Richard Price.

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 from M. Turgot, late comptroller-general of the finances of France : with an appendix containing a translation of the will of M. Fortuné Ricard, lately published online

. (page 1 of 8)
Online LibraryRichard PriceObservations on the importance of the American revolution, and the means of making it a benefit to the world : to which is added a letter from M. Turgot, late comptroller-general of the finances of France : with an appendix containing a translation of the will of M. Fortuné Ricard, lately published → online text (page 1 of 8)
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[ V 1

C O N T E N T S-

OF the Importance of the Revolution which
has eftablifhed the Independence of the

United States of America. • p. i

Qf the Means of promoting human Improvement

and Happinefs in the United States. — And

firft, of Public Debts. - 9

Of Peace, and the Means of perpetuating it. 14
Of Liberty. - - 20

Of Liberty of Difcuffion. • 22

;Of Liberty of Confcicnce, and Civil Eftablifli-

ments of Religion. • - 34

Of Education. • - 50

Of the Dangers to which the American States are

expofed. - - - 64

Of Debts and Internal Wars. - 66

' Of an unequal Diftribution of Property. 68

Of Trade, Banks, and Public Credit. 74

Of Oaths. ' . - . 81

Of the Negro Trade and Slavery. -^ 83

Conclufion. - - - 84

Letter from M. Turcot. - .89

Tranflation of M. Turcot's Letter. 107

Appendix, containing a Tranflation of the fFill
of M. Fortune Ricard.^ ^ 129..

Tables; . - ^' - z \$^.



c V/J

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t vil 1


TTAVING reafonto hope IJbould be aU
tended to in the American States^ and
thinking I faw an opening there favourable
to the improvement and bejh inter efis of man-
kind^ I have been induced to convey thither the
fentiments and advice contained in the follow^
ing Obfervations. They were^ therefore^ ori^-
ginally intended only for America. The dan^
ger of a fpurious edition has now obliged me
to publijh them in my own country.

IJbould be inexcufable did I not take this
opportunity to exprefs my gratitude to a dif^
tinguijloed writer (the Count de Mirabcau^
for his tranjlation of thefe Obfervations into
French^ and for the f up port and kind civility
with which it has been accompanied.

Mr. TurgotV letter formed a part of this
traSi when it was conveyed to America. I
have now given a tranjlation of it.

I think

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i think it ntcejfary to add that I have ex^
freffed myfelf in fome refpeSls ioojirongly in
the conclufion (^the following Obfervations.
By accounts from perfons the hejh informed^ t
have lately been affured that no fuch dijfen^
tions eodfi among the American States as have
Been given out in this country ; that the new
governments are in general well fettled^ and,
the people happy under them j and that^ in
particular^ a conviction is becoming univerfal
of the necejfity of giving morejirength to thai
power which forms and which is to conduGt
and nudntain their union.

• • -■ *

MAftC£t, 1^85:

•■'••••■•• V

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Of the Importance of the Revolution
•which has efiahlijbed the Independency of
the United ^ates.

HAVING, from pure convidion, takca
a warm part in favour of the Britijb
colonies (now the United States of Ameri-
ca) during the late war j and been expofed,
in confequencc of this, to much abufe and
fome danger; it muft be fuppofed that I
have been waiting for the iffue with an-
xiety. ^^I am thankful that my anxiety

is removed j and that I have been fpared to
be a witnefs to that very iffue of the war
which has been all along the ohjc€t of my
wiihes. With heart-felt fatisfaaion, I fee
the revolution in fevour of univerfal liberty
which has taken place in America j — a revo-
lution which opens a new proQ)eft in hu-

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[ ^ ] "- /

man afFairs, add begins a new sera in the hii^ \J
tory of mankind j— '— a revolution by which
Britons thcmfclves will be the greateft
gainers^ if wife enough to improve properly
the check that has been gi^en to the defpo^
tifm of their minifters^ and to catch the-
£ame of virtuous liberty which has faved
their American brethren.

The late war» in its commencement and
prOgrefs^ did great good hy diflcminating
jnft ientiments of the rights of mankind, and
the nature of legitimate government -, by ex-
citing a ipirit of refinance to tyranny which ,
has emanfcipa ted one European' country,
and is likely to emancipate others ; and by
occafioning the eftablifhment in America of
forms of government more equitable and
more liberal than any that the world has
yet known. But, in its termination^ the
war has done Hill greater good by prefcrv-
ing the new governments from that de-
ilru£ik)n in which they muft have been in-
volved, had Britain conquered ; by provide*
ing, in a fequeflered continent poifeired of
many fingular advantages^ a place of refuge
for oppreft mcrt in every region of the
world} and by laying the foundation there


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[ 3 ]

of an empire which may be the feat of li-
berty ^ faience and yirtue, and from whence
there is reafbn to hope thofe facred bleflings
will fpread, till they become univerfal, and
the time arrives when kings and priefis fhall •
have no more power to opprefs, and that
ignominious ilavery wfaieh has hitherto de-»
bafed the world is exterminated. I there*
fore, think I fee the hand of Providence in -
the late war working for the general good.

Reafbn, as well as tradition and revela^
lion, lead us to expe£t that a more improv-
ed and happy ftate of human affairs will take
place before the confummation t>f all things.
The world has hitherto been gradually
improving. Light and knowledge have
been gaining ground, and human life at
frefent compared with what it once was,
is much the fame that a youth approaching
to manhood is compared with an infant*

Such are the natures of things that this
progrefs muft continue. During particular
intervals it may be interrupted, but it can-
not be deftroy'd. Every prefcnt advance
prepares the way for farther advances j and
j| fingfe experiment or difcovery may fome- .
3 2/ times

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[ 4 ]

times give rife to fo many more as fuddentjp
to raife the fpecies higher^ and to reiemble
the effeds of opening a new fenie^ or of the
fall of a fpark on a train that fprings a mine*.
For this rfiafon, mankind may at laft arrive
at degrees of improvement which we can-*
not now even fufped to be poi&ble. A
dark age may follow an enlightened age;
buty in this cafe, the light, after being
fmothered for a time, will break out again
with a brighter luftre. The prefent age of
increafed light, confidered as facceeding the
ages of Greece and Rome and an interme-
diate period, of thick darknefs, furnifhes a
proof of the truth of this, obfervation.
There are certain kinds of improvement
which, when once made, cannot be entire-
ly loft. During the dark agcs^ the im-
provements made in the ages that preceded
them remained fo far as to be recovered im-
mediately at the refurredion of letters, and
to produce afterwards, that more rapid pro-
grefs in improvement which has diftinguifti*
<d modern times.

There can icarcely be a more plcaiing and
encouraging obj^^ of refledion than this«
Aq. accidental obfervation of the effeds
9f gravity in a garden has been tbe^means

■ 9l-


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[ 5 ]

of difcovcring the laws that govern the
folar fyflcm ♦, and of enabling us to look
down with pity on the ignorance of the
woU enlightened times among the antients.
What new dignity has been given to man^
and what additions have been made to his
powers^ by the invention of optical glaffes,
printing, gun-powder, &c. and by the late
dTifcoveries in navigation^ mathematics, na-
tural philofbphy, &c. ? f

• This refers to an account given of Sir Ifaac New-
ton in the Preface to Dr, Pemberton's View of hi;

t Who could have thought, in the firft ages of the
' world, that mankind would acquire the power of deter-
mining the didancef and magnitudes of the fun and
planets ? — Who, even at the beginning of this century^
would have thought^^ that, in a few years, mankind
would acquire the j)ower of fubjc^ing to their wills the
dreadful force of lightening, and of flying in aeroftatic
machines ?■ ■ Th^ laft of rhcfe powers, though fo long
undifcov^re^i i^ only an eafy application of a power al-
ways known. ~Many (imilar difcoveries may remain to
be made,, which will give new direAions of the greateft
confequence to human afFairs; and it may not be top
extravagant to exped that ((hould civil governmenti
throw no obftades in the way) the progrefs of improve-
^lent will not ceafe till it has excluded from the earth
moft of its worft evils, and reftorcd that Paradifaical
fiai« which, according to the Mofeic Hiftory, preceded
the prefect (late.


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[ 6 ]

But among the events in modern times
tending to the elevation of mankind, there
are none probajbly of fo much confequence
as the recent one which occafions thefe ob-
/ervations. Perhaps, I do not go too far
when I fay that, next to the introdudioiTl
of Chrifiianity among mankind, the Ame-
rican revolution may prove the mod im-
portant ftep in the progreffive courfe of
human improvement. It is an event which
may produce a general diffufion of the
principles of humanity, and become the
means of fetting free mankind from th?
tackles of fuperAition and tyranny, by lead- .
ing them to fee and know " that nothing ^
*• is fundamental but impartial enquiry, an
** honeft mind, and virtuous practice
•* that ftatp policy ought ijot to be applied
** to the fupport of fpeculative opinions

•* and formularies of faith." '' That the

^^ members of a civil community are* con-
^^ federates^ not JvbjeSlsi and their rulers,

^fervants^ not mafters. And that all

^^ legitimate government confifisin the do-
^ minion of equal laws made with com^
f* mon oonfeatj that is, in the dominion

• Thcfe arc the words of Mo s: t e^ qjj xsi£.

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E 7 1
'* of men over themfehes ; and not in tho
** dominion of communities over communi-
** ties, or of any men over other men."

Happy will the world be when thefe
truths (hall be every where acknowledged
and pradifcd upon. Religious bigotry,
that cruel demon, will be then laid aflecp*
Slavifli governments and flavifh Hierarchies
will then fink -, and the old prophecies be
verified, '' that the laft univerfal empire
" upon earth (hall be the empire of rcafon
** and virtue, under which the gofpel of
•* peace (better underftood) Jball have free
** courfe and be glorified^ many will run to
^^ and fro and knowledge, be increafedy the
** wolf dwell with the lamb and the leopard
** with the kidy and nation no more lift up
** a fword againjl nation^

It is a convidlion I cannot redft, that the
independence of the Englijh colonies in
America is one of the ileps ordained by
Providence to introduce thefe times; and
I can fcarcely be deceived in this con vie*
tion^ if the United States fhould efcape
ibme dangers which threaten them» and
will take proper care to throw tbemfelves
open to future improvemcAts, and to make
the moft of the advantages of their prefent




[ 8 3 •

fitoation. Should this happen, it will Se
true of them as it was of the people of the
Jews, that in them all the families of the
earth Jhall be blejfed. It is fcarcely poflible
they (hould think too highly of their own
confequence. Perhaps, there never ex-
iftcd a people on whofe wifdom and virtue
more depended J or to whom a Aatidn of
more importance in the plaq of Providence
has been afligned. They have begun nobly*
They have fought with fucceft for thcm-
ielves and for the world ; and, in the midft
of invafion and carnage, eflabliihed forms
of government favourable in the higheft

, degree to the rights of mankind.— But

f they have much more to do; more indeed
than it is poflible properly to reprefent.
In this addrefs, my defign is only to take
notice of a few great points which feem
particularly to require their attention, in
order to render them permanently happy in
tbcmfelvcs and ufeful ta mankind. On
thcfe points, I (ball deliver^ my fcntiments
with freedom, confcious I mean well ; but^
at the fame time, with real difSdcnce, con-
fcious of my own liablpncfs to error.

- ■■: .■.•,• . • Of

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[ 9 ]

Of the Means of promoting human Improve^-
ment and Happinefs in the United States.
-r^And firji^ 0/ Public Debts.

'T feems evident, that what firft requires
the attention of the United States is the
redemption of their debts, and making
compenfation to that army which has car-
ried them through the war. They have
an infant credit to. cherifh and rear, which,
if this is not done, muft perifh, and with
it their charader and honour for ever. Nor
is it conceivable they fliould meet with
any great difficulties in doing thw. They
have a vaft rcfource peculiar to themfelvcs,
in a continent of unlocated lands poflcfling
every advantage of foil and climate. The
fettlcment of thefe lands will be repaid,. the
confequcncc of which muft be a rapid in-
crcafe of their value. By difpofmg of
them to the army and to emigrants, the
greateft part of the debts of the United
States may probably be funk immediately^
But had th^y no fuch refource, they are very
capable of bearing taxes fufficicnt for the
purpofe of . a gradual redemption. Sup-,

C pofing

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[ lo ]
pofing their debts to amount to nine millions
ftcrling, carrying intereft at 5^ per cent, taxes
producing a revenue of a million per ann.
would pay the intereft, and at the fame time
leave a furplus of half a million per ann.
for a Jinking jund^ which would difcharge
the principal in thirteen years. A furplus
of a quarter oi a million would do the
fame in 20r years. After difcharging the
principal, the appropriated revenue being
no longer wanted, might be aboli(hed, and
the States eafed of the burthen of it. But
it would be imprudent to abolifli it en-
tirely. 100,000/. per ann. referved, and
faithfully laid out in clearing unlocated
lands and other improvementSt would in
a (hort time increafe to a treafure (or con-*
tinental patrimony) which would defray
the whole expenditure of the union, and
keep the States free from debts and taxes
for ever*. Such a referve would (fup-

* The lands, forefts, impofts^ &c. &c. which once
formed the patrimony of the crown in England^ bore
moft; ^f the expences of government. It is well for
thi< kingdom that the extravagance of the crown has
been tlic means of alienating this patrimony, for the
confe^uence has been making the crown ' dependent on
the peoplje. - But in America fuch a patrimony would
be c^timntal property, capable of being applied only
to public pirrpofes, in theyriy which the public (or
its delegates) would approved • ^ .

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[ ri ]

pofing it improved fo as to produce a
profit of 5 per cent.) increafe to a capital
of three millions in 19 years, 30 millions
in 57 years, 100 millions in 8i years, and
261 millions in 100 years. But fuppoiing
it capable of being improved fo as to
produce a profit of lo per cent, it would
increafe to five millions in 19 years, 100
millions in 49 years, and 10,000 millions
in 97 years.

It is wonderful that no ftate has yet
thought of taking this method to make
itfelf great and rich. The fmalleft appro-
priation in a finking fund, never diverted^
operates in cancelling debts, juft as money
increafes at compound intereft ; and is,
therefore, omnipotent '^. But, if diverted,
it lofes all its power. BaiTAix affords
a ftriking proof of this, Its finking fund
(once the hope of the kingdom) has, by

* One penny put out at our Saviour^ birth to 5 ptr
cent, conipound intereft would, before liils time, have
incrcafed to a greater fum than would be contained in

TWO HUNDRED MILLIONS of EARTII.< all folld gold.

But, if put out to fimple intereft, it would have amount-
ed to no more than ftven JhilUngs and fix'ftnct. All
governments which alienate fundi deftincd for reim-
burfements, chufe to improve money in the lafi rather
than the jirft of thcfc ways.

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■ [ 12 ]
the pradice of alienating it, been rendered
impotent and ufelefs. Had it been in-
violably applied to the purpofes for which
it was intended, there would, in the year
1775, have been ^ fur plus in the revenue
of more than five millionis per ann. But
inftead of this, we were then encumbered
with a. debt of 137 millions, carrying an
intcreft of near 4^ mHlions, and leaving no
furplus of any confequence. This debt
has been (incc increafed to * 280 millions,
carrying an intcreft (including expences of
management) of nine millions and a half. —
A monftrous bubble ; — and if no very flrong
meafures arc foon taken to reduce it v^ithin
the limits of fafcty, itmuft produce a dread-
ful convulfion. Let. the United States take
warning— Their debts at prcfcnt -arc mo-
derate. A Sinking fund, guarded t againft
mifapplication, may foon extinguish them,
and prove a refource in all events of the
greateft importance.

* Sec the Pcjlfcript to a pamphlet, entiilcd, IItjC State of
the Financts $f t hi Kingdom y at ftgning iht PnUmmary Arti*
clci ef Peace in January 1783, printed for Mr. Cadell.

*t When not thus guarded, public funds become the
worft cvib, by giving to the rulers of (hies a com-
mand of revenue for the purpofes of corruption.

• I niuft

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[13 1
I muft not, however, forget that there is
ONE of their debts on which no finking
fund can have afTy effcdl ; and which it is
impoffible for them to difcharge:— —
A debt, greater, perhaps, than has been
ever due from any country; and which
will be deeply felt by their lateft poftcrity.
— But it is a debt of ghatitude only —
Of GRATITUDE to that General, who has.
been raifed up by Providence to make
them free and independent, and whofe
name muft fhine among the firft in the fu-
ture annals of the benefadors of mankind. ,

The meafurc now propofcd may prcferve
America for ever from too great an accu-
mulation of debts; and, confcqucntly, of

taxes -an evil which is likely to be tHe

ruin not only of Britain^ but of other £(/-
ropcan States.— But there are meafurcs of
yet greater confequence, which I wifli ar-
dently to recommend and inculcate.

For the fal^e. of mankind, I wifh to fee
every meafure adopted that can liavc a ten-
dency to prefervc peace in America-, and
to make it an open and fair ftage for difcuf-
fion, and the feat of pesifect liberty.


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[ 14 ]'

Of P E A C E,

And the Means of perpetuating it.

GIVIL Government is an expedient for
collecting the wifdom and force of a
community or confederacy, in order to pre-
ferve its peace and liberty againft every hof-
tile invafion, Whether from within or from

without. ^In the latter of thefe rcfpedls,

the United States arc happily fecurcd j but
they are far from being equally happy in
the former refpe£t. Having now% in con-
fcquence of their fuccefsful rcfiftance of
the invafion of Britain^ united to their
remotcnefs from Europe^ no external enemy
to fear, they are in danger of fighting with
one another. — This is ihcxx greateft danger;
and providing fecurities againfl it is their
hardejl work. Should they fail in this,
America may fomc time or other be turned
into a fccne of blood j and inftead of being
the hope and refuge of the world, may
become a terror to it.

When a difputc arifcs among individuals
in a State, an appeal is made to a court of




[ 15 ]

law; that is, to the wifdom and jnfticc
of the State. The court decides. The
lofing party acquiefces j or, if he docs
not, the power of the State forces him
to fubmiffion ; and thus the cfFedts of
contention are fuppreft, and peace is main-
tained. In a way fimilar to this, peace

may be maintained between any number
of confederated States 5 and I can almoft
imagine, that it is not impoflible but that by
fuch means univerfal peace may be produc-
ed, and all war excluded from the world.—
Why may we not hope to fee this begun in
America ?— The articles of confedera-
tion make confiderable advances towards
it. When a difpute arifes between any of
the States, they order an appeal to Cpngrefs
— an enquiry by Congrcfs, — a hearing, —
and a decifion.-— But here they flop. — What
is moft of all neccffary is omitted. No
provifion is made for enforcing the dcci-
fions of Congrefs ; and this renders them
inefficient and futile. I am by no means
qualified to point out the beft method of
removing this dcfc£l. Much muft be given

1 3 4 5 6 7 8

Online LibraryRichard PriceObservations on the importance of the American revolution, and the means of making it a benefit to the world : to which is added a letter from M. Turgot, late comptroller-general of the finances of France : with an appendix containing a translation of the will of M. Fortuné Ricard, lately published → online text (page 1 of 8)