Copyright
Thomas Paine.

The political and miscellaneous works of Thomas Paine .. (Volume 1) online

. (page 10 of 65)
Online LibraryThomas PaineThe political and miscellaneous works of Thomas Paine .. (Volume 1) → online text (page 10 of 65)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


together under one name, and abused them under another.
But the King you serve, and the cause you support, afford
you so few instances of acting the gentleman, that out of
pity to your situation, the Congress pardoned the insult by
taking no notice of it.

You say in that hand-bill, " that they, the Congress, dis^
avowed every purpose for reconciliation not consonant with
their extravagant and inadmissible claim of independence."

Why, God bless me ! what have you to do with our inde-
pendence? we asked no leave of yours to set it up, we
asked no money of yours to support it ; we can do better
without your fleets and armies than with them ; you may
soon have enough to do to protect yourselves, without
being burthened with us. We are very willing to be at
peace with you, to buy of you and sell to you, and, like
young beginners in the world, to work fof our own living;
therefore, why do you put yourselves out of cash, when we
know you cannot spare it, and we do not desire you to run
into debt? I am willing, Sir, you should see your folly in
every view I can place it, and for that reason descend some-
times to tell you in jest, what I wish you to see in earnest.
But to be more serious with you, why do you say " their"
independence? To set you right, Sir, we tell you, that the
independency is ours, not theirs. The Congress were
authorized, by every state on the Continent, to publish it to
all the world, and in so doing are not to be considered as
the inventors, but only as the heralds that proclaimed it, or
the office from which the sense of the people received a
legal form ; and it was as much as any, or all their heads
were worth, to have treated with you, on the subject of
submission, under any name whatever. But we know the
men in whom we have trusted ; can England say the same
'of her parliament?

I come now more particularly to your Proclamation of
the 30th of November last. Had you gained an entire con-
quest over all the armies of America, and then put forth a
Proclamation, offering (what you call) mercy, your conduct
would have had some specious shew of humanity ; but to
creep by surprise into a province, and there endeavour to



AMERICAN' CRISIS. 15

terrify and seduce the inhabitants from their just allegiance
to the rest, by promises which you neither meant nor were
able to fulfil, is both cruel and unmanly : cruel in its
effects, because, unless you can keep all the ground you
have marched over, how are you, in the words of your
Proclamation, to secure to your proselytes " the enjoyment
of their property?" What are to become either of your
newly-adopted subjects, or your old friends the Tories, in
Burlington, Bordentown, Trenton, Montholly, and many
other places, where you proudly lorded it for a few days,
and then fled with the precipitation of a pursued thief?
What, I say, are to become of those wretches ? What are
to become of those who went over to you from this city
rind state ? What more can you say to them than " shift
for yourselves ?" Or what more can they hope for than to
wander like vagabonds over the face of the earth ? You
may now tell them to take their leave of America, and all
that once was theirs. Recommend them, for consolation,
to your master's court : there perhaps they may make a
shift to live on the scraps of some dangling parasite, and
choose companions among thousands like themselves. A
traitor is the foulest fiend on earth.

In a political sense we ought to thank you for thus be-
queathing estates to the Continent; we shall soon, at this
rate, be able to carry on a war without expence, and grow
rich by the ill policy of Lord Howe, and the generous de-
fection of the Tories. Had you set your foot into this city,
you would have bestowed estates upon us which we never
thought of, by bringing forth traitors we were unwilling to
suspect. " But these men," you will say, " are his Majesty's
most faithful subjects ;" let that honour then be all their
fortune, and let his Majesty take them to himself.

I am now thoroughly disgusted with them ; they live in
ungrateful ease, and bend their whole minds to mischief.
It seems as if God had given them over to a spirit of infide-
lity, and that they are open to conviction in no other line
but that of punishment. It is time to have done with tar-
ring, feathering, carting, and taking securities for their future
good behaviour. Every sensible man must feel a conscious
shame at seeing a poor fellow hawked for .a shew about the
streets, when it is known, that he is only the tool of some
principal villain, biassed into his offence by the source of
false reasoning, or bribed thereto through sad necessity.
We dishonour ourselves by attacking such trifling characters,
-while greater ones are suffered to escape. It is our duty to



16 AMERICAN CRISIS.

find them out, and their proper punishment would be to exile
them from the Continent for ever. The circle of them is
not so great as some imagine. The influence of a few has
tainted many who are not naturally corrupt. A continual
circulation of lies among those who are not much in the
way of hearing them contradicted, will in time pass for
truth ; and the crime lies not in the believer, but in the inven-
tor. I am not for declaring war against every man that ap-
pears not so warm as myself. Difference of constitution,
temper, habit of speaking, and many other things, will go
a great ttay in fixing the outward character of a man, yet
simple honesty may remain at bottom. Some men have
naturally a military turn, and can brave hardships and the
risk of life, with a cheerful face ; others have not ; no
slavery appears to them so great as the fatigue of arms, and
no terror so powerful as that of personal danger. What can
we say? We cannot alter nature; neither ought we to
punish the son, because the father begot him in a cowardly
mood. However, I believe most men have more courage
than they know of, and that a little at first, is enough to
begin with. I knew the time when I thought that the whisk
ling of a cannon-ball would have frightened me almost to
death ; but I have since tried it, and find I can stand it with
as little discomposure, and, I believe, with a much easier
conscience than your Lordship. The same dread would
return to me again, were I in your situation ; for my solemn
belief of your cause, is, that it is hellish and damnable ; and
tinder that conviction, every thinking man's heart must fail
him.

From a concern, that a good cause should be dishonoured
by the least disunion among us, I said in my former paper,
No. I. that u should the enemy now be expelled, I wish,
with all the sincerity of a Christian, that the names of Whig
and Tory might never more be mentioned ;" but there is
a knot of men among us, of such a venomous cast, that they
will not admit even one's good wishes to act in their favour.
Instead of rejoicing that heaven had, as it were, providenti-
ally preserved this city from plunder and destruction, by
delivering so great a part of the enemy into our hands, with
so little effusion of blood, they stubbornly affected to disbe-
lieve it, until within an hour, nay half an hour, of the priso-
ners arriving ; and the Quakers* put forth a testimony, dated



1 have ever been careful of charging offences upon whole so*



AMERICAN rnisK. 17

the 20th of December, signed John Pemberton, declaring their
attachment to the British Government. These men are
continually harping on the great sin of our bearing arms :
but the King of Britain may lay waste the world in blood and
famine, and they, poor fallen souls, have nothing lo say.

In some future paper, I intend to distinguish between the
different kinds of persons who have been denominated Tories,
for this I am clear in, that ail are not so, who have been
called so, nor all men Whigs, who were once thought so ;
and as I mean not to conceal the name of any true friend,
when there shall be occasion to mention him, neither will I
that of an enemy, who ought to be known, let his rank,
station, or religion be what it may.

Much pains have been taken by some, to set your Lord-
ship's private character in an amiable light ; but as it has
chiefly been done by men who know nothing about you, and
who are no ways remarkable for their attachment to us, we
have no just authority for believing it. George the Third was
imposed upon us by the same arts ; but time has at length
done him justice, and the same fate may probably attend
your Lordship. Your avowed purpose here, is, to kill, con-
quer, plunder, pardon, and enslave, and the ravages of your
army, through the Jerseys, have been marked with as much
barbarism, as if you had openly professed yourself the prince
of ruffians. Not even the appearance of humanity has been
preserved either on the march, or the retreat of your troops.
No general order, that I could ever learn, has ever been is-
sued to prevent or even forbid your troops from robbery
wherever they came; and the only instance of justice, if it
can be called such, which has distinguished you for impar-
tiality, is that you treated and plundered all alike. What
could not be carried away, have been destroyed ; and maho-
gany furniture has been deliberately laid on the fire for fuel,



defies of men, but as the paper referred to is put forth by an un-
known set of men, who claim to themselves the right of representing
the whole ; and while the whole society of Quakers admit its vali-
dity by a silent acknowledgement, it is impossible that any distinc-
tion can be made by the public ; and the more so, because the
New York paper, of the 30th of December, printed by permission
of our enemies, says, that " the Quakers begin to speak openly of
their attachment to the British Constitution.'* We are certain
that we have many friends among them, aad wish to know them.



IB - AMERICAN CRISIS;

rather than the men should be fatigued with cutting wood.*
There was a time, when the Whigs confided much in your
supposed candour, and the Tories rested themselves on your
favour. The experiments have now been made, and failed ;
and every town, nay, every cottage, in the Jerseys, where
your arms have been, is a testimony against you. How
you may rest under this sacrifice of your character, I know
not: but this I know, that you sleep and rise with the daily
curses of thousands upon you. Perhaps, the misery which
the Tories have suffered by your proffered mercy, may give
them some claim to their country's pity, and be in the end
the best favour you could shew them. In a folio general
order-book belonging to Colonel Rahi's battalion, taken at
Trenton, and now in the possession of the Council of Safety
for this state, the following barbarous order is frequently
repeated : " His Excellency, the Commander-in-Chief,
orders that all inhabitants which shall be found with arms,
not having an officer with them, shall be immediately taken
and hung up." How many you may thus have privately
sacrificed, we know not; and the account can only be set-
tled in another world. Your treatment of prisoners, in order
to distress them, to enlist into your infernal service, is not to
be equalled by any instance in Europe. Yet this is the hu-
mane Lord Howe, and his brother, whom the Tories, and
their three-quarter kindred, the Quakers, or some of them at
least, have been holding up for patterns of justice and
mercy !

A bad cause will ever be supported by bad means and bad
men ; and whoever will be at the pains of examining strict-
ly into things, will find that one and the same spirit of op-
position and impiety, more or less, governs through your
whole party in both countries. Not many days ago, I acci-
dentally fell in company with a person of this city noted for
espousing your cause ; and on my remarking to him that it
appeared clear to me, by the late providential turn of affairs,
that God Almighty was visibly on our side : he replied, we
care nothing for that ; you may have him, and welcome ; if



* As some people may doubt the truth of such wanton destruc-
tion, I think it necessary to inform the world that one of the
people called Quakers, who lives at Trenton, gave me this infor-
mation at the house of Mr. Michael Hurchinson, one of the same
profession, who lives near to Trenton ferry, on the Tennsylvania
side, Mr. Hutchinson being present.



.AMERICAN CRISIS. 19

we have but enough of the devil on our side, we shall do.
However carelessly this be spoken, matte'rs not ; it is still
the insensible principle that directs all your conduct, and
will, at last, most assuredly deceive and ruin you.

If ever a nation was mad and foolish, blind to its own in-
terest, and bent on its own destruction, it is Britain. There
are such things as national sins ; and though the punish-
ment of individuals may be reserved to another world, na-
tional punishment can only be inflicted in this world. Bri-
tain, as a nation, is, in my inmost belief, the greatest and
most ungrateful offender against God on the face of the
whole earth. Blessed with all the commerce she could wish
for, and furnished by a vast extent of dominion, with the
means of civilizing both the eastern and western world, she
has made no other use of both, than proudly to idolize her
own " thunder," and rip up the bowels of whole countries,
for what she could get. Like Alexander, she has made war
her sport, and inflicted misery for prodigality sake. The
blood of India is not yet repaid, nor the wretchedness of
Africa yet requited. Of late, she has enlarged her list of
national cruelties, by her butcherly destruction of the Ca-
ribbs of St. Vincent's, and in returning an answer by the
sword, to the meek prayer for " peace, liberty, and safety."
These are serious things ; and whatever a foolish tyrant, a
debauched Court, a trafficking Legislature, or a blinded peo-
ple, may think, the national account with heaven must
some day or other be settled. All countries have, sooner or
later, been called to their reckoning. The proudest empires
jhave sunk, when the balance was struck ; and Britain, like
,an individual penitent, must undergo her day of sorrow, and
the sooner it happens to her the better. As I wish it over,
J wish it to come, but, withal, wish that it may be as light
as possible.

Perhaps your Lordship has no taste for serious things.
By your connections in England, I should suppose not;
therefore I shall drop this part ^f the subject, and take it up
in a line in which you will better understand me.

By what means, may I ask, do you expect to conquer
America ? If you could not effect it in the summer, when
our army was less than yours, nor in the winter, when we
had none, how are you to do it ? In point of generalship,
you have been outwitted ; and in point of fortitude, outdone :
your advantages turn out to your loss, and shew us that it is
in our power to ruin you by gifts. Like a game of drafts, we
.can move out of one square, to let you come in, in order



20 AMERICAN CRISIS.

that we may afterwards take two or three for one; and as we
can always keep a double corner for ourselves, we can always
prevent a total defeat. You cannot be so insensible, as not
to see that we have two to one the advantage of you,
because we conquer by a drawn game, and you lose by it.
Burgoyne might have taught your Lordship this knowledge;
he has been long a student in the doctrine of chances.

I have no other idea of conquering countries than by
subduing the armies which defend them: have you done
this, or can you do this? If you have not, it would be civil
in you to let your Proclamations alone for the present;
otherwise, you will ruin more Tories by ypur grace and
favour than you will Whigs by your arms. '

Were you to obtain possession of this city, you would not
know what to do with it, more than to plunder it. To
hold it, in the manner you hold New York, would be an
additional dead weight upon your hands ; and if a general
conquest is your object, you had better be without the city
than with it. When you have defeated all our armies, the
cities will fall into your hands of themselves ; but to creep
into them in the manner you got into Princetown, Trenton,
&c. is like robbing an orchard in the night, before the fruit
be ripe, and miming away in the morning. Your experi-
ment in the Jerseys is sufficient to teach you that you have
something more to do than barely to get into other people's
houses; and your new converts to whom you promised all
manner of protection, and seduced into new guilt by par-
doning them from their former virtues, must begin to have
a very contemptible opinion both of your power and policy.
Your authority in the Jerseys is now reduced to the small
circle which your army occupies, and your Proclamation is
no where else seen, unless it be to be laughed at. The
mighty subduers of the Continent are retreated into a
nut-shell, and the proud forgivers of our sins are fled from
those they came to pardon ; and all this at a time when they
were dispatching vessel after vessel to England, with the
great news of every day. In short, you have managed your
Jersey expedition so very dexterously, that the dead only are
conquerors, because none will dispute the ground with
them. In all the wars you have formerly been concerned
in, you had only armies to contend with ; in this case, you
have both an army and a country to combat with. In
former wars, the countries followed the fate of their ca-
pitals; Canada fell with Quebec; and Minorca, with Port
Mahon or St. Philip's; by subduing those, the conquerors



AMERICAN CRISIS. 21

opened a way into, and became masters of the country :
here it is otherwise : if you get possession of a city here,
you are obliged to shut yourself up in it, and can make no
other use of it, than to spend your country's money in.
This is all the advantage you have drawn from New York ;
and you would drew less from Philadelphia, because it re-
quires more force to keep it, and is much farther from the
sea. A pretty figure you and the Tories would cut in this
city, with a river full of ice, and a town full of fire ; for the
immediate consequence of your getting here would be, that
you would be cannonaded out again, and the Tories be
obliged to make good the damage : and this, sooner or later,
will be the fate of New York,

I wish to see the city saved, not so much from military,
as from natural motives. It is the hiding-place of women
and children, and Lord Howe's proper business is with our
armies. When I put all the circumstances together which
ought to be taken, I laugh at your notion of conquering
America. Because you lived in a little country, where an
army might run over the whole in a few days, and where a
single company of soldiers might put a multitude to the
rout, you expected to find it the same here. It is plain that
you brought over with you all the narrow notions you were
bred up with, and imagined that a Proclamation in the
King's name was to do great things ; but Englishmen
always travel for knowledge, and your Lordship, I hope,
will return, if you return at all, much wiser than you came.

We may be surprised by events we did not expect, and
in that interval of recollection you may gain some tempo-
rary advantage: such was the case a few weeks ago: but
we soon ripen again into reason, collect our strength, and
while you are preparing for a triumph, we come upon you
with a defeat. Such it has been, and such it would be
were you to try it an hundred times over. Were you to
garrison the places you might march over, in order to secure
their subjection (for remember you can do it by no other
means), your army would be like a stream of water running
to nothing. By the time you reached from New York to
Virginia, you would be reduced to a string of drops not
capable of hanging together ; while we by retreating from
state to state, like a river turning back upon itself, would
acquire strength in the same proportion as you lost it, and
in the end be capable of overwhelming you. The country
in the mean time would suffer; but it is a day of suffering,
and we ought to expect it. What \ve contend for is worthy



22 AMERICAS ems is.

the afilictioii we may go through. If we get but bread ta
eat, and any kind of raiment to put on, we ought, not only
to be contented, but thankful : more than that we ought not
to look for ; and less than that, heaven has not yet suffered
us to want. He that would sell his birth-right for a little
salt, is as worthless as he who sold it for pottage without
salt: and he that would part with it for a gay coat, or a
plain coat; ought for ever to be a slave in buff. What are
salt, sugar, and finery, to the inestimable blessings of " Li-
berty and Safety?" Or what are the inconveniences of a
few months to the tributary bondage of ages ? The meanest
peasant in America, blessed with these sentiments, is a
happy man, compared with a New York Tory ; he can eat
his morsel without repining, and when he has done, can
sweeten it with a repast of wholesome air ; he can take
his child by the hand and bless it, without feeling the con-
scious shame of neglecting a parent's duty.

In publishing these remarks, I have several objects in
view. On your part they are, to expose the folly of your
pretended authority, as a commissioner the wickedness
of your cause in general and the impossibility of your
conquering us at any rate. On the part of the public, my
meaning is, to shew them their true and solid interest; to
encourage them to their own good ; to remove the fears and
falsities, which bad men had spread and weak men had en-
couraged ; and to excite in all men a love for union, and a
cheerfulness for duty.

I shall submit one more case to you, respecting your
conquest of this country, and then proceed to new observa-
tions.

Suppose our armies in every part of the Continent imme-
diately to disperse, every man to his home, or where else
he might be safe, and engage to re-assemble again on a
certain future day. It is clear that you would then have
no army to contend with ; yet you would be as much at a
loss as you are now : you would be afraid to send your
troops in parties over the Continent, either to disarm, or
prevent us from assembling, lest they should not return :
and while you kept them together, having no army of ours
to dispute with, you could not call it a conquest. You
might furnish out a pompous page in the London Gazette,
or the New York paper; but when we returned at the
appointed time, you would have the same work to do you
had at first.

It has been the folly of Britain to suppose herself more



AMERICAN CRISIS. 2S

than she really is, and by that method has arrogated to
herself a rank in the world she is not entitled to : for more
than this century past, she has not been able to carry on a
war without foreign assistance. In Marlborough's cam-
paigns, and from that day to this, the number of German
troops and officers assisting her, have been about equal to
her own. Ten thousand Hessians were sent to England last
war, to protect her from a French invasion; and she would
have cut but a poor figure in her Canadian and West Indian
expeditions, had not America been lavish of her men, and
money, to help her along. The only instance, in which she
was engaged singly, that I can recollect, was against the re-
bellion in Scotland in 1745, and 1746, and in that, out of
three battles, she was twice beaten ; till by thus reducing their
numbers, (as we shall yours), and taking a supply ship, that
was coming to Scotland, with clothes, arms, and money (as
we have often done), she was at last enabled to defeat them.

England was never famous by land. Her officers have
generally been suspected of cowardice, have more of the
air of a dancing-master than a soldier ; and by the sample
we have taken prisoners, we begin to give the preference to
ourselves, Her strength of late has laid in her extrava-
gance ; but as her finances and her credit are now low, her
sinews in that line begin to fail fast. As a nation, she is
the poorest in Europe ; for were the whole kingdom, and
all that is in it, to be put up to sale, like the estate of a
bankrupt, it would not fetch as much as she owes. Yet
this thoughtless wretch must go to war, and with the avowed
design, too, of making us beasts of burden, to support her
in riot and debauchery, and to assist her afterwards in
distressing those nations who are now our best friends.
This ingratitude may suit a Tory, or the unchristian pee-
vishness of a fallen Quaker, but none else.

It is the unhappy temper of the English, to be pleased
with any war, right or wrong, be it but successful; but they



Online LibraryThomas PaineThe political and miscellaneous works of Thomas Paine .. (Volume 1) → online text (page 10 of 65)