Richard Price on giving thanks for the principles of the Revolution of 1688 (1789)

Richard Price

The Welsh Presbyterian minister Richard Price (1723-1791) argues that it is not enough to be satisfied with giving thanks for the partial liberties we now enjoy but to endeavour “to extend and improve” them:

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. …

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.

Little did Price know when he uttered these words in November 1789 how many of the liberties he held dear and for which he was giving thanks would be destroyed by the British government during the course of the 25 year war against the French Revolution. There was the arrest of supporters of the French Revolution, the censorship of books and newspapers, the imposition of hefty taxes (including a temporary income tax) to fund the war, taking the Bank of England off the gold standard and the inflation of the money supply, not to mention the taking of so many lives. All this was done to stop the spread of Republican ideas and to restore the overthrown Bourbon monarch to the throne of France. Since he died two years later he did not live to see the fulls cope of the British government’s destruction of “the blessings of liberty,” but a bit further on in the Discourse he does seem to have a premonition about the dangers to liberty of “domestic enemies” who used the threat of war to instill in the people “a blind and slavish submission” to the state.