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I am never
over-inquisitive into the secrets of the cabinet, but I have some notion
that, if you neglect the present opportunity, it will not be in our
power to make a separate peace with you afterwards; for whatever
treaties or alliances we form, we shall most faithfully abide by;
wherefore you may be deceived if you think you can make it with us at
any time. A lasting independent peace is my wish, end and aim; and to
accomplish that, I pray God the Americans may never be defeated, and I
trust while they have good officers, and are well commanded, and willing
to be commanded, that they NEVER WILL BE.

COMMON SENSE.

PHILADELPHIA, Jan. 13, 1777.




THE CRISIS III. (IN THE PROGRESS OF POLITICS)


IN THE progress of politics, as in the common occurrences of life,
we are not only apt to forget the ground we have travelled over, but
frequently neglect to gather up experience as we go. We expend, if I may
so say, the knowledge of every day on the circumstances that produce it,
and journey on in search of new matter and new refinements: but as it is
pleasant and sometimes useful to look back, even to the first periods of
infancy, and trace the turns and windings through which we have passed,
so we may likewise derive many advantages by halting a while in our
political career, and taking a review of the wondrous complicated
labyrinth of little more than yesterday.

Truly may we say, that never did men grow old in so short a time! We
have crowded the business of an age into the compass of a few months,
and have been driven through such a rapid succession of things, that
for the want of leisure to think, we unavoidably wasted knowledge as we
came, and have left nearly as much behind us as we brought with us: but
the road is yet rich with the fragments, and, before we finally lose
sight of them, will repay us for the trouble of stopping to pick them
up.

Were a man to be totally deprived of memory, he would be incapable of
forming any just opinion; every thing about him would seem a chaos:
he would have even his own history to ask from every one; and by not
knowing how the world went in his absence, he would be at a loss to
know how it ought to go on when he recovered, or rather, returned to it
again. In like manner, though in a less degree, a too great inattention
to past occurrences retards and bewilders our judgment in everything;
while, on the contrary, by comparing what is past with what is present,
we frequently hit on the true character of both, and become wise with
very little trouble. It is a kind of counter-march, by which we get into
the rear of time, and mark the movements and meaning of things as we
make our return. There are certain circumstances, which, at the time
of their happening, are a kind of riddles, and as every riddle is to be
followed by its answer, so those kind of circumstances will be followed
by their events, and those events are always the true solution. A
considerable space of time may lapse between, and unless we continue our
observations from the one to the other, the harmony of them will pass
away unnoticed: but the misfortune is, that partly from the pressing
necessity of some instant things, and partly from the impatience of our
own tempers, we are frequently in such a hurry to make out the meaning
of everything as fast as it happens, that we thereby never truly
understand it; and not only start new difficulties to ourselves by so
doing, but, as it were, embarrass Providence in her good designs.

I have been civil in stating this fault on a large scale, for, as it now
stands, it does not appear to be levelled against any particular set of
men; but were it to be refined a little further, it might afterwards
be applied to the Tories with a degree of striking propriety: those men
have been remarkable for drawing sudden conclusions from single facts.
The least apparent mishap on our side, or the least seeming advantage
on the part of the enemy, have determined with them the fate of a whole
campaign. By this hasty judgment they have converted a retreat into
a defeat; mistook generalship for error; while every little advantage
purposely given the enemy, either to weaken their strength by dividing
it, embarrass their councils by multiplying their objects, or to secure
a greater post by the surrender of a less, has been instantly magnified
into a conquest. Thus, by quartering ill policy upon ill principles,
they have frequently promoted the cause they designed to injure, and
injured that which they intended to promote.

It is probable the campaign may open before this number comes from
the press. The enemy have long lain idle, and amused themselves with
carrying on the war by proclamations only. While they continue their
delay our strength increases, and were they to move to action now, it
is a circumstantial proof that they have no reinforcement coming;
wherefore, in either case, the comparative advantage will be ours. Like
a wounded, disabled whale, they want only time and room to die in; and
though in the agony of their exit, it may be unsafe to live within the
flapping of their tail, yet every hour shortens their date, and lessens
their power of mischief. If any thing happens while this number is in
the press, it will afford me a subject for the last pages of it. At
present I am tired of waiting; and as neither the enemy, nor the state
of politics have yet produced any thing new, I am thereby left in
the field of general matter, undirected by any striking or particular
object. This Crisis, therefore, will be made up rather of variety than
novelty, and consist more of things useful than things wonderful.

The success of the cause, the union of the people, and the means of
supporting and securing both, are points which cannot be too much
attended to. He who doubts of the former is a desponding coward, and
he who wilfully disturbs the latter is a traitor. Their characters are
easily fixed, and under these short descriptions I leave them for the
present.

One of the greatest degrees of sentimental union which America ever
knew, was in denying the right of the British parliament "to bind the
colonies in all cases whatsoever." The Declaration is, in its form, an
almighty one, and is the loftiest stretch of arbitrary power that ever
one set of men or one country claimed over another. Taxation was
nothing more than the putting the declared right into practice; and
this failing, recourse was had to arms, as a means to establish both
the right and the practice, or to answer a worse purpose, which will be
mentioned in the course of this number. And in order to repay themselves
the expense of an army, and to profit by their own injustice, the
colonies were, by another law, declared to be in a state of actual
rebellion, and of consequence all property therein would fall to the
conquerors.

The colonies, on their part, first, denied the right; secondly, they
suspended the use of taxable articles, and petitioned against the
practice of taxation: and these failing, they, thirdly, defended their
property by force, as soon as it was forcibly invaded, and, in answer
to the declaration of rebellion and non-protection, published their
Declaration of Independence and right of self-protection.

These, in a few words, are the different stages of the quarrel; and the
parts are so intimately and necessarily connected with each other as to
admit of no separation. A person, to use a trite phrase, must be a
Whig or a Tory in a lump. His feelings, as a man, may be wounded; his
charity, as a Christian, may be moved; but his political principles must
go through all the cases on one side or the other. He cannot be a Whig
in this stage, and a Tory in that. If he says he is against the united
independence of the continent, he is to all intents and purposes against
her in all the rest; because this last comprehends the whole. And he may
just as well say, that Britain was right in declaring us rebels; right
in taxing us; and right in declaring her "right to bind the colonies in
all cases whatsoever." It signifies nothing what neutral ground, of his
own creating, he may skulk upon for shelter, for the quarrel in no
stage of it hath afforded any such ground; and either we or Britain are
absolutely right or absolutely wrong through the whole.

Britain, like a gamester nearly ruined, has now put all her losses into
one bet, and is playing a desperate game for the total. If she wins
it, she wins from me my life; she wins the continent as the forfeited
property of rebels; the right of taxing those that are left as reduced
subjects; and the power of binding them slaves: and the single die
which determines this unparalleled event is, whether we support our
independence or she overturn it. This is coming to the point at once.
Here is the touchstone to try men by. He that is not a supporter of the
independent States of America in the same degree that his religious and
political principles would suffer him to support the government of any
other country, of which he called himself a subject, is, in the American
sense of the word, A TORY; and the instant that he endeavors to bring
his toryism into practice, he becomes A TRAITOR. The first can only be
detected by a general test, and the law hath already provided for the
latter.

It is unnatural and impolitic to admit men who would root up our
independence to have any share in our legislation, either as electors
or representatives; because the support of our independence rests, in
a great measure, on the vigor and purity of our public bodies. Would
Britain, even in time of peace, much less in war, suffer an election to
be carried by men who professed themselves to be not her subjects, or
allow such to sit in Parliament? Certainly not.

But there are a certain species of Tories with whom conscience or
principle has nothing to do, and who are so from avarice only. Some
of the first fortunes on the continent, on the part of the Whigs, are
staked on the issue of our present measures. And shall disaffection only
be rewarded with security?



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