Thomas Paine.

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

. (page 13 of 65)
Online LibraryThomas PaineThe political and miscellaneous works of Thomas Paine .. (Volume 1) → online text (page 13 of 65)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

mankind, has fitted some for every service in life : were all
soldiers, all would starve, and go naked ; and were none
soldiers, all would be slaves. As disaffection to indepen-
dence is the badge of a Tory, so affection to it, is the mark
of a Whig ; and the different services of the Whigs down
from those who nobly contribute every thing, to those who
have nothing to render but their wishes, tend all to the
same centre, though with different degrees of merit and
ability. The larger we make the circle, the more we shall
harmonise, and the stronger we shall be: all we want to
shut out is disaffection, and, that excluded, we must accept
from each other such duties as we are best fitted to bestow.
A narrow system of politics, like a narrow system of religion,
is calculated only to sour the temper, and, live at variance
with mankind.

All we want to know in America is simply this, who is
for independence, and who is not? Those who are for it
will support it, and the remainder will undoubtedly see the
reasonableness of their paying the charges ; while those who
oppose, or seek to betray it, must expect the more rigid fate
of the gaol and the gibbet. There is a bastard kind of ge-
nerosity, which, by being extended to all men, is as fatal to
society, on one hand, as the want of true generosity is on
the other. A lax manner of administering justice, falsely
termed moderation, has a tendency both to dispirit public
virtue, and promote the growth of public evils. Had the
late Committee of Safety taken cognizance of the last testi-
mony of the Quakers, and proceeded against such delin-
quents as were concerned therein, they had, probably, pre-
vented the treasonable plans which have been concerted
since. When one villain is suffered to escape, it encourages
another to proceed, either from a hope of escaping likewise,
or an apprehension that we dare not punish. It has been a
matter of general surprise, that no notice was taken of the
incendiary publication of the Quakers, of the 20th of No-
vember last; a publication evidently intended to promote
sedition and treason, and encourage the enemy, (who were
then within a day's march of this city,) to proceed on, and
possess it. I here present the reader with a memorial,
which was laid before the Board of Safety a few days after
the testimony appeared. Not a member of that Board, that
I conversed with, but expressed the highest detestation of

D 2


the perverted principles and conduct of the Quaker junto,
and that the Board would take the matter up ; notwith-
standing which, it was suffered to pass away unnoticed, to
the encouragement of new acts of treason, the general
danger of the cause, and the disgrace of the state.

To the Honourable the Council of Safety of the State of

At a meeting of a reputable number of the inhabitants of
the city of Philadelphia, impressed with a proper sense
of the justice of the cause which this Continent is engaged
in, and animated with a generous fervour for supporting
the same, it was resolved, that the following be laid before
the Board of Safety:

" We profess liberality of sentiment to all men: with
this distinction only, that those who do not deserve it,
would become wise, and seek to deserve it. We hold the
pure doctrine of universal liberty of conscience, and con-
ceive it our duty to endeavour to secure that sacred right to
others, as well as to defend it for ourselves; for we under-
take not to judge of the religious rectitude of tenets, but
leave the whole matter to H im who made us.

" We persecute no man, neither will we abet in the per-
secution of any man for religion's sake; our common rela-
tion to others, being that of fellow-citizens and fellow-
subjects of one civil community ; and in this line of con-
nection we hold out the right hand of fellowship to all men.
But we should conceive ourselves to be unworthy mem-
AMERICA, were we unconcernedly to see, or suffer any
treasonable wound, public or private, directly or indirectly,
to be given against the peace and safety of the same. We
inquire not into the rank of the offenders, nor their reli-
gious persuasion: we have no business with either; our
part being only to find them out, and exhibit them to

" A printed paper, dated the 20th of November, and
signed * John PembertonJ whom we suppose to be an inha-
bitant of this city, has lately been dispersed abroad, a copy
of which accompanies this. Had the framers and pub-
lishers of that paper conceived it their duty to exhort the
youth, and others, of their society, to a patient submission
under the present trying visitations, and humbly to wait the
event of heaven towards them, they had therein shewn a


Christian temper, and we had been silent: but the anger,
and political virulence, with which their instructions are
given, and the abuse with which they stigmatize all ranks
of men, not thinking like themselves, leave no doubt on our
minds from what spirit their publication proceeded : and it
is disgraceful to the pure cause of truth, that men can dally
with words of the most sacred import, and play them as
mechanically off, as if religion consisted only in contrivance.
We know of no instance in which the Quakers have been
compelled to bear arms, or to do any thing which might
strain their consciences; wherefore their advice, ' to with-
stand and refuse to submit to the arbitrary instructions and
ordinances of men,' appears to us a false alarm, and could
only be treasonably calculated to gain favour with our ene-
mies, when they were seemingly on the brink of invading
this state, or, what is still worse, to weaken the hands of
our defence, that their entrance into this city might be made
practical and easy.

" We disclaim all tumult and disorder in the punishment
of offenders; and wish to be governed not by temper but
by reason, in the manner of treating them. We are sensible
that our cause has suffered by the two following errors:
first, by ill-judged lenity to traitorous persons in some cases;
and secondly, by only a passionate treatment of them in
others. For the future, we disown both, and wish to be
steady in our proceedings, and serious in our punishment.

" Every State in America has, by the repeated voice of
its inhabitants, directed and authorized the Continental Con-
gress to publish a formal Declaration of Independence of,
and separation from, the oppressive King and Parliament of
Great Britain; and we look on every man as an enemy, who
does not, in some line or other, give his assistance towards
supporting the same; at the same time we consider the
offence to be heightened to a degree of unpardonable guilt,
when such persons, under the shew of religion, endeavour,
either by writing, speaking, or otherwise, to subvert, over-
turn, or bring reproach upon the independence of this Con-
tinent, as declared by Congress.

" The publishers of the paper, signed ' John Pemberton,'
have called, in a loud and passionate manner, on their
friends and connections, ' to withstand and refuse' obedience
to whatever * instructions or ordinances' may be published,
not warranted by (what they call) * that happy Constitution
under which they and others long enjoyed tranquillity and


peace.' If this be not treason, we know not what may
properly be called by that name.

" To us it is a matter of surprise and astonishment, that
men with the word c peace, peace,' continually on their lips,
should be so fond of living under, and supporting a Go-
vernment, and at the same time calling it ' happy,' which is
never better pleased than when at war that hath filled
India with carnage and famine Africa with slavery and
tampered with Indians and Negroes to cut the throats of
the freemen of America. We conceive it a disgrace to this
State, to harbour or wink at such palpable hypocrisy. But
as we seek not to hurt the hair of any man's head, when we
can make ourselves safe without, we wish such persons to
restore peace to themselves and us, by removing themselves
to some part of the King of Great Britain's dominions, as by
that method they may live unmolested by us, or we by
them ; for our fixed opinion is, that those who do not deserve
a place among us, ought not to have one.

" We conclude, with requesting the Council of Safety to
take into their consideration the paper signed ' John Pern-
berton ;' and if it shall appear to them to be of a dangerous
tendency, or of a treasonable nature, that they would com-
mit the signer, together with such other persons as they can
discover were concerned therein, into custody, until such
time as some mode of trial shall ascertain the full degree of
their guilt and punishment; in the doing of which, we wish
their judges, whoever they may be, to disregard the man,
his connections, interest, riches, poverty, or principles of
religion, and to attend to the nature of his offence only."

The most cavilling sectarian cannot accuse the foregoing
with containing the least ingredient of persecution. The
free spirit on which the American cause is founded, disdains
to mix with such an impurity, and leave it a rubbish fit only
for narrow and suspicious minds to grovel in. Suspicion
and persecution are weeds of the same dunghill, and flourish
best together. Had the Quakers minded their religion and
their business, they might have lived through this dispute in
enviable ease, and none would have molested them. The
cammon phrase with these people is, " Our principles are
peace." To which may be replied, arid your practices are
the reverse; for never did the conduct of men oppose their
own doctrine more notoriously than the present race of
Quaker?. They have artfully changed themselves into a difr
ferent sort of people to what they used to be, and yet have


the address to persuade each other they are not altered : like
antiquated virgins, they see not the havoc deformity hath
made upon them, but pleasantly mistaking wrinkles for
dimples, conceit themselves yet lovely, and wonder at the
stupid world for not admiring them.

Did no injury arise to the public by this apostasy of the
Quakers from themselves, the public would have nothing to
do with it; but as both the design and consequences are
pointed against a cause in which the whole community is
interested, it is, therefore, no longer a subject confined to
the cognizance of the meeting only, but comes as a matter
of criminality before either the authority of the particular
State in which it is acted, or of the Continent against which
it operates. Every attempt now to support the authority of
the King and Parliament of Great Britain over America, is
treason against every state: therefore, it is impossible that
any one can pardon or screen from punishment, an offender
against all.

But to proceed. While the infatuated Tories of this and
other States were last spring talking of commissioners, ac-
commodating, making the matter up, and the Lord knows
what stuff and nonsense, their good King and Ministry were
glutting themselves with the revenge of reducing America
to unconditional submission, and solacing each other with
the certainty of conquering it in one campaign. The follow-
ing quotations are from the Parliamentary Register of the
debates of the House of Lords, March the 5th, 1776.

" The Americans," says Lord Talbot^ " have been ob-
stinate, undutiful, and ungovernable, from the very begin-
ning, from their first early and infant settlement; and I am
every day more and more convinced that this people will
never be brought back to their duty, and the subordinate
relation they stand in to this country, till reduced to an un-
conditional effectual submission; no concession on our part,
jib lenity, no endurance, will have any other effect but that
of increasing their insolence."

" The struggle," says Lord Townsend^ " is now a strug-
gle for power; the die is cast, and the ONLY POINT
which now remains to be determined, is, in what manner the

* Steward of the King's household.

f Formerly General Townsend at Quebec, and late Lord Lieute-
nant of Ireland.


war cab be most effectually prosecuted and speedily finished,
in order to procure that unconditional submission, which
has been so ably stated by the noble Earl with the white
staff," meaning Lord Talbot; " and I have no reason to
doubt that the measures now pursuing will put an end to the
war in the course of a SINGLE CAMPAIGN. Should it
linger longer, we shall then have reason to expect that some
foreign power will interfere, and take advantage of our
domestic troubles and civil distractions."

Lord Littelton. " My sentiments are pretty well known.
I shall only observe now, that lenient measures have had no
other effect than to produce insult after insult; that the
more we conceded, the higher America rose in her demands,
and the more insolent she has grown. It is for this reason
that I am now for the most effective and decisive measures ;
and am of opinion, that no alternative is left us, but to relin-
quish America for ever, or finally determine to compel her
to acknowledge the legislative authority of this country;
and it is the principle of an unconditional submission I
would be for maintaining."

Can words be more expressive than these? Surely the
Tories will believe the Tory lords! The truth is, they do
believe them, and know as fully as any Whig on the Conti-
nent knows, that the King and Ministry never had the least
design of an accommodation with America, but an absolute,
unconditional conquest. And the part which the Tories
were to act, was, by downright lying, to endeavour to put
the Continent off its guard, and to divide and sow discon-
tent in the minds of such Whigs as they might gain an in-
fluence over, In short, to keep up a distraction here, that
the force sent from England might be able to conquer in
" one campaign" They and the Ministry were, by a diffe-
rent game, playing into each others hands. The cry of the
Tories in England was, " No reconciliation, no accommo-
dation," in order to obtain a greater military force ; while
those in America were crying nothing but " reconciliation
and accommodation," that the force sent might conquer
with the less resistance.

But this " single campaign" is over, and America not con-
quered. The whole work is yet to do, and the force much
less to do it with. Their condition is both despicable and
deplorable. Out of cash out of heart, and out of hope.
A country furnished with arms and ammunition, as Ame^
jrica now is, with three millions of inhabitants, and three


thousand miles distant from the nearest enemy that can ap-
proach her, is able to look, and laugh them in the face.

Howe appears to have two objects in view, either to go
up the North-river, or come to Philadelphia. By going up
the North-river, he secures a retreat for his army through
Canada, but the ships must return, if they return at all, the
same way they went: and as our army would be in the
rear, the safety of their passage down is a doubtful matter.
By such a motion, he shuts himself from all supplies from
Europe, but through Canada, and exposes his army and
navy, to the danger of perishing. The idea of his cutting
off the communication between the eastern and southern
States, by means of the North-river, is merely visionary.
He cannot do it by his shipping ; because no ship can lay
long at anchor in any river within reach of the shore ; a
single gun would drive a first rate from such a station.
This was fully proved last October, at forts Washington and
Lee, where one gun only, on each side of the river, obliged
two frigates to cut and be towed off in an hour's time.
Neither can he cut it off by his army ; because the several
posts they must occupy would divide them almost to nothing,
and expose them to be picked up by ours like pebbles
on a river's bank : but admitting he could, where is the
injury? Because, while his whole force is cantoned out,
as sentries over the water, they will be very innocently em-
ployed, and the moment they march into the country the
communication opens.

The most probable object is Philadelphia, and the rea-
sons are many. Howe's business in America is to conquer
it, and in proportion as he finds himself unable to the task,
he will employ his strength to distress women, and weak
minds, in order to accomplish, through their fears, what he
cannot effect by bis own force. His coming, or attempting
to come to Philadelphia, is a circumstance that proves his
weakness ; for no General, that ielt himself able to take the
field and attack his antagonist, would think of bringing his
army into a city in the summer time ; and this mere
shifting the scene from place to place, without effecting
any thing, has feebleness and cowardice on the face of it,
and holds him up in a contemptible light to any one who
can reason justly and firmly. By several informations from
New York, it appears that their army in general, both
officers and men, have given up the expectation of con-
quering America; their eye is now fixed upon the spoil.
They suppose Philadelphia to be rich with stores, and as


they think to get more by robbing a town than by attacking
an army, their movement towards this city is probable.
We are not now contending against an army of soldiers,
but against a band of thieves, who had rather plunder
than fight, and have no other hope of conquest than by

They expect to get a mighty booty, and strike another
general panic, by making a sudden movement and getting
possession of this city ; but unless they can march out as
well as in, or get the entire command of the river, to re-
move off their plunder, they may probably be stopped with
tbe stolen goods upon them. They have never yet suc-
ceeded wherever they have been opposed but at Fort Wash-
ington. At Charleston their defeat was effectual. At Ti-
conderago they run away. In every skirmish at Kings-
bridge and the White-Plains they were obliged to retreat,
and the instant our arms were turned upon them in the Jer
seys, they turned likewise, and those that turned not were

The necessity of always fitting our internal police to the
circumstances of the times we live in, is something so
strikingly obvious, that no sufficient objection can be made
against it. The safety of all societies depends upon it: and
where this point is not attended to, the consequences will
either be a general languor or a tumult. The encourage-
ment and protection of the good subjects of any State, and
the suppression and punishment of bad ones, are principal
objects for which all authority is instituted, and the line
in w r hich it ought to operate. We have in this city a strange
variety of men and characters, and the circumstances of
the times require they should be publicly known; it is
not the number of Tories that hurts us, so much as the
not finding out who they are: men must now take one
side or the other, and abide by the consequences. The
Quakers, trusting to their short-sighted sagacity, have, most
unluckily for them, made their declaration in their last tes-
timony, and we ought now to take them at their word. They
have voluntarily read themselves out of the continental
meeting, and cannot hope to be restored to it again, but by
payment and penitence. Men whose political principles are
founded on avarice, are beyond the reach of reason, and
the only cure of Toryism of this cast, is to tax it. A sub-
stantial good drawn from a real evil, is of the same benefit
to society, as if drawn from a virtue: and where men have
not public spirit to render themselves serviceable, it ought


to be the study of Government to draw the best possible
use from their vices. When the governing passion of any
man or set of men is once known, the method of managing
them is easy ; for even misers, whom no public virtue can
impress, would become generous, could a heavy tax be laid
upon covetousness.

The Tories have endeavoured to insure their property
with the enemy, by forfeiting their reputation with us: from
which may be justly inferred, that their governing passion is
avarice. 'Make them as much afraid of losing on one side
as the other, and you stagger their Toryism ; make them
more so, and you reclaim them ; for their principle is to
worship any power they are most afraid of.

This method of considering men and things together,
opens into a large field for speculation, and affords me op-
portunity of offering some observations on the state of our
currency, so as to make the support of it go hand in hand
with the suppression of disaffection, arid the encouragement
of public spirit.

The thing which first presents itself in inspecting the
state of the currency is, that we have too much of it, and
there is a necessity of reducing the quantity, in order to in-
crease the value. Men are daily growing poor by the
very means they take to get rich : for in the same propor-
tion that the prices of all goods on hand are raised, the
value of ail money laid by, is reduced. A simple case will
make this clear, Let a man have one hundred pounds
cash, and as many goods on hand as will to-day sell for
twenty pounds, but not content with the present market
price, he raises them to forty pounds, and by so doing,
obliges others in their own defence to raise cent, per cent,
likewise; in this case, it is evident that his hundred pounds
laid by, is reduced fifty pounds in value ; whereas, had the
markets dropped cent per cent, his goods would have sold
but for ten, but his hundred pounds would have risen in va-
lue to two hundred, because it would then purchase as many
goods again, or support his family as long again as before.
And strange as it may seem, he is one hundred and fifty
pounds the poorer for raising his goods, to what he would
have been had he lowered them ; because the forty pounds
his goods sold for, is by the general rise of the markets, cent,
per cent, rendered of no more value than the ten pounds
would be, had the market fallen in the same proportion :
and, consequently, the whole difference of gain or loss is on
the different value of the hundred pounds laid by, viz.


from fifty to two hundred. This rage for raising goods is,
for several reasons, much more the fault of the Tories than
the Whigs ; and yet the Tories (to their shame and confusion
ought they to be told of it) are by far the most noisy and
discontented. The greatest part of the Whigs, by being
now either in the army, or employed in some public service,
are buyers only, and not sellers; and as this evil has its
origin in trade, it cannot be charged on those who are out
of it.

But the grievance is now become too general to be reme-
died by partial methods, and the only effectual cure is to
reduce the quantity of money ; with half the quantity we
should be richer than we are now, because the value of it
would be doubled, and consequently our attachment to it
increased ; for it is not the number of dollars a man has,
but how far they will go, that makes him either rich or

These two points being admitted, viz. 4hat the quantity of
money is too great, and that prices of goods can be only
effectually reduced by reducing the quantity of the money ;
the next point to be considered is, the method how to re-
duce it.

The circumstances of the times, as before observed, re-
quire that the public characters of ail men should now be
falty understood, and the only general method of ascertain-
ing it, is by an oath or affirmation, renouncing all. allegiance
to the King of Great Britain, and to support the indepen-
dency of the United States, as declared by Congress. Let
at the same time, a tax of ten, fifteen, or twenty per cent,
per annum, to be collected quarterly, be levied on all pro-
perty. These alternatives, by being perfectly voluntary,
will take in all sorts of people. Here is the test ; here is
the tax. He who takes the former, conscientiously proves
his affection to the cause, and binds himself to pay his quota
by the best services in his power, and is thereby justly ex-
empt from the latter; and those who chuse the latter, pay
their quota in money, to be excused from taking the former;
or, rather, it is the price paid to us for their supposed, though
mistaken, insurance with the enemy.

But this is only a part of the advantage which would
arise by knowing the different characters of men. The
Whigs stake every thing on the issue of their arms, while

Online LibraryThomas PaineThe political and miscellaneous works of Thomas Paine .. (Volume 1) → online text (page 13 of 65)