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The French Revolution

A Discourse on the Love of our Country (1789)

Richard Price

Preface to the Fourth Edition Since the former editions of the following discourse, many animadversions upon  it have been published. Under the abuse with which some of them are accompanied,  I have been comforted by finding myself joined to the City of Paris, and the  National Assembly of France. I cannot think of employing my rime in making any  replies. Knowing that it has been the labour of my life to promote those  interests of liberty, peace, and virtue, which I reckon the best interests of  mankind, and believing that I have not laboured quite in vain, I feel a  satisfaction that no opposition can take from me, and shall submit myself in  silence to the judgment of the public without taking any other notice of the  abuse I have met with than by mentioning the following instance of it.  In p. 195,1 have adopted the words of Scripture, Now lettest thou thy servant  depart in peace and expressed my gratitude to God for having spared my life to  see a 'diffusion of knowledge that has undermined superstition and error, a vast  kingdom spuming at slavery, and an arbitrary monarch led in triumph and  surrendering himself to his subjects'. These words have occasioned a comparison  of me (by Mr. Burke in his Reflections on the Revolution in France) to Hugh  Peters, attended with an intimation that like him, I may not die in peace, and  he has described me, p. 99, etc. as a barbarian delighted with blood, profaning  Scripture, and exulting in the riot and slaughter at Versailles on the 6th of  October last year. I hope I shall be credited when, in answer to this horrid  misrepresentation and menace, I assure the public that the events to which I  referred in these words were not those of the 6th of October, but those only of  the 14th of July and the subsequent days, when, after the conquest of the  Bastile, the King of France sought the protection of the National Assembly and,  by his own desire, was conducted amidst acclamations never before heard in  France to Paris, there to shew himself to his people as the restorer of their  liberty

I am indeed surprised that Mr. Burke could want candour so much as to suppose  that I have any other events in view. The letters quoted by him in p. 99 and 128  were dated in July 1789, and might have shewn him that he was injuring both me  and the writer of those letters. But what candour or what moderation can be  expected in a person so frantic with zeal for hereditary claims and  aristocratical distinctions as to be capable of decrying popular rights and the  aid of philosophy in forming governments, of lamenting that the age of chivalry  is gone, and of believing that the insults offered by a mob to the Queen of  France have extinguished for ever the glory of Europe? Psalm cxxii. verses 2 and 4-9 Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem, whither the tribes go up,  the tribes of the Lord unto the testimony of Israel. To give thanks to the name  of the Lord, for there sit the thrones of judgment, the throne of the House of  David. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. They shall prosper that love thee. Peace  be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces. For my brethren and  companions sake I will now say peace be within thee. Because of the House of the  Lord our God, I will seek thy good

In these words the Psalmist expresses, in strong and beautiful language, his  love of his country and the reasons on which he founded it; and my present  design is to take occasion from them to explain the duty we owe to our country,  and the nature, foundation, and proper expressions of that love to it which we  ought to cultivate. I reckon this a subject particularly suitable to the  services of this day, and to the anniversary of our deliverance at the  Revolution from the dangers of Popery and arbitrary power, and should I, on such  an occasion, be led to touch more on political subjects than would at any other  time be proper in the pulpit, you will, I doubt not, excuse me

The love of our country has in all times been a subject of warm commendations  and it is certainly a noble passion, but, like all other passions, it requires  regulation and direction. There are mistakes and prejudices by which, in this  instance, we are in particular danger of being misled. I will briefly mention  some of these to you and observe, First, that by our country is meant, in this case, not the soil or the spot of  earth on which we happen to have been born, not the forests and fields, but that  community of which we are members, or that body of companions and friends and  kindred who are associated with us under the same constitution of government,  protected by the same laws, and bound together by the same civil polity

Secondly, it is proper to observe that even in this sense of our country, that  love of it which is our duty does not imply any conviction of the superior value  of it to other countries, or any particular preference of its laws and  constitution of government. Were this implied, the love of their country would  be the duty of only a very small part of mankind, for there are few countries  that enjoy the advantage of laws and governments which deserve to be preferred.  To found, therefore, this duty on such a preference would be to found it on  error and delusion. It is, however, a common delusion. There is the same  partiality in countries to themselves that there is in individuals. All our  attachments should be accompanied, as far as possible, with right opinions. We  are too apt to confine wisdom and virtue within the circle of our own  acquaintance and party. Our friends, our country, and, in short, every thing  related to us we are disposed to overvalue. A wise man will guard himself  against this delusion. He will study to think of all things as they are, and not  suffer any partial affections to blind his understanding. In other families  there may be as much worth as in our own. In other circles of friends there may  be as much wisdom, and in other countries as much of all that deserves esteem,  but, notwithstanding this, our obligation to love our own families, friends, and  country, and to seek, in the first place, their good, will remain the same.  Thirdly, it is proper I should desire you particularly to distinguish between  the love of our country and that spirit of rivalship and ambition which has been  common among nations. What has the love of their country hitherto been among  mankind? What has it been but a love of domination, a desire of conquest, and a  thirst for grandeur and glory, by extending territory and enslaving surrounding  countries? What has it been but a blind and narrow principle, producing in every  country a contempt of other countries, and forming men into combinations and  factions against their common rights and liberties? This is the principle that  has been too often cried up as a virtue of the first rank: a principle of the  same kind with that which governs clans of Indians or tribes of Arabs, and leads  them to plunder and massacre. As most of the evils which have taken place in  private life, and among individuals, have been occasioned by the desire of  private interest overcoming the public affections, so most of the evils which  have taken place among bodies of men have been occasioned by the desire of their  own interest overcoming the principle of universal benevolence and leading them  to attack one another's territories, to encroach on one another's rights, and to  endeavour to build their own advancement on the degradation of all within the  reach of their power. What was the love of their country among the Jews, but a  wretched partiality to themselves and a proud contempt of all other nations?  What was the love of their country among the old Romans? We have heard much of  it, but I cannot hesitate in saying that however great it appeared in some of  its exertions, it was in general no better than a principle holding together a  band of robbers in their attempts to crush all liberty but their own. What is  now the love of his country in a Spaniard, a Turk, or a Russian? Can it be  considered as any thing better than a passion for slavery, or a blind attachment  to a spot where he enjoys no rights and is disposed of as if he was a beast? Let us learn by such reflexions to correct and purify this passion, and to make  it a just and rational principle of action

It is very remarkable that the founder of our religion has not once mentioned  this duty or given us any recommendation of it, and this has, by unbelievers,  been made an objection to Christianity. What I have said will entirely remove  this objection. Certain it is, that by inculcating on men an attachment to their  country, Christianity would at the time it was propagated have done unspeakably  more harm than good. Among the Jews it would have been an excitement to war and  insurrections, for they were then in eager expectation of becoming soon (as the  favourite people of Heaven) the lords and conquerors of the earth under the  triumphant reign of the Messiah. Among the Romans, likewise, this principle had,  as I have just observed, exceeded its just bounds and rendered them enemies to  the peace and happiness of mankind. By inculcating it, therefore, Christianity  would have confirmed both Jews and Gentiles in one of the most pernicious  faults. Our Lord and his apostles have done better. They have recommended that  Universal Benevolence which is an unspeakably nobler principle than any partial  affections. They have laid such stress on loving all men, even our enemies, and  made an ardent and extensive charity so essential a part of virtue, that the  religion they have preached may, by way of distinction from all other religions,  be called the Religion of Benevolence. Nothing can be more friendly to the  general rights of mankind, and were it duly regarded and practised, every man  would consider every other man as his brother, and all the animosity that now  takes place among contending nations would be abolished. If you want any proof  of this, think of our Saviour's parable of the good Samaritan. The Jews and  Samaritans were two rival nations that entertained a hatred of one another the  most inveterate. The design of this parable was to shew a Jew that even a  Samaritan and consequently all men of all nations and religions were included in  the precept, Thou shall love thy neighbour as thyself

But I am digressing from what I had chiefly in view, which was, after noticing  that love of our country which is false and spurious, to explain the nature and  effects of that which is just and reasonable. With this view I must desire you  to recollect that we are so constituted that our affections are more drawn to  some among mankind than to others, in proportion to their degrees of nearness to  us, and our power of being useful to them. It is obvious that this is a  circumstance in the constitution of our natures which proves the wisdom and  goodness of our Maker, for had our affections been determined alike to all our  fellow-creatures human life would have been a scene of embarrassment and  distraction. Our regards, according to the order of nature, begin with  ourselves, and every man is charged primarily with the care of himself. Next  come our families, and benefactors, and friends, and after them our country. We  can do little for the interest of mankind at large. To this interest, however,  all other interests are subordinate. The noblest principle in our nature is the  regard to general justice and that good-will which embraces all the world. I  have already observed this, but it cannot be too often repeated. Though our  immediate attention must be employed in promoting our own interest and that of  our nearest connexions, yet we must remember that a narrower interest ought  always to give way to a more extensive interest. In pursuing particularly the  interest of our country we ought to carry our views beyond it. We should love it  ardently but not exclusively. We ought to seek its good, by all the means that  our different circumstances and abilities will allow, but at the same time we  ought to consider ourselves as citizens of the world, and take care to maintain  a just regard to the rights of other countries

The enquiry by what means (subject to this limitation) we may best promote the  interest of our country is very important, and all that remains of this  discourse shall be employed in answering it and in exhorting you to manifest  your love to your country by the means I shall mention

The chief blessings of human nature are the three following: truth, virtue, and  liberty. These are, therefore, the blessings in the possession of which the  interest of our country lies, and to the attainment of which our love of it  ought to direct our endeavours. By the diffusion of knowledge it must be  distinguished from a country of barbarians: by the practice of religious virtue,  it must be distinguished from a country of gamblers, atheists, and libertines:  and by the possession of liberty, it must be distinguished from a country of  slaves. I will dwell for a few moments on each of these heads

Our first concern as lovers of our country must be to enlighten it. Why are the  nations of the world so patient under despotism? Why do they crouch to tyrants,  or submit to be treated as if they were a herd of cattle? Enlighten them and you  will elevate them. Shew them they are men and they will act like men. Give them  just ideas of civil government and let them know that it is an expedient for  gaining protection against injury and defending their rights, and it will be  impossible for them to submit to governments which, like most of those now in  the world, are usurpations on the rights of men and little better than  contrivances for enabling the few to oppress the many. Convince them that the  Deity is a righteous and benevolent as well as omnipotent being, who regards  with equal eye all his creatures and connects his favour with nothing but an  honest desire to know and to do his will, and that zeal for mystical doctrines  which has led men to hate and harass one another will be exterminated. Set  religion before them as a rational service consisting not in any rites and  ceremonies, but in worshipping God with a pure heart and practising  righteousness from the fear of his displeasure and the apprehension of a future  righteous judgment and that gloomy and cruel superstition will be abolished  which has hitherto gone under the name of religion, and to the support of which  civil government has been perverted. Ignorance is the parent of bigotry,  intolerance, persecution and slavery. Inform and instruct mankind, and these  evils will be excluded. Happy is the person who, himself raised above vulgar  errors, is conscious of having aimed at giving mankind this instruction. Happy  is the scholar or philosopher who at the close of life can reflect that he has  made this use of his learning and abilities, but happier far must he be if, at  the same time, he has reason to believe he has been successful and actually  contributed by his instructions to disseminate among his fellow-creatures just  notions of themselves, of their rights, of religion, and the nature and end of  civil government. Such were Milton, Locke, Sidney, Hoadly, etc. in this country,  such were Montesquieu, Fenelon, Turgot, etc. in France. They sowed a seed which  has since taken root and is now growing up to a glorious harvest. To the  information they conveyed by their writings we owe those revolutions in which  every friend to mankind is now exulting. What an encouragement is this to us all  in our endeavours to enlighten the world? Every degree of illumination which we  can communicate must do the greatest good. It helps to prepare the minds of men  for the recovery of their rights, and hastens the overthrow of priestcraft and  tyranny. In short, we may, in this instance, learn our duty from the conduct of  the oppressors of the world. They know that light is hostile to them, and  therefore they labour to keep men in the dark. With this intention they have  appointed licensers of the press, and, in Popish countries, prohibited the  reading of the Bible. Remove the darkness in which they envelope the world and  their usurpations will be exposed, their power will be subverted, and the world  emancipated

The next great blessing of human nature which I have mentioned is virtue. This  ought to follow knowledge and to be directed by it. Virtue without knowledge  makes enthusiasts and knowledge without virtue makes devils, but both united  elevates to the top of human dignity and perfection. We must, therefore, if we  would serve our country, make both these the objects of our zeal. We must  discourage vice in all its forms, and our endeavours to enlighten must have  ultimately in view a reformation of manners and virtuous practice

I must add here that in the practice of virtue I include the discharge of the  public duties of religion. By neglecting these we may injure our country  essentially. But it is melancholy to observe that it is a common neglect among  us and in a great measure owing to a cause which is not likely to be soon  removed: I mean, the defects (may I not say, the absurdities?) in our  established codes of faith and worship. In foreign countries, the higher ranks  of men, not distinguishing between the religion they see established and the  Christian religion, are generally driven to irreligion and infidelity. The like  evil is produced by the like cause in this country, and if no reformation of our  established formularies can be brought about, it must be expected that religion  will go on to lose its credit, and that little of it will be left except among  the lower orders of people, many of whom, while their superiors give up all  religion, are sinking into an enthusiasm in religion lately revived, and  mistaking, as the world has generally done, the service acceptable to God for a  system of faith souring the temper, and a service of forms supplanting morality

I hope you will not mistake what I am now saying, or consider it as the effect  of my prejudices as a Dissenter from the established church. The complaint I am  making, is the complaint of many of the wisest and best men in the established  church itself, who have long been urging the necessity of a revival of its  Liturgy and Articles. These were framed above two centuries ago when Christendom  was just emerging from the ignorance and barbarity of the dark ages. They remain  now much the same as they were then and, therefore, cannot be properly adapted  to the good sense and liberality of the present times. This imperfection,  however, in our public forms of worship, affords no excuse to any person for  neglecting public worship. All communities will have some religion, and it is of  infinite consequence that they should be led to that which, by enforcing the  obligations of virtue and putting men upon loving instead of damning one  another, is most favourable to the interest of society

If there is a Governor of the world who directs all events, he ought to be  invoked and worshipped, and those who dislike that mode of worship which is  prescribed by public authority ought (if they can find no worship out of the  church which they approve) to set up a separate worship for themselves, and by  doing this and giving an example of a rational and manly worship, men of weight,  from their rank or literature, may do the greatest service to society and the  world. They may bear a testimony against that application of civil power to the  support of particular modes of faith which obstructs human improvement and  perpetuates error, and they may hold out an instruction which will  discountenance superstition, and at the same time recommend religion by making  it appear to be (what it certainly is when rightly understood) the strongest  incentive to all that is generous and worthy, and, consequently, the best friend  to public order and happiness

Liberty is the next great blessing which I have mentioned as the object of  patriotic zeal. It is inseparable from knowledge and virtue and together with  them completes the glory of a community. An enlightened and virtuous country  must be a free country. It cannot suffer invasions of its rights, or bend to  tyrants. I need not, on this occasion, take any pains to shew you how great a  blessing liberty is. The smallest attention to the history of past ages and the  present state of mankind, will make you sensible of its importance. Look round  the world and you will find almost every country, respectable or contemptible,  happy or miserable, a fruitful field or a frightful waste, according as it  possesses or wants this blessing. Think of Greece, formerly the seat of arts and  science and the most distinguished spot under heaven, but now, having lost  liberty, a vile and wretched spot, a region of darkness, poverty, and barbarity.  Such reflexions must convince you that if you love your country you cannot be  zealous enough in promoting the cause of liberty in it. But it will come in my  way to say more to this purpose presently

The observations I have made include our whole duty to our country, for by  endeavouring to liberalize and enlighten it, to discourage vice and to promote  virtue in it, and to assert and support its liberties, we shall endeavour to do  all that is necessary to make it great and happy. But it is proper that, on this  occasion, I should be more explicit and exemplify our duty to our country by  observing farmer that it requires us to obey its laws and to respect its  magistrates

Civil government (as I have before observed) is an institution of human prudence  for guarding our persons, our property, and our good name, against invasion, and  for securing to the members of a community that liberty to which all have an  equal right, as far as they do not, by any overt act, use it to injure the  liberty of others. Civil laws are regulations agreed upon by the community for  gaining these ends, and civil magistrates are officers appointed by the  community for executing these laws. Obedience, therefore, to the laws and to  magistrates is a necessary expression of our regard to the community. Without it  a community must fall into a state of anarchy that will destroy those rights and  subvert that liberty which it is the end of government to protect

I wish it was in my power to give you a just account of the importance of this  observation. It shews the ground on which the duty of obeying civil governors  stands, and that there are two extremes in this case which ought to be avoided.  These extremes are adulation and servility on one hand, and a proud and  licentious contempt on the other. The former is the extreme to which mankind in  general have been most prone, for it has oftener happened that men have been too  passive than too unruly, and the rebellion of Kings against their people has  been more common and done more mischief than the rebellion of people against  their Kings

Adulation is always odious and when offered to men in power it corrupts them by  giving them improper ideas of their situation, and it debases those who offer it  by manifesting an abjectness founded on improper ideas of themselves. I have  lately observed in this kingdom too near approaches to this abjectness. In our  late addresses to the King on his recovery from the severe illness with which  God has been pleased to afflict him, we have appeared more like a herd crawling  at the feet of a master than like enlightened and manly citizens rejoicing with  a beloved sovereign, but at the same time conscious that he derives all his  consequence from themselves. But, perhaps, these servilities in the language of  our late addresses should be pardoned as only forms of civility and expressions  of an overflow of good nature. They have, however, a dangerous tendency. The  potentates of this world are sufficiently apt to consider themselves as  possessed of an inherent superiority which gives them a right to govern and  makes mankind their own; and this infatuation is almost every where fostered in  them by the creeping sycophants about them and the language of flattery which  they are continually hearing

Civil governors are properly the servants of the public and a King is no more  than the first servant of the public, created by it, maintained by it, and  responsible to it; and all the homage paid him is due to him on no other account  than his relation to the public. His sacredness is the sacredness of the  community. His authority is the authority of the community, and the term  Majesty, which it is usual to apply to him, is by no means his own majesty, but  the majesty of the people. For this reason, whatever he may be in his private  capacity and though, in respect of personal qualities, not equal to or even far  below many among ourselves — for this reason I say (that is, as representing the  community and its first magistrate) he is entitled to our reverence and  obedience. The words Most Excellent Majesty are rightly applied to him and there  is a respect which it would be criminal to withhold from him

You cannot be too attentive to this observation. The improvement of the world  depends on the attention to it: nor will mankind be ever as virtuous and happy  as they are capable of being till the attention to it becomes universal and  efficacious. If we forget it we shall be in danger of an idolatry as gross and  stupid as that of the ancient heathens, who, after fabricating blocks of wood  and stone, fell down and worshipped them. The disposition in mankind to this  kind of idolatry is indeed a very mortifying subject of reflexion. In Turkey,  millions of human beings adore a silly mortal and are ready to throw themselves  at his feet and to submit their lives to his discretion. In Russia, the common  people are only a stock on the lands of grandees or appendages to their estates,  which, like the fixtures in a house, are bought and sold with the estates. In  Spain, in Germany, and under most of the governments of the world, mankind are  in a similar state of humiliation. Who, that has a just sense of the dignity of  his nature, can avoid execrating such a debasement of it? Had I been to address the King on a late occasion, I should have been inclined  to do it in a style very different from that of most of the addressers, and to  use some such language as the following:   I rejoice, Sir, in your recovery. I thank God for his goodness to you. I    honour you not only as my King, but as almost the only lawful King in the    world, because the only one who owes his crown to the choice of the people.    May you enjoy all possible happiness. May God shew you the folly of those    effusions of adulation which you are now receiving, and guard you against    their effects. May you be led to such a sense of the nature of your situation    and endowed with such wisdom as shall render your restoration to the    government of these kingdoms a blessing to it, and engage you to consider    yourself as more properly the servant than the sovereign of your people

But I must not forget the opposite extreme to that now taken notice of, that is,  a disdainful pride derived from a consciousness of equality, or, perhaps,  superiority in respect of all that gives true dignity to men in power and  producing a contempt of them, and a disposition to treat them with rudeness and  insult. It is a trite observation, that extremes generally beget one another.  This is particularly true in the present case. Persons justly informed on the  subject of government, when they see men dazzled by looking up to high stations  and observe loyalty carried to a length that implies ignorance and servility,  such persons, in such circumstances, are in danger of spuming at all public  authority and throwing off that respectful demeanour to persons invested with it  which the order of society requires. There is undoubtedly a particular deference  and homage due to civil magistrates on account of their stations and offices;  nor can that man be either truly wise or truly virtuous who despises governments  and wantonly speaks evil of his rulers, or who does not, by all the means in his  power, endeavour to strengthen their hands and to give weight to their exertions  in the discharge of their duty. Fear God says St. Peter, Love the brotherhood.  Honour all men. Honour the King. You must needs, says St. Paul, be subject to  rulers, not only for wrath (that is, from the fear of suffering the penalties  annexed to the breach of the laws) but for conscience sake. For rulers are  ministers of God, and revengers for executing wrath on all that do evil

Another expression of our love to our country is defending it against enemies.  These enemies are of two sorts; internal and external, or domestic and foreign.  The former are the most dangerous, and they have generally been the most  successful. I have just observed that there is a submission due to the executive  officers of a government which is our duty, but you must not forget what I have  also observed that it must not be a blind and slavish submission. Men in power  (unless better disposed than is common) are always endeavouring to extend their  power. They hate the doctrine that it is a trust derived from the people and not  a right vested in themselves. For this reason the tendency of every government  is to despotism, and in this the best constituted governments must end, if the  people are not vigilant, ready to take alarms, and determined to resist abuses  as soon as they begin. This vigilance, therefore, it is our duty to maintain.  Whenever it is withdrawn and a people cease to reason about their rights and to  be awake to encroachments, they are in danger of being enslaved and their  servants will soon become their masters

I need not say how much it is our duty to defend our country against foreign  enemies. When a country is attacked in any of its rights by another country, or  when any attempts are made by ambitious foreign powers to injure it, a war in  its defence becomes necessary: and, in such circumstances, to die for our  country is meritorious and noble. These defensive wars are, in my opinion, the  only just wars. Offensive wars are always unlawful and to seek the  aggrandizement of our country by them, that is, by attacking other countries in  order to extend dominion, or to gratify avarice, is wicked and detestable. Such,  however, have been most of the wars which have taken place in the world, but the  time is, I hope, coming when a conviction will prevail of the folly[22] as well  as the iniquity of wars, and when the nations of the earth, happy under just  governments, and no longer in danger from the passions of kings, will find out  better ways of settling their disputes, and beat (as Isaiah prophecies) their  swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning-hooks

Among the particulars included in that duty to our country by discharging which  we should shew our love to it, I will only further mention praying for it and  offering up thanksgivings to God for every event favourable to it. At the  present season we are called upon to express in this way our love to our  country. It is the business of this day and of the present service, and,  therefore, it is necessary that I should now direct your attention to it  particularly

We are met to thank God for that event in this country to which the name of The  Revolution has been given, and which, for more than a century, it has been usual  for the friends of freedom and more especially Protestant Dissenters to  celebrate with expressions of joy and exultation. My highly valued and excellent  friend [Andrew Kippis], who addressed you on this occasion last year, has given  you an interesting account of the principal circumstances that attended this  event, and of the reasons we have for rejoicing in it. By a bloodless victory  the fetters which despotism had long been preparing for us were broken, the  rights of the people were asserted, a tyrant expelled, and a sovereign of our  own choice appointed in his room. Security was given to our property, and our  consciences were emancipated. The bounds of free enquiry were enlarged, the  volume in which are the words of eternal life was laid more open to our  examination, and that aera of light and liberty was introduced among us, by  which we have been made an example to other kingdoms and become the instructors  of the world. Had it not been for this deliverance, the probability is that,  instead of being thus distinguished, we should now have been a base people,  groaning under the infamy and misery of popery and slavery. Let us, therefore,  offer thanksgivings to God, the author of all our blessings. Had he not been on  our side, we should have been swallowed up quick, and the proud waters would  have gone over our souls. But our souls are escaped, and the snare has been  broken. Blessed then be the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth

It is well known that King James was not far from gaining his purpose, and that  probably he would have succeeded had he been less in a hurry. But he wanted  courage as well as prudence, and, therefore, fled and left us to settle quietly  for ourselves that constitution of government which is now our boast. We have  particular reason, as Protestant Dissenters, to rejoice on this occasion. It was  at this time we were rescued from persecution, and obtained the liberty of  worshipping God in the manner we think most acceptable to him. It was then our  meeting-houses were opened, our worship was taken under the protection of the  law, and the principles of toleration gained a triumph. We have, therefore, on  this occasion, peculiar reasons for thanksgiving. But let us remember that we  ought not to satisfy ourselves with thanksgivings. Our gratitude, if genuine,  will be accompanied with endeavours to give stability to the deliverance our  country has obtained, and to extend and improve the happiness with which the  Revolution has blest us. Let us, in particular, take care not to forget the  principles of the Revolution. This Society has, very properly, in its reports,  held out these principles, as an instruction to the public. I will only take  notice of the three following:   First, the right to liberty of conscience in religious matters.    Secondly, the right to resist power when abused. And   Thirdly, the right to chuse our own governors, to cashier them for misconduct,    and to frame a government for ourselves.[23] On these three principles, and more especially the last, was the Revolution  founded. Were it not true that liberty of conscience is a sacred right, that  power abused justifies resistance, and that civil authority is a delegation from  the people. Were not, I say, all this true, the Revolution would have been not  an assertion, but an invasion of rights, not a revolution, but a rebellion.  Cherish in your breasts this conviction and act under its influence, detesting  the odious doctrines of passive obedience, non-resistance, and the divine right  of kings — doctrines which, had they been acted upon in this country, would have  left us at this time wretched slaves — doctrines which imply that God made  mankind to be oppressed and plundered, and which are no less a blasphemy against  him, than an insult on common sense

I would farther direct you to remember that, though the Revolution was a great  work, it was by no means a perfect work, and that all was not then gained which  was necessary to put the kingdom in the secure and complete possession of the  blessings of liberty. In particular, you should recollect that the toleration  then obtained was imperfect. It included only those who could declare their  faith in the doctrinal articles of the church of England. It has, indeed, been  since extended, but not sufficiently, for there still exist penal laws on  account of religious opinions which (were they carried into execution) would  shut up many of our places of worship, and silence and imprison some of the  ablest and best men. The Test Laws are also still in force and deprive of  eligibility to civil and military offices all who cannot conform to the  established worship. It is with great pleasure I find that the body of  Protestant Dissenters, though defeated in their attempts to deliver their  country from this disgrace to it, have determined to persevere. Should they at  last succeed, they will have the satisfaction, not only of removing from  themselves a proscription they do not deserve, but of contributing to lessen the  number of our public iniquities. For I cannot call by a gender name, laws which  convert an ordinance appointed by our Saviour to commemorate his death into an  instrument of oppressive policy, and a qualification of rakes and atheists for  civil posts. I have said should they succeed, but perhaps I ought not to suggest  a doubt about their success. And, indeed, when I consider that in Scotland the  established church is defended by no such test; that in Ireland it has been  abolished; that in a great neighbouring country it has been declared to be an  indefeasible right of all citizens to be equally eligible to public offices;  that in the same kingdom a professed Dissenter from the established church holds  the first office in the state; that in the Emperor's dominions Jews have been  lately admitted to the enjoyment of equal privileges with other citizens; and  that in this very country, a Dissenter, though excluded from the power of  executing the laws, yet is allowed to be employed in making them. When, I say, I  consider such facts as these I am disposed to think it impossible that the  enemies of the repeal of the Test Laws should not soon become ashamed and give  up their opposition

But the most important instance of the imperfect state in which the Revolution  left our constitution, is the inequality of our representation. I think, indeed,  this defect in our constitution so gross and so palpable, as to make it  excellent chiefly in form and theory. You should remember that a representation  in the legislature of a kingdom is the basis of constitutional liberty in it,  and of all legitimate government, and that without it a government is nothing  but an usurpation. When the representation is fair and equal, and at the same  time vested with such powers as our House of Commons possesses, a kingdom may be  said to govern itself, and consequently to possess true liberty. When the  representation is partial, a kingdom possesses liberty only partially, and if  extremely partial, it only gives a semblance of liberty; but if not only  extremely partial but corruptly chosen, and under corrupt influence after being  chosen, it becomes a nuisance and produces the worst of all forms of government:  a government by corruption — a government carried on and supported by spreading  venality and profligacy through a kingdom. May heaven preserve this kingdom from  a calamity so dreadful! It is the point of depravity to which abuses under such  a government as ours naturally tend, and the last stage of national unhappiness.  We are, at present, I hope, at a great distance from it. But it cannot be  pretended that there are no advances towards it or that there is no reason for  apprehension and alarm

The inadequateness of our representation has been long a subject of complaint.  This is, in truth, our fundamental grievance, and I do not think that any thing  is much more our duty, as men who love their country, and are grateful for the  Revolution, than to unite our zeal in endeavouring to get it redressed. At the  time of the American war, associations were formed for this purpose in London  and other parts of the kingdom, and our present Minister himself has since that  war directed to it an effort which made him a favourite with many of us. But all  attention to it seems now lost, and the probability is that this inattention  will continue and that nothing will be done towards gaining for us this  essential blessing till some great calamity again alarms our fears, or till some  great abuse of power again provokes our resentment or, perhaps, till the  acquisition of a pure and equal representation by other countries (while we are  mocked with the shadow) kindles our shame

Such is the conduct by which we ought to express our gratitude for the  Revolution. We should always bear in mind the principles that justify it. We  should contribute all we can towards supplying what is left deficient, and shew  ourselves anxious about transmitting the blessings obtained by it to our  posterity, unimpaired and improved. But, brethren, while we thus shew our  patriotic zeal, let us take care not to disgrace the cause of patriotism by any  licentiousness or immoral conduct. Oh! how earnestly do I wish that all who  profess zeal in this cause were as distinguished by the purity of their morals  as some of them are by their abilities,[r] and that I could make them sensible  of the advantages they would derive from a virtuous character, and of the  suspicions they incur and the loss of consequence they suffer by wanting it. Oh!  that I could see in men who oppose tyranny in the state a disdain of the tyranny  of low passions in themselves, or, at least, such a sense of shame and regard to  public order and decency as would induce them to hide their irregularities and  to avoid insulting the virtuous part of the community by an open exhibition of  vice! I cannot reconcile myself to the idea of an immoral patriot, or to that  separation of private from public virtue, which some think to be possible. Is it  to be expected that — but I must forbear. I am afraid of applications which many  are too ready to make and for which I should be sorry to give any just occasion

I have been explaining to you the nature and expressions of a just regard to our  country. Give me leave to exhort you to examine your conduct by what I have been  saying. You love your country and desire its happiness, and, without doubt, you  have the greatest reason for loving it. It has been long a very distinguished  and favoured country. Often has God appeared for it and delivered it. Let us  study to shew ourselves worthy of the favour shewn us. Do you practise virtue  yourselves, and study to promote it in others? Do you obey the laws of your  country, and aim at doing your part towards maintaining and perpetuating its  privileges? Do you always give your vote on the side of public liberty and are  you ready to pour out your blood in its defence? Do you look up to God for the  continuance of his favour to your country and pray for its prosperity,  preserving, at the same time, a strict regard to the rights of other countries,  and always considering yourselves more as citizens of the world than as members  of any particular community? If this is your temper and conduct you are  blessings to your country, and were all like you this world would soon be a  heaven

I am addressing myself to Christians. Let me, therefore, mention to you the  example of our blessed Saviour. I have observed at the beginning of this  discourse that he did not inculcate upon his hearers the love of their country  or take any notice of it as a part of their duty. Instead of doing this, I  observed that he taught the obligation to love all mankind and recommended  universal benevolence as (next to the love of God) our first duty, and, I think,  I also proved to you that this, in the circumstances of the world at that time,  was an instance of incomparable wisdom and goodness in his instructions. But we  must not infer from hence that he did not include the love of our country in the  number of our duties. He has shewn the contrary by his example. It appears that  he possessed a particular affection for his country, though a very wicked  country. We read in Luke [xi]x. 42, that when, upon approaching Jerusalem, in  one of his last journeys to it, he beheld it, he wept over it and said, Oh! that  thou hadst known (even thou, at least in this thy day) the things that belong to  thy peace. What a tender solicitude about his country does the lamentation over  Jerusalem imply, which is recorded in the same gospel, chap. xiii and 34. Oh!  Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them who are  sent to thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen  gathereth her brood under her wings, but ye would not

It may not be improper farther to mention the love St. Paul expressed for his  country when he declared that for the sake of his brethren and kinsmen he could  even wish himself accursed from Christ (Rom. ix. 3.). The original words are an  anathema from Christ, and his meaning is, that he could have been contented to  suffer himself the calamities which were coming on the Jewish people, were it  possible for him by such a sacrifice of himself to save them

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 shewn 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 God's  displeasure. That spirit to which it owes its distinction 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  own private interest as well as the interest of our 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  our 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 see 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 error. I 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 ardor 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


   22. See a striking representation of the folly of wars, in the last sections of  Mr. Necker's Treatise on the Administration of the Finances of France. There is  reason to believe that the sentiments on this subject in that treatise are now  the prevailing sentiments in the court and legislature of France, and,  consequently, that one of the happy effects of the revolution in that country  may be, if not our own fault, such a harmony between the two first kingdoms in  the world, strengthened by a common participation in the blessings of liberty as  shall not only prevent their engaging in any future wars with one another, but  dispose them to unite in preventing wars every where and in making the world  free and happy.  23. Mr. Burke in his Reflections on the Revolution in France [1790], denies  several of the principles which in these pages are said to be the principles of  the Revolution. He asserts that our Kings do not derive their right to the crown  from the choice of their people, and that they are not responsible to them. And  yet, with wonderful inconsistency, he indicates (p. 123) that a wicked king may  be punished, provided it is done with dignity and he is under the necessity of  granting that King James was justly deprived of his crown for misconduct. In p.  19, he mentions the legal conditions of the compact of sovereignty by which our  kings are bound. The succession of the crown he calls a succession by law (p.  28) and the law, he calls an 'emanation from the common agreement and original  compact of the State', and the constitution also he calls the 'engagement and  pact of society'. In p. 26 he cites, as an authority against the right of the  people to chuse their own governors, the very act for settling the crown on  William and Mary which was an exercise of that right and the words of which are: 'The Lords and Commons do in the name of all the people submit themselves, their  heirs and posterities for ever', etc

This act having been passed on purpose to establish a change in the succession  for misconduct, it cannot be supposed that it was intended to deprive the nation  for ever of the power of making again any such change, whatever reasons  appearing to the nation sufficient might occur. That is, it cannot be supposed  that it was the intention of the act to subject the nation for ever to any  tyrants that might happen to arise in the new line of succession. And yet this  is the sense in which Mr. Burke seems to understand it, and he grounds upon it  his assertion in p. 27, 'that so far was the nation from acquiring by the  Revolution a right to elect our kings, that, if we had possessed it before, the  English nation did then most solemnly renounce and abdicate it for themselves  and their posterity for ever'. Mr. Burke, before he published this assertion,  should have attended to a subsequent act which has been recommended to my notice  by the truly patriotic Earl Stanhope [Charles Stanhope, third Earl Stanhope  (1753-1816)]. I mean the act of the 6th of Anne, chap 7th, by which it is  enacted that, 'if any person shall by writing or printing maintain and affirm  that the Kings or (Queens of this realm, with and by the authority of  Parliament, are not able to make laws and statutes of sufficient validity to  limit the Crown, and the descent, inheritance and government thereof, every such  person shall be guilty of high treason, etc'.