Torchbearer of Freedom: The Influence of Richard Price on Eighteenth Century Thought

By Carl B. Cone | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IX
THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES

PRICE'S relationship to the political course of the United States during the 1780's was hardly less strange or noteworthy than his influence upon England's postwar reconstruction. One difference, however, deserves comment. A Dissenter playing any part in England's public life, and it had to be unofficial because of legal restraints, combated prejudice which dissenting sympathy with American revolutionaries had done nothing to mitigate. In the United States, where his prestige was high and his friendships numerous because of his espousal of the American Revolution, Price's dissenting background added to his stature. Particularly was this true among New Englanders who boasted the same Puritan ancestry as Price. Along with this common heritage of religious individualism, Price shared with many Americans belief in the political philosophy of the Declaration of Independence and confidence in the glorious future of the United States. As much as any of the men who made the revolution, he possessed the vision of the new nation becoming the hope of the world.

But this revelation did not delude him. National greatness did not descend like manna from heaven, though the capacity for it may have been God-given. Soon after the war ended, Price wrote a book about the prospects of the United States. He challenged American leaders to be bold. He urged them resolutely to make changes in their constitutional system and to take the other actions necessary before America could attain the destiny marked out for it. Price's Observations on

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