39. Dr Richard Price
Thinkers (171 votes)
1723 – 1791
Unitarian minister, philosopher, and the first “citizen of the world.”
When the American colonists rose in rebellion against the English crown, their most vocal supporter in Britain was a nonconformist minister from Llangeinor near Bridgend who proclaimed himself a “citizen of the world”.
Dr Richard Price was a radical both in his religious and political views.
Emotionally and intellectually persuasive, he came to prominence preaching in the leading radical noncomformist chapels in south Wales and London.
He argued that governments held their power in trust from the people and were not instruments of divine authority. The Kings of England, he maintained were the only legitimate monarchs because they ruled by consent of the people under the 1688 Bill of Rights. In their respective struggles, the revolutionaries of France and the American colonies were merely asserting the same principle.
In 1789, just as the fall of the Bastille marked the triumph of the revolution in France, Price delivered a sermon entitled On Love of Country that provoked a celebrated exchange of views.
Edmund Burke penned his famous reaction- Reflections of the French Revolution. Dismissing Price and his fellow radicals as “the hopping insects of the hour”, he warned that bloodshed and anarchy would surely result from the abandonment of monarchy.
More celebrated still was Tom Paine’s The Rights of Man, which returned the argument to the ground Price had staked out. He argued for the creation of a British republic, votes for all adult males, a basic welfare state and progressive taxation.
In the following decades Britain trod a path between the two philosophies: retaining the monarchy but also moving gradually to parliamentary democracy.
Three years after his great sermon Price was dead. His death was marked by a day of national mourning in France.
In his History of Wales (Hanes Cymru) John Davies describes Price simply as “the most original thinker ever born in Wales”.