Observations on the Nature of Civil Liberty,

the Principles of Government,

and the

Justice and Policy of the War with America

Richard Price (1776)

Preface to the Fifth Edition

The favourable reception which the following Tract has met with makes me abundant amends for the abuse it has brought upon me. I should be ill employed were I to take much notice of this abuse: but there is one circumstance attending it which I cannot help just mentioning. The principles on which I have argued form the foundation of every state as far as it is free, and are the same with those taught by Mr. Locke and all the writers on civil liberty who have been hitherto most admired in this country. But I find with concern that our governors chuse to decline trying by them their present measures. For, in a pamphlet which has been circulated by government with great industry, these principles are pronounced to be 'unnatural and wild, incompatible with practice, and the offspring of the distempered imagination of a man who is biassed by party, and who writes to deceive'. I must take this opportunity to add that I love quiet too well to think of entering into a controversy with any writers, particularly nameless ones. Conscious of good intentions and unconnected with any party, I have endeavoured to plead the cause of general liberty and justice. And happy in knowing this, I shall, in silence, commit myself to that candour of the public of which I have had so much experience.

March 12th. 1776.

Our colonies in North America appear to be now determined to risk and suffer every thing under the persuasion that Great Britain is attempting to rob them of that liberty to which every member of society, and all civil communities, have a natural and unalienable title. The question, therefore, whether this is a right persuasion, is highly interesting and deserves the careful attention of every Englishman who values liberty and wishes to avoid staining himself with the guilt of invading it. But it is impossible to judge properly of this question without just ideas of liberty in general, and of the nature, limits, and principles of civil liberty in particular. The following observations on this subject appear to me of some importance, and I cannot make myself easy without offering them to the public at the present period, big with events of the last consequence to this kingdom. I do this with reluctance and pain urged by strong feelings, but at the same time checked by the consciousness that I am likely to deliver sentiments not favourable to the present measures of that government under which I live and to which I am a constant and zealous well-wisher. Such, however, are my present sentiments and views, that this is a consideration of inferior moment with me, and, as I hope never to go beyond the bounds of decent discussion and expostulation, I flatter myself, that I shall be able to avoid giving any person reason for offence.

The observations with which I shall begin are of a more general and abstract nature; but being necessary to introduce what I have principally in view, I hope they will be patiently read and considered.

 Writings of Richard Price

 Classical Liberals