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He now again endeavoured to console himself for the real or supposed inefficacy of his labours in the pulpit, by addressing a larger and more attentive auditory from the pulpit of the
press. In 1767 he published four dissertations on Private Prayer, - on Providence-on the Junction of virtuous Men in the heavenly State, and on Historical Evidence and Miracles ; the latter dissertation being designed as a refutation of Mr. Hume's arguments against the credibility of miraculous events.
The mathematical sciences also now occupied his mind; and he wrote a paper which was published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society in 1763, and another which was inserted in the volume for the following year. His reputation as a mathematician was raised so high by these two communications to that learned body, that he was invited by the booksellers to superintend the publication of a complete edition of Sir Isaac Newton's works : but, though his mind was perhaps on the whole better fitted for mathematical calculation than even for theological research, he appears, from a nice and highly commendable sense of professional duty, always to have regarded his philosophical as subordinate to his religious pursuits. Hence the composition of sermons, in one period of his life, almost exclusively engrossed his attention; and his excursions into the region of the mathematics were consequently rather brief and desultory.
The Dissertations on Providence, and on the Re-union of the Just in a State of Blessedness, introduced Mr. Price to an acquaintance with the Earl of Shelburne, afterward Marquis of Lansdowne, who had then lately lost his wife; and the state of whose mind was rendered peculiarly fitted for the perusal of any work of the devotional and consolatory kind which, like the dissertations of Mr. Price, was not a mere fimsy assemblage of common-places, but invigorated by argument, and beaming with the rays of superior intelligence. quaintance with Lord Shelburne appears to have been matured by a subsequent intercourse into much friendly regard ; which was certainly augmented by the works which Mr. Price afterward produced on some important questions of political economy.
In some observations which Mr. Price made on the proper method of calculating the values of contingent reversions, communicated to the Royal Society in the year 1770, he detected an error in the calculations of De Moivre, which we mention because Mr. Morgan says that it was accompanied by the following singular circumstance. Mr. Price's amiable diffidence in his own abilities led him, for some time, to suppose that the error, which he had detected in De Moivre, was
owing to a defect in his own calculations; and this idea caused him to revolve the question, over and over again, with such an intensity of intellectual application, that the colour of his hair, which was naturally black, became changed in different parts of his head into spots of perfect white.'
The Treatise on Reversionary Payments, which was first published in 1769, and which contained an essay on Public Credit and the National Debt, demonstrated that Mr. Price's capabilities of becoming useful were not confined to the precincts of the pulpit, or to those of theological disquisition. This work led to the establishment of institutions for the insurance of life, on more equitable principles than had hitherto prevailed ; and it also forcibly directed the attention of statesmen to the important question of providing means for the liquidation of the national debt. Though the sinking-fund was never instituted in the manner that he would have recommended as the most efficacious for the extinction of the debt, yet it cannot be doubted that Mr. Pitt's adoption even of the plan with the smallest degree of counteracting velocity was owing to the cogent reasoning of Dr. Price*, and to the broad blaze of light which he had thrown on the subject. It is not a little remarkable that one of his temperate and truly patriotic publications on the national debt was stigmatized, by the shortsighted selfishness or malignant bigotry of the period in which it appeared, as " visionary, impracticable, and seditious :" but time, which dissipates the delusions of opinion, and confirms the deductions of reason, has long shewn the fallacy and injustice of this misrepresentation and abuse. The whole of the national debt, which had been accumulated up to the end of the American war, has already been cancelled by the sinkingfund; and, though the country is now involved in a debt of nearly three times that amount, owing to the lavish expenditure of the late war, yet, if we should be permitted to enjoy another peace of the same duration as that which took place in the administration of Sir Robert Walpole in England and of Cardinal Fleury in France, the present sinking-fund would be found to possess powers fully equal to the reduction of the debt within very moderate limits, and without any violation of the national faith. If any one circumstance, more than another, has tended to exalt this nation in the eyes of Europe, and to raise us to a height of moral pre-eminence which no other people ever attained, it is the uniform constancy with which we have preserved our national credit.
* In this year (1769), the University of Glasgow conferred the degree of Doctor of Divinity on Mr. Price,
As the writings, therefore, of Dr. Price have certainly tended to strengthen public credit, they have thus had more effect in promoting the general good than usually follows the studious speculations and reflective researches of any retired men: but, if the national reward of an individual were to be apportioned to the degree in which ke advanced the welfare of his country, Dr. Price never received any thing like his due share
recompence, being left only to that highest solace of virtue, the self-satisfaction which it diffuses through the mind. When Mr. Pitt adopted one of the least efficient of the plans which Dr. Price had recommended for the relief of public credit and the diminution of the debt, that minister appropriated to himself the merit of the measure, instead of bestowing the praise where alone it was due; yet the following letter, which he had previously written to the Doctor, will prove the high value and importance which he attached to his correspondent's judgment and opinions on this subject:
666 Dear Sir, • “ The subject of the papers which I inclose will, I am sure, be an apology for the liberty I take in troubling you, and in requesting your opinion upon them. When you have had sufficient leisure to consider them, I should be greatly obliged to you if you will allow me to hope for the pleasure of seeing you at any time that is convenient to you. The situation of the revenue certainly makes this the time to establish an effectual sinking fund. The general idea of converting the three per cents. into a fund bearing a higher rate of interest, with a view to facilitate redemption, you have on many occasions suggested, and particularly in the papers you were so good to send me last year. The rise of the stocks has made a material change since that period, and I am inclined to think something. like the plan I now send you may be more adapted to the present circumstances. There may be, I believe, some inaccuracies in the calculations, but not such as to be very material. Before I form any decisive opinion, I wish to learn your sentiments upon it; and shall think myself obliged to you for any improvement you can suggest, if you think the principle a right one; or for any other proposal, which from your knowledge of the subject you may think preferable."
Dr. Price was distinguished by a warm and sanguine temperament with respect to the future prospects of mankind. The two great events, therefore, which happened in his day, the revolutions in America and in France, excited his most ardent feelings, and made him anticipate such halcyon days as the world has never yet seen, and is not likely soon to witness. With respect to the French revolution, indeed, he beheld little more than the commencement of that awful drama on the great stage of human affairs; and that commencement was such as to dazzle the imagination and to exalt the hopes Rev. May, 1817.
of men whose philanthropy possessed less ardour than that of Dr. Price. The torrent of eloquent abuse, which Mr. Burke consequently heaped on the venerable advocate of freedom and of peace, will not readily be effaced from the minds of those who are acquainted with the history of that period : but, now that the tempest of prejudice and of passion has passed away, the name of Price will be found to remain unsullied by the obloquy which temporarily assailed it.
While the North-American colonies were engaged in the conflict which terminated in the establishment of their independence, Dr. P. was in the habit of corresponding with Turgot, one of the greatest financial ministers whom France ever possessed. Under present circumstances, and at this distant period, when the veil which then obscured the view of these two reflecting philosophers has been removed, it may be curious to compare their different opinions on the same event, and to contrast the hopes of the one with the despondency of the other. In the American revolution, Dr. Price beheld the political regeneration of Europe in its latent germ, and saw a cheering ray of liberty beaming in one hemisphere that was finally to diffuse its light over the other. He saw also, as he conceived, a train of benefits arising in the perspective of the future, among which was a deliverance from the oppression of despotism and the scourge of war. The views of Turgot, however, were less irradiated by the brilliant forms of enthusiastic hope : whatever might be the issue of the American contest, he did not behold in it the incipient germ of European liberty; and he appears (alas ! too justly) to have considered the cessation of war among nations as a chimerical supposition. His words, which are quoted by Mr. Morgan, will be read with interest by those who have been accustomed to contemplate the checquered scene of human affairs during the last half-century. “ Je ne vous parle plus des Américains ; car, quelque soit le dénouement de cette guerre, j'ai un peu perdu l'espérance de voir sur la terre une nation vraiment libre, et vivant sans guerre. Ce spectacle est reservé à des siècles bien éloignés."
Mr. John Adams, the American ambassador to this country, who was another of Dr. Price's correspondents, regarded the French revolution at the commencement with gloomy foreboding, rather than any pleasurable anticipation; and, with more truth than usually accompanies political speculations, he foretold the destruction of a million of human beings as the probable result. Before this work of havoc had made any progress, the mortal part of Dr, Price had been consigned to the grave; and he expired ere the sad realities of French revolutionary history had time to dissipate his glowing visions respecting the
political destiny of mankind. The following is the account which Mr. Morgan has given of the closing scene in the life of his respectable uncle:
In the beginning of February, 1791, he attended the funeral of a friend to Bunhill-fields without feeling much inconvenience from being exposed to the air in that cold season of the year, though he observed on his return that “this method of conducting funerals was the sure way of sending the living after the dead.
In the course of a month he attended the remains of another friend to the same place, and on this occasion the event unfortunately proved the truth of his late observation. Having staid some time to speak over the
grave with no effectual covering to secure him from the inclemency of the weather, he was seized in the afternoon with shivering and other symptoms offever, which on the following day increased so much as to render it necessary to have recourse to medical assist
His disorder, however; did not appear to be very alarming, and had so far abated in the course of about ten days as to enable him to ride out in a carriage for the benefit of the air, by which he expressed himself to be so much refreshed, that his friends were encouraged to entertain the fond hope of his speedy and complete recovery. But, alas ! this hope was soon dispelled - other symptoms succeeded to those of his first disorder, which, if not immediately removed, threatened the most fatal consequences. On the next morning after his ride he was seized with a complaint in the neck of the bladder, which, having resisted all internal remedies, was relieved only by surgical assistance. But this relief was merely temporary
the cause of the disorder still remained and the repetition of the operation became necessary. At first, recourse was had to it only two or three times a day; but the pain and irritation continually increasing, the repetition became more frequent, till at last the surgeon was hardly gone from the bed-side before he was sent for again to give another moment's relief to his afflicted patient. These dreadful" agonies were borne for a month nearly, with a resignation which never uttered a sigh nor a murmur; and to the last hour of his life this good man retained the same placid and benevolent temper of mind which prevailed. throughout the whole course of it; and when the last attempt was made to relieve him without effect, he gently reclined himself upon his bed - observing that all was now over ; and though the irri tation continued for some hours after, he never expressed a wish to have the attempt repeated. In this state he lay from six o'clock in the afternoon till midnight, the faculties of his mind still remaining entire, but his strength gradually sinking. Soon after midnight an evident alteration took place, which denoted the speedy termination of all his sufferings; and a few minutes before three o'clock in the morning, having looked upon his nephew who attended him, with apparent complacency, he drew some short inspirations and quietly breathed his last.'
The high opinion, which we entertain of the virtues and the talents of Dr. Price, will be very evident to those who