Two Tracts on Civil Liberty, the War with America, and the Debts and Finances of the Kingdom With a General Introduction and Supplement
TWO TRACTS ON CIVIL LIBERTY
Published by the same Author,
And printed for T. Cadell, in the Strand.
I. Observations on Reversionary Payments;on Schemes for providing Annuities for Widows,and Persons in Old Age; on the Method of calculatingthe Values of Assurances on Lives; and on the NationalDebt. To which are added, Four Essays on differentSubjects in the Doctrine of Life-Annuities and PoliticalArithmetic. Also, an Appendix, containing a completeSet of Tables; particularly four New Tables, shewingthe Probabilities of Life in London, Norwich, andNorthampton, and the Values of two joint Lives.
The 3d Edition, with a Supplement, containing (besidesseveral New Tables) additional Observations on the Probabilitiesof Human Life in different Situations; on theLondon Societies for the Benefit of Widows and of OldAge; and on the present State of Population in thisKingdom. Price 6s.
II. A Review of the principal Questions and Difficultiesin Morals. Particularly, those relating to the Originalof our Ideas of Virtue, its Nature, Foundation, Referenceto the Deity, Obligation, Subject-matter, and Sanctions.The Second Edition corrected. Price 6s.
III. Four Dissertations.—I. On Providence.—II.On Prayer.—III. On the Reasons for expecting thatvirtuous Men shall meet after Death in a State of Happiness.IV. On the Importance of Christianity, the Nature ofHistorical Evidence, and Miracles. The 4th Edition.Price 6s.
IV. An Appeal to the Public, on the Subject of theNational Debt. The 2d Edition; with an Appendix,containing Explanatory Observations and Tables; and anAccount of the present State of Population in Norfolk.Price 2s.
WAR with AMERICA,
The DEBTS and FINANCES of the KINGDOM:
A General Introduction and Supplement.
By RICHARD PRICE, D.D. F.R.S.
Printed for T. CADELL, in the Strand.
The first of the following tracts was publishedin the beginning of the year 1776;and the second in the beginning of last year.They are now offered to the public in one volume,with corrections and additions. All the calculations,in the Appendix to the first tract, have beentransferred to the second and fourth sections, in thethird part of the second tract.
The section on Public Loans, in the secondtract, has been revised with care; and a supplementto it, containing additional proposals andsome necessary explanations, has been given at theend of the whole.—This is a subject to whichI have applied (perhaps too unprofitably) muchor my attention. I have now done with it; andthe whole is referred to the candid examinationof those who may be better informed, hopingfor their indulgence should they find that, in anyinstance, I have been mistaken. I have not meant,in any thing I have said on this subject, to censureany persons. That accumulation of artificial debtwhich I have pointed out, and by which the daggerof the kingdom from its growing burdens[ii]has been so needlessly increased, has, I doubt not,been the effect of inattention in our ministers;and the scheme, by which the loan of last yearhas been procured, gives reason to hope that betterplans of borrowing will be adopted for thefuture.
The principal design of the first part of thesecond tract was (as I have observed in the introductionto it) to remove the misapprehensionsof my sentiments on Civil Liberty and Governmentinto which some had fallen. It givesme concern to find that it has not answered thatend in the degree I wished. I am still chargedwith maintaining opinions which tend to subvertall civil authority. I paid little regard to thischarge, while it was confined to the advocates forthe principles which have produced the presentwar; but as it seems lately to have been giventhe public from the authority of a writer of thefirst character, it is impossible I should not beimpressed by it; and I find myself under a necessityof taking farther notice of it.
There are two accounts, directly opposite toone another, which have been given of the originof civil government. One of them is, that“civil government is an expedient contrived by[iii]human prudence for gaining security againstoppression; and that, consequently, the powerof civil governors is a delegation or trust fromthe people for accomplishing this end.”
The other account is, that “civil governmentis an ordinance of the Deity, by which thebody of mankind are given up to the will of afew; and, consequently, that it is a trust fromthe Deity, in the exercise of which civil governorsare accountable only to him.”
The question “which of these accounts we oughtto receive,” is important in the highest degree.There is no question which more deeply affectsthe happiness and dignity of man as a citizenof this world.—If the former account isright, the people (that is, the body of independentagents) in every community are theirown legislators. All civil authority is properlytheir authority. Civil governors are only publicservants; and their power, being delegated, is byits nature limited.—On the contrary. If the latteraccount is right, the people have nothing todo with their own government. They are placedby their maker in the situation of cattle on anestate, which the owner has a right to dispose ofas he pleases. Civil Governors are a body ofmasters; and their power is a commission fromHeaven held by divine right, and unbounded inits extent.
I have espoused, with some zeal, the first ofthese accounts; and in the following tracts, endeavouredto explain and defend it. And thisis all I have done to give countenance to thecharge I have mentioned.—Even the masterlywriter who, after a croud of writers infinitely hisinferiors, seems to have taken up this accusationagainst me, often expresses himself as if he hadadopted the same idea of government. Suchindeed is my opinion of his good sense, and suchhas been the zeal which he has discovered forthe rights of mankind, that I think it scarcelypossible his ideas and mine on this subjectshould be very different. His language, however,sometimes puzzles me; and, particularly,when he intimates that government is an institutionof divine authority; when he scouts alldiscussions of the nature of civil liberty, the foundationof civil rights, and the principles of freegovernment; and when he asserts the competenceof our legislature to revive the High-CommissionCourt and Star-Chamber, and its BOUNDLESSAUTHORITY not only over the people of Britain,[v]but over distant communities who have no voicein it.
But whatever may be Mr. Burke’s sentimentson this subject, he cannot possibly think of theformer account of government that “it is aspeculation which destroys all authority.”—Bothaccounts establish an authority. The differenceis, that one derives it from the people, and makes[vii]it a limited authority; and the other derives itfrom Heaven; and makes it unlimited.—I haverepeatedly declared my admiration of such aconstitution of government as our own would be,were the House of Commons a fair representationof the kingdom, and under no undue influence.—Thesum of all I have meant to maintainis, “that LEGITIMATE GOVERNMENT, asopposed to OPPRESSION and TYRANNY, consistsin the dominion of equal laws made withcommon consent, or of men over themselves;and not in the dominion of communities overcommunities, or of any men over other men.”Introduction to the second Tract, p. 9.—Howthen can it be pretended, that I have aimed atdestroying all authority? Does our own constitutiondestroy all authority? Is the authority ofequal laws made with common consent no authority?Must there be no government in a statethat governs itself? Or, must an institution, contrivedby the united counsels of the members ofa community, for restraining licentiousness andgaining security against injury and violence, encouragelicentiousness, and give to every one apower to commit what outrages he pleases?
The Archbishop of York, (in a sermon preachedbefore the society for propagating the gospel inforeign parts, Feb. 21, 1777,) has taken notice ofsome loose opinions, as he calls them, which havebeen lately current on civil liberty; some whomean delinquency having given accounts of it “bywhich every man’s humour is made to be therule of his obedience, all the bad passions arelet loose, and those dear interests abandonedto outrage for the protection of which we trustin law,” 4to edit. p. 15 and 16. It is notdifficult to guess at one of the delinquentsintended in these words. In opposition to thehorrid sentiments of liberty which they describe,but which in reality no man in his senses everentertained, the Archbishop defines it to be simply,the supremacy of law, or GOVERNMENT by LAW,without adding to law, as I had done, the wordsequal and made with common consent; and withoutopposing a GOVERNMENT by LAW to a GOVERNMENTBY MEN, as others had done.—According[ix]to him, therefore, the supremacy of lawmust be liberty, whatever the law is, or whoevermakes it.—In despotic countries governmentby law is the same with government by thewill of one man, which Hooker has called themisery of all men; but, according to this definition,it is liberty.—In England formerly, thelaw consigned to the flames all who denyed certainestablished points of faith. Even now, itsubjects to fines, imprisonment and banishmentall teachers of religion who have not subscribedthe doctrinal articles of the church of England;and the good Archbishop, not thinking the lawin this case sufficiently rigorous, has proposedputting Protestant Dissenters under the same restraintswith the Papists. And should this be[x]done, if done by law, it will be the establishmentof liberty.
The truth is, that a government by law is oris not liberty, just as the laws are just or unjust;and as the body of the people do or do not participatein the power of making them. Thelearned Prelate seems to have thought otherwise,and therefore has given a definition of liberty,which might as well have been given ofslavery.
At the conclusion of his sermon, the Archbishopadds words which he calls comfortable,[xi]addressed to those who had been patient in tribulation,and intimating that they might rejoicein hope, “a ray of brightness then appearingafter a prospect which had been long dark.”And in an account which follows the sermon,from one of the missionaries in the province ofNew-York, it is said, that “the rebellion wouldundoubtedly be crushed, and that THEN willbe the time for taking steps for the increase ofthe church in America, by granting it an episcopate.”In conformity to the sentiments of[xii]this missionary, the Archbishop also expresses hishope, that the opportunity which such an eventwill give, for establishing episcopacy among thecolonists, will not be lost; and advises, that measuresshould be thought of for that purpose,and for thereby rescuing the church from thepersecution it has long suffered in America.
This is a subject so important, and it has beenso much misrepresented, that I cannot help goingout of my way to give a brief account of it.
It does not appear that the lay members themselvesof the church in America have ever wishedfor Bishops. On the contrary, the assembly of Virginia(the first episcopal colony) some years ago returnedthanks to two clergymen in that colony,who had protested against a resolution of the otherclergy to petition for Bishops. The church herecannot have a right to impose Bishops on thechurch in another country; and therefore, whilechurchmen in America are averse to Bishops, itmust be persecution to send Bishops among them.The Presbyterians, and other religious sects there,are willing, from a sense of the reasonablenessof toleration, to admit Bishops whenever the bodyof episcopalian laity shall desire them, providedsecurity is given that they shall be officers merelyspiritual, possessed of no other powers than thosewhich are necessary to the full exercise of that[xiii]mode of religious worship. It is not Bishops, asspiritual officers, they have opposed; but Bishopson a state-establishment; Bishops with civil powers;Bishops at the head of ecclesiastical courts, maintainedby taxing other sects, and possessed of aPRE-EMINENCE which would be incompatible withthe equality which has long subsisted among allreligious sects in America. In this last respect,the colonies have hitherto enjoyed a happinesswhich is unparalleled, but which the introductionof such Bishops as would be sent fromhence would destroy. In Pensilvania (one ofthe happiest countries under heaven before wecarried