The danger from an endless increase of public debts has been already sufficiently noticed.
Particular notice has been likewise taken of the danger from internal
wars. Again and again, I would urge the necessity of pursuing every measure
and using every precaution which can guard against this danger. It will
be shocking to see in the new world a repetition of all the evils which
have hitherto laid waste the old world. War raging where peace and liberty
were thought to have taken their abodes. The points of bayonets and the
mouths of cannon settling disputes, instead of the collected wisdom of
the confederation — and perhaps one restless and ambitious state rising
by bloody conquest above the rest, and becoming a sovereign state, claiming
impiously (as Britain once did), 'full authority to make laws that shall
bind its sister states in all cases whatever', and drawing to itself all
advantages at their expence. I deprecate this calamity. I shudder when
I consider how possible it is and hope those persons are mistaken who think
that such are the jealousies which govern human nature, and such the imperfections
of the best human arrangements, that it is not within the reach of any
wisdom to discover any effectual means of preventing it without encroaching
too much on the liberty and independence of the states. I have mentioned
an enlargement of the powers of Congress. Others have proposed a consolidation
of the powers of government in one parliament representing all the states
and superseding the particular parliaments by which they are now separately
governed. But it is obvious that this will be attended with greater inconveniencies
and encroach more on the liberty of the states than the enlargement I have
proposed of the powers of Congress. If such a parliament is not to supersede
any of the other parliaments, it will be the same with Congress as at present
The happiest state of man is the middle state between the savage and the refined, or between the wild and the luxurious state. Such is the state of society in Connecticut and some others of the American provinces where the inhabitants consist, if I am rightly informed, of an independent and hardy yeomanry, all nearly on a level, trained to arms, instructed in their rights, cloathed in homespun, of simple manners, strangers to luxury, drawing plenty from the ground, and that plenty, gathered easily by the hand of industry and giving rise to early marriages, a numerous progeny, length of days, and a rapid increase — the rich and the poor, the haughty grandee and the creeping sycophant, equally unknown — protected by laws which (being their own will) cannot oppress, and by an equal government which, wanting lucrative places, cannot create corrupt canvassings and ambitious intrigue. O distinguished people! May you continue long thus happy, and may the happiness you enjoy spread over the face of the whole earth! But I am forgetting myself. There is danger that a state of society so happy will not be of long duration, that simplicity and virtue will give way to depravity, that equality will in time be lost, the cursed lust of domineering shew itself, liberty languish, and civil government gradually degenerate into an instrument in the hands of the few to oppress and plunder the many. Such has hitherto been the progress of evil in human affairs. In order to give them a better turn, some great men (Plato, Sir Thomas More, Mr. Wallace, etc.) have proposed plans which, by establishing a community of goods and annihilating property, would make it impossible for any one member of a state to think of enslaving the rest, or to consider himself as having any interest distinct from that of his fellow-citizens. Such theories are in speculation pleasing, nor perhaps are they wholly impracticable. Some approaches to them may hereafter be made and schemes of government may take place which shall leave so little, besides personal merit, to be a means of distinction as to exclude from society most of the causes of evil. But be this as it will, it is out of doubt that there is an equality in society which is essential to liberty and which every state that would continue virtuous and happy ought as far as possible to maintain. It is not in my power to describe the best method of doing this. I will only observe that there are three enemies to equality against which America ought to guard.
First, granting hereditary honours and tides of nobility. Persons thus distinguished, though perhaps meaner than the meanest of their dependents, are apt to consider themselves as belonging to a higher order of beings, and made for power and government. Their birth and rank necessarily dispose them to be hostile to general liberty, and when they are not so, and discover a just zeal for the rights of mankind, it is always a triumph of good sense and virtue over the temptations of their situation. It is, therefore, with peculiar satisfaction that I have found in the Articles of Confederation an order that no titles of nobility shall be ever granted by the united states. Let there be honours to encourage merit, but let them die with the men who have earned them. Let them not descend to posterity to foster a spirit of domination and to produce a proud and tyrannical aristocracy. In a word, let the united states continue for ever what it is now their glory to be — a confederation of states prosperous and happy, without lords, without bishops  and without kings.
Secondly, the right of primogeniture. The tendency of this to produce an improper inequality is very obvious. The disposition to raise a name by accumulating property in one branch of a family is a vanity no less unjust and cruel than dangerous to the interest of liberty and no wise state will encourage or tolerate it.
Thirdly, foreign trade is another of the enemies against which I wish
to caution the united states. But this operates unfavourably to a state
in so many more ways than by destroying that equality which is the basis
of liberty that it will be proper to take more particular notice of it.
But to proceed to some observations of a different nature. The united States have, I think, particular reason to dread the following effects of foreign trade.
By increasing importation to feed luxury and gratify prodigality, it will carry out their coin and occasion the substitution of a delusive paper currency, the consequence of which will be that ideal wealth will take place of real, and their security come to depend on the strength and duration of a bubble. I am very sensible that paper credit is one of the greatest of all conveniencies, but this makes it likewise one of the greatest of all temptations. A public bank (while it can circulate its bills) facilitates commerce and assists the exertions of a state in proportion to its credit. But when it is not carefully restricted and watched, when its emissions exceed the coin it can command and are carried near the utmost length that the confidence of the public will allow, and when, in consequence of this, its permanence comes to depend on the permanence of public credulity, in these circumstances, a bank, though it may for a time (that is, while a balance of trade too unfavourable does not occasion a run, and no events arise which produce alarm) answer all the ends of a mine from which millions may be drawn in a minute, and, by filling a kingdom with cash, render it capable of sustaining any debts, and give it a kind of omnipotence. In such circumstances, I say, notwithstanding these temporary advantages, a public bank must at last prove a great calamity and a kingdom so supported, at the very time of its greatest exertions, will be only striving more violently to increase the horror of an approaching convulsion.
The united States have already verified some of these observations and felt in some degree the consequences to which I have alluded. They have been carried through the war by an emission of paper which had no solid support and which now has lost all value. It is indeed surprising that, being secured on no fund and incapable of being exchanged for coin, it should ever have obtained a currency, or answered any important purpose.
Unhappily for Britain, it has used the means of giving more stability
to its paper-credit and being enabled by it to support expences greater
than any that have been yet known, and to contract a debt which now astonishes,
and may hereafter produce a catastrophe that will terrify the world. A
longer duration of the late war would have brought on this catastrophe
immediately. The peace has put it off for the present. God grant, if still
possible, that measures may be adopted which shall put it off for ever.
Often, while employed in writing these papers, have I wished for a warning
voice of more power. The present moment, however auspicious to the united
states if wisely improved, is critical and, though apparently the end of
all their dangers, may prove the time of their greatest danger. I have,
indeed, since finishing this address, been mortified more than I can express
by accounts which have led me to fear that I have carried my ideas of them
too high and deceived myself with visionary expectations. And should this
be true, should the return of peace and the pride of independence lead
them to security and dissipation, should they lose those virtuous and simple
manners by which alone republics can long subsist, should false refinement,
luxury, and irreligion spread among them, excessive jealousy distract their
governments, and clashing interests, subject to no strong controul, break
the federal union, the consequence will be that the fairest experiment
ever tried in human affairs will miscarry and that a revolution which had
revived the hopes of good men and promised an opening to better times will
become a discouragement to all future efforts in favour of liberty and
prove only an opening to a new scene of human degeneracy and misery.
. It was proposed to the convention for settling the Massachusett's constitution that one of the two houses which constitute the general court of that state should be a representation of persons, and the other a representation of property, and that the body of the people should appoint only the electors of their representatives. By such regulations corruption in the choice of representatives would be rendered less practicable, and it seems the best method of concentering in the legislature as much as possible of the virtue and ability of the state, and of making its voice always an expression of the will and best sense of the people. On this plan also the number of members constituting a legislature might be much lessened. This is a circumstance of particular consequence, to which the united states, in some future period of their increase, will find it necessary to attend. It has been often justly observed, that a legislative body very numerous is little better than a mob.
. I do not mean by 'bishops' any officers among Christians merely spiritual, but lords spiritual, as distinct from lords temporal, or clergymen raised to pre-eminence and invested with civil honours and authority by a state establishment. I must add that by what is here said I do not mean to express a general preference of a republican constitution of government. There is a degree of political degeneracy which unfits for such a constitution. Britain, in particular, consists too much of the high and the low, (of scum and dregs) to admit of it. Nor will it suit America should it ever become equally corrupt.
. The love of our country is then only a noble passion when it engages us to promote the internal happiness of our country and to defend its rights and liberties against domestic and foreign invasion, maintaining at the same time an equal regard to the rights and liberties of other countries. But this has not been its most common effects. On the contrary, it has in general been nothing but a spirit of rivalship between different communities, producing contention and a thirst for conquest and dominion. What is his country to a Russian, a Turk, a Spaniard, etc. but a spot where he enjoys no right, and is disposed of by owners as if he was a beast? And what is his love to his country but an attachment to degradation and slavery? What was the love of their country among the Jews but a wretched partiality for themselves and a proud contempt for other nations? Among the Romans also what was it, however great in many of its exertions, but a principle holding together a band of robbers in their attempts to crush all liberty but their own? Christianity has wisely omitted to recommend this principle. Had it done this, it would have countenanced a vice among mankind. It has done what is infinitely better. It has recommended universal benevolence.
Writings of Richard Price