'Insects of the Hour': Dr Price's 'Revolutions'

Stuart Andrews considers the life and radical milieu of the dissenting preacher whose support first for the American and then the French Revolutions brought him public controversy, and in the case of the latter, triggered Edmund Burke's classic denunciation of 1789.

Dr Richard Price, the Unitarian minister who died 200 years ago, is best remembered for provoking Edmund Burke into penning his famous indictment of the French Revolution. The full title of Burke's work, published in 1690, was Reflections on the Revolution in France, and on the Proceedings in certain Societies in London relative to that Event. Burke's particular target was the London Revolution Society, whose congratulatory address to the French National Assembly had been warmly acknowledged.

Burke knew that the 'Revolution' of the society's title was the Glorious Revolution, not the Revolution of 1789. As he wrote in the opening pages of Reflections:

I find, upon inquiry, that on the anniversary of the Revolution in 1688, a club of dissenters, but of what denomination I know not, have long had the custom of hearing a sermon in one of their churches; and that afterwards they spend the day cheerfully, as other clubs do, at the tavern.

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