Letitia Hall, "Threshold of a Century: the Diary of Louisa Adams Park, 1800-1801"


Louisa considered reading to be an instructive and moralizing activity, as did most of society in her time. She combined reading and public worship in her own religious practice. She was a regular attendee at the Congregational meeting houses in the towns where she stayed, and was a sharp critic. When three different ministers took part in a friend's funeral, she rated them. "The first prayer by Mr. Noyes, intolerable; the sermon by Mr. Spring, pertinent and good; the last prayer by Mr. Parish, excellent–music, miserable."36  When she could not go to meeting on Sunday mornings, she read sermons. One collection about which she commented freely was by Richard Price, a Unitarian known for his political writing as well as for his sermons. Louisa's own ideas about freedom and virtue were supported by Price's teachings.37

Price was a proponent of free will, the belief that men were morally responsible for making judgements and that God did not intervene in men's choices. In his religious writings he stressed that merit lay in the choices men made because God had no part in them; only man himself could accept responsibility whether his choices were good or evil. Price wrote political tracts based on his belief in free will that supported the rights of British colonists in North America to govern themselves. His defense of the Revolution made him an American hero, even though he never left England.38

36. Park, Diary, March 23, 1801.
37. Park, to John Park, February 16, 1800, "How much are we indebted to virtue for the enjoyment of our lives." and Diary, January 7, 1801, "I love freedom of action as well as thought." Louisa may have been re-reading familiar material when she rented the sermons from the library in May 1801.
38. Stuart Andrews, "‘Insects of the Hour:' Dr. Price's ‘Revolutions'," History Today May 1991, 49; Gregory I. Molivas, "Richard Price, the Debate on Free Will, and Natural Rights," Journal of the History of Ideas 1997, 105-106.
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