Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. IV. Eighteenth Century
The Vision of the World
By Richard Price (17231791)
From Discourse on the Love of our Country
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 shown 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 Gods 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 private interest as well as the interest of our own 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 errorI 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 ardour 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.