edited by Edward Larkin
broadview editions INTRODUCTION
PERHAPS the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not yet sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favor; a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defence of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason. As a long and violent abuse of power, is generally the Means of calling the right of it in question (and in Matters too which might never have been thought of, had not the Sufferers been aggravated into the inquiry) and as the K- 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 usurpation of either. In the following sheets, the author has studiously avoided every thing which is personal among ourselves. Compliments as well as censure to individuals make no part thereof. The wise and the wor thy 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 conversion. The cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind. Many circumstances hath, and will arise, which are not local, but universal, and through which the principles of all Lovers of Mankind are affected, and in the Event of which their Affections are interested. The laying a Country desolate with Fire and Sword, declaring War against the natural rights of all Mankind, and extir pating the Defenders thereof from the Face of the Earth, is the Con cern of every man to whom Nature hath given the Power of feel ing; 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 necessar y) 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 Per formance 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.
COMMON SENSE 45 COMMON SENSE
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 cre ates 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 gOllernment, which we might expect in a country without government, our calami ties 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. J.1iherifore, security being the true design and end of government, it unanswerably follows that what ever form thereof appears most likely to ensure it to us, with the least expence and greatest benefit, is preferable to all others. In order to gain a clear and just idea of the design and end of gov ernment, 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 rus turn requires the same. Four or five united would be able to raise 1 tolerable dwelling in the midst of a wilderness, but one man might abor out the common period of life without accomplishing any :hing; when he had felled his timber he could not remove it, nor erect t after it was removed; hunger in the mean time would urge him to luit his work, and every different want would call him a different way. )isease, nay even misfortune would be death, for though neither
COMMON SENSE 47 might be mortal, yet either would disable him from living, and reduce frequent interchange will establish a common interest with every part him to a state in which he might rather be said to perish than to die. of the community, they will mutually and naturally support each Thus necessity, like a gravitating power, would soon form our other, and on this (not on the unmeaning name of king) depends the arrived emigrants into society, the reciprocal blessings of of gOl'ernment, and the happhless qfthe governed. which , would supercede, and render the obligations of law and gov Here then is the origin and rise of government; namely, a mode ernment unnecessary while they remained perfectly just to each rendered necessary by the inability of moral virtue to govern the other; but as nothing but heaven is impregnable to vice, it will world; here too is the design and end of government, viz. freedom unavoidably happen, that in proportion as they surmount the first and security. And however our eyes may be dazzled with show, or difficulties of emigration, which bound them together in a common our ears deceived by sound; however prejudice may warp our cause, they will begin to relax in their duty and attachment to each or interest darken our understanding, the simple voice of nature and other; and this remissness, will point out the necessity, of establishing reason will say, it is right. some form of government to supply the defect of moral virtue. 1 draw my idea of the form of government from a pr inciple in Some convenient tree will afford them a State-House, under the nature, which no art can overturn, viz. that the more simple any branches of which, the whole colony may assemble to deliberate on is, the less liable it is to be disordered, and the easier repaired public matters. It is more than probable that their first laws will have when disordered; and with this maxim in view, I offer a few remarks the title only of REGULATIONS, and be enforced by no other penal on the so much boasted constitution of England. 1 That it was noble ty than public disesteem. In this first parliament every man, by nat fi)r the dark and slavish times in which it was erected is granted. ural right will have a seat. When the world was over-run with tyranny the least remove there But as the colony increases, the public concerns will increase like from was a glor ious rescue. But that it is imperfect, subject to con wise, and the distance at which the members may be separated, will vulsions, and incapable of producing what it seems to promise, is eas render it too inconvenient for all of them to meet on every occasion demonstrated. when their number was small, their habitations near, and the Absolute governments (tho' the disgrace of human nature) concerns few and trifling. This will point out the convenience have this advantage with them, they are simple; if the people suf of their consenting to leave the legislative part to be managed by a fer, they know the head from which their suffering springs, know select number chosen from the whole body, who are supposed to likewise the remedy, and are not bewildered by a variety of caus have the same concerns at stake which those have who appointed es and cures. But the constitution of England is so exceedingly them, and who will act in the same manner as the whole body would complex, that the nation may suffer for years together without act were they present. If the colony continue increasing, it will being able to discover in which part the fault lies, some will say in become necessary to augment the number of representatives, and that one and some in another, and every political physician will advise the interest of every part of the colony may be attended to, it will be a different medicine. found best to divide the whole into convenient parts, each part send ing its proper number; and that the electetJ might never form to them selves an interest separate from the electors, prudence will point out the The English Constitution was not one single document, like the US propriety of having elections often; because as the elected might by Constitution, tor example. Rather, it was comprised of a series of docu 1688 that means return and mix again with the general body of the electors ments which included Magna Carta and the Declaration of Rights accepted by William and Mary when they ascended to the throne in in a few months, their fidelity to the public will be secured by the what is known as the Glorious Revolution. Rather than being codified prudent reflexion of not making a rod for themselves. 1 And as this in one document, the structure of the government and the rights of the of Great Britain were contingent upon a shared cultural under Paine is on the proverb the rod, spoil the child." He lISes standing shaped by these documents and case history. This this reference to a rod to suggest the the elected will be careful to repre explains why Paine often refers to the Constitution with a sent the interests of the electors to avoid being punished (with a lowercase 'c', since there isn't a specific document that bears the title of metaphorical rod) by them. constitution.
48 THOMAS PAINE COMMON SENSE 49 I know it is difficult to get over local or long standing prejudices, the expressions be pleasantly arranged, yet when examined they yet if we will suffer ourselves to examine the component parts of the appear idle and ambiguous; and it will always happen, that the nicest English constitution, we shall find them to be the base remains of construction that words are capable of, when applied to the descrip two ancient tyrannies, compounded with some new republican tion of something which either cannot exist, or is too incompre materials. hensible to be within the compass of description, will be words of First.-The remains of monarchical tyranny in the person of the sound only, and though they may amuse the ear, they cannot inform king. the mind, for this explanation includes a previous question, viz. How Secondly.-The remains of aristocratical tyranny in the persons of came the king by a power which the people are qfraili to trust, and the peers. obliged to check? Such a power could not be the gift of a wise people, Thirdly.-The new Republican materials, in the persons of the neither can any power, which needs checking, be from God; yet the commons, on whose virtue depends the freedom of England, provision which the constitution makes supposes such a power to The two first, by being hereditary, are independant of the people; exist. wherefore in a constitutional sense they contribute nothing towards But the provision is unequal to the task; the means either cannot the freedom of the State. or will not accomplish the end, and the whole affair is a felo de To say that the Constitution of England is a union of three pow for as the greater weight will always carry up the less, and as all the ers reciprocally checking each other, is farcical, either the words have wheels of a machine are put in motion by one, it only remains to no meaning, or they are flat contradictions. know which power in the constitution has the most weight, for that To say that the Commons is a check upon the king, presupposes will govern; and though the others, or a part of them, may clog, or, two things. as the phrase is, check the rapidity of its motion, yet so long as they First.-That the king is not to be trusted without being looked cannot stop it, their endeavours will be ineffectual, the first moving after, or in other words, that a thirst for absolute power is the natur power will at last have its way, and what it wants in speed is supplied al disease of monarchy. by time. Secondly.-That the commons, by being appointed for that pur That the crown is this overbearing part in the English Consti pose, are either wiser or more worthy of confidence than the tution needs not be mentioned, and that it derives its whole con crown. sequence merely from being the of places and pensions is But as the same constitution which gives the commons a power self-evident, wherefore, though we have been wise enough to shut to check the king by withholding the supplies, gives afterwards the and lock a door against absolute monarchy, we at the same time king a power to check the commons, by empowering him to reject have been foolish enough to put the crown in possession of the their other bills; it again supposes that the king is wiser than those key. whom it has already supposed to be wiser than him. A mere absur The prejudice of Englishmen, in favor of their own government by king, lords and commons, arises as much or more from national There is something exceedingly ridiculous in the composition of pride than reason. Individuals are undoubtedly safer in England than monarchy; it first excludes a man from the means of information, yet in some other countries, but the will of the king is as much the law empowers him to act in cases where the highest judgment is of the land in Britain as in France, with this difference, that instead required. The state of a king shuts him from the world, yet the busi of proceeding directly from his mouth, it is handed to the people ness of a king requires him to know it thoroughly; wherefore the dif under the formidable shape of an act of parliament. For the fate of ferent parts, unnaturally opposing and destroying each other, prove the whole character to be absurd and useless. "Fe1o de se" literally refers to a suicide or self-murder. Paine uses the Some writers have explained the English constitution thus; the term figuratively as a synonym for an absurdity. He suggests in this para king, say they, is one, the people another; the peers are a house in graph and the one that precedes it that the English constitution under behalf of the king; the commons in behalf of the people; but this mines itself by locating the source of its authority to govern in a series hath all the distinctions of a house divided against itself; and though of theoretical and structural contradictions.
50 THOMAS PAINE COMMON SENSE 51 Charles the First, hath only made kings more subtle-not more sion. Holland without a king hath enjoyed more peace for this last just.1 century than any of the monarchical governments in Europe. Antiq Wherefore, laying aside all national pride and prejudice in favour uity favors the same remark; for the quiet and rural lives of the first of modes and forms, the plain truth is, that it is wholly owing to the patriarchs have a happy something in them, which vanishes when we constitution of the people, and not to the constitution of the government that come to the history of Jewish royalty. the crown is not as oppressive in England as in Tu rkey. Government by kings was first introduced into the world by the An inquiry into the constitutional errors in the English form of gov Heathens, from whom the children of Israel copied the custom. It ernment is at this time highly necessary; for as we are never in a was the most prosperous invention the Devil ever set on foot for the proper condition of doing justice to others, while we continue promotion of idolatry. The heathens paid divine honors to their under the influence of some leading partiality, so neither are we deceased kings, and the christian world hath improved on the plan capable of doing it to ourselves while we remain fettered by any by doing the same to their living ones. How impious is the title of obstinate prejudice. And as a man who is attached to a prostitute, is sacred majesty applied to a worm, who in the midst of his splendor is unfitted to choose or judge of a wife, so any prepossession in favour crumbling into dust. of a rotten constitution of government will disable us from di scern As the exalting one man so greatly above the rest cannot be jus ing a good one. tified on the equal rights of nature, so neither can it be defended on the authority of scripture; for the will of the Almight y, as declared by OfMONARCHY and HEREDITARY SUCCESSION Gideon and the prophet Samuel, expressly di sapproves of govern ment by kings.1 All anti-monarchical parts of scripture have been MANKIND being originally equals in the order of creation, the equal very smoothly glossed over in monarchical governments, but they ity could only be destroyed by some subsequent circumstance; the undoubtedly merit the attention of countries which have their gov distinctions of rich, and poor, may in a great measure be account ed ernments yet to form. "Render unto Ca:sar the things which are Ca:sar's" for, and that without having recourse to the harsh, ill-sounding is the scriptural doctrine of courts, yet it is no support of monarchi names of oppression and avarice. Oppression is often the consequence, cal government, for the Jews at that time were without a king, and but seldom or never the means of riches; and though avarice will pre in a state of vassalage to the Romans.2 serve a man from being necessitously poor, it generally makes him Near three thousand years passed away from the Mosaic account of too timorous to be wealthy. the creation, till the Jews under a national delusion requested a king. But there is another and greater distinction for which no truly Till then their form of government (except in extraordinary cases, natural or religious reason can be assigned, and that is, the di stinc where the Almight y interposed) was a kind of republic administered tion of men into KINGS and SUBJECTS. Male and female are the dis by a judge and the elders of the tribes. Kings they had none, and it was tinctions of nature, good and bad the distinctions of heaven; but how held sinful to acknowledge any being under that title but the Lord of a race of men came into the world so exalted above the rest, and di s Hosts. And when a man seriously reflects on the idolatrous homage tinguished like some new species, is worth inquiring into, and which is paid to the persons of Kings, he need not wonder, that the whether they are the means of happiness or of misery to mankind. Almight y, ever jealous of his honor, should disapprove a form of gov In the early ages of the world, according to the scripture chronol ernment which so impiously invades the prerogative of heaven. ogy, there were no kings; the consequence of which was there were Monarchy is ranked in scripture as one of the sins of the Jews, for no wars; it is the pride of kings which throws mankind into confu- which a curse in reserve is denounced against them. The history of that transaction is worth attending to.
Charles I (1600-49) ruled England from 1625-49, although for the last seven years of his rule he did not really exert any power. In 1642 Civil War broke out in England and the Parliamentary Forces, led by Oliver 1 The story of Gideon appears in Judges 6-8. Cromwell, defeated Charles' army three years later. Charles was executed 2 See Matthew 22.21, Mark 12.17, and Luke 20.25. All of Paine's biblical by order of Parliament in 1649. quotations are taken from the King James Version.
52 THOMAS PAINE COMMON SENSE 53 The children ofIsrael being oppressed by the Midianites, Gideon he said, This shall be the manner ifthe king that shall reign over you; he will marched against them with a small army, and victory, thro' the divine take your sons and appoint them for himselffor his chariots, and to be his horse inter position decided in his favor.The Jews, elate with success, and men, and some shall run bifore his chariots (this description agrees with attributing it to the generalship of Gideon, proposed making him a the present mode of impressing men) and he will appoint him captains I king, saying, Rule thou over us, thou and thy son and thy son s son. Here over thousands and captains overfifties, and will set them to ear his ground and was temptation in its fullest extent; not a kingdom only, but an to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments ifwar, and instruments hereditary one, but Gideon in the piety of his soul replied, I will not and he will take your daughters to be confectionaries and to be cooks rule over you, neither shall my son rtlle over you, THE LORD SHALL RULE and to be bakers (this describes the expence and luxury as well as the 2 OVER YOu. Words need not be more explicit; Gideon doth not oppression of kings) and he will take your fields and your olive yards, even decline the honor but denieth their right to give it; neither doth he the best ifthem, and give them to his servants; and he will take the tenth if compliment them with invented declarations of his thanks, but in your seed, and ifyour vineyards, and give them to his C!fficers and to his ser the positive style of a prophet charges them with disaffection to their vants (by which we see that bribery, corruption, and favoritism are the proper sovereign, the King of Heaven. standing vices of kings) and he will take the tenth ifyour men servants, and About one hundred and thirty years after this, they fell again into your maid servants, and your goodliest young men and your asses, and put the same error. The hankering which the Jews had for the idolatrous them to his work; and he will take the tenth ifyour sheep, and ye shall be his customs of the Heathens, is something exceedingly unaccountable; but servants, and ye shall cry out in that day because ifyour king which ye shall so it was, that laying hold of the misconduct of Samuel's two sons, who have chosen, AND THE LORD WILL NOT HEAR YOU IN THAT DAY."This were intrusted with some secular concerns, they can1e in an abrupt accounts for the continuation of monarchy; neither do the characters and clamorous manner to Samuel, saying, Behold thou art old, and thy of the few good kings which have lived since, either sanctify the title, sons walk not tn thy ways, now make us a king to judge us like all the other or blot out the sinfulness of the origin; the high encomium given of nations.3 And here we cannot but observe that their motives were David takes no notice of him tfficially as a king, but only as a man after viz. that they might be like unto other nations, i.e. the Heathens, God's own heart. Nevertheless the People r!fused to obey the voice if whereas their true glory lay in being as much unlike them as possible. Samuel, and they said, Nay, but we will have a king over us, that we may be But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, give us a king to judge us; like all the nations, and that our king may judge us, and go out bifore us and and Samuel prayed unto the Lord, and the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken fightour battles.1 Samuel continued to reason with them, but to no pur unto the voice ifthe people in all that they say unto thee,Jor they have not pose; he set before them their ingratitude, but all would not avail; and njected thee, but they have rejected me, THATI SHOULD NOT REIGN OVER seeing them fully bent on their folly, he cried out, I will call unto the THEM. According to all the works u'hich they have done since the day that I Lord, and he shall send thunder and rain (which then was a punishment, brought them up out ifEgypt even unto this day; wherewith they being in the time of wheat harvest) that ye may perceive and see that YOllr saken me and served other Gods; so do they also unto thee. Now therifore hear wickedness is great which ye have done in the sight ifthe Lord, IN ASKING ken unto their voice, howbeit, protest solemnly unto them and show them the YOU A KING. SO Samuel called unto the Lord, and the Lord sent thunder and manner ifthe king that shall reignover them, i.e. not of any particular king, rain that day, and all the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel. And all but the general manner of the kings of the earth, whom Israel was so the people said unto Samuel, Pray for thy servants unto the Lord thy God that eagerly copying after. And notwithstanding the great distance of time we die not, for WE HAVE ADDED UNTO OUR SINS THI S EVIL, TO A SK A and difference of manners, the character is still in fashion, And Samuel told all the words ifthe Lord unto the people, that asked ifhim a king. And This is where the section from 1Samuel 5-8 ends. Paine strategically omits the story of Saul, in which the Lord appears to choose Saul to Judges 8.22. become king of the Israelites. Instead he continues his narrative at 1 2 Judges 8.23. Samuel 12:17-19 in which Samuel once again chastises the Israelites for 3 The story ofSamucl and the Israelites' desire for a king is recounted in their lack of faith in the Lord and they acknowledge their error. Those the first book of Samuel. The passages Paine cites here can be found in 1 passages are reproduced in the two italicized quotations that appear next Samuel 5-8. in the text of Common SetlSe.
54 THOMAS PAINE COMMON SENSE 55 KING. These portions of scripture are direct and positive. They admit Secondly, as no man at first could possess any other public hon of no equivocal constr uction. That the Almighty hath here entered his ors than were bestowed upon him, so the of those honors protest against monarchical government is true, or the scripture is £1.Ise. could have no power to give away the right of posterity, and though And a man hath good reason to believe that there is as much of king they might say "We choose you for our head," they could not, with craft as priest-craft in withholding the scripture from the public in out manifest injustice to their children, say "that your children and Popish countries. For monarchy in every instance is the Popery of your children's children shall reign over ours for ever." Because such government. 1 an unwise, unjust, unnatural compact might (perhaps) in the next To the evil of monarchy we have added that of hereditary suc succession put them under the government of a rogue or a fooL cession; and as the first is a degradation and lessening of ourselves, so Most wise men, in their private sentiments, have ever treated hered the second, claimed as a matter of right, is an insult and imposition itary right with contempt; yet it is one of those evils, which when on posterity. For all men being originally equals, no one by birth once established is not easily removed: many submit from fear, oth could have a right to set up his own family in perpetual preference ers from superstition, and the more powerful part shares with the to all others for ever, and though himself might deserve some decent king the plunder of the rest. degree of honors of his cotemporaries, yet his descendants might be This is supposing the present race of kings in the world to have far too unworthy to inherit them. One of the strongest natural proofs had an honorable origin; whereas it is more than probable, that could of the folly of hereditary right in kings, is, that nature disapproves it, we take off the dark covering of antiquity, and trace them to their otherwise she would not so frequently turn it into ridicule, by giv first rise, that we should find the first of them nothing better than 2 ing mankind an ass for a lion. the principal ruffian of some restless gang, whose savage manners or pre-eminence in subtilty obtained him the ti tle of chief among
One of the most far-reaching changes brought about the Protestant plunderers; and who by increasing in power, and extending hi s Reformation was the production and dissemination of the Bible in the depredations, over-awed the quiet and defenceless to purchase their vernacular rather than the traditional Latin. The Reformation also safety by frequent contributions. Yet his electors could have no idea for the need to conduct Mass in the vernacular. The Catholic Church of giving hereditary right to his descendants, because such a perpet continued to disseminate the Bible only in Latin until the Second Vatican ual exclusion of themselves was incompatible with the free and Council (1962-65), when the Church also sanctioned the use of the ver unrestrained principles they professed to live by. Wherefore, heredi Mass and other Church ceremonies. As a consequence of tary succession in the early ages of monarchy could not take place as one of the most conunon charges leveled by Protestants a matter of claim, but as something casual or complimental; but as the Catholic Church since the time of the Reformation was that few or no records were extant in those days, and traditionary histo its followers did not have access to the scripture and were therefore vul ry stuffed with fables, it was very easy, after the lapse of a few gen nerable to manipulation, deception, and tnisinformation. 2 Paine is invoking Aesop's fable of "The Ass in the Lion's Skin." In Samuel erations, to trump up some superstitious tale, conveniently timed, 1 Croxall's translation, the most popular version of Aesop in England and Mahomet like, to cram hereditary right down the throats of the America in the eighteenth century (fables i?fAesop and Others, London, vulgar. Perhaps the di sorders which threatened, or seemed to threat 1722; Philadelphia. 1777), an ass finds the "skin of a lion" and uses it as a en on the decease of a leader and the choice of a new one (for elec disguise to frighten "all the flocks and herds" (68). When the ass tries to tions among ruffians could not be very orderly) induced many at frighten his owner, however, he him by his ears, The owner firstto favor hereditary pretensions; by which means it happened, as then beats the ass and reminds him that "notwithstanding his being drest in Lion's Skin, he was really no more than an Ass" (68). In the "Applica
tion," or lesson, of the fable Croxall concludes "he who puts on a shew Mahomet is the common eighteenth-century British name for the """rTlIn" of Religion, of a superior Capacity in any respect, or in prophet Muhanm1ad (c. 570-632 CE), founder of Islam. Paine shares his short, of any Virtue or Knowledge to which he has no proper Claim, is, ' Protestant countrymen's prejudice against Islam and thus identifies it and will always be found to be, An Ass in a Lion's Skifl" (69), Paine thus with superstition, Curiously, in The Age f Reason (1794) he refers to not only implies that kings are often asses disguised as lions, but also that Muhammad in much more neutral terms, calline: him the founder of a he is the one who identifies the deceiver for the benefit of his peers, religion and him to Moses and in that role.
THOMAS PAINE 56 COMMON SENSE 57 it hath happened since, that what at first was submitted to as a all men obeyed; as in the one all mankind were subjected to Satan, convenience, was afterwards claimed as a right. and in the other to Sovereignty; as our innocence was lost in the England, since the conquest, hath known some few good mon first, and our authority in the last; and as both disable us from re archs, but groaned beneath a much larger number of bad ones, yet assuming some former state and privilege, it unanswerably follows no man in his senses can say that their claim under William the Con that original sin and hereditary succession are parallels. Dishonorable queror is a very honorable one.1 A French bastard landing with an rank! Inglorious connection! Yet the most subtle sophist cannot pro armed banditti, and establishing himself king of England against the duce a juster simile. consent of the natives, is in plain terms a very paltry rascally origi As to usurpation, no man will be so hardy as to defend it; and that naL-It certainly hath no divinity in it. However, it is needless to William the Conqueror was an usurper is a fact not to be contra spend much time in exposing the folly of hereditary right, if there dicted. The plain truth is, that the antiquity of English monarchy will are any so weak as to believe it, let them promiscuously worship the not bear looking into. ass and lion, and welcome. I shall neither copy their humility, nor But it is not so much the absurdity as the evil of hereditary suc disturb their devotion. cession which concerns mankind. Did it ensure a race of good and Yet I should be glad to ask how they suppose kings came at first? wise men it would have the seal of divine authority, but as it opens The question admits but of three answers, viz. either by lot, by elec a door to the foolish, the wicked, and the improper, it hath in it the tion, or by usurpation. If the first king was taken by lot, it establish nature of oppression. Men who look upon themselves born to reign, es a precedent for the next, which excludes hereditary succession. and others to obey, soon grow insolent; selected from the rest of Saul was by lot yet the succession was not hereditary, neither does it mankind, their minds are early poisoned by importance; and the appear from that transaction there was any intention it ever should.2 world they act in differs so materially from the world at large, that If the first king of any country was by election, that likewise estab they have but little opportunity of knowing its true interests, and lishes a precedent for the next; for to say, that the right of all future when they succeed to the government are frequently the most igno generations is taken away, by the act of the first electors, in their rant and unfit of any throughout the dominions. choice not only of a king, but of a family of kings for ever, hath no Another evil which attend, hereditary succession is, that the parallel in or out of scripture but the doctrine of original sin, which throne is subject to be possessed by a minor at any age; all which supposes the free will of all men lost in Adam; and from such com time the regency, acting under the cover of a king, have every oppor par ison, and it will admit of no other, hereditary succession can tunity and inducement to betray their trust. The same national mis derive no glory. For as in Adam all sinned, and as in the first electors fortune happens, when a king worn out with age and enters the last stage of human weakness. In both these cases the pub lic becomes a prey to every miscreant, who can tamper successfully
William the Conqueror (1027-87), illegitimate son of the Duke of N or with the follies either of age or infancy. mandy (now part of France) , invaded England in 1066 and defeated the The most plausible plea which hath ver been offered in favor of Anglo-Saxon Harold II who had just ascended to the throne.William's hereditary succession, is, that it preserves a nation from civil wars; impressive victory and subsequent importation of Norman laws and cus and were this true, it would be weighty; whereas it is the most toms had a profound impact on English history, as it fundanlentally barefaced falsity ever imposed upon mankind. The whole history of reshaped the political and social landscape of the country. England disowns the fact.Thirty kings and two minors have reigned 2 Here Paine returns to the account of Saul that he had omitted in his in that distracted kingdom since the conquest, in which time there earlier interpretation of these events from the Book of SamueL This have been (including the Revolution) no less than eight civil wars particular reference is to 1 Samuel 10.20-24. Paine offers a somewhat and nineteen rebellions. Wherefore instead of making for peace, it tenuous reading ofSau]'s selection because in 1Samuel 9.15-17 the Lord it, and destroy s the very foundation it seems to stand explicidy tellsSamuel that he will "send to you a man from the land of makes against Benjamin, and you shall anoint him to be prince over my people IsraeL" on. The may choose by lot, but in the broader context of the narra The contest for monarchy and succession, between the houses of tive the Lord has chosen Saul to be king. York and Lancaster, laid England in a scene of blood for many years.
58 THOMAS PAINE COMMON SENSE 59 Tw elve pitched battles, besides skirmishes and sieges, were fought the virtue of the house of commons (the republican part in the between Henry and Edward.1 Twice was Henry prisoner to Edward, constitution) that the government of England is nearly as monar who in his turn was prisoner to Henry. And so uncertain is the fate chical as that of France or Spain. Men fall out with names without of war and the temper of a nation, when nothing but personal mat understanding them. For it is the republican and not the monarchi ters are the ground of a quarrel, that Henry was taken in triumph cal part of the constitution of England which Englishmen glory in, from a prison to a palace, and Edward obliged to fly from a palace to viz. the liberty of choosing an house of commons from out of their a foreign land; yet, as sudden transitions of temper are seldom last own body-and it is easy to see that when republican virtues fail, ing, Henry in his turn was driven from the throne, and Edward slavery ensues. Why is the Constitution of E-d sickly, but because recalled to succeed him. The parliament always following the monarchy hath poisoned the republic; the crown has engrossed the strongest side. commons? This contest began in the reign of Henry the Sixth, and was not In England a k- hath little more to do than to make war and entirely extinguished till Henry the Seventh, in whom the families give away places; which in plain terms, is to empoverish the nation were united. Including a period of 67 years, viz. from 1422 to 1489. and set it together by the ears. A pretty business indeed for a man to In short, monarchy and succession have laid (not this or that king be allowed eight hundred thousand sterling a year for, and wor dom only) but the world in blood and ashes. 'Tis a form of govern shipped into the bargain! Of more worth is one honest man to soci ment which the word of God bears testimony against, and blood will ety, and in the sight of God, than all the crowned ruffians that ever attend it. lived. If we inquire into the business of a king, we shall findthat in some countries they may have none; and after sauntering away their lives Thoughts on the present State of American Affairs without pleasure to themselves or advantage to the nation. withdraw from the scene, and leave their successors to tread the same idle IN the following pages I offer nothing more than simple facts, plain round. In absolute monarchies the whole weight of business civil and arguments, and common sense; and have no other preliminaries to military lies on the king; the children of Israel in their request for a settle with the reader, than that he will divest himself of prejudice king, urged this plea, "that he may judge us, and go out before us and and prepossession, and suffer his reason and his feelings to determine fight our batdes." But in countries where he is neither a judge nor a for themselves; that he will put on, or rather that he will not put iff, general, as in E--d, a man would be puzzled to know what is his the true character of a man, and generously enlarge his views beyond business. the present day. The nearer any government approaches to a republic the less Volumes have been written on the subject of the struggle business there is for a king. It is somewhat difficult to fmd a proper between England and America. Men of all ranks have embarked in name for the government of E-. Sir William Meredith calls it a the controversy, from different motives, and with various designs; but republic; but in its present state it is unworthy of the name, because all have been ineffectual, and the period of debate is closed. Arms, as the corrupt influence of the crown, by having all the places in its the last resource, decide the contest; the appeal was the choice of the disposal, hath so effectually swallowed up the power, and eaten out king, and the continent has accepted the challenge. It hath been reported of the late Mr. Pelham1 (who tho' an able minister was not without his faults) that on his being attacked in the The Wars of the Roses began during Henry VI's reign when Edward of house of commons on the score, that his measures were only of a York (later Edward IV) contested Henry of Lancaster's claim to the temporary kind, replied, "they will last my time. " Should a thought so throne. Begimring in 1455 the houses of Lancaster andYork engaged in armed struggle for the next 32 years until the Battle of Bosworth Field fatal and unmanly possess the colonies in the present contest, the where Richard III, Edward's brother, was defeated. Henry VII, related to the House of Lancaster but not a direct descendant of Henry VI, became king and established the Tudor line, which ushered in a period of relative Henry Pelham (1694-1754) served as Prime Minister of England from stability. 1743 until his death in 1754.
60 THOMAS PAINE COMMON SENSE 61 name of ancestors will be remembered by future generations with nexion and dependance, on the principles of nature and common detestation. sense, to see what we have to trust to, if separated, and what we are The sun never shined on a cause of greater worth. 'Tis not the to expect, if dependant. affair of a city, a county, a province, or a kingdom, but of a conti I have heard it asserted by some, that as America hath flourished nent--of at least one eighth part of the habitable globe. 'Tis not the under her former connection with Great-Britain, the same connec concern of a day, a year, or an age; posterity are virtually involved in tion is necessar y towards her future happiness, and will always have the contest, and will be more or less affected, even to the end of the same effect. Nothing can be more fallacious than this kind of time, by the proceedings now. Now is the seed time of continental argument. We may as well assert, that because a child has thrived union, faith and honor. The least fracture now will be like a name upon milk, that it is never to have meat; or that the first twenty years engraved with the point of a pin on the tender rind of a young oak; of our lives is to become a precedent for the next twenty. But even the wound will enlarge with the tree, and posterity read it in full this is admitting more than is true, for I answer roundly, that Amer grown characters. ica would have flourished as much, and probably much more, had no By referring the matter from argument to arms, a new era for European power had any thing to do with her. The commerce by politics is struck; a new method of thinking hath arisen. All plans, which she hath enriched herself are the necessaries of and will proposals, &c. prior to the nineteenth of April, i.e. to the com always have a market while eating is the custom of Europe. mencement of hostilities, are like the almanacks of the last year; But she has protected us, say some. That she hath engrossed us is which, though proper then, 1 are superceded and useless now. What true, and defended the continent at our expence as well as her own ever was advanced by the advocates on either side of the question is admitted, and she would have defended Tu rkey from the same then, terminated in one and the same point, viz. a union with Great motive, viz. the sake of trade and dominion. Britain; the only difference between the parties was the method of we have been long led away by ancient prejudices, and effecting it; the one proposing force, the other friendship; but it hath made large sacrifices to superstition. We have boasted the protection so far happened that the first has failed, and the second hath with of Great-Britain, without considering, that her motive was interest drawn her influence. not attachment; that she did not protect us from our enemies on our As much hath been said of the advantages of reconciliation, account; but from her enemies on her own account, from those who had which, like an agreeable dream, hath passed away and left us as we no quarrel with us on any other account, and who will always be our were, it is but right, that we should examine the contrary side of the enemies on the same account. Let Britain wave her pretensions to the argument, and inquire into some of the many material injuries continent, or the continent throw off the dependance, and we which these colonies sustain, will and always sustain, by being con should be at peace with France and Spain were they at war with nected with, and dependant on Great Britain. To examine that con- Britain. The miseries of Hanover's last war ought to warn us against connexions. It hath lately been asserted in parliament, that the colonies have On April 19, 1775 British forces in stationed Boston set out to confiscate no relation to each other but through the parent country, i. e. that a cache of arms that they had learned were being kept by the Massachu Pensylvania and the Jerseys, and so on for the rest, are sister colonies setts militia in Concord, a town just outside of Boston.In what is often by the way of England; this is certainly a very round-about way of considered the first battle of the American Revolution, even though it proving relationship, but it is the nearest and only true way of prov took place 15 months before the Declaration ofIndependence was I signed, the Massachusetts ing enemyship, if may so call it. France and Spain never were, nor forces ("the Minutemen") repeatedly set ambushes and sniped perhaps ever will be our enemies as Americans, but as our being the at the British. By the end of the day the heavily outnumbered Amer 273 subjects ifGreat Britain. icans had killed British soldiers and lost only 95 of their own. This battle has become the source of several of the slogans But Britain is the parent country, say some. Then the more shame and myths of the Revolution, including "the shot heard round the upon her conduct. Even brutes do not devour their young, nor sav world" and Paul Revere's midnight ride. Later in the text Paine calls it ages make war upon their families; wherefore the assertion, if true, the "Massacre at Lexington." turns to her reproach; but it happens not to be true, or only pardy
62 THOMAS PAINE COMMON SENSE 63 inhabitants, even of this province [Pennsylvania1, are of English so, and the phrase parent or mother country hath been jesuitically! descent.! Wherefore I reprobate the phrase of parent or mother adopted by the and his parasites, with a low papistical design country applied to England only, as being false, selfIsh, narrow and of gaining an unfair bias on the credulous weakness of our minds. ungenerous. Europe, and not England, is the parent country of America. This But admitting that we were all of descent, what does it new world hath been the asylum for the persecuted lovers of civil and religious liberty from every part of Europe. Hither have they amount to? Nothing. Britain, being now an open enemy, extin not from the tender embraces of the mother, but from the cru every other name and title: And to say that reconciliation is elty of the monster; and it is so far true of England, that the same our duty, is truly farcical. The first king of England, of the present line (William the Conqueror) was a Frenchman, and half the peers tyranny which drove the first emigrants from home, pursues their of England are descendants from the same country; wherefore by the descendants still. In this extensive quarter of the globe, we the narrow lim- same method of reasoning, England ought to be governed by its of three hundred and sixty miles (the extent of England) and France. carry our friendship on a larger scale; we claim brotherhood with Much hath been said of the united strength of Britain and the colonies, that in conjunction they might bid defiance to the world. every European christian, and triumph in the generosity of the sentiment. But this is mere presumption; the fate of war is uncertain, neither do It is pleasant to observe by what regular gradations we sur the expressions mean any thing; for this continent would never suf mount the force of local prejudice, as we enlarge our acquaintance fer itself to be drained of inhabitants to support the British arms in with the world. A man born in any town in England divided into either Asia, Africa, or Europe. parishes, will naturally associate most with his fellow parishioners Besides, what have we to do with setting the world at defIance? (because their interests in many cases will be common) and distin Our plan is commerce, and that, well attended to, will secure us the all guish him by the name of neighbour; if he meet him but a few miles peace and friendship of Europe; because it is the interest of all from home, he drops the narrow idea of a street, and salutes him Europe to have America a free port. Her trade will always be a pro by the name of townsman; if he travel out of the county, and meet tection, and her barrenness of gold and silver secure her from him in any other, he the minor divisions of street and town, invaders. and calls him collntryman, i.e. cormtyman; but if in their foreign I challenge the warmest advocate for reconciliation, to shew, a single g excursions they should associate in France or any other part of advantage that this continent can reap, by bein connected with Great Britain. I the Europe, their local remembrance would be enlarged into that of Englishmen. And by a just parity of reasoning, all Europeans meet ing in America, or any other quarter of the globe, are countrymen; In his study of eighteenth-century immigration to the colonies, Hopeful for England, Holland, Germany, or Sweden, when compared with Journeys: German immigratiofl, Settlement, and Political Culture in Colonial 1717-1775 Up, 1996), the whole, stand in the same places on the scale, which the America, (Pennsylvania Aaron Spencer Fogleman 1776, divisions of street, town, and county do on the smaller ones; dis notes, "By large numbers of Germans, Scots, Irish, and other tinctions too limited for continental minds. Not one third of the 'strangers' populated the colonies, in addition to hundreds of thousands of Africans and African-Americans.The ethnic population had become a minority" (3). In a colony like Pennsylvania, populated eighteenth century the Jesuits were popularly perceived by Protes German immigrants (the misnamed Pennsylvania Dutch), the ethnic 1790 tant English and North Americans as deceitful and conniving. Anti English population would have been even smaller. In the census, 25.8 Catholic feeling was very strong in the Protestant Anglo-American for example, per cent of Pennsylvanians were ethnic (Fogle 82). world. so Paine and his contemporaries often used references to the man, Paine's perspective was shaped by his residence in Philadelphia, Roman Catholic church pejoratively. Another instance of this anti so his perception more accurately reflected the ethnic diversity in his Catholic bias is the frequent use of the terms derived from the home colony than it did the situation in New which, due to popish and popery, as a synonym for tyranny or to indicate an excessIve ll11gralt)on patterns and other social and religious factors, tended to be reliance on meanimdess ceremony and/or mystery. more English.
64 THOMAS PAINE COMMON SENSE 65 derived. Our corn will fetch its price in any market in Europe, and that eminence will present a prospect, which a few present fears and our imported goods must be paid for buy them where we will. prejudices conceal from our sight. But the injuries and disadvantages which we sustain by that con Though I would carefully avoid giving unnecessary offence, yet I all nection, are without number; and our duty to mankind at large, as am inclined to believe, that those who espouse the doctrine of well as to ourselves, instruct us to renounce the alliance: Because, reconciliation, may be included within the following descriptions. any submission to, or dependance on Great Britain, tends directly to Interested men, who are not to be trusted; weak men who cannot see; involve this continent in European wars and quarrels; and sets us at prejudiced men who will not see; and a certain set of moderate men, variance with nations, who would otherwise seek our friendship, who think better of the European world than it deserves; and this and against whom, we have neither anger nor complaint. As Europe last class by an ill-judged deliberation, will be the cause of more is our market for trade, we ought to form no partial connection calamities to this continent than all the other three. with any part of it. It is the true interest of America to steer clear of It is the good fortune of many to li ve distant from the scene of European contentions, which she never can do, while by her sorrow; the evil is not sufficiently brought to their doors to make dependance on Britain, she is made the makeweight in the scale of them feel the precariousness with which all Anlerican propert y is British politics. possessed. But let our imaginations transport us for a few moments Europe is too thickly planted with kingdoms to be long at peace, to Boston, that seat of wretchedness will teach us wisdom, and and whenever a war breaks out between England and any foreign instruct us for ever to renounce a power in whom we can have no power, the trade of America goes to ruin, because ifher connection with trust. The inhabitants of that unfortunate city, who but a few months Britain. The next war may not turn out like the last , and should it ago were in ease and affiuence, have now no other alternative than not, the advocates for reconciliation now will be wishing for separa to stay and starve, or turn out to beg. Endangered by the fire of their tion then, because, neutrality in that case, would be a safer convoy friends if they continue within the city, and plundered by the sol than a man of war. thing that is right or natural pleads for sep diery if they leave it. In their present condition they are prisoners aration. The blood of the slain, the weeping voice of nature cries, without the hope of redemption, and in a general attack for their ' TIS TIME TO PART. Even the distance at which the Almighty hath relief, they would be exposed to the fury of both armies. placed England and America, is a strong and natural proof, that the Men of passive tempers look somewhat lightly over the offences authority of the one, over the other, was never the design of heaven. of Britain, and, still hoping for the best , are apt to call out, "Come we The time likewise at which the continent was discovered, adds shall be friends again for all this." But examine the passions and feel weight to the argument, and the manner in which it was peopled ings of mankind. Bring the doctrine of reconciliation to the touch encreases the force of it. The reformation was preceded by the dis stone of nature, and then tell me, whether you can hereafter love, covery of America, as if the Almighty graciously meant to open a honour, and faithfully serve the power that hath carried fire and sanctuary to the persecuted in future years, when home should sword into your land? If you cannot do all these, then are you only afford neither friendship nor safety. deceiving yourselves, and by your delay bringing ruin upon poster The authority of Great-Britain over this continent, is a form of ity.Your future connection with Britain, whom you can neither love government , which sooner or later must have an end: And a serious nor honor, will be forced and unnatural, and formed only on mind can draw no true pleasure by looking forward, under the the plan of present convenience, will in a little time fallinto a relapse painful and positive conviction, that what he calls "the present 'on more wretched than the first. But if you say, you can still pass the stitution"is merely temporary. As parents, we can have no joy, know violations over, then I ask, Hath your house been burnt? Hath your ing that this .l?0vernment is not sufficiently lasting to ensure any thing property been destroyed before your face? Are your wife and chil which we may bequeath to posterity: And by a plain method of dren destitute of a bed to lie on, or bread to live on? Have you lost argument, as we are running the next generation into debt, we a parent or a child by their hands, and yourself the ruined and to do the work of it, otherwise we use them meanly and pitifully. In wretched survivor? If you have not, then are you not a judge of those order to discover the line of our duty rightly, we should take our who have. But if you have, and can still shake hands with the mur children in our hand, and fix our station a few years farther into life; derers, then are you unworthy the name of husband, father, friend,
66 THOMAS PAINE COMMON SENSE 67 or lover, and whatever may be your rank or title in life, you have the To say, they will never attempt it again is idle and visionary; we heart of a coward, and the spirit of a sycophant. thought so at the repeal of the stamp-act,l yet a year or two unde This is not inflaming or exaggerating matters, but trying them by ceived us; as well we suppose that nations, which have been once those feelings and affections which nature justifies, and without defeated, will never renew the quarrel. which, we should be incapable of discharging the social duties of life, As to government matters, it is not in the power of Britain to do or enjoying the felicities of it. I mean not to exhibit horror for the this continent justice: The business of it will soon be too weighty, purpose of provoking revenge, but to awaken us from fatal and and intricate, to be managed with any tolerable degree of conve unmanly slumbers, that we may pursue determinately some fixed nience, by a power, so distant from us, and so very ignorant of us; for object. It is not in the power of Britain or of Europe to conquer if they cannot conquer us, they cannot govern us. To be always run America, ifshe do not conquer herself by delay and timidity. The pre ning three or four thousand miles with a tale or a petition, waiting sent "vinter is worth an age if rightly employed, but if lost or neglect four or five months for an answer, which when obtained requires ed, the whole continent will partake of the misfortune; and there is five or six more to explain it in, will in a few years be looked upon no punishment which that man doth not deser ve, be he who, or as folly and childishness-There was a time when it was proper, and what, or where he will, that may be the means of sacrificing a sea there is a proper time for it to cease. son so precious and useful. Small islands not capable of protecting themselves, are the proper It is repugnant to reason, to the universal order of things, to all objects for kingdoms to take under their care; but there is something examples from former ages, to suppose, that this continent can long absurd, in supposing a continent to be perpetually governed by an remain subject to any external power. The most sanguine in Britain island. In no instance hath nature made the satellite larger than its doth not think so. The utmost stretch of human wisdom calmot, at primary planet, and as England and America, with respect to each this time compass a plan short of separation, which can promise the other, reverse the common order of nature, it is evident they belong continent even a year's security. Reconciliation is now a fallacious to different systems: England to Europe, America to itself. dream. Nature has deserted the connexion, and Art cannot supply I am not induced by motives of pride, party, or resentment to her place. For, as Milton wisely expresses, "never can true reconcile espouse the doctrine of separation and independance; I am clearly, ment grow where wounds of deadly hate have pierced so deep."l positively, and conscientiously persuaded that it is the true interest of Every quiet method for peace hath been ineffectual. Our prayers this continent to be so; that everything short of that is mere patch have been rejected with disdain; and only tended to convince us, that work, that it can afford no lasting felicity,-that it is leaving the nothing flatters vanity, or confirms obstinacy in Kings more than sword to our children, and back at a time, when a little repeated petitioning-and nothing hath contributed more than that very measure to make the Kings of Europe absolute: Witness Den The Stamp Act (1765) was the first attempt by the British Parliament to mark and Sweden. Wherefore since nothing but blows will do, for tax the American colonies direcdy. Great Britain had expended a great God's sake, let us come to a final separation, and not leave the next deal of capital defending its American colonies in the Seven Years War generation to be cutting throats under the violated unmeaning with France (also known as the French and Indian War) and Parliament names of parent and child. decided that the colonies should help defray the costs of their defense. The colonists were outraged. They saw it as an unlawful tax and a viola tion of their rights as Englishmen: hence the famous slogan "No taxation John Milton (1608-74) is generally considered one of the greatest Eng without representation." Parliament repealed the act in 1766 but reassert lish poets. His major works include Paradise Lost, Samson Agonistes, and ed its power to tax the colonies in the Declaratory Act. A year later, Par Paradise Regained. Milton, a devout Puritan and support er of the Com liament ratified the To wnshend Acts which included a series of taxes on mon wealth, also wrote important works advocating civil and religious glass, paper, paint, lead, and tea. The crises over the Stamp Act and the liberty. He was widely read in eighteenth-century America not only for To wnshend Duties are often seen as a critical prelude to the Revolution. his poetic brilliance but also for his political writings.This quotation is Paine repeatedly implies that the crisis in British-American relations in taken from Satan's speech at the beginning of Book 4 of Paradise Lost 1776 is simply an extension of the same problems that had arisen with 98-99). the Stamp Act.
68 THOMAS PAINE COMMON SENSE 69 more, a little farther, wo uld have rendered this continent the glory First. The powers of governing still remaining in the hands of the of the earth. k-, he will have a negative over the whole legislation of this con As Britain hath not manifested the least inclination towards a tinent. And as he hath shown himself such an inveterate enemy to compromise, we may be assured that no terms can be obtained wor liberty, and discovered such a thirst for arbitrary power; is he, or is he the acceptance of the continent, or any ways equal to the not, a proper man to say to these colonies, "You shall make no laws but expence of blood and treasure we have been already put to. what I please." And is there any inhabitants in America so ignorant, The object contended for, ought always to bear some just pro as not to know, that according to what is called the present constitu portion to the expence. The removal ofN-, or the whole detestable tion, that this continent can make no laws but what the king junto, is a matter unworthy the millions we have expended. 1 A tem leave to; and is there any man so unwise, as not to see, that (consid porary stoppage of trade, was an inconvenience, which would have ering what has happened) he will suffer no Law to be made here, sufficiently ballanced the repeal of all the acts complained of, had but such as suit his purpose. We may be as effectually enslaved by the such repeals been obtained; but if the whole continent must take up want of laws in America, as by submitting to laws made for us in arms, if every man must be a soldier, it is worth our while England. After matters are made up (as it is called) can there be any to fight against a contemptible ministry only. Dearly, dearly, do we doubt but the whole power of the crown will be exerted, to keep pay for the repeal of the acts, if that is all we fight for; for in a just this continent as low and humble as possible? Instead of going for estimation, it is as great a folly to pay a Bunker-hill price for law, as ward we shall go backward, or be perpetually quarrelling or ridicu for land. As I have always considered the independancy of this con lously petitioning.-We are already greater than the king wishes us tinent, as an event, which sooner or later must arrive, so from the late to be, and will he not hereafter endeavor to make us less? To bring rapid progress of the continent to maturity, the event cannot be far the matter to one point. Is the power who is jealous of our prosper off. Wherefore, on the breaking out of hostilities, it was not worth ity, a proper power to govern us? Whoever says No to this question the while to have disputed a matter, which time would have finally is an independent, for independancy means no more, than, whether redressed, unless we meant to be in earnest; otherwise, it is like wast we shall make our own laws, or, whether the --, the greatest ing an estate on a suit at law, to regulate the trespasses of a tenant, enemy this continent hath, or can have, shall tell us "there shall be no whose lease is just expiring.No man was a war mer wisher for a rec laws but such as I like." * onciliation than myself, before the fatal nineteenth of April 1775, But the k-you will say has a negative in England; the people but the moment the event of that day was made known, I rejected there can make no laws without his consent. In point of right and the hardened, sullen tempered Pharoah of -- for ever; and disdain good order, it is something very ridiculous, that a youth of twenty the wretch, that with the pretended title of FATHER OF HIS PEOPLE one (which hath often happened) shall say to several millions of peo can unfeelingly hear of their slaughter, and composedly sleep with pIe, older and wiser than himself, I forbid this or that act of yours to their blood upon his soul. be law. But in this place I decline this sort of reply, tho' I will never But admitting that matters were now made up, what would be the cease to expose the absurdity of it, and only answer, that England event? I answer, the ruin of the continent. And that for several reasons. being the king's residence, and America not so, makes quite another case. The k-'s negative here is ten times more dangerous and fatal * Massacre at Lexington note]. than it can be in England, for there he will scarcely refuse his consent to a bill for putting England into as strong a state of defence as pos and in Anler ica he would never suffer such a bill to be passed. Anlerica is only a secondary object in the system of British poli N- is a reference to Frederick, Lord North (1732-92), who served as tics. England consults the good of this country, no farther than it Prime Minister of England from 1770-82. North, therefore, was Prime answers her own purpose. Wherefore, her own interest leads her to Minister during the American Revolution, although he felt that the suppress the growth of ours in every case which doth not promote her approach to handling American resistance to British authority was wrongheaded. On the other hand, he didn't have the wherevltithal to advantage, or in the least interfere with it. A pretty state we should oppose George either. soon be in under such a second-hand government, considering what
70 THOMAS PAINE COMMON SENSE 71 has happened! Men do not change from enemies to friends by the The colonies have manifested such a spirit of good order and alteration of a name: And in order to shew that reconciliation noUJ is a obedience to continental government, as is sufficient to make every dangerous doctrine, I affirm, that it would be policy in the k-- at this time, reasonable person easy and happy on that head. No man can assign to repeal the acts for the sake if reinstating himself in the government of the the least pretence for his fears, on any other grounds, than such as provinces; in order, that HE MAY ACCOMPLISH BY CRAFT AND SUBTILTY, are truly childish and ridiculous, viz., that one colony will be striv IN THE LONG RUN, WHAT HE CANNOT DO BY FORCE AND VIOLENCE IN ing for superiority over another.
THE SHORT ONE. Reconciliation and ruin are nearly related. Where there are no distinctions there can be no superior ity, Secondly, That as even the best terms, which we can expect to perfect equality affords no temptation. The republics of Europe obtain, can amount to no more than a temporary expedient, or a are all (and we may say always) in peace. Holland and Swisserland kind of government by guardianship, which can last no longer than are without wars, foreign or domestic: Monarchical governments, till the colonies come of age, so the general face and state of things, it is true, are never long at rest; the crown itself is a temptation to in the interim, will be unsettled and unpromising. Emigrants of enterprising ruffians at home; and that degree of pr ide and inso property will not choose to come to a country whose form of gov lence ever attendant on regal author ity, swells into a rupture with ernment hangs but by a thread, and who is every day tottering on foreign powers, in instances, where a republican government, by the brink of commotion and disturbance; and numbers of the pre being formed on more natural principles, would negociate the sent inhabitants wo uld lay hold of the interval, to dispose of their mistake. effects, and quit the continent. If there is any true cause of fear respecting independance, it is But the most powerful of all arguments, is, that nothing but inde because no plan is yet laid down. Men do not see their way out pendance, i.e. a continental form of government, can keep the peace Wherefore, as an opening into that business, I offer the following of the continent and preserve it inviolate from civil wars. I dread the hints; at the same time modestly affirming, that I have no other event of a reconciliation with Britain now, as it is more than probable, opinion of them myself, than that they may be the means of giving that it will be followed by a revolt somewhere or other, the conse rise to something better. Could the straggling thoughts of individu quences of which may be far more fatal than all the malice of Britain. als be collected, they would frequently form materials for wise and Thousands are already ruined by British barbarity; (thousands able men to improve into useful matter. more will probably suffer the same fate.) Those men have other feel LET the assemblies be annual, with a President only. The repre ings than us who have nothing suffered.All they now possess is liber sentation more equal. Their business wholly domestic, and subject to ty; what they before enjoyed is sacrificed to its service, and having the authority of a Continental Congress. nothing more to lose, they disdain submission. Besides, the general Let each colony be divided into six, eight, or ten, convenient dis temper of the colonies, towards a British government, will be like that tricts, each district to send a proper number of delegates to Con of a youth who is nearly out of his time; they will care very little gress, so that each colony send at least thirty. The whole number in 390. about her: And a government which cannot preserve the peace is no Congress will be at least Each Congress to sit and to choose a government at all, and in that case we pay our money for nothing; president by the following method. When the delegates are met, let and pray what is it that Britain can do, whose power will be wholly a colony be taken from the whole thirteen colonies by lot, after on paper, should a civil tumult break out the very day after reconcil which let the Congress choose (by ballot) a president from out of iation? I have heard some men say, many of whom I believe poke the delegates of that province. In the next Congress, let a colony be without thinking, that they dreaded an independance, fearing that it taken by lot from twelve only, omitting that colony from which the would produce civil wars: It is but seldom that our first thoughts are president was taken in the former Congress, and so proceeding on truly correct, and that is the case here; for there is ten times more to till the whole thirteen shall have had their proper rotation. And in dread from a patched up connection than from independance. I make order that nothing may pass into a law but what is satisfactorily just, the sufferer's case my own, and I protest, that were I driven from not less than three fifths of the Congress to be called a majority. house and home, my property destroyed, and my circumstances He that will promote discord, under a government so equally ruined, that as a man, sensible of injuries, I could never relish the doc formed as this, would join Lucifer in his revolt. trine of reconciliation, or consider myself bound thereby. But as there is a peculiar delicacy, from whom, or in what man-
72 THOMAS PAINE COMMON SENSE 73 ner, this business must first arise, and as it seems most agreeable and politician consists in fixing the true point of happiness and freedom. consistent, that it should come from some intermediate body Those men would deserve the gratitude of ages, who should dis between the governed and the governors, that is between the Con cover a mode of government that contained the greatest sum of gress and the people, let a CONTINENTAL CONFERENCE be held, in individual happiness, with the least national expence. the following manner, and for the following purpose. A committee of twenty-six members of Congress, viz. two for each Dragonetti on Virtue and Rewards" colony. Tw o members from each house of assembly, or Provincial con vention; and five representatives of the people at large, to be chosen in But where, say some is the King of America? I'll tell you Friend, he the capital city or tow n of each province, for,and in behalf of the whole reigns above, and doth not make havock of mankind like the Royal province, by as many qualified voters as shall think. proper to attend - of Britain. Yet that we may not appear to be defective even in from all parts of the province for that purpose; or, ifmore convenient, earthly honors, let a day be solemnly set apart for proclaiming the the representatives may be chosen in two or three of the most popu charter; let it be brought forth placed on the divine law, the word of lous parts thereof In this conference, thus assembled, will be united, the God; let a crown be placed thereon, by which the world may know, two grand principles of business, knowledge and power. The Members of that so far as we approve of monarchy, that in America THE LAW IS Congress, Assemblies, or Conventions, by having had experience in KING. For as in absolute governments the King is law, so in free national concerns, will be able and useful counsellors, and the whole, countries the law ought to be King; and there ought to be no other. being impowered by the people will have a truly legal authority. But lest any ill use should afterwards arise, let the crown at the con The conferring members being met, let their business be to frame clusion of the ceremony be demolished, and scattered among the a CONTINENTAL CHARTER, or Charter of the United Colonies; people whose right it is. (answering to what is called Magna Carta of England) fixing the A government of our own is our natural right: And when a man number and manner of choosing members of Congress, members of seriously reflects on the precariousness of human affairs, he will Assembly, with their date of sitting, and drawing the line of business become convinced, that it is infinitely wiser and safer, to form a con and jurisdiction between them: (Always remembering, that our stitution of our own in a cool deliberate manner, while we have it in strength is continental, not provincial:) Securing freedom and prop our power, than to trust such an interesting event to time and chance. erty to all men, and above all things the free exercise of religion, If we omit it now, some *Massanello may hereafter arise, who laying according to the dictates of conscience; with such other matter as it hold of popular disquietudes, may collect together the desperate and is necessary for a charter to contain. Immediately after which, the the discontented, and by assuming to themselves the powers of gov said conference to dissolve, and the bodies which shall be chosen ernment, may sweep away the liberties of the continent like a deluge. conformable to the said charter, to be the legislators and governors Should the government of America return again into the hands of of this continent for the time being: Whose peace and happiness, Britain, the tottering situation of things, will be a temptation for may God preserve, Amen. Should any body of men be hereafter delegated for this or some * Thomas Anello, otherwise Masenello, a fisherman of Naples, who after similar purpose, I offer them the following extracts from that wise spiriting up his countrymen in the public market place, against the observer on governments Dragonetti.1 "The science," says hit)"of 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 [paine's note]. To mmasso Aniello (1620-47) was, as Paine notes, the leader of a Giacinto Dragonetti (1738-1818) served as Italian consul to Sicily and popular revolt against the Spanish nobles who then ruled Naples. The eventually became president of the Royal Court of Sicily. His Treafise of revolt was successful but short-lived. After only 10 days in power Mas Virtues and Rewards was originally published in Naples in 1765 and was saniello was killed, probably by agents of the Spanish Viceroy. His story translated into English in a London edition in 1769. The Treatise was immediately spread throughout Europe and was narrated in a number of written in response to Beccaria's influential On Crimes and Punishments books. His revolt would have been especially relevant to the American (Livorno, 1764). Both works were widely read by politicians and intel case since the events in Naples had been prompted by public displeasure lectuals in Europe and America. with a series of tax increases imposed by the Spanish authorities.
74 THOMAS PAINE COMMON SENSE 75 some desperate adventurer to try his fortune; and in such a case, what would take place one time or other. And thereis no instance in which relief can Britain give? Ere she could hear the news the fatal business we have shewn less judgment, than in endeavouring to describe, what might be done, and ourselves suffering like the wretched Britons we call, the ripeness or fitness of the Continent for independance. under the oppression of the Conqueror. Ye that oppose independance As all men allow the measure, and vary only in their opinion of the now, ye know not what ye do: ye are opening a door to eternal tyran time,let us, in order to remove mistakes,take a general survey of things, ny, by keeping vacant the seat of govermnent. There are thousands and endeavour ifpossible, to find out the very time. But we need not and tens of thousands, who would think it glorious to expel from the go far, the inquiry ceases at once, for the time hath found us. The gener continent, that barbarous and hellish power, which hath stirred up the al concurrence, the glorious union of all things prove the fact. Indians and Negroes to destroy us, the cruelty hath a double guilt, it It is not in numbers but in unity; that our great strength lies; yet our is dealing brutally by us, and treacherously by them. present numbers are sufficient to repel the force of all the world.The To talk of friendship with those in whom our reason forbids us Continent hath, at this ti me, the largest body of armed and disciplined to have faith, and our affections wounded through a thousand pores men of any power under Heaven; and is just arrived at that pi tch of instruct us to detest, is madness and folly. Every day wears out the strength, in which no single colony is able to suppor t itself, and the little remains of kindred between us and them, and can there be any whole, when united can accomplish the matter, and either more, or, less reason to hope, that as the relationship expires, the affection will than this, might be fatal in its effects. Our land force is already sufficient, increase, or that we shall agree better, when we have ten times more and as to naval we cannot be insensible, that Britain would never and greater concerns to quarrel over than ever? suffer an American man of war to be built while the continent remained Ye that tell us of harmony and reconciliation, can ye restore to us in her hands. Wherefore we should be no forwarder an hundred years the time that is past? Can ye give to prostitution its former innocence? hence in that branch, than we are now; but the truth is, we should be Neither can ye reconcile Britain and America.The last cord now is less so, because the timber of the country is every day di mi nishing, and broken, the people of England are presenting addresses against us. that which will remain at last, will be far off or di fficult to procure. There are injuries which nature cannot forgive; she would cease to be Were the continent crowded with inhabitants, her sufferings if nature she did. As well can the lover forgive the ravisher of his mis under the present circumstances would be intolerable. The more sea tress, as the continent forgive the murders of Britain. The Almighty port towns we had, the more should we have both to defend and to hath implanted in us these unextinguishable feelings for good and loose. Our present numbers are so happily proportioned to our wi e purposes. They are the guardians of his image in our hearts. They wants, that no man need be idle. The diminution of trade affords an distinguish us from the herd of common animals. The social compact army, and the necessities of an army create a new trade. would dissolve, and justice be extirpated [from] the earth, or have only Debts we have none: and whatever we may contract on this a casual existence were we callous to the touches of affection.The rob account will serve as a glorious memento of our virtue. Can we but ber and the murderer, would often escape unpunished, did not the leave posterity with a settled form of government, an independant which our tempers sustain, provoke us into justice. constitution of its own, the purchase at any price will be cheap. But o ye that love mankind! Ye that dare oppose, not only the tyran to expend millions for the sake of getting a few vile acts repealed, and ny, but the tyrant, stand forth! Every spot of the old world is over routing the present ministry only, is unworthy the charge, and is using run with oppression. Freedom hath been hunted round the globe. posterity with the utmostcruelty; because it is leaving them the great Asia and Africa, have long expelled her.-Europe regards her like a work to do, and a debt upon their backs, from which they derive no stranger, and England hath given her warning to depart. O! receive advantage. Such a thought is unworthy a man of honor, and is the the fugitive, and prepare in time an asylum for mankind. true characteristic of a narrow heart and a pedling politician. The debt we may contract doth not deserve our regard if the Of the present ABILITY of AMERICA work be but accomplished. No nation ought to be without a debt. with some misellaneous REFLEXIONS 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 HAVE I never met with a man, either in England or America, who hath of one hundred and forty millions sterling, for which she pays not confessed his opinion, that a separation between the countries, upwards of four millions interest. And as a compensation for her
76 THOMAS PAINE COMMON SENSE 77 85 debt, she has a large navy; America is without a debt, and without a Sloops, bombs, navy; yet for the twentieth part of the English national debt, could and fireships,one have a navy as large again. The navy of England is not worth, at this with another, at Cost time, more than three millions and a half sterling. Remains for guns, The first and second editions of this pamphlet were published To tal, without the following calculations, which are now given as a proof that the above estimation of the navy is a just one. See Entic's naval No country on the globe is so happily situated, or so IIlLcrnauy history, intro. page 56.1 capable of raising a fleet as America. Ta r, timber, iron and cordage are her natural produce. We need go abroad for nothing. Whereas the
The of building a ship of each rate, and furnishing her Dutch, who make large profits by hiring out their ships of war to the with masts, sails and together with a proportion of Spaniards and Portuguese, are obliged to import most of the mate months boatswain's and carpenter's sea-stores, as calculated rials they use. We ought to view the building a fleet as an article of Mr. Burchett. to the navy. 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 com
For a ship of 100 guns, 35,553 merce and protection are united. Let us build; if we want them not, 90 29,886 we can sell;and by that means replace our paper currency with ready 80 23,638 gold and silver. 70 17,785 In point of manning a fleet, people in general run into great 60 errors; it is not necessary that one-fourth part should be sailors. The 50 10,606 Te rrible privateer, Captain Death, stood the hottest engagement of 40 any ship last war, yet had not twenty sailors on board, though her 30 5,846 complement of men was upwards of two hundred. A few able and 20 3,710 social sailors will soon instruct a sufficient number of active land men in the common work of a ship. Wherefore, we never can be And hence it is easy to sum up the value, or cost rather, of the more capable of beginning on maritime matters than now, while our whole British navy, which in the year 1757, when it was at its great timber is standing, our fisheries blocked up, and our sailors and ship- 80 est glory consisted of the following ships and guns: out of employ. Men of war and guns were built forty years ago in New-England, and why not the same now? Ship
Ships. Guns. Cost of one. Cost of all. building is America's greatest pride, and in which, she will in time 6 100 35,553/. 213,318/. excel the whole world. The great of the east are mostly 12 90 29,886 358,632 inland, and consequently excluded from the possibility of rivalling 12 80 23,638 283,656 her. Africa is in a state of barbarism; and no power in Europe, hath 43 70 17,785 764,755 either such an extent of coast, or such an internal supply of materi 35 60 14,197 496,895 als. Where nature hath the one, she has withheld the other; to 40 50 10,605 424,240 America only hath she been liberal of both. The vast empire ofRus 45 40 7,558 340,110 sia is almost shut out from the sea; wherefore, her boundless forests, 58 20 3,710 215,180 her tar, iron, and 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 Entick published his A New Naval History: or, Compleat slept securely without locks or bolts to our doors or windows. The View or tire British Marine in London in 1757.
COMMON SENSE 78 THOMAS PAINE 79 case is now altered, and our methods of defence ought to improve trade to Europe, we have as large a one over her trade to the We st with our increase of property. A common pirate, twelve months ago, Indies, which, by laying in the neighbourhood of the Continent, is might have come up the Delaware, and laid the city of Philadelphia entirely at its mercy. under instant contribution, for what sum he pleased; and the same Some method might be fallen on to keep up a naval force in time might have happened to other places. Nay, any daring fellow, in a of peace, if we should not judge it necessar y to support a constant brig of fourteen or sixteen guns, might have robbed the whole Con navy. If premiums were to be given to merchants, to build and tinent, and carried off half a million of money. These are circum employ in their service, ships mounted with twenty, thirty, forty, or stances which demand our attention, and point out the necessity of fifty guns, (the premiums to be in proportion to the loss of bulk to naval protection. the merchants) fifty or sixty of those ships, with a few guard ships on Some, perhaps, will say, that after we have made it up with Britain, constant duty, would keep up a sufficient navy, and that without bur she will protect us. Can they be so unwise as to mean, that she shall dening ourselves with the evil so loudly complained of in England, keep a navy in our harbours for that purpose? Common sense will of suffering their fleet, in time of peace to lie rotting in the docks. tell us, that the power which hath endeavored to subdue us, is of all To unite the sinews of commerce and defence is sound policy; for others the most improper to defend us. Conquest may be effected when our strength and our riches, play into each other's hand, we under the pretence of friendship; and ourselves, after a long and need fear no external enemy. brave resistance, be at last cheated into slaver y. And if her ships are In almost every article of defence we abound. Hemp flourishes not to be admitted into our harbours, I would ask, how is she to pro even to rankness, so that we need not want cordage. Our iron is tect us? A navy three or four thousand miles off can be of little use, superior to that of other countries. Our small arms equal to any in and on sudden emergencies, none at all. Wherefore, if we must here the world. Cannon we can cast at pleasure. Saltpetre and gunpowder after protect ourselves, why not do it for ourselves? Why do it for we are every day producing. Our knowledge is hourly improving. another? Resolution is our inherent character, and courage hath never yet for The English list of ships of war, is long and formidable, but not a saken us. Wherefore, what is it that we want? Why is it that we hes tenth part of them are at any one time fIt for ser vice, numbers of itate? From Britain we can expect nothing but ruin. If she is once them are not in being; yet their names are pompously continued in admitted to the government of America again, this Continent will the list, if only a plank be left of the ship: and not a fifth part, of such not be worth living in. Jealousies will be always arising; insurrections as are fit for ser vice, can be spared on any one station at one time. will be constantly happening; and who will go forth to quell them? The East, and West Indies, Mediterranean, Africa, and other parts Who will venture his life to reduce his own countr ymen to a for- over which Britain extends her claim, make large demands upon her obedience? The difference between Pennsylvania and Con navy. From a mixture of prejudice and inattention, we have con necticut, respecting some unlocated lands, shews the insignificance tracted a false notion respecting the navy of England, and have talked of a B-sh government, and fully proves, that nothing but Conti as if we should have the whole of it to encounter at once, and for nental authority can regulate Continental matters. that reason, supposed that we must have one as large; which not Another reason why the present time is preferable to aU others, being instantly practicable, have been made use of by a set of dis- C is, that the fewer our numbers are, the more land there is yet unoc guised To ries to discourage our beginning thereon. Nothing can be cupied, which instead of being lavished by the k- on his worthless further from truth than this; for if America had only a twentieth part dependants, may be hereafter applied, not only to the discharge of of the naval force of Britain, she would be by far an over match for the present debt, but to the constant support of government. No her; because, as we neither have, nor claim any foreign dominion, nation under heaven hath such an advantage as this. our whole force would be employed on our own coast, where we The infant state of the Colonies, as it is called, so far from being in the long run, have two to one the advantage of those who against, is an argument in favor of independance. We are sufficiently had three or four thousand miles to sail over, before they could numerous, and were we more so, we might be less united. It is a mat attack us, and the same distance to return in order to refit and ter worthy of observation, that the more a country is peopled, the recruit. And although Britain, by her fleet, hath a check over our smaller their armies are. In militar y numbers, the ancients far
80 THOMAS PAINE COMMON SENSE 81 exceeded the moderns: and the reason is evident, for trade being the ernment, to protect all conscientious professors thereof , and I know consequence of population, men became too much absorbed there of no other business which government hath to do therewith. Let a by to attend to any thing else. Commerce diminishes the spirit, both man throw aside that narrowness of soul, that selfishness of princi of patriotism and military defence. And history sufficiently informs ple, which the niggards of all professions are so unwilling to part us, that the bravest achievements were always accomplished in the with, and he will be at once delivered of his fears on that head. Sus non-age of a nation. With the increase of commerce, England hath picion is the companion of mean souls, and the bane of all good lost its spirit. The city of London, notwithstanding its numbers, sub For myself J fully and conscientiously believe, that it is the mits to continued insults with the patience of a coward. The more will of the Almighty, that there should be a diversity of men have to lose, the less willing are they to venture. The rich are in opinions among us: It affordsa larger field for our christian kindness. general slaves to fear, and submit to courtly power with the trem We re we all of one way of thinking, our religious dispositions would bling duplicity of a spaniel. want matter for probation; and on this liberal principle, I look on the Youth is the seed time of good habits, as well in nations as in indi various denominations among us, to be like children of the same viduals. It might be difficult, if not impossible, to form the Conti family, differing only, in what is called their Christian names. nent into one government half a century hence. The vast variety of In page fifty-four,1 I threw out a few thoughts on the propriety interests, occasioned by an increase of trade and population, would of a Continental Charter, (for I only presume to offer hints, not create confusion. Colony would be against colony. Each being able plans) and in this place, I take the liberty of rementioning the sub might scorn each other's assistance: and while the proud and foolish ject, by obser ving, that a charter is to be understood as a bond of gloried in their little distinctions, the wise would lament that the solemn obligation, which the whole enters into, to support the right union had not been formed before. Wherefore, the present time is the of every separate part, whether of religion, personal freedom, or true time for establishing it. The intimacy which is contracted in property. A firm bargain and a right reckoning make long friends. infancy, and the friendship which is formed in misfortune, are, of all In a former page I likewise mentioned the of a large and others, the most lasting and unalterable. Our present union is marked representation; and there is no political matter which more with both these characters: we are young, and we have been dis deserves our attention. A small number of electors, or a small num tressed; but our concord hath withstood our troubles, and fixes a ber of representatives, are equally But if the number of memorable ;:era for posterity to glory in. the representatives be not only small, but unequal, the danger is The present time, likewise, is that peculiar time, which never increased. As an instance of this, I mention the following; when the pens to a nation but once, viz. the time of forming itself into a gov Associators petition was before the House of Pennsyl ernment. Most nations have let the opportunity, and by that twenty-eight members only were present, all the Bucks coun means have been compelled to receive laws from their conquerors, ty members, being eight, voted against it, and had seven of the instead of making laws for themselves. First, they had a king, and Chester members done the same, this whole province had been gov then a form of government; whereas the articles or charter of gov erned by two counties only, and this it is always to. ernment, should be formed first, and men delegated to execute them The unwarrantable stretch likewise, which that house made in their afterward: but from the errors of other nations, let us learn wisdom, last to gain an undue authority over the Delegates of that and lay hold of the present opportunity-To begin government at the province, ought to warn the people at large, how they trust power eHd. out of their own hands. A set of instructions for their Delegates When William the conqueror subdued England he gave them law were put together, which in point of sense and business would have at the point of the sword; and until we consent that the seat of gov dishonored a school-boy, and after being approved by aJew, a veryJew ernment in America, be and authoritatively occupied, we without doors, were carried into the House, and there passed in shall be in danger of having it filled by some fortunate rutnan, who behalf ifthe whole colony; whereas, did the whole colony know, with may treat us in the same manner, and then, where will be our free dom? where our property?
As to religion, J hold it to be the indispensible duty of all gov 1 Pages 73-74 in this edition.
S2 THOMAS PAINE COMMON SENSE 83 what ill-will that House hath entered on some necessary public Secondly.-It is unreasonable to suppose, that France or Spain will measures, they would not hesitate a moment to think them unwor us any kind of assistance, if we mean only to make use of that of such a trust. assistance for the purpose of repairing the breach, and strengthening Immediate necessity makes many things convenient, which if the connection between Britain and America; because, those powers continued would grow into oppressions. Expedience and right are would be sufferers by the consequences. different things.When the calamities of America required a consul Thirdly.-While we profess ourselves the subjects of Britain, we tation, there was no method so ready, or at that time so proper, as to must, in the eye of foreign nations, be considered as rebels. The appoint persons from the several Houses of Assembly for that pur precedent is somewhat dangerous to their peace, for men to be in pose and the wisdom with which they have proceeded hath pre arms under the name of subjects; we on the spot, can solve the para served this continent from ruin. But as it is more than probable that dox: but to unite resistance and subjection, requires an idea much we shall never be without a CONGRESS, ever y well wisher to good too refined for common understanding. order, must own, that the mode for choosing members of that body, Fourthly.-Were a manifesto to be published, and despatched to deserves consideration. And I put it as a question to those, who foreign courts, setting forth the miseries we have endured, and the make a study of mankind, whether representation and election is not too methods which we have ineffectually used for great a power for one and the same body of men to possess? When at the same time, that not being able, any longer to live we are planning for posterity, we ought to remember that virtue is happily or safely under the cruel disposition of the B--sh court, we not hereditary. had been driven to the necessity of breaking off all connections with It is from our enemies that we often gain excellent maxims, and her; at the same time assuring all such courts of our peaceable dis are frequently surprised into reason by their mistakes. Mr. Cornwall position towards them, and of our desire of entering into trade with (one of the Lords of the Tr easury) treated the petition of the New them: Such a memorial would produce more good effects to this York Assembly with contempt, because that House, he said, consist Continent, than if a ship were freighted with petitions to Britain. ed but of twenty-six members, which trifling number, he argued, Under our present denomination of British subjects we can nei could not with decency be put for the whole. We thank him for his ther 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
\... ,v!'ILLUUC, however strange it may appear to some, or how nations. ever unwilling they may be to think so, matters not, but many strong These proceedings may at first seem strange and difficult;but, like and striking reasons may be to shew, that nothing can settle all other steps which we have already passed over, will in a little time our affairs so expeditiously as an open and determined declaration become familiar and agreeable; and, until an independance is for independance. Some of which are, declared, the Continent will feel itself like a man who continues First.-It is the custom of nations, when any two are at war, for putting off some unpleasant business from day to day, yet knows it some other powers, not engaged in the quarrel, to step in as media must be done, hates to set about it, wishes it over, and is continually tors, and bring about the preliminaries of a peace: but while Amer haunted with the thoughts of its necessity. ica calls herself the subject of Great Britain, no power, however well disposed she may be, can offer her mediation. Wherefore, in our pre sent state we may quarrel on for ever.
* TIlOse who would fully understand of what great consequence a large and equal representation is to a state, should read Burgh'spolitical Disquisitions [paine's noteJ.James Burgh's Political Disquistions was published in 1774. In this work, Burgh, an influential rhetorician and educator who had also authored TIleArt ifSpeaking (1775), supported the colonies' right to resist the king's LlIlconstitutional attempts to oppress them.
84 THOMAS PAINE COMMON SENSE 85