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had no other law than a kind of moderated passion ; no other
civil power than aii honest mob ; and no other protection
than the temporary attachment of one man to another. Had
independence been delayed a few months longer, this Conti-
nent would have been plunged into irrecoverable confusion.
Some violent for it, some against it, till, in the general cabal,
the rich would have been ruined, and the poor destroyed.
It is to independence that every Tory owes the present safety
he lives in ; for by that, and that only, w r e emerged from a
state of dangerous suspense, and became a regular people.

The necessity, likewise, of being independent, had there
been no rupture between Britain and America, would in a
little time have brought one on. The increasing import-
ance of commerce, the weight and perplexity of legisla-
tion, and the entangled state of European politics, would
daily have shewn to the Continent the impossibility of con-
tinuing subordinate; for, after the coolest reflections on the
matter, this must be allowed, that Britain was too jealous
of America to govern it justly ; too ignorant of it, to govern
jt well ; and too distant from it, to govern it at all.

JV. But, what weigh most with all men of serious re?



84 AMERICAN CRISIS.

flection are the MORAL ADVANTAGES arising from inde-
pendence. War and desolation are become the trades of
the Old World; and America neither could nor can be
under the government of Britain without becoming a
sharer of her guilt, and a partner in all the dismal commerce
of death. The spirit of duelling, extended on a national
scale, is a proper character for European wars. They have
seldom any other motive than pride, or any other object
than fame. The conquerors, and the conquered, are gene-
rally ruined alike, and the chief difference at last is, that
the one marches home with his honours, and the other
without them. It is the natural temper of the English to
fight for a feather, if they suppose that feather to be an
affront ; and America, without the right of asking why,
must have abetted in every quarrel and abided by its fate.
It is a shocking situation to live in, that one country must
be brought into all the wars of another, whether the mea-
sure be right or wrong, or whether she will or not; yet
this, in the fullest extent was, and ever would be, the
unavoidable consequence of the connection. Surely the
Quakers forgot their own principles, when in their late
testimony they called this connection, with these military and
miserable appendages hanging to it, " The happy Constitu-
tion."

Britain, for centuries past, has been nearly fifty years out
of every hundred at war with some power or other. It
certainly ought to be a conscientious as well as political
consideration with America, not to dip her hands in the
bloody work of Europe. Our situation affords us a retreat
from their cabals, and the present happy union of the states
bids fair for extirpating the future use of arms from one
quarter of the world ; yet such have been the irreligious
politics of the present leaders of the Quakers, that, for the
sake of they scarce knew what, they would cut off every
hope of such a blessing by tying this Continent to Britain,
like Hector to the chariot-wheel of Achilles, to be dragged
through all the miseries of endless European wars.

The connection, viewed from this ground, is distressing
to every man who has the feelings of humanity. By
having Britain for our master, we became enemies to the
greatest part of Europe, and they to us ; and the conse-
quence was, war inevitable. By being our own masters,
independent of any foreign one, we have Europe for our
friends, and a prospect of an .endless peace among our-
selves. Those who were advocates for the British govern-



AMERICAN CRISIS. 35

ment over these colonies, were obliged to limit both their
arguments and their ideas to the period of an European
peace only : the moment Britain became plunged in war,
every supposed convenience to us vanished away, and all
we could hope for was not to be ruined. Could this be a
desirable condition for a young country to be in?

Had the French pursued their fortune immediately after
the defeat of Braddock, last war, this city and province had
then experienced the woeful calamities of being a British
subject. A scene of the same kind might happen again ;
for America, considered as a subject to the crown of Bri-
tain, would ever have been the seat of war, and the bone of
contention between the two powers.

On the whole, if the future expulsion of arms from one
quarter of the world be a desirable object to a peaceable
man ; if the freedom of trade to every part of it can engage
the attention of a man of business; if the support or fail
of millions of currency can affect our interest; if the
entire possession of estates, by cutting off the lordly claims
of Britain over the soil, deserves the regard of landed pro-
perty ; and if the right of making our own laws, uncon-
trouied by Royal or Ministerial spies or mandates, be worthy
our care as freemen; then are all men interested in the
support of independence ; and may he that supports it not,
be driven from the blessing, and live unpitied, beneath the
servile sufferings of scandalous subjection !

We have been amused with the tales of ancient wonders ;
we have read, and wept over, the histories of other nations ;
applauded, ceusured, or pitied, as their cases affected us.
The fortitude and patience of the sufferers the justness of
their cause the weight of their oppressions and oppressors
the object to be saved or lost with all the consequences
of a defeat or a conquest have, in the hour of sympathy,
bewitched our hearts and chained it to their fate: but
where is the power that ever made war upon petitioners?
Or where is the war on which a world was staked till now ?

We may not, perhaps, be wise enough to make all the
advantages we ought of our independence ; but they are,
nevertheless, marked and presented to us with every cha-
racter of GREAT, and GOOD, and worthy the hand of
Him who sent them. 1 look through the present trouble
to a time of tranquillity, when we shall have it in our
power to set an example of peace to all the world. Were
the Quakers really impressed and influenced by the quiet
principles they profess to hold, they would, however they



36 AMERICAN CRISIS.

might disapprove the means, be the first of all men to
approve of INDEPENDENCE, because, by separating
from the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, it affords an oppor-
tunity, never given to man before, of carrying their favourite
principle of peace into general practice, by establishing
Governments that shall hereafter exist without wars. Oh,
ye fallen, cringing, priest, and Pern berton -ridden people!
what more can we say of ye, than that a religious Quaker
is a valuable character, and a political Quaker a real Jesuit.
Having thus gone over some of the principal points in
support of independence, I must now request the reader to
return back with me to the period when it first began to be
a public doctrine, and to examine the progress it has made
among the various classes of men. The era I mean to
begin at, is the breaking out of hostilities, April 19tb,
1775. Until this event happened, the Continent seemed to
view the dispute as a kind of law-suit for a matter of right,
litigating between the old country and the new ; and she
felt the same kind and degree of horror, as if she had seen
an oppressive plaintiff, at the head of a band of ruffians, enter
the court, while the cause was before it, and put the judge,
the jury, the defendant, and his counsel to the sword. Per-
haps a more heart-felt convulsion never reached a country
with the same degree of power and rapidity before, and
never may again. Pity for the sufferers, mixed with indig-
nation at the violence, arid heightened with apprehensions
of undergoing the same fate, made the affair of Lexington
the afl'air of the Continent. Every part of it felt the shock,
and all vibrated together. A general promotion of senti-
ment took place. Those who had drank deeply into
Whiggish principles, that is, the right and necessity not
only of opposing, but wholly setting aside the power of the
Crown as soon as it became practically dangerous (for in
theory it was always so) stept into the first stage of inde-
pendence; while another class of Whigs, equally sound in
principle, but not so sanguine in enterprize, attached them-
selves the stronger to the cause, and fell close in with the
rear of the former; their partition was a mere point. Num-
bers of the moderate men, whose chief fault, at that time,
arose from their entertaining a better opinion of Britain than
she deserved, convinced now of their mistake, gave her up
and publicly declared themselves good Whigs. While the
Tories, seeing it was no longer a laughing matter, either sunk
into silent obscurity, or contented themselves with coming
forth and abusing General Gage: not a single advocate



AMERICAN CRISIS. 37

appeared to justify the action of that day ; it seemed to
appear to every one with the same magnitude, struck every
one with the same force, and created in every one the same
abhorrence. From this period we may date the growth of
independence.

If the many circumstances which happened at this me-
morable time, be taken in one view, and compared with
each other, they will justify a conclusion which seems not
to be attended to, I mean a fixed design in the King and
Ministry of driving America into arms, in order that they
might be furnished with a pretence for seizing the whole
Continent, as the immediate property of the Crown. A
noble plunder for hungry courtiers !

It ought to be remembered that the first petition from the
Congress was at this time unanswered on the part of the
British King. That the motion called Lord North's motion,
of the 20th of February, 1775, arrived in America the latter
end of March. This motion was to be laid, by the several
Governors, then in being, before the Assembly of each pro-
vince ; and the first Assembly before which it was laid, was
the Assembly of Pennsylvania in May following. This be-
ing a just state of the case, I then ask, why were hostilities
commenced between the time of passing the resolve in the
House of Commons, of the 20th of February, and the time of
the Assemblies meeting to deliberate upon it? Degrading
and infamous as that motion was, there is, nevertheless, rea-
son to believe that the King and his adherents were afraid the
Colonies would agree to it, and lest they should, took effectual
care they should not, by provoking them with hostilities
in the interim. They had not the least doubt at that
time of conquering America at one blow ; and what they
expected to get by a conquest being infinitely greater than
any thing they could hope to get either by taxation or ac-
commodation, they seemed determined to prevent even the
possibility of hearing each other, lest America should dis-
appoint their greedy hopes of the whole, by listening even
to their own terms. Oa the one hand they refused to hear
the petition of the Continent, and on the other hand took
effectual care the Continent should not hear them.

That the motion of the 20th of February, and the orders
for commencing hostilities were both concerted by the same
person, or persons, and not the latter by General Gage, as
was falsely imagined at first, is evident from an extract of
a letter of his to the Administration, read among other papers
w the House of Commons, in which he informs his masters



38 AMERICAN CRISIS.

That though their idea of his disarming certain counties
was a right one, yet it required him to be master of the
country, in order to enable him to execute it. This was
prior to the commencement of hostilities, and, consequently,
before the motion of the 20th of February could be deli-
berated on by the several Assemblies.

Perhaps it may be asked, why was the motion passed, if
there was at the same time a plan to aggravate the Ameri-
cans not to listen to it? Lord North assigned one reason
himself, which was, a hope of dividing them. This was pub-
licly tempting them to reject it: that if in case the injury
of arms should fail of provoking them sufficiently, the insult
of such a declaration might fill it up. But by passing the
motion and getting it afterwards rejected in America, it en-
abled them, in their wretched idea of politics, among other
things, to hold up the Colonies to foreign powers with every
possible mark of disobedience and rebellion. They had ap-
plied to those powers not to supply the Continent with
arms, ammunition, &c. and it was necessary they should in-
cense them against us by assigning on their own part, some
seeming reputable reason why. By dividing-, it had a ten-
dency to weaken the states, and likewise to perplex the
adherents of America in England. But the principal scheme,
and that which has marked their character in every part of
their conduct, was a design of precipitating the Colonies
into a state which they might afterwards deem rebellion, and
under that pretence put an end to all future complaints,
petitions, or remonstrances, by seizing the whole at once.
They had ravaged one part of the globe, till it could glut
them no longer ; their prodigality required new plunder, and
through the East Indian article, TEA, they hoped to transfer
their rapine from that quarter of the world to this. Every
designed quarrel has its pretence ; and the same barbarian
avarice accompanied the plant to America, which ruined the
country that produced it.

That men never turn rogues, without turning fools, is a
maxim, sooner or later, universally true. The commence-
ment of hostilities, being in the beginning of April, was of
all times, the worst chosen. The Congress were to meet
the JOth of May following, and the distress the Continent
felt at this unparalleled outrage, gave a stability to that body
which no other circumstance could have done. It suppressed
too, all inferior debates, arid bound them together by a
necessitous affection, without giving them time to differ
upon trifles. The suffering, likewise, softened the whole



.AMERICAN CRISIS. 89

body of the people into a degree of pliability, which laid
the principal foundation-stone of union, order, and govern-
ment ; and which, at any other time, might only have fret-
ted, and then faded away unnoticed and unimproved. But
Providence, who best knows how to time her misfortunes,
as well as her immediate favours, chose this to be the time.
And who dares dispute it ?

It did not seem the disposition of the people at this crisis
to heap petition upon petition, while the former remained
unanswered. The measure, however, was carried in Coa-
gress, and a second petition was sent, of which I shall only
remark, that it was submissive even to a dangerous fault,
because the prayer of it appealed solely to what is called
the prerogative of the Crown, while the matter in dispute
was confessed to be Constitutional. But even this petition,
flattering as it was, was still not so harmonious as the chink
of cash, and, consequently, not sufficiently grateful to the
Tyrant, and his Ministry. From every circumstance it is
evident, that it was the determination of the British Court to
have nothing to do with America, but to conquer it fully
and absolutely. They were certain of success, and the field of
battle was to be the only place of treaty. I am confident that
there are thousands and tens of thousands in America who
wonder they should ever have thought otherwise : but the
sin of that day was the sin of civility, yet it operated against
our present good in the same manner that a civil opinion of
the devil would against our future peace.

Independence was a doctrine scarce and rare, even towards
the conclusion of the year seventy-five. All our politics
had been founded on the hope or expectation of making the
matter up a hope which, though general on the side of
America, had never entered the head or heart of the British
Court. Their hope was conquest and confiscation. Good
Heavens! what volumes of thanks does America owe to
Britain! What infinite obligations to the tool that fills,
with paradoxical vacancy, the throne! Nothing but the
sharpest essence of villainy, compounded with the strongest
distillation of folly, could'have produced a menstruum that
would have effected a separation. The Congress in seventy-
four administered an abortive medicine to independence, by
prohibiting the importation of goods, and the succeeding
Congress rendered the dose still more dangerous by con-
tinuing it. Had independence been a settled system with
America (as Britain has advanced) she ought to have dou
tied her importation, and prohibited in some degree her ex-



40 AMERICAN CRISIS.

portation. And this single circumstance is sufficient to
acquit America, before any jury of nations, of having a
Continental plan of independence in view ; a charge which,
had it been true, would have been honourable, but is so
grossly false, that either the amazing ignorance, or the
wilfull dishonesty of the British Court, is effectually proved
by it.

The second petition, like the first, produced no answer.
It was scarcely acknowledged to be received. The British
Court were too determined in their villainy even to act it
artfully, and in their rage for conquest, neglected the neces-
sary subtilties for obtaining it. They might have divided,
distracted, and played a thousand tricks with us, had they
been as cunning as they were cruel.

This last indignity gave a new spring to independence.
Those who knew the savage obstinacy of the King, and the
jobbing, gambling spirit of the Court, predicted the fate of
the petition, as soon as it was sent from America; for the
men being known, their measures were easily foreseen. As
politicians, we ought not so much to ground our hope on the
reasonableness of the thing we ask, as on the reasonableness
of the person of whom we ask it. Who would expect dis-
cretion from a fool, candour from a tyrant, or justice from a
villain ?

As every prospect of accommodation seemed now to fail
fast, men began to think seriously on the matter ; and their
reason being thus stripped of the false hope which had long
encompassed it, became approachable by fair debate ; yet still
the bulk of the people hesitated ; they startled at the novelty
of independence, without once considering that our get-
ting into arms at first was a more extraordinary novelty,
and that all other nations had gone through the work of
independence before us. They doubted, likewise, the ability
of the Continent to support it, without reflecting, that it re-
quired the same force to obtain an accommodation by arms
as an independence. If the one was acquirabie, the other
was the same ; because, to accomplish either, it was neces-
sary that our strength should be too great for Britain to
subdue ; and it was too unreasonable to suppose, that, with
the power of being masters, we should submit to be ser-
vants.^ Their caution at this time, was exceedingly mis-



* In this state of political suspense, the pamphlet COMMON
SENSE, made its appearance, and the success it met with does not



AMERICAN CRISIS. 41

placed ; for if they were able to defend their property and
maintain their rights by arms, they consequently were able
to defend and support their independence ; and in propor-
tion as these men saw the necessity and Tightness of the
measure, they honestly and openly declared and adopted it;
and the part they have acted since, has done them honour,
and fully established their characters. Error, in opinion,
has this peculiar advantage with it, that the foremost point
of the contrary ground may at any time be reached by the
sudden exertion of a thought; and it frequently happens in
sentimental differences, that some striking circumstance, or
some forcible reason, quickly conceived, will effect, in an
instant, what neither argument, nor example, could produce
in an age.

I find it impossible, in the small compass I am limited to,
to trace out the progress which independence has made on
the minds of the different classes of men, and the several
reasons by which they were moved. With some, it was a
passionate abhorrence against the King of England and his
Ministry, as a set of savages and brutes ; and these men,
governed by the agony of a wounded mind, were for trust-
ing every thing to hope and heaven, and bidding defiance at
once. With others, it was a growing conviction that the
scheme of the British Court was to create, ferment, and drive
on a quarrel for the sake of confiscated plunder. Men of this



become me to mention. Dr. Franklin, Mr. Samuel, and John
Adams were severally spoken of as the supposed author. I had not,
at that time, the pleasure either of personally knowing, or being
known to the two last gentlemen. The favour of Dr. Franklin's
friendship I possessed in England, and my introduction to this part
of the world was through his patronage. I happened, when a
school-boy, to pick up a pleasing Natural History of Virginia, and
my inclination from that day of seeing the western side of the
Atlantic never left me. In October, seventy-five, Dr. Franklin
proposed giving me such materials as were in his hands, towards
completing an history of the present transactions, and seemed desi-
rous of having the first volume out the next spring. I had then
formed the outlines of COMMON SENSE, and finished nearly the
(list part ; and as I supposed the Doctor's design in getting out a
history, was to open the new year with a new system, 1 expected to
surprise him with a production on that subject, much earlier than
he thought of; and without informing him of what I was doing,
got it ready for the press as fast as 1 conveniently could, and seat
hm the first pamphlet that was printed off.

D



AMERICAN CRISIS.

cast ripened into independence in proportion as the evidence
increased. While a third class conceived it was the true in-
terest of America, internally and externally, to be her own
master, gave their support to independence, step by step, as
they saw her abilities to maintain it enlarge. With many,
it was a compound of all these reasons ; while those who
were too callous to be reached by either, remained, and still
remain Tories.

The legal necessity of being independent, with several
collateral reasons, is pointed out in an elegant, masterly man-
ner, in a charge to the grand jury for the district of Charles-
town, by the Hon. William Henry Drayton, Esq. Chief
Justice of South Carolina. This performance, and the ad-
dress of the convention of New York, are pieces, in my
humble opinion, of the first rank in America.

The principal causes why independence has not been so
universally supported as it ought, are fear and indolence ; and
the causes why it has been opposed, are, avarice, downright
villainy, and lust of personal power. There is not such a
being in America, as a Tory from conscience; some secret
defect or other is interwoven in the character of all those,
be they men or women, who can look with patience on the
brutality, luxury, and debauchery of the British Court, and
the violations of their army here. A woman's virtue must
sit very lightly on her, who can even hint a favourable sen-
timent in their behalf. It is remarkable that the whole race
of prostitutes in New York were Tories ; and the schemes
for supporting the Tory cause, in this city, for which several
are now in gaol, and one hanged, were concerted and carried
on, in common bawdy-houses, assisted by those who kept
them.

The connection between vice and meanness, is a fit object
for satire, but when the satire is a fact, it cuts with the irre-
sistible power of a diamond. If a Quaker, in defence of his
just rights, his property, and the chastity of his house, takes
up a musket, he is expelled the meeting ; but the present
King of England, who seduced and took into keeping a
sister of their society, is reverenced and supported with
repeated testimonies, while the friendly noodle from whom
she was taken, and who is now in this city, continues a
drudge in the service of his rival, as if proud of being
cuckolded by a creature called a King.

Our support and success depend on such a variety
of men and circumstances, that every one, who does but
wish well, is of some use. There are men who have a



AMERICAN CRISIS. 43

strange awkwardness to arms, yet have hearts to risk every
shilling in the cause, or in support of those who have better
talents for defending it. Nature in the arrangement of



Online LibraryThomas PaineThe political and miscellaneous works of Thomas Paine .. (Volume 1) → online text (page 12 of 65)