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Lord
North assigned one reason himself, which was a hope of dividing them.
This was publicly tempting them to reject it; that if, in case the
injury of arms should fail in provoking them sufficiently, the insult
of such a declaration might fill it up. But by passing the motion and
getting it afterwards rejected in America, it enabled them, in their
wicked idea of politics, among other things, to hold up the colonies to
foreign powers, with every possible mark of disobedience and rebellion.
They had applied to those powers not to supply the continent with arms,
ammunition, etc., and it was necessary they should incense them against
us, by assigning on their own part some seeming reputable reason why.
By dividing, it had a tendency to weaken the States, and likewise to
perplex the adherents of America in England. But the principal scheme,
and that which has marked their character in every part of their
conduct, was a design of precipitating the colonies into a state which
they might afterwards deem rebellion, and, under that pretence, put an
end to all future complaints, petitions and remonstrances, by seizing
the whole at once. They had ravaged one part of the globe, till it could
glut them no longer; their prodigality required new plunder, and through
the East India article tea they hoped to transfer their rapine from that
quarter of the world to this. Every designed quarrel had its pretence;
and the same barbarian avarice accompanied the plant to America, which
ruined the country that produced it.

That men never turn rogues without turning fools is a maxim, sooner or
later, universally true. The commencement of hostilities, being in the
beginning of April, was, of all times the worst chosen: the Congress
were to meet the tenth of May following, and the distress the continent
felt at this unparalleled outrage gave a stability to that body which
no other circumstance could have done. It suppressed too all inferior
debates, and bound them together by a necessitous affection, without
giving them time to differ upon trifles. The suffering likewise softened
the whole body of the people into a degree of pliability, which laid the
principal foundation-stone of union, order, and government; and which,
at any other time, might only have fretted and then faded away
unnoticed and unimproved. But Providence, who best knows how to time her
misfortunes as well as her immediate favors, chose this to be the time,
and who dare dispute it?

It did not seem the disposition of the people, at this crisis, to
heap petition upon petition, while the former remained unanswered. The
measure however was carried in Congress, and a second petition was sent;
of which I shall only remark that it was submissive even to a dangerous
fault, because the prayer of it appealed solely to what it called the
prerogative of the crown, while the matter in dispute was confessedly
constitutional. But even this petition, flattering as it was, was
still not so harmonious as the chink of cash, and consequently not
sufficiently grateful to the tyrant and his ministry. From every
circumstance it is evident, that it was the determination of the British
court to have nothing to do with America but to conquer her fully and
absolutely. They were certain of success, and the field of battle was
the only place of treaty. I am confident there are thousands and tens of
thousands in America who wonder now that they should ever have thought
otherwise; but the sin of that day was the sin of civility; yet it
operated against our present good in the same manner that a civil
opinion of the devil would against our future peace.

Independence was a doctrine scarce and rare, even towards the conclusion
of the year 1775; all our politics had been founded on the hope of
expectation of making the matter up--a hope, which, though general on
the side of America, had never entered the head or heart of the British
court. Their hope was conquest and confiscation. Good heavens! what
volumes of thanks does America owe to Britain? What infinite obligation
to the tool that fills, with paradoxical vacancy, the throne! Nothing
but the sharpest essence of villany, compounded with the strongest
distillation of folly, could have produced a menstruum that would have
effected a separation. The Congress in 1774 administered an abortive
medicine to independence, by prohibiting the importation of goods,
and the succeeding Congress rendered the dose still more dangerous by
continuing it. Had independence been a settled system with America, (as
Britain has advanced,) she ought to have doubled her importation, and
prohibited in some degree her exportation. And this single circumstance
is sufficient to acquit America before any jury of nations, of having
a continental plan of independence in view; a charge which, had it been
true, would have been honorable, but is so grossly false, that either
the amazing ignorance or the wilful dishonesty of the British court is
effectually proved by it.

The second petition, like the first, produced no answer; it was
scarcely acknowledged to have been received; the British court were too
determined in their villainy even to act it artfully, and in their rage
for conquest neglected the necessary subtleties for obtaining it. They
might have divided, distracted and played a thousand tricks with us, had
they been as cunning as they were cruel.

This last indignity gave a new spring to independence. Those who knew
the savage obstinacy of the king, and the jobbing, gambling spirit of
the court, predicted the fate of the petition, as soon as it was sent
from America; for the men being known, their measures were easily
foreseen. As politicians we ought not so much to ground our hopes on
the reasonableness of the thing we ask, as on the reasonableness of
the person of whom we ask it: who would expect discretion from a fool,
candor from a tyrant, or justice from a villain?

As every prospect of accommodation seemed now to fail fast, men began to
think seriously on the matter; and their reason being thus stripped of
the false hope which had long encompassed it, became approachable by
fair debate: yet still the bulk of the people hesitated; they startled
at the novelty of independence, without once considering that our
getting into arms at first was a more extraordinary novelty, and that
all other nations had gone through the work of independence before
us. They doubted likewise the ability of the continent to support
it, without reflecting that it required the same force to obtain an
accommodation by arms as an independence. If the one was acquirable, the
other was the same; because, to accomplish either, it was necessary that
our strength should be too great for Britain to subdue; and it was too
unreasonable to suppose, that with the power of being masters, we should
submit to be servants.* Their caution at this time was exceedingly
misplaced; for if they were able to defend their property and maintain
their rights by arms, they, consequently, were able to defend and
support their independence; and in proportion as these men saw the
necessity and correctness of the measure, they honestly and openly
declared and adopted it, and the part that they had acted since has done
them honor and fully established their characters. Error in opinion has
this peculiar advantage with it, that the foremost point of the contrary
ground may at any time be reached by the sudden exertion of a thought;
and it frequently happens in sentimental differences, that some striking
circumstance, or some forcible reason quickly conceived, will effect in
an instant what neither argument nor example could produce in an age.


* In this state of political suspense the pamphlet Common Sense made
its appearance, and the success it met with does not become me to
mention. Dr. Franklin, Mr. Samuel and John Adams, were severally spoken
of as the supposed author. I had not, at that time, the pleasure either
of personally knowing or being known to the two last gentlemen. The
favor of Dr. Franklin's friendship I possessed in England, and my
introduction to this part of the world was through his patronage. I
happened, when a school-boy, to pick up a pleasing natural history of
Virginia, and my inclination from that day of seeing the western side
of the Atlantic never left me. In October, 1775, Dr. Franklin proposed
giving me such materials as were in his hands, towards completing a
history of the present transactions, and seemed desirous of having the
first volume out the next Spring. I had then formed the outlines of
Common Sense, and finished nearly the first part; and as I supposed the
doctor's design in getting out a history was to open the new year with
a new system, I expected to surprise him with a production on that
subject, much earlier than he thought of; and without informing him what
I was doing, got it ready for the press as fast as I conveniently could,
and sent him the first pamphlet that was printed off.

I find it impossible in the small compass I am limited to, to trace out
the progress which independence has made on the minds of the different
classes of men, and the several reasons by which they were moved. With
some, it was a passionate abhorrence against the king of England and his
ministry, as a set of savages and brutes; and these men, governed by
the agony of a wounded mind, were for trusting every thing to hope and
heaven, and bidding defiance at once. With others, it was a growing
conviction that the scheme of the British court was to create, ferment
and drive on a quarrel, for the sake of confiscated plunder: and men
of this class ripened into independence in proportion as the evidence
increased. While a third class conceived it was the true interest of
America, internally and externally, to be her own master, and gave their
support to independence, step by step, as they saw her abilities to
maintain it enlarge. With many, it was a compound of all these reasons;
while those who were too callous to be reached by either, remained, and
still remain Tories.

The legal necessity of being independent, with several collateral
reasons, is pointed out in an elegant masterly manner, in a charge to
the grand jury for the district of Charleston, by the Hon.



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