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heaven the highest evidence of approbation ; and as this is a
subject to which the Abbe's powers are so eminently suited,
I recommend it to his attention, with the affection of a
friend, and the ardour of an universal citizen.


SINCE closing the foregoing letter, some intimations respect-
ing a general peace, have made their way to America. On
what authority or foundation they stand, or how near, or
how remote such an event may be, are circumstances, I am
not enquiring into. But as the subject must, sooner or later,
become a matter of serious attention, it may not be impro-
per, even at this early period, candidly to investigate some
points that are connected with it, or lead towards it.

The independence of America is at this moment, as firmly
established as that of any other country in a state of war.
It is not length of time, but power, that gives stability. Na-
tions at war, know nothing of each other on the score of an-
tiquity. It is their present and immediate strength, together
with their connections, that must support them. To which
we may add, that a right which originated to-day, is as
much a right, as if it had the sanction of a thousand years ;
and, therefore, the independence and present government
of America are in no more danger of being subverted, be-
cause they are modern, than that of England is secure, be-
cause it is ancient.

The politics of Britain, so far as they respected America,
were originally conceived in idiotism, and acted in madness.
There is not a step which bears the smallest trace of ration-
ality. In her management of the war, she has laboured to
be wretched, and studied to be hated ; and in all her former
propositions for accommodation, she has discovered a total
ignorance of mankind, and of those natural and unalterable
sensations by which they are so generally governed. How
she may conduct herself in the present or future business of
negociating a peace is yet to be proved.

He is a weak politician who does not understand human
nature, and penetrate into the effect which measures of go-
vernment will have upon the mind- All the miscarriages of
Britain have arisen from this defect. The former ministry
acted as if they supposed mankind to be without a mind; and


the present ministry, as if America was without a memory.
The one must have supposed we were incapable of feeling;
and the other that we could not remember injuries.

There is likewise another line in which politicians mis-
take, which is that of not rightly calculating, or rather of
misjudging, the consequence which any given circumstance
will produce. Nothing is more frequent, as well in com-
mon as in political life, than to hear people complain, that
such and such means produced an event directly contrary
to their intentions. But the fault lies in their not judging
rightly what the event would be ; for the means produced
only their proper and natural consequences.

It is very probable, that in a treaty of peace, Britain
will contend for some post or other in North America ;
perhaps Canada or Halifax, or both : and I infer this from
the known deficiency of her politics, which have ever yet
made use of means, whose natural event was against both her
interest and her expectation. But the question with her
ought to be, Whether it is worth her while to hold them, and
what will be the consequence ?

Respecting Canada, one or other of the two following will
take place, viz. If Canada should people, it will revolt, and
if it do not people, it will not be worth the expence of hold-
ing. And the same may be said of Halifax, and the coun-
try round it. But Canada never will people ; neither is there
any occasion for contrivances on one side or the other, for
nature alone will do the whole.

Britain may put herself to great expence in sending set-
tlers to Canada ; but the descendants of those settlers will
be Americans, as other descendants have been before them.
They will look round and see the neighbouring States sove-
reign and free, respected abroad, and trading at large with
the world ; and the natural love of liberty, the advantages of
commerce, the blessings of independence, and of a happier
climate, and a richer soil, will draw them southward, and
the effect will be, that Britain will sustain the expence, and
America reap the advantage.

One would think that the experience which Britain has
had of America, would entirely sicken her of all thoughts of
Continental colonization ; and any part which she might re-
tain, would only become to her a field of jealousy and thorns,
of debate and contention, for ever struggling for privileges,
and meditating revolt. She may form new settlements, but
they will be for us; they will become part of the United
States of America ; and that against all her contrivances to


prevent it, or without any endeavours of ours to promote it.
In the first place, she cannot draw from them a revenue
until they are able to pay one, and when they are so, they
will be above subjection. Men soon become attached to the
soil they live upon, and incorporated with the prosperity of
the place ; and it signifies but little, what opinions they
come over with, for time, interest, and new connections,
will render them obsolete, and the next generation know
nothing of them.

Were Britain truly wise she would lay hold of the present
opportunity, to disentangle herself from all Continental em-
barrassments in North America, and that not only to avoid
future broils and troubles, but to save expences. For to
speak explicitly on the matter, I would not, were I an
European power, have Canada* under the conditions that
Britain must retain it could it be given to me. It is one of
those kind of dominions that is, and ever will be, a constant
charge upon any foreign holder.

As to Halifax, it will become useless to England after the
present war, and the loss of the United States. A harbour,
when the dominion is gone, for the purpose of which only it
was wanted, can be attended only with expence. There
are, I doubt not, thousands of people in England, who sup-
pose, that those places are a profit to the nation, whereas,
they are directly the contrary, and instead of producing any
revenue, a considerable part of the revenue of England is
annually drawn off, to support the expence of holding

Gibraltar is another instance of national ill-policy. A
post which, in time of peace, is not wanted, and in time of
war, is of no use, must, at all times, be useless. Instead of
affording protection to a navy, it requires the aid of one to
maintain it. And to suppose that Gibraltar commands the
Mediterranean, or the pass into it, or the trade of it, is to
suppose a detected falsehood ; because, though Britain holds
the post, she has lost the other three, and every benefit she
expected from it. And to say that all this happens
because it is besieged by land and water, is to say nothing,
for this will always be the case in time of war, while France
and Spain keep up superior fleets, and Britain holds the
place. So that, though as an impenetrable, inaccessible
rock, it may be held by the one, it is always in the power of
the other to render it useless, and excessively chargeable.

I should suppose that one of the principal objects of Spain
in besieging it, is to shew to Britain, that though she may


not take it, she can command it, that is, she can shut it up,
and prevent its being used as a harbour, though not as a
garrison. But the short way to reduce Gibraltar is to at-
tack the British fleet ; for Gibraltar is as dependent on a fleet
for support, as a bird is on its wings for food, and when
wounded there, it starves.

There is another circumstance which the people of Eng-
land have not only not attended to, but seem to be utterly
ignorant of, and that is, the difference between perma-
nent power, and accidental power, considered in a na-
tional sense.

By permanent power, I mean, a natural, inherent, and per-
petual ability in a nation, which, though always in being,
may not be always in action, or not always advantageously
directed ; and by accidental power, I mean, a fortunate or
accidental disposition or exercise of national strength in
whole or in part.

There undoubtedly was a time when any one European
nation, with only eight or ten ships of war, equal to the
present ships of the line, could have carried terror to all
others, who had not began to build a navy, however great
their natural ability might be for that purpose. .But this
can be considered only as accidental, and not as a standard to
compare permanent power by, and could last no longer than
until those powers built as many or more ships than the
former. After this, a larger fleet was necessary, in order to
be superior; and a still larger would again supersede it.
And thus mankind have gone on, building fleet upon fleet, as
occasion or situation dictated. And this reduces it to an
original question, which is. Which power can build and
man the largest number of ships? The natural answer to
which, is, That power which has the largest revenue, and
the greatest number of inhabitants, provided its situation of
coast affords sufficient conveniences.

France being a nation on the continent of Europe, and
Britain an island in its neighbourhood, each of them derived
different ideas from their different situations. The inhabi-
tants of Britain could carry on no foreign trade, nor stir
from the spot they dwelt upon, without the assistance of
shipping ; but this was not the case with France. The
idea, therefore, of a navy did not arise to France from the
same original and immediate necessity which produced it to
England. But the question is, that when both of them turn
their attention, and employ their revenues the same way,
which can be superior ?


The annual revenue of France is nearly double that of
England, and her number of inhabitants more than twice
as many. Each of them has the same length of coast on
the channel; besides which, France has several hundred
miles extent on the Bay of Biscay, and an opening on the
Mediterranean: and every day proves, that practice and
exercise make sailors, as well as soldiers, in one country as
well as another.

If, then, Britain can maintain an hundred ships of the
line, France can as well support an hundred and fifty, be-
cause her revenues, and her population, are as equal to the
one, as those of England are to the other. And the only
reason why she has not done it, is, because she has not, till
very lately, attended to it. But when she sees, as she now
sees, that a navy is the first engine of power, she can easily
accomplish it.

England very falsely, and ruinously for herself, infers,
that because she had the advantage of France, while France
had a smaller navy, that for that reason it is always to be so.
Whereas, it may be clearly seen, that the strength of France
has never yet been tried on a navy, and that she is able to be
as superior to England in the extent of a navy, as she is in
the extent of her revenues and her population. And Eng-
land may lament the day when, by her insolence and injus-
tice, she provoked in France a maritime disposition.

It is in the power of the combined fleets to conquer every
island in the West Indies, and reduce all the British navy in
those places. For were France and Spain to send their
whole naval force in Europe to those islands, it would not
be in the power of Britain to follow them with an equal
force. She would still be twenty or thirty ships inferior,
were she to send every vessel she had; and, in the mean
time, all the foreign trade of England would lay exposed to
the Dutch.

It is a maxim which, I am persuaded, will ever hold good,
and more especially in naval operations, that a great power
ought never to move in detachments, if it can possibly be
avoided; but to go with its whole force to some important
object, the reduction of which shall have a decisive effect
upon the war. Had the whole of the French and Spanish
fleets in Europe come last spring to the West Indies, every
island had been their own, Rodney their prisoner, and his
"fleet their prize. From the I'nited States, the combined
fleets can be supplied with provisions, without the necesify



/of drawing them from Europe, which is not the case with

Accident has thrown some advantages in the way of Eng-
land, which, from the inferiority of her navy, she had not a
right to expect. For though she has been obliged to fly
before the combined fleets, yet Rodney has twice had the
fortune to fall in with detached squadrons, to which he was
superior in numbers. The first off Cape St. Vincent, where
he had nearly two to one ; and the other in the West Indies,
where he had a majority of six ships. Victories of this
kind almost produce themselves. They are won without
honour, and suffered without disgrace; and are ascribable
to the chance of meeting, not to the superiority of fighting.
For the same Admiral, under whom they were obtained,
was unable, in three former engagements, to make the least
impression on a fleet consisting of an equal number of ships
\vith his own, and compounded for the events by declining
the action.^ 5

To conclude, if it may be said, that Britain has numerous
enemies, it likewise proves that she has given numerous of-
fences. Insolence is sure to provoke hatred, whether in a
nation or an individual. The want of manners, in the Bri-
tish Court, may be seen even in its birth-day and new-
year's odes, which are calculated to infatuate the vulgar, and
disgust the man of refinement ; and her former overbearing
rudeness, and insufferable injustice on the seas, have made
every commercial nation her foe. Her fleets were employ-
ed as engines of prey ; and acted on the surface of the deep,
the character which the shark does beneath it. On the
other hand, the Combined Powers are taking a popular part,
and will render their reputation immortal, by establishing
the perfect freedom of the ocean, to which all countries have
a right, and are interested in accomplishing. The sea is the
world's highway; and he who arrogates a prerogative over
it, transgresses the right, and justly brings on himself the
chastisement of nations.

Perhaps it might be of some service to the future tran-
quillity of mankind, were an article introduced into the
next general peace, that no one nation should, in time of
peace, exceed a certain number of ships of war. Something

* See the accounts, either English or French, of the actions in
the West-Indies between Count de Guichen, and Admiral Rodney,
in 1780.


of this kind seems necessary; for, according to the present
fashion, half the world will get upon the water, and there
appears to be no end to the extent to which navies may be
carried. Another reason is, that navies add nothing to the
manners or morals of a people. The sequestered life which
attends the service, prevents the opportunity of society, and
is too apt to occasion a coarseness of ideas and of language,
and that more in ships of war than in commercial employ ;
because, in the latter, they mix more with the world, and
are nearer related to it. 1 mention this remark as a general
one, and not applied to any one country more than to

Britain has now had the trial of above seven years, with
an expence of nearly a hundred million pounds sterling;
and every month in which she delays to conclude a peace,
costs her another million sterling, over and above her ordi-
nary expences of government, which are a million more; so
that her total monthly expence is two million pounds sterling,
which is equal to the whole yearly expence of America, ail
charges included. Judge then who is best able to conti-
nue it.

She has, likewise, many atonements .to make to an injured
world, as well in one quarter as another. And instead of
pursuing that temper of arrogance, which serves only to sink
her in the esteem, and entail on her the dislike, of all na-
tions, she will do well to reform her manners, retrench her
expences, live peaceably with her neighbours, and think of
war no more.

Philadelphia, August 21, 1782.


Borden Town, Sept. 7, 1782.


I HAVE the honour of presenting you with fifty copies of my
Letter to the Abbe Raynal, for the use of the army, and to
repeat to you my acknowledgments for your friendship.

I fully believe we have seen our worst days over. The
spirit of the war, on the part of the enemy, is certainly on
the decline, full as much as we think for. I draw this opi-
nion not only from the present promising appearance of
things, and the difficulties we know the British cabinet is
in; but I add to it the peculiar effect which certain periods
of time, have more or less, upon all men.

The British have accustomed themselves to think of seven
years in a manner different to other portions of lime. They
acquire this partly by habit, by reason, by religion, and by
superstition. They serve seven years apprenticeship they
elect their parliament for seven years they punish by seven
years transportation, or the duplicate or triplicate of that
term they let their leases in the same manner, and they
read that Jacob served seven years for one' wife, and after
that seven years for another; and this particular period of
time, by a variety of concurrences, has obtained an influence
in their mind.

They have now had seven years of war, and are no further
on the Continent than when they began. The superstitious
and populous part will therefore conclude that it is not to be,
and the rational part of them will think they have tried an
unsuccessful and expensive project long enough, and by
these two joining issue in the same eventual opinion, the
obstinate part among them will be beaten out; unless, con-
sistent with their former sagacity, they should get over the
matter by an act of parliament, " to bind TIME in all cases
whatsoever," or declare him a rebel.

I observe the affair of Captain Asgill seems to die away :
very probably it has been protracted on the part of CJiii-
ton and Cttrleton lo gain time, to stute the c-a-se to the British


ministry, where following close on that of Colonel Haynes,
it will create new embarrassments to them. For my own
part, I am fully persuaded that a suspension of his fate, still
holding it in lerrorem, will operate on a greater quantity of
their passions and vices, and restrain them more than his exe-
cution would do. However the change of measures which
seems now to be taking place, gives somewhat of a new cast
to former designs; and if the case, without the execution,
can be so managed as to answer all the purposes of the lat-
ter, it will look much better hereafter, when the sensations
that now provoke, and the circumstances that would justify
his exit, shall be forgotten.

I am your Excellency's obliged

and obedient humble servant,

His Excellency General Washington.


Head Quarters, Ve.rplanWs Point,

Sept. 18, 1782.

I have the pleasure to acknowledge your favour of the 7th
inst. informing me of your proposal to present me with fifty
copies of your last publication, for the amusement of the

For this intention you have my sincere thanks, not only
on my own account, but for the pleasure, I doubt not, the
gentlemen of the army will receive from the perusal of your

Your observations on the period of seven years, as it
applies itself to, and affects British minds, are ingenious, and
I wish it may not fail of its effects in the present instance.
The measures, and the policy of the enemy are at present,
in great perplexity and embarrassment but I have my fears,
whether their necessities (which are the only operative mo-
tive with them) are yet arrived to that point, which must
drive them unavoidably into what they will esteem dis-
agreeable and dishonourable terms of peace such for in-
stance as an absolute, unequivocal admission of American
Independence, upon the terms on which she can alone ac-
cept it.

For this reason, added to the obstinacy of the king and
the probable consonant principles of some of his principal
ministers, I have not so full a confidence in the success of
the present negociation for peace as some gentlemen en-

Should events prove my jealousies to be ill founded, I
shall make myself happy under the mistake consoling
myself with the idea of having erred on the safest side, and
enjoying with as much satisfaction as any of my country-
men, the pleasing issue of our severe contest.

The case of Captain Asgill has indeed been spun out to a
great length but with you, I hope, that its termination will
not be unfavourable to this country.

I am, Sir, with great esteem and regard,
Your most obedient Servant,


Thomas Paine, Esq.


. ON



of ttie



It onton:




I HERE present the public with a new perform-
ance. Some parts of it are more particularly adapt-
ed to the State of Pennsylvania, on the present state
of its affairs ; but there are others which are on a
larger scale. The time bestowed on this work has
not been long ; the whole of it being written and
printed during the short recess of the Assembly.

As to parties, merely considered as such, I am at-
tached to no particular one. There are such things
as right and wrong in the world, and so far as these
are parties against each other, the signature of
COMMON SENSE is properly employed.


Philadelphia, Feb. 18, 1786.


EVERY Government, let its form be what it may, contains
within itself a principle common to all, which is, that of a
sovereign power, or a power over which there is no control,
and which controls all others: and as it is impossible to
construct a form of government in which this power does
not exist, so there must of necessity be a place, if it may be
so called, for it to exist in.

In despotic monarchies this power is lodged in a single
person or sovereign. His will is law ; which he declares,
alters or revokes as he pleases, without being accountable to
any power for so doing. Therefore, the only modes of re-
dress, in countries so governed, are by petition or insur-
rection, And this is the reason we so frequently hear of in-
surrections in despotic governments; for as there are but
two modes of redress, this is one of them.

Perhaps it may be said, that as the united resistance of
the people is able, by force, to control the will of the sove-
reign, that, therefore, the controling power lodges in them:
but it must be understood that I am speaking of such powers
only as are constituent parts of the government, not of those
powers which are externally applied to resist and overturn it.

In republics, such as those established in America, the
sovereign power, or the power over which there is no con-
trol and which controls all others, remains where nature
placed it, in the people; for the people in America arc the
fountain of power. It remains there as a matter of right,
recognized in the constitutions of the country, and the
exercise of it is constitutional and legal. This sovereignty
is exercised in electing and deputing a certain number of


persons to represent and act for the whole, and who, if
they do not act right, may be displaced by the same power
that placed them there, and others elected and deputed in
their stead, and the wrong measures of former representa-
tives corrected and brought right by this means. Therefore,
the republican form and principle leaves no room for insur-
rection, because it provides and establishes a rightful means
in its stead.

In countries under a despotic form of government, the
exercise of this power is an assumption of sovereignty ; a
wresting it from the person in whose hand their form of
government has placed it, and the exercise of it is there
stiled rebellion. Therefore, the despotic form of govern-
ment knows no intermediate space between being slaves and
being rebels.

1 shall, in this place offer an observation which, though
not immediately connected with my subject, is very natu-
rally deduced from it ; which is, that the nature, if I may

Online LibraryThomas PaineThe political and miscellaneous works of Thomas Paine .. (Volume 1) → online text (page 35 of 65)