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the several parts.






Nortfc America;










A LONDON translation of an original work in French,
by the Abbe RAYNAL, which treats of the Revolu-
tion of North America, having been reprinted in
Philadelphia and other parts of the Continent, and
as the distance at which the Abbe is placed from the
American theatre of war arid politics, has occa-
sioned him to mistake several facts, or misconceive
the causes or principles by which they were produ-
ced ; the following tract, therefore, is published with
a view to rectify them, and prevent even accidental
errors intermixing with history, under the sanction
of time and silence.

The Editor of the London edition has entitled it,
"The Revolution of America, by the ABBE RAY-
NAL," and the American printers have followed the
example. But I have understood, and I believe my
information to be just, that the piece, which is more
properly reflections on the Revolution, was unfairly
purloined from the printer which the Abbe employed,
or from the manuscript copy, and is only part of a
larger work then in the press, or preparing for it.
The person who procured it, appears to have been
an Englishman ; and though, in an advertisement pre-
fixed to the London edition, he has endeavoured to
gloss over the embezzlement with professions of
patriotism, and to soften it with high encomiums on
the author, yet the action, in any view in which it
can be placed, is illiberal and unpardonable.

" In the course of his travels," says he, " the trans-
lator happily succeeded in obtaining a copy of this


exquisite little piece, which has not yet made its ap-
pearance from any press." He publishes a French
edition, in favour of those who will feel its eloquent
reasoning more forcibly in its native language, at the
same time with the following translation of it: in
which he has been desirous, perhaps, in vain, that
all the warmth, the grace, the Strength, the dignity
of the original, should not be lost. And he flatters
himself, that the indulgence of the illustrious histo-
rian will not be wanting to a man who, of his own
motion, has taken the liberty to give this composi-
tion to the public, " only from a strong persuasion,
that this momentous argument will be useful, in a
critical conjuncture, to that country which he loves
with an ardour that can be exceeded only by the
nobler flame which burns in the bosom of the phi-
lanthropic author, for the freedom and happiness of
all the countries upon earth."

This plausibility of setting off a dishonourable ac-
tion, may pass for patriotism and sound principles
with those who do not enter into its demerits, and
whose interest is not injured, nor their happiness af-
fected thereby. But it is more than probable, not-
withstanding the declarations it contains, that the
copy was obtained for the sake of profiting by the
sale of a new and popular work, and that the profes-
sions are but a garb to the fraud.

It may, with propriety, be remarked, that in all
countries where literature is protected, (and it never
can flourish where it is not,) the works of an author
are his legal property ; and to treat letters in any
other light than this, is to banish them from the coun-
try, or strangle them in the birth. The embezzle-
ment from the AbbeRAYNAL was, it is true, com-
mitted by one country upon another, and therefore,
shews no defect in the laws of either. But it is ne-
vertheless a breach of civil manners and literary jus-
tice ; neither can it be any apology, that because the


countries are at war, literature shall be entitled to

But the forestalling the Abbe's publication by Lon-
don editions, both in French and English, and there-
by not only defrauding him, and throwing an ex-
pensive publication on his hands by anticipating the
sale, are only the smaller injuries which such conduct
may occasion. A man's opinions, whether written,
or in thought, are his own until he pleases to pub-
lish them himself; and it is adding cruelty to injus-
tice to make him the author of what future reflection
or better information might occasion him to sup-
press or amend. There are declarations and senti-
ments in the Abbe's piece, which, for my own part,
I did not expect to find, and such as himself, on a
revisal, might have seen occasion to change, but the
anticipated piracy effectually prevented him the op-
portunity, and precipitated him into difficulties
which, had it not been for such ungenerous fraud,
might not have happened.

This mode of making an author appear before his
time, will appear still more ungenerous, when we
consider how exceedingly few men there are in any
country, who can at once, and without the aid of
reflection and revisal, combine warm passions with
a cool temper, and the full expansion of imagination,

* The state of literature in America must one day become a sub-
ject of legislative consideration. Hitherto it hath been a disinte-
rested volunteer in the service of the Revolution, and no man thought
of profits ; but when peace shall give time and opportunity for study,
the country will deprive itself of the honour and service of letters,
and the improvement of science, unless sufficient laws are made to
prevent depredation on literary property. It is well worth remark-
ing, that Russia, who, but a few years ago, was scarcely known iu
Europe, owes a large share of her present greatness to the close at-
tention she has paid, and the wise encouragement she has given, to
every branch of science and learning : and we have almost the same
instance in France in the reign of Lewis XIV.


with the natural and necessary gravity of judgment,
so as to be rightly balanced within themselves, arid
to make a reader feel, fancy, and understand justly,
at the same time. To call three powers of the mind
into action at once, in a manner that neither shall
interrupt, and that each shall aid and vigorate the
other, is a talent very rarely possessed.

It often happens, that the weight of an argument
is lost by the wit of setting it off, or the judgment
disordered by an intemperate irritation of the pas-
sions : yet a certain degree of animation must be felt
by the writer, and raised in the reader, in order to
interest the attention ; and a sufficient scope given
to the imagination, to enable it to create in the mind
a sight of the persons, characters, and circumstances
of the subject; for without these, the judgment
will feel little or no excitement to office, and its de-
terminations will be cold, sluggish, and imperfect.
But if either or both of the two former are raised too
high, or heated too much, the judgment will be jos-
tled from its seat, and the whole matter, however
important in itself, will diminish into a pantomime
of the mind, in which we create images that pro-
mote no other purpose than amusement.

The Abbe's writings bear evident marks of that
extension and rapidness of thinking, and quickness
of sensation, which, of all others, require revisal,
and the more particularly so, when applied to the
living characters of Nations, or individuals in a
state of war. The least misinformation or miscon-
ception leads to some wrong* conclusion, and an er-
ror believed becomes the progenitor of others. And
as the Abbe has suffered some inconveniences in
France by mis-stating certain circumstances of the
war, and the characters of the parties therein, it
becomes some apology for him, that those errors
were precipitated into the world by the avarice of an
ungenerous enemy.


To an Author of such distinguished reputation as the Abbe
RAYNAL, it might very well become me to apologize for
the present undertaking ; but, as to be right is the first wish
of philosophy, and the first principle of history, he will, I
presume, accept from me a declaration of my motives,
which are those of doing justice, in preference to any com-
plimental apology I might otherwise make. The Abbe,
in the course of his work, has in some instances extolled,
without a reason, and wounded without a cause. He has
given fame where it was not deserved, and withheld it where
it was justly due: and appears to be so frequently in and out
of temper with his subjects and parties, that few or none of
them are decisively and uniformly marked.

It is yet too soon to write the history of the Revolution ;
and whoever attempts it precipitately, will unavoidably mis-
take characters and circumstances, and involve himself in
error and difficulty. Things, like men are seldom under-
stood rightly at first sight. But the Abbe is wrong even in
the foundation of his work ; that is, he has misconceived
and mis-stated the causes which produced the rupture be-
tween England and her then Colonies, and which led on,
step by step, unstudied and uncontrived on the part of Ame-
rica, to a Revolution, which has engaged the attention, and
affected the interest of Europe.

To prove this, I shall bring forward a passage, which,
though placed towards the latter part of the Abbe's work,
Is more intimately connected with the beginning ; and in
which, speaking of the original cause of the dispute, he de-
clares himself in the following manner

" None," sajs he, " of thos energetic causes, which


have produced so many Revolutions upon the globe, existed
in North-America. Neither religion nor laws had there
been outraged. The blood of martyrs or patriots had not
there streamed from scaffolds. Morals had not there been
insulted. Manners, customs, habits, no object dear to na-
tions, had there been the sport of ridicule. Arbitrary power
had not there torn any inhabitant from the arms of his family
and his friends, to drag him to a dreary dungeon. Public
order had not been there inverted. The principles of ad-
ministration had not been changed there ; and the maxims
of government had there always remained the same. The
whole question was reduced to the knowing whether the
mother country had, or had not, a right to lay, directly or in-
directly, a slight tax upon the Colonies."

On this extraordinary passage, it may not be improper,
in general terms, to remark, that none can feel like those
who suffer ; and that for a man to be a competent judge of
the provocative, or, as the Abbe styles them, the energetic
causes of the Revolution, he must have resided in America.

The Abbe, in saying that the several particulars he has
enumerated did not exist in America, and neglecting to
point out the particular period in which he means they did
noi exist, reduces thereby his declaration to a nullity by
taking away all meaning from the passage.

They did not exist in 1763, and they all existed before
1776 ; consequently, as there was a time when they did not,
and another when they did exist, the time when constitutes
the essence of the fact ; and not to give it, is to withhold
the only evidence, which proves the declaration right or
wrong, and on which it must staud or fall. But the decla-
ration, as it now appears, unaccompanied by time, has an
effect in holding out to the world, that there was no real
cause for the Revolution, because it denies the existence of
all those causes which are supposed to be justifiable, and
which the Abbe styles energetic.

I confess myself exceedingly at a loss to find out the
time to which the Abbe alludes ; because, in another part
of the work, in speaking of the Stamp Act, which was passed
in 1764, he styles it, " An usurpation of .the Americans' most
precious and sacred rights." Consequently he here admits
the most energetic of all causes, that is, an usurpation of the
most precious and sacred rights, to have existed in America
twelve years before the Declaration of Independence, and
ten years before the breaking out of hostilities. The time
therefore, in which the paragraph is true, must be antece-


dent to the Stamp Act; but as at that time there was no
Revolution, nor any idea of one, it consequently applies
without a meaning; and as it cannot, on the Abbe's own
principle, be applied to any time after the Stamp Act; it is
therefore a wandering solitary paragraph, connected with
nothing, and at variance with every thing.

The Stamp Act, it is true, was repealed in two years after
it was passed ; but it was immediately followed by one of
infinitely more mischievous magnitude, I mean the Decla-
ratory Act, which asserted the right, as it was styled, of the
British Parliament, " to bind America in allcases whatsoever.

If, then, the Stamp Act was an " usurpation of the Ame-
ricans' most precious and sacred rights," the Declaratory Act
left them no rights at all ; and contained the full grown seeds
of the most despotic government that ever existed in the
world. It placed America not only in the lowest, but in
the basest state of vassalage ; because it demanded an un-
conditional submission in every thing, or as the Act ex-
presses it, in allcases whatsoever ; and what renders this Act
the more offensive, is that it appears to have been passed as
an act of mercy ; truly, then, it may be said, that the tender
mercies of the wicked are cruel.

All the original charters from the Crown of England,
under the faith of which, the adventurers from the old
world settled in the new, were by this act displaced from,
their foundations ; because, contrary to the nature of them,
which was that of a compact, they were now made subject
to repeal or alteration, at the mere will of one party only.
The whole condition of America was thus put into the
hands of the Parliament of the Ministry, without leaving
to her the least right in any case whatsoever.

There is no despotism to which this iniquitous law did
not extend; and though it might have been convenient, in
the execution of it, to have consulted manners and habits,
the principle of the act made all tyranny legal. It stopped
no where. It went to every thing. It took in with it the
whole life of a man, or, if I may so express it, an eternity
of circumstances. It is the nature of law to require obe-
dience, but this demanded servitude ; and the condition of
an American, under the operation of it, was not that of a
subject, but a vassal. Tyranny has often been established
without law, and sometimes against it, but the history of
mankind does not produce another instance in which it has
been established by law. It is an audacious outrage upon



Civil Government, and cannot be too much exposed, in order
to be sufficiently detected.

Neither could it be said after this, that the legislature of
that country any longer made laws for this, but that it gave
out commands ; for wherein differed an Act of Parliament
constructed on this principle, and operating in this manner,
over an unrepresented people, from the orders of a military
establishment? :.

The Parliament of England, with respect to America,
was not septennial put perpetual. It appeared to the latter
a body always in being. Its election or its expiration were
to her the same; as if its members succeeded by inheritance,
or went out by death, or lived for ever, or were appointed
to it as a matter of office. Therefore, for the people of
England to have any just conception of the mind of Ame-
rica, respecting this extraordinary act, they must suppose
all election arid expiration in that country to cease for ever,
and the present Parliament, its heirs, &c. to be perpetual ;
in this case, I ask, what would the most clamorous of them
think, were an act to be passed, declaring the right of suck
a Parliament to bind them in all cases whatsoever ? For this
word whatsoever would go as effectually to their Magna
Charta, Bill of Eights, Trial by Juries, &c. as it went to the
charters and forms of government in America.

I am persuaded, that the Gentleman to whom I address
these remarks, will not, after the passing this act, say,
" That the principals of administration had not been changed
in America, and that the maxims of government had
there been always the same." For here is, in principle, a
total overthrow of the whole, and not a subversion only,
but an annihilation of the foundation of liberty and absolute
domination established in its stead.

The Abbe likewise states the case exceedingly wrong and
injuriously, when he says, " that the whole question was
reduced to the knowing whether the mother country had,
or had not, a right to lay, directly or indirectly, a slight tax
upon the Colonies." This was not the whole of the question ;
neither was the quantity of the tax the object, either to the
Ministry, or to the Americans. It was the principle, of
which the tax made but a part, and the quantity still less,
that formed the ground on which America opposed.

The Tax on Tea, which is the tax here alluded to, was
neither more or less than an experiment to establish the
practice of the Declaratory Law upon ; modelled into the
more fashionable phrase of the universal supremacy of Par-
liament. For, until (his time, the Declaratory Law had lain


dormant, and the framers of it had contented themselves
with barely declaring an opinion.

Therefore, the whole question with America, in the open-
ing of the dispute, was, shall we be bound in all cases
whatsoever by the British Parliament, or shall we not ? For
submission to the Tea or Tax Act, implied an acknowledge-
ment of the Declaratory Act, or, in other words^ to the uni-
versal supremacy of Parliament, which, as they never in-
tended to do, it was necessary they should oppose it in its
first stage of execution.

It is probable the Abbe has been led into this mistake by
perusing detached pieces in some of the American news-
papers ; for, in a case where all were interested, every one
had a right to give his opinion ; and there were many who,
with the best intentions, did not choose the best, nor indeed
the true ground, to defend their cause upon. They felt them-
selves right by a general impulse, without being able to se-
parate, analyze, and arrange the parts.

I am somewhat unwilling to examine too minutely into
the whole of this extraordinary passage of the Abbe, lest I
should appear to treat it with severity ; otherwise I could
shew that not a single declaration is justly founded ; for in-
stance, the reviving an obsolete act of the reign of Henry
the Eighth, and fitting it to the Americans, by authority of
which they were to be seized and brought from America to
England, and there imprisoned and tried Hr any supposed
offences, was, in the worse sense of the wc/rds, to tear them
by the arbitrary power of Parliament from the arms of their
families and friends, and drag them not only to dreary, but
distant dungeons. Yet this act was contrived some years
before the breaking out of hostilities. And again, though
the blood of martyrs and patriots had not streamed on the
scaffolds, it streamed in the streets, in the massacre of the
inhabitants of Boston, by the British soldiery, in the year

Had the Abbe said that the causes which produced the
Revolution in America were originally different from those
which produced Revolutions in other parts of the globe, he
had been right. Here the value and quality of liberty, the
nature of government, and the dignity of man were known
and understood, and the attachment of the Americans to
these principles produced the Revolution as a natural and
almost unavoidable consequence. They had no particular
family to set up or pull down. Nothing of personality
was incorporated with their cause. They started even-

B 2


handed with each other, and went no faster into the several
stages of it, than they were driven by the unrelenting and
imperious conduct of Britain. Nay, in the last act, the De-
claration of Independence, they had nearly been too late ;
for had it not been declared at the exact time it was, I have
seen no period in their affairs since, in which it could have
been declared with the same effect, and probably not at all.

But the object being formed before the reverse of fortune
took place, that is before the operations of the gloomy cam^
paign of 1776, their honour, their interest, their every thing,
called loudly on them to maintain it, and that glow of
thought, and energy of heart, which even a distant prospect
of independence inspires, gave confidence to their hopes, and
resolution to their conduct, which a state of dependence could
never have reached. They looked forward to happier days
and scenes of rest, and qualified the hardships of the cam-
paign by contemplating the establishment of their new-born

If on the other hand, we take a review of what part
Britain has acted, we shall find every thing which ought to
make a nation blush. The most vulgar abuse, accompanied
by that species of haughtiness, which distinguishes the hero
of a mob from the character of a gentleman : it was equally
as much from her manners, as from her injustice, that she
lost the Colonies. By the latter she provoked their princi-
ples, by the former she wore out their temper ; and it ought
to be held out as an example to the world, to shew, how ne-
cessary it is to conduct the business of government with ci-
vility. In short other Revolutions may have originated in
caprice, or generated in ambition ; but here, the most un-
offending humility was tortured into rage, and the infancy
of existence made to weep.

An union so extensive, continued and determined, suffering
with patience and never in despair, could not have been pro-
duced by common causes. It must be something capable
of reaching the whole soul of man, and arming it with perpe-
tual energy. In vain it is to look for precedents among the
Revolutions of former ages, to find out, by comparison, the
causes of this. The spring, the progress, the object, the
consequences, nay the men, their habits of thinking, and
all the circumstances of the country, are different. Those
\ of other nations are, in general, little more than the history

of their quarrels. They are marked by no important cha-
racter in the annals of events ; mixed in the mass of general
matters they occupy but a common page; and while the


chief of the successful partizaus stepped into power, the
plundered multitude sat down and sorrowed. Few, very-
few of them are accompanied with reformation, either in
government or manners ; many of them with the most con-
summate profligacy. Triumph on the one side, and mi-
sery on the other, were the only events. Pains, punishments,
torture, and death, were made the business of mankind, un-
til compassion, the fairest associate of the heart, was driven
from its place, and the eye, accustomed to continual cruelty,
could behold it without offence.

But as the principles of the present Revolution differed
from those which preceded it, so likewise has the conduct
of America, both in government and war. Neither the foul
finger of disgrace, nor the bloody hand of vengeance, has
hitherto put a blot upon her fane. Her victories have re-
ceived lustre from a greatness of lenity; and her laws been
permitted to slumber, where they might justly have awakened
to punish. War, so much the trade of the world, has here
been only the business of necessity ; and when the necessity
shall cease, her very enemies must confess, that as she drew
the sword in her just defence, she used it without cruelty,
and sheathed it without revenge.

As it is not my design to extend these remarks to an his-
tory, I shall now take my leave of this passage of the Abbe,
with an observation, which, until something unfolds itself to
convince me otherwise, I cannot avoid believing to be true ;
which is, that it was the first determination of the British
Cabinet to quarrel with America at all events.

They, (the members who compose the Cabinet) had no
doubt of success, if they could once bring it to the issue of
a battle ; and they expected from a conquest what they could
neither propose with decency, nor hope for by negociation.
The Charters and Constitutions of the Colonies were be-
come to them matters of offence, and their rapid progress iu
property and population were disgustingly beheld as the
growing and natural means of independence. They saw no

Online LibraryThomas PaineThe political and miscellaneous works of Thomas Paine .. (Volume 1) → online text (page 30 of 65)