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 defence
of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than
To talk of friendship with those in whom our reason forbids us to have
faith, and our affections wounded thro 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
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....
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 shew, that nothing can settle our affairs so expeditiously
as an open and determined declaration for independance. Some of which
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 America
calls herself the Subject of Great-Britain, no power, however well disposed
she may be, can offer her mediation. Wherefore, in our present state we
may quarrel on for ever.
Secondly. It is unreasonable to suppose, that France or
Spain 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 Britain and America; because, those powers would
be sufferers by the consequences.
Thirdly. While we profess ourselves the subjects of Britain,
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 the common
Fourthly. Were a manifesto to be published, and despatched
to foreign courts, 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 British court, we had been driven to
the necessity of breaking off all connections with her; at the same time,
assuring all such courts of our peacable disposition towards them, and
of our desire of entering into trade with them: Such a memorial would
produce more good effects to this Continent, than if a ship were freighted
with petitions to Britain.
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 independance, 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 independance 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.
from Common Sense (January 1776)
The Literature of the United States (1953) Volume One pp.
285, 299f, 304
ed. Walter Blair, et al.