Thomas Paine.

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

. (page 17 of 65)
Online LibraryThomas PaineThe political and miscellaneous works of Thomas Paine .. (Volume 1) → online text (page 17 of 65)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

nothing but tyranny, cruelty, and infidelity.

But the happiness is, that the mischief you threaten is


not in your power to execute; and if it were, the punish-
ment would return upon you in a tenfold degree. The hu-
manity of America hath hitherto restrained her from acts of
retaliation, and the affection she retains for many individuals
in England, who have fed, clothed, and comforted her pri-
soners, has, to the present day, warded off her resentment,
and operated as a screen to the whole. But even these con-
siderations must cease, when national objects interfere and
oppose them. Repeated aggravations will provoke a retort,
and policy justify the measure. We mean now to take you
seriously up, upon your own ground and principles, and as
you do, so shall you be done by.

You ought to know, Gentlemen, that England and Scot-
land are far more exposed to incendiary desolation than
America, in her present state, can possibly be. We occupy
a country with but few towns, and whose riches consist in
land and annual produce. The two last can suffer but little,
and that only within a very limited compass. In Britain it
is otherwise. Her wealth lies chiefly in cities and large
towns, the repositories of manufactures, and fleets of mer-
chantmen. There is not a nobleman's country seat but may
be laid in ashes by a single person. Your own may proba-
bly contribute to the proof. In short, there is no evil
which cannot be returned, when you come to incendiary
mischief. The ships in the Thames may certainly be easily
set on fire, as the temporary bridge was a few years ago ; yet
of that affair no discovery was ever made ; and the loss you
would sustain by such an event, executed at a proper sea-
son, is infinitely greater than any you can inflict. The East
India House, and the Bank, neither are, nor can be secure
from this sort of destruction ; and, as Dr. Price justly ob-
serves, a fire at the latter would bankrupt the nation. It
has never been the custom of France and England, when at
war, to make those havocs on each other, because the ease
with which they could retaliate, rendered it as impolitic as
if each had destroyed his own.

But think not, Gentlemen, that our distance secures you,
or our invention fails us. We can much easier accomplish
such a point than any nation in Europe. W^e talk the same
language, dress in the same habit, and appear with the
same manners as yourselves. We can pass from one part of
England to another unsuspected ; many of us are as well
acquainted with the country as you are, and should you im-
politicly provoke our will, TOM will most assuredly lament
the effects of it. Mischiefs of this kind require no army

A Al Eft ! '(' A N Cfl ISIS' 85

to execute them. The means are obvious, and the oppor-
tunities unguardable. I hold up a warning-piece to your
senses, if you have any left, and " to the unhappy people
likewise, whose affairs are committed to you^." I call not
with the rancour of an enemy, but with the earnestness of a
friend, on the deluded people of England, lest between your
blunders and theirs, they sink beneath the evils contrived
for us.

" He who lives in a glass-house," says the Spanish pro-
verb, " should never begin throwing stones." This, Gentle-
men, is exactly your case, and you must be the most igno-
rant of mankind, or suppose us so, not to. see on which side
the balance of accounts will fall. There are many other
modes of retaliation, which, for several reasons, I choose not
to mention. But, be assured of this, that the instant you
put a threat in execution, a counter-blow will follow it. If
you openly profess yourselves savages, it is high time we
should treat you as such: and if nothing but distress can
recover you to reason, to punish will become an office of

While your fleet lay last winter in the Delaware, I offered
my service to the Pennsylvanian navy- board, then at Tren-
ton, as one who would make a party with them, or any four
or five gentlemen, on an expedition down the river, to set
fire to it, arid though it was not then accepted, nor the thing
personally attempted, it is more than probable, that your
own folly will provoke a much more vulnerable part. Say
not, when the mischief is done, that you had not warning,
and remember that we did not begin it, but mean to repay
it. Thus much for your savage and impolitic threat.

In another part of your Proclamation, you say. " But f
the honours of a military life, are become the objects of the
Americans, let them seek those honours under the banners
of their rightful Sovereign, and in fighting the battles of the
united British empire, against our late mutual and natural
enemies." Surely! The union of absurdity with madness,
was never marked with more distinguishable lines than these.
Your rightful Sovereign,?as you call him, may do well enough
for you, who dare not inquire into the humble capacities
of the man; but we, who estimate persons and things by
their real worth, cannot suffer our judgments to be so im-
posed upon ; and, unless it is your wish to see him exposed,

* General Clinton's Letter to Congress.


it ought to be your endeavour to keep him oiit of sight.
The less you have to say about him the better. We have
done with him, and that ought to be answer enough. You
have often been told so. Strange! that the answer must
be so often repeated. You go a begging with your King
as with a brat, or with some unsaleable commodity you
were tired of; and though every body tells, no, no, still
you keep hawking him about. But there is one who will
have him in a little time, and as we have no inclination
to disappoint you of a customer, we bid you nothing for

The impertinent folly of the paragraph I have just
quoted, deserves no other notice than to be laughed at, and
thrown by, but the principle on w r hich it is founded, is
detestable. We are invited to submit to a man who has
attempted by every cruelty to destroy us, and to join him
in making war against France, who is already at war against
him for our support.

Can Bedlam, in concert with Lucifer, form a more mad
and devilish request? Were it possible a people could sink
into such apostasy, they would deserve to be swept from
the earth, like the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah. The
proposition is an universal affront to the rank which man
holds in the creation, and an indignity to him who placed
him there. It supposes him made up without a spark of
honour, and under no obligation to God or man.

What sort of men, or Christians, must you suppose the
Americans to be, who, after seeing their most humble
petitions insultingly rejected, the most grievous laws passed
to distress them in every qup<,rter, an undeclared war let
loose upon them, and Indians and Negroes invited to the
slaughter; who after seeing their kindred murdered, their
fellow citizens starved to death in prisons, and their houses
and property destroyed and buried; who after the most
serious appeals to Heaven, and most solemn adjuration by
oath of all Government connected with you, and the most
heart-felt pledges and protestations of faith to each other:
and who, after soliciting the friendship, and entering into
alliances with other nations, should at last break through all
these obligations, civil and divine, by complying with your
horrid and infernal proposal? Ought we ever after to be
considered as a part of the human race? Or, ought we not
rather to be blotted from the society of mankind, and become
a spectacle of misery to the world? But there is something
in corruption, which, like a jaundiced eye, transfers the


colour of itself to the object it looks upon, and sees every
thing stained and impure ; for unless you were capable of
such conduct yourselves, you could never have supposed
such a character in us. The offer fixes your infamy. It
exhibits you as a nation without faith, with whom oaths and
treaties are considered as trifles, and the breaking them, as
the breaking of a bubble. Regard to decency or to rank,
might have taught you better, or pride inspired you, though
virtue could not. There is not left a step in the degradation
of character to which you can now descend; you have put
your foot on the ground floor, and the key of the dungeon is
turned upon you.

That the invitation may want nothing of being a complete
monster, you have thought proper to finish it with an asser-
tion which has no foundation, either in fact or philosophy ;
and as Mr. Ferguson, your secretary, is a man of letters,
and has made civil society his study, and published a trea-
tise on that subject, I address this part to him.

In the close of the paragraph which I last quoted, France
is styled the "natural enemy" of England, and by way of
lugging us into some strange idea, she is styled the " late
mutual and natural enemy" of both countries. I deny that
she ever was the natural enemy of either, and that there does
not exist in nature such a principle. The expression is an
unmeaning barbarism, and wholly unphilosophical, when
applied to beings of the same species, let their station in
the creation be what it may. We have a perfect idea of
a natural enemy when we think of the devil, because the
enmity is perpetual, unalterable, and unabateable. It
admits neither of peace, truce, or treaty; consequently the
warfare is eternal, and therefore it is natural. But man
with man cannot arrange in the same opposition. Their
quarrels are accidental and equivocally created. They
become friends or enemies at the change of temper, as the
cast of interest inclines them. The Creator of Man did not
constitute them the natural enemy of each other. He has
not made any one order of beings so. Even wolves may
quarrel, still they herd together. If any two nations are so,
then must all nations be so, otherwise it is not nature, but
custom, and the offence frequently originates with the
accuser. England is as truly the natural enemy of France,
as France is of England, and, perhaps, more so. Separated
from the rest of Europe, she has contracted an unsocial
habit of manners, and imagines in others the jealousy she
create* in herself. Never long satisfied with peace, she


supposes the discontent universal, and buoyed up with her
own importance, conceives herself the only object pointed
at. The expression has been often used, arid always with
a fraudulent design ; for when the idea of a natural enemy
is conceived, it prevents all other enquiries, and the real
cause of the quarrel is hidden in the universality of the con-
ceit. Men start at the notion of a natural enemy, and ask
no other question. The cry obtains credit like the alarm of
a mad dog, and is one of those kind of tricks, which, by
operating on the common passions > secures their interest
through their folly.

But we, Sir, are not to be thus imposed upon. We live
in a' large world, and have extended our ideas beyond the
limits and prejudices of an island. We hold out the right
hand of friendship to all the universe, and we conceive
there to be a sociality in the manners of France, which is
much better disposed to peace and negociation than that of
England, and until the latter becomes more civilized, she
cannot expect to live long at peace with any power. Her
common language is vulgar and offensive, and children,
with their milk, suck in the rudiments of insult. " The
arms of Britain! The mighty arm of Britain! Britain that
shakes the earth to its centre and its poles! The scourge of
France! The terror of the world ! That governs with a nod,
and pours down vengeance like a god." This language
neither makes a nation great or little; but it shows a savage-
ness of manners, and has a tendency to keep national ani-
mosity alive. The entertainments of the stage are calcu-
lated to the same end, and almost every public exhibition is
tinctured with insult. Yet England is* always in dread of
France. Terrified at the apprehension of an invasion.
Suspicious of being outwitted in a treaty, and privately
cringing, though she is publicly offending. Let her, there-
fore, reform her manners, and do justice, and she will find
the idea of a natural enemy, to be only a phantom of her
own imagination.

Little did I think, at this period of the war, to see a Pro-
clamation which could promise you no one useful purpose
whatever, and tend only to expose you. One would think
you were just awakened from a four years dream, and knew
nothing of what had passed in the interval. Is this a time to
be offering pardons, or renewing the long forgotten subjects
of charters and taxation? Is it worth your while, after
every force has failed you, to retreat under the shelter of
argument and persuasion ? Or, can you think that we, with


nearly half your army prisoners, and in alliance with France,
are to be begged or threatened into a submission by a piece
of paper ? But as commissioners, at a hundred pounds
sterling a week each, you conceive yourselves bound to do
something, and the genius of ill-fortune told you, you must

For my own part I have not put pen to paper these
several months. Convinced of your superiority by the issue
of every campaign, I was inclined to hope, that that which
all the rest of the world now see, would become visible to
you, and therefore felt unwilling to ruffle your temper by
fretting you with repetitions and discoveries. There have
been intervals of hesitation in your conduct, from which it
seemed a pity to disturb you, and a charity to leave you to
yourselves. You have often stopt, as if you intended to
think, but your thoughts have ever been too early or too

There was a time when Britain disdained to answer, and
even to hear a petition from America. That time is past,
and she, in her turn, is petitioning our acceptance. We
now stand on higher ground, and offer her peace : and the
time will come, when she, perhaps in vain, will ask it from
us. The latter case is as probable as the former ever was.
She cannot refuse to acknowledge our independence with
greater obstinacy than she before refused to repeal her
laws ; and if America alone could bring her to the one,
united with France she will reduce it to the other. There
is something in obstinacy which differs from every other
passion, whenever it fails it never recovers, but either breaks
like iron, or crumbles sulkily away like a fractured arch.
Most other passions have their periods of fatigue and rest ;
their sufferings and their cure ; but obstinacy has no re-
source, arid the first wound is mortal. You have already
begun to give it up, and you will, from the natural construc-
tion of the vice, find yourselves both obliged and inclined
to do so.

If you look back you see nothing but loss and disgrace.
If you look forward, the same scene continues, and the
close is an impenetrable gloom. You may plan and execute
little mischiefs, but are they worth the expence they cost
you, or will such partial evils have any effect on the general
cause? Your expedition to Egg-Harbour will be felt, at a
distance, like an attack upon a hen-roost, and expose you in
Europe with a sort of childish phrensy. Is it well worth
while to keep an army to protect you in writing Proclama-



tions, or to get once a year into winter quarters ? Possessing
yourselves of towns is not conquest, but convenience, and in
which you will, one day or the other, be trepanned. Your
retreat from Philadelphia was only a timely escape, and
your next expedition may be less fortunate.

It would puzzle all the politicians in the universe to con-
ceive what you stay for, or why you should have staid so
long. You are prosecuting a war in which you confess you
have neither object nor hope, and that conquest, could it
be effected, would not repay the charges. In the mean
while, the rest of your affairs are running into ruin, and a
European war kindled against you. In such a situation,
there is neither doubt nor difficulty; the first rudiments of
reason will determine the choice, for if peace can be pro-
cured with more advantages than even a conquest can be
obtained, he must be an idiqt indeed that hesitates.

But you are probably buoyed up by a set of wretched
mortals, who, having deceived themselves, are cringing with
the duplicity of a spaniel for a little temporary bread. Those
men will tell you just what you please. It is their interest
to amuse, in order to lengthen out their protection. They
study to keep you amongst them for that very purpose ;
and in proportion as you disregard their advice, and grow
callous to their complaints, they will stretch into improba-
bility, and pepper off their flattery the higher. Characters
like these are to be found in every country, and every
country will despise them.




No. VII.


Philadelphia, November 21, 1778.

THERE are stages in the business of serious life, in which,
to amuse, is cruel; but, to deceive, is to destroy; and it is
of little consequence, in the conclusion, whether men de-
ceive themselves, or submit, by a kind of mutual consent,
to the impositions of each other. That England has been
long under the influence of delusion, or mistake, needs no
other proof than the unexpected and wretched situation
she is now involved in. And so powerful has been the in-
fluence, that no provision was ever made or thought of,
against the misfortune, because the possibility of its hap-
pening was never conceived.

The general and successful resistance of America, the con-
quest of Burgoyne, and a war with France, were treated in
Parliament, as the dreams of a discontented opposition, or
a distempered imagination. They were beheld as objects
unworthy of a serious thought, and the bare intimation of
them afforded the Ministry a triumph of laughter. Short
triumph indeed ! For every thing which has been predict-
ed, has happened ; and all that was promised have failed.
A long series of politics, so remarkably distinguished by a
succession of misfortunes, without one alleviating turn,
must certainly have something in it systematically wrong.
It is sufficient to awaken the most credulous into suspicion,
and most obstinate into thought. Either the means in your
power are insufficient, or the measures ill-planned; either

G 2


execution has been bad, or the thing attempted impractica-
ble ; or, to speak more emphatically, either you are not
able, or Heaven is not willing. For, why is it that you
have not conquered us? Who, or what has prevented you ?
You have had every opportunity you could desire, and suc-
ceeded to your utmost wish in every preparatory means.
Your fleets and armies have arrived in America, without an
accident. No uncommon misfortune hath intervened. No
foreign nation hath interfered, until the time you had
allotted for victory was past. The opposition, either in or
out of Parliament, neither disconcerted your measures, re-
tarded, or diminished your force. They only foretold your
fate. Every Ministerial scheme was carried with as high a
hand as if the whole nation had been unanimous. Every
thing wanted was asked for, and every thing asked for was
granted. A greater force was not within the compass of
your abilities to send, and the time you sent it, was, of all
others, the most favourable. You were then at rest with
the whole world beside. You had the range of every Court
in Europe, uncontradicted by us. You amused us with a
tale of Commissioners of peace, and, under that disguise,
collected a numerous army, and came almost unexpectedly
upon us. The force was much greater than we looked for ;
and that which we had to oppose it with, was unequal in
numbers, badly armed, and poorly disciplined ; besides
which, it was embodied only for a short time, and expired
within a few months after your arrival. We had Govern-
ments to form ; measures to concert ; an army to raise and
train ; and every necessary article to import, or to create.
Our non-importation-scheme had exhausted our stores, and
your command by sea, intercepted our supplies. We were
a people unknown, and unconnected with the political
world, and strangers to the disposition of foreign powers.
Could you possibly wish for a more favourable conjunction
of circumstances ? Yet all these have happened and passed
away, and, as it were, left you with a laugh. They are
likewise, events of such an original nativity as can never
happen again, unless a new world should arise from the

If any thing can be a lesson to presumption, surely the
circumstances of this war will have their effect. Had Bri-
tain been defeated by any European power, her pride would
have drawn consolation from the importance of her con-
querors ; but, in the present case, she is excelled by those
she affected to despise, and her own opinion retorting on


herself, become an aggravation of her disgrace. Misfortune
and experience are lost upon mankind, when they produce
neither reflection nor reformation. Evils, like poisons, have
their uses, and there are diseases which no other remedy
can reach. It has been the crime and folly of England to
suppose herself invincible, and that, without acknowledg-
ing or perceiving, that a full third of her strength was drawn
from the country she is now at war with. The arm of
Britain has been spoken of as the arm of the Almighty,
and she has lived of late, as if she thought the whole world
created for her diversion. Her politics, instead of civilizing,
have tended to brutalize mankind, and under the vain, un-
meaning title of " Defender of the Faith," she has made
war, like an Indian, against the religion of humanity. Her
cruelties in the East Indies will NEVER, NEVER be for-
gotten; and it is somewhat remarkable, that the produce of
that ruined country, transported to America, should there
kindle up a war to punish the destroyer. The chain is con-
tinued, though with a kind of mysterious uniformity, both
in the crime and the punishment. The latter runs parallel
with the former ; and time and fate will give it a perfect

Where information is withheld, ignorance becomes a rea-
sonable excuse ; and one would charitably hope, that the
people of England do not encourage cruelty from choice,
but from mistake. Their recluse situation, surrounded by
the sea, preserves them from the calamities of war, and
keeps them in the dark as to the conduct of their own
armies. They see not, therefore they feel not. They tell the
tale that is told them, and believe it ; and accustomed to no
other news than their own, they receive it, stripped of its
horrors, and prepared for the palate of the nation, through
the channel of the London Gazette. They are made to
believe, that their generals and armies differ from those of
other nations, and have nothing of rudeness or barbarity in
them. They suppose them wjiat they wish them to be.
They feel a disgrace in thinking otherwise, and naturally
encourage the belief from a partiality to themselves. There
was a time when I felt the same prejudices, and reasoned
from the same errors ; but experience, sad and painful ex-
perience, has taught me better. Wl;at the conduct of for-
mer armies was, I know not ; but what the conduct of the
present is, I well know. It is low, cruel, indolent, and pro-
fligate ; and had the people of America no other cause for


separation than what the army has occasioned, that alone is
cause enough.

The field of politics in England is far more extensive than
that of news. Men have a right to reason for themselves,
and though they cannot contradict the intelligence in the
London Gazette, they can frame upon it what sentiments
they please. But the misfortune is, that a general ignorance
has prevailed over the whole nation respecting America.
The Ministry and the Minority have both been wrong.
The former was always so ; the latter, only lately so. Po-
litics to be executively right, must have a unity of means
and time, and a defect in either overthrows the whole. The
Ministry rejected the plans of the Minority, while they were
practicable, and joined in them, when they became imprac-
ticable. From wrong measures they got into wrong time,
and have now completed the circle of absurdity by closing
it upon themselves.

It was my fate to come to America a few months before
the breaking out of hostilities. I found the disposition of
the people such, that they might have been led by a thread,

Online LibraryThomas PaineThe political and miscellaneous works of Thomas Paine .. (Volume 1) → online text (page 17 of 65)