Burke’s Grasshoppers: Dr Price as ‘Apostle of Liberty’
On a Sunday in May 1791, Joseph Priestley preached a funeral sermon in the Unitarian meeting-house at Hackney. It was a pulpit normally occupied by Dr Richard Price, but once a year Price asked Priestley to preach a sermon for him, and it so happened that the date appointed in 1791 fell a few days after Price’s death. In his tribute to Price, Priestley reminded his hearers that the French National Assembly — what he called ‘the most august assembly in the world’ — had styled Price ‘the apostle of liberty’. Then, with typical British practicality, Priestley turned to Price’s warning to his own countrymen of ‘the danger arising from the increasing weight of the national debt’ . The debt, Priestley added, had for a long time alarmed only Price himself, but all could now see that it ‘must work either our reformation or our ruin’. Yet (claimed Priestley) Price’s political pamphlets were even more influential than his exhortations on financial matters: ‘In the writings of Dr Price, citizens may ever see their rights, and magistrates their duty.’1
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- 1.Joseph Priestley, A Discourse on Occasion of the Death of Dr Price (London, 1791) 8–9, 13.Google Scholar
- 3.Price, A Discourse on the Love of our Country 5th edn (London, 1790) appendix 11–13.Google Scholar
- 15.Price, Additional Observations on the Nature and Value of Civil Liberty and the War with America (London, 1777) in Peach 139n, 148, 174.Google Scholar