COMMON SENSEBY THOMAS PAINE
Mr. Paine's footnotes are contained within brackets [ ] within the text.
As this is my first attempt at Etext transcriptionI welcome
all comments and suggestions - I trust there shall be many!
I had an especially difficult time keeping margins even as
the word processor I started with could not handle such a large
file and the program I changed to was one I had not used before
so there were some quirks I had not expected. Most of the text
in all caps was in italics in the version of the book I used.
Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages
are not YET sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favour;
a long habit of not thinking a thing WRONGgives it a superficial
appearance of being RIGHTand raises at first a formidable outcry
in defense of custom. But the tumult soon subsides.
Time makes more converts than reason.
As a long and violent abuse of poweris generally the Means
of calling the right of it in question (and in Matters too which
might never have been thought ofhad not the Sufferers been aggravated
into the inquiry) and as the King of England hath undertaken
in his OWN RIGHTto support the Parliament in what he calls THEIRS
and as the good people of this country are grievously oppressed
by the combinationthey have an undoubted privilege to inquire into
the pretensions of bothand equally to reject the usurpation of either.
In the following sheetsthe author hath studiously avoided every
thing which is personal among ourselves. Compliments as well as
censure to individuals make no part thereof. The wiseand the worthy
need not the triumph of a pamphlet; and those whose sentiments
are injudiciousor unfriendlywill cease of themselves unless
too much pains are bestowed upon their conversion.
The cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind.
Many circumstances hathand will arisewhich are not localbut universal
and through which the principles of all Lovers of Mankind are affected
and in the Event of whichtheir Affections are interested.
The laying a Country desolate with Fire and Sworddeclaring War
against the natural rights of all Mankindand extirpating
the Defenders thereof from the Face of the Earthis the Concern
of every Man to whom Nature hath given the Power of feeling;
of which Classregardless of Party Censureis the AUTHOR.
P.S. The Publication of this new Edition hath been delayed
with a View of taking notice (had it been necessary)
of any Attempt to refute the Doctrine of Independance:
As no Answer hath yet appearedit is now presumed that none will
the Time needful for getting such a Performance ready for the Public
being considerably past.
Who the Author of this Production isis wholly unnecessary to the Public
as the Object for Attention is the DOCTRINE ITSELFnot the MAN. Yet it may
not be unnecessary to sayThat he is unconnected with any Partyand underno
sort of Influence public or privatebut the influence of reason andprinciple.
OF THE ORIGIN AND DESIGN OF GOVERNMENT IN GENERAL.
WITH CONCISE REMARKS ON THE ENGLISH CONSTITUTION
Some writers have so confounded society with government
as to leave little or no distinction between them;
whereas they are not only differentbut have different origins.
Society is produced by our wantsand government by our wickedness;
the former promotes our POSITIVELY by uniting our affections
the latter NEGATIVELY by restraining our vices. The one
encourages intercoursethe other creates distinctions.
The first a patronthe last a punisher.
Society in every state is a blessingbut government even in its best
state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one;
for when we sufferor are exposed to the same miseries BY A GOVERNMENT
which we might expect in a country WITHOUT GOVERNMENTour calamity
is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer.
Governmentlike dressis the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings
are built on the ruins of the bowers of paradise. For were the impulses
of conscience clearuniformand irresistibly obeyedman would need
no other lawgiver; but that not being the casehe finds it necessary
to surrender up a part of his property to furnish means for the protection
of the rest; and this he is induced to do by the same prudence which in every
other case advises him out of two evils to choose the least. WHEREFORE
security being the true design and end of governmentit unanswerably follows
that whatever FORM thereof appears most likely to ensure it to us
with the least expense and greatest benefitis preferable to all others.
In order to gain a clear and just idea of the design and end of
governmentlet us suppose a small number of persons settled in some
sequestered part of the earthunconnected with the restthey will
then represent the first peopling of any countryor of the world.
In this state of natural libertysociety will be their first thought.
A thousand motives will excite them theretothe strength of one man
is so unequal to his wantsand his mind so unfitted for perpetual
solitudethat he is soon obliged to seek assistance and relief of
anotherwho in his turn requires the same. Four or five united would
be able to raise a tolerable dwelling in the midst of a wilderness
but one man might labour out of the common period of life without
accomplishing any thing; when he had felled his timber he could not
remove itnor erect it after it was removed; hunger in the mean time
would urge him from his workand every different want call him
a different way. Diseasenay even misfortune would be death
for though neither might be mortalyet either would disable him
from livingand reduce him to a state in which he might
rather be said to perish than to die.
Thus necessitylike a gravitating powerwould soon form our newly
arrived emigrants into societythe reciprocal blessings of which
would supersedeand render the obligations of law and government
unnecessary while they remained perfectly just to each other;
but as nothing but heaven is impregnable to viceit will
unavoidably happenthat in proportion as they surmount the first
difficulties of emigrationwhich bound them together in a common cause
they will begin to relax in their duty and attachment to each other;
and this remissness will point out the necessity of establishing
some form of government to supply the defect of moral virtue.
Some convenient tree will afford them a State-Houseunder the branches
of whichthe whole colony may assemble to deliberate on public matters.
It is more than probable that their first laws will have the title only
of REGULATIONSand be enforced by no other penalty than public disesteem.
In this first parliament every manby natural rightwill have a seat.
But as the colony increasesthe public concerns will increase
likewiseand the distance at which the members may be separated
will render it too inconvenient for all of them to meet on
every occasion as at firstwhen their number was small
their habitations nearand the public concerns few and trifling.
This will point out the convenience of their consenting to leave
the legislative part to be managed by a select number chosen
from the whole bodywho are supposed to have the same concerns
at stake which those who appointed themand who will act in the
same manner as the whole body would actwere they present.
If the colony continues increasingit will become necessary
to augment the number of the representativesand that the interest
of every part of the colony may be attended toit will be found
best to divide the whole into convenient partseach part sending
its proper number; and that the ELECTED might never form to themselves
an interest separate from the ELECTORSprudence will point out
the propriety of having elections often; because as the ELECTED
might by that means return and mix again with the general body
of the ELECTORS in a few monthstheir fidelity to the public
will be secured by the prudent reflection of not making a rod
for themselves. And as this frequent interchange will establish
a common interest with every part of the communitythey will
mutually and naturally support each otherand on this (not on
the unmeaning name of king) depends the STRENGTH OF GOVERNMENT
AND THE HAPPINESS OF THE GOVERNED.
Here then is the origin and rise of government; namelya mode rendered
necessary by the inability of moral virtue to govern the world;
here too is the design and end of governmentviz. freedom and security.
And however our eyes may be dazzled with showor our ears deceived by sound;
however prejudice may warp our willsor interest darken our understanding
the simple voice of nature and of reason will sayit is right.
I draw my idea of the form of government from a principle in nature
which no art can overturnviz. that the more simple any thing is
the less liable it is to be disordered; and the easier repaired
when disordered; and with this maxim in viewI offer a few remarks
on the so much boasted constitution of England. That it was noble
for the dark and slavish times in which it was erectedis granted.
When the world was overrun with tyranny the least remove therefrom
was a glorious rescue. But that it is imperfectsubject to convulsions
and incapable of producing what it seems to promiseis easily demonstrated.
Absolute governments (tho' the disgrace of human nature) have this
advantage with themthat they are simple; if the people suffer
they know the head from which their suffering springsknow likewise
the remedyand are not bewildered by a variety of causes and cures.
But the constitution of England is so exceedingly complex
that the nation may suffer for years together without being able to discover
in which part the fault lies; some will say in one and some in another
and every political physician will advise a different medicine.
I know it is difficult to get over local or long standing prejudices
yet if we will suffer ourselves to examine the component parts of the
English constitutionwe shall find them to be the base remains of two
ancient tyranniescompounded with some new republican materials.
FIRST - The remains of monarchial tyranny in the person of the king.
SECONDLY - The remains of aristocratical tyranny in the persons of the peers.
THIRDLY - The new republican materials in the persons of the commons
on whose virtue depends the freedom of England.
The two firstby being hereditaryare independent of the people;
wherefore in a CONSTITUTIONAL SENSE they contribute nothing towards
the freedom of the state.
To say that the constitution of England is a UNION of three powers
reciprocally CHECKING each otheris farcicaleither the words have
no meaningor they are flat contradictions.
To say that the commons is a check upon the kingpresupposes two things:
FIRST - That the king is not to be trusted without being looked after
or in other wordsthat a thirst for absolute power is the natural
disease of monarchy.
SECONDLY - That the commonsby being appointed for that purpose
are either wiser or more worthy of confidence than the crown.
But as the same constitution which gives the commons a power to check
the king by withholding the suppliesgives afterwards the king a power
to check the commonsby empowering him to reject their other bills;
it again supposes that the king is wiser than those whom it has already
supposed to be wiser than him. A mere absurdity!
There is something exceedingly ridiculous in the composition of monarchy;
it first excludes a man from the means of informationyet empowers him
to act in cases where the highest judgment is required. The state of a king
shuts him from the worldyet the business of a king requires him to know
it thoroughly; wherefore the different partsby unnaturally opposing
and destroying each otherprove the whole character to be absurd and useless.
Some writers have explained the English constitution thus: The king
say theyis onethe people another; the peers are a house in behalf
of the kingthe commons in behalf of the people; but this hath all
the distinctions of a house divided against itself; and though
the expressions be pleasantly arrangedyet when examined
they appear idle and ambiguous; and it will always happen
that the nicest construction that words are capable of
when applied to the description of some thing which either
cannot existor is too incomprehensible to be within
the compass of descriptionwill be words of sound only
and though they may amuse the earthey cannot inform the mind
for this explanation includes a previous questionviz.
HOW CAME THE KING BY A POWER WHICH THE PEOPLE ARE AFRAID TO TRUST
AND ALWAYS OBLIGED TO CHECK? Such a power could not be the gift
of a wise peopleneither can any powerWHICH NEEDS CHECKING
be from God; yet the provisionwhich the constitution makes
supposes such a power to exist.
But the provision is unequal to the task; the means either cannot
or will not accomplish the endand the whole affair is a felo de se;
for as the greater weight will always carry up the lessand as all
the wheels of a machine are put in motion by oneit only remains to know
which power in the constitution has the most weightfor that will govern;
and though the othersor a part of themmay clogoras the phrase is
check the rapidity of its motionyet so long as they cannot stop it
their endeavours will be ineffectual; the first moving power will
at last have its wayand what it wants in speedis supplied by time.
That the crown is this overbearing part in the English constitution
needs not be mentionedand that it derives its whole consequence
merely from being the giver of places and pensionsis self-evident
whereforethough we have been wise enough to shut and lock a door
against absolute monarchywe at the same time have been foolish
enough to put the crown in possession of the key.
The prejudice of Englishmen in favour of their own government by king
lordsand commonsarises as much or more from national pride than reason.
Individuals are undoubtedly safer in England than in some other countries
but the WILL of the king is as much the LAW of the land in Britain
as in Francewith this differencethat instead of proceeding directly
from his mouthit is handed to the people under the more formidable shape
of an act of parliament. For the fate of Charles the First hath only made
kings more subtle - not more just.
Whereforelaying aside all national pride and prejudice
in favour of modes and formsthe plain truth isthat
IT IS WHOLLY OWING TO THE CONSTITUTION OF THE PEOPLE
AND NOT TO THE CONSTITUTION OF THE GOVERNMENT
that the crown is not as oppressive in England as in Turkey.
An inquiry into the CONSTITUTIONAL ERRORS in the English form
of government is at this time highly necessary; for as we are never
in a proper condition of doing justice to otherswhile we continue under
the influence of some leading partialityso neither are we capable of
doing it to ourselves while we remain fettered by any obstinate prejudice.
And as a man. who is attached to a prostituteis unfitted to choose
or judge a wifeso any prepossession in favour of a rotten constitution
of government will disable us from discerning a good one.
OF MONARCHY AND HEREDITARY SUCCESSION
Mankind being originally equals in the order of creationthe equality
could only be destroyed by some subsequent circumstance; the distinctions
of richand poormay in a great measure be accounted forand that without
having recourse to the harshill-sounding names of oppression and avarice.
Oppression is often the CONSEQUENCEbut seldom or never the MEANS of riches;
and though avarice will preserve a man from being necessitously poor
it generally makes him too timorous to be wealthy.
But there is another and greater distinctionfor which no truly natural
or religious reason can be assignedand that isthe distinction of men
into KINGS and SUBJECTS. Male and female are the distinctions of nature
good and bad the distinctions of heaven; but how a race of men came into
the world so exalted above the restand distinguished like some new species
is worth inquiring intoand whether they are the means of happiness
or of misery to mankind.
In the early ages of the worldaccording to the scripture chronology
there were no kings; the consequence of which wasthere were no wars;
it is the pride of kings which throw mankind into confusion. Holland
without a king hath enjoyed more peace for this last century than any
of the monarchial governments in Europe. Antiquity favours the same
remark; for the quiet and rural lives of the first patriarchs hath
a happy something in themwhich vanishes away when we come to the
history of Jewish royalty.
Government by kings was first introduced into the world by the
Heathensfrom whom the children of Israel copied the custom.
It was the most prosperous invention the Devil ever set on foot
for the promotion of idolatry. The Heathens paid divine honours
to their deceased kingsand the Christian world hath improved
on the planby doing the same to their living ones. How impious
is the title of sacred majesty applied to a wormwho in the midst
of his splendor is crumbling into dust!
As the exalting one man so greatly above the rest cannot be justified
on the equal rights of natureso neither can it be defended on the
authority of scripture; for the will of the Almightyas declared
by Gideon and the prophet Samuelexpressly disapproves of government
by kings. All anti-monarchical parts of scripture have been very smoothly
glossed over in monarchical governmentsbut they undoubtedly merit the
attention of countries which have their governments yet to form.
RENDER UNTO CAESAR THE THINGS WHICH ARE CAESAR'S is the scripture
doctrine of courtsyet it is no support of monarchical government
for the Jews at that time were without a kingand in a state of vassalage
to the Romans.
Now three thousand years passed away from the Mosaic account of the
creationtill the Jews under a national delusion requested a king.
Till then their form of government (except in extraordinary cases
where the Almighty interposed) was a kind of republic administered
by a judge and the elders of the tribes. Kings they had none
and it was held sinful to acknowledge any being under that title
but the Lord of Hosts. And when a man seriously reflects on the idolatrous
homage which is paid to the persons of kingshe need not wonder that
the Almightyever jealous of his honourshould disapprove of a form
of government which so impiously invades the prerogative of heaven.
Monarchy is ranked in scripture as one of the sins of the Jews
for which a curse in reserve is denounced against them.
The history of that transaction is worth attending to.
The children of Israel being oppressed by the MidianitesGideon
marched against them with a small armyand victorythrough the
divine interpositiondecided in his favour. The Jewselate with
successand attributing it to the generalship of Gideon
proposed making him a kingsayingRULE THOU OVER USTHOU AND THY
SON AND THY SON'S SON. Here was temptation in its fullest extent;
not a kingdom onlybut an hereditary onebut Gideon
in the piety of his soul repliedI WILL NOT RULE OVER YOU
NEITHER SHALL MY SON RULE OVER YOU _THE LORD SHALL RULE OVER YOU._
Words need not be more explicit; Gideon doth not decline the honour
but denieth their right to give it; neither doth he compliment them
with invented declarations of his thanksbut in the positive style
of a prophet charges them with disaffection to their proper Sovereign
the King of heaven.
About one hundred and thirty years after thisthey fell again into
the same error. The hankering which the Jews had for the idolatrous
customs of the Heathensis something exceedingly unaccountable; but
so it wasthat laying hold of the misconduct of Samuel's two sons
who were entrusted with some secular concernsthey came in an abrupt
and clamorous manner to SamuelsayingBEHOLD THOU ART OLDAND THY
SONS WALK NOT IN THY WAYSNOW MAKE US A KING TO JUDGE USLIKE ALL
OTHER NATIONS. And here we cannot but observe that their motives
were badviz. that they might be LIKE unto other nationsi.e. the
Heathenswhereas their true glory laid in being as much UNLIKE them
as possible. BUT THE THING DISPLEASED SAMUEL WHEN THEY SAIDGIVE US
A KING TO JUDGE US; AND SAMUEL PRAYED UNTO THE LORDAND THE LORD
SAID UNTO SAMUELHEARKEN UNTO THE VOICE OF THE PEOPLE IN ALL THAT
THEY SAY UNTO THEEFOR THEY HAVE NOT REJECTED THEEBUT THEY HAVE
REJECTED ME_THAT I SHOULD NOT REIGN OVER THEM._ ACCORDING TO
ALL THE WORKS WHICH THEY HAVE SINCE THE DAY THAT I BROUGHT THEM
UP OUT OF EGYPTEVEN UNTO THIS DAY; WHEREWITH THEY HAVE FORSAKEN ME
AND SERVED OTHER GODS; SO DO THEY ALSO UNTO THEE. NOW THEREFORE HEARKEN
UNTO THEIR VOICEHOWBEITPROTEST SOLEMNLY UNTO THEM AND SHEW THEM
THE MANNER OF THE KING THAT SHALL REIGN OVER THEMI.E. not of any
particular kingbut the general manner of the kings of the earth
whom Israel was so eagerly copying after. And notwithstanding the
great distance of time and difference of mannersthe character is
still in fashion. AND SAMUEL TOLD ALL THE WORDS OF THE LORD UNTO
THE PEOPLETHAT ASKED OF HIM A KING. AND HE SAIDTHIS SHALL BE
THE MANNER OF THE KING THAT SHALL REIGN OVER YOU; HE WILL TAKE YOUR
SONS AND APPOINT THEM FOR HIMSELFFOR HIS CHARIOTSAND TO BE HIS
HORSEMANAND SOME SHALL RUN BEFORE HIS CHARIOTS (this description
agrees with the present mode of impressing men) AND HE WILL APPOINT
HIM CAPTAINS OVER THOUSANDS AND CAPTAINS OVER FIFTIESAND WILL SET THEM
TO EAR HIS GROUND AND REAP HIS HARVESTAND TO MAKE HIS INSTRUMENTS OF WAR
AND INSTRUMENTS OF HIS CHARIOTS; AND HE WILL TAKE YOUR DAUGHTERS
TO BE CONFECTIONARIESAND TO BE COOKS AND TO BE BAKERS
(this describes the expense and luxury as well as the oppression
of kings) AND HE WILL TAKE YOUR FIELDS AND YOUR OLIVE YARDS
EVEN THE BEST OF THEMAND GIVE THEM TO HIS SERVANTS;
AND HE WILL TAKE THE TENTH OF YOUR SEEDAND OF YOUR VINEYARDS
AND GIVE THEM TO HIS OFFICERS AND TO HIS SERVANTS
(by which we see that briberycorruptionand favouritism
are the standing vices of kings) AND HE WILL TAKE THE TENTH
OF YOUR MEN SERVANTSAND YOUR MAID SERVANTSAND YOUR
GOODLIEST YOUNG MEN AND YOUR ASSESAND PUT THEM TO HIS WORK;
AND HE WILL TAKE THE TENTH OF YOUR SHEEPAND YE SHALL BE HIS SERVANTS
AND YE SHALL CRY OUT IN THAT DAY BECAUSE OF YOUR KING WHICH YE SHALL HAVE
CHOSEN_AND THE LORD WILL NOT HEAR YOU IN THAT DAY._
This accounts for the continuation of monarchy;
neither do the characters of the few good kings which have lived since
either sanctify the titleor blot out the sinfulness of the origin;
the high encomium given of David takes no notice of him
OFFICIALLY AS A KINGbut only as a MAN after God's own heart.
NEVERTHELESS THE PEOPLE REFUSED TO OBEY THE VOICE OF SAMUEL
AND THEY SAIDNAYBUT WE WILL HAVE A KING OVER US
THAT WE MAY BE LIKE ALL THE NATIONSAND THAT OUR KING MAY JUDGE US
AND GO OUT BEFORE USAND FIGHT OUR BATTLES.
Samuel continued to reason with thembut to no purpose; he set before
them their ingratitudebut all would not avail; and seeing them fully
bent on their follyhe cried outI WILL CALL UNTO THE LORD
AND HE SHALL SEND THUNDER AND RAIN (which then was a punishment
being in the time of wheat harvest) THAT YE MAY PERCEIVE AND SEE
THAT YOUR WICKEDNESS IS GREAT WHICH YE HAVE DONE IN THE SIGHT OF THE LORD
AND THE LORD SENT THUNDER AND RAIN THAT DAYAND ALL THE PEOPLE GREATLY
FEARED THE LORD AND SAMUEL. AND ALL THE PEOPLE SAID UNTO SAMUEL
PRAY FOR THY SERVANTS UNTO THE LORD THY GOD THAT WE DIE NOT
FOR _WE HAVE ADDED UNTO OUR SINS THIS EVILTO ASK A KING._
These portions of scripture are direct and positive.
They admit of no equivocal construction. That the Almighty
hath here entered his protest against monarchical government
is trueor the scripture is false. And a man hath good reason
to believe that there is as much of kingcraftas priestcraft
in withholding the scripture from the public in Popish countries.
For monarchy in every instance is the Popery of government.
To the evil of monarchy we have added that of hereditary succession;
and as the first is a degradation and lessening of ourselves
so the secondclaimed as a matter of rightis an insult
and an imposition on posterity. For all men being originally equals
no ONE by BIRTH could have a right to set up his own family in perpetual
preference to all others for everand though himself might deserve SOME
decent degree of honours of his contemporariesyet his descendants might
be far too unworthy to inherit them. One of the strongest NATURAL proofs
of the folly of hereditary right in kingsisthat nature disapproves it
otherwise she would not so frequently turn it into ridicule by
giving mankind an ASS FOR A LION.
Secondlyas no man at first could possess any other public honours
than were bestowed upon himso the givers of those honours could have
no power to give away the right of posterity. And though they might
say"We chooses you for OUR head" they could notwithoutmanifest
injustice to their childrensay"that your children and your
children's children shall reign over OURS for ever." Because such
an unwiseunjustunnatural compact might (perhaps) in the next
succession put them under the government of a rogue or a fool.
Most wise menin their private sentimentshave ever treated
hereditary right with contempt; yet it is one of those evils
which when once established is not easily removed;
many submit from fearothers from superstition
and the more powerful part shares with the king the plunder of the rest.
This is supposing the present race of kings in the world to have had an
honourable origin; whereas it is more than probablethat could we take
off the dark covering of antiquitiesand trace them to their first rise
that we should find the first of them nothing better than the
principal ruffian of some restless gangwhose savage manners
or preeminence in subtlety obtained the title of chief among plunderers;
and who by increasing in powerand extending his depredations
overawed the quiet and defenseless to purchase their safety
by frequent contributions. Yet his electors could have no idea
of giving hereditary right to his descendantsbecause such a perpetual
exclusion of themselves was incompatible with the free and unrestrained
principles they professed to live by. Whereforehereditary succession
in the early ages of monarchy could not take place as a matter of claim
but as something casual or complemental; but as few or no records were
extant in those daysand traditional history stuffed with fables
it was very easyafter the lapse of a few generationsto trump up some
superstitious taleconveniently timedMahomet liketo cram hereditary
right down the throats of the vulgar. Perhaps the disorders which threatened
or seemed to threatenon the decease of a leader and the choice of a new one
(for elections among ruffians could not be very orderly) induced many
at first to favour hereditary pretensions; by which means it happenedas it
hath happened sincethat what at first was submitted to as a convenience
was afterwards claimed as a right.
Englandsince the conquesthath known some few good monarchs
but groaned beneath a much larger number of bad ones; yet no man in his
senses can say that their claim under William the Conqueror is a very
honourable one. A French bastard landing with an armed bandittiand
establishing himself king of England against the consent of the natives
is in plain terms a very paltry rascally original. It certainly hath no
divinity in it. Howeverit is needless to spend much time in exposing
the folly of hereditary right; if there are any so weak as to believe it
let them promiscuously worship the ass and lionand welcome.
I shall neither copy their humilitynor disturb their devotion.
Yet I should be glad to ask how they suppose kings came at first? The
question admits but of three answersviz. either by lotby election
or by usurpation. If the first king was taken by lotit establishes a
precedent for the nextwhich excludes hereditary succession. Saul was
by lotyet the succession was not hereditaryneither does it appear
from that transaction there was any intention it ever should be. If the
first king of any country was by electionthat likewise establishes a
precedent for the next; for to saythat the RIGHT of all future
generations is taken awayby the act of the first electors
in their choice not only of a kingbut of a family of kings for ever
hath no parallel in or out of scripture but the doctrine of original sin
which supposes the free will of all men lost in Adam;
and from such comparisonand it will admit of no other
hereditary succession can derive no glory. For as in Adam all sinned
and as in the first electors all men obeyed; as in the one all mankind
we re subjected to Satanand in the other to Sovereignty; as our innocence
was lost in the firstand our authority in the last; and as both disable
us from reassuming some former state and privilegeit unanswerably
follows that original sin and hereditary succession are parallels.
Dishonourable rank! Inglorious connection! Yet the most subtle sophist
cannot produce a juster simile.
As to usurpationno man will be so hardy as to defend it; and that
William the Conqueror was an usurper is a fact not to be contradicted.
The plain truth isthat the antiquity of English monarchy will not
bear looking into.
But it is not so much the absurdity as the evil of hereditary succession
which concerns mankind. Did it ensure a race of good and wise men
it would have the seal of divine authoritybut as it opens a door
to the FOOLISHthe WICKEDand the IMPROPERit hath in it the nature
of oppression. Men who look upon themselves born to reign
and others to obeysoon grow insolent; selected from the rest
of mankind their minds are early poisoned by importance;
and the world they act in differs so materially from the world at large
that they have but little opportunity of knowing its true interests
and when they succeed to the government are frequently the most ignorant
and unfit of any throughout the dominions.
Another evil which attends hereditary succession isthat the throne
is subject to be possessed by a minor at any age; all which time
the regencyacting under the cover a kinghave every opportunity
and inducement to betray their trust. The same national misfortune happens
when a kingworn out with age and infirmityenters the last stage
of human weakness. In both these cases the public becomes a prey
to every miscreantwho can tamper successfully with the follies
either of age or infancy.
The most plausible pleawhich hath ever been offered in favour of
hereditary successionisthat it preserves a nation from civil wars;
and were this trueit would be weighty; whereasit is the most
barefaced falsity ever imposed upon mankind. The whole history of
England disowns the fact. Thirty kings and two minors have reigned
in that distracted kingdom since the conquestin which time there
have been (including the Revolution) no less than eight civil wars
and nineteen rebellions. Wherefore instead of making for peaceit
makes against itand destroys the very foundation it seems to stand on.
The contest for monarchy and successionbetween the houses of York
and Lancasterlaid England in a scene of blood for many years.
Twelve pitched battlesbesides skirmishes and siegeswere fought between
Henry and Edward. Twice was Henry prisoner to Edwardwho in his turn
was prisoner to Henry. And so uncertain is the fate of war and the
temper of a nationwhen nothing but personal matters are the ground
of a quarrelthat Henry was taken in triumph from a prison to a palace
and Edward obliged to fly from a palace to a foreign land; yet
as sudden transitions of temper are seldom lastingHenry in his turn
was driven from the throneand Edward recalled to succeed him.
The parliament always following the strongest side.
This contest began in the reign of Henry the Sixthand was not entirely
extinguished till Henry the Seventhin whom the families were united.
Including a period of 67 yearsviz. from 1422 to 1489.
In shortmonarchy and succession have laid (not this or that kingdom only)
but the world in blood and ashes. Tis a form of government which the word
of God bears testimony againstand blood will attend it.
If we inquire into the business of a kingwe shall find that in some
countries they have none; and after sauntering away their lives
without pleasure to themselves or advantage to the nation
withdraw from the sceneand leave their successors to tread
the same idle ground. In absolute monarchies the whole weight of business
civil and militarylies on the king; the children of Israel in their
request for a kingurged this plea "that he may judge usand go out
before us and fight our battles." But in countries where he is neither
a judge nor a generalas in Englanda man would be puzzled to know
what IS his business.
The nearer any government approaches to a republic the less business
there is for a king. It is somewhat difficult to find a proper name
for the government of England. Sir William Meredith calls it a republic;
but in its present state it is unworthy of the namebecause the corrupt
influence of the crownby having all the places in its disposal
hath so effectually swallowed up the powerand eaten out the virtue
of the house of commons (the republican part in the constitution)
that the government of England is nearly as monarchical as that of France
or Spain. Men fall out with names without understanding them.
For it is the republican and not the monarchical part of the constitution
of England which Englishmen glory inviz. the liberty of choosing an house
of commons from out of their own body - and it is easy to see that when
republican virtue failsslavery ensues. Why is the constitution
of England sicklybut because monarchy hath poisoned the republic
the crown hath engrossed the commons?
In England a king hath little more to do than to make war
and give away places; which in plain termsis to impoverish
the nation and set it together by the ears. A pretty business indeed
for a man to be allowed eight hundred thousand sterling a year for
and worshipped into the bargain! Of more worth is one honest man
to society and in the sight of Godthan all the crowned ruffians
that ever lived.
THOUGHTS ON THE PRESENT STATE OF AMERICAN AFFAIRS
In the following pages I offer nothing more than simple facts
plain argumentsand common sense; and have no other Preliminaries
to settle with the readerthan that he will divest himself of prejudice
and prepossessionand suffer his reason and his feelings to determine
for themselves; that he will put ONor rather that he will not put OFF
the true character of a manand generously enlarge his views beyond
the present day.
Volumes have been written on the subject of the struggle between
England and America. Men of all ranks have embarked in the controversy
from different motivesand with various designs; but all have been
ineffectualand the period of debate is closed. Armsas the last
resourcedecide this contest; the appeal was the choice of the king
and the continent hath accepted the challenge.
It hath been reported of the late Mr. Pelham (who tho' an
able minister was not without his faults) that on his being
attacked in the house of commonson the scorethat his measures
were only of a temporary kindreplied "THEY WILL LAST MY TIME."
Should a thought so fatal and unmanly possess the colonies
in the present contestthe name of ancestors will be remembered
by future generations with detestation.
The sun never shined on a cause of greater worth. 'Tis not
the affair of a citya countya provinceor a kingdombut of
a continent - of at least one eighth part of the habitable globe.
'Tis not the concern of a daya yearor an age; posterity are
virtually involved in the contestand will be more or less
affectedeven to the end of timeby the proceedings now.
Now is the seed-time of continental unionfaith and honour.
The least fracture now will be like a name engraved with the point
of a pin on the tender rind of a young oak; the wound will enlarge
with the treeand posterity read it in full grown characters.
By referring the matter from argument to armsa new aera
for politics is struck; a new method of thinking hath arisen.
All plansproposals&c. prior to the nineteenth of April
i. e. to the commencement of hostilitiesare like the almanacs
of the last year; whichthough proper then are superseded
and useless now. Whatever was advanced by the advocates on
either side of the question thenterminated in one and the
same point. viz. a union with Great-Britain: the only difference
between the parties was the method of effecting it; the one
proposing forcethe other friendship; but it hath so far
happened that the first hath failedand the second hath
withdrawn her influence.
As much hath been said of the advantages of reconciliation which
like an agreeable dreamhath passed away and left us as we were
it is but rightthat we should examine the contrary side
of the argumentand inquire into some of the many material injuries
which these colonies sustainand always will sustain
by being connected withand dependent on Great Britain:
To examine that connection and dependenceon the principles
of nature and common senseto see what we have to trust to
if separatedand what we are to expectif dependant.
I have heard it asserted by somethat as America hath
flourished under her former connection with Great Britain
that the same connection is necessary towards her future
happinessand will always have the same effect.
Nothing can be more fallacious than this kind of argument.
We may as well assert that because a child has thrived upon milk
that it is never to have meator that the first twenty years
of our lives is to become a precedent for the next twenty.
But even this is admitting more than is truefor I answer roundly
that America would have flourished as muchand probably much more
had no European power had any thing to do with her. The commerce
by which she hath enriched herselfare the necessaries of life
and will always have a market while eating is the custom of Europe.
But she has protected ussay some. That she has engrossed
us is trueand defended the continent at our expense as well
as her own is admittedand she would have defended Turkey
from the same motiveviz. the sake of trade and dominion.
Alaswe have been long led away by ancient prejudices
and made large sacrifices to superstition. We have boasted
the protection of Great Britainwithout considering
that her motive was INTEREST not ATTACHMENT; that she
did not protect us from OUR ENEMIES on OUR ACCOUNT
but from HER ENEMIES on HER OWN ACCOUNTfrom those
who had no quarrel with us on any OTHER ACCOUNT
and who will always be our enemies on the SAME ACCOUNT.
Let Britain wave her pretensions to the continent
or the continent throw off the dependenceand we should
be at peace with France and Spain were they at war with Britain.
The miseries of Hanover last war ought to warn us against connections.
It has lately been asserted in parliamentthat the colonies
have no relation to each other but through the parent country
i. e. that Pennsylvania and the Jerseysand so on for the rest
are sister colonies by the way of England; this is certainly
a very round-about way of proving relationshipbut it is the
nearest and only true way of proving enemyshipif I may so call it.
France and Spain never were. nor perhaps ever will be our enemies
as AMERICANSbut as our being the subjects of GREAT BRITAIN.
But Britain is the parent countrysay some. Then the more shame
upon her conduct. Even brutes do not devour their young
nor savages make war upon their families; wherefore the assertion
if trueturns to her reproach; but it happens not to be true
or only partly so and the phrase PARENT or MOTHER COUNTRY
hath been jesuitically adopted by the king and his parasites
with a low papistical design of gaining an unfair bias
on the credulous weakness of our minds. Europeand not England
is the parent country of America. This new world hath been the asylum
for the persecuted lovers of civil and religious liberty from EVERY PART
of Europe. Hither have they flednot from the tender embraces of the motherbut
from the cruelty of the monster; and it is so far true of England
that the same tyranny which drove the first emigrants from home
pursues their descendants still.
In this extensive quarter of the globewe forget the narrow limits
of three hundred and sixty miles (the extent of England)
and carry our friendship on a larger scale; we claim brotherhood
with every European Christianand triumph in the generosity of thesentiment.
It is pleasant to observe by what regular gradations
we surmount the force of local prejudiceas we enlarge
our acquaintance with the world. A man born in any town
in England divided into parisheswill naturally associate most
with his fellow-parishioners (because their interests in many
cases will be common) and distinguish him by the name of NEIGHBOUR;
if he meet him but a few miles from homehe drops the narrow idea
of a streetand salutes him by the name of TOWNSMAN; if he travel out
of the countyand meet him in any otherhe forgets the minor divisions
of street and townand calls him COUNTRYMANi. e. COUNTRYMAN;
but if in their foreign excursions they should associate in France
or any other part of EUROPEtheir local remembrance would be enlarged
into that of ENGLISHMEN. And by a just parity of reasoning
all Europeans meeting in Americaor any other quarter of the globe
are COUNTRYMEN; for EnglandHollandGermanyor Swedenwhen compared
with the wholestand in the same places on the larger scale
which the divisions of streettownand county do on the smaller ones;
distinctions too limited for continental minds. Not one third of
the inhabitantseven of this provinceare of English descent.
Wherefore I reprobate the phrase of parent or mother country applied
to England onlyas being falseselfishnarrow and ungenerous.
But admittingthat we were all of English descentwhat does
it amount to? Nothing. Britainbeing now an open enemy
extinguishes every other name and title: And to say that
reconciliation is our dutyis truly farcical. The first
king of Englandof the present line (William the Conqueror)
was a Frenchmanand half the Peers of England are descendants
from the same country; thereforeby the same method of reasoning
England ought to be governed by France.
Much hath been said of the united strength of Britain and the colonies
that in conjunction they might bid defiance to the world. But this
is mere presumption; the fate of war is uncertainneither do
the expressions mean any thing; for this continent would never suffer
itself to be drained of inhabitantsto support the British arms
in either AsiaAfricaor Europe.
Besides what have we to do with setting the world at defiance?
Our plan is commerceand thatwell attended towill secure us
the peace and friendship of all Europe; becauseit is the
interest of all Europe to have America a FREE PORT. Her trade
will always be a protectionand her barrenness of gold and silver
secure her from invaders.
I challenge the warmest advocate for reconciliationto shew
a single advantage that this continent can reapby being connected
with Great Britain. I repeat the challengenot a single advantage
is derived. Our corn will fetch its price in any market in Europe
and our imported goods must be paid forbuy them where we will.
But the injuries and disadvantages we sustain by that connection
are without number; and our duty to mankind at large
as well as to ourselvesinstruct us to renounce the alliance:
Becauseany submission toor dependence on Great Britain
tends directly to involve this continent in European wars and quarrels;
and sets us at variance with nationswho would otherwise seek ourfriendship
and against whomwe have neither anger nor complaint. As Europe is ourmarket
for tradewe ought to form no partial connection with any part of it.
It is the true interest of America to steer clear of European contentions
which she never can dowhile by her dependence on Britain
she is made the make-weight in the scale of British politics.
Europe is too thickly planted with kingdoms to be long at peace
and whenever a war breaks out between England and any foreign power
the trade of America goes to ruinBECAUSE OF HER CONNECTION WITH ENGLAND.
The next war may not turn out like the lastand should it not
the advocates for reconciliation nowwill be wishing for separation then
becauseneutrality in that casewould be a safer convoy than a man of war.
Every thing that is right or natural pleads for separation. The blood
of the slainthe weeping voice of nature cries'TIS TIME TO PART.
Even the distance at which the Almighty hath placed England and America
is a strong and natural proofthat the authority of the oneover the other
was never the design of Heaven. The time likewise at which the continent
was discoveredadds weight to the argumentand the manner in which it
was peopled increases the force of it. The reformation was preceded
by the discovery of Americaas if the Almighty graciously meant
to open a sanctuary to the Persecuted in future years
when home should afford neither friendship nor safety.
The authority of Great Britain over this continent
is a form of governmentwhich sooner or later must have an end:
And a serious mind can draw no true pleasure by looking forward
under the painful and positive convictionthat what he calls
"the present constitution" is merely temporary. As parents
we can have no joyknowing that THIS GOVERNMENT is not sufficiently
lasting to ensure any thing which we may bequeath to posterity:
And by a plain method of argumentas we are running the next generation
into debtwe ought to do the work of itotherwise we use them meanly
and pitifully. In order to discover the line of our duty rightly
we should take our children in our handand fix our station a few years
farther into life; that eminence will present a prospectwhich a few
present fears and prejudices conceal from our sight.
Though I would carefully avoid giving unnecessary offense
yet I am inclined to believethat all those who espouse the doctrine
of reconciliationmay be included within the following descriptions.
Interested menwho are not to be trusted; weak menwho CANNOT see;
prejudiced menwho WILL NOT see; and a certain set of moderate men
who think better of the European world than it deserves;
and this last classby an ill-judged deliberationwill be
the cause of more calamities to this continentthan all the other three.
It is the good fortune of many to live distant from the scene of sorrow;
the evil is not sufficient brought to their doors to make THEM
feel the precariousness with which all American property is possessed.
But let our imaginations transport us far a few moments to Boston
that seat of wretchedness will teach us wisdomand instruct us
for ever to renounce a power in whom we can have no trust.
The inhabitants of that unfortunate citywho but a few months ago
were in ease and affluencehave nowno other alternative than
to stay and starveor turn and beg. Endangered by the fire
of their friends if they continue within the cityand plundered
by the soldiery if they leave it. In their present condition
they are prisoners without the hope of redemptionand in
a general attack for their reliefthey would be exposed
to the fury of both armies.
Men of passive tempers look somewhat lightly over the offenses
of Britainandstill hoping for the bestare apt to call out
"COMECOMEWE SHALL BE FRIENDS AGAINFOR ALL THIS."
But examine the passions and feelings of mankind
Bring the doctrine of reconciliation to the touchstone of nature
and then tell mewhether you can hereafter lovehonor
and faithfully serve the power that hath carried
fire and sword into your land? If yon cannot do all these
then are you only deceiving yourselvesand by your delay
bringing ruin upon posterity. Your future connection with Britain
whom you can neither love nor honor will be forced and unnatural
and being formed only on the plan of present convenience
will in a little time fall into a relapse more wretched than the first.
But if you sayyou can still pass the violations overthen I ask
Hath your house been burnt? Hath your property been destroyed before
your face! Are your wife and children destitute of a bed to lie on
or bread to live on? Have you lost a parent or a child by their hands
and yourself the ruined and wretched survivor! If you have not
then are you not a judge of those who have. But if you have
and still can shake hands with the murderersthen are you unworthy
the name of husbandfatherfriendor loverand whatever
may be your rank or title in lifeyou have the heart of a coward
and the spirit of a sycophant.
This is not inflaming or exaggerating mattersbut trying
them by those feelings and affections which nature justifies
and without whichwe should be incapable of discharging
the social duties of lifeor enjoying the felicities of it.
I mean not to exhibit horror for the purpose of provoking revenge
but to awaken us from fatal and unmanly slumbersthat we
may pursue determinately some fixed object. It is not in the
power of Britain or of Europe to conquer Americaif she do
not conquer herself by DELAY and TIMIDITY. The present winter
is worth an age if rightly employedbut if lost or neglected
the whole continent will partake of the misfortune;
and there is no punishment which that man will not deserve
be he whoor whator where he willthat may be the means
of sacrificing a season so precious and useful.
It is repugnant to reasonto the universal order of things
to all examples from former agesto supposethat this
continent can longer remain subject to any external power.
The most sanguine in Britain does not think so. The utmost
stretch of human wisdom cannotat this timecompass a plan
short of separationwhich can promise the continent even
a year's security. Reconciliation is NOW a fallacious dream.
Nature hath deserted the connectionand Art cannot supply
her place. Foras Milton wisely expresses"never can true
reconcilement growwhere wounds of deadly hate have pierced so deep."
Every quiet method for peace hath been ineffectual. Our prayers
have been rejected with disdain; and only tended to convince us
that nothing Batters vanityor confirms obstinacy in Kings
more than repeated petitioning-and nothing hath contributed
more than that very measure to make the Kings of Europe absolute:
Witness Denmark and Sweden. Whereforesince nothing but blows will do
for God's sakelet us come to a final separationand not leave
the next generation to be cutting throatsunder the violated
unmeaning names of parent and child.
To saythey will never attempt it again is idle and visionary
we thought so at the repeal of the stamp-actyet a year
or two undeceived us; as well may we suppose that nations
which have been once defeatedwill never renew the quarrel.
As to government mattersit is not in the power of Britain
to do this continent justice: The business of it will soon
be too weightyand intricateto be managed with any tolerable
degree of convenienceby a power so distant from usand so
very ignorant of us; for if they cannot conquer usthey cannot
govern us. To be always running three or four thousand miles
with a tale or a petitionwaiting four or five months
for an answerwhich when obtained requires five or six more
to explain it inwill in a few years be looked upon as folly
and childishness--There was a time when it was proper
and there is a proper time for it to cease.
Small islands not capable of protecting themselves
are the proper objects for kingdoms to take under their care;
but there is something very absurdin supposing a continent
to be perpetually governed by an island. In no instance hath
nature made the satellite larger than its primary planet
and as England and Americawith respect to each other
reverses the common order of natureit is evident they belong
to different systems; England to EuropeAmerica to itself.
I am not induced by motives of pridepartyor resentment
to espouse the doctrine of separation and independance;
I am clearlypositivelyand conscientiously persuaded
that it is the true interest of this continent to be so;
that every thing short of THAT is mere patchwork
that it can afford no lasting felicity
--that it is leaving the sword to our children
and shrinking back at a timewhena little more
a little fartherwould have rendered this continent
the glory of the earth.
As Britain hath not manifested the least inclination towards
a compromisewe may be assured that no terms can be obtained
worthy the acceptance of the continentor any ways equal
to the expense of blood and treasure we have been already put to.
The objectcontended forought always to bear some just proportion
to the expense. The removal of Northor the whole detestable junto
is a matter unworthy the millions we have expended. A temporary stoppage
of tradewas an inconveniencewhich would have sufficiently balanced
the repeal of all the acts complained ofhad such repeals been obtained;
hut if the whole continent must take up armsif every man must be a soldier
it is scarcely worth our while to fight against a contemptible ministry only.
Dearlydearlydo we pay for the repeal of the actsif that is all
we fight for; for in a just estimationit is as great a folly to pay
a Bunker-hill price for lawas for land. As I have always considered
the independancy of this continentas an eventwhich sooner or later
must arriveso from the late rapid progress of the continent to maturity
the event could not be far off. Whereforeon the breaking out ofhostilities
it was not worth while to have disputed a matterwhich time would have
finally redressedunless we meant to be in earnest; otherwiseit is like
wasting an estate on a suit at lawto regulate the trespasses of a tenant
whose lease is just expiring. No man was a warmer wisher for reconciliation
than myselfbefore the fatal nineteenth of April 1775but the moment
the event of that day was made knownI rejected the hardened
sullen tempered Pharaoh of England for ever; and disdain the wretch
that with the pretended title of FATHER OF HIS PEOPLE can unfeelingly hear
of their slaughterand composedly sleep with their blood upon his soul.
But admitting that matters were now made upwhat would be the event?
I answerthe ruin of the continent. And that for several reasons.
FIRST. The powers of governing still remaining in the hands
of the kinghe will have a negative over the whole legislation
of this continent. And as he hath shewn himself such an
inveterate enemy to liberty. and discovered such a thirst
for arbitrary power; is heor is he nota proper man to say to
these colonies"YOU SHALL MAKE NO LAWS BUT WHAT I PLEASE.'
And is there any inhabitant in America so ignorant as not to know
that according to what is called the PRESENT CONSTITUTION
that this continent can make no laws but what the king gives leave to;
and is there any man so unwiseas not to seethat (considering what
has happened) he will suffer no law to be made herebut such as suit
HIS purpose. We may be as effectually enslaved by the want
of laws in Americaas by submitting to laws made for us in England.
After matters are made up (as it is called) can there be any doubt
but the whole power of the crown will be exertedto keep this continent
as low and humble as possible? Instead of going forward we shall
go backwardor be perpetually quarrelling or ridiculously petitioning.
--WE are already greater than the king wishes us to beand will he not
hereafter endeavour to make us less? To bring the matter to one point.
Is the power who is jealous of our prosperitya proper power to govern us?
Whoever says No to this questionis an INDEPENDANTfor independancy
means no morethanwhether we shall make our own laws
or whether the kingthe greatest enemy this continent hath
or can haveshall tell us "THERE SHALL BE NO LAWS BUT SUCH AS ILIKE."
But the king you will say has a negative in England; the people there
can make no laws without his consent. In point of right and good order
there is something very ridiculousthat a youth of twenty-one
(which hath often happened) shall say to several millions of people
older and wiser than himselfI forbid this or that act of yours to be law.
But in this place I decline this sort of replythough I will never cease
to expose the absurdity of itand only answerthat England being the King's
residenceand America not somakes quite another case. The king's negative
HERE is ten times more dangerous and fatal than it can be in England
for THERE he will scarcely refuse his consent to a bill for putting England
into as strong a state of defense as possibleand in America he would never
suffer such a bill to be passed.
America is only a secondary object in the system of British politics
England consults the good of THIS countryno farther than it answers
her OWN purpose. Whereforeher own interest leads her to suppress
the growth of OURS in every case which doth not promote her advantage
or in the least interferes with it. A pretty state we should soon be in
under such a secondhand governmentconsidering what has happened!
Men do not change from enemies to friends by the alteration of a name:
And in order to shew that reconciliation now is a dangerous doctrine
I affirmTHAT IT WOULD BE POLICY IN THE KING AT THIS TIMETO REPEAL
THE ACTS FOR THE SAKE OF REINSTATING HIMSELF IN THE GOVERNMENT
OF THE PROVINCES; in orderthat HE MAY ACCOMPLISH BY CRAFT AND SUBTLETY
IN THE LONG RUNWHAT HE CANNOT DO BY FORCE AND VIOLENCE IN THE SHORT ONE.
Reconciliation and ruin are nearly related.
SECONDLY. That as even the best termswhich we can expect to obtain
can amount to no more than a temporary expedientor a kind of government
by guardianshipwhich can last no longer than till the colonies come of age
so the general face and state of thingsin the interimwill be unsettled
and unpromising. Emigrants of property will not choose to come to a country
whose form of government hangs but by a threadand who is every daytottering
on the brink of commotion and disturbance; and numbers of the present
inhabitants would lay hold of the intervalto dispense of their effects
and quit the continent.
But the most powerful of all argumentsisthat nothing but independence
i.e. a continental form of governmentcan keep the peace of the continent
and preserve it inviolate from civil wars. I dread the event of a
reconciliation with Britain nowas it is more than probable
that it will be followed by a revolt somewhere or otherthe consequences
of which may be far more fatal than all the malice of Britain.
Thousands are already ruined by British barbarity; (thousands more will
probably suffer the same fate) Those men have other feelings than us who
have nothing suffered. All they NOW possess is libertywhat they before
enjoyed is sacrificed to its serviceand having nothing more to lose
they disdain submission. Besidesthe general temper of the colonies
towards a British governmentwill be like that of a youth
who is nearly out of his time; they will care very little about her.
And a government which cannot preserve the peaceis no government at all
and in that case we pay our money for nothing; and pray what is it that
Britain can dowhose power will he wholly on paper. should a civil
tumult break out the very day after reconciliation! I have heard
some men saymany of whom I believe spoke without thinkingthat they
dreaded an independencefearing that it would produce civil wars.
It is but seldom that our first thoughts are truly correctand that
is the case here; for there are ten times more to dread from a patched up
connection than from independence. I make the sufferers case my own
and I protestthat were I driven from house and homemy property destroyed
and my circumstances ruinedthat as mansensible of injuriesI could never
relish the doctrine of reconciliationor consider myself bound thereby.
The colonies have manifested such a spirit of good order and obedience
to continental governmentas is sufficient to make every reasonable
person easy and happy on that head. No man can assign the least pretence
for his fearson any other groundsthan such as are truly childish
and ridiculousviz. that one colony will be striving for superiority
Where there are no distinctions there can be no superiority
perfect equality affords no temptation. The republics of Europe
are all (and we may say always) in peace. Holland and Switzerland
are without warsforeign or domestic: Monarchical governments
it is trueare never long at rest; the crown itself is a temptation
to enterprising ruffians at HOME; and that degree of pride and insolence
ever attendant on regal authorityswells into a rupture with foreign powers
in instanceswhere a republican governmentby being formed on more
natural principleswould negotiate the mistake.
If there is any true cause of fear respecting independence
it is because no plan is yet laid down. Men do not see their way out--
Whereforeas an opening into that businessI offer the following hints;
at the same time modestly affirmingthat I have no other opinion
of them myselfthan that they may be the means of giving rise to
something better. Could the straggling thoughts of individuals
be collectedthey would frequently form materials for wise
and able men to improve into useful matter.
LET the assemblies be annualwith a President only.
The representation more equal. Their business wholly domestic
and subject to the authority of a Continental Congress.
Let each colony be divided into sixeightor tenconvenient districts
each district to send a proper number of delegates to Congress
so that each colony send at least thirty. The whole number in Congress
will be at least 390. Each Congress to sit and to choose a president
by the following method. When the delegates are metlet a colony be taken
from the whole thirteen colonies by lotafter whichlet the whole Congress
choose (by ballot) a president from out of the delegates of that province.
In the next Congresslet a colony be taken by lot from twelve onlyomitting
that colony from which the president was taken in the former Congressand so
proceeding on till the whole thirteen shall have had their proper rotation.
And in order that nothing may pass into a law but what is satisfactorily
just not less than three fifths of the Congress to be called a majority--
He that will promote discordunder a government so equally formed as this
would have joined Lucifer in his revolt.
But as there is a peculiar delicacyfrom whomor in what manner
this business must first ariseand as it seems most agreeable
and consistentthat it should come from some intermediate body
between the governed and the governorsthat isbetween the Congress
and the people. let a CONTINENTAL CONFERENCE be heldin the followingmanner
and for the following purpose.
A committee of twenty-six members of Congressviz. two for each colony.
Two Members from each House of Assemblyor Provincial Convention;
and five representatives of the people at largeto be chosen in the capital
city or town of each provincefor and in behalf of the whole province
by as many qualified voters as shall think proper to attend from
all parts of the province for that purpose; orif more convenient
the representatives may be chosen in two or three of the most populous
parts thereof. In this conferencethus assembledwill be united
the two grand principles of business KNOWLEDGE and POWER. The members
of CongressAssembliesor Conventionsby having had experience in
national concernswill be able and useful counsellorsand the whole
being empowered by the peoplewill have a truly legal authority.
The conferring members being metlet their business be to frame
a CONTINENTAL CHARTEROr Charter of the United Colonies;
(answering to what is called the Magna Carta of England) fixing
the number and manner of choosing members of Congressmembers of Assembly
with their date of sittingand drawing the line of business and jurisdiction
between them: (Always rememberingthat our strength is continental
not provincial:) Securing freedom and property to all menand above
all thingsthe free exercise of religionaccording to the dictates
of conscience; with such other matter as is necessary for a charter
to contain. Immediately after whichthe said Conference to dissolve
and the bodies which shall be chosen comformable to the said charter
to be the legislators and governors of this continent for the time being:
Whose peace and happiness may God preserveAmen.
Should any body of men be hereafter delegated for this
or some similar purposeI offer them the following extracts
or that wise observer on governments DRAGONETTI.
"The science" says he "of the politician consists
in fixing the true point of happiness and freedom.
Those men would deserve the gratitude of ages
who should discover a mode of government that contained
the greatest sum of individual happinesswith the least
national expense. [Dragonetti on virtue and rewards]
But wheresays someis the King of America? I'll tell you.
Friendhe reigns aboveand doth not make havoc of mankind
like the Royal Brute of Britain. Yet that we may not appear
to be defective even in earthly honorslet a day be solemnly
set apart for proclaiming the charter; let it be brought forth
placed on the divine lawthe word of God; let a crown be placed thereon
by which the world may knowthat so far we approve of monarchy
that in America THE LAW IS KING. For as in absolute governments
the King is lawso in free countries the law OUGHT to be King;
and there ought to be no other. But lest any ill use should
afterwards ariselet the crown at the conclusion of the ceremony
be demolishedand scattered among the people whose right it is.
A government of our own is our natural right: And when a man seriously
reacts on the precariousness of human affairshe will become convinced
that it is infinitely wiser and saferto form a constitution
of our own in a cool deliberate mannerwhile we have it in our power
than to trust such an interesting event to time and chance.
If we omit it nowsome [Thomas Anello otherwise Massanello
a fisherman of Napleswho after spiriting up his countrymen
in the public marketplaceagainst the oppressions of the Spaniards
to whom the place was then subject prompted them to revolt
and in the space of a day became king.] Massanello may hereafter arise
who laying hold of popular disquietudesmay collect together the desperate
and the discontentedand by assuming to themselves the powers of government
may sweep away the liberties of the continent like a deluge. Should the
government of America return again into the hands of Britainthe tottering
situation of things will be a temptation for some desperate adventurer
to try his fortune; and in such a casethat relief can Britain give?
Ere she could hear the newsthe fatal business might be done;
and ourselves suffering like the wretched Britons under
the oppression of the Conqueror. Ye that oppose independence now
ye know not what ye do; ye are opening a door to eternal tyranny
by keeping vacant the seat of government. There are thousands
and tens of thousandswho would think it glorious
to expel from the continent that barbarous and hellish power
which hath stirred up the Indians and Negroes to destroy us;
the cruelty hath a double guiltit is dealing brutally by us
and treacherously by them.
To talk of friendship with those in whom our reason forbids us
to have faithand our affections wounded through a thousand pores
instruct us to detestis madness and folly. Every day wears out
the little remains of kindred between us and themand can there
be any reason to hopethat as the relationship expires
the affection will increaseor that we shall agree better
when we have ten times more and greater concerns to quarrel over than ever?
Ye that tell us of harmony and reconciliationcan ye restore to us the
time that is past? Can ye give to prostitution its former innocence?
Neither can ye reconcile Britain and America. The last cord
now is brokenthe people of England are presenting addresses against us.
There are injuries which nature cannot forgive; she would cease to be nature
if she did. As well can the lover forgive the ravisher of his mistress
as the continent forgive the murders of Britain. The Almighty hath
implanted in us these unextinguishable feelings for good and wise purposes.
They are the guardians of his image in our hearts. They distinguish us
from the herd of common animals. The social compact would dissolve
and justice be extirpated the earthor have only a casual existence
were we callous to the touches of affection. The robberand the murderer
would often escape unpunisheddid not the injuries which our temperssustain
provoke us into justice.
O ye that love mankind! Ye that dare opposenot only the tyranny
but the tyrantstand forth! Every spot of the old world is overrun with
oppression. Freedom hath been hunted round the globe. Asiaand Africa
have long expelled her--Europe regards her like a strangerand England
hath given her warning to depart. O! receive the fugitiveand prepare
in time an asylum for mankind.
OF THE PRESENT _ABILITY_ OF _AMERICA_WITH SOME MISCELLANEOUS _REFLECTIONS_
I have never met with a maneither in England or Americawho hath not
confessed his opinion that a separation between the countries
would take place one time or other: And there is no instancein which we
have shewn less judgementthan in endeavouring to describewhat we call
the ripeness or fitness of the Continent for independence.
As all men allow the measureand vary only in their opinion of the time
let usin order to remove mistakestake a general survey of things
and endeavourif possibleto find out the VERY time. But we need not
go farthe inquiry ceases at onceforthe TIME HATH FOUND US.
The general concurrencethe glorious union of all things prove the fact.
It is not in numbersbut in unitythat our great strength lies;
yet our present numbers are sufficient to repel the force of all the world.
The Continent hathat this timethe largest body of armed and
disciplined men of any power under Heaven; and is just arrived at that
pitch of strengthin which no single colony is able to support itself
and the wholewhen unitedcan accomplish the matterand either more
orless than thismight be fatal in its effects. Our land force is
already sufficientand as to naval affairswe cannot be insensible
that Britain would never suffer an American man of war to be built
while the continent remained in her hands. Whereforewe should be no
forwarder an hundred years hence in that branchthan we are now;
but the truth iswe should be less sobecause the timber of the country
is every day diminishingand thatwhich will remain at last
will be far off and difficult to procure.
Were the continent crowded with inhabitantsher sufferings under
the present circumstances would be intolerable. The more seaport towns
we hadthe more should we have both to defend and to lose. Our present
numbers are so happily proportioned to our wantsthat no man need be idle.
The diminution of trade affords an armyand the necessities of an army
create a new trade.
Debts we have none; and whatever we may contract on this account will
serve as a glorious memento of our virtue. Can we but leave posterity
with a settled form of governmentan independent constitution of its own
the purchase at any price will be cheap. But to expend millions for the sake
of getting a few vile acts repealedand routing the present ministry only
is unworthy the chargeand is using posterity with the utmost cruelty;
because it is leaving them the great work to doand a debt upon their backs
from which they derive no advantage. Such a thought is unworthy
of a man of honorand is the true characteristic of a narrow heart
and a peddling politician.
The debt we may contract doth not deserve our regardif the work
be but accomplished. No nation ought to be without a debt.
A national debt is a national bond; and when it bears no interest
is in no case a grievance. Britain is oppressed with a debt of upwards
of one hundred and forty millions sterlingfor which she pays upwards
of four millions interest. And as a compensation for her debt
she has a large navy; America is without a debtand without a navy;
yet for the twentieth part of the English national debt
could have a navy as large again. The navy of England is not worth
at this timemore than three millions and an half sterling.
The first and second editions of this pamphlet were published without
the following calculationswhich are now given as a proof that the
above estimation of the navy is just.
[See Entic's naval historyintro. page 56.]
The charge of building a ship of each rateand furnishing her with masts
yardssails and riggingtogether with a proportion of eight months
boatswain's and carpenter's seastoresas calculated by Mr. Burchett
Secretary to the navy.
For a ship of a 100 guns - 35553
90 - - 29886
80 - - 23638
70 - - 17795
60 - - 14197
50 - - 10606
40 - - 7558
30 - - 5846
20 - - 3710
And from hence it is easy to sum up the valueor cost ratherof
the whole British navywhich in the year 1757when it was
at its greatest glory consisted of the following ships and guns:
Ships. Guns. Cost of one. Cost of all
6 - 100 - 35553 - 213318
12 - 90 - 29886 - 358632
12 - 80 - 23638 - 283656
43 - 70 - 17785 - 764755
35 - 60 - 14197 - 496895
40 - 50 - 10606 - 424240
45 - 40 - 7558 - 340110
58 - 20 - 3710 - 215180
and fireshipsone 2000 170000
Remains for guns_________ 233214
No country on the globe is so happily situatedor so internally capable
of raising a fleet as America. Tartimberironand cordage are her
natural produce. We need go abroad for nothing. Whereas the Dutch
who make large profits by hiring out their ships of war to the Spaniards
and Portugueseare obliged to import most of their materials they use.
We ought to view the building a fleet as an article of commerceit being
the natural manufactory of this country. It is the best money we can lay out.
A navy when finished is worth more than it cost. And is that nice point
in national policyin which commerce and protection are united. Let usbuild;
if we want them notwe can sell; and by that means replace our papercurrency
with ready gold and silver.
In point of manning a fleetpeople in general run into great errors;
it is not necessary that one fourth part should he sailors.
The Terrible privateerCaptain Deathstood the hottest engagement
of any ship last waryet had not twenty sailors on board
though her complement of men was upwards of two hundred.
A few able and social sailors will soon instruct a sufficient number
of active landmen in the common work of a ship. Whereforewe never
can be more capable to begin on maritime matters than now
while our timber is standingour fisheries blocked up
and our sailors and shipwrights out of employ. Men of war of seventy
and eighty guns were built forty years ago in New-England
and why not the same now? Ship-building is America's greatest pride
and in which she will in time excel the whole world.
The great empires of the east are mostly inland
and consequently excluded from the possibility of rivalling her.
Africa is in a state of barbarism; and no power in Europe hath either
such an extent of coastor such an internal supply of materials.
Where nature hath given the oneshe has withheld the other;
to America only hath she been liberal of both. The vast empire of Russia
is almost shut out from the sea: whereforeher boundless forestsher tar
ironand cordage are only articles of commerce.
In point of safetyought we to be without a fleet? We are not the
little people nowwhich we were sixty years ago; at that time we might
have trusted our property in the streetsor fields rather; and slept
securely without locks or bolts to our doors or windows. The case now
is alteredand our methods of defense ought to improve with our increase
of property. A common piratetwelve months agomight have come up
the Delawareand laid the city of Philadelphia under instant contribution
for what sum he pleased; and the same might have happened to other places.
Nayany daring fellowin a brig of fourteen or sixteen guns might have
robbed the whole continentand carried off half a million of money.
These are circumstances which demand our attentionand point out
the necessity of naval protection.
Someperhapswill saythat after we have made it up Britain
she will protect us. Can we be so unwise as to mean
that she shall keep a navy in our harbours for that purpose?
Common sense will tell usthat the power which hath endeavoured
to subdue usis of all others the most improper to defend us.
Conquest may be effected under the pretence of friendship;
and ourselves after a long and brave resistancebe at last cheated
into slavery. And if her ships are not to be admitted into our harbours
I would askhow is she to protect us? A navy three or four thousand miles
off can be of little useand on sudden emergenciesnone at all.
Whereforeif we must hereafter protect ourselveswhy not do it forourselves?
The English list of ships of waris long and formidablebut not
a tenth part of them are at any one time fit for servicenumbers of them
not in being; yet their names are pompously continued in the list
f only a plank be left of the ship: and not a fifth part of such as are
fit for servicecan be spared on any one station at one time.
The East and West IndiesMediterraneanAfricaand other parts
over which Britain extends her claimmake large demands upon her navy.
From a mixture of prejudice and inattentionwe have contracted a false
notion respecting the navy of Englandand have talked as if we should
have the whole of it to encounter at onceand for that reasonsupposed
that we must have one as large; which not being instantly practicable
have been made use of by a set of disguised Tories to discourage
our beginning thereon. Nothing can be farther from truth than this;
for if America had only a twentieth part of the naval force of Britain
she would be by far an overmatch for her; becauseas we neither have
nor claim any foreign dominionour whole force would be employed on
our own coastwhere we shouldin the long runhave two to one theadvantage
of those who had three or four thousand miles to sail over
before they could attack usand the same distance to return
in order to refit and recruit. And although Britainby her fleet
hath a check over our trade to Europewe have as large a one over her trade
to the West Indieswhichby laying in the neighbourhood of the continent
is entirely at its mercy.
Some method might be fallen on to keep up a naval force in time of peace
if we should not judge it necessary to support a constant navy.
If premiums were to be given to merchantsto build and employ in their
service ships mounted with twentythirtyforty or fifty guns
(the premiums to be in proportion to the loss of bulk to the merchants)
fifty or sixty of those shipswith a few guardships on constant duty
would keep up a sufficient navyand that without burdening ourselves
with the evil so loudly complained of in Englandof suffering their fleet
in time of peace to lie rotting in the docks. To unite the sinews
of commerce and defense is sound policy; for when our strength
and our riches play into each other's handwe need fear no external enemy.
In almost every article of defense we abound. Hemp flourishes even
to ranknessso that we need not want cordage. Our iron is superior
to that of other countries. Our small arms equal to any in the world.
Cannon we can cast at pleasure. Saltpetre and gunpowder we are every
day producing. Our knowledge is hourly improving. Resolution is our
inherent characterand courage hath never yet forsaken us. Wherefore
what is it that we want? Why is it that we hesitate? From Britain we can
expect nothing but ruin. If she is once admitted to the government
of America againthis Continent will not be worth living in.
Jealousies will be always arising; insurrections will be constantlyhappening;
and who will go forth to quell them? Who will venture his life to reduce his
own countrymen to a foreign obedience? The difference between Pennsylvania
and Connecticutrespecting some unlocated landsshews the insignificance
of a British governmentand fully provesthat nothing but Continental
authority can regulate Continental matters.
Another reason why the present time is preferable to all othersis
that the fewer our numbers arethe more land there is yet unoccupied
which instead of being lavished by the king on his worthless dependants
may be hereafter appliednot only to the discharge of the present debt
but to the constant support of government. No nation under heaven hath
such an advantage at this.
The infant state of the Coloniesas it is calledso far
from being againstis an argument in favour of independance.
We are sufficiently numerousand were we more sowe might be less united.
It is a matter worthy of observationthat the mare a country is peopled
the smaller their armies are. In military numbersthe ancients far exceeded
the modems: and the reason is evident. for trade being the consequence
of populationmen become too much absorbed thereby to attend to
anything else. Commerce diminishes the spiritboth of patriotism
and military defence. And history sufficiently informs usthat the
bravest achievements were always accomplished in the non-age of a nation.
With the increase of commerceEngland hath lost its spirit. The city
of Londonnotwithstanding its numberssubmits to continued insults
with the patience of a coward. The more men have to losethe less willing
are they to venture. The rich are in general slaves to fearand submit
to courtly power with the trembling duplicity of a Spaniel.
Youth is the seed time of good habitsas well in nations as in individuals.
It might be difficultif not impossibleto form the Continent into one
government half a century hence. The vast variety of interests
occasioned by an increase of trade and populationwould create confusion.
Colony would be against colony. Each being able might scorn each other's
assistance: and while the proud and foolish gloried in their little
distinctionsthe wise would lamentthat the union had not been formedbefore.
Whereforethe PRESENT TIME is the TRUE TIME for establishing it.
The intimacy which is contracted in infancyand the friendship which
is formed in misfortuneareof all othersthe most lasting andunalterable.
Our present union is marked with both these characters: we are young
and we have been distressed; but our concord hath withstood our troubles
and fixes a memorable are for posterity to glory in.
The present timelikewiseis that peculiar timewhich never happens
to a nation but onceviz. the time of forming itself into a government.
Most nations have let slip the opportunityand by that means have been
compelled to receive laws from their conquerorsinstead of making laws
for themselves. Firstthey had a kingand then a form of government;
whereasthe articles or charter of governmentshould be formed first
and men delegated to execute them afterward but from the errors of other
nationslet us learn wisdomand lay hold of the present opportunity
--TO BEGIN GOVERNMENT AT THE RIGHT END.
When William the Conqueror subdued Englandhe gave them law at the
point of the sword; and until we consentthat the seat of government
in Americabe legally and authoritatively occupiedwe shall be in
danger of having it filled by some fortunate ruffianwho may treat us
in the same mannerand thenwhere will be our freedom? where our property?
As to religionI hold it to be the indispensable duty of all government
to protect all conscientious professors thereofand I know of no other
business which government hath to do therewithLet a man throw aside
that narrowness of soulthat selfishness of principlewhich the niggards
of all professions are willing to part withand he will be at delivered
of his fears on that head. Suspicion is the companion of mean souls
and the bane of all good society. For myselfI fully and conscientiously
believethat it is the will of the Almightythat there should be diversity
of religious opinions among us: It affords a larger field for our Christian
kindness. Were we all of one way of thinkingour religious dispositions
would want matter for probation; and on this liberal principleI look
on the various denominations among usto be like children of the samefamily
differing onlyin what is calledtheir Christian names.
In page fortyI threw out a few thoughts on the propriety of a
Continental Charter(for I only presume to offer hintsnot plans)
and in this placeI take the liberty of rementioning the subject
by observingthat a charter is to be understood as a bond
of solemn obligationwhich the whole enters into
to support the right of every separate part
whether of religionpersonal freedomor property.
A firm bargain and a right reckoning make long friends.
In a former page I likewise mentioned the necessity of a large
and equal representation; and there is no political matter
which more deserves our attention. A small number of electors
or a small number of representativesare equally dangerous.
But if the number of the representatives be not only small
but unequalthe danger is increased. As an instance of this
I mention the following; when the Associators petition was before
the House of Assembly of Pennsylvania; twenty-eight members only werepresent
all the Bucks county membersbeing eightvoted against it
and had seven of the Chester members done the samethis whole province had
been governed by two counties onlyand this danger it is always exposed to.
The unwarrantable stretch likewisewhich that house made
in their last sittingto gain an undue authority over the delegates
of that provinceought to warn the people at largehow they trust power
out of their own hands. A set of instructions for the Delegates
were put togetherwhich in point of sense and business would have
dishonoured a schoolboyand after being approved by a FEWa VERY FEW
without doorswere carried into the Houseand there passed
IN BEHALF OF THE WHOLE COLONY; whereasdid the whole colony know
with what ill-will that House hath entered on some necessary public measures
they would not hesitate a moment to think them unworthy of such a trust.
Immediate necessity makes many things convenientwhich if continued
would grow into oppressions. Expedience and right are different things.
When the calamities of America required a consultationthere was no
method so readyor at that time so properas to appoint persons from
the several Houses of Assembly for that purpose; and the wisdom with
which they have proceeded hath preserved this continent from ruin.
But as it is more than probable that we shall never be without a
CONGRESSevery well wisher to good ordermust ownthat the mode
for choosing members of that bodydeserves consideration. And I put it
as a question to thosewho make a study of mankindwhether representation
and election is not too great a power for one and the same body of men
to possess? When we are planning for posteritywe ought to remember
that virtue is not hereditary.
It is from our enemies that we often gain excellent maximsand are
frequently surprised into reason by their mistakesMr. Cornwall
(one of the Lords of the Treasury) treated the petition of the New-York
Assembly with contemptbecause THAT Househe saidconsisted but
of twenty-six memberswhich trifling numberhe arguedcould not
with decency be put for the whole. We thank him for his involuntary honesty.
[Those who would fully understand of what great consequence a large and equal
representation is to a stateshould read Burgh's political disquisitions.]
TO CONCLUDEhowever strange it may appear to someor however unwilling
they may be to think somatters notbut many strong and striking reasons
may be givento shewthat nothing can settle our affairs so expeditiously
as an open and determined declaration for independance. Some of which are
FIRST. -- It is the custom of nationswhen any two are at war
for some other powersnot engaged in the quarrelto step in as mediators
and bring about the preliminaries of a peace: hut while America calls
herself the Subject of Great Britainno powerhowever well disposed
she may becan offer her mediation. Whereforein our present state
we may quarrel on for ever.
SECONDLY. -- It is unreasonable to supposethat France or Spain will
give us any kind of assistanceif we mean onlyto make use of that
assistance for the purpose of repairing the breachand strengthening
the connection between Britain and America; becausethose powers would
be sufferers by the consequences.
THIRDLY. -- While we profess ourselves the subjects of Britainwe must
in the eye of foreign nations. be considered as rebels. The precedent
is somewhat dangerous to THEIR PEACEfor men to be in arms under the name
of subjects; weon the spotcan solve the paradox: but to unite resistance
and subjectionrequires an idea much too refined for common understanding.
FOURTHLY. -- Were a manifesto to be publishedand despatched
to foreign courtssetting forth the miseries we have endured
and the peaceable methods we have ineffectually used for redress;
declaringat the same timethat not being ableany longer
to live happily or safely under the cruel disposition of the British court
we had been driven to the necessity of breaking off all connections with her;
at the same timeassuring all such courts of our peaceable disposition
towards themand of our desire of entering into trade with them:
Such a memorial would produce more good effects to this Continent
than if a ship were freighted with petitions to Britain.
Under our present denomination of British subjectswe can neither
be received nor heard abroad: The custom of all courts is against us
and will be sountilby an independancewe take rank with other nations.
These proceedings may at first appear strange and difficult; but
like all other steps which we have already passed overwill in a little time
become familiar and agreeable; anduntil an independance is declared
the Continent will feel itself like a man who continues putting off some
unpleasant business from day to dayyet knows it must be donehates to
set about itwishes it overand is continually haunted with
the thoughts of its necessity.
Since the publication of the first edition of this pamphlet
or ratheron the same day on which it came outthe King's Speech
made its appearance in this city. Had the spirit of prophecy directed
the birth of this productionit could not have brought it forth
at a more seasonable junctureor a more necessary time.
The bloody mindedness of the oneshew the necessity of pursuing
the doctrine of the other. Men read by way of revenge.
And the Speechinstead of terrifyingprepared a way
for the manly principles of Independance.
Ceremonyand evensilencefrom whatever motive they
may arisehave a hurtful tendencywhen they give the least
degree of countenance to base and wicked performances;
whereforeif this maxim be admittedit naturally follows
that the King's Speechas being a piece of finished villany
deservedand still deservesa general execration both by the
Congress and the people. Yetas the domestic tranquillity of
a nationdepends greatlyon the CHASTITY of what may properly
be called NATIONAL MANNERSit is often betterto pass
some things over in silent disdainthan to make use of such
new methods of dislikeas might introduce the least innovation
on that guardian of our peace and safety. Andperhaps
it is chiefly owing to this prudent delicacythat the King's
Speechhath notbefore nowsuffered a public execution.
The Speech if it may be called oneis nothing better than
a wilful audacious libel against the truththe common good
and the existence of mankind; and is a formal and pompous
method of offering up human sacrifices to the pride of tyrants.
But this general massacre of mankind. is one of the privileges
and the certain consequence of Kings; for as nature knows them NOT
they know NOT HERand although they are beings of our OWN creating
they know not USand are become the gods of their creators.
The Speech hath one good qualitywhich isthat it is not calculated
to deceiveneither can weeven if we wouldbe deceived by it.
Brutality and tyranny appear on the face of it. It leaves us at no loss:
And every line convinceseven in the moment of readingthat He
who hunts the woods for preythe naked and untutored Indian
is less a Savage than the King of Britain.
Sir John Dalrymplethe putative father of a whining jesuitical piece
fallaciously called"THE ADDRESS OF THE PEOPLE OF _ENGLAND_
TO THE INHABITANTS OF _AMERICA_" hathperhapsfrom a vainsupposition
that the people here were to be frightened at the pomp and description
of a kinggiven(though very unwisely on his part) the real character
of the present one: "But" says this writer"if you areinclined to pay
compliments to an administrationwhich we do not complain of"
(meaning the Marquis of Rockingham's at the repeal of the Stamp Act)
"it is very unfair in you to withhold them from that prince
by WHOSE _NOD ALONE_ THEY WERE PERMITTED TO DO ANY THING."
This is toryism with a witness! Here is idolatry even without a mask:
And he who can calmly hearand digest such doctrine
hath forfeited his claim to rationality an apostate
from the order of manhood; and ought to be considered as one
who hath not only given up the proper dignity of man
but sunk himself beneath the rank of animals
and contemptibly crawl through the world like a worm.
Howeverit matters very little nowwhat the king of England
either says or does; he hath wickedly broken through every
moral and human obligationtrampled nature and conscience
beneath his feet; and by a steady and constitutional spirit
of insolence and crueltyprocured for himself an universal
hatred. It is NOW the interest of America to provide for herself.
She hath already a large and young familywhom it is more her
duty to take care ofthan to be granting away her property
to support a power who is become a reproach to the names
of men and christians--YEwhose office it is to watch over
the morals of a nationof whatsoever sect or denomination
ye are ofas well as yewhoare more immediately the guardians
of the public libertyif ye wish to preserve your native country
uncontaminated by European corruptionye must in secret wish
a separation--But leaving the moral part to private reflection
I shall chiefly confine my farther remarks to the following heads.
First. That it is the interest of America to be separated from Britain.
Secondly. Which is the easiest and most practicable plan
RECONCILIATION OR INDEPENDANCE? With some occasional remarks.
In support of the firstI couldif I judged it proper
produce the opinion of some of the ablest and most experienced men
on this continent; and whose sentimentson that headare not yet
publicly known. It is in reality a self-evident position:
For no nation in a state of foreign dependancelimited in its commerce
and cramped and fettered in its legislative powerscan ever arrive
at any material eminence. America doth not yet know what opulence is;
and although the progress which she hath made stands unparalleled
in the history of other nationsit is but childhood
compared with what she would be capable of arriving at
had sheas she ought to havethe legislative powers in her own hands.
England isat this timeproudly coveting what would do her no good
were she to accomplish it; and the Continent hesitating on a matter
which will be her final ruin if neglected. It is the commerce
and not the conquest of Americaby which England is to he benefited
and that would in a great measure continuewere the countries
as independant of each other as France and Spain; because in many articles
neither can go to a better market. But it is the independance of this country
on Britain or any otherwhich is now the main and only object worthy
of contentionand whichlike all other truths discovered by necessity
will appear clearer and stronger every day.
First. Because it will come to that one time or other.
Secondly. Becausethe longer it is delayed the harder
it will be to accomplish.
I have frequently amused myself both in public and private
companieswith silently remarkingthe specious errors
of those who speak without reflecting. And among the many
which I have heardthe following seems the most generalviz.
that had this rupture happened forty or fifty years hence
instead of NOWthe Continent would have been more able
to have shaken off the dependance. To which I replythat our
military abilityAT THIS TIMEarises from the experience
gained in the last warand which in forty or fifty years time
would have been totally extinct. The Continentwould not
by that timehave had a Generalor even a military officer left;
and weor those who may succeed uswould have been as ignorant
of martial matters as the ancient Indians: And this single position
closely attended towill unanswerably provethat the present time
is preferable to all others. The argument turns thus--at the conclusion
of the last warwe had experiencebut wanted numbers;
and forty or fifty years hencewe should have numbers
without experience; whereforethe proper point of time
must be some particular point between the two extremes
in which a sufficiency of the former remainsand a proper
increase of the latter is obtained: And that point of time
is the present time.
The reader will pardon this digressionas it does not properly
come under the head I first set out withand to which I again return
by the following positionviz.
Should affairs he patched up with Britainand she to remain the governing
and sovereign power of America(whichas matters are now circumstanced
is giving up the point entirely) we shall deprive ourselves of the very means
of sinking the debt we haveor may contract. The value of the back lands
which some of the provinces are clandestinely deprived ofby the unjust
extension of the limits of Canadavalued only at five pounds sterling
per hundred acresamount to upwards of twenty-five millions
Pennsylvania currency; and the quit-rents at one penny sterling per acre
to two millions yearly.
It is by the sale of those lands that the debt may be sunk
without burthen to anyand the quit-rent reserved thereon
will always lessenand in timewill wholly support the yearly
expence of government. It matters not how long the debt is in
payingso that the lands when sold be applied to the discharge
of itand for the execution of whichthe Congress for the time
beingwill be the continental trustees. .
I proceed now to the second headviz. Which is the easiest
and most practicable planRECONCILIATION or lNDEPENDANCE;
With some occasional remarks.
He who takes nature for his guide is not easily beaten out of his argument
and on that groundI answer GENERALLY--THAT _INDEPENDANCE_
BEING A _SINGLE SIMPLE LINE_ CONTAINED WITHIN OURSELVES;
AND RECONCILIATIONA MATTER EXCEEDINGLY PERPLEXED AND COMPLICATED
AND IN WHICHA TREACHEROUS CAPRICIOUS COURT IS TO INTERFERE
GIVES THE ANSWER WITHOUT A DOUBT.
The present state of America is truly alarming to every man who is
capable of reflexion. Without lawwithout governmentwithout any
other mode of power than what is founded onand granted by courtesy.
Held together by an unexampled concurrence of sentimentwhich
is nevertheless subject to changeand whichevery secret enemy is
endeavouring to dissolve. Our present conditionisLegislation
without law; wisdom without a plan; a constitution without a name;
andwhat is strangely astonishingperfect Independance contending
for dependance. The instance is without a precedent; the case never
existed before; and who can tell what may be the event? The property
of no man is secure in the present unbraced system of things. The mind
of the multitude is left at randomand seeing no fixed object before
themthey pursue such as fancy or opinion starts. Nothing is criminal;
there is no such thing as treason; whereforeevery one thinks himself
at liberty to act as he pleases. The Tories dared not have assembled
offensivelyhad they known that their livesby that actwere forfeited
to the laws of the state. A line of distinction should be drawnbetween
English soldiers taken in battleand inhabitants of America taken in arms.
The first are prisonersbut the latter traitors.
The one forfeits his libertythe other his head.
Notwithstanding our wisdomthere is a visible feebleness in some
of our proceedings which gives encouragement to dissensions.
The Continental Belt is too loosely buckled. And if something
is not done in timeit will be too late to do any thing
and we shall fall into a statein whichneither RECONCILIATION
nor INDEPENDANCE will be practicable. The king and his worthless
adherents are got at their old game of dividing the Continent
and there are not wanting among usPrinterswho will be busy
in spreading specious falsehoods. The artful and hypocritical letter
which appeared a few months ago in two of the New York papers
and likewise in two othersis an evidence that there are men
who want either judgment or honesty.
It is easy getting into holes and corners and talking of reconciliation:
But do such men seriously considerhow difficult the task isand how
dangerous it may proveshould the Continent divide thereon. Do they
take within their viewall the various orders of men whose situation
and circumstancesas well as their ownare to be considered therein.
Do they put themselves in the place of the sufferer whose ALL
is ALREADY goneand of the soldierwho hath quitted ALL for the defence
of his country. If their ill judged moderation be suited to their own
private situations onlyregardless of othersthe event will convince them
that "they are reckoning without their Host."
Put ussays someon the footing we were on in sixty-three:
To which I answerthe request is not now in the power of Britain
to comply withneither will she propose it; but if it were
and even should be grantedI askas a reasonable question
By what means is such a corrupt and faithless court to be kept
to its engagements? Another parliamentnayeven the present
may hereafter repeal the obligationon the pretense
of its being violently obtainedor unwisely granted;
and in that caseWhere is our redress?--No going to law
with nations; cannon are the barristers of Crowns;
and the swordnot of justicebut of wardecides the suit.
To be on the footing of sixty-threeit is not sufficient
that the laws only be put on the same statebutthat our circumstances
likewisebe put on the same state; Our burnt and destroyed towns repaired
or built upour private losses made goodour public debts
(contracted for defence) discharged; otherwisewe shall be millions
worse than we were at that enviable period. Such a request
had it been complied with a year agowould have won the heart
and soul of the Continent - but now it is too late"The Rubicon ispassed."
Besidesthe taking up armsmerely to enforce the repeal
of a pecuniary lawseems as unwarrantable by the divine law
and as repugnant to human feelingsas the taking up arms
to enforce obedience thereto. The objecton either sidedoth not
justify the means; for the lives of men are too valuable
to be cast away on such trifles. It is the violence which is done
and threatened to our persons; the destruction of our property
by an armed force; the invasion of our country by fire and sword
which conscientiously qualifies the use of arms: And the instantin which
such a mode of defence became necessaryall subjection to Britain ought
to have ceased; and the independancy of Americashould have been considered
as dating its aera fromand published byTHE FIRST MUSKET THAT WAS FIRED
AGAINST HER. This line is a line of consistency; neither drawn by caprice
nor extended by ambition; but produced by a chain of events
of which the colonies were not the authors.
I shall conclude these remarks with the following timely
and well intended hints. We ought to reflectthat there are
three different ways by which an independancy may hereafter
be effected; and that ONE of those THREEwill one day or other
be the fate of Americaviz. By the legal voice of the people
in Congress; by a military power; or by a mob--It may not always
happen that OUR soldiers are citizensand the multitude
a body of reasonable men; virtueas I have already remarked
is not hereditaryneither is it perpetual. Should an independancy
be brought about by the first of those meanswe have every
opportunity and every encouragement before usto form the
noblest purest constitution on the face of the earth. We have
it in our power to begin the world over again. A situation
similar to the presenthath not happened since the days
of Noah until now. The birthday of a new world is at hand
and a race of menperhaps as numerous as all Europe contains
are to receive their portion of freedom from the event of a few months.
The Reflexion is awful--and in this point of viewHow trifling
how ridiculousdo the littlepaltry cavillingsof a few weak
or interested men appearwhen weighed against the business of a world.
Should we neglect the present favourable and inviting period
and an Independance be hereafter effected by any other means
we must charge the consequence to ourselvesor to those rather
whose narrow and prejudiced soulsare habitually opposing the measure
without either inquiring or reflecting. There are reasons to be given
in support of Independancewhich men should rather privately think of
than be publicly told of. We ought not now to be debating whether
we shall be independant or notbutanxious to accomplish it on a firm
secureand honorable basisand uneasy rather that it is not yet began upon.
Every day convinces us of its necessity. Even the Tories (if such beings
yet remain among us) shouldof all menbe the most solicitous to promoteit;
foras the appointment of committees at firstprotected them from
popular ragesoa wise and well established form of government
will be the only certain means of continuing it securely to them.
WHEREFOREif they have not virtue enough to be WHIGS
they ought to have prudence enough to wish for Independance.
In shortIndependance is the only BOND that can tye and keep
us together. We shall then see our objectand our ears will
be legally shut against the schemes of an intriguingas well
as a cruel enemy. We shall then toobe on a proper footing
to treat with Britain; for there is reason to conclude
that the pride of that courtwill be less hurt by treating
with the American states for terms of peacethan with those
whom she denominates"rebellious subjects" for terms ofaccommodation.
It is our delaying it that encourages her to hope for conquestand our
backwardness tends only to prolong the war. As we havewithout any good
effect therefromwithheld our trade to obtain a redress of our grievances
let us now try the alternativeby independantly redressing them ourselves
and then offering to open the trade. The mercantile and reasonable part
in Englandwill be still with us; becausepeace with tradeis preferable
to war without it. And if this offer be not acceptedother courts
may be applied to.
On these grounds I rest the matter. And as no offer hath
yet been made to refute the doctrine contained in the former
editions of this pamphletit is a negative proofthat either
the doctrine cannot be refutedorthat the party in favour
of it are too numerous to be opposed. WHEREFOREinstead
of gazing at each other with suspicious or doubtful curiosity;
let each of ushold out to his neighbour the hearty hand of
friendshipand unite in drawing a linewhichlike an act of
oblivion shall bury in forgetfulness every former dissension.
Let the names of Whig and Tory be extinct; and let none other
be heard among usthan those of A GOOD CITIZEN
AN OPEN AND RESOLUTE FRIENDAND A VIRTUOUS SUPPORTER
OF THE RIGHTS OF MANKIND AND OF THE _FREE AND INDEPENDANT STATES OF AMERICA_.
To the Representatives of the Religious Society of the People called Quakers
or to so many of them as were concerned in publishing the late piece
entitled "THE ANCIENT TESTIMONY and PRlNCIPLES of the People calledQUAKERS
renewedwith Respect to the KING and GOVERNMENTand touching the COMMOTIONS
now prevailing in these and other parts of AMERICA addressed to the
PEOPLE IN GENERAL."
The Writer of thisis one of those fewwho never dishonours religion
either by ridiculingor cavilling at any denomination whatsoever.
To Godand not to manare all men accountable on the score of religion.
Whereforethis epistle is not so properly addressed to you as a religious
but as a political bodydabbling in matterswhich the professed Quietude
of your Principles instruct you not to meddle with. As you havewithout
a proper authority for so doingput yourselves in the place of the wholebody
of the Quakerssothe writer of thisin order to be on an equal rank
with yourselvesis under the necessityof putting himself in the place
of all thosewhoapprove the very writings and principlesagainst which
your testimony is directed: And he hath chosen this singular situation
in orderthat you might discover in him that presumption of character
which you cannot see in yourselves. For neither he nor you can have any
claim or title to POLITICAL REPRESENTATION.
When men have departed from the right wayit is no wonder that they
stumble and fall. And it is evident from the manner in which ye have
managed your testimonythat politics(as a religious body of men)
is not your proper Walk; for however well adapted it might appear to you
it isneverthelessa jumble of good and bad put unwisely together
and the conclusion drawn therefromboth unnatural and unjust.
The two first pages(and the whole doth not make four) we give you
credit forand expect the same civility from youbecause the love
and desire of peace is not confined to Quakerismit is the natural
as well the religious wish of all denominations of men. And on this ground
as men labouring to establish an Independant Constitution of our owndo we
exceed all others in our hopeendand aim. OUR PLAN IS PEACE FOR EVER.
We are tired of contention with Britainand can see no real end to it
but in a final separation. We act consistentlybecause for the sake
of introducing an endless and uninterrupted peacedo we bear the evils
and burthens of the present day. We are endeavoringand will steadily
continue to endeavourto separate and dissolve a connexion which hath
already filled our land with blood; and whichwhile the name of it
remainswill he the fatal cause of future mischiefs to both countries.
We fight neither for revenge nor conquest; neither from pride nor
passion; we are not insulting the world with our fleets and armiesnor
ravaging the globe for plunder. Beneath the shade of our own vines are
we attacked; in our own housesand on our own landsis the violence
committed against us. We view our enemies in the character of Highwaymen
and Housebreakersand having no defence for ourselves in the civil law
are obliged to punish them by the military oneand apply the sword
in the very casewhere you have before nowapplied the halter--
Perhaps we feel for the ruined and insulted sufferers in all and every
part of the continentwith a degree of tenderness which hath not yet
made its way into some of your bosoms. But be ye sure that ye mistake not
the cause and ground of your Testimony. Call not coldness of soulreligion;
nor put the BIGOT in the place of the CHRISTIAN.
O ye partial ministers of your own acknowledged principles. If the
bearing arms be sinfulthe first going to war must be more so
by all the difference between wilful attackand unavoidable defence.
Whereforeif ye really preach from conscienceand mean not to make
a political hobbyhorse of your religion convince the world thereof
by proclaiming your doctrine to our enemiesFOR THEY LIKEWISE BEAR _ARMS_.
Give us proof of your sincerity by publishing it at St. James's
to the commanders in chief at Bostonto the Admirals and Captains
who are piratically ravaging our coastsand to all the murdering
miscreants who are acting in authority under HIM whom ye profess to serve.
Had ye the honest soul of BARCLAY ye would preach repentance to YOUR king;
Ye would tell the Royal Wretch his sinsand warn him of eternal ruin.
["Thou hast tasted of prosperity and adversity; thou knowest what it is
to be banished thy native countryto be over-ruled as well as to rule
and set upon the throne; and being oppressed thou hast reason to know
how hateful the oppressor is both to God and man: If after all these warnings
and advertisementsthou dost not turn unto the Lord with all thy heart
but forget him who remembered thee in thy distressand give up thyself
to fallow lust and vanitysurely great will be thy condemnation.--
Against which snareas well as the temptation of those who may
or do feed theeand prompt thee to evilthe most excellent and prevalent
remedy will beto apply thyself to that light of Christ which shineth
in thy conscienceand which neither cannor will flatter thee
nor suffer thee to be at ease in thy sins."--Barclay's address toCharles II.]
Ye would not spend your partial invectives against the injured
and the insulted onlybutlike faithful ministerswould cry aloud
and SPARE NONE. Say not that ye are persecutedneither endeavour to make
us the authors of that reproachwhichye are bringing upon yourselves;
for we testify unto all menthat we do not complain against you because
ye are Quakersbut because ye pretend to be and are NOT Quakers.
Alas! it seems by the particular tendency of some part of your testimony
and other parts of your conductas ifall sin was reduced to
and comprehended inTHE ACT OF BEARING ARMSand that by the people only.
Ye appear to usto have mistaken party for conscience; because
the general tenor of your actions wants uniformity--And it is exceedingly
difficult to us to give credit to many of your pretended scruples;
becausewe see them made by the same menwhoin the very instant
that they are exclaiming against the mammon of this worldare nevertheless
hunting after it with a step as steady as Timeand an appetite as keen
The quotation which ye have made from Proverbsin the third page
of your testimonythat"when a man's ways please the Lordhe maketh
even his enemies to be at peace with him"; is very unwisely chosen
on your part; becauseit amounts to a proofthat the king's ways
(whom ye are desirous of supporting) do NOT please the Lordotherwise
his reign would be in peace.
I now proceed to the latter part of your testimonyand thatfor which
all the foregoing seems only an introduction viz.
"It hath ever been our judgment and principlesince we were called to
profess the light of Christ Jesusmanifested in our consciences unto
this daythat the setting up and putting down kings and governments
is God's peculiar prerogative; for causes best known to himself:
And that it is not our business to have any hand or contrivance therein;
nor to be busy bodies above our stationmuch less to plot and contrive
the ruinor overturn of any of thembut to pray for the kingand safety
of our nation. and good of all men - That we may live a peaceable and
quiet lifein all godliness and honesty; UNDER THE GOVERNMENT WHICH GOD
IS PLEASED TO SET OVER US" - If these are REALLY your principles why
do ye not abide by them? Why do ye not leave thatwhich ye call
God's Workto be managed by himself? These very principles instruct
you to wait with patience and humilityfor the event of all public measures
and to receive that event as the divine will towards you. Wherefore
what occasion is there for your POLITICAL TESTIMONY if you fully believe
what it contains? And the very publishing it provesthat either
ye do not believe what ye professor have not virtue enough to practise
what ye believe.
The principles of Quakerism have a direct tendency to make a man
the quiet and inoffensive subject of anyand every government
WHICH IS SET OVER HIM. And if the setting up and putting down of kings
and governments is God's peculiar prerogativehe most certainly
will not be robbed thereof by us: whereforethe principle itself leads
you to approve of every thingwhich ever happenedor may happen to kings
as being his work. OLIVER CROMWELL thanks you. CHARLESthendied not
by the hands of man; and should the present Proud Imitator of him
come to the same untimely endthe writers and publishers of the Testimony
are boundby the doctrine it containsto applaud the fact. Kings are not
taken away by miraclesneither are changes in governments brought about
by any other means than such as are common and human; and such as we are
now using. Even the dispersion of the Jewsthough foretold by our Saviour
was effected by arms. Whereforeas ye refuse to be the means on one side
ye ought not to be meddlers on the other; but to wait the issue in silence;
and unless ye can produce divine authorityto provethat the Almighty
who hath created and placed this new worldat the greatest distance
it could possibly standeast and westfrom every part of the old
dothneverthelessdisapprove of its being independent of the corrupt
and abandoned court of Britainunless I sayye can shew this
how can ye on the ground of your principlesjustify the exciting
and stirring up the people "firmly to unite in the abhorrence
of all such writingsand measuresas evidence a desire and design
to break off the happy connexion we have hitherto enjoyed
with the kingdom of Great-Britainand our just and necessary subordination
to the kingand those who are lawfully placed in authority under him."
What a slap of the face is here! the menwho in the very paragraph before
have quietly and passively resigned up the orderingaltering
and disposal of kings and governmentsinto the hands of Godare now
recalling their principlesand putting in for a share of the business.
Is it possiblethat the conclusionwhich is here justly quoted
can any ways follow from the doctrine laid down? The inconsistency
is too glaring not to be seen; the absurdity too great not to be laughed at;
and such as could only have been made by thosewhose understandings
were darkened by the narrow and crabby spirit of a despairing politicalparty;
for ye are not to be considered as the whole body of the Quakers
but only as a factional and fractional part thereof.
Here ends the examination of your testimony; (which I call upon no man
to abhoras ye have donebut only to read and judge of fairly;)
to which I subjoin the following remark; "That the setting up andputting
down of kings" most certainly meanthe making him a kingwho is yet
not soand the making him no king who is already one. And pray what hath
this to do in the present case? We neither mean to set up nor to pull down
neither to make nor to unmakebut to have nothing to do with them.
Whereforeyour testimony in whatever light it is viewed serves only
to dishonor your judgementand for many other reasons had better
have been let alone than published.
FirstBecause it tends to the decrease and reproach
of all religion whateverand is of the utmost danger
to society to make it a party in political disputes.
SecondlyBecause it exhibits a body of mennumbers of whom disavow
the publishing political testimoniesas being concerned therein
and approvers thereof.
Thirdlybecause it hath a tendency to undo that continental harmony
and friendship which yourselves by your late liberal and charitable
donations hath lent a hand to establish; and the preservation of which
is of the utmost consequence to us all.
And here without anger or resentment I bid you farewell.
Sincerely wishingthat as men and christiansye may always
fully and uninterruptedly enjoy every civil and religious right;
and bein your turnthe means of securing it to others;
but that the example which ye have unwisely set
of mingling religion with politicsMAY BE DISAVOWED
AND REPROBATED BY EVERY INHABITANT OF _AMERICA._
F I N I S.