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RICHARD PRICE (1723-1791)

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Originally appearing in Volume V22, Page 315 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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RICHARD PRICE (1723-1791), English moral and political philosopher, son of a dissenting minister, was born on the 23rd of February 1723, at Tynton, Glamorganshire. He was educated privately and at a dissenting academy in London, and became chaplain and companion to a Mr Streatfield at Stoke Newington. By the death of Mr Streatfield and of an uncle in 1756 his circumstances were considerably improved, and in 1757 he married a Miss Sarah Blundell, originally of Belgrave in Leicestershire. In 1767 he published a volume of sermons, which gained him the acquaintance of Lord Shelburne, an event which had much influence in raising his reputation and determining the character of his subsequent pursuits. It was, however, as a writer on financial and political questions that Price became widely known. In 1769, in a letter to Dr Franklin, he wrote some observations on the expectation of lives, the increase of mankind, and the population of London, which were published in the Philosophical Transactions of that year; in May 1770 he communicated to the Royal Society a paper on the proper method of calculating the values of contingent reversions. The publication of these papers is said to have exercised a beneficial influence in drawing attention to the inadequate calculations on which many insurance and benefit societies had recently been formed. In 1769 Price received the degree of D.D. from the university of Glasgow. In 1771 he published his Appeal to the Public on the Subject of the National Debt (ed. 1772 and 1774). This pamphlet excited considerable controversy, and is supposed to have influenced Pitt in re-establishing the sinking fund for the extinction of the national debt, which had been created by Walpole in 1716 and abolished in 1733. The means, however, which Price proposed for the extinction of the debt are described by Lord Overstone as " a sort of hocus-pocus machinery," sup-posed to work " without loss to any one," and consequently unsound. 1 Lord Overstone reprinted in 1857, for private circulation, Price's and other rare tracts on the national debt and the sinking fund. nothing to Butler. III. Happiness he regards as the only end, conceivable by us, of divine Providence, but it is a happiness wholly dependent upon rectitude. Virtue tends always to happiness, and in the end must produce it in its perfect form. Works.—Besides the above-mentioned, Price wrote an Essay on the Population of England (2nd ed., 178o) ; two Fast-day Sermons, published respectively in 1779 and 178i; and Observations on the importance of the American Revolution and the means of rendering it a benefit to the World (1784). A complete list of his works is given as an appendix to Dr Priestley's Funeral Sermon. His views on the French Revolution are denounced by Burke in his Reflections on the Revolution in France. Notices of Price's ethical system occur in Mackintosh's Progress of Ethical Philosophy, Jouffroy's Introduction to Ethics, Whewell's History of Moral Philosophy in England; Bain's Mental and Moral Sciences. See also ETHICS, and T. Fowler's monograph on Shaftesbury and Hutcheson. For Price's life see memoir by his nephew, William Morgan. (J. M. M.)
End of Article: RICHARD PRICE (1723-1791)
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JAMES COWLES PRICHARD (1786-1848)

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