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Thomas Paine
Common Sense III
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III. THOUGHTS ON 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....


I challenge the warmest advocate for reconciliation to show
a single advantage that this continent can reap by being
connected with Great Britain. 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 which we sustain by that
connection, are without number; and our duty to mankind at large,
as well as to ourselves, instructs us to renounce the alliance;
because, any submission to, or dependence on, Great Britain
tends directly to involve this continent in European wars and
quarrels, and sets us at variance with nations 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 America to steer clear of European contentions, which
she never can do, while, by her dependence on Britain, she is
made the make-weight in the scale of British politics.
Europe is too thickly planted with kingdoms to be long at
peace, and whenever a war breaks out between England and
any foreign power, the trade of America goes to ruin, because
of her connection with Britain. The next war may not turn out like
the last, and should it not, the advocates for reconciliation now
will be wishing for separation then, because, neutrality in that
case would be a safer convoy than a man of war. Everything that
is right or reasonable pleads for separation. The blood of the
slain, the weeping voice of nature cries, "'Tis time to part." Even
the distance at which the Almighty hath placed England and
America is a strong and natural proof that the authority of the
one over the other was never the design of Heaven. The time
likewise at which the continent was discovered adds weight to
the argument, and the manner in which it was peopled increases
the force of it. The Reformation was preceded by the discovery of
America: as if the Almighty graciously meant to open a sanctuary
to the persecuted in future years, when home should afford
neither friendship nor safety.
The authority of Great Britain over this continent is a form of
government which sooner 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" is merely temporary. As parents, we can
have no joy, knowing that this government is not sufficiently
lasting to insure anything 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 European world 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 present 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 Boston; that seat of
wretchedness will teach us wisdom, and instruct us forever to
renounce a power in whom we can have no trust. The inhabitants
of 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 situation they are prisoners
without the hope of redemption, and in a general attack for their
relief, they would be exposed to the fury of both armies.
Men of passive tempers look somewhat lightly over the
offenses of Britain, and, still hoping for the best, are apt to call
out, "Come, 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, honour, 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 Britain, whom you can neither love nor honour, 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 your 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 of 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....


A government of our own is our natural right: And when a man
seriously reflects on the precariousness of human affairs, he will
become convinced that it is infinitely wiser and safer to form a
constitution of our own in a cool deliberate manner, while we have
it in our power, than to trust such an interesting event to time and
chance. If we omit it now, some Massanello may hereafter arise,
who laying hold of popular disquietudes, may collect together the
desperate and the discontented, and by assuming to themselves
the powers of government, finally sweep away the liberties of the
continent like a deluge. Should the government of America return
again into the hands of Britain, the tottering situation of things will
be a temptation for some desperate adventurer to try his fortune;
and in such a case, what relief can Britain give? Ere she could hear
the news, the fatal business might be done; and ourselves suffering
like the wretched Britons under the oppression of the Conqueror.
Ye that oppose independence now, ye know not what ye do; ye are
opening a door to eternal tyranny by keeping vacant the seat of
government. There are thousands and tens of thousands who would
think it glorious to expel from the continent that barbarous and
hellish power, which hath stirred up the Indians and Negroes to
destroy us; the cruelty hath a double guilt: it is dealing brutally by us,
and treacherously by them.
To talk of friendship with those in whom our reason forbids us to
have faith, and our affections wounded through a thousand pores
instruct us to detest, is madness and folly. Every day wears out the
little remains of kindred between us and them; and can there be any
reason to hope, that as the relationship expires, the affection will
increase, or that we shall agree better when we have ten times more
and greater concerns to quarrel over than ever?
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 Britain and America. The last cord now is
broken, the people of England are 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 Britain. The Almighty
hath implanted in us these unextinguishable feelings for good and
wise purposes. They are the guardians of His image in our hearts.
They distinguish us from the herd of common animals. The social
compact would dissolve, and justice be extirpated from the earth,
or 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.

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