Common Sense
Thomas Paine

Produced by Norman M. Wolcott.

[Redactor's Note: Reprinted from the "The Writings of Thomas Paine
Volume I" (1894 - 1896). The author's notes are preceded by a "*".]







1774 - 1779




Table of Contents








PERHAPS the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not
YET sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favor; a long
habit of not thinking a thing WRONG, gives it a superficial
appearance of being RIGHT, and raises at first a formidable outcry
in defence of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more
converts than reason.

As a long and violent abuse of power, is generally the Means of
calling the right of it in question (and in Matters too which might
never have been thought of, had not the Sufferers been aggravated
into the inquiry) and as the King of England hath undertaken in his
OWN RIGHT, to support the Parliament in what he calls THEIRS, and
as the good people of this country are grievously oppressed by the
combination, they have an undoubted privilege to inquire into the
pretensions of both, and equally to reject the usurpations of either.

In the following sheets, the author hath studiously avoided every
thing which is personal among ourselves. Compliments as well as
censure to individuals make no part thereof. The wise, and the
worthy, need not the triumph of a pamphlet; and those whose
sentiments are injudicious, or unfriendly, will 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 have, and will arise, which are not
local, but universal, and through which the principles of all Lovers
of Mankind are affected, and in the Event of which, their Affections
are interested. The laying of a Country desolate with Fire and Sword,
declaring War against the natural rights of all Mankind, and
extirpating the Defenders thereof from the Face of the Earth, is the
Concern of every Man to whom Nature hath given the Power of feeling;
of which Class, regardless of Party Censure, is


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 appeared,
it 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 is, is wholly unnecessary to the
Public, as the Object for Attention is the DOCTRINE ITSELF, not the
MAN. Yet it may not be unnecessary to say, That he is unconnected
with any Party, and under no sort of Influence public or private, but
the influence of reason and principle.

Philadelphia, February 14, 1776.


SOME writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave
little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only
different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our
wants, and government by wickedness; the former promotes our
happiness POSITIVELY by uniting our affections, the latter
NEGATIVELY by restraining our vices. The one encourages
intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron,
the last a punisher.

Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its
best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable
one; for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries BY A
GOVERNMENT, which we might expect in a country WITHOUT GOVERNMENT,
our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by
which we suffer. Government, like dress, is 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 clear, uniform, and
irresistibly obeyed, man would need no other lawgiver; but that not
being the case, he 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 government, it unanswerably
follows that whatever FORM thereof appears most likely to ensure it
to us, with the least expence and greatest benefit, is preferable to
all others.

In order to gain a clear and just idea of the design and end of
government, let us suppose a small number of persons settled in some
sequestered part of the earth, unconnected with the rest, they will
then represent the first peopling of any country, or of the world. In
this state of natural liberty, society will be their first thought. A
thousand motives will excite them thereto, the strength of one man is
so unequal to his wants, and his mind so unfitted for perpetual
solitude, that he is soon obliged to seek assistance and relief of
another, who 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 the common period of life without
accomplishing any thing; when he had felled his timber he could not
remove it, nor erect it after it was removed; hunger in the mean time
would urge him from his work, and every different want call him a
different way. Disease, nay even misfortune would be death, for
though neither might be mortal, yet either would disable him from
living, and reduce him to a state in which he might rather be said to
perish than to die.

This necessity, like a gravitating power, would soon form our newly
arrived emigrants into society, the reciprocal blessing of which,
would supersede, and render the obligations of law and government
unnecessary while they remained perfectly just to each other; but as
nothing but heaven is impregnable to vice, it will unavoidably
happen, that in proportion as they surmount the first difficulties of
emigration, which 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-House, under the
branches of which, the whole colony may assemble to deliberate on
public matters. It is more than probable that their first laws will
have the title only of REGULATIONS, and be enforced by no other
penalty than public disesteem. In this first parliament every man, by
natural right, will have a seat.

But as the colony increases, the public concerns will increase
likewise, and 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 first, when their number was small, their habitations
near, and 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 body, who are
supposed to have the same concerns at stake which those have who
appointed them, and who will act in the same manner as the whole body
would act were they present. If the colony continues increasing, it
will become necessary to augment the number of the representatives,
and that the interest of every part of the colony may be attended to,
it will be found best to divide the whole into convenient parts, each
part sending its proper number; and that the ELECTED might never
form to themselves an interest separate from the ELECTORS, prudence
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 months, their fidelity to the
public will be secured by the prudent reflexion of not making a rod
for themselves. And as this frequent interchange will establish a
common interest with every part of the community, they will mutually
and naturally support each other, and on this (not on the unmeaning

Here then is the origin and rise of government; namely, a mode
rendered necessary by the inability of moral virtue to govern the
world; here too is the design and end of government, viz. freedom and
security. And however our eyes may be dazzled with snow, or our ears
deceived by sound; however prejudice may warp our wills, or interest
darken our understanding, the simple voice of nature and of reason
will say, it is right.

I draw my idea of the form of government from a principle in
nature, which no art can overturn, viz. 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 view, I 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 erected, is
granted. When the world was over run with tyranny the least remove
therefrom was a glorious rescue. But that it is imperfect, subject to
convulsions, and incapable of producing what it seems to promise, is
easily demonstrated.

Absolute governments (tho' the disgrace of human nature) have this
advantage with them, that they are simple; if the people suffer, they
know the head from which their suffering springs, know likewise the
remedy, and 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

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 constitution, we shall find them to be the base
remains of two ancient tyrannies, compounded with some new republican

FIRST. The remains of monarchical tyranny in the person of the

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 first, by being hereditary, are 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 other, is farcical, either the
words have no meaning, or they are flat contradictions.

To say that the commons is a check upon the king, presupposes two

FIRST. That the king is not to be trusted without being looked
after, or in other words, that a thirst for absolute power is the
natural disease of monarchy.

SECONDLY. That the commons, by 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 supplies, gives afterwards the king
a power to check the commons, by 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 information, yet
empowers him to act in cases where the highest judgment is required.
The state of a king shuts him from the world, yet the business of a
king requires him to know it thoroughly; wherefore the different
parts, by unnaturally opposing and destroying each other, prove the
whole character to be absurd and useless.

Some writers have explained the English constitution thus; the
king, say they, is one, the people another; the peers are an house in
behalf of the king; the commons in behalf of the people; but this
hath all the distinctions of an house divided against itself; and
though the expressions be pleasantly arranged, yet 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 exist, or is too
incomprehensible to be within the compass of description, will be
words of sound only, and though they may amuse the ear, they cannot
inform the mind, for this explanation includes a previous question,
TRUST, AND ALWAYS OBLIGED TO CHECK? Such a power could not be the
gift of a wise people, neither can any power, WHICH NEEDS CHECKING,
be from God; yet the provision, which 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 end, and the whole affair is a felo de se;
for as the greater weight will always carry up the less, and as all
the wheels of a machine are put in motion by one, it only remains to
know which power in the constitution has the most weight, for that
will govern; and though the others, or a part of them, may clog, or,
as the phrase is, check the rapidity of its motion, yet so long as
they cannot stop it, their endeavors will be ineffectual; the first
moving power will at last have its way, and what it wants in speed is
supplied by time.

That the crown is this overbearing part in the English constitution
needs not be mentioned, and that it derives its whole consequence
merely from being the giver of places and pensions is self-evident;
wherefore, though we have been wise enough to shut and lock a door
against absolute monarchy, we 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, lords and commons, arises 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 France, with this difference, that
instead of proceeding directly from his mouth, it 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.

Wherefore, laying aside all national pride and prejudice in favour
of modes and forms, the plain truth is, that IT IS WHOLLY OWING TO
GOVERNMENT that the crown is not as oppressive in England as in

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 others, while we continue under
the influence of some leading partiality, so 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 prostitute, is unfitted
to choose or judge of a wife, so any prepossession in favour of a
rotten constitution of government will disable us from discerning a
good one.


MANKIND being originally equals in the order of creation, the
equality could only be destroyed by some subsequent circumstance; the
distinctions of rich, and poor, may in a great measure be accounted
for, and that without having recourse to the harsh ill sounding names
of oppression and avarice. Oppression is often the CONSEQUENCE, but
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 distinction for which no truly
natural or religious reason can be assigned, and that is, the
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 rest, and
distinguished like some new species, is worth enquiring into, and
whether they are the means of happiness or of misery to mankind.

In the early ages of the world, according to the scripture
chronology, there were no kings; the consequence of which was there
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 monarchical governments in Europe.
Antiquity favors the same remark; for the quiet and rural lives of
the first patriarchs hath a happy something in them, which vanishes
away when we come to the history of Jewish royalty.

Government by kings was first introduced into the world by the
Heathens, from 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 honors to their
deceased kings, and the christian world hath improved on the plan by
doing the same to their living ones. How impious is the title of
sacred majesty applied to a worm, who 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 nature, so neither can it be
defended on the authority of scripture; for the will of the Almighty,
as declared by Gideon and the prophet Samuel, expressly disapproves
of government by kings. All anti-monarchical parts of scripture have
been very smoothly glossed over in monarchical governments, but they
undoubtedly merit the attention of countries which have their
CAESAR'S" is the scripture doctrine of courts, yet it is no support
of monarchical government, for the Jews at that time were without a
king, and in a state of vassalage to the Romans.

Near three thousand years passed away from the Mosaic account of
the creation, till 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 Kings, he need not
wonder, that the Almighty ever jealous of his honor, should
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 Midianites, Gideon
marched against them with a small army, and victory, thro' the divine
interposition, decided in his favour. The Jews elate with success,
and attributing it to the generalship of Gideon, proposed making him
SON. Here was temptation in its fullest extent; not a kingdom only,
but an hereditary one, but Gideon in the piety of his soul replied,
LORD SHALL RULE OVER YOU. Words need not be more explicit; Gideon
doth not DECLINE the honor, but denieth their right to give it;
neither doth he compliment them with invented declarations of his
thanks, but in the positive stile of a prophet charges them with
disaffection to their proper Sovereign, the King of heaven.

About one hundred and thirty years after this, they fell again into
the same error. The hankering which the Jews had for the idolatrous
customs of the Heathens, is something exceedingly unaccountable; but
so it was, that laying hold of the misconduct of Samuel's two sons,
who were entrusted with some secular concerns, they came in an abrupt
and clamorous manner to Samuel, saying, BEHOLD THOU ART OLD, AND THY
THE OTHER NATIONS. And here we cannot but observe that their motives
were bad, viz. that they might be LIKE unto other nations, i. e.
the Heathens, whereas their true glory laid in being as much UNLIKE
not of any particular king, but 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 manners,
the character is still in fashion. AND SAMUEL TOLD ALL THE WORDS OF
description agrees with the present mode of impressing men) AND HE
TO BE BAKERS (this describes the expence and luxury as well as the
bribery, corruption, and favoritism are the standing vices of kings)
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 title, or blot out the sinfulness of the origin; the
high encomium given of David takes no notice of him OFFICIALLY AS A
KING, but only as a MAN after God's own heart. NEVERTHELESS THE
BATTLES. Samuel continued to reason with them, but to no purpose; he
set before them their ingratitude, but all would not avail; and
seeing them fully bent on their folly, he cried out, I WILL CALL
punishment, being in the time of wheat harvest) THAT YE MAY PERCEIVE
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 true, or the scripture is
false. And a man hath good reason to believe that there is as much of
king-craft, as priest-craft, 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 second, claimed as a matter of right, is 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 ever, and though himself might
deserve SOME decent degree of honors of his cotemporaries, yet his
descendants might be far too unworthy to inherit them. One of the
strongest NATURAL proofs of the folly of hereditary right in kings,
is, that nature disapproves it, otherwise, she would not so
frequently turn it into ridicule by giving mankind an ASS FOR A

Secondly, as no man at first could possess any other public honors
than were bestowed upon him, so the givers of those honors could have
no power to give away the right of posterity, and though they might
say "We choose you for OUR head," they could not, without manifest
injustice to their children, say "that your children and your
children's children shall reign over OURS for ever." Because such
an unwise, unjust, unnatural compact might (perhaps) in the next
succession put them under the government of a rogue or a fool. Most
wise men, in their private sentiments, have ever treated hereditary
right with contempt; yet it is one of those evils, which when once
established is not easily removed; many submit from fear, others 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 honorable origin; whereas it is more than probable, that could
we take off the dark covering of antiquity, and trace them to their
first rise, that we should find the first of them nothing better than
the principal ruffian of some restless gang, whose savage manners or
pre-eminence in subtility obtained him the title of chief among
plunderers; and who by increasing in power, and extending his
depredations, over-awed the quiet and defenceless to purchase their
safety by frequent contributions. Yet his electors could have no idea
of giving hereditary right to his descendants, because such a
perpetual exclusion of themselves was incompatible with the free and
unrestrained principles they professed to live by. Wherefore,
hereditary succession in the early ages of monarchy could not take
place as a matter of claim, but as something casual or complimental;
but as few or no records were extant in those days, and traditionary
history stuffed with fables, it was very easy, after the lapse of a
few generations, to trump up some superstitious tale, conveniently
timed, Mahomet like, to cram hereditary right down the throats of the
vulgar. Perhaps the disorders which threatened, or seemed to
threaten, on 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 favor hereditary pretensions; by which means it happened, as
it hath happened since, that what at first was submitted to as a
convenience, was afterwards claimed as a right.

England, since the conquest, hath 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
honorable one. A French bastard landing with an armed banditti, and
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. However, it 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
lion, and welcome. I shall neither copy their humility, nor disturb
their devotion.

Yet I should be glad to ask how they suppose kings came at first?
The question admits but of three answers, viz. either by lot, by
election, or by usurpation. If the first king was taken by lot, it
establishes a precedent for the next, which excludes hereditary
succession. Saul was by lot, yet the succession was not hereditary,
neither does it appear from that transaction there was any intention
it ever should. If the first king of any country was by election,
that likewise establishes a precedent for the next; for to say, that
the RIGHT of all future generations is taken away, by the act of
the first electors, in their choice not only of a king, but of a
family of kings for ever, hath no parrallel 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 comparison, and 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 were subjected to Satan, and in the other to Sovereignty;
as our innocence was lost in the first, and our authority in the
last; and as both disable us from reassuming some former state and
privilege, it unanswerably follows that original sin and hereditary
succession are parallels. Dishonorable rank! Inglorious connexion!
Yet the most subtile sophist cannot produce a juster simile.

As to usurpation, no 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 is, that 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 authority, but as it opens
a door to the FOOLISH, the WICKED, and the IMPROPER, it hath in
it the nature of oppression. Men who look upon themselves born to
reign, and others to obey, soon 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 is, that the
throne is subject to be possessed by a minor at any age; all which
time the regency, acting under the cover of a king, have every
opportunity and inducement to betray their trust. The same national
misfortune happens, when a king worn out with age and infirmity,
enters the last stage of human weakness. In both these cases the
public becomes a prey to every miscreant, who can tamper successfully
with the follies either of age or infancy.

The most plausible plea, which hath ever been offered in favour of
hereditary succession, is, that it preserves a nation from civil
wars; and were this true, it would be weighty; whereas, it 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 conquest, in which time there
have been (including the Revolution) no less than eight civil wars
and nineteen rebellions. Wherefore instead of making for peace, it
makes against it, and destroys the very foundation it seems to stand

The contest for monarchy and succession, between the houses of York
and Lancaster, laid England in a scene of blood for many years.
Twelve pitched battles, besides skirmishes and sieges, were fought
between Henry and Edward. Twice was Henry prisoner to Edward, who in
his turn was prisoner to Henry. And so uncertain is the fate of war
and the temper of a nation, when nothing but personal matters are the
ground of a quarrel, that 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 lasting, Henry in his
turn was driven from the throne, and Edward recalled to succeed him.
The parliament always following the strongest side.

This contest began in the reign of Henry the Sixth, and was not
entirely extinguished till Henry the Seventh, in whom the families
were united. Including a period of 67 years, viz. from 1422 to 1489.

In short, monarchy 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 against, and blood
will attend it.

If we inquire into the business of a king, we 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 scene, and leave their successors to tread the same idle
round. In absolute monarchies the whole weight of business, civil and
military, lies on the king; the children of Israel in their request
for a king, urged this plea "that he may judge us, and go out before
us and fight our battles." But in countries where he is neither a
judge nor a general, as in England, a 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 name,
because the corrupt influence of the crown, by having all the places
in its disposal, hath so effectually swallowed up the power, and
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 in, viz. the liberty of choosing an house of commons from out
of their own body--and it is easy to see that when republican virtue
fails, slavery ensues. Why is the constitution of England sickly, but
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 terms, is 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 God, than all the crowned ruffians that ever lived.


IN the following pages I offer nothing more than simple facts, plain
arguments, and common sense; and have no other preliminaries to
settle with the reader, than that he will divest himself of prejudice
and prepossession, and suffer his reason and his feelings to
determine for themselves; that he will put ON, or rather that he
will not put OFF, the true character of a man, and 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 motives, and with various designs; but
all have been ineffectual, and the period of debate is closed. Arms,
as the last resource, decide the 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 commons, on the score, that his measures were only of a
temporary kind, replied, "THEY WILL LAST MY TIME." Should a thought
so fatal and unmanly possess the colonies in the present contest, the
name of ancestors will be remembered by future generations with

The sun never shined on a cause of greater worth. 'Tis not the
affair of a city, a country, a province, or a kingdom, but of a
continent--of at least one eighth part of the habitable globe. 'Tis
not the concern of a day, a year, or an age; posterity are virtually
involved in the contest, and will be more or less affected, even to
the end of time, by the proceedings now. Now is the seed time of
continental union, faith and honor. 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 tree, and posterity read
it in full grown characters.

By referring the matter from argument to arms, a new era for
politics is struck; a new method of thinking hath arisen. All plans,
proposals, &c. prior to the nineteenth of April, I. E. to the
commencement of hostilities, are like the almanacks of the last year;
which, though proper then, are superceded and useless now. Whatever
was advanced by the advocates on either side of the question then,
terminated 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 force, the other friendship; but
it hath so far happened that the first hath failed, and the second
hath withdrawn her influence.

As much hath been said of the advantages of reconciliation, which,
like an agreeable dream, hath passed away and left us as we were, it
is but right, that we should examine the contrary side of the
argument, and inquire into some of the many material injuries which
these colonies sustain, and always will sustain, by being connected
with, and dependant on Great Britain. To examine that connexion and
dependance, on the principles of nature and common sense, to see what
we have to trust to, if separated, and what we are to expect, if

I have heard it asserted by some, that as America hath flourished
under her former connexion with Great Britain, that the same
connexion is necessary towards her future happiness, and 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 meat, or 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 true, for I answer roundly, that
America would have flourished as much, and probably much more, had no
European power had any thing to do with her. The commerce, by which
she hath enriched herself are the necessaries of life, and will
always have a market while eating is the custom of Europe.

But she has protected us, say some. That she hath engrossed us is
true, and defended the continent at our expence as well as her own is
admitted, and she would have defended Turkey from the same motive,
viz. the sake of trade and dominion.

Alas, we have been long led away by ancient prejudices, and made
large sacrifices to superstition. We have boasted the protection of
Great Britain, without considering, that her motive was INTEREST
not ATTACHMENT; that she did not protect us from OUR ENEMIES on
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
dependance, and 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 connexions.

It hath lately been asserted in parliament, that the colonies have
no relation to each other but through the parent country, I. E.
that Pennsylvania and the Jerseys, and so on for the rest, are sister
colonies by the way of England; this is certainly a very round-about
way of proving relationship, but it is the nearest and only true way
of proving enemyship, if I may so call it. France and Spain never
were, nor perhaps ever will be our enemies as AMERICANS, but as our

But Britain is the parent country, say 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 true, turns
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.
Europe, and 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 fled,
not from the tender embraces of the mother, but 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

In this extensive quarter of the globe, we 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 christian, and triumph in the generosity of the sentiment.

It is pleasant to observe by what regular gradations we surmount
the force of local prejudice, as we enlarge our acquaintance with the
world. A man born in any town in England divided into parishes, will
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 home, he
drops the narrow idea of a street, and salutes him by the name of
TOWNSMAN; if he travel out of the county, and meet him in any
other, he forgets the minor divisions of street and town, and calls
him COUNTRYMAN; i. e. COUNTY-MAN; but if in their foreign
excursions they should associate in France or any other part of
EUROPE, their local remembrance would be enlarged into that of
ENGLISHMEN. And by a just parity of reasoning, all Europeans
meeting in America, or any other quarter of the globe, are
COUNTRYMEN; for England, Holland, Germany, or Sweden, when compared
with the whole, stand in the same places on the larger scale, which
the divisions of street, town, and county do on the smaller ones;
distinctions too limited for continental minds. Not one third of the
inhabitants, even of this province, are of English descent. Wherefore
I reprobate the phrase of parent or mother country applied to England
only, as being false, selfish, narrow and ungenerous.

But admitting, that we were all of English descent, what does it
amount to? Nothing. Britain, being now an open enemy, extinguishes
every other name and title: And to say that reconciliation is our
duty, is truly farcical. The first king of England, of the present
line (William the Conqueror) was a Frenchman, and half the Peers of
England are descendants from the same country; wherefore, by 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 uncertain, neither
do the expressions mean any thing; for this continent would never
suffer itself to be drained of inhabitants, to support the British
arms in either Asia, Africa, or Europe.

Besides, what have we to do with setting the world at defiance? Our
plan is commerce, and that, well attended to, will secure us the
peace and friendship of all Europe; because, it is the interest of
all Europe to have America a FREE PORT. Her trade will always be a
protection, and her barrenness of gold and silver secure her from

I challenge the warmest advocate for reconciliation, to shew, a
single advantage that this continent can reap, by being connected
with Great Britain. I repeat the challenge, not a single advantage is
derived. Our corn will fetch its price in any market in Europe, and
our imported goods must be paid for buy 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
ourselves, instruct us to renounce the alliance: Because, any
submission to, or dependance on Great Britain, tends directly to
involve this continent in European wars and quarrels; and sets us at
variance with nations, who would otherwise seek our friendship, and
against whom, we have neither anger nor complaint. As Europe is our
market for trade, we 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 do, while by her dependance
on Britain, she is made the make-weight in the scale on British

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 ruin, BECAUSE OF HER CONNECTION WITH
BRITAIN. The next war may not turn out like the last, and should it
not, the advocates for reconciliation now will be wishing for
separation then, because, neutrality in that case, would be a safer
convoy than a man of war. Every thing that is right or natural pleads
for separation. The blood of the slain, the 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 proof, that
the authority of the one, over the other, was never the design of
Heaven. The time likewise at which the continent was discovered, adds
weight to the argument, and the manner in which it was peopled
encreases the force of it. The reformation was preceded by the
discovery of America, as 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
government, which sooner or later must have an end: And a serious
mind can draw no true pleasure by looking forward, under the painful
and positive conviction, that what he calls "the present
constitution" is merely temporary. As parents, we can have no joy,
knowing that THIS GOVERNMENT is not sufficiently lasting to ensure
any thing which we may bequeath to posterity: And by a plain method
of argument, as we are running the next generation into debt, we
ought to do the work of it, otherwise we use them meanly and
pitifully. In order to discover the line of our duty rightly, we
should take our children in our hand, and fix our station a few years
farther into life; that eminence will present a prospect, which a few
present fears and prejudices conceal from our sight.

Though I would carefully avoid giving unnecessary offence, yet I am
inclined to believe, that all those who espouse the doctrine of
reconciliation, may be included within the following descriptions.
Interested men, who are not to be trusted; weak men, who CANNOT
see; prejudiced men, who WILL NOT see; and a certain set of
moderate men, who think better of the European world than it
deserves; and this last class, by an ill-judged deliberation, will be
the cause of more calamities to this continent, than all the other

It is the good fortune of many to live distant from the scene of
sorrow; the evil is not sufficiently brought to THEIR doors to make
THEM feel the precariousness with which all American property is
possessed. But let our imaginations transport us for a few moments to
Boston, that seat of wretchedness will teach us wisdom, and instruct
us for ever to renounce a power in whom we can have no trust. The
inhabitants of that unfortunate city, who but a few months ago were
in ease and affluence, have now, no other alternative than to stay
and starve, or turn out to beg. Endangered by the fire of their
friends if they continue within the city, and plundered by the
soldiery if they leave it. In their present condition they are
prisoners without the hope of redemption, and in a general attack for
their relief, they would be exposed to the fury of both armies.

Men of passive tempers look somewhat lightly over the offences of
Britain, and, still hoping for the best, are apt to call out, "COME,
passions and feelings of mankind, Bring the doctrine of
reconciliation to the touchstone of nature, and then tell me, whether
you can hereafter love, honour, and faithfully serve the power that
hath carried fire and sword into your land? If you cannot do all
these, then are you only deceiving yourselves, and by your delay
bringing ruin upon posterity. Your future connection with Britain,
whom you can neither love nor honour, 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 say, you can still pass the violations over, then 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 murderers, then you are unworthy of the name of
husband, father, friend, or lover, and whatever may be your rank or
title in life, you have the heart of a coward, and the spirit of a

This is not inflaming or exaggerating matters, but trying them by
those feelings and affections which nature justifies, and without
which, we should be incapable of discharging the social duties of
life, or 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 slumbers, that we may pursue determinately some fixed object.
It is not in the power of Britain or of Europe to conquer America, if
she do not conquer herself by DELAY and TIMIDITY. The present
winter is worth an age if rightly employed, but 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 who, or what, or
where he will, that may be the means of sacrificing a season so
precious and useful.

It is repugnant to reason, to the universal order of things to all
examples from former ages, to suppose, that 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 cannot, at this
time, compass a plan short of separation, which can promise the
continent even a year's security. Reconciliation is NOW a falacious
dream. Nature hath deserted the connexion, and Art cannot supply her
place. For, as Milton wisely expresses, "never can true reconcilement
grow where 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 flatters vanity, or confirms obstinacy in Kings more than
repeated petitioning--and noting hath contributed more than that very
measure to make the Kings of Europe absolute: Witness Denmark and
Sweden. Wherefore, since nothing but blows will do, for God's sake,
let us come to a final separation, and not leave the next generation
to be cutting throats, under the violated unmeaning names of parent
and child.

To say, they will never attempt it again is idle and visionary, we
thought so at the repeal of the stamp act, yet a year or two
undeceived us; as well may we suppose that nations, which have been
once defeated, will never renew the quarrel.

As to government matters, it is not in the power of Britain to do
this continent justice: The business of it will soon be too weighty,
and intricate, to be managed with any tolerable degree of
convenience, by a power, so distant from us, and so very ignorant of
us; for if they cannot conquer us, they cannot govern us. To be
always running three or four thousand miles with a tale or a
petition, waiting four or five months for an answer, which when
obtained requires five or six more to explain it in, will 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 absurd, in 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 America, with respect to each
other, reverses the common order of nature, it is evident they belong
to different systems: England to Europe, America to itself.

I am not induced by motives of pride, party, or resentment to
espouse the doctrine of separation and independance; I am clearly,
positively, and 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 time,
when, a little more, a little farther, would have rendered this
continent the glory of the earth.

As Britain hath not manifested the least inclination towards a
compromise, we may be assured that no terms can be obtained worthy
the acceptance of the continent, or any ways equal to the expense of
blood and treasure we have been already put to.

The object, contended for, ought always to bear some just
proportion to the expense. The removal of North, or the whole
detestable junto, is a matter unworthy the millions we have expended.
A temporary stoppage of trade, was an inconvenience, which would have
sufficiently ballanced the repeal of all the acts complained of, had
such repeals been obtained; but if the whole continent must take up
arms, if every man must be a soldier, it is scarcely worth our while
to fight against a contemptible ministry only. Dearly, dearly, do we
pay for the repeal of the acts, if that is all we fight for; for in a
just estimation, it is as great a folly to pay a Bunker-hill price
for law, as for land. As I have always considered the independancy of
this continent, as an event, which sooner or later must arrive, so
from the late rapid progress of the continent to maturity, the event
could not be far off. Wherefore, on the breaking out of hostilities,
it was not worth the while to have disputed a matter, which time
would have finally redressed, unless we meant to be in earnest;
otherwise, it is like wasting an estate on a suit at law, to regulate
the trespasses of a tenant, whose lease is just expiring. No man was
a warmer wisher for reconciliation than myself, before the fatal
nineteenth of April 1775, but the moment the event of that day was
made known, I 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
slaughter, and composedly sleep with their blood upon his soul.

But admitting that matters were now made up, what would be the
event? I answer, the ruin of the continent. And that for several

FIRST. The powers of governing still remaining in the hands of
the king, he 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 he, or
is he not, a 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 it leave to; and is there any man so unwise, as not to
see, that (considering what has happened) he will suffer no law to be
made here, but such as suit HIS purpose. We may be as effectually
enslaved by the want of laws in America, as 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
exerted, to keep this continent as low and humble as possible?
Instead of going forward we shall go backward, or be perpetually
quarrelling or ridiculously petitioning. We are already greater than
the king wishes us to be, and will he not hereafter endeavour to make
us less? To bring the matter to one point. Is the power who is
jealous of our prosperity, a proper power to govern us? Whoever says
NO to this question is an INDEPENDANT, for independancy means no
more, than, whether we shall make our own laws, or, whether the king,
the greatest enemy this continent hath, or can have, shall tell us,

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 ridiculous, that a youth of
twenty-one (which hath often happened) shall say to several millions
of people, older and wiser than himself, I forbid this or that act of
yours to be law. But in this place I decline this sort of reply,
though I will never cease to expose the absurdity of it, and only
answer, that England being the King's residence, and America not so,
make 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 defence as possible, and 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 country, no farther
than it answers her OWN purpose. Wherefore, her 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 second-hand government,
considering 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 affirm, THAT IT
Reconciliation and ruin are nearly related.

SECONDLY. That as even the best terms, which we can expect to
obtain, can amount to no more than a temporary expedient, or a kind
of government by guardianship, which can last no longer than till the
colonies come of age, so the general face and state of things, in the
interim, will be unsettled and unpromising. Emigrants of property
will not choose to come to a country whose form of government hangs
but by a thread, and who is every day tottering on the brink of
commotion and disturbance; and numbers of the present inhabitants
would lay hold of the interval, to dispose of their effects, and quit
the continent.

But the most powerful of all arguments, is, that nothing but
independance, i. e. a continental form of government, can keep the
peace of the continent and preserve it inviolate from civil wars. I
dread the event of a reconciliation with Britain now, as it is more
than probable, that it will followed by a revolt somewhere or other,
the 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 liberty,
what they before enjoyed is sacrificed to its service, and having
nothing more to lose, they disdain submission. Besides, the general
temper of the colonies, towards a British government, will 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 peace,
is no government at all, and in that case we pay our money for
nothing; and pray what is it that Britain can do, whose power will be
wholly on paper, should a civil tumult break out the very day after
reconciliation? I have heard some men say, many of whom I believe
spoke without thinking, that they dreaded an independance, fearing
that it would produce civil wars. It is but seldom that our first
thoughts are truly correct, and that is the case here; for there are
ten times more to dread from a patched up connexion than from
independance. I make the sufferers case my own, and I protest, that
were I driven from house and home, my property destroyed, and my
circumstances ruined, that as a man, sensible of injuries, I could
never relish the doctrine of reconciliation, or consider myself bound

The colonies have manifested such a spirit of good order and
obedience to continental government, as is sufficient to make every
reasonable person easy and happy on that head. No man can assign the
least pretence for his fears, on any other grounds, that such as are
truly childish and ridiculous, viz. that one colony will be striving
for superiority over another.

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 Swisserland are
without wars, foreign or domestic: Monarchical governments, it is
true, are never long at rest; the crown itself is a temptation to
enterprizing ruffians at HOME; and that degree of pride and
insolence ever attendant on regal authority, swells into a rupture
with foreign powers, in instances, where a republican government, by
being formed on more natural principles, would negotiate the mistake.

If there is any true cause of fear respecting independance, it is
because no plan is yet laid down. Men do not see their way
out--Wherefore, as an opening into that business, I offer the
following hints; at the same time modestly affirming, that I have no
other opinion of them myself, than that they may be the means of
giving rise to something better. Could the straggling thoughts of
individuals be collected, they would frequently form materials for
wise and able men to improve into useful matter.

Let the assemblies be annual, with 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 six, eight, or ten, convenient
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 least 390. Each Congress to sit and to choose
a president by the following method. When the delegates are met, let
a colony be taken from the whole thirteen colonies by lot, after
which, let the whole Congress choose (by ballot) a president from out
of the delegates of THAT province. In the next Congress, let a
colony be taken by lot from twelve only, omitting that colony from
which the president was taken in the former Congress, and 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 discord, under a government
so equally formed as this, would have joined Lucifer in his revolt.

But as there is a peculiar delicacy, from whom, or in what manner,
this business must first arise, and as it seems most agreeable and
consistent that it should come from some intermediate body between
the governed and the governors, that is, between the Congress and the
people, let a CONTINENTAL CONFERENCE be held, in the following
manner, and for the following purpose.

A committee of twenty-six members of Congress, viz. two for each
colony. Two members for each House of Assembly, or Provincial
Convention; and five representatives of the people at large, to be
chosen in the capital city or town of each province, for, 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; or, if more convenient, the representatives may be chosen in
two or three of the most populous parts thereof. In this conference,
thus assembled, will be united, the two grand principles of business,
KNOWLEDGE and POWER. The members of Congress, Assemblies, or
Conventions, by having had experience in national concerns, will be
able and useful counsellors, and the whole, being impowered by the
people, will have a truly legal authority.

The conferring members being met, let their business be to frame a
CONTINENTAL CHARTER, or Charter of the United Colonies; (answering to
what is called the Magna Charta of England) fixing the number and
manner of choosing members of Congress, members of Assembly, with
their date of sitting, and drawing the line of business and
jurisdiction between them: (Always remembering, that our strength is
continental, not provincial:) Securing freedom and property to all
men, and above all things, the free exercise of religion, according
to the dictates of conscience; with such other matter as is necessary
for a charter to contain. Immediately after which, the 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 preserve, Amen.

Should any body of men be hereafter delegated for this or some
similar purpose, I offer them the following extracts from 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 happiness, with the least national expense." "DRAGONETTI

But where says some is the King of America? I'll tell you Friend,
he reigns above, and doth not make havoc of mankind like the Royal
Brute of Britain. Yet that we may not appear to be defective even in
earthly honors, let a day be solemnly set apart for proclaiming the
charter; let it be brought forth placed on the divine law, the word
of God; let a crown be placed thereon, by which the world may know,
that so far as we approve as monarchy, that in America THE LAW IS
KING. For as in absolute governments the King is law, so in free
countries the law OUGHT to be King; and there ought to be no other.
But lest any ill use should afterwards arise, let the crown at the
conclusion of the ceremony be demolished, and scattered among the
people whose right it is.

A government of our own is our natural right: And when a man
seriously reflects on the precariousness of human affairs, he will
become convinced, that it is infinitely wiser and safer, to form a
constitution of our own in a cool deliberate manner, while we have it
in our power, than to trust such an interesting event to time and
chance. If we omit it now, some, [*1] Massanello may hereafter arise,
who laying hold of popular disquietudes, may collect together the
desperate and discontented, and 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 Britain, the tottering situation of things, will be a temptation
for some desperate adventurer to try his fortune; and in such a case,
what relief can Britain give? Ere she could hear the news, the fatal
business might be done; and ourselves suffering like the wretched
Britons under the oppression of the Conqueror. Ye that oppose
independance 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 thousands, who 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 guilt, it is dealing brutally by us, and treacherously
by them.

To talk of friendship with those in whom our reason forbids us to
have faith, and our affections wounded through a thousand pores
instruct us to detest, is madness and folly. Every day wears out the
little remains of kindred between us and them, and can there be any
reason to hope, that as the relationship expires, the affection will
increase, or 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 reconciliation, can 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 broken, the 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
from the earth, or have only a casual existence were we callous to
the touches of affection. The robber, and the murderer, would often
escape unpunished, did not the injuries which our tempers sustain,
provoke us into justice.

O ye that love mankind! Ye that dare oppose, not only the tyranny,
but the tyrant, stand forth! Every spot of the old world is overrun
with oppression. Freedom hath been hunted round the globe. Asia, and
Africa, have long expelled her. Europe regards her like a stranger,
and England hath given her warning to depart. O! receive the
fugitive, and prepare in time an asylum for mankind.

Note 1 Thomas Anello, otherwise Massanello, a fisherman of Naples,
who after spiriting up his countrymen in the public market place,
against the oppression of the Spaniards, to whom the place was then
subject, prompted them to revolt, and in the space of a day became


I HAVE never met with a man, either in England or America, who hath
not confessed his opinion, that a separation between the countries,
would take place one time or other: And there is no instance, in
which we have shewn less judgment, than in endeavouring to describe,
what we call, the ripeness or fitness of the Continent for

As all men allow the measure, and vary only in their opinion of the
time, let us, in order to remove mistakes, take a general survey of
things, and endeavour, if possible, to find out the VERY time. But
we need not go far, the inquiry ceases at once, for, the TIME HATH
FOUND US. The general concurrence, the glorious union of all things
prove the fact.

It is not in numbers, but in unity, that our great strength lies;
yet our present numbers are sufficient to repel the force of all the
world. The Continent hath, at this time, the largest body of armed
and disciplined men of any power under Heaven; and is just arrived at
that pitch of strength, in which, no single colony is able to support
itself, and the whole, when united, can accomplish the matter, and
either more, or, less than this, might be fatal in its effects. Our
land force is already sufficient, and as to naval affairs, we cannot
be insensible, that Britain would never suffer an American man of war
to be built, while the continent remained in her hands. Wherefore, we
should be no forwarder an hundred years hence in that branch, than we
are now; but the truth is, we should be less so, because the timber
of the country is every day diminishing, and that, which will remain
at last, will be far off and difficult to procure.

Were the continent crowded with inhabitants, her sufferings under
the present circumstances would be intolerable. The more sea port
towns we had, the more should we have both to defend and to loose.
Our present numbers are so happily proportioned to our wants, that no
man need be idle. The diminution of trade affords an army, and 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 government, an independant
constitution of it's own, the purchase at any price will be cheap.
But to expend millions for the sake of getting a few vile acts
repealed, and routing the present ministry only, is unworthy the
charge, and is using posterity with the utmost cruelty; because it is
leaving them the great work to do, and a debt upon their backs, from
which, they derive no advantage. Such a thought is unworthy a man of
honor, and is the true characteristic of a narrow heart and a pedling

The debt we may contract doth not deserve our regard if 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 sterling, for which she pays upwards of
four millions interest. And as a compensation for her debt, she has a
large navy; America is without a debt, and 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 time, more
than three millions and an half sterling.

The first and second editions of this pamphlet were published
without the following calculations, which are now given as a proof
that the above estimation of the navy is a just one. SEE ENTIC'S

The charge of building a ship of each rate, and furnishing her with
masts, yards, sails and rigging, together with a proportion of eight
months boatswain's and carpenter's sea-stores, as calculated by Mr.
Burchett, Secretary to the navy.

For a ship of a 100 guns | | 35,553 L.

90 | | 29,886

80 | | 23,638

70 | | 17,785

60 | | 14,197

50 | | 10,606

40 | | 7,558

30 | | 5,846

20 | | 3,710

And from hence it is easy to sum up the value, or cost rather, of
the whole British navy, which in the year 1757, when it was as its
greatest glory consisted of the following ships and guns.


6 | 100 | 35,553 _l._ | 213,318 _l._

12 | 90 | 29,886 | 358,632

12 | 80 | 23,638 | 283,656

43 | 70 | 17,785 | 746,755

35 | 60 | 14,197 | 496,895

40 | 50 | 10,606 | 424,240

45 | 40 | 7,558 | 340,110

58 | 20 | 3,710 | 215,180

85 | Sloops, bombs, and
fireships, one
with another, at
| 2,000 | 170,000

Cost 3,266,786

Remains for guns | 233,214

Total. 3,500,000

No country on the globe is so happily situated, so internally
capable of raising a fleet as America. Tar, timber, iron, and 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 Portuguese, are obliged to import most of the materials
they use. We ought to view the building a fleet as an article of
commerce, it 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 policy, in which commerce
and protection are united. Let us build; if we want them not, we can
sell; and by that means replace our paper currency with ready gold
and silver.

In point of manning a fleet, people in general run into great
errors; it is not necessary that one fourth part should be sailor.
The Terrible privateer, Captain Death, stood the hottest engagement
of any ship last war, yet 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. Wherefore, we never can be more capable to
begin on maritime matters than now, while our timber is standing, our
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
coast, or such an internal supply of materials. Where nature hath
given the one, she 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; wherefore, her boundless forests, her tar, iron, and
cordage are only articles of commerce.

In point of safety, ought we to be without a fleet? We are not the
little people now, which we were sixty years ago; at that time we
might have trusted our property in the streets, or fields rather; and
slept securely without locks or bolts to our doors or windows. The
case now is altered, and our methods of defence, ought to improve
with our increase of property. A common pirate, twelve months ago,
might have come up the Delaware, and laid the city of Philadelphia
under instant contribution, for what sum he pleased; and the same
might have happened to other places. Nay, any daring fellow, in a
brig of fourteen or sixteen guns, might have robbed the whole
Continent, and carried off half a million of money. These are
circumstances which demand our attention, and point out the necessity
of naval protection.

Some, perhaps, will say, that after we have made it up with
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 us, that the power which hath endeavoured to subdue us, is
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 resistance, be at last cheated into slavery. And if
her ships are not to be admitted into our harbours, I would ask, how
is she to protect us? A navy three or four thousand miles off can be
of little use, and on sudden emergencies, none at all. Wherefore, if
we must hereafter protect ourselves, why not do it for ourselves? Why
do it for another?

The English list of ships of war, is long and formidable, but not a
tenth part of them are at any time fit for service, numbers of them
not in being; yet their names are pompously continued in the list, if
only a plank be left of the ship: and not a fifth part, of such as
are fit for service, can be spared on any one station at one time.
The East, and West Indies, Mediterranean, Africa, and other parts
over which Britain extends her claim, make large demands upon her
navy. From a mixture of prejudice and inattention, we have contracted
a false notion respecting the navy of England, and have talked as if
we should have the whole of it to encounter at once, and for that
reason, supposed, 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 over match for her;
because, as we neither have, nor claim any foreign dominion, our
whole force would be employed on our own coast, where we should, in
the long run, have two to one the advantage of those who had three or
four thousand miles to sail over, before they could attack us, and
the same distance to return in order to refit and recruit. And
although Britain by her fleet, hath a check over our trade to Europe,
we have as large a one over her trade to the West Indies, which, by
laying in the neighbourhood of the Continent, is entirely at its

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 merchants, to build and employ
in their service, ships mounted with twenty, thirty, forty, or fifty
guns, (the premiums to be in proportion to the loss of bulk to the
merchants) fifty or sixty of those ships, with a few guard ships on
constant duty, would keep up a sufficient navy, and that without
burdening ourselves with the evil so loudly complained of in England,
of suffering their fleet, in time of peace to lie rotting in the
docks. To unite the sinews of commerce and defence is sound policy;
for when our strength and our riches, play into each other's hand, we
need fear no external enemy.

In almost every article of defence we abound. Hemp flourishes even
to rankness, so that we need not want cordage. Our iron is superior
to that of other countries. Our small arms equal to any in the world.
Cannons we can cast at pleasure. Saltpetre and gunpowder we are every
day producing. Our knowledge is hourly improving. Resolution is our
inherent character, and 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 again, this Continent will not be worth
living in. Jealousies will be always arising; insurrections will be
constantly happening; 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 Connecticut, respecting some
unlocated lands, shews the insignificance of a British government,
and fully proves, that nothing but Continental authority can regulate
Continental matters.

Another reason why the present time is preferable to all others,
is, that the fewer our numbers are, the more land there is yet
unoccupied, which instead of being lavished by the king on his
worthless dependents, may be hereafter applied, not only to the
discharge of the present debt, but to the constant support of
government. No nation under heaven hath such an advantage as this.

The infant state of the Colonies, as it is called, so far from
being against, is an argument in favor of independance. We are
sufficiently numerous, and were we more so, we might be less united.
It is a matter worthy of observation, that the more a country is
peopled, the smaller their armies are. In military numbers, the
ancients far exceeded the moderns: and the reason is evident, for
trade being the consequence of population, men become too much
absorbed thereby to attend to any thing else. Commerce diminishes the
spirit, both of patriotism and military defence. And history
sufficiently informs us, that the bravest achievements were always
accomplished in the non age of a nation. With the increase of
commerce, England hath lost its spirit. The city of London,
notwithstanding its numbers, submits to continued insults with the
patience of a coward. The more men have to lose, the less willing are
they to venture. The rich are in general slaves to fear, and submit
to courtly power with the trembling duplicity of a Spaniel.

Youth is the seed time of good habits, as well in nations as in
individuals. It might be difficult, if not impossible, to form the
Continent into one government half a century hence. The vast variety
of interests, occasioned by an increase of trade and population,
would 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 distinctions, the wise would lament,
that the union had not been formed before. Wherefore, the PRESENT
TIME is the TRUE TIME for establishing it. The intimacy which is
contracted in infancy, and the friendship which is formed in
misfortune, are, of all others, the most lasting and unalterable. 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 area for posterity to glory in.

The present time, likewise, is that peculiar time, which never
happens to a nation but once, VIZ. the time of forming itself into
a government. Most nations have let slip the opportunity, and by that
means have been compelled to receive laws from their conquerors,
instead of making laws for themselves. First, they had a king, and
then a form of government; whereas, the articles or charter of
government, should be formed first, and men delegated to execute them
afterwards: but from the errors of other nations, let us learn
wisdom, and lay hold of the present opportunity--TO BEGIN GOVERNMENT

When William the Conqueror subdued England, he gave them law at the
point of the sword; and until we consent, that the seat of
government, in America, be legally and authoritatively occupied, we
shall be in danger of having it filled by some fortunate ruffian, who
may treat us in the same manner, and then, where will be our freedom?
Where our property?

As to religion, I hold it to be the indispensible duty of all
government, to protect all conscientious professors thereof, and I
know of no other business which government hath to do therewith. Let
a man throw aside that narrowness of soul, that selfishness of
principle, which the niggards of all professions are so unwilling to
part with, and he will be at once delivered of his fears on that
head. Suspicion is the companion of mean souls, and the bane of all
good society. For myself, I fully and conscientiously believe, that
it is the will of the Almighty, that 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 thinking, our religious
dispositions would want matter for probation; and on this liberal
principle, I look on the various denominations among us, to be like
children of the same family, differing only, in what is called, their
Christian names.

In page [III par 47], I threw out a few thoughts on
the propriety of a Continental Charter, (for I only presume to offer
hints, not plans) and in this place, I take the liberty of
rementioning the subject, by observing, that a charter is to be
understood as a bond of solemn obligation, which the whole enters
into, to support the right of every separate part, whether or
religion, personal freedom, or 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 representatives, are equally dangerous. But if the number of the
representatives be not only small, but unequal, the 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 were present, all the Bucks
county members, being eight, voted against it, and had seven of the
Chester members done the same, this whole province had been governed
by two counties only, and this danger it is always exposed to. The
unwarrantable stretch likewise, which that house made in their last
sitting, to gain an undue authority over the Delegates of that
province, ought to warn the people at large, how they trust power out
of their own hands. A set of instructions for the Delegates were put
together, which in point of sense and business would have dishonored
a schoolboy, and after being approved by a FEW, a VERY FEW
without doors, were carried into the House, and there passed IN
BEHALF OF THE WHOLE COLONY; whereas, did 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 convenient, which if
continued would grow into oppressions. Expedience and right are
different things. When the calamities of America required a
consultation, there was no method so ready, or at that time so
proper, as 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 CONGRESS, every well wisher to good
order, must own, that the mode for choosing members of that body,
deserves consideration. And I put it as a question to those, who make
a study of mankind, whether REPRESENTATION AND ELECTION is not too
great a power for one and the same body of men to possess? When we
are planning for posterity, we ought to remember, that virtue is not

It is from our enemies that we often gain excellent maxims, and are
frequently surprised into reason by their mistakes. Mr. Cornwall (one
of the Lords of the Treasury) treated the petition of the New York
Assembly with contempt, because THAT House, he said, consisted but
of twenty-six members, which trifling number, he argued, could not
with decency be put for the whole. We thank him for his involuntary
honesty. [*Note 1]

TO CONCLUDE, however strange it may appear to some, or however
unwilling they may be to think so, matters not, but many strong and
striking reasons may be given, to shew, that 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 nations, when any two are at war, for
some other powers, not engaged in the quarrel, to step in as
mediators, and bring about the preliminaries of a peace: but while
America calls herself the Subject of Great Britain, no power, however
well disposed she may be, can offer her mediation. Wherefore, in our
present state we may quarrel on for ever.

SECONDLY--It is unreasonable to suppose, that France or Spain
will give us any kind of assistance, if we mean only, to make use of
that assistance for the purpose of repairing the breach, and
strengthening the connection between Britain and America; because,
those powers would be sufferers by the consequences.

THIRDLY--While we profess ourselves the subjects of Britain, we
must, in the eye of foreign nations, be considered as rebels. The
precedent is somewhat dangerous to THEIR PEACE, for men to be in
arms under the name of subjects; we, on the spot, can solve the
paradox: but to unite resistance and subjection, requires an idea
much too refined for the common understanding.

FOURTHLY--Were a manifesto to be published, and despatched to
foreign courts, setting forth the miseries we have endured, and the
peaceable methods we have ineffectually used for redress; declaring,
at the same time, that not being able, any 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 time, assuring all such courts of our peacable disposition
towards them, and 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 subjects, we can neither
be received nor heard abroad: The custom of all courts is against us,
and will be so, until, by an independance, we take rank with other

These proceedings may at first appear strange and difficult; but,
like all other steps which we have already passed over, will in a
little time become familiar and agreeable; and, until an independance
is declared, the Continent will feel itself like a man who continues
putting off some unpleasant business from day to day, yet knows it
must be done, hates to set about it, wishes it over, and is
continually haunted with the thoughts of its necessity.

Note 1 Those who would fully understand of what great consequence a
large and equal representation is to a state, should read Burgh's
political Disquisitions.


SINCE the publication of the first edition of this pamphlet, or
rather, on the same day on which it came out, the King's Speech made
its appearance in this city. Had the spirit of prophecy directed the
birth of this production, it could not have brought it forth, at a
more seasonable juncture, or a more necessary time. The bloody
mindedness of the one, shew the necessity of pursuing the doctrine of
the other. Men read by way of revenge. And the Speech instead of
terrifying, prepared a way for the manly principles of Independance.

Ceremony, and even, silence, from whatever motive they may arise,
have a hurtful tendency, when they give the least degree of
countenance to base and wicked performances; wherefore, if this maxim
be admitted, it naturally follows, that the King's Speech, as being a
piece of finished villany, deserved, and still deserves, a general
execration both by the Congress and the people. Yet, as the domestic
tranquillity of a nation, depends greatly, on the CHASTITY of what
may properly be called NATIONAL MANNERS, it is often better, to pass
some things over in silent disdain, than to make use of such new
methods of dislike, as might introduce the least innovation, on that
guardian of our peace and safety. And, perhaps, it is chiefly owing
to this prudent delicacy, that the King's Speech, hath not, before
now, suffered a public execution. The Speech if it may be called one,
is nothing better than a wilful audacious libel against the truth,
the 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 HER, and although they are beings of our
OWN creating, they know not US, and are become the gods of their
creators. The Speech hath one good quality, which is, that it is not
calculated to deceive, neither can we, even if we would, be deceived
by it. Brutality and tyranny appear on the face of it. It leaves us
at no loss: And every line convinces, even in the moment of reading,
that He, who hunts the woods for prey, the naked and untutored
Indian, is less a Savage than the King of Britain.

Sir John Dalrymple, the putative father of a whining jesuitical
piece, fallaciously called, "THE ADDRESS OF THE PEOPLE OF ENGLAND
TO THE INHABITANTS OF AMERICA," hath, perhaps, from a vain
supposition, that the people HERE were to be frightened at the pomp
and description of a king, given, (though very unwisely on his part)
the real character of the present one: "But," says this writer, "if
you are inclined to pay compliments to an administration, which 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
THING." This is toryism with a witness! Here is idolatry even
without a mask: And he who can so calmly hear, and 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 a man, but sunk himself
beneath the rank of animals, and contemptibly crawls through the
world like a worm.

However, it matters very little now, what the king of England
either says or does; he hath wickedly broken through every moral and
human obligation, trampled nature and conscience beneath his feet;
and by a steady and constitutional spirit of insolence and cruelty,
procured for himself an universal hatred. It is NOW the interest of
America to provide for herself. She hath already a large and young
family, whom it is more her duty to take care of, than to be granting
away her property, to support a power who is become a reproach to the
names of men and christians--YE, whose office it is to watch over the
morals of a nation, of whatsoever sect or denomination ye are of, as
well as ye, who, are more immediately the guardians of the public
liberty, if ye wish to preserve your native country uncontaminated by
European corruption, ye 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

Secondly, Which is the easiest and most practicable plan,
RECONCILIATION or INDEPENDANCE? with some occasional remarks.

In support of the first, I could, if I judged it proper, produce
the opinion of some of the ablest and most experienced men on this
continent; and whose sentiments, on that head, are not yet publicly
known. It is in reality a self-evident position: For no nation in a
state of foreign dependance, limited in its commerce, and cramped and
fettered in its legislative powers, can 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 nations, it is but childhood, compared with what she would
be capable of arriving at, had she, as she ought to have, the
legislative powers in her own hands. England is, at this time,
proudly 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
America, by which England is to be benefited, and that would in a
great measure continue, were 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 of
Britain or any other, which is now the main and only object worthy of
contention, and which, like 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, Because, the longer it is delayed the harder it will be
to accomplish.

I have frequently amused myself both in public and private
companies, with silently remarking, the specious errors of those who
speak without reflecting. And among the many which I have heard, the
following seems most general, viz. that had this rupture happened
forty or fifty years hence, instead of NOW, the Continent would
have been more able to have shaken off the dependance. To which I
reply, that our military ability AT THIS TIME, arises from the
experience gained in the last war, and which in forty or fifty years
time, would have been totally extinct. The Continent, would not, by
that time, have had a General, or even a military officer left; and
we, or those who may succeed us, would have been as ignorant of
martial matters as the ancient Indians: And this single position,
closely attended to, will unanswerably prove, that the present time
is preferable to all others. The argument turns thus--at the
conclusion of the last war, we had experience, but wanted numbers;
and forty or fifty years hence, we should have numbers, without
experience; wherefore, the proper point of time, must be some
particular point between the two extremes, in which a sufficiency of
the former remains, and a proper increase of the latter is obtained:
And that point of time is the present time.

The reader will pardon this digression, as it does not properly
come under the head I first set out with, and to which I again return
by the following position, viz.

Should affairs be patched up with Britain, and she to remain the
governing and sovereign power of America, (which, as matters are now
circumstanced, is giving up the point intirely) we shall deprive
ourselves of the very means of sinking the debt we have, or may
contract. The value of the back lands which some of the provinces are
clandestinely deprived of, by the unjust extension of the limits of
Canada, valued only at five pounds sterling per hundred acres, amount
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 any, and the quit-rent reserved thereon, will always
lessen, and in time, will wholly support the yearly expence of
government. It matters not how long the debt is in paying, so that
the lands when sold be applied to the discharge of it, and for the
execution of which, the Congress for the time being, will be the
continental trustees.

I proceed now to the second head, viz. Which is the easiest and
most practicable plan, RECONCILIATION or INDEPENDANCE; with some
occasional remarks.

He who takes nature for his guide is not easily beaten out of his
argument, and on that ground, I answer GENERALLYUTHAT INDEPENDANCE

The present state of America is truly alarming to every man who is
capable of reflexion. Without law, without government, without any
other mode of power than what is founded on, and granted by courtesy.
Held together by an unexampled concurrence of sentiment, which, is
nevertheless subject to change, and which, every secret enemy is
endeavouring to dissolve. Our present condition, is, Legislation
without law; wisdom without a plan; constitution without a name; and,
what is strangely astonishing, perfect 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 random, and seeing no fixed object
before them, they pursue such as fancy or opinion starts. Nothing is
criminal; there is no such thing as treason; wherefore, every one
thinks himself at liberty to act as he pleases. The Tories dared not
have assembled offensively, had they known that their lives, by that
act, were forfeited to the laws of the state. A line of distinction
should be drawn, between, English soldiers taken in battle, and
inhabitants of America taken in arms. The first are prisoners, but
the latter traitors. The one forfeits his liberty, the other his

Notwithstanding our wisdom, there is a visible feebleness in some
of our proceedings which gives encouragement to dissentions. The
Continental Belt is too loosely buckled. And if something is not done
in time, it will be too late to do any thing, and we shall fall into
a state, in which, neither 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
us, Printers, who will be busy 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 others, is 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 consider, how difficult the
task is, and how dangerous it may prove, should the Continent divide
thereon. Do they take within their view, all the various orders of
men whose situation and circumstances, as well as their own, are to
be considered therein. Do they put themselves in the place of the
sufferer whose ALL is ALREADY gone, and of the soldier, who hath
quitted ALL for the defence of his country. If their ill judged
moderation be suited to their own private situations ONLY,
regardless of others, the event will convince them, that "they are
reckoning without their Host."

Put us, say some, on the footing we were on in sixty-three: To
which I answer, the request is not NOW in the power of Britain to
comply with, neither will she propose it; but if it were, and even
should be granted, I ask, as a reasonable question, By what means is
such a corrupt and faithless court to be kept to its engagements?
Another parliament, nay, even the present, may hereafter repeal the
obligation, on the pretence, of its being violently obtained, or
unwisely granted; and in that case, Where is our redress?--No going to
law with nations; cannon are the barristers of Crowns; and the sword,
not of justice, but of war, decides the suit. To be on the footing of
sixty-three, it is not sufficient, that the laws only be put on the
same state, but, that our circumstances, likewise, be put on the same
state; Our burnt and destroyed towns repaired or built up, our
private losses made good, our public debts (contracted for defence)
discharged; otherwise, we shall be millions worse than we were at
that enviable period. Such a request, had it been complied with a
year ago, would have won the heart and soul of the Continent--but now
it is too late, "The Rubicon is passed."

Besides, the taking up arms, merely to enforce the repeal of a
pecuniary law, seems as unwarrantable by the divine law, and as
repugnant to human feelings, as the taking up arms to enforce
obedience thereto. The object, on either side, doth 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 instant, in which such a mode of
defence became necessary, all subjection to Britain ought to have
ceased; and the independancy of America, should have been considered,
as dating its era from, and published by, THE 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 reflect, that there are three different
ways, by which an independancy may hereafter be effected; and that
ONE of those THREE, will one day or other, be the fate of
America, viz. 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 citizens, and the multitude a body of reasonable men;
virtue, as I have already remarked, is not hereditary, neither is it
perpetual. Should an independancy be brought about by the first of
those means, we have every opportunity and every encouragement before
us, to 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 present, hath not happened since the days of Noah
until now. The birthday of a new world is at hand, and a race of men,
perhaps 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 view, How trifling, how ridiculous, do the
little, paltry cavellings, of a few weak or interested men appear,
when weighed against the business of a world.

Should we neglect the present favorable and inviting period, and an
Independance be hereafter effected by any other means, we must charge
the consequence to ourselves, or to those rather, whose narrow and
prejudiced souls, are habitually opposing the measure, without either
inquiring or reflecting. There are reasons to be given in support of
Independance, which men should rather privately think of, than be
publicly told of. We ought not now to be debating whether we shall be
independant or not, but, anxious to accomplish it on a firm, secure,
and honorable basis, and 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) should, of all men, be the most
solicitous to promote it; for, as the appointment of committees at
first, protected them from popular rage, so, a wise and well
established form of government, will be the only certain means of
continuing it securely to them. WHEREFORE, if they have not virtue
enough to be WHIGS, they ought to have prudence enough to wish for

In short, Independance is the only BOND that can tye and keep us
together. We shall then see our object, and our ears will be legally
shut against the schemes of an intriguing, as well, as a cruel enemy.
We shall then too, be on a proper footing, to treat with Britain; for
there is reason to conclude, that the pride of that court, will be
less hurt by treating with the American states for terms of peace,
than with those, whom she denominates, "rebellious subjects," for
terms of accommodation. It is our delaying it that encourages her to
hope for conquest, and our backwardness tends only to prolong the
war. As we have, without any good effect therefrom, withheld our
trade to obtain a redress of our grievances, let us NOW try the
alternative, by INDEPENDANTLY redressing them ourselves, and then
offering to open the trade. The mercantile and reasonable part in
England, will be still with us; because, peace WITH trade, is
preferable to war WITHOUT it. And if this offer be not accepted,
other 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
pamphlet, it is a negative proof, that either the doctrine cannot be
refuted, or, that the party in favour of it are too numerous to be
opposed. WHEREFORE, instead of gazing at each other with suspicious
or doubtful curiosity, let each of us, hold out to his neighbour the
hearty hand of friendship, and unite in drawing a line, which, like
an act of oblivion, shall bury in forgetfulness every former
dissention. Let the names of Whig and Tory be extinct; and let none
other be heard among us, than those of A GOOD CITIZEN, AN OPEN AND

---End of COMMON SENSE by Thomas Paine

Corrections: 55,553 replaced by 35,553


Back to Full Books