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Common Sense

Thomas Paine was born in Thetford, England, on January 29, 1737. He was
raised by a Quaker father and an Anglican mother. He apprenticed as a corset
maker, a profession that he drifted in and out of for many years. In 1764, he
studied for and was admitted as an excise officer, though he was dismissed on
corruption charges. Later, in 1768, he was made an excise officer again, but
in 1774 was dismissed because he had written a pamphlet, something that would
eventually become his true calling. The pamphlet had criticized the salaries
of the excise officers and called on Parliament for raises.

While in Great Britain, Paine met Benjamin Franklin and the two developed a
fast friendship. With a letter of introduction from Franklin, Paine left for
the colonies in 1774. After only a few years in the colonies, Paine decided
that efforts at independence, then fledgling, were the only real solution for
the colonies. He wrote Common Sense to illustrate the need for
independence. Its 55 pages were first published anonymously on January 9, 1776.
The pamphlet was an instant hit, and by February 14, 1776, it was in its third

The third printing included more detail than the first two printings,
including an accounting of the value of the British Navy and a description of
how American resources could build a navy equal to or better than that of the
homeland; it also included a letter to the Quakers, in response to criticism
by members of that sect.

Common Sense was one of the most widely read pamphlets of its time,
and played a unique role in the drive for independence by exciting the public
and by presenting them with a cogent and accessible critique of the monarchy.
Within seven months, Jefferson had penned, and the Continental Congress had
signed, the Declaration of Independence.

In Common Sense, Paine outlines his thoughts on a new constitution
for America. Paine wanted the state assemblies to handle all domestic business
and to be subject to veto by a national Congress. Each colony would send at
least 30 members to Congress, and they would choose a president. In his plan,
every colony would have a chance to hold the presidency, one colony’s turn not
coming around again until all others had had a chance. Laws would have to pass
in Congress by a three-fifths vote. He also wanted to see a conference held,
with two members from the congressional delegation of each state; two from the
state assembly; and five chosen by the people at large. The business of the
conference would be to create a Charter of the United Colonies. The charter
would define how members of Congress and the assemblies would be chosen,
separating the powers of the national and colonial levels, and protecting the
rights of religion, freedom, and property to all men. As for a king, in Paine’s
America, only the law would be king.

The source for this text is the Thomas Paine
National Historical Association
, and the text was confirmed with other
electronic and text versions of the document. The text has been modified
slightly to expand abbreviations, modernize spelling, and enhance readability.
Sources for the background section above include the Introduction to The Age
of Reason
, another of Paine’s works, by Joseph Carrig; and the Thomas Paine page at

Common Sense
By Thomas Paine


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 defense of
custom. But tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason.

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

In the following sheets, the author hath studiously avoided every thing
which is personal among ourselves. Compliments as well as censure to
individuals make no part thereof. The wise and the worthy need not the triumph
of a pamphlet; and those whose sentiments are injudicious or unfriendly, will
cease of themselves, unless too much pains is bestowed upon their

The cause of America is, in a great measure, the cause of all mankind. Many
circumstances have, and will arise, which are not local, but universal, and
through which the principles of all lovers of mankind are affected, and in the
event of which, their affections are interested. The laying a country desolate
with fire and sword, declaring war against the natural rights of all mankind,
and extirpating the defenders thereof from the face of the earth, is the
concern of every man to whom nature hath given the power of feeling; of which
class, regardless of party censure, is

The Author

P.S. The Publication of this new Edition hath been delayed, with a View of
taking notice (had it been necessary) of any Attempt to refute the Doctrine of
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.

Philadelphia, February 14, 1776.

Of the origin and design of government in general —
With concise remarks on the English constitution

Some writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave
little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only 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 intolerable one; for when we
suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we
might expect in a country without government, our 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 clear, uniform, and irresistibly obeyed, man would need no other
lawgiver; but that not being the case, he finds it necessary to surrender up a
part of his property to furnish means for the protection of the rest; and this
he is induced to do by the same prudence which in every other case advises him
out of two evils to choose the least. Wherefore, security being the true
design and end of government, it unanswerably follows that whatever form
thereof appears most likely to ensure it to us, with the least 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 (though the disgrace of human nature) have this
advantage with them, that they are simple; if the people suffer, they know the
head from which their suffering springs, know likewise the remedy, and are not
bewildered by a variety of causes and cures. But the constitution of England is
so exceedingly complex, that the nation may suffer for years together without
being able to discover in which part the fault lies, some will say in one and
some in another, and every political physician will advise a different

I know it is difficult to get over local or long standing prejudices, yet if
we will suffer ourselves to examine the component parts of the English
constitution, we shall find them to be the base remains of two ancient
tyrannies, compounded with some new republican materials.

First — The remains of monarchical tyranny in the person of the

Secondly — The remains of aristocratical tyranny in the persons of the

Thirdly — The new republican materials, in the persons of the commons,
on whose virtue depends the freedom of England.

The two first, by being hereditary, are independent of the people; wherefore
in a constitutional sense they contribute nothing towards the freedom of
the state.

To say that the constitution of England is a union of three powers
reciprocally checking each other, is farcical, either the words have no
meaning, or they are flat contradictions.

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

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

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 useless.

Some writers have explained the English constitution thus; the king, say
they, is one, the people another; the peers are an house in behalf of the king;
the commons in behalf of the people; but this hath all the distinctions of an
house divided against itself; and though the expressions be pleasantly
arranged, yet when examined they appear idle and ambiguous; and it will always
happen, that the nicest construction that words are capable of, when applied to
the description of 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 Turkey.

An inquiry into the constitutional errors in the English form of
government is at this time highly necessary; for as we are never in a proper
condition of doing justice to 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.

Of monarchy and hereditary succession

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 subject. 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 inquiring 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
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 the Romans.

Near three thousand years passed away from the Mosaic account of the
creation, till the Jews under a national delusion requested a king. Till then
their form of government (except in extraordinary cases, where the Almighty
interposed) was a kind of republic administered by a judge and the elders of
the tribes. Kings they had none, and it was held sinful to acknowledge any
being under that title but the 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, through 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
. 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 Heathen, 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, then 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 confectionaries and to be cooks and to be
(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
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 kingcraft, as priestcraft in withholding the scripture from
the public in Popish countries. For monarchy in every instance is the Popery of

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, 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 dominions.

Another evil which attends hereditary succession is, that the throne is
subject to be possessed by a minor at any age; all which time the regency,
acting under the cover of a king, have every opportunity and inducement to
betray their trust. The same national misfortune happens, when a king worn out
with age and infirmity, enters the last stage of human weakness. In both these
cases the public becomes a prey to every miscreant, who can tamper successfully
with the follies either of age or infancy.

The most plausible plea, which hath ever been offered in 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 on.

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

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

In short, monarchy and succession have laid (not this or that kingdom only)
but the world in blood and ashes. ‘Tis a form of government which the word of
God bears testimony against, and blood will attend it.

If we inquire into the business of a king, we shall find that (in some
countries they have none) and after sauntering away their lives without
pleasure to themselves or advantage to the nation, withdraw from the scene, and
leave their successors to tread the same idle round. In absolute monarchies the
whole weight of business civil and military, lies on the king; the children of
Israel in their request for a king, urged this plea “that he may judge us, and
go out before us and fight our battles.” But in countries where he is neither a
judge nor a general, as in England, a man would be puzzled to know what
is his business.

The nearer any government approaches to a republic, the less business there
is for a king. It is somewhat difficult to find a proper name for the
government of England. Sir William Meredith calls it a republic; but in its
present state it is unworthy of the name, because the corrupt influence 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 a 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.

Thoughts of the present state of American

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

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 characters.

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, etc. 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 dependent on Great Britain. To examine
that connection and dependence, on the principles of nature and common sense,
to see what we have to trust to, if separated, and what we are to expect, if

I have heard it asserted by some, that as America hath flourished under her
former 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

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
. Let Britain wave her pretensions to the continent, or the
continent throw off the dependence, 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 sentiment.

It is pleasant to observe by what regular gradations we surmount the force
of local prejudice, as we enlarge our acquaintance with the world. A man born
in any town in England divided into parishes, will naturally associate most
with his fellow parishioners (because their interests in many cases will be
common) and distinguish him by the name of 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. Wherefore, I reprobate the phrase of parent or mother
country applied to England only, as being false, selfish, narrow and

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
. 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 dependence
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 dependence on Britain, she is made the
make-weight in the scale of British politics.

Europe is too thickly planted with kingdoms to be long at peace, and
whenever a war breaks out between England and any foreign power, the trade of
America goes to 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 offense, 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

This is not inflaming or exaggerating matters, but trying them by those
feelings and affections which nature justifies, and without which, we should be
incapable of discharging the social duties of life, or enjoying the felicities
of it. I mean not to exhibit horror for the purpose of provoking revenge, but
to awaken us from fatal and unmanly slumbers, that we may pursue determinately
some fixed object. It is not in the power of Britain or of Europe to conquer
America, if she do not conquer herself by delay and timidity. The present
winter is worth an age if rightly employed, but if lost or neglected, the whole
continent will partake of the misfortune; and there is no punishment which that
man will not deserve, be he who, or what, or where he will, that may be the
means of sacrificing a season so precious and useful.

It is repugnant to reason, to the universal order of things, to all examples
from 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 now 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

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 the North, or the whole detestable junto, is a
matter unworthy the millions we have expended. A temporary stoppage of trade,
was an inconvenience, which would have sufficiently 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 England for ever;
and disdain the wretch, that with the pretended title of Father of his
, 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, though I will never cease to expose the absurdity
of it, and only answer, that England being the king’s residence, and America
not so, make quite another case. The king’s negative here is ten times
more dangerous and fatal than it can be in England, for there he will scarcely
refuse his consent to a bill for putting England into as strong a state of
defense as possible, and in America he would never suffer such a bill to be

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 subtlety, 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 inhabitant 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 head. No man can assign the least pretense for his fears, on
any other grounds, that such as are truly childish and ridiculous, viz., that
one colony will be striving for superiority over another.

Where there are no distinctions there can be no superiority, perfect
equality affords no temptation. The republics of Europe are all (and we may say
always) in peace. Holland and 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 congress.

Let each colony be divided into six, eight, or ten, convenient districts,
each district to send a proper number of delegates to congress, so that each
colony send at least thirty. The whole number in congress will be at least
three hundred ninety. Each congress to sit ___ and to choose a president by the
following method. When the delegates are met, let a colony be taken from the
whole thirteen colonies by lot, after which let the whole congress choose (by
ballot) a president from out of the delegates of that province. In the
next Congress, let a colony be taken by lot from twelve only, omitting that
colony from which the president was taken in the former congress, and so
proceeding on till the whole thirteen shall have had their proper rotation. And
in order that nothing may pass into a law but what is satisfactorily just, not
less than three fifths of the congress to be called a majority. He that will
promote discord, under a government so equally formed as this, would 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
be held, in the following manner, and for the following

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 counselors, 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 preserve,

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
. 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* 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.

(*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 king.)

There are thousands and tens of thousands; who would think it glorious to
expel from the continent, that barbarous and hellish power, which hath stirred
up the Indians and Negroes to destroy us; the cruelty hath a double guilt, it
is dealing brutally by us, and treacherously by them. To talk of friendship
with those in whom our reason forbids us to have faith, and our affections,
(wounded through a thousand pores) instruct us to detest, is madness and folly.
Every day wears out the little remains of kindred between us and them, and can
there be any reason to hope, that as the relationship expires, the affection
will increase, or that we shall agree better, when we have ten times more and
greater concerns to quarrel over than ever?

Ye that tell us of harmony and reconciliation, can ye restore to us the time
that is past? Can ye give to prostitution its former innocence? Neither can ye
reconcile Britain and America. The last cord now is broken, the people of
England are presenting addresses against us. There are injuries which nature
cannot forgive; she would cease to be nature if she did. As well can the lover
forgive the ravisher of his mistress, as the continent forgive the murders of
Britain. The Almighty hath implanted in us these 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 mankind.

Of the present ability of America, with some
miscellaneous reflections

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 Entick’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, is as follows:

For a ship of

100 guns £35,553
90 £29,886
80 £23,638
70 £17,785
60 £14,197
50 £10,606
40 £7,558
30 £5,846
20 £3,710

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

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 £17,785 £746,755
35 60 £14,197 £496,895
40 50 £10,606 £424,240
45 40 £7,758 £344,110
58 20 £3,710 £215,180
85 Sloops, bombs, and fireships, one another £2,000 £170,000
Cost £3,266,786
Remains for guns £229,214
Total £3,500,000

No country on the globe is so happily situated, so internally capable of
raising a fleet as America. Tar, timber, iron, and cordage are her natural
produce. We need go abroad for nothing. Whereas the Dutch, who make large
profits by hiring out their ships of war to the Spaniards and Portuguese, are
obliged to import most of the materials they use. We ought to view the building
a fleet as an article of commerce, it being the natural manufactory of this
country. It is the best money we can lay out. A navy when finished is worth
more than it cost. And is that nice point in national policy, in which commerce
and protection are united. Let us build; if we want them not, we can sell; and
by that means replace our paper currency with ready gold and silver.

In point of manning a fleet, people in general run into great errors; it is
not necessary that one-fourth part should be sailors. The privateer Terrible,
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 landsmen in the common work of a ship. Wherefore, we never can be
more capable to begin on maritime matters than now, while our timber is
standing, our fisheries blocked up, and our sailors and shipwrights out of
employ. Men of war of seventy and eighty guns were built forty years ago in New
England, and why not the same now? Ship building is America’s greatest pride,
and in which, she will in time excel the whole world. The great empires of the
east are mostly inland, and consequently excluded from the possibility of
rivaling 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
defense 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 pretense 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 defense 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 defense 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

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 anything else. Commerce diminishes the spirit,
both of patriotism and military defense. 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
is the true time for establishing it. The intimacy which is
contracted in infancy, and the friendship which is formed in misfortune, are,
of all others, the most lasting and unalterable. Our present union is marked
with both these characters: we are young, and we have been distressed; but our
concord hath withstood our troubles, and fixes a memorable area for posterity
to glory in.

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

As to religion, I hold it to be the indispensable 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.

Earlier in this work, 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

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
; 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.*

*Those who would fully understand of what great consequence a large and
equal representation is to a state, should read Burgh’s political

To conclude: However strange it may appear to some, or however
unwilling they may be to think so, matters not, but many strong and striking
reasons may be given, to show, that nothing can settle our affairs so
expeditiously as an open and determined declaration for independence. Some of
which are:

First — It is the custom of nations, when any two are at war, for some
other powers, not engaged in the quarrel, to step in as mediators, and bring
about the preliminaries of a peace: but while America calls herself the subject
of Great Britain, no power, however well disposed she may be, can offer her
mediation. Wherefore, in our present state we may quarrel on for ever.

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

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 common understanding.

Fourthly — Were a manifesto to be published, and dispatched 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 necessity.


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 manners, it is
often better, to pass some things over in silent disdain, than to make use of
such new methods of dislike, as might introduce the least innovation, on that
guardian of our peace and safety. And perhaps, it is chiefly owing to this
prudent delicacy, that the king’s speech, hath not before now, suffered a
public execution. The speech if it may be called one, is nothing better than a
willful 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

Sir John Dalrymple, the putative father of a whining jesuitical piece,
fallaciously called, The address of the people of England to the inhabitants
of America
, hath, perhaps from a vain supposition, that the people here
were to be frightened at the pomp and description of a king, given, (though
very unwisely on his part) the real character of the present one: “But,” says
this writer, “if you are inclined to pay compliments to an administration,
which we do not complain of,” (meaning the Marquis of Rockingham’s at the
repeal of the Stamp Act) “it is very unfair in you to withhold them from 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

First — That it is the interest of America to be separated from

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 dependence, 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.

First — Because it will come to that one time or other.

Secondly — Because the longer it is delayed the harder it will be to

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
dependence. 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

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
dependence. 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 king and
his worthless adherents are got at their old game of dividing the continent,
and there are not wanting among us printers, who will be busy spreading
specious falsehoods. The artful and hypocritical letter which appeared a few
months ago in two of the New York papers, and likewise in two others, is an
evidence that there are men who want either judgment or honesty.

It is easy getting into holes and corners and talking of reconciliation: But
do such men seriously consider, how difficult the task is, and how dangerous it
may prove, should the Continent divide thereon. Do they take within their view,
all the various orders of men whose situation and circumstances, as well as
their own, are to be considered therein. Do they put themselves in the place of
the sufferer whose all is already gone, and of the soldier, who
hath quitted all for the defense 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

Put us, says some, on the footing we were in the year 1763: To which I
answer, the request is not nowin 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 pretense 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 1763, 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 defense) 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 defense became necessary, all
subjection to Britain ought to have ceased; and the independency of America
should have been considered, as dating its era from, and published by, the
first musket that was fired against her
. This line is a line of
consistency; neither drawn by caprice, nor extended by ambition; but produced
by a chain of events, of which the colonies were not the authors.

I shall conclude these remarks, with the following timely and well intended
hints, We ought to reflect, that there are three different ways by which an
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 cavillings, 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
dissension. 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

Epistle to Quakers

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,
“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

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
defense 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 willful 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
. 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* ye would preach repentance to your king; Ye
would tell the royal tyrant of 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.

*”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.

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

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
. 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

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

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

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

-The End-