Price, Richard, Dd
Price, Richard, D.D.
an eminent English divine noted for his scholarly attainments, his philosophical and mathematical contributions, his general devotion to truth in its highest forms, and a most consistent life, was born at Tynton, Glamorganshire, Wales, Feb. 23, 1723. His father, of whose second marriage Richard was the sole offspring, was a rigid Calvinistic minister, remarkable for his intolerance, who spared no pains to imbue his son with sound Calvinistic doctrine. Richard, however, began early to claim the privilege of free opinion, and by his scruples often incurred the anger of his parent. The latter died in 1739, and by his will the bulk of the property, which appears to have been considerable, came into the possession of one son; the widow and six other children being left in straitened circumstances to provide for their own maintenance. The widow and her eldest son lived, however, only a few months longer, and shortly after their death Richard, then in his eighteenth year, set out for London in the hope of qualifying himself for the clerical profession. The heir of his father's fortune provided him with both horse and servant as far as Cardiff, but left him without the means of performing the rest of the journey except on foot or in a wagon. He chose the former as the most ready means, and thus made his wav to the metropolis of England. His education during his father's lifetime had been superintended by several Dissenting ministers, and on reaching London he obtained, through the kindness of a paternal uncle, admission to a Presbyterian academy, where he pursued studies in mathematics, philosophy, and theology. In 1743 he was engaged as chaplain and companion to the family of Mr. Streathfield, of Stoke-Newington, where he resided for thirteen years, the death of his employer only terminating the engagement, but not without a recognition of faithful service rendered. In the disposition of Mr. Streathfield's property Price came in for a share, and by this aid and his appointment as morning preacher of the chapel at Newington-Green, he was placed in independent circumstances. He had previously been made pastor of a congregation at Hackney, but he preferred the appointment at Newington-Green, married in 1757, and lived there until the death of his wife (in 1786), when he removed again to Hackney. Meanwhile his life had been one of considerable literary and scientific activity. His Review of the Principal Questions and Difficulties in Morals (Lond. 1758), though somewhat heavy, and designated by Brown as "very elaborate, very tedious, and not very clear," seems to have established his reputation as a metaphysician and a moralist. It is considered the ablest defense of the system of Cudworth and Clarke. It is an attempt to revive the intellectual theory of moral obligation, which seemed to have fallen under the attacks of Butler, Hutcheson, and Hume, and was made before that of Smith. Sir J. Mackintosh has briefly noticed it in his Preliminary Dissertation to Encyclop. Brit. (republished in his Works [ed. 1854], 1, 158, 159). In 1769 Price published his Treatise on Reversionary Payments; this was followed by the compilation and publication of the celebrated Northampton Mortality Tables, and various other works relating to life-assurance and annuities, forming most valuable contributions to the branch of science to which they refer. In 1776 appeared his Observations on Civil Liberty and the Justice and Policy of the War with America. Of this work 60,000 copies are said to have been sold in a few months. So greatly was it admired in the United States that, in 1778, the American Congress, through Franklin, communicated to him their desire to consider him a fellow-citizen, and to receive his assistance in regulating their finances-an offer declined principally on the ground of age. On the termination of the war with the colonies, Mr. Pitt sought Mr. Price's advice as to the best mode of liquidating the British national debt, the result of which, it is said, was the adoption of the sinking fund. When the French revolution broke out, the doctor distinguished himself by a sermon, "On the Love of Country," in which he hailed that event as the commencement of a glorious era. This drew upon the preacher some strong animadversions from Mr. Burke in his celebrated Reflections. Besides many papers in the Transactions of the Royal Society, of which he was a fellow, he published sermons and pamphlets, which established his character as a sound advocate for civil liberty and a profound master of financial calculation. He died April 19, 1791. One other of his publications of interest to our readers is his Four Dissertations on Providence. Prayer, the State of Virtuous Men after Death, and Christianity (1766-68). His views respecting the Son of God were what was called Low or semi-Arian. Mr. Price was a believer in the immateriality of the soul, holding that, according to the teaching of the Sacred Scriptures, it remains in a dormant state between death and resurrection; and because of these opinions he was led into a controversy of some celebrity with his friend Dr. Priestley, maintained by correspondence in 1778, and given to the public by the latter under the title of A Free Discussion of the Doctrine of Materialism and Philosophical Necessity. This friendly controversy shows how decided were his views on the philosophical aberration of the age, and how earnestly he desired to place moral and metaphysical truth upon a deeper and truer foundation. "Almost the only writer," says Morell, "of this (the rationalistic) school whose works are likely to form a part of our standard philosophy is Dr. Richard Price." In this high estimate of the merits of Price's philosophical writings, Mr. Morell is not alone. "Price investigated with acuteness and ability many important questions relative to morals, and controverted the doctrine of a moral sense as irreconcilable with the unalterable character of moral ideas, which, as well as those of substance and cause, he maintained to be eternal and original principles of the intellect itself, independent of the divine will" (Tennemann). "If, in England, you only look at London in the 18th century, you will doubtless there see little else than sensualism. But even at London you would find, by the side of Priestley, Price, that ardent friend of liberty-that ingenious and profound economist, who renewed and brilliantly sustained the Platonic idealism of Cudworth. I know that Price is an isolated phenomenon at London, but the whole Scotch school is more or less spiritualistic" (Cousin). But Mackintosh (ut sup.) by no means shares in this enthusiasm; nor can it be expected that the admirers of Locke should discover much merit in his opponent. Sir James's estimate of the characteristics of Price will be found in the Edinburgh Review, June, 1815, p. 171, 172. See also The London Mon. Rev. 83, 77; and Boston Christ. Disciple, 2, 134. Dr. Price's moral character appears to have been a singularly beautiful one. "Simplicity of manners," says Dr. Priestley, "with such genuine marks of perfect integrity and benevolence, diffused around him a charm which the forms of politeness can but poorly imitate." See Morgan, Memoirs of the Life of Richard Price, D.D. (Lond. 1815); Hook, Ecclesiastes Biog. 8:162; Stephen, Hist. of Engl. Thought (1877, 2 vols. 8vo), vol. 1 and 2, especially 2, 3 sq.; Leckey, Hist. of the 18th Century (1878, 2 vols. 8vo), vol. 2. See also Tennemann, Hist. of Philos. (Johnson's transl. 1832) p. 384; Cousin, Hist. of Mod. Philos. (Wright's transl. 1854) 2, 132; Morell, Hist. of Mod. Philos. (2nd ed. 1848) 1, 215; Blakey, Hist. of the Philos. of Mind (1850) 3, 313-15; Blackwood's Magazine, 39:803.