Voluntary Society - Conditioning - Common Sense Too
At a time when American colonists were debating whether to comply with England, try petitioning England policies again, wage war to gain concessions from England, or rebel from England, Common Sense motivated the rebellion, and provided fodder for the Declaration of Independence of July 4th, 1776.
Not long after it was published on January 10th, 1776, 600,000 copies were purchased by a population of only three million. Of the three million colonists at the time 20% were slaves and 50% were indentured servants. For the colonies as a whole, it provided a rallying cry that united about a third of the colonists in the common cause of liberty. Another third remained opposed. The final third were ambivalent. Thomas Paine reinvigorated the rebellion with"The American Crisis" The Crisis pamphlet series.
After listing all the problems caused by monarchy, Thomas Paine did not excuse monarchy for having poor monarchs. Instead, he had the audacity to argue that there is no rationale for monarchs to rule men. The result was a Republic of democratically elected representatives to a central government, the ‚€œfederal government‚€ from a union of federated States.
Understanding the proclivities of men, the Philadelphia Convention participants adopted in September 17, 1787 a Constitution expressly limiting the central government by to the powers delineated in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution. It divided those powers among Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches, hoping their competing interests might temper their excesses. The Legislative branch was further divided into a Senate to represent the States, and a House of Representatives to represent the citizens of those states. The two comprise Congress.
As a check against the federal government, the States were sovereign entities with the exception of the powers delegated to the federal government. State Senators resisted federal government growth, because its cost could only be paid by increased duties or by taxing the States in proportion to their population. The Senators were elected by and from the State legislatures. The careers of State legislators who lobbied for sales or property tax increases to pay for federal expenditures were limited, so Senators who voted for federal expenditures could not expect reelection.
The State government structure mimicked that of the federal government, further dividing their powers among competing branches. The States were subdivided into geographic entities like Counties to disperse some government functions like property records, sheriffs and courts.
Grand juries provided a check against corrupt government employees. Petit juries provided a check against government excesses by enabling the nullification bad laws by way of an embarrassing number of not-guilty decisions regarding persons prosecuted under those laws.
On June 21, 1788, the necessary three-fourths of the States ratified the Constitution. On March 4, 1789, the federal government began operations.
Common Sense Too will argue that there is no rationale for men to rule men.
Common Sense is used as the basis for this endeavor. It is quoted in italic text.
Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not yet sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favor; a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. But tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason.
As a long and violent abuse of power is generally the means of calling the right of it in question, (and in matters too which might never have been thought of, had not the sufferers been aggravated into the inquiry,) and as the president hath undertaken in his own right, to impose his will on Congress, ‚€¶ and as the good people of this country are grievously oppressed by the combination, they have an undoubted privilege to inquire into the pretensions of both, and equally to reject the usurpations of either.
The cause of freedom is, in a great measure, the cause of all mankind. Many circumstances have, and will arise, which are not local, but universal, and through which the principles of all lovers of mankind are affected, and in the event of which, their affections are interested. The laying a country desolate with fire and sword, declaring war against the natural rights of all mankind, and extirpating the defenders thereof from the face of the earth, is the concern of every man to whom nature hath given the power of feeling...
Philadelphia, Feb. 14, 1776.
OF THE ORIGIN AND DESIGN OF GOVERNMENT IN GENERAL. WITH CONCISE REMARKS ON THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION
SOME writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher.
Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, ‚€¶ our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer! Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built on the ruins of the bowers of paradise. For were the impulses of conscience clear, uniform, and irresistibly obeyed, man would need no other lawgiver; but that not being the case, why does he findit necessary to surrender up a part of his property to furnish means for the protection of the rest; and this he is induced to do by the same prudence which in every other case advises him out of two evils to choose the least?Wherefore, security being the true design and end of government, it unanswerably follows that whatever form thereof appears most likely to ensure it to us, with the least expense and greatest benefit, is preferable to all others.
In order to gain a clear and just idea of the design and end of government, let us suppose a small number of persons settled in some sequestered part of the earth, unconnected with the rest, they will then represent the first peopling of any country, or of the world. In this state of natural liberty, society will be their first thought. A thousand motives will excite them thereto, the strength of one man is so unequal to his wants, and his mind so unfitted for perpetual solitude, that he is soon obliged to seek assistance and relief of another, who in his turn requires the same. Four or five united would be able to raise a tolerable dwelling in the midst of a wilderness, but one man might labor out the common period of life without accomplishing any thing; when he had felled his timber he could not remove it, nor erect it after it was removed; hunger in the mean time would urge him from his work, and every different want call him a different way. Disease, nay even misfortune would be death, for though neither might be mortal, yet either would disable him from living, and reduce him to a state in which he might rather be said to perish than to die.
Thus necessity, like a gravitating power, would soon form our newly arrived emigrants into society, the reciprocal blessings of which, would supersede, and render the obligations of law and government unnecessary while they remained perfectly just to each other; but as nothing ‚€¶ is impregnable to vice, it will unavoidably happen, that in proportion as they surmount the first difficulties of emigration, which bound them together in a common cause, they will begin to relax in their duty and attachment to each other; and this remissness, will point out the necessity, of establishing some form of agreement to supply the defect of moral virtue.
[Paine erroneously presumes that people must be concerned with things other than their property and those with whom they trade, so he advances the need for representatives.]
Here then is the origin and rise of the concept of no government; namely, a mode rendered necessary by the inability of ‚€¶ government to govern the world; here too is the design ‚€¶ of the end of government, and the establishment offreedom and security without government. And however our eyes may be dazzled with snow, or our ears deceived by sound; however prejudice may warp our wills, or interest darken our understanding, the simple voice of nature and of reason will say, it is right.
I draw my idea of ‚€¶ no government from The Market for Liberty and its principles in nature, which no art can overturn, viz., that the more simple any thing is, the less liable it is to be disordered, and the easier repaired when disordered; and with this maxim in view, I offer a few remarks on the so much boasted constitution of the United States. That it was noble for the dark and slavish times in which it was erected is granted. When the world was overrun with tyranny the least therefrom was a glorious rescue. But that it is imperfect, subject to convulsions, and incapable of producing what it seems to promise, has been demonstrated.
Absolute governments (though the disgrace of human nature) have this advantage with them, that they are simple; if the people suffer, they know the head from which their suffering springs, know likewise the remedy, and are not bewildered by a variety of causes and cures. But despite the simplicity of the Constitution for the United States, its clear intent has been reinterpreted by compliant supreme court judges so the intendedly public annd arduous amendment process could be avoided by those who revile constitutional constraints. This in conjunction with decades of government schooling has rendered the Citizens ignorant of the Constitution and compliant to the authority of those who would usurp it. Consequently the nation hassufferedfor years together without being able to discover in which part the fault lies, some will say in one and some in another, and every political physician will advise a different medicine.
I know it is difficult to get over local or long standing prejudices, yet if we will suffer ourselves to examine the component parts of the Constitution for the United States, we shall find them to be the base remains of two ancient tyrannies, compounded with some new republican materials.
First.- The remains of monarchical tyranny in the person of the President.
Secondly.- The remains of aristocratical tyranny in the persons of the Administration.
Thirdly.- The new republican materials, in the persons of Congress, on whose virtue depends the freedom of the People.
The two first, by being hereditary or selected by an olegarchy, are independent of the people; wherefore in a constitutional sense they contribute nothing towards the freedom of the state.
To say that the Constitution for the United Statesis a union of three powers reciprocally checking each other, is farcical, either the words have no meaning, or they are flat contradictions.
To say that the commons is a check upon the President, presupposes two things.
First.- That the Presidentis not to be trusted without being looked after, or in other words, that a thirst for absolute power is the natural disease of Presidents. Secondly.- That Congress, by being elected for that purpose, are either wiser or more worthy of confidence than the People.
But as the same constitution which gives the Congressa power to check the President by withholding the supplies, gives afterwards the Presidenta power to check the Congress,by empowering him to reject their other bills; it again supposes that the President is wiser than those whom it has already supposed to be wiser than him. A mere absurdity!
There is something exceedingly ridiculous in the composition of government; it first excludes a man from the means of information, yet empowers him to act in cases where the highest judgment is required. The state of a presidentshuts him from the world of commerce, yet the business of a president requires him to know it thoroughly; wherefore the different parts, unnaturally opposing and destroying each other, prove the whole character to be absurd and useless.
Some writers have explained the United Satesconstitution thus; the President, say they, is one, the people another; the peers are an house in behalf of the president; the congressin behalf of the people; but this hath all the distinctions of an house divided against itself; and though the expressions be pleasantly arranged, yet when examined they appear idle and ambiguous; and it will always happen, that the nicest construction that words are capable of, when applied to the description of something which either cannot exist, or is too incomprehensible to be within the compass of description, will be words of sound only, and though they may amuse the ear, they cannot inform the mind, for this explanation includes a previous question, viz. How came the President by a power which the people are afraid to trust, and always obliged to check? Such a power could not be the gift of a wise people, neither can any power, which needs checking, be from Nature; yet the provision, which the constitution makes, supposes such a power to exist.
But the provision is unequal to the task; the means either cannot or will not accomplish the end, and the whole affair is a felo de se; for as the greater weight will always carry up the less, and as all the wheels of a machine are put in motion by one, it only remains to know which power in the constitution has the most weight, for that will govern; and though the others, or a part of them, may clog, or, as the phrase is, check the rapidity of its motion, yet so long as they cannot stop it, their endeavors will be ineffectual; the first moving power will at last have its way, and what it wants in speed is supplied by time.
That the Presidentis this overbearing part in the United States constitution needs not be mentioned, and that it derives its whole consequence merely from being the giver of places pensions is self evident, wherefore, though we have and wise enough to shut and lock a door against absolute dictatorship, we at the same time have been foolish enough to put the presidentin possession of the key.
The prejudice of Americans, in favor of their own government by President, Justicesand Congress, arises as much or more from national pride than reason. Individuals are undoubtedly safer in Americathan in some other countries, but the will of the president is as much the law of the land in Americaas in France, with this difference, that instead of proceeding directly from his mouth, it is handed to the people under the most formidable shape of an act of congress. For the fate of George Bush, hath only made presidentsmore subtle not more just.
Wherefore, laying aside all national pride and prejudice in favor of modes and forms, the plain truth is, that it is wholly owing to the constitution of the people, and not to the constitution of the government that the presidentis not as oppressive in America as in Turkey.
An inquiry into the errorsof government is at this time highly necessary; for as we are never in a proper condition of doing justice to others, while we continue under the influence of some leading partiality, so neither are we capable of doing it to ourselves while we remain fettered by any obstinate prejudice. And as a man, who is attached to a prostitute, is unfitted to choose or judge of a wife, so any prepossession in favor of a rotten constitution of government will disable us from discerning a good one.
OF BUREAUCRACY AND POLITICAL SUCCESSION
MANKIND being originally equals in the order of creation, the equality could only be destroyed by some subsequent circumstance; the distinctions of rich, and poor, may in a great measure be accounted for, and that without having recourse to the harsh, ill-sounding names of oppression and avarice. Oppression is often the consequence, but seldom or never the means of riches; and though avarice will preserve a man from being necessitously poor, it generally makes him too timorous to be wealthy. But there is another and greater distinction for which no truly natural or religious reason can be assigned, and that is, the distinction of men into BUREAUCRATS and SUBJECTS. Male and female are the distinctions of nature, good and bad the distinctions of morality; but how a race of men came into the world so exalted above the rest, and distinguished like some new species, is worth enquiring into, and whether they are the means of happiness or of misery to mankind.
In the early ages of the world, according to history, there were no governments; the consequence of which was there were no wars; it is the pride of presidentswhich throw mankind into confusion. Those without a government hath enjoyed more peace for this last century than any withgovernment. Antiquity favors the same remark; for the quiet and rural lives of the first patriarchs hath a happy something in them, which vanishes away when we come to the history of Jewish royalty.
Government was first introduced into the world by the Heathens, from whom the children of Israel copied the custom. It was the most prosperous invention the Devil ever set on foot for the promotion of idolatry. The Heathens paid divine honors to their deceased presidents, and the Christian world hath improved on the plan by doing the same to their living ones. How impious is the title of Mr. Presidentapplied to a worm, who in the midst of his splendor is crumbling into dust!
As the exalting some men so greatly above the rest cannot be justified on the equal rights of nature, so neither can it be defended on the authority of scripture; for natural order and reason, expressly disapproves of governments. All anti-government parts of scripture have been very smoothly glossed over by governments, but they undoubtedly merit the attention of countries which still have their governments. Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's is the scriptural doctrine of courts, yet it is no support of government, for the People at that time were without a sense of self-ownership, and in a state of vassalage to the government.
[Paine describes the history of the Jews and their propensity to be ruled by kings. The propensity of men to be ruled by governments is similar.
To the evil of bureaucracywe have added that of Civil Service; and as the first is a degradation and lessening of ourselves, so the second, claimed as a matter of right, is an insult and an imposition on posterity. For all men being originally equals, no one by GS numbercould have a right to set up his own bureaucracy in perpetual preference to all others for ever, and though himself might deserve some decent degree of honors of his contemporaries, yet his descendants might be far too unworthy to inherit them. One of the strongest natural proofs of the folly of Civil Service right in employment,is, that nature disapproves it, otherwise she would not so frequently turn it into ridicule by giving mankind an ass for a lion.
Secondly, as no man at first could possess any other public honors than were bestowed upon him, so the givers of those honors could have no power to give away the right of posterity, and though they might say, "We choose you for our head," they could not, without manifest injustice to their children, say, "that your children and your children's children shall reign over ours for ever." Because such an unwise, unjust, unnatural compact might (perhaps) in the next succession put them under the government of a rogue or a fool. Most wise men, in their private sentiments, have ever treated bureaucraticright with contempt; yet it is one of those evils, which when once established is not easily removed; many submit from fear, others from superstition, and the more powerful part shares with the president the plunder of the rest.
This is supposing the present race of bureaucratsin the world to have had an honorable origin; whereas it is more than probable, that could we take off the dark covering of antiquity, and trace them to their first rise, that we should find the first of them nothing better than the principal ruffian of some restless gang, whose savage manners of preeminence in subtlety obtained him the title of chief among plunderers; and who by increasing in power, and extending his depredations, overawed the quiet and defenseless to purchase their safety by frequent contributions. Yet his electors could have no idea of giving perpetual right to his employment, because such a perpetual exclusion of themselves was incompatible with the free and unrestrained principles they professed to live by. Wherefore, Civil Servicein the early ages of governmentcould not take place as a matter of claim, but as something casual or complemental; but as few or no records were extant in those days, and traditionary history stuffed with fables, it was very easy, after the lapse of a few generations, to trump up some superstitious tale, conveniently timed, Mahomet like, to cram Civil Service right down the throats of the vulgar. Perhaps the disorders which threatened, or seemed to threaten on the decease of a leader and the choice of a new one (for elections among ruffians could not be very orderly) induced many at first to favor bureaucraticpretensions; by which means it happened, as it hath happened since, that what at first was submitted to as a convenience, was afterwards claimed as a right.
America, since the revolution, hath known some few good presidents, but groaned beneath a much larger number of bad ones, yet no man in his senses can say that their claim under Geoge Bush the lesser is a very honorable one. A Texas bastard landing with an armed banditti, and establishing himself presidentagainst the consent of the natives, is in plain terms a very paltry rascally original. It certainly hath no votein it. However, it is needless to spend much time in exposing the folly of voting,if there are any so weak as to believe it, let them promiscuously worship the ass and lion, and welcome. I shall neither copy their humility, nor disturb their devotion.
Yet I should be glad to ask how they suppose Presidents came at first? The question admits but of three answers, viz., either by lot, by election, or by usurpation. If the first president was taken by lot, it establishes a precedent for the next, which excludes comon sense. Washington was by election, yet the succession was not hereditary, neither does it appear from that transaction there was any intention it ever should. If the first president of any country was by lot, that likewise establishes a precedent for the next; for to say, that the right of all future generations is taken away, by the act of the first electors, in their choice not only of a president, but of an oligarchy of presidents for ever, hath no parallel in or out of scripture but the doctrine of original sin, which supposes the free will of all men lost in the first elector; and from such comparison, and it will admit of no other, votingcan derive no glory. For as in the first election all sinned, and as in the first electors all men obeyed; as in the one all mankind were subjected to slavery, and in the other to subserviance; as our innocence was lost in the first, and our authority in the last; and as both disable us from reassuming some former state and privilege, it unanswerably follows that voting and slaveryare parallels. Dishonorable rank! Inglorious connection! Yet the most subtle sophist cannot produce a juster simile.
As to usurpation, no man will be so hardy as to defend it; and that Bush the lesser was an usurper is a fact not to be contradicted. The plain truth is, that the antiquity of democracy will not bear looking into.
But it is not so much the absurdity as the evil of voting which concerns mankind. Did it ensure a race of good and wise men it would have the seal of natural order, but as it opens a door to the foolish, the wicked; and the improper, it hath in it the nature of oppression. Men who look upon themselves born to reign, and others to obey, soon grow insolent; selected from the rest of mankind their minds are early poisoned by importance; and the world they act in differs so materially from the world at large, that they have but little opportunity of knowing its true interests, and when they succeed to the government are frequently the most ignorant and unfit of any throughout the dominions.
Another evil which attends voting is, that the office is subject to be possessed by a moron at any age; all which time the olegarchy, acting under the cover of a president, have every opportunity and inducement to betray their trust. The same national misfortune happens, when a president worn out with age and infirmity, enters the last stage of human weakness. In both these cases the public becomes a prey to every miscreant, who can tamper successfully with the follies either of age or intelligence.
The most plausible plea, which hath ever been offered in favor of voting, is, that it preserves a nation from civil wars; and were this true, it would be weighty; whereas, it is the most barefaced falsity ever imposed upon mankind. The whole history of Americadisowns the fact. Forty-four have reigned in that distracted countrysince the revolution, in which time there have been no less than onecivil war and eleven false flag wars. Wherefore instead of making for peace, it makes against it, and destroys the very foundation it seems to stand on.
The contest for money and power, between the houses of Republican and Democrat, laid Americain a scene of blood for many years. Twelve pitched battles, besides skirmishes and sieges, were fought between Republicans and Democrats. Twice was Congress prisoner to the President, who in his turn was prisoner to Congress. And so uncertain is the fate of war and the temper of a nation, when nothing but personal matters are the ground of a quarrel, that Ayatola Khomenie was taken in triumph from a prison to a palace, and the Shaw obliged to fly from a palace to a foreign land; yet, as sudden transitions of temper are seldom lasting, Mohammed Mossadegh in his turn was driven from the throne by the CIA and MI6, and Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was called to succeed him. The parliament always following the strongest side.
This contest began in the reign of the Republican Party, and was not entirely extinguished till the end of government, in whom the people were united.
In short, governmentand voting have laid (not this or that country only) but the world in blood and ashes. 'Tis a form of organizationwhich the word of the Tannehills bears testimony against, and blood will attend it.
If we inquire into the business of bureaucrats, we find that after sauntering away their lives without pleasure to themselves or advantage to the nation, withdraw from the scene, and leave their successors to tread the same idle round. In the bureaucracy,the whole weight of business civil and military, lies on the bureaucrat;the children of Israel in their request for a king, urged this plea "that he may judge us, and go out before us and fight our battles." But in people where he is neither a judge nor a general, as in self-govenors, a man would be puzzled to know what is his business.
The nearer any government approaches no government, the less business there is for a bureaucrat. It is somewhat difficult to find a proper name for the currentgovernment of the United States. Some call it a republic; but in its present state it is unworthy of the name, because the corrupt influence of the olegarchy, by having all the places in its disposal, hath so effectually swallowed up the power, and eaten out the virtue of the Congress that the government of the United States is nearly as monarchical as that of past kingdoms. Men fall out with names without understanding them. For it is the free market and not the government of the United States which Americans glory in, viz., the liberty of owningtheir own body- and it is easy to see that when the self-ownership virtue fails, slavery ensues. My is the constitutionof the United States sickly, but because collectivism hath poisoned the republic, the president hath engrossed the congress
In America a president hath little more to do than to make war and give away places; which in plain terms, is to impoverish the nation and set it together by the ears. A pretty business indeed for a man to be allowed fourhundred thousand dollarsa year for, and worshipped in the bargain! Of more worth is one honest man to society, and in the sight of nature, than all the electedruffians that ever lived.
THOUGHTS OF THE PRESENT STATE OF AMERICAN AFFAIRS
IN the following pages I offer nothing more than simple facts, plain arguments, and common sense; and have no other preliminaries to settle with the reader, than that he will divest himself of prejudice and prepossession, and suffer his reason and his feelings to determine for themselves; that he will put on, or rather that he will not put off the true character of a man, and generously enlarge his views beyond the present day.
Volumes have been written on the subject of the struggle between government and America. Men of all ranks have embarked in the controversy, from different motives, and with various designs; but all have been ineffectual, and the period of debate is closed. Government does not work.
The sun never shined on a cause of greater worth. 'Tis not the affair of a city, a country, a province, or a kingdom, but of theglobe. 'Tis not the concern of a day, a year, or an age; posterity are virtually involved in the contest, and will be more or less affected, even to the end of time, by the proceedings now. Now is the seed time of a voluntary society. The least fracture now will be like a name engraved with the point of a pin on the tender rind of a young oak; The wound will enlarge with the tree, and posterity read it in full grown characters.
By referring the matter from argument to action, a new area for politics is struck; a new method of thinking hath arisen. All plans, proposals, prior to the commencement of action, are like the almanacs of the last year; which, though proper then, are superseded and useless now. Whatever was advanced by the advocates on either side of the question then, terminated in one and the same point, viz., governance; the only difference between the parties was the method of effecting it; the one proposing force, the other friendship, i.e. self-governence, becauseit hath so far happened that the first hath failed, and the second hath withdrawn her support of the first.
As much hath been said of the advantages of reconciliation, which, like an agreeable dream, hath passed away and left us as we were, it is but right, that we should examine the contrary side of the argument, and inquire into some of the many material injuries which these peoplesustain, and always will sustain, by being connected with, and dependant on government. To examine that connection and dependance, on the principles of nature and common sense, to see what we have to trust to, if separated, and what we are to expect, if dependant.
I have heard it asserted by some, that as America hath flourished under government, that the same connection is necessary towards her future happiness, and will always have the same effect. Nothing can be more fallacious than this kind of argument. We may as well assert, that because a child has thrived upon milk, that it is never to have meat; or that the first twenty years of our lives is to become a precedent for the next twenty. But even this is admitting more than is true, for I answer roundly, that America would have flourished as much, and probably much more, had no governmenthad any thing to do with her. The commerce by which she hath enriched herself are the necessaries of life, and will always have a market while eating is the custom of government.
But she has protected us, say some. That she hath engrossed us is true, and defended the continent at our expense is admitted, and she would have defended Turkey from the same motive, viz., the sake of trade and dominion.
Alas! we have been long led away by ancient prejudices and made large sacrifices to superstition. We have boasted the wealth of bureaucrats, without considering, that her motive was interest not attachment; that she did not protect us from our enemies on our account, but from her enemies on her own account, from those who had no quarrel with us on any other account, and who will always be our enemies on the same account. Let government wave her pretensions to the continent, or the continent throw off the dependance, and we should be at peace with all free traders. The miseries of war, ought to warn us against connections.
It hath lately been asserted by government, that the people have no realtion to each other but throught the parent government, i.e. that Pennsylvania and the Jerseys, and so on for the rest, are sister states buy the way of the federal government; this is certainly a very roundabout way of proving relation ship, but it is the nearest and only true way of proving enemyship, if I may so call it. France and Spain never were, nor perhaps ever will be our enemies as Americans, but as our being the subjects of the United States.
But the federal government is the parent country, say some. Then the more shame upon her conduct. Even brutes do not devour their young; nor savages make war upon their families; wherefore the assertion, if true, turns to her reproach; but it happens not to be true, or only partly so, and the phrase parent or mother country hath been jesuitically adopted by the president and his parasites, with a low papistical design of gaining an unfair bias on the credulous weakness of our minds. Nature, and not government, is the parent of Americas. This voluntaryworld hath been the asylum for the persecuted lovers off civil and religious liberty from every Part of Earth. Hither have they fled, not from the tender embraces of the mother, but from the cruelty of the monster; and it is so far true of government, that the same tyranny which drove the first emigrants from home pursues their descendants still.
In this extensive ... globe, we forget the narrow limits of countries and their governmentsand carry our friendship on a larger scale; we claim brotherhood with every free trader, and triumph in the generosity of the sentiment.
It is pleasant to observe by what regular gradations we surmount the force of local prejudice, as we enlarge our acquaintance with the world. A man born in any town in England divided into parishes, will naturally associate most with his fellow parishioners (because their interests in many cases will be common) and distinguish him by the name of neighbor; if he meet him but a few miles from home, he drops the narrow idea of a street, and salutes him by the name of townsman; if he travels out of the county, and meet him in any other, he forgets the minor divisions of street and town, and calls him countryman; i.e., countyman; but if in their foreign excursions they should associate in France or any other part of Europe, their local remembrance would be enlarged into that of Englishmen. And by a just parity of reasoning, all Europeans meeting in America, or any other quarter of the globe, are countrymen; for England, Holland, Germany, or Sweden, when compared with the whole, stand in the same places on the larger scale, which the divisions of street, town, and county do on the smaller ones; distinctions too limited for continental minds....
But admitting that we were all of American descent, what does it amount to? Nothing. Government, being now an open enemy, extinguishes every other name and title but its own: And to say that reconciliation is our duty, is truly farcical....
Much hath been said of the united strength of the states, that in conjunction they might bid defiance to free traders. But this is mere presumption; the fate of war is uncertain, neither do the expressions mean anything; for this continent shall never again suffer itself to be drained of inhabitants to support governmentarms in either Asia, Africa, or Europe.
Besides, what have we to do with setting the world at defiance? Our plan is commerce, and that, well attended to,will secure us the peace and friendship of all Europe; because it is the interest of all Europe to have America a free port. Her trade will always be a protection, and her barrenness of gold and silver secure her from invaders.
I challenge the warmest advocate for reconciliation, to show, a single advantage that this continent can reap, by being connected with government. I repeat the challenge, not a single advantage is derived. Our corn will fetch its price in any market in Europe, and our imported goods must be paid for buy them where we will.
But the injuries and disadvantages we sustain by that connection, are without number; and our duty to mankind at large, as well as to ourselves, instruct us to renounce the alliance: Because, any submission to, or dependance on government, tends directly to involve this continent in European wars and quarrels; and sets us at variance with other people, who would otherwise seek our friendship, and against whom, we have neither anger nor complaint. As Europe is our market for trade, we ought to form no partial connection with any part of it. It is the true interest of free traders to steer clear of government contentions....
... Every thing that is right or natural pleads for separation. The blood of the slain, the weeping voice of nature cries, 'tis time to part. Even the distance at which nature hath placed the intelligence of bureaucrats and free traders, is a strong and natural proof, that the authority of the one, over the other, was never the design of nature.....
Governmentsooner or later must have an end: And a serious mind can draw no true pleasure by looking forward, under the painful and positive conviction, that what he calls "the present constitution" wasmerely temporary. As parents, we can have no joy, knowing that this government is not sufficiently lasting to ensure any thing which we may bequeath to posterity: And by a plain method of argument, as we are running the next generation into debt, we ought to do the work of it, otherwise we use them meanly and pitifully. In order to discover the line of our duty rightly, we should take our children in our hand, and fix our station a few years farther into life; that eminence will present a prospect, which a few present fears and prejudices conceal from our sight.
Though I would carefully avoid giving unnecessary offence, yet I am inclined to believe, that all those who espouse the doctrine of reconciliation, may be included within the following descriptions:
Interested men, who are not to be trusted; weak men who cannot see; prejudiced men who will not see; and a certain set of moderate men, who think better of the governedworld than it deserves; and this last class by an ill-judged deliberation, will be the cause of more calamities to this continent than all the other three.
It is the good fortune of many to live distant from the scene of sorrow; the evil is not sufficiently brought to their doors to make them feel the precariousness with which all American property is possessed. But let our imaginations transport us for a few moments to the District of Columbia, that seat of wretchedness will teach us wisdom, and instruct us for ever to renounce a power in whom we can have no trust. The bureaucratsof that unfortunate city, who but a few months ago were in ease and affluence, have now no other alternative than to stay and starve, or turn out to beg. Endangered by the fire of their friends if they continue within the city, and plundered by the soldiery if they leave it. In their present condition they are prisoners without the hope of redemption...
Men of passive tempers look somewhat lightly over the offenses of government, and, still hoping for the best, are apt to call out, Come we shall be friends again for all this. But examine the passions and feelings of mankind. Bring the doctrine of reconciliation to the touchstone of nature, and then tell me, whether you can hereafter love, honor, and faithfully serve the power that hath carried fire and sword into your land? If you cannot do all these, then are you only deceiving yourselves, and by your delay bringing ruin upon posterity. Your future connection with government, whom you can neither love nor honor, will be forced and unnatural, and being formed only on the plan of present convenience, will in a little time fall into a relapse more wretched than the first. But if you say, you can still pass the violations over, then I ask, Hath your house been burnt? Hath you property been destroyed before your face? Are your wife and children destitute of a bed to lie on, or bread to live on? Have you lost a parent or a child by their hands, and yourself the ruined and wretched survivor? If you have not, then are you not a judge of those who have. But if you have, and can still shake hands with the murderers, then are you unworthy the name of husband, father, friend, or lover, and whatever may be your rank or title in life, you have the heart of a coward, and the spirit of a sycophant.
This is not inflaming or exaggerating matters, but trying them by those feelings and affections which nature justifies, and without which, we should be incapable of discharging the social duties of life, or enjoying the felicities of it. I mean not to exhibit horror for the purpose of provoking revenge, but to awaken us from fatal and unmanly slumbers, that we may pursue determinately some fixed object. It is not in the power of government to conquer free traders, if theydo not conquer themselvesby delay and timidity...
It is repugnant to reason, to the universal order of things, to all examples from the former ages, to suppose, that free traders can longer remain subject to any external power. The most sanguine among us does not think so. The utmost stretch of human wisdom cannot, at this time compass a plan short of separation, which can promise the continent even a year's security. Reconciliation is a fallacious dream. Nature hath deserted the connection, and Art cannot supply her place. For, as Milton wisely expresses, "never can true reconcilement grow where wounds of deadly hate have pierced so deep."
Every quiet method for peace hath been ineffectual. Our prayers have been rejected with disdain; and only tended to convince us, that nothing flatters vanity, or confirms obstinacy in presidents more than repeated petitioning- and nothing hath contributed more than that very measure to make their power absolute.... Wherefore since nothing but freedomwill do, let us come to a final separation, and not leave the next generation to be cutting throats, under the violated unmeaning names of parent and child.
To say, they will never attempt it again is idle and visionary, we thought so at the repeal of a part of an act, yet a year or two undeceived us; as well me we may suppose that governments, which have been once defeated, will never renew the quarrel.
As to governmentmatters, it is not in the powers of the federal governmentto do this continent justice: The business of it will soon be too weighty, and intricate, to be managed with any tolerable degree of convenience, by a power, so distant from us, and so very ignorant of us; for if they cannot conquer us, they cannot govern us. To be always running three or four thousand miles with a tale or a petition, waiting four or five months for an answer, which when obtained requires five or six more to explain it in, will in a few years be looked upon as folly and childishness- there was a time when it was proper, and there is a proper time for it to cease.
I am not induced by motives of pride, party, or resentment to espouse the doctrine of separation and independence; I am clearly, positively, and conscientiously persuaded that it is the true interest of this continent to be so; that every thing short of that is mere patchwork, that it can afford no lasting felicity,- that it is leaving the sword to our children, and shrinking back at a time, when, a little more, a little farther, would have rendered this continent the glory of the earth.
As government hath not manifested the least inclination towards a compromise, we may be assured that no terms can be obtained worthy the acceptance of the continent, or any ways equal to the expense of blood and treasure we have been already put to.
The object contended for, ought always to bear some just proportion to the expense. The removal of the president, or the whole detestable junto, is a matter unworthy the millions we have expended. A temporary stoppage of trade, was an inconvenience, which would have sufficiently balanced the repeal of all the acts complained of, had such repeals been obtained; but if the whole continent must deny support, if every man must be a John Galt, it is scarcely worth our while to fight against a contemptible ministry only. Dearly, dearly, do we pay for the repeal of the acts, if that is all we fight for; for in a just estimation, it is as great a folly to pay a Bunker Hill price for law, as for land. As I have always considered the independency of this continent, as an event, which sooner or later must arrive, so from the late rapid progress of the continent to maturity, the event could not be far off. Wherefore ... it was not worth the while to have disputed a matter, which time would have finally redressed, unless we meant to be in earnest; otherwise, it is like wasting an estate of a suit at law, to regulate the trespasses of a tenant, whose lease is just expiring. No man was a warmer wisher for reconciliation than myself, before the fatal twenty-eighth of February, 1993(Massacre at Waco), but the moment the event of that day was made known, I rejected the hardened, sullen tempered Pharaoh of D.C. for ever; and disdain the wretch, that with the pretended title of Father of his people, can unfeelingly hear of their slaughter, and composedly sleep with their blood upon his soul.
But admitting that matters were now made up, what would be the event? I answer, the ruin of the continent. And that for several reasons:
First. The powers of governing still remaining in the hands of the president, he will have a negative over the whole legislation of this continent. And as he hath shown himself such an inveterate enemy to liberty, and discovered such a thirst for arbitrary power, is he, or is he not, a proper man to say to these people, "You shall make no laws but what I please?" And is there any inhabitants in America so ignorant, as not to know, that according to what is called the present constitution, that this continent can make no laws but what the presidentgives leave to? And is there any man so unwise, as not to see, that (considering what has happened) he will suffer no Law to be made here, but such as suit his purpose? We may be as effectually enslaved by the want of laws in America, as by submitting to laws made for us in D.C.. After matters are make up (as it is called) can there be any doubt but the whole power of the federal government will be exerted, to keep this continent as low and humble as possible? Instead of going forward we shall go backward, or be perpetually quarrelling or ridiculously petitioning. We are already greater than the governmentwishes us to be, and will it not hereafter endeavor to make us less? To bring the matter to one point. Is the power who is jealous of our prosperity, a proper power to govern us? Whoever says No to this question is an independent, for independency means no more, than, whether we shall make our own laws, or whether the president, the greatest enemy this continent hath, or can have, shall tell us, "there shall be now laws but such as I like."
The states areonly a secondary object in the system of federalpolitics- The federal governmentconsults the good of this country, no farther than it answers itsown purpose. Wherefore, itsown interest leads itto suppress the growth of ours in every case which doth not promote her advantage, or in the least interfere with it. A pretty state we should soon be in under such a second-hand government, considering what has happened! Men do not change from enemies to friends by the alteration of a name; and in order to show that reconciliation now is a dangerous doctrine, I affirm, that it would be policy in the president at this time, to repeal someacts for the sake of reinstating himself in the governments of the states;in order, that he may accomplish by craft and subtlety, in the long run, wha he cannot do by force and violence in the short one. Reconciliation and ruin are nearly related.
Secondly. That as even the best terms, which we can expect to obtain, can amount to no more than a temporary expedient, or a kind of government by guardianship, which can last no longer than till the peoplecome of age, so the general face and state of things, in the interim, will be unsettled and unpromising. Emigrants of property will not choose to come to a country whose form of government hangs but by a thread, and who is every day tottering on the brink of commotion and disturbance; and numbers of the present inhabitant would lay hold of the interval, to dispose of their effects, and quit the continent.
But the most powerful of all arguments, is, that nothing but independence, i.e., a voluntary society, can keep the peace of the continent and preserve it inviolate from wars. I dread the event of a reconciliation with government now, as it is more than probable, that it will be followed by a revolt somewhere or other, the consequences of which may be far more fatal than all the malice of the President
Thousands are already ruined by government barbarity; (thousands more will probably suffer the same fate.) Those men have other feelings than us who have nothing suffered. All they now possess is liberty, what they before enjoyed is sacrificed to its service, and having nothing more to lose, they disdain submission. Besides, the general temper of the colonies, towards a federalgovernment, will be like that of a youth, who is nearly out of his time, they will care very little about her. And a government which cannot preserve the peace, is no government at all, and in that case we pay our money for nothing; and pray what is it that government can do, whose power will be wholly on paper, should a civil tumult break out the very day after reconciliation? I have heard some men say, many of whom I believe spoke without thinking, that they dreaded independence, fearing that it would produce civil wars. It is but seldom that our first thoughts are truly correct, and that is the case here; for there are ten times more to dread from a patched up connection than from independence. I make the sufferers case my own, and I protest, that were I driven from house and home, my property destroyed, and my circumstances ruined, that as man, sensible of injuries, I could never relish the doctrine of reconciliation, or consider myself bound thereby.
The free traders have manifested such a spirit of good order and obedience to the agreement, as is sufficient to make every reasonable person easy and happy on that head. No man can assign the least pretence for his fears, on any other grounds, that such as are truly childish and ridiculous, viz., that one free treaderwill be striving for superiority over another.
Where there are no distinctions there can be no superiority, perfect equality affords no temptation.... governments, it is true, are never long at rest: the presidency itself is a temptation to enterprising ruffians at home; and that degree of pride and insolence ever attendant on regal authority swells into a rupture with foreign powers, in instances where a free trader, by being formed on more natural principles, would negotiate the mistake.
If there is any true cause of fear respecting independence it is because no plan is yet laid down. Men do not see their way out; wherefore, as an opening into that business I offer the following hints; at the same time modestly affirming, that I have no other opinion of them myself, than that they may be the means of giving rise to something better. Could the straggling thoughts of individuals be collected, they would frequently form materials for wise and able men to improve to useful matter.
Ye that tell us of harmony and reconciliation, can ye restore to us the time that is past? Can ye give to prostitution its former innocence? Neither can ye reconcile government and free traders. The last cord now is broken, the bureaucratsare presenting addresses against us. There are injuries which nature cannot forgive; she would cease to be nature if she did. As well can the lover forgive the ravisher of his mistress, as the continent forgive the murders of government. Naturehath implanted in us these inextinguishable feelings for good and wise purposes. They are the guardians of its image in our hearts. They distinguish us from the herd of common animals. The social compact would dissolve, and justice be extirpated the earth, of have only a casual existence were we callous to the touches of affection. The robber and the murderer, would often escape unpunished, did not the injuries which our tempers sustain, provoke us into justice.
O ye that love mankind! Ye that dare oppose, not only the tyranny, but the tyrant, stand forth! Every spot of the old world is overrun with oppression. Freedom hath been hunted round the globe. Asia, and Africa, have long expelled her. Europe regards her like a stranger, and England hath given her warning to depart. O! receive the fugitive, and prepare in time an asylum for mankind.
OF THE PRESENT ABILITY OF AMERICA, WITH SOME MISCELLANEOUS REFLECTIONS
I HAVE never met with a man, ... who hath not confessed his opinion, that a separation between the government and people, would take place one time or other. And there is no instance in which we have shown less judgment, than in endeavoring to describe, what we call, the ripeness or fitness of the Continent for independence.
As all men allow the measure, and vary only in their opinion of the time, let us, in order to remove mistakes, take a general survey of things and endeavor if possible, to find out the very time. But we need not go far, the inquiry ceases at once, for the time hath found us. The general concurrence, the glorious union of all things prove the fact.
It is not in numbers but in morality, that our great strength lies; yet our present numbers are sufficient to repel the force of all the world. The Continent hath, at this time, the largest body of armed and disciplined men of any power...
The present time, likewise, is that peculiar time, which seldomhappens to a nation but once, viz., the time of forming itself without tgovernment. Most people have let slip the opportunity, and by that means have been compelled to receive laws from their conquerors, instead of making laws for themselves. First, they had a king, and then a form of government; whereas, the agreement, should be formed first, and men free to execute them afterwards: but from the errors of other peoples, let us learn wisdom, and lay hold of the present opportunity- to begin without government at the right end.
When William the Conqueror subdued England he gave them law at the point of the sword; and until we consent that the seat of government is in oneself, be legally and authoritatively occupied, we shall be in danger of having it filled by some fortunate ruffian, who may treat us in the same manner, and then, where will be our freedom? Where our property?
As to religion, I hold it to be the indispensable duty of all free traders, to ignore all professors thereof, and I know of no other business which free traders hath to do therewith. Let a man throw aside that narrowness of soul, that selfishness of principle, which the niggards of all professions are so unwilling to part with, and he will be at once delivered of his fears on that head. Suspicion is the companion of mean souls, and the bane of all good society. For myself I fully and conscientiously believe, that it is natural, that there should be diversity of religious opinions among us: It affords a larger field for our subjective reality. Were we all of one way of thinking, our religious dispositions would want matter for probation; and on this liberal principle, I look on the various religionists among us, to be like children of the same family, differing only, in what is called their trade names.
Earlier in this work, I threw out a few thoughts on the propriety of an aggrement, (for I only presume to offer hints, not plans) and in this place, I take the liberty of rementioning the subject, by observing, that a charter is to be understood as a bond of solemn obligation, which the whole enters into, to support the right of every separate part, whether of religion, personal freedom, or property, A firm bargain and a right reckoning make long friends.
To conclude: However strange it may appear to some, or however unwilling they may be to think so, matters not, but many strong and striking reasons may be given, to show, that nothing can settle our affairs so expeditiously as an open and determined declaration for independence. Some of which are:
First. It is the custom of nations, when any two are at war, for some other powers, not engaged in the quarrel, to step in as mediators, and bring about the preliminaries of a peace: but while free traders call themselvesthe subject of government, no frineds, however well disposed they may be, can offer mediation. Wherefore, in our present state we may quarrel on for ever.
Secondly. It is unreasonable to suppose, that other free traders will give us any kind of assistance, if we mean only to make use of that assistance for the purpose of repairing the breach, and strengthening the connection between government and free traders; because, those people would be sufferers by the consequences.
Thirdly. While we profess ourselves the subjects of government, we must, in the eye of foreign nations, be considered as rebels. The precedent is somewhat dangerous to their peace, for men to be in arms under the name of subjects; we on the spot, can solve the paradox: but to unite resistance and subjection, requires an idea much too refined for common understanding.
Fourthly. Were a manifesto to be published, ... setting forth the miseries we have endured, and the peaceable methods we have ineffectually used for redress; declaring, at the same time, that not being able, any longer to live happily or safely under the cruel disposition of the government courts, we had been driven to the necessity of breaking off all connection with government; at the same time assuring all such courts of our peaceable disposition towards them, and of our desire of entering into trade with everyone. Such a memorial would produce more good effects to this Continent, than if a ship were freighted with petitions to government.
Under our present denomination of British subjects we can neither be received nor heard abroad: The custom of all courts is against us, and will be so, until, by an independence, we take rank with other nations.
These proceedings may at first appear strange and difficult; but, like all other steps which we have already passed over, will in a little time become familiar and agreeable; and, until an independence is declared, the continent will feel itself like a man who continues putting off some unpleasant business from day to day, yet knows it must be done, hates to set about it, wishes it over, and is continually haunted with the thoughts of its necessity.
Source: Common Sense, by Thomas Paine, printed by W. and T. Bradford, Philadelphia, 1791.