches to this abjectness. In our late addresses to the King, on his recovery from the severe illness with which God has been pleased to afflict him, we have appeared more like a herd crawling at the feet of a master, than like enlightened and manly citizens rejoicing with a beloved sovereign, but at the same time conscious that he derives all his consequence from themselves. But, perhaps, these servilities in the language of our late addresses should be pardoned, as only forms of civility and expressions of an overflow of good-nature. They have, however, a dangerous tendency. The potentates of this world are sufficiently apt to consider themselves as possessed of an inherent superiority, which gives them a right to govern, and makes mankind their own; and this infatuation is almost every where fostered in them by the creeping sycophants about them, and the language of flattery which they are continually hearing.
Civil governors are properly the servants of the public; and a King is no more than the first servant of the public, created by it, maintained by it, and responsible to it: and all the homage paid him, is due to him on no other account than his relation to the public. His sacredness is the sacredness of the community. His authority is the authority of the community; and the term Majesty, which it is usual to apply to him, is by no means his own majesty, but the majesty of the people. For this reason, whatever he may be in his private capacity; and though, in respect of personal qualities, not equal to, or even far below many among ourselves—For this reason, I say, (that is, as representing the community and its first magistrate), he is entitled to our reverence and obedience. The words most excellent majesty are rightly applied to him; and there is a respect which it would be criminal to withhold from him.
You cannot be too attentive to this observation. The improvement of the world depends on the attention to it: nor will mankind be ever as virtuous and happy as they are capable of being, till the attention to it becomes universal and efficacious. If we forget it, we shall be in danger of an idolatry as gross and stupid as that of the ancient heathens, who, after fabricating blocks of wood or stone, fell down and worshipped them.—The disposition in mankind to this kind of idolatry is indeed a very mortifying subject of reflexion.—In Turkey, millions of human beings adore a silly mortal, and are ready to throw themselves at his feet, and to submit their lives to his discretion.—In Russia, the common people are only a stock on the lands of grandees, or appendages to their estates, which, like the fixtures in a house, are bought and sold with the estates. In Spain, in Germany, and under most of the governments of the world, mankind are in a similar state of humiliation. Who, that has a just sense of the dignity of his nature, can avoid execrating such a debasement of it?
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 enjoy all possible happiness. May God shew you the folly of those effusions of adulation which you are now receiving, and guard you against their effects. 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.”
But I must not forget the opposite extreme to that now taken notice of; that is, a disdainful pride, derived from a consciousness of equality, or, perhaps, superiority, in respect of all that gives true dignity to men in power, and producing a contempt of them, and a disposition to treat them with rudeness and insult. It is a trite observation, that extremes generally beget one another. This is particularly true in the present case. Persons justly informed on the subject of government, when they see men dazzled by looking up to high stations, and observe loyalty carried to a length that implies ignorance and servility: such persons, in such circumstances, are in danger of spurning at all public authority, and throwing off that respectful demeanor to persons invested with it which the order of society requires. There is undoubtedly a particular deference and homage due to civil magistrates, on account of their stations and offices; nor can that man be either truly wise or truly virtuous, who despises governments, and wantonly speaks evil of his rulers; or who does not, by all the means in his power, endeavour to strengthen their hands, and to give weight to their exertions in the discharge of their duty.—Fear God, says St. Peter. Love the brotherhood. Honour all men. Honour the King.—You must needs, says St. Paul, be subject to rulers, not only for wrath (that is, from the fear of suffering the penalties annexed to the breach of the laws), but for conscience sake. For rulers are ministers of God, and revengersfor executing wrath on all that do evil.
Another expression of our love to our country is defending it against enemies. These enemies are of two sorts, internal and external; or domestic and foreign. The former are the most dangerous, and they have generally been the most successful. I have just observed, that there is a submission due to the executive officers of government, which is our duty; but you must not forget what I have also observed, that it must not be a blind and slavish submission. Men in power (unless better disposed than is common) are always endeavouring to extend their power. They hate the doctrine, that it is a trust derived from the people, and not a right vested in themselves. For this reason, the tendency of every government is to despotism; and in this the best constituted governments must end, if the people are not vigilant, ready to take alarms, and determined to resist abuses as soon as they begin. This vigilance, therefore, it is our duty to maintain. Whenever it is withdrawn, and a people cease to reason about their rights and to be awake to encroachments, they are in danger of being enslaved, and their servants will soon become their masters.
I need not say how much it is our duty to defend our country against foreign enemies. When a country is attacked in any of its rights by another country, or when any attempts are made by ambitious foreign powers to injure it, a war in its defence becomes necessary: and, in such circumstances, to die for our country is meritorious and noble. These defensive wars are, in my opinion, the only just wars. Offensive wars are always unlawful; and to seek the aggrandizement of our country by them, that is, by attacking other countries, in order to extend dominion, or to gratify avarice, is wicked and detestable. Such, however, have been most of the wars which have taken place in the world; but the time is, I hope, coming, when a conviction will prevail, of the folly as well as the iniquity of wars; and when the nations of the earth, happy under just governments, and no longer in danger from the passions of Kings, will find out better ways of settling their disputes; and beat (as Isaiah prophecies) their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks.
Among the particulars included in that duty to our country, by discharging which we should shew our love to it, I will only further mention praying for it, and offering up thanksgivings to God for every event favourable to it. At the present season we are called upon to express, in this way, our love to our country. It is the business of this day, and of the present service; and, therefore, it is necessary that I should now direct your attention to it particularly.
We are met to thank God for that event in this country to which the name of The Revolution has been given; and which, for more than a century, it has been usual for the friends of freedom, and more especially Protestant Dissenters, under the title of the Revolution Society, to celebrate with expressions of joy and exultation.—My highly valued and excellent friend , who addressed you on this occasion last year, has given you an interesting account of the principal circumstances that attended this event, and of the reasons we have for rejoicing in it. By a bloodless victory, the fetters which despotism had been long preparing for us were broken; the rights of the people were asserted, a tyrant expelled, and a Sovereign of our own choice appointed in his room. Security was given to our property, and our consciences were emancipated. The bounds of free enquiry were enlarged; the volume in which are the words of eternal life, was laid more open to our examination; and that æra of light and liberty was introduced among us, by which we have been made an example to other kingdoms, and became the instructors of the world. Had it not been for this deliverance, the probability is, that, instead of being thus distinguished, we should now have been a base people, groaning under the infamy and misery of popery and slavery. Let us, therefore, offer thanksgivings to God, the author of all our blessings. Had he not been on our side, we should have been swallowed up quick, and the proud waters would have gone over our souls. But our souls are escaped, and the snare has been broken. Blessed then be the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth. cxxivth Psalm.
It is well known that King James was not far from gaining his purpose; and that probably he would have succeeded, had he been less in a hurry. But he was a fool as well as a bigot. He wanted courage as well as prudence; and, therefore, fled, and left us to settle quietly for ourselves that constitution of government which is now our boast. We have particular reason, as Protestant Dissenters, to rejoice on this occasion. It was at this time we were rescued from persecution, and obtained the liberty of worshipping God in the manner we think most acceptable to him. It was then our meeting-houses were opened, our worship was taken under the protection of the law, and the principles of toleration gained a triumph. We have, therefore, on this occasion, peculiar reasons for thanksgiving—But let us remember that we ought not to satisfy ourselves with thanksgivings. Our gratitude, if genuine, will be accompanied with endeavours to give stability to the deliverance our country has obtained, and to extend and improve the happiness with which the Revolution has blest us—Let us, in particular, take care not to forget the principles of the Revolution. This Society has, very properly, in its Reports, held out these principles, as an instruction to the public. 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.
On these three principles, and more especially the last, was the Revolution founded. Were it not true that liberty of conscience is a sacred right; that power abused justifies resistance; and that civil authority is a delegation from the people—Were not, I say, all this true; the Revolution would have been not an assertion, but an invasion of rights; not a Revolution, but a Rebellion. Cherish in your breasts this conviction, and act under its influence; detesting the odious doctrines of passive obedience, nonresistance, and the divine right of kings—doctrines which, had they been acted upon in this country, would have left us at this time wretched slaves—doctrines which imply, that God made mankind to be oppressed and plundered; and which are no less a blasphemy against him, than an insult on common sense.
I would farther direct you to remember, that though the Revolution was a great work, it was by no means a perfect work; and that all was not then gained which was necessary to put the kingdom in the secure and complete possession of the blessings of liberty.—In particular, you should recollect, that the toleration then obtained was imperfect. It included only those who could declare their faith in the doctrinal articles of the church of England. It has, indeed, been since extended, but not sufficiently; for there still exist penal laws on account of religious opinions, which (were they carried into execution) would shut up many of our places of worship, and silence and imprison some of our ablest and best men.—The test laws are also still in force; and deprive of eligibility to civil and military offices, all who cannot conform to the established worship. It is with great pleasure I find that the body of Protestant Dissenters, though defeated in two late attempts to deliver their country from this disgrace to it, have determined to persevere. Should they at last succeed, they will have the satisfaction, not only of removing from themselves a proscription they do not deserve, but of contributing to lessen the number of our public iniquities. For I cannot call by a gentler name, laws which convert an ordinance appointed by our Saviour to commemorate his death, into an instrument of oppressive policy, and a qualification of rakes and atheists for civil posts.—I have said, should they succeed—but perhaps I ought not to suggest a doubt about their success . And, indeed, when I consider that in Scotland the established church is defended by no such test—that in Ireland it has been abolished—that in a great neighbouring country it has been declared to be an indefeasible right of all citizens to be equally eligible to public offices—that in the same kingdom a professed Dissenter from the established church holds the first office in the state—that in the Emperor’s dominions Jews have been lately admitted to the enjoyment of equal privileges with other citizens—and that in this very country, a Dissenter, though excluded from the power of executing the laws, yet is allowed to be employed in making them.—When, I say, I consider such facts as these, I am disposed to think it impossible that the enemies of the repeal of the Test Laws should not soon become ashamed, and give up their opposition.
But 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 . When the representation is fair and equal, and at the same time vested with such powers as our House of Commons possesses, a kingdom may be said to govern itself, and consequently to possess true liberty. When the representation is partial, a kingdom possesses liberty only partially; and if extremely partial, it only gives a semblance of liberty; but if not only extremely partial, but corruptly chosen, and under corrupt influence after being chosen, it becomes a nuisance, and produces the worst of all forms of government—a government by corruption—a government carried on and supported by spreading venality and profligacy through a kingdom. May heaven preserve this kingdom from a calamity so dreadful! It is the point of depravity to which abuses under such a government as ours naturally tend, and the last stage of national unhappiness. We are, at present, I hope, at a great distance from it. But it cannot be pretended that there are no advances towards it, or that there is no reason for apprehension and alarm.
The inadequateness of our representation has been long a subject of complaint. This is, in truth, our fundamental grievance; and I do not think that any thing is much more our duty, as men who love their country, and are grateful for the Revolution, than to unite our zeal in endeavouring to get it redressed. At the time of the American war, associations were formed for this purpose in London, and other parts of the kingdom; and our present Minister himself has, since that war, directed to it an effort which made him a favourite with many of us. But all attention to it seems now lost, and the probability is, that this inattention will continue, and that nothing will be done towards gaining for us this essential blessing, till some great calamity again alarms our fears, or till some great abuse of power again provokes our resentment; or, perhaps, till the acquisition of a pure and equal representation by other countries (while we are mocked with the shadow ) kindles our shame.
Such is the conduct by which we ought to express our gratitude for the Revolution.—We should always bear in mind the principles that justify it. We should contribute all we can towards supplying what it left deficient; and shew ourselves anxious about transmitting the blessings obtained by it to our posterity, unimpaired and improved.—But, brethren, while we thus shew our patriotic zeal, let us take care not to disgrace the cause of patriotism, by any licentious, or immoral conduct.—Oh! how earnestly do I wish that all who profess zeal in this cause, were as distinguished by the purity of their morals, as some of them are by their abilities; and that I could make them sensible of the advantages they would derive from a virtuous character, and of the suspicions they incur and the loss of consequence they suffer by wanting it.—Oh! that I could see in men who oppose tyranny in the state, a disdain of the tyranny of low passions in themselves; or, at least, such a sense of shame, and regard to public order and decency as would induce them to hide their irregularities, and to avoid insulting the virtuous part of the community by an open exhibition of vice!—I cannot reconcile myself to the idea of an immoral patriot, or to that separation of private from public virtue, which some think to be possible. Is it to be expected that— But I must forbear. I am afraid of applications, which many are too ready to make, and for which I should be sorry to give any just occasion.
I have been explaining to you the nature and expressions of a just regard to our country. Give me leave to exhort you to examine your conduct by what I have been saying. You love your country, and desire its happiness; and, without doubt, you have the greatest reason for loving it. It has been long a very distinguished and favoured country. Often has God appeared for it and delivered it. Let us study to shew ourselves worthy of the favour shewn us.—Do you practise virtue yourselves, and study to promote it in others? Do you obey the laws of your country, and aim at doing your part towards maintaining and perpetuating its privileges? Do you always give your vote on the side of public liberty; and are you ready to pour out your blood in its defence? Do you look up to God for the continuance of his favour to your country, and pray for its prosperity; preserving, at the same time, a strict regard to the rights of other countries, and always considering yourselves more as citizens of the world than as members of any particular community?—If this is your temper and conduct you are blessings to your country, and were all like you, this world would soon be a heaven.
I am addressing myself to Christians. Let me, therefore, mention to you the example of our blessed Saviour. I have observed, at the beginning of this discourse, that he did not inculcate upon his hearers the love of their country, or take any notice of it as a part of our duty. Instead of doing this, I observed that he taught the obligation to love all mankind, and recommended universal benevolence, as (next to the love of God) our first duty; and, I think, I also proved to you, that this, in the circumstances of the world at that time, was an instance of incomparable wisdom and goodness in his instructions. But we must not infer from hence, that he did not include the love of our country in the number of our duties. He has shewn the contrary by his example. It appears that he possessed a particular affection for his country, though a very wicked country. We read in Luke x. 42, that when, upon approaching Jerusalem, in one of his last journies to it, he beheld it, he wept over it, and said; Oh! that thou hadst known (even thou, at least in this thy day) the things that belong to thy peace.—What a tender solicitude about his country does the lamentation over Jerusalem imply, which is recorded in the same gospel, chap. xiii. and 34. Oh! Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them who are sent to thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen gathereth her brood under her wings, but ye would not.
It may not be improper farther to mention the love St. Paul expressed for his country, when he declared, that, for the sake of his brethren and kinsmen, he could even wish himself accursed from Christ. (Rom. ix. 3.) The original words are an Anathemafrom Christ; and his meaning is, that he could have been contented to suffer himself the calamities which were coming on the Jewish people, were it possible for him, by such a sacrifice of himself, to save them.
It is too evident that the state of this country is such as renders it an object of concern and anxiety. It wants (I have shewn you) the grand security of public liberty. Increasing luxury has multiplied abuses in it. A monstrous weight of debt is crippling it. Vice and venality are bringing down upon it God’s displeasure. That spirit to which it owes its distinctions is declining ; and some late events seem to prove that it is becoming every day more reconcileable to encroachments on the securities of its liberties .—It wants, therefore, your patriotic services; and, for the sake of the distinctions it has so long enjoyed; for the sake of our brethren and companions, and all that should be dear to a free people, we ought to do our utmost to save it from the dangers that threaten it; remembering, that by acting thus, we shall promote, in the best manner, our own private interest, as well as the interest of our country; for when the community prospers, the individuals that compose it must prosper with it.—But, should that not happen, or should we even suffer in our secular interest by our endeavours to promote the interest of our country, we shall feel a satisfaction in our own breasts which is preferable to all this world can give; and we shall enjoy the transporting hope of soon becoming members of a perfect community in the heavens, and having an entrance ministered to us, abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
You may reasonably expect that I should now close this address to you. But I cannot yet dismiss you. I must not conclude without recalling, particularly, to your recollection, a consideration to which I have more than once alluded, and which, probably, your thoughts have been all along anticipating: A consideration with which my mind is impressed more than I can express. I mean, the consideration of the favourableness of the present times to all exertions in the cause of public liberty.
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.
Be encouraged, all ye friends of freedom, and writers in its defence! The times are auspicious. Your labours have not been in vain. Behold kingdoms, admonished by you, starting from sleep, breaking their fetters, and claiming justice from their oppressors! Behold, the light you have struck out, after setting America free, reflected to France, and there kindled into a blaze that lays despotism in ashes, and warms and illuminates Europe!
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.
MY reasons for stating the People of France at this number, will appear from the following facts and observations.
From accurate enumerations made at the end of every three years in Sweden, during 21 years, from 1755 to 1775, it appeared that the average number of inhabitants of all ages, was in that period 2,310,160.
The average of annual births, was 90,245.
The average of annual deaths, including three years of extraordinary mortality, was 66,759. A 34th part and three-fifths, therefore, of the inhabitants died annually. See my Treatise on Annuities, Vol. I. p. 274, and Vol. II. p. 123, &c. and the first additional Essay at the end of the second Vol. p. 16, &c.
In the kingdom of Naples, consisting in 1777 of 4,311,503 inhabitants, the average of annual deaths for five years was 115,412. A 37th ⅓ part, therefore, of the inhabitants died annually. Ib. Vol. I. p. 274.
In the province of Vaud,Switzerland, containing 112,951 inhabitants, a 45th part dies annually. Ib.
In the kingdom of France, the medium of annual deaths, births, and marriages, was
|Of BIRTHS for 4 years, to 1774||914,710||For 6 years, to 1780,||958,419|
I see no reason for suspecting, that the proportion of inhabitants dying annually to the whole number of inhabitants, is greater in France than in Sweden, or even in the kingdom of Naples. Let it, however, be reckoned the same with that in Sweden; that is, as 1 to 34⅗, and the number of inhabitants in France, in 1780, must have been 34⅗ multiplied by 834,865, or nearly twenty-nine millions.
It should be observed, that in the ten years from 1771 to 1780, there was in France such an increase of the annual births, deaths, and marriages (produced by the excess of the births above the deaths), as evidently proved that the number of inhabitants had increased in those ten years near a million and a half.
It should be farther considered, that the returns of births, deaths, and marriages in France, being returns of numbers actually counted and registered, they must be (as such accounts always are) in some degree deficient. Mr. Neckar, in his Treatise on the Administration of the Finances of France (Vol. I. p. 251) has mentioned other deficiencies in these returns; and, particularly, that (except the Jews of Lorrain, Alsace, and the county of Metz) the registers of population do not contain the names of any non-catholicks (in number near two millions), except they have been baptized in the established church.
It seems, therefore, that my statement of the present inhabitants of France at thirty millions, is very moderate: an addition of two millions on account of an increase since 1780, and the deficiencies just mentioned, would make them 31 millions. Mr. Neckar (ibid. p. 219), without making any allowance for this increase, and for deficiencies, states them in 1784 at only 24,802,580, in consequence of multiplying the births by 25¾. But I reckon that in whole kingdoms the proportion of births to the number of inhabitants much more variable than the proportion of deaths; possibly, he was not acquainted with the facts here stated, and many others of the same kind which may be found in the Treatise on Annuities to which I have referred, and which prove that the lowest multiplier of the annual medium of deaths which should be used to find the number of inhabitants in a whole kingdom, is 32 or 33. In Sweden and the kingdom of Naples it appears to be greater; but, if we suppose 33 the right multiplier, the inhabitants of France must have been in 1780, 27½ millions; and the increase since, with the deficiencies in the returns, will make it highly probable that, even on this supposition, they must be now near 30 millions.
If the births in Sweden are taken for guides in this case, it will be reasonable, in order to find the right multiplier, to increase it for France in the same proportion that the ratio of the excess of the births above the deaths there is less than the same ratio in Sweden. And this will make the proper multiplier of the births in France 30 nearly, and will give the number of inhabitants in 1780 near 29 millions, as before. I wish there were equal data for determining the number of people in Britain.
THE Representatives of the people of France formed into a National Assembly, considering that ignorance, neglect, or contempt of human rights, are the sole causes of public misfortunes and corruptions of government, have resolved to set forth in a solemn declaration, these natural, imprescriptible, and unalienable rights: that this declaration being constantly present to the minds of the members of the body social, they may be ever kept attentive to their rights and their duties: That the acts of the legislative and executive powers of government being capable of being every moment compared with the end of political institutions, may be more respected: and also, that the future claims of the citizens, being directed by simple and incontestible principles, may always tend to the maintenance of the Constitution, and the general happiness.
For these reasons, the National Assembly doth recognize and declare, in the presence of the Supreme Being and with the hope of his blessing and favour, the following sacred rights of men and of citizens.
I. Men were born and always continue free, and equal in respect of their rights. Civil distinctions, therefore, can be founded only on public utility.
II. The end of all political associations is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man; and these rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance of oppression.
III. The nation is essentially the source of all sovereignty; nor can any individual, or any body of men be entitled to any authority which is not expressly derived from it.
IV. Political liberty consists in the power of doing whatever does not injure another. The exercise of the natural rights of every man, has no other limits than those which are necessary to secure to every other man the free exercise of the same rights; and these limits are determinable only by the law.
V. The law ought to prohibit only actions hurtful to society. What is not prohibited by the law should not be hindered; nor should any one be compelled to that which the law does not require.
VI. The law is an expression of the will of the community. All citizens have a right to concur, either personally or by their representatives, in its formation. It should be the same to all, whether it protects or punishes; and all being equal in its sight, are equally eligible to all honours, places, and employments, according to their different abilities, without any other distinction than that created by their virtues and talents.
VII. No man should be accused, arrested, or held in confinement, except in cases determined by the law, and according to the forms which it has prescribed. All who promote, solicit, execute, or cause to be executed arbitrary orders, ought to be punished: and every citizen called upon or apprehended by virtue of the law, ought immediately to obey, and renders himself culpable by resistance.
VIII. The law ought to impose no other penalties than such as are absolutely and evidently necessary; and no one ought to be punished but in virtue of a law promulgated before the offence, and legally applied.
IX. Every man being presumed innocent till he has been convicted, whenever his detention becomes indispensible, all rigour to him, more than is necessary to secure his person, ought to be provided against by the law.
X. No man ought to be molested on account of his opinions, not even on account of his religious opinions, provided his avowal of them does not disturb the public order established by the law.
XI. The unrestrained communication of thoughts and opinions being one of the most precious rights of man, every citizen may speak, write, and publish freely, provided he is responsible for the abuse of this liberty in cases determined by the law.
XII. A public force being necessary to give security to the rights of men and of citizens, that force is instituted for the benefit of the community, and not for the particular benefit of the persons with whom it is entrusted.
XIII. A common contribution being necessary for the support of the public force, and for defraying the other expences of government, it ought to be divided equally among the members of the community, according to their abilities.
XIV. Every citizen has a right, either by himself or his representative, to a free voice in determining the necessity of public contributions, the appropriation of them, and their amount, mode of assessment, and duration.
XV. Every community has a right to demand of all its agents an account of their conduct.
XVI. Every community in which a separation of powers and a security of rights is not provided for, wants a constitution.
XVII. The right to property being inviolable and sacred, no one ought to be deprived of it, except in cases of evident public necessity legally ascertained, and on condition of a previous just indemnity.
I hope I shall be excused for taking the liberty to offer the following remarks on the tenth of these articles:
Intolerance in Religion, and restraints on the discussion of speculative points, have been some of the chief causes of the slow progress of human improvement, and of the miseries of the world. I could therefore have wished to see, in such an instruction to the world as this declaration contains, an article strongly marking and reprobating these evils. This tenth article does not, I think, sufficiently answer this purpose. For it is obvious, that in Turkey, writing against Mahomet; in Spain, against the Inquisition; and in every country, against its established doctrines, is a disturbance of public order established by law; and, therefore, according to this article, punishable.
The eleventh article is worthy of the very respectble proposer of it, but in some degree liable to the same objection. Laws may be unjust, and determine the fairest discussions of speculative points, and the best publications, to be abuses of liberty. At Rome, a few years ago, the publication of one of the greatest productions of human genius was deemed an abuse of liberty, and prohibited, because it asserted the motion of the earth. Even in England, at this day, its laws determine every thing written or spoken against the doctrine of the Trinity, to be an offence punishable by fines and imprisonment.
The declaration that would best meet my wishes in this instance would be:
“That every man has a right to profess and practise, without molestation or the loss of any civil privilege, that mode of religious faith and worship which he thinks most acceptable to his maker; and also to discuss freely by speaking, writing, and publishing all speculative points, provided he does not by any overt act or direct invasion of the rights of others, break the peace, or attempt to injure any one in his person, property, or good name.”
In a Tract on the American Revolution, I have given an account of the reasons, which in my opinion require such an extent of religious and intellectual liberty as these words imply; and which prove that civil power, without concerning itself about opinions or the tendencies of opinions, ought to confine itself to the preservation of peace and the protection of universal liberty, as far as it is not employed to injure itself.
The tenth article, on which I have here remarked, was probably a compromise between opposite sentiments in the National Assembly of France, and may, I hope, in some future time, be re-considered. M. Rabaud de St. Etienne, a protestant clergyman, and a member of the Assembly, delivered a speech against it full of eloquence and the justest sentiments. This speech was afterwards printed, and circulated at Paris; and I cannot help wishing that a translation of it, as there printed, may be soon published and circulated in this kingdom.
The Rt. Hon. Earl Stanhope in the Chair,
A Report from the Commitee was brought up, from which the following is an extract:
“Your Committee are persuaded, that by the union of the friends of freedom, their rights are ascertained and established; and trusting that it will be highly honourable to avow ourselves, in the most explicit manner, advocates for the pure and genuine principles of civil and religious liberty, they have with this view prepared a book, in which those gentlemen who are inclined to let their names be transmitted to posterity, as the friends of the great and glorious Revolution of 1688, may insert them after the following preamble, and a declaration of assent to the three following propositions.
This Society, sensible of the important advantages arising to this country by its deliverance from popery and arbitrary power, and conscious that, under God, we owe that signal blessing to the Revolution, which seated our deliverer King William the Third on the throne; do hereby declare our firm attachment to the civil and religious principles which were recognized and established by that glorious event, and which has preserved the succession in the protestant line; and our determined resolution to maintain, and, to the utmost of our power, to perpetuate, those blessings to the latest posterity.
1. That all civil and political authority is derived from the people.
2. That the abuse of power justifies resistance.
3. That the right of private judgment, liberty of conscience, trial by jury, the freedom of the press, and the freedom of election, ought ever to be held sacred and inviolable.
The Committee farther resolved,
That in order to cause the principles of the Revolution to be well understood, extensively propagated, and firmly maintained; and to preserve the glorious fabric of the British Constitution; and to transmit the invaluable blessings of public freedom to posterity, unimpaired and improved, it becomes the people to establish societies throughout the kingdom upon Revolution principles, to maintain a correspondence with each other, and to form that grand concentrated union of the true friends of public liberty, which may be necessary to maintain its existence.
The Committee concluded their Report with congratulating the members of the Society, as Britons, and citizens of the world, upon that noble spirit of civil and religious liberty which had, since the last meeting, so conspicuously shone forth on the continent, more especially on the glorious success of the French Revolution; and with expressing their ardent wishes that the influence of so glorious an example may be felt by all mankind, until tyranny and despotism shall be swept from the face of the globe, and universal liberty and happiness prevail.
Dr. Price then moved, and it was unanimously resolved, that the following Congratulatory Address to the National Assembly of France, be transmitted to them, signed by the Chairman:
‘The Society for commemorating the Revolution in Great Britain, disdaining national partialities, and rejoicing in every triumph of liberty and justice over arbitrary power, offer to the National Assembly of France their congratulations on the Revolution in that country, and on the prospect it gives to the two first kingdoms in the world, of a common participation in the blessings of civil and religious liberty.
‘They cannot help adding their ardent wishes of an happy settlement of so important a Revolution, and at the same time expressing the particular satisfaction, with which they reflect on the tendency of the glorious example given in France to encourage other nations to assert the unalienable rights of mankind, and thereby to introduce a general reformation in the governments of Europe, and to make the world free and happy.
I. OBSERVATIONS on Reversionary Payments; on Schemes for providing Annuities for Widows, and for Persons in Old Age; on the Method of calculating the Values of Assurances on Lives; and on the National Debt. To which are added, Four Essays on different Subjects in the Doctrine of Life Annuities and Political Arithmetick. The Fourth Edition, enlarged into Two Volumes by Additional Notes and Effays, a Collection of New Tables, a History of the Sinking Fund, a State of the Public Debts in January 1783, and a Postscript on the Population of the Kingdom. Price 15s. bound.
II. Two Tracts on Civil Liberty, the War with America, and the Debts and Finances of the Kingdom; with a General Introduction and Supplement. The 8th Edition. Price 6s. bound.
III. A Review of the principal Questions and Difficulties in Morals. Particularly, those relating to the Original of our Ideas of Virtue, its Nature, Foundation, Reference to the Deity, Obligation, Subject-Matter, and Sanctions. The 3d Edition. With an Appendix: containing Additional Notes, and a Dissertation on the Being and Attributes of the Deity. Price 6s.
IV.Four Dissertations.—I. On Providence.—II. On Prayer.—III. On the Reasons for expecting that virtuous Men should meet after Death in a State of Happiness.—IV. On the Importance of Christianity, the Nature of Historical Evidence, and Miracles. The 4th Edition. Price 6s.
V. An Appeal to the Public, on the Subject of the National Debt. The 2d Edition; with an Appendix, containing Explanatory Observations and Tables; and an Account of the present State of Population in Norfolk. Price 2s.
VI.A Sermon delivered to a Congregation of Protestant Dissenters, at Hackney, on the 10th of Feb. 1779, being the Day appointed for a General Fast. The 2d Edition. To which are added, Remarks on a Passage in the Bishop of London’s Sermon on Ash-Wednesday, 1779. Price 1s.
VII.A Discourse addressed to a Congregation at Hackney, on February 21, 1781, being the Day appointed for a Public Fast. Price 1s.
VIII. An Essay on the Population of England, from the Revolution to the present Time. With an Appendix, containing Remarks on the Account of the Population, Trade, and Resources of the Kingdom, in Mr. Eden’s Letters to Lord Carlisle. The 2d Edition. Price 2s.
IX. The Evidence for a future Period of Improvement in the State of Mankind, with the Means and Duty of promoting it represented, in a Discourse delivered the 25th of April, 1787, at the Meeting-House in the Old Jewry, London, to the Supporters of a New Academical Institution among Protestant Dissenters.
X.Sermons on the Christian Doctrine, as received by the different Denominations of Christians. To which are added, Sermons on the Security and Happiness of a Virtuous Course; on the Goodness of God, and the Resurrection of Lazarus. The 2d Edition, corrected. With an Appendix, occasioned by Dr. Priestley’s Letters to the Author.
XI.Observations on the Importance of the American Revolution; and the Means of making it a Benefit to the World. To which is added, A Letter to the Author, from M. Turgot, late Comptroller General of the Finances of France. With an Appendix, containing a Translation of the Will of M. Fortune Ricard; lately published in France.
Printed for Mr. Johnson, in St. Paul’s Church-Yard.
XII.A Free Discussion of the Doctrines of Materialism and Philosophical Necessity, in a Correspondence between Dr. Price and Dr. Priestley.
AT the Anniversary Meeting of the Society for commemorating the Revolution in Great Britain held at the London Tavern, Nov. 4, 1789, Dr. Price moved, and it was unanimously resolved, that the following Congratulatory Address to the National Assembly of France, be transmitted to them, signed by the Chairman:
‘The Society for commemorating the Revolution in Great Britain, disdaining national partialities, and rejoicing in every triumph of liberty and justice over arbitrary power, offer to the National Assembly of France their congratulations on the Revolution in that country, and on the prospect it gives to the two first kingdoms in the world, of a common participation in the blessings of civil and religious liberty.
‘They cannot help adding their ardent wishes of a happy settlement of so important a Revolution, and at the same time expressing the particular satisfaction, with which they reflect on the tendency of the glorious example given in France to encourage other nations to assert the unalienable rights of mankind, and thereby to introduce a general reformation in the governments of Europe, and to make the world free and happy.
In pursuance of the resolution of the Society, this Congratulatory Address was conveyed to the Duke of Rochefoucauld at Paris, with a letter requesting him to present it to the National Assembly, and at the same time imtimating, that the Society considered the National Assembly as acting for the world as well as for the great kingdom it represented, and therefore hoped that their Address was not an improper intrusion; or, if it was, that it would be excused as an effusion of zeal in the cause of general liberty and human happiness which no considerations of impropriety had been able to suppress.
The following communications and letters will shew how highly the Society has been gratified by the favourable reception of its Address.
“C’etoit bien—au Dr. Price qui’l appartenoit de proposer une motion tendante à faire à cette Liberte le plus bel hommage, celui des préjugés nationaux. L’addresse de felicitation que le Comte de Stanhope a fait l’honneur au Duc de la Rochefoucauld de lui envoier a été reçue de l’Assemblée Nationale avec de viss applaudissemens. Elle y a vu l’aurore du beau jour ou deux nations qui se sont toujours estimées malgrè leurs divisions politiques, et malgrè la deversite de leurs gouvernemens, contracteront une liaison intime par la similitude de leurs opinions, et par leur enthousiasme commun pour la Liberté. Elle a charge son President d’ecrire au Ct. de Stanhope, mais les occupations multipliées de la Presidence n’aiant pas encore permis l’expedition de la lettre, le Duc de la Rochefoucauld s’empresse toujours d’avoir l’honeur de repondre au Docteur Price.—Heureux d’avoir ete choisi pour cette honorable commission, il en a rendu compte a l’Assemblée Nationale, et en lui presentant l’addresse il lui a fait connoitre les droits qu’avoit a son estime, & a l’estime de la nation Francoise une Société dont l’objet est aussi noble et aussi patriotique, &c. &c.
“It belonged to—Dr. Price to propose a motion tending to pay to liberty the fairest homage, that of national prejudices.—The address of congratulation which Earl Stanhope has done the Duke de la Rochefoucauld the honour to transmit to him, has been received by the National Assembly with lively applause. They have seen in that address the dawn of a glorious day, in which two nations who have always esteemed one another notwithstanding their political divisions and the diversity of their governments, shall contract an intimate union, founded on the similarity of their opinions and their common enthusiasm for liberty.—They have directed their President to write to Earl Stanhope; but the multiplicity of the business of the Presidency not having yet permitted the expediting of that letter, the Duke de la Rochefoucauld has not delayed to do himself the honour of writing to Dr. Price. Happy in having been chosen for such an honourable commission, he has rendered an account of it to the National Assembly; and, in presenting to them the address of a Society whose object is so noble and patriotic, he has acquainted them with the claim which it has to their esteem, and to the esteem of the whole French nation, &c. &c.
Un membre a lu une adresse de felicitation de la part de la Société Angloise, appellée Société de la Revolution. L’assemblée vivement touchée de ce temoignage extraordinaire d’estime a exprimé sa satisfaction par de grands applaudissemens, et a décrété que M. le Président sera chargé d’ecrire à Milord Stanhope Président de la Société, une lettre dans la quelle il lui temoignera la vive et profonde sensibilité qu’a eprouvé l’Assemblée Nationale de France à la lecture de la declaration faite au nom de la Société de la Revolution d’Angleterre, la quelle respire les sentimens d’humanité et de bienveillance universelle qui doivent lier dans tous les pays du monde, les vrais amis de la Liberte et du bonheur des nations.
(Signé) L’ARCH. D’AIX,
President de l’Assemblée Nationale.
(L. S.) Le Vte. de Miræbeau,
(Contre Signé) Salomon de la Saugerie,
A member having read a Congratulatory Address of the English Society called the Revolution Society; the Assembly, deeply affected with this extraordinary proof of esteem, expressed its satisfaction by loud applause, and resolved that the President be directed to write a letter to Lord Stanhope, Chairman of the Society, expressing the lively and deep sensibility with which the National Assembly of France received the address of the Revolution Society in England, which breathes those sentiments of humanity and universal benevolence, that ought to unite together, in all countries of the world, the true friends of liberty and the happiness of mankind.
(Signed) THE ARCHBISHOP OF AIX,
President of the National Assembly.
Sealed with the Arms of the National Assembly of France.
(Counter-Signed) The Visc. de Miræbeau,
Salomon de la Saugerie.
AParis, ce 5me Decembre, 1789.
IL est digne, Milord, d’une Société célébre et d’un peuple heureux et libre de s’interesser à tous les progrés du bonheur et de la liberté publique.
Depuis long-tems la nation Française éxeroit l’empire de ses connaissances et de ses arts, elle dirigeoit son gouvernement par ses opinions, quand elle ne se gouvernoit pas encore elle même par ses loix.
Elle poursuivoit avec ardeur des vérités utiles, et répandant chaque jour la lumiere sur toutes les parties de son administration, elle sembloit entrainée, comme par un mouvement universel, aux changemens qui lui donnent sa consistance et sa force.
Un Roi que nous pouvons appeller le meilleur des hommes, et le premier des citoyens, encourageoit, par ses vertus, les espérances de sa nation, et maintenant, un concours unanime établit une constitution durable, sur les droits imprescriptibles des hommes et des citoyens.
“Il appartient sans doute à notre siécle, quand la raison s’étend avec la liberté, de faire disparoitre à jamais les haines et les rivalites nationales: il ne faut pas que les guerres, ces erreurs de gouvernemens, soient l’éffet des préjugés que sont les vices des nations, et les deux peuples, les plus instruits de l’Europe, doivent montrer par leur éxemple, que l’amour de la patrie s’accorde avec tous les sentimens de l’humanité.
“L’Assemblée Nationale a reconnu dans l’Adresse de la Société de la Revolution d’Angleterre, ces principes de bienveillance universelle qui doivent lier, dans tous les pays du monde, les vrais amis du bonheur, et de la liberté des nations: Elle a consigné les témoignages, de sa vive et profonde sensibilité, dans une délibération solemnelle, qu’elle me charge de vous communiquer.
Reçevez les assurances de tous les sentimens, avec les quels, l’ai l’honneur d’être,
(Signé) L’ARCH. d’AIX,
President de l’Assemblée Nationale.
Paris,the 5th December, 1789.
IT is worthy, my Lord, of a celebrated Society, and of an happy and free people, to interest themselves in the progress of public liberty and happiness.
The French nation has long been improving in knowledge and arts; and its government was directed by opinions derived from them even before the country governed itself by the laws which they dictated.
The nation pursued with ardour useful truths, and daily diffusing light over every branch of the administration, it appeared to be carried, as by an universal impulse, to those changes which now give it strength and stability.
A King whom we may call the best of men, and the first of citizens, encouraged by his virtues the hopes of the nation, and now, by universal concurrence, a durable constitution is established, founded on the unalienable rights of men and citizens.
It undoubtedly belongs to our age, in which reason and liberty are extending themselves together, to extinguish for ever national hatred and rivalship.
We must not allow the prejudices which disgrace nations to produce wars, those errors of governments. But the two most enlightened people of Europe ought to shew, by their example, that the love of their country is perfectly compatible with every sentiment of humanity.
The National Assembly discovers in the Address of the Revolution Society of England, those principles of universal benevolence which ought to bind together, in all countries of the world, the true friends to the happiness and liberty of mankind.
The National Assembly has given the most undeniable testimony of its strong and deep sense of this truth, by the solemn vote which it has directed me to communicate to you.
Accept the assurance of those sentiments with which I have the honour to be,
To Lord Stanhope, Chairman
of the Revolution Society.
L’ADRESSE de felicitation, envoiée à l’Assemblèe Nationale de France, par la Société de la Révolution de Londres, a excité votre admiration et celle de tous les vrais amis bu bonheur public. Des Anglois qui dédaignent les préventions nationales, et qui applaudissent aux efforts de leurs rivaux, pour secouer le joug du pouvoir abitraire, présentent un spectacle sur le quel les philosophes attentiss aux progrès de l’esprit humain, ne peuvent pas manquer de fixer leurs regards.
Telle est donc la victoire remportée par la raison et la philantrophie sur les prejuges et les jalousies populaires, que nous avons lieu d’esperer désormais que tous les peuples oubliant des interêts partiels s’incourageront mutuellement à la conquéte de la liberté, et qu’ainsi, dans toutes les parties de l’Europe, l’homme sera bientot reintégré dans des droits que le despotisme a bien pû enchainer pour un temps, mais qu’il n’est point en son pouvoir d’anéantir.
Pourquoi craindrions-nous le l’avouer, Messieurs? La revolution qui s’opere aujourd’hui dans notre patrie, est due surtout à l’exemple que l’Angleterre nous a donné depuis un siecle. C’est du jour où nous avons appris à connaitre la constitution politique de cette Isle, et les prospérités que l’accompagnent, que notre haine pour le despotisme a pris une veritable énergie. En assurant leur bonheur, les Angloises ont préparé celui de l’Univers. Tandis que de toutes parts, les tyrans s’éfforçaient d’eteindre le feu sacré de la liberte, nos voisins veillaient avec un soin courageux, à l’entretenir toujours dans leur sein. Nous en avons recueilli des étincelles bienfaisantes; et ce feu embrasant toutes les ames, va, dans l’Europe entiere, reduire pour jamais en cendres les liens dont le despotisme accablait les nations.
Rendons à nos voisins le juste tribut de reconnaissance que les amis d’humanité ne doivent point refuser aux plus zelés deffenseurs de ses droits. Que la Société de la Révolution apprenne que les Français ont été sensiblement touchés des felicitations qu’elle a adressés à l’Assemblée Nationale; Que ces vertueux philantrophes ne doutent plus du succes de leurs vœux, en voiant les habitans des provinces, le disputer à ceux de la capitale, dans l’amour ardent de la liberté.
La matiere mise en délibération; le Club Patriotique considerant qu’il entre parfaitement dans l’objet de son institution de manifester en toute occasion, le zéle de ses membres, pour l’accomplissement d’une révolution de la quelle dépend le bonheur de la nation; que l’Adresse de la Société de la Révolution à l’Assemblée Nationale, est un acte memorable qui mérite la reconnaissance de tous les Français; que le plus sûr moien d’assurer la félicité des peuples est de multiplier entre-eux les témoignages des sentimens d’union fraternelle qui doivent animer reciproquement des hommes égaux en droits, et vivans sous une constitution libre:
Le Club a délibéré unanimement que la Société de la Révolution serait priéré d’agréer l’expression de la sensibilité vive et reconnaissante dont il a été touché à la lecture de l’acte dans le quel la Société a si dignement manifesté l’interêt qu’elle prend aux efforts de la nation Française, pour obtenir une constitution qui lui fasse partager avec le peuple Anglais les grands biens attachés à la liberté: Le Club ne desirant rien avec tant d’ardeur, que de voir regner entre les deux nations la concorde fraternelle sans la quelle elles perdraient les fruits de cette liberté précieuse dont elles se sont montrées dignes.
Arrêté en outre que copie de la presente délibération sera envoiée par M. le Président à la Société de la Révolution de Londres.
(Signé au Régistre.) VOLFIUS.
(Copie.) Vaillant, Cadet.
Secretaire du Club Patriotique
“THE Congratulatory Address sent to the National Assembly of France, by the Revolution Society of London, has excited your admiration, and that of every true friend of the public welfare.
“Englishmen disdaining national prejudices, and applauding the efforts of their rivals to shake off the yoke of arbitrary power, present a spectacle which philosophers, attentive to the progress of the human mind, cannot fail to contemplate with pleasure.
“Such then is the victory obtained by reason and philanthropy over popular prejudices and jealousies, that we have now cause to hope that all nations forgetting partial interests, will mutually encourage each other in the attainment of liberty; and that thus, throughout Europe, mankind will be shortly restored to those rights of which despotism has deprived them for a time, but which it never could annihilate.
“Why should we be ashamed, Gentlemen, to acknowledge that the Revolution which is now establishing itself in our country, is owing to the example given by England a century ago?
“It was from that day we became acquainted with the political constitution of that island, and the prosperity with which it was accompanied; it was from that day our hatred of despotism derived its energy. In securing their own happiness, Englishmen have prepared the way for that of the universe. Whilst on all sides tyrants were attempting to extinguish the sacred flame of liberty, our neighbours with intrepid watchfulness and care cherished it in their bosoms. We have caught some of these salutary sparks; and this fire enflaming every mind, is extending itself over all Europe, for ever to reduce to ashes those shackles with which despotism has oppressed mankind.
“Let us render to our neighbours that just tribute of gratitude which the friends of mankind ought never to refuse to the most zealous defenders of its rights.
“Let the Revolution Society know that Frenchmen have been sensibly affected by the congratulations which it has addressed to the National Assembly, that these virtuous philanthropists, seeing the inhabitants of the provinces vying with those of the metropolis in the ardent love of liberty, may be in no doubt about the attainment of their wishes.”
The subject having been debated, the Patriotic Society considering—that it is perfectly consistent with the object of its institution to manifest on every occasion, the zeal of its members for accomplishing a revolution on which depends the welfare of the nation;—that the address from the Revolution Society to the National Assembly is a memorable act, which deserves the gratitude of every Frenchman; and that the surest means to secure the happiness of different nations is to multiply between them those proofs of a fraternal union of sentiment which ought reciprocally to animate men equal in rights and happy in the enjoyment of the advantages of a free constitution:
It was therefore unanimously agreed, that the Revolution Society should be entreated to accept the effusions of lively sensibility and gratitude with which this Society was animated at the reading of the Address in which that Society has so worthily manifested the interest it takes in the efforts of the French nation, to establish a constitution which will enable it to be a partaker with the English people in the very great blessings attached to freedom: and that it desires nothing more ardently than to see fraternal concord established between the two nations, without which they would both lose the fruits of that precious freedom of which they have proved themselves so worthy.
Resolved also, that a Copy of the present resolution shall be sent by the President to the Revolution Society of London.
(The Register Signed) VOLFIUS.
(Extract Signed) Valiant Jun.
Secretary of the Patriotic Society of Dijon.
Si rien n’est plus capable de flatter l’Assemblée Nationale de la France, que vos applaudissemens à son ouvrage, rien, en même tems, n’est plus propre que votre jugement, à nous en garantir le succés. Il faut l’avouer, Messieurs, en Politique comme en Philosophie, vous etes les maitres et les modéles de toute la terre. C’est chez vous, oui, c’est dans votre ile fortunée, que la liberté, combattuë, repoussée de toutes parts par le despotisme, a trouvé un azile sacré, et si la France va, enfin, jouir de ce bien précieux, elle en sera peutêtre plus redevable à votre nation qu’à elle même; car, si nous n’avoins été encouragés par votre exemple, et èclairés par votre experience, nous serions peut-être encore bien éloignés de rompre les chaines sous les quelles nous etions courbés, et nous gémerions encore sous ce joug odieux qui tirannise et reserre les facultés de l’homme, qui commande à la pensée, qui dégrade son essence, je veux dire, l’empire des préjugés et de la superstition.
La noblesse de votre procédé à l’egard des Français, en les forçant au respect et à la reconnaissance, prouve à la fois à l’Europe entiere, que la jalousie, les injustes rivalités, et toutes les petites passions basses ne trouvent point d’accés dans l’ame élevée des Philosophes amis de la libérté.
Agréez les remercimens particuliers d’une association d’hommes, admirateurs de votre générosité, et soyez persuadés des sentimens de respect, avec les quels, nous avons l’honneur d’être,
Les Membres de l’Union Patriote des
Ville et Chatellenie de Lille.
Lillele 26me. Nov. 1789.
M. M. Les Président, et Membres du
Club, de la Revolution. Londres.
AS nothing is more flattering to the National Assembly of France than your approbation of its proceedings, so nothing at the same time is more proper than your judgment to secure the success of them. It must be owned, Gentlemen, that in politics as in philosophy, you are the instructors and examples of the whole world. It is among you, yes, it is in your favoured isle, that liberty every where attacked and trampled upon by despotism has found a sacred asylum, and if France should obtain that invaluable blessing, she will perhaps be more indebted for it to your nation than to herself; for if we had not been encouraged by your example, and enlightened by your experience, we might yet perhaps have been unable to break those chains under which we were bowed down, and we should still have groaned under that odious yoke (the empire of prejudices and superstition) which tyrannizes over and cramps the faculties of man, enslaves his mind, and degrades his nature.
Your noble conduct towards the French nation demands both our respect and gratitude, and at the same time demonstrates to all Europe, that jealousy, unjust rivalship, and base passions are incapable of finding access to the exalted minds of philosophers, friends of liberty.
Accept the particular thanks of an association of men, admirers of your generosity; and be persuaded of the sentiments of respect with which we have the honour to be,
Lille, 26 Nov. 1789.
It will be astonishing if any person, who has within him a spark of zeal for liberty and human happiness, should be able to read these papers without delight. They prove the truth of the observation in the note, p. 30. We see in them (to use the language of the excellent Duke de Rochefoucauld) the dawn of a glorious day—of a day when (should sentiments congenial to those in France prevail in Britain) two nations at the head of the world, convinced of the folly of wars and laying aside all jealousies, shall embrace one another, and form a fraternal and intimate union, not for the vile purposes of avarice and conquest, but to spread the knowledge of human rights, to extend the blessings of justice and liberty, and to promote peace on earth and good will among men.
The following answers to these communications have been ordered by the Revolution Society:
The members of the Revolution Society in London request the Archbishop of Aix’s acceptance of their best thanks for the letter which he has directed to Earl Stanhope their Chairman, and for conveying to them the Vote of the National Assembly of France. They could scarcely have received a higher satisfaction than has been given them by the Archbishop’s letter, and the condescending notice with which the National Assembly has been pleased to honour their Congratulatory Address. They feel particularly the justice which this august assembly has done them, by imputing their address to the influence of those principles of universal benevolence which ought in all countries to bind together the friends of human liberty and happiness. Their hearts are warmed with these principles; and they desire nothing so earnestly as that the time may soon come when they shall so possess every human heart as to put an end to all jealousies between nations, exterminate oppression and slavery, and cause wars, those dreadful errors of governments, to cease in all the earth. They exult in the prospect of such a time, which seems to be opening, and with which the proceedings of the National Assembly of France promise to bless mankind.
The Revolution Society cannot avoid taking this occasion to add, that among the important benefits of the Revolution in France, they reckon its tendency to afford a salutary instruction to Kings. They learn with pleasure that the People of France are happy in a King who has encouraged them by his virtues in recovering their rights, and been on this account justly crowned with the title of the Restorer of French Liberty. This elevates him to the highest pinnacle of glory. The despots of the world must now see their folly. This example must shew them that they can never be so great or happy, or truly powerful, as by renouncing despotic power, and being placed (like the Kings of France and England) at the head of an enlightened people and free constitutions of government?
Signed by Earl Stanhope, in the name of the Society.
THE Revolution Society in London have received with the highest pleasure the Resolution of Thanks which you have transmitted to them from the Patriotic Club at Dijon. They are delighted with the Speech of Mr. Navier; and they concur heartily in the wishes expressed by him, and the other members of the Patriotic Club, of a Fraternal Union between this country and theirs. Among the benefits of the revolution in France they reckon its tendency to produce such an union, founded on a common participation in the blessings of liberty, and an extension of those principles of justice and reverence for human rights which are now guiding the proceedings of the National Assembly of France, and making them a glorious example to the world.
Such without doubt will be the issue of this revolution, should that ardor of universal benevolence which the members of the Revolution Society in London feel in their own hearts, possess the hearts of all their countrymen.
May Heaven bless the world with an union so desirable, and suffer no partial interests or popular violences to prevent the citizens of France from enjoying all the blessings that can be derived from a wise, and equitable, and free constitution of government!
Under a grateful sense of the attention with which the Society of which you are President has honoured the Revolution Society, and with the greatest respect, I am, Sir, &c.
Signed by Earl Stanhope, Chairman,
in the name of the Society.
To the Members of the Patriotic Union of the Town of Liste.
ACCEPT our gratitude for the very obliging letter with which you have honoured us. Our Congratulatory Address to the National Assembly of France was derived from the warmest zeal in the general cause of liberty and human happiness; and we have been highly gratified by the favourable manner in which it has been received. Considering ourselves more as citizens of the world than as members of any particular community, we cannot but rejoice in every event by which this sacred cause gains a triumph over arbitrary power and oppression. The late revolution in your country is an event of this kind wonderful and unparalleled. It was not possible we should hear of it without the liveliest feelings of delight and exultation; nor could we, without doing violence to ourselves, avoid expressing these feelings, and aspiring to the honour of being known to the people of France, and acquainting them with our admiration of them as an enlightened people, who with a spirit and unanimity never before known in so vast a kingdom, and that seemed like an inspiration from heaven, had shaken off the odious yoke of despotism, asserted and recovered the rights of men, and made themselves joint partakers with us in the invaluable blessings of civil and religious liberty.
We cannot help adding on this occasion, that we admire the liberality of the members of the Patriotic Union of Lisle in ascribing the deliverance of France to the example of England; and that it is with pleasure we reflect that an acknowledgment so candid and generous is not altogether without foundation. Britain has undoubtedly ever since the æra of its own Revolution been a most distinguished and favoured kingdom, and held out to the world an example of national dignity and happiness derived from the possession of liberty, which has instructed other kingdoms. But our regard to truth requires us, at the same time that we thus boast, to acknowledge that now the time seems to be arrived when we shall lose this honourable distinction. France is taking the lead; and Britain will be left behind, if not provoked by the example of France to correct abuses that are every day growing more palpable; and, in particular, to substitute for its present partial and imperfect representation such an equal and pure representation as our brethren in France are likely to enjoy.
The Members of the
Revolution Society in London.