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 had 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 usurpation of
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
hath, 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 Censures, is the
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 Independence: 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.
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 our 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 in tolerable 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 calamities 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
Wear, 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 expense 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 labor 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.
Thus necessity, like a gravitating power, would soon form our newly arrived emigrants
into society, the reciprocal blessings 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 continue 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 reflection 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 name of king) depends the
strength of government, and the happiness of the governed.
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 overrun with tyranny
the least 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
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 king.
Secondly. The remains of aristocratical tyranny in the persons of the peers.
Thirdly. The new republican materials, in the persons of the commons, on whose virtue
depends the freedom of England.
The two 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
To say that the commons is a check upon the king, presupposes two things.
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,
unnaturally opposing and destroying each other, prove the whole character to be absurd and
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 something 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, viz. how came the king by a Power which the people are afraid to
trust, and always obliged to check? Such a power could not be the gift of a wise 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
pensions is self-evident, wherefore, though we have and 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 favor 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 most 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 favor of modes and forms,
the plain truth is, that it is wholly owing to the constitution of the people, and not to
the constitution of the government that the crown is not as oppressive in England as in
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 favor 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 monarchial 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-monarchial parts of scripture have been very smoothly
glossed over in monarchial governments, but they undoubtedly merit the attention of
countries which have their governments yet to form. 'Render unto Caesar the things which
are Caesar's' is the scriptural doctrine of courts, yet it is no support of monarchial
government, for the jews at that time were without a king, and in a state of vassalage to
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 Lords 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 favor. The
Jews elate with success, and attributing it to the generalship of Gideon, proposed making
him a king, saying, Rule thou over us, thou and thy son and thy son's 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, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over
you, THE LORD SHALL RULE OVER YOU. Words need not be more explicit; Gideon doth not
decline the honor but denieth their right to give it; neither doth be 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 sons walk not in thy ways,
now make us a king to judge us like all 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 them as possible. But the
thing displeased Samuel when they said, give us a king to judge us; and Samuel prayed unto
the Lord, and the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that
they say unto thee, for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, THE I
SHOULD NOT REIGN OVER THEM. According to all the works which have done since the day;
wherewith they brought them up out of Egypt, even unto this day; wherewith they have
forsaken me and served other Gods; so do they also unto thee. Now therefore hearken unto
their voice, howbeit, protest solemnly unto them and show them the manner of the king that
shall reign over them, i. e. 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 the Lord unto the people, that asked of him a king. And he
said, This shall be the manner of the king that shall reign over you; he will take your
sons and appoint them for himself for his chariots, and to be his horsemen, and some shall
run before his chariots (this description agrees with the present mode of impressing men)
and he will appoint him captains over thousands and captains over fifties, and will set
them to ear his ground and to read his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and
instruments of his chariots; and he will take your daughters to be confectioneries and to
be cooks and to be bakers (this describes the expense and luxury as well as the oppression
of kings) and he will take your fields and your olive yards, even the best of them, and
give them to his servants; and he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards,
and give them to his officers and to his servants (by which we see that bribery,
corruption, and favoritism are the standing vices of kings) and he will take the tenth of
your men servants, and your maid servants, and your goodliest young men and your asses,
and put them to his work; and he will take the tenth of your sheep, and ye shall be his
servants, and ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have
chosen, AND THE LORD WILL NOT HEAR YOU IN THAT DAY. This accounts for the continuation of
monarchy; neither do the characters of the few good kings which have lived since, either
sanctify the 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 People refused to obey the voice of Samuel, and they said. Nay,
but we will have a king over us, that we may be like all the nations, and that our king
may judge us, and go out before us and fight our 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 unto the Lord, and he
shall sent thunder and rain (which then was a punishment, being the time of wheat harvest)
that ye may perceive and see that your wickedness is great which ye have done in the sight
of the Lord, IN ASKING YOU A KING. So Samuel called unto the Lord, and the Lord sent
thunder and rain that day, and all the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel And all
the people said unto Samuel, Pray for thy servants unto the Lord thy God that we die not,
for WE HAVE ADDED UNTO OUR SINS THIS EVIL, TO ASK A KING. These portions of scripture are
direct and positive. They admit of no equivocal construction. That the Almighty hath here
entered his protest against monarchial 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
contemporaries, 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 lion.
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 of
preeminence in subtlety obtained him the title of chief among plunderers; and who by
increasing in power, and extending his depredations, overawed the quiet and defenseless to
purchase their safety by frequent contributions. Yet his electors could have no idea of
giving hereditary right to his 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 complemental; 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, I 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 parallel in
or out of scripture but the doctrine of original sin, which supposes the free will of all
men lost in Adam; and from such 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
connection! Yet the most subtle 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
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 favor 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
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 If 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 the republican virtue fails, slavery
ensues. My 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 fast 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 detestation.
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
By referring the matter from argument to arms, a new area 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 almanacs of the last year;
which, though proper then, are superseded 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 connection 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 dependant.
I have heard it asserted by some, that as America hath flourished under her former
connection with Great Britain, that the same connection 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 expense 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
our account, but from her enemies on her own account, from 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 connections .
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
roundabout way of proving relation ship, 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 being the subjects of Great Britain.
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 off 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 still.
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
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
neighbor; 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 travels 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. countyman; 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. Therefore
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 anything; 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 invaders.
I challenge the warmest advocate for reconciliation, to show, 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 I 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 of British politics.
Europe is too thickly planted with kingdoms to be long at peace, and whenever a war
breaks out between England and any foreign power, the trade of America goes to ruin,
because of her connection with Britain. The next war may not turn out like the Past, 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 increases
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 three.
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 offenses of Britain, and, still
hoping for the best, are apt to call out, 'Come we shall be friends again for all this.'
But examine the passions and feelings of mankind. Bring the doctrine of reconciliation to
the touchstone of nature, and then tell me, whether you can hereafter love, honor, 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 honor, will
be forced and unnatural, and being formed only on the plan of present convenience, will in
a little time fall into a relapse more wretched than the first. But if you say, you can
still pass the violations over, then I ask, Hath your house been burnt? Hath you 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 can still shake hands with the murderers, then are you unworthy 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 sycophant.
This is not infaming 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 the
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 was a fallacious dream. Nature hath deserted the
connection, 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 nothing 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 me we may suppose that
nations, which have been once defeated, will never renew the quarrel.
As to government matters, it is not in the powers 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 independence; 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 N--, 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 balanced 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 independency 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 of 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 (Massacre at
Lexington), but the moment the event of that day was made known, I rejected the hardened,
sullen tempered Pharaoh of ___ 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 reasons.
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 shown 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 inhabitants in America so ignorant, as not to know, that
according to what is called the present constitution, that this continent can make no laws
but what the king gives leave to; and is there any man so 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 make 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 endeavor 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 independent, for independency 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 'there shall be now laws but such as I
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, tho' 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 interfere 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 show that reconciliation
now is a dangerous doctrine, I affirm, that it would be policy in the kingdom at this
time, to repeal the acts for the sake of reinstating himself in the government of the
provinces; in order, that HE MAY ACCOMPLISH BY CRAFT AND SUBTILTY, IN THE LONG RUN, WHAT
HE CANNOT DO BY FORCE AND VIOLENCE IN THE SHORT ONE. Reconciliation and ruin are nearly
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
But the most powerful of all arguments, is, that nothing but independence, 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 be 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 independence, 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 connection than
from independence. 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 man,
sensible of injuries, I could never relish the doctrine of reconciliation, or consider
myself bound thereby.
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 bead.
No man can assign the least pretence for his fears, on any other grounds, that such as are
truly childish and ridiculous, that one colony will be striving for superiority over
Where there are no distinctions there can be no superiority, perfect equality affords
no temptation. The republics of Europe are all (and we may say always) in peace. Holland
and Switzerland are without wars, foreign or domestic: Monarchical governments, it is
true, are never long at rest; the crown itself is a temptation to enterprising ruffians at
home; and that degree of pride and insolence ever attendant on regal 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 independence 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 to 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
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 at least 90. 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. I 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 join 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
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
empowered 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 conformable to the said charter, to be the legislators
and governors of this continent for the time being: Whose peace and happiness, may God
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 on Virtue and Rewards.
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 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 of 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 in finitely 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 Massenello (note-CmnSns-1) may hereafter arise, who laying hold of popular
disquietudes, may collect together the desperate and the 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 independence now, ye know not what ye do;
ye are opening a door to eternal tyranny, by keeping vacant the seat of government. There
are thousands and tens of 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
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 inextinguishable
feelings for good and wise purposes. They are the guardians of his image in our hearts.
They distinguish us from the herd of common animals. The social compact would dissolve,
and justice be extirpated the earth, of 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 mind.
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 shown less judgment, than in endeavoring to
describe, what we call, the ripeness or fitness of the Continent for independence.
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 endeavor 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, who 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 independent constitution of its own, the purchase at any price will be
cheap. But to expend millions for the sake of getting a few we 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 peddling politician.
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 a 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 naval history, intro. page 56.
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.
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:
Ships Guns Cost of one Cost of all
6 100 35,533 213,318
12 90 29,886 358,632
12 80 23,638 283,656
43 70 27,785 746,755
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
Remains for guns, 233,214
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 sailors. 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 land-men 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 80 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 or 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 harbors for that
purpose? Common sense will tell us, that the power which hath endeavored 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 harbors, 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 one 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
neighborhood of the Continent, is entirely at its mercy.
Some method might be fallen on to keep up a naval force in time of peace, if we should
not judge it necessary to support a constant navy. If premiums were to be given to
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. Cannon 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, shows 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 independence. 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 afterward: but from the errors of other nations, let us
learn wisdom, and lay hold of the present opportunity To begin government at the right
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
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 fifty-four, 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 of 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 school-boy, 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 hereditary.
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-CmnSns-2).
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
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 connection with her; at the same time assuring all such
courts of our peaceable 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 independence,
we take rank with other nations.
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 independence 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
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, show 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
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 villainy, deserved, and still deserves, a general execration
both by the Congress and the people. Yet as the domestic tranquility of a nation, depends
greatly on the chastity of what may properly be called NATIONAL MATTERS, 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 consequences 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 J--n D--e, 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 that prince, by
whose NOD ALONE they were permitted to do anything.' this is toryism with a witness! Here
is idolatry even without a mask: And he who can 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 crawl 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 Britain.
Secondly. Which is the easiest and most practicable plan, RECONCILIATION or
INDEPENDENCE? 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 independent
of each other as France and Spain; because in many articles, neither can go to a better
market. But it is the independence of this country on 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.
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 spacious errors of those who speak without reflecting. And among the many
which I have heard, the following seems the 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 entirely) 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 burden to any, and
the quit-rent reserved thereon, will always lessen, and in time, will wholly support the
yearly expense 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 earliest and most practicable plan,
RECONCILIATION or INDEPENDENCE? 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 generally That INDEPENDENCE being a SINGLE SIMPLE LINE, contained within
ourselves; and reconciliation, a matter exceedingly perplexed and complicated, and in
which, a treacherous capricious court is to interfere, gives the answer without a doubt.
The present state of America is truly alarming to every man who is capable of
reflection. 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
endeavoring to dissolve. Our present condition, is, Legislation without law; wisdom
without a plan; a constitution without a name; and, what is strangely astonishing, perfect
Independence 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 feeling 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 to 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 head.
Notwithstanding our wisdom, there is a visible feebleness in some of our proceedings
which gives encouragement to dissensions. The Continental belt is too loosely buckled. And
if something is not done in time, it will be too late to do any thing, and we shall fall
into a state, in which, neither reconciliation nor independence will be practicable. The
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, says 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 ways and
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 independency of America
should have been considered, as dating its area 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 independency 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 independency 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 Reflection 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 independence 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
Independence, which men should rather privately think of, than be publicly told of. We
ought not now to be debating whether we shall be independent 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 Independence.
In short, Independence is the only BOND that can tie 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 independently redressing them
ourselves, and then offering to open the trade. The mercantile and reasonable part of
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 favor 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 neighbor 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 resolute friend, and a virtuous
supporter of the RIGHTS of MANKIND and of the FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES OF AMERICA.
To the Representatives of the Religious Society of the People called Quakers, or to so
many of them as were concerned in publishing a late piece, entitled 'The Ancient Testimony
and Principles of the people called Quakers renewed with respect to the King and
Government, and Touching the Commotions now prevailing in these and other parts of
America, addressed to the people in general.'
THE Writer of this, is one of those few, who never dishonors religion either by
ridiculing, or cavilling at any denomination whatsoever. To God, and not to man, are all
men accountable on the score of religion. Wherefore, this epistle is not so properly
addressed to you as a religious, but as a political body, dabbling in matters, which the
professed Quietude of your Principles instruct you not to meddle with.
As you have, without a proper authority for so doing, put yourselves in the place of
the whole body of the Quakers, so, the writer of this, in order to be on an equal rank
with yourselves, is under the necessity, of putting himself in the place of all those who
approve the very writings and principles, against which your testimony is directed: And he
hath chosen their singular situation, in order that you might discover in him, that
presumption of character which you cannot see in yourselves. For neither he nor you have
any claim or title to Political Representation.
When men have departed from the right way, it is no wonder that they stumble and fall.
And it is evident from the manner in which ye have managed your testimony, that politics,
(as a religious body of men) is not your proper Walk; for however well adapted it might
appear to you, it is, nevertheless, a jumble of good and bad put unwisely together, and
the conclusion drawn therefrom, both unnatural and unjust.
The two first pages, (and the whole doth not make four) we give you credit for, and
expect the same civility from you, because the love and desire of peace is not confined to
Quakerism, it is the natural, as well as the religious wish of all denominations of men.
And on this ground, as men laboring to establish an Independent Constitution of our own,
do we exceed all others in our hope, end, and aim. Our plan is peace for ever. We are
tired of contention with Britain, and can see no real end to it but in a final separation.
We act consistently, because for the sake of introducing an endless and uninterrupted
peace, do we bear the evils and burdens of the present day. We are endeavoring, and will
steadily continue to endeavor, to separate and dissolve a connection which hath already
filled our land with blood; and which, while the name of it remains, will be the fatal
cause of future mischiefs to both countries.
We fight neither for revenge nor conquest; neither from pride nor passion; we are not
insulting the world with our fleets and armies, nor ravaging the globe for plunder.
Beneath the shade of our own vines are we attacked; in our own houses, and on our own
lands, is the violence committed against us. We view our enemies in the characters of
Highwaymen and Housebreakers, and having no defence for ourselves in the civil law; are
obliged to punish them by the military one, and apply the sword, in the very case, where
you have before now, applied the halter. Perhaps we feel for the ruined and insulted
sufferers in all and every part of the continent, and with a degree of tenderness which
hath not yet made its way into some of your bosoms. But be ye sure that ye mistake not the
cause and ground of your Testimony. Call not coldness of soul, religion; nor put the Bigot
in the place of the Christian.
O ye partial ministers of your own acknowledged principles. If the bearing arms be
sinful, the first going to war must be more so, by all the difference between wilful
attack and unavoidable defence. Wherefore, if ye really preach from conscience, and mean
not to make a political hobby-horse of your religion, convince the world thereof, by
proclaiming your doctrine to our enemies, for they likewise bear ARMS. Give us proof of
your sincerity by publishing it at St. James's, to the commanders in chief at Boston, to
the Admirals and Captains who are practically ravaging our coasts, and to all the
murdering miscreants who are acting in authority under HIM whom ye profess to serve. Had
ye the honest soul of Barclay (note-CmnSns-3) ye would preach repentance to your king; Ye
would tell the Royal king his sins, and warn him of eternal ruin. Ye would not spend your
partial invectives against the injured and the insulted only, but like faithful ministers,
would cry aloud and spare none. Say not that ye are persecuted, neither endeavor to make
us the authors of that reproach, which, ye are bringing upon yourselves; for we testify
unto all men, that we do not complain against you because ye are Quakers, but because ye
pretend to be and are NOT Quakers.
Alas! it seems by the particular tendency of some part of your testimony, and other
parts of your conduct, as if all sin was reduced to, and comprehended in the act of
bearing arms, and that by the people only. Ye appear to us, to have mistaken party for
conscience, because the general tenor of your actions wants uniformity: And it is
exceedingly difficult to us to give credit to many of your pretended scruples; because we
see them made by the same men, who, in the very instant that they are exclaiming against
the mammon of this world, are nevertheless, hunting after it with a step as steady as
Time, and an appetite as keen as Death.
The quotation which ye have made from Proverbs, in the third page of your testimony,
that, 'when a man's ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with
him'; is very unwisely chosen on your part; because it amounts to a proof, that the king's
ways (whom ye are so desirous of supporting) do not please the Lord, otherwise, his reign
would be in peace.
I now proceed to the latter part of your testimony, and that, for which all the
foregoing seems only an introduction, viz '
It hath ever been our judgment and principle, since we 'were called to profess the
light of Christ Jesus, manifested in our consciences unto this day, that the setting up
and putting down kings and governments, is God's peculiar prerogative; for causes best
known to himself: And that it is not our business to have any hand or contrivance therein;
nor to be busy bodies above our station, much less to plot and contrive the ruin, or
overturn any of them, but tO pray for the king, and safety of our nation, and good of all
men: That we may live a peaceable and quiet life, in all goodliness and honesty; under the
government which God is pleased to set over us.' If these are really your principles why
do ye not abide by them? Why do ye not leave that, which ye call God's Work, to be managed
by himself? These very principles instruct you to wait with patience and humility, for the
event of all public measures, and to receive that event as the divine will towards you.
Wherefore, what occasion is there for your political testimony if you fully believe what
it contains? And the very publishing it proves, that either, ye do not believe what ye
profess, or have not virtue enough to practice what ye believe.
The principles of Quakerism have a direct tendency to make a man the quiet and
inoffensive subject of any, and every government which is set over him. And if the setting
up and putting down of kings and governments is God's peculiar prerogative, he most
certainly will not be robbed thereof by us; wherefore, the principle itself leads you to
approve of every thing, which ever happened, or may happen to kings as being his work,
OLIVER CROMWELL thanks you.--CHARLES, then, died not by the hands of man; and should the
present Proud Imitator of him, come to the same untimely end, the writers and publishers
of the testimony, are bound by the doctrine it contains, to applaud the fact. Kings are
not taken away by miracles, neither are changes in governments brought about by any other
means than such as are common and human; and such as we are now using. Even the dispersing
of the jews, though foretold by our Savior, was effected by arms. Wherefore, as ye refuse
to be the means on one side, ye ought not to be meddlers on the other; but to wait the
issue in silence; and unless you can produce divine authority, to prove, that the Almighty
who hath created and placed this new world, at the greatest distance it could possibly
stand, east and west, from every part of the old, doth, nevertheless, disapprove of its
being independent of the corrupt and abandoned court of Britain, unless I say, ye can show
this, how can ye, on the ground of your principles, justify the exciting and stirring up
of the people 'firmly to unite in the abhorrence of all such writings, and measures, as
evidence a desire and design to break off the happy connection we have hitherto enjoyed,
with the kingdom of Great Britain, and our just and necessary subordination to the king,
and those who are lawfully placed in authority under him.' What a slap in the face is
here! the men, who, in the very paragraph before, have quietly and passively resigned up
the ordering, altering, and disposal of kings and governments, into the hands of God, are
now recalling their principles, and putting in for a share of the business. Is it
possible, that the conclusion, which is here justly quoted, can any ways follow from the
doctrine laid down? The inconsistency is too glaring not to be seen; the absurdity too
great not to be laughed at; and such as could only have been made by those, whose
understandings were darkened by the narrow and crabby spirit of a despairing political
party; for ye are not to be considered as the whole body of the Quakers but only as a
factional and fractional part thereof.
Here ends the examination of your testimony; (which I call upon no man to abhor, as ye
have done, but only to read and judge of fairly;) to which I subjoin the following remark;
'That the setting up and putting down of kings,' most certainly mean, the making him a
king, who is yet not so, and the making him no king who is already one. And pray what hath
this to do in the present case? We neither mean to set up nor to put down, neither to make
nor to unmake, but to have nothing to do with them. Wherefore your testimony in whatever
light it is viewed serves only to dishonor your judgment, and for many other reasons had
better have been let alone than published.
First. Because it tends to the decrease and reproach of religion whatever, and is of
the utmost danger to society, to make it a party in political disputes.
Secondly. Because it exhibits a body of men, numbers of whom disavow the publishing
political testimonies, as being concerned therein and approvers thereof.
Thirdly. Because it hath a tendency to undo that continental harmony and friendship
which yourselves by your late liberal and charitable donations hath lent a hand to
establish; and the preservation of which, is of the utmost consequence to us all.
And here without anger or resentment I bid you farewell. Sincerely wishing, that as men
and christians, ye may always fully and uninterruptedly enjoy every civil and religious
right; and be, in your turn, the means of securing it to others; but that the example
which ye have unwisely set, of mingling religion with politics, may be disavowed and
reprobated by every inhabitant of AMERICA.
Notes to Common Sense
Thomas Anello, otherwise Massenello, 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
"Thou hast tasted of prosperity and adversity; thou knowest what it is to be
banished thy native country, to be overruled as well as to rule, and set upon the throne;
and being oppressed thou hast reason to know now hateful the oppressor is both to God and
man: If after all these warnings and advertisements, thou dost not turn unto the Lord with
all thy heart, but forget him who remembered thee in thy distress, and give up thyself to
follow lust and vanity, surely great will be thy condemnation. Against which snare, as
well as the temptation of those who may or do feed thee, and prompt thee to evil, the most
excellent and prevalent remedy will be, to apply thyself to that light of Christ which
shineth in thy conscience and which neither can, nor will flatter thee, nor suffer thee to
be at ease in thy sins."
Barclay's Address to Charles II