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Title: A Letter Addressed to the Abbe Raynal, on the Affairs of North America, in Which the Mistakes in the Abbe's Account of the Revolution of America Are Corrected and Cleared Up
Author: Paine, Thomas, 1737-1809
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Letter Addressed to the Abbe Raynal, on the Affairs of North America, in Which the Mistakes in the Abbe's Account of the Revolution of America Are Corrected and Cleared Up" ***








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M,DCC,XII. [_sic_, actually 1792]


A London translation of an original work in French, by the Abbe
Raynal, which treats of the Revolution of North America, having been
reprinted in Philadelphia and other parts of the continent, and as the
distance at which the Abbe is placed from the American theatre of war
and politics, has occasioned him to mistake several facts, or
misconceive the causes or principles by which they were produced; the
following tract, therefore, is published with a view to rectify them,
and prevent even accidental errors intermixing with history, under the
sanction of time and silence.

The Editor of the London edition has entitled it, "The Revolution of
America, by the Abbe Raynal," and the American printers have followed
the example. But I have understood, and I believe my information just,
that the piece, which is more properly reflections on the revolution,
was unfairly purloined from the printer which the Abbe employed, or
from the manuscript copy, and is only part of a larger work then in
the press, or preparing for it. The person who procured it appears to
have been an Englishman; and though, in an advertisement prefixt to
the London edition, he has endeavoured to gloss over the embezzlement
with professions of patriotism, and to soften it with high encomiums
on the author, yet the action, in any view in which it can be placed,
is illiberal and unpardonable.

"In the course of his travels," says he, "the translator happily
succeeded in obtaining a copy of this exquisite little piece, which
has not yet made its appearance from any press. He publishes a French
edition, in favour of those who will feel its eloquent reasoning more
forcibly in its native language, at the same time with the following
translation of it; in which he has been desirous, perhaps in vain,
that all the warmth, the grace, the strength, the dignity of the
original should not be lost. And he flatters himself, that the
indulgence of the illustrious historian will not be wanting to a man,
who, of his own motion, has taken the liberty to give this composition
to the public, only from a strong persuasion, that this momentous
argument will be useful, in a critical conjecture, to that country
which he loves with an ardour that can be exceeded only by the nobler
flame which burns in the bosom of the philanthropic author, for the
freedom and happiness of all the countries upon earth."

This plausibility of setting off a dishonourable action, may pass for
patriotism and sound principles with those who do not enter into its
demerits, and whose interest is not injured, nor their happiness
affected thereby. But it is more than probable, notwithstanding the
declarations it contains, that the copy was obtained for the sake of
profiting by the sale of a new and popular work, and that the
professions are but a garb to the fraud.

It may with propriety be remarked, that in all countries where
literature is protected, and it never can flourish where it is not,
the works of an author are his legal property; and to treat letters in
any other light than this, is to banish them from the country, or
strangle them in the birth.--The embezzlement from the Abbe Raynal
was, it is true, committed by one country upon another, and therefore
shews no defect in the laws of either. But it is nevertheless a breach
of civil manners and literary justice; neither can it be any apology,
that because the countries are at war, literature shall be entitled
to depredation.[1]

But the forestalling the Abbe's publication by London editions, both
in French and English, and thereby not only defrauding him, and
throwing an expensive publication on his hands, by anticipating the
sale, are only the smaller injuries which such conduct may occasion. A
man's opinions, whether written or in thought, are his own until he
pleases to publish them himself; and it is adding cruelty to injustice
to make him the author of what future reflection or better information
might occasion him to suppress or amend. There are declarations and
sentiments in the Abbe's piece, which, for my own part, I did not
expect to find, and such as himself, on a revisal, might have seen
occasion to change, but the anticipated piracy effectually prevented
him the opportunity, and precipitated him into difficulties, which,
had it not been for such ungenerous fraud, might not have happened.

This mode of making an author appear before his time, will appear
still more ungenerous, when we consider how exceedingly few men there
are in any country who can at once, and without the aid of reflection
and revisal, combine warm passions with a cool temper, and the full
expansion of imagination with the natural and necessary gravity of
judgment, so as to be rightly balanced within themselves, and to make
a reader feel, and understand justly at the same time. To call three
powers of the mind into action at once, in a manner that neither shall
interrupt, and that each shall aid and vigorate the other, is a talent
very rarely possessed.

It often happens, that the weight of an argument is lost by the wit of
setting it off, or the judgment disordered by an intemperate
irritation of the passions: yet a certain degree of animation must be
felt by the writer, and raised in the reader, in order to interest the
attention; and a sufficient scope given to the imagination, to enable
it to create in the mind a sight of the persons, characters, and
circumstances of the subject; for without these, the judgment will
feel little or no excitement to office, and its determinations will be
cold, sluggish, and imperfect. But if either or both of the two former
are raised too high, or heated too much, the judgment will be jostled
from his seat, and the whole matter, however important in itself, will
diminish into a pantomime of the mind, in which we create images that
promote no other purpose than amusement.

The Abbe's writings bear evident marks of that extension and rapidness
of thinking and quickness of sensation which of all others require
revisal, and the more particularly so when applied to the living
characters of nations or individuals in a state of war. The least
misinformation or misconception leads to some wrong conclusion and an
error believed becomes the progenitor of others. And as the Abbe has
suffered some inconveniences in France, by mistating certain
circumstances of the war and the characters of the parties therein, it
becomes some apology for him, that those errors were precipitated into
the world by the avarice of an ungenerous enemy.


[1] The state of literature in America must one day become a subject
of legislative consideration. Hitherto it hath been a disinterested
volunteer in the service of the revolution, and no man thought of
profits: but when peace shall give time and opportunity for study, the
country will deprive itself of the honour and service of letters and
the improvement of science, unless sufficient laws are made to prevent
depredations on literary property. It is well worth remarking that
Russia, who but a few years ago was scarcely known in Europe, owes a
large share of her present greatness to the close attention she has
paid, and the wise encouragement she has given to science and
learning, and we have almost the same instance in France, in the reign
of Lewis XIV.


To an author of such distinguished reputation as the Abbe Raynal, it
might very well become me to apologize for the present undertaking;
but as _to be right_ is the first wish of philosophy, and the first
principle of history, he will, I presume, accept from me a declaration
of my motives, which are those of doing justice, in preference to any
complimental apology, I might otherwise make. The Abbe, in the course
of his work, has, in some instances extolled, without a reason, and
wounded without a cause. He has given fame where it was not deserved,
and withheld it where it was justly due; and appears to be so
frequently in and out of temper with his subjects and parties, that
few or none of them are decisively and uniformly marked.

It is yet too soon to write the history of the revolution; and whoever
attempts it precipitately, will unavoidably mistake characters and
circumstances, and involve himself in error and difficulty. Things
like men are seldom understood rightly at first sight. But the Abbe is
wrong even in the foundation of his work; that is, he has misconceived
and misstated the causes which produced the rupture between England
and her then colonies, and which led on, step by step, unstudied and
uncontrived on the part of America, to a revolution, which has engaged
the attention, and affected the interest of Europe.

To prove this, I shall bring forward a passage, which, though placed
towards the latter part of the Abbe's work, is more intimately
connected with the beginning: and in which, speaking of the original
cause of the dispute, he declares himself in the following manner--

"None," says he, "of those energetic causes, which have produced so
many revolutions upon the globe, existed in North-America. Neither
religion nor laws had there been outraged. The blood of martyrs or
patriots had not there streamed from scaffolds. Morals had not there
been insulted. Manners, customs, habits, no object dear to nations,
had there been the sport of ridicule. Arbitrary power had not there
torn any inhabitant from the arms of his family and friends, to drag
him to a dreary dungeon. Public order had not been there inverted. The
principles of administration had not been changed there; and the
maxims of government had there always remained the same. The whole
question was reduced to the knowing whether the mother country had,
or, had not a right to lay, directly or indirectly, a slight tax upon
the colonies."

On this extraordinary passage, it may not be improper, in general
terms, to remark, that none can feel like those who suffer; and that
for a man to be a competent judge of the provocative, or, as the Abbe
styles them, the energetic causes of the revolution, he must have
resided in America.

The Abbe, in saying that the several particulars he has enumerated did
not exist in America, and neglecting to point out the particular
period in which the means they did not exist, reduces thereby his
declaration to a nullity, by taking away all meaning from the passage.

They did not exist in 1763, and they all existed before 1776;
consequently as there was a time when they did _not_, and another when
they _did_ exist, the _time when_ constitutes the essence of the fact;
and not to give it, is to withhold the only evidence which proves the
declaration right or wrong, and on which it must stand or fall. But
the declaration as it now appears, unaccompanied by time, has an
effect in holding out to the world, that there was no real cause for
the revolution, because it denied the existence of all those causes
which are supposed to be justifiable, and which the Abbe styles

I confess myself exceedingly at a loss to find out the time to which
the Abbe alludes; because, in another part of the work, in speaking of
the stamp act, which was passed in 1764, he styles it "An _usurpation_
of the Americans' _most precious and sacred rights_." Consequently he
here admits the most energetic of all causes, that is, _an usurpation
of their most precious and sacred rights_, to have existed in America
twelve years before the declaration of independence, and ten years
before the breaking out of hostilities. The time, therefore, in which
the paragraph is true, must be antecedent to the stamp act, but as at
that time there was no revolution, nor any idea of one, it
consequently applies without a meaning; and as it cannot, on the
Abbe's own principle, be applied to any time _after_ the stamp act, it
is therefore a wandering, solitary paragraph connected with nothing,
and at variance with every thing.

The stamp act, it is true, was repealed two years after it was passed;
but it was immediately followed by one of infinitely more mischievous
magnitude, I mean the declaratory act, which asserted the right, as it
was styled, of the British Parliament, "_to bind America in all cases

If then, the stamp act was an usurpation of the Americans' most
precious and sacred rights, the declaratory Act left them no rights at
all; and contained the full grown seeds of the most despotic
government ever exercised in the world. It placed America not only in
the lowest, but in the basest state of vassalage; because it demanded
an unconditional submission in everything, or, as the act expressed
it, _in all cases whatsoever_: and what renders this act the more
offensive, is, that it appears to have been passed as an act of mercy;
truly then may it be said, that _the tender mercies of the wicked are

All the original charters from the Crown of England, under the faith
of which, the adventurers from the old world settled in the new, were
by this act displaced from their foundations; because, contrary to the
nature of them, which was that of a compact, they were now made
subject to repeal or alteration at the mere will of one party only.
The whole condition of America was thus put into the hands of the
Parliament or the Ministry, without leaving to her the least right in
any case whatsoever.

There is no despotism to which this iniquitous law did not extend; and
though it might have been convenient in the execution of it, to have
consulted manners and habits, the principle of the act made all
tyranny legal. It stopt no where. It went to everything. It took in
with it the whole life of a man, or, if I may so express it, an
eternity of circumstances. It is the nature of law to require
obedience, but this demanded servitude; and the condition of an
American, under the operation of it, was not that of a subject, but a
vassal. Tyranny has often been established _without_ law, and
sometimes _against_ it, but the history of mankind does not produce
another instance, in which it has been established _by_ law. It is an
audacious outrage upon civil government, and cannot be too much
exposed, in order to be sufficiently detested.

Neither could it be said after this, that the legislature of that
country any longer made laws for this, but that it gave out commands;
for wherein differed an act of Parliament constructed on this
principle, and operating in this manner, over an unrepresented people,
from the orders of a military establishment?

The Parliament of England, with respect to America, was not septennial
but _perpetual_. It appeared to the latter a body always in being. Its
election or expiration were to her the same, as if its members
succeeded by inheritance, or went out by death, or lived for ever, or
were appointed to it as a matter of office. Therefore, for the people
of England to have any just conception of the mind of America,
respecting this extraordinary act, they must suppose all election and
expiration in that country to cease forever, and the present
Parliament, its heirs, &c., to be perpetual; in this case, I ask, what
would the most clamorous of them think, were an act to be passed,
declaring the right of _such a Parliament_ to bind _them_ in all cases
whatsoever? For this word _whatsoever_ would go as effectually to
their _Magna Charta, Bill of Rights, trial by Juries_, &c. as it went
to the charters and forms of government in America.

I am persuaded, that the Gentleman to whom I address these remarks
will not, after the passing of this act, say, "That the _principles_
of administration had not been _changed_ in America, and that the
maxims of government had there been _always the same_." For here is,
in principle, a total overthrow of the whole; and not a subversion
only, but an annihilation of the foundation of liberty and absolute
dominion established in its stead.

The Abbe likewise states the case exceedingly wrong and injuriously,
when he says, "that that _the whole_ question was reduced to the
knowing whether the mother country had, or had not, a right to lay,
directly or indirectly, a _slight_ tax upon the colonies." This was
_not the whole_ of the question; neither was the _quantity_ of the tax
the object, either to the Ministry, or to the Americans. It was the
principle, of which the tax made but a part, and the quantity still
less, that formed the ground on which America opposed.

The tax on tea, which is the tax here alluded to, was neither more or
less than an experiment to establish the practice of a declaratory law
upon; modelled into the more fashionable phrase _of the universal
supremacy of Parliament_. For until this time the declaratory law had
lain dormant, and the framers of it had contented themselves with
barely declaring an opinion.

Therefore the _whole_ question with America, in the opening of the
dispute, was, Shall we be bound in all cases whatsoever by the British
Parliament, or shall we not? For submission to the tea or tax act,
implied an acknowledgment of the declaratory act, or, in other words,
of the universal supremacy of Parliament, which as they never intended
to do, it was necessary they should oppose it, in its first stage of

It is probable, the Abbe has been led into this mistake by perusing
detached pieces in some of the American newspapers; for, in a case
where all were interested, everyone had a right to give his opinion;
and there were many who, with the best intentions, did not chuse the
best, nor indeed the true ground, to defend their cause upon. They
felt themselves right by a general impulse, without being able to
separate, analyze, and arrange the parts.

I am somewhat unwilling to examine too minutely into the whole of this
extraordinary passage of the Abbe, lest I should appear to treat it
with severity; otherwise I could shew, that not a single declaration
is justly founded; for instance, the reviving an obsolete act of the
reign of Henry the Eighth, and fitting it to the Americans, by
authority of which they were to be seized and brought from America to
England, and there imprisoned and tried for any supposed offenses,
was, in the worse sense of the words, _to tear them by the arbitrary
power of Parliament, from the arms of their families and friends, and
drag them not only to dreary but distant dungeons_. Yet this act was
contrived some years before the breaking out of hostilities. And
again, though the blood of martyrs and patriots had not streamed on
the scaffolds, it streamed in the streets, in the massacre of the
inhabitants of Boston, by the British soldiery in the year 1770.

Had the Abbe said that the causes which produced the revolution in
America were originally _different_ from those which produced
revolutions in other parts of the globe, he had been right. Here the
value and quality of liberty, the nature of government, and the
dignity of man, were known and understood, and the attachment of the
Americans to these principles produced the revolution, as a natural
and almost unavoidable consequence. They had no particular family to
set up or pull down. Nothing of personality was incorporated with
their cause. They started even-handed with each other, and went no
faster into the several stages of it, than they were driven by the
unrelenting and imperious conduct of Britain. Nay, in the last act,
the declaration of independence, they had nearly been too late; for
had it not been declared at the exact time it was, I saw no period in
their affairs since, in which it could have been declared with the
same effect, and probably not at all.

But the object being formed before the reverse of fortune took place,
that is, before the operations of the gloomy campaign of 1776, their
honour, their interest, their everything, called loudly on them to
maintain it; and that glow of thought and energy of heart, which even
distant prospect of independence inspires, gave confidence to their
hopes, and resolution to their conduct, which a state of dependence
could never have reached. They looked forward to happier days and
scenes of rest, and qualified the hardships of the campaign by
contemplating the establishment of their new-born system.

If, on the other hand, we take a review of what part great Britain has
acted, we shall find every thing which ought to make a nation blush.
The most vulgar abuse, accompanied by that species of haughtiness
which distinguishes the hero of a mob from the character of a
gentleman; it was equally as much from her manners as from her
injustice that she lost the colonies. By the latter she provoked their
principles, by the former she wore out their temper; and it ought to
be held out as an example to the world, to shew how necessary it is to
conduct the business of government with civility. In short, other
revolutions may have originated in caprice, or generated in ambition,
but here, the most unoffending humility was tortured into rage, and
the infancy of existence made to weep.

A union so extensive, continued and determined, suffering with
patience, and never in despair, could not have been produced by common
causes. It must be something capable of reaching the whole soul of man
and arming it with perpetual energy. In vain it is to look for
precedents among the revolutions of former ages, to find out, by
comparison, the causes of this. The spring, the progress, the object,
the consequences, nay the men, their habits of thinking, and all the
circumstances of the country, are different. Those of other nations
are, in general, little more than the history of their quarrels. They
are marked by no important character in the annals of events; mixt in
the mass of general matters, they occupy but a common page; and while
the chief of the successful partizans stept into power, the plundered
multitude sat down and sorrowed. Few, very few of them are accompanied
with reformation, either in government or manners; many of them with
the most consummate profligacy.--Triumph on the one side, and misery
on the other, were the only events. Pains, punishments, torture, and
death, were made the business of mankind, until compassion, the
fairest associate of the heart, was driven from its place; and the
eye, accustomed to continual cruelty, could behold it without offence.

But as the principles of the present resolution differed from those
which preceded it, so likewise has the conduct of America, both in
government and war. Neither the foul finger of disgrace, nor the
bloody hand of vengeance has hitherto put a blot upon her fame. Her
victories have received lustre from a greatness of lenity; and her
laws been permitted to slumber, where they might justly have awakened
to punish. War, so much the trade of the world, has here been only the
business of necessity; and when the necessity shall cease, her very
enemies must confess, that as she drew the sword in her just defence,
she used it without cruelty, and sheathed it without revenge.

As it is not my design to extend these remarks to a history, I shall
now take my leave of this passage of the Abbe, with an observation,
which, until something unfolds itself to convince me otherwise, I
cannot avoid believing to be true;--which is, that it was the fixt
determination of the British Cabinet to quarrel with America at all

They (the members who compose the cabinet) had no doubt of success, if
they could once bring it to the issue of a battle; and they expected
from a conquest, what they could neither propose with decency, nor
hope for by negociation. The charters and constitutions of the
colonies were become to them matters of offence, and their rapid
progress in property and population were disgustingly beheld as the
growing and natural means of independence. They saw no way to retain
them long but by reducing them time. A conquest would at once have
made them both lords and landlords, and put them in the possession
both of the revenue and the rental. The whole trouble of government
would have ceased in a victory, and a final end put to remonstrance
and debate. The experience of the stamp act had taught them how to
quarrel with the advantages of cover and convenience, and they had
nothing to do but to renew the scene, and put contention into motion.
They hoped for a rebellion, and they made one. They expected a
declaration of independence, and they were not disappointed. But after
this, they looked for victory, and obtained a defeat.

If this be taken as the generating cause of the contest, then is every
part of the conduct of the British ministry consistent, from the
commencement of the dispute, until the signing the treaty of Paris,
after which, conquest becoming doubtful, they retreated to
negociation, and were again defeated.

Though the Abbe possesses and displays great powers of genius, and is
a master of style and language, he seems not to pay equal attention to
the office of an historian. His facts are coldly and carelessly
stated. They neither inform the reader, nor interest him. Many of them
are erroneous, and most of them defective and obscure. It is
undoubtedly both an ornament, and a useful addition to history, to
accompany it with maxims and reflections. They afford likewise an
agreeable change to the style, and a more diversified manner of
expression; but it is absolutely necessary that the root from whence
they spring, or the foundations on which they are raised, should be
well attended to, which in this work they are not. The Abbe hastens
through his narrations, as if he was glad to get from them, that he
may enter the more copious field of eloquence and imagination.

The actions of Trenton and Princeton, in New Jersey, in December 1776,
and January following, on which the fate of America stood for a while
trembling on the point of suspence, and from which the most important
consequences followed, are comprised within a single paragraph,
faintly conceived, and barren of character, circumstance and

"On the 25th of December," says the Abbe, "they (the Americans)
crossed the Delaware, and fell _accidentally_ upon Trenton, which was
occupied by fifteen hundred of the twelve thousand Hessians, sold in
so base a manner by their avaricious master, to the King of Great
Britain. This corps was _massacred_, taken, or dispersed. Eight days
after, three English regiments were in like manner driven from
Princeton; but after having better supported their reputation than the
foreign troops in their pay."

This is all the account which is given of these most interesting
events. The Abbe has preceded them by two or three pages, on the
military operations of both armies, from the time of General Howe
arriving before New York from Halifax, and the vast reinforcements of
British and foreign troops with Lord Howe from England. But in these
there is so much mistake, and so many omissions, that to set them
right, must be the business of history, and not of a letter. The
action of Long Island is but barely hinted at; and the operations at
the White Plains wholly omitted: as are likewise the attack and loss
of Fort Washington, with a garrison of about two thousand five hundred
men, and the precipitate evacuation of Fort Lee, in consequence
thereof; which losses were in a great measure the cause of the retreat
through the Jersies to the Delaware, a distance of about ninety miles.
Neither is the manner of the retreat described, which, from the season
of the year, the nature of the country, the nearness of the two armies
(sometimes within sight and shot of each other for such a length of
way), the rear of the one employed in pulling down bridges, and the
van of the other in building them up, must necessarily be accompanied
with many interesting circumstances.

It was a period of distresses. A crisis rather of danger than of
hope, there is no description can do it justice; and even the actors
in it, looking back upon the scene, are surprised how they got
through; and at a loss to account for those powers of the mind and
springs of animation, by which they withstood the force of accumulated

It was expected, that the time for which the army was enlisted, would
carry the campaign so far into the winter, that the severity of the
season, and the consequent condition of the roads, would prevent any
material operation of the enemy, until the new army could be raised
for the next year. And I mention it, as a matter worthy of attention
by all future historians, that the movements of the American army,
until the attack upon the Hessian post at Trenton, the 26th of
December, are to be considered as operating to effect no other
principal purpose than delay, and to wear away the campaign under all
the disadvantages of an unequal force, with as little misfortune as

But the loss of the garrison at Fort Washington, on the 16th of
November, and the expiration of the time of a considerable part of the
army, so early as the 30th of the same month, and which were to be
followed by almost daily expirations afterwards, made retreat the only
final expedient. To these circumstances may be added the forlorn and
destitute condition of the few that remained; for the garrison at Fort
Lee, which composed almost the whole of the retreat, had been obliged
to abandon it so instantaneously, that every article of stores and
baggage was left behind, and in this destitute condition, without tent
or blanket, and without any other utensils to dress their provision
than what they procured by the way, they performed a march of about
ninety miles, and had the address and management to prolong it to the
space of nineteen days.

By this unexpected, or rather unthought of turn of affairs, the
country was in an instant surprised into confusion, and found an enemy
within its bowels, without any army to oppose him. There were no
succours to be had, but from the free-will offering of the
inhabitants. All was choice, and every man reasoned for himself.

It was in this situation of affairs, equally calculated to confound or
to inspire, that the gentleman, the merchant, the farmer, the
tradesman and the labourer, mutually turned out from all the
conveniencies of home, to perform the duties of private soldiers, and
undergo the severities of a winter campaign. The delay, so judiciously
contrived on the retreat, afforded time for the volunteer
reinforcements to join General Washington on the Delaware.

The Abbe is likewise wrong in saying, that the American army fell
_accidentally_ on Trenton. It was the very object for which General
Washington crossed the Delaware in the dead of night, in the midst of
snow, storms, and ice: and which he immediately re-crossed with his
prisoners, as soon as he had accomplished his purpose. Neither was the
intended enterprise a secret to the enemy, imformation [_sic_] having
been sent of it by letter, from a British Officer at Princeton, to
Colonel Rolle, who commanded the Hessians at Trenton, which letter was
afterwards found by the Americans. Nevertheless the post was
completely surprised. A small circumstance, which had the appearance
of mistake on the part of the Americans, led to a more capital and
real mistake on the part of Rolle.

The case was this: A detachment of twenty or thirty Americans had been
sent across the river from a post a few miles above, by an officer
unacquainted with the intended attack; these were met by a body of
Hessians on the night, to which the information pointed, which was
Christmas night, and repulsed. Nothing further appearing, and the
Hessians mistaking this for the advanced party, supposed the
enterprize disconcerted, which at that time was not begun, and under
this idea returned to their quarters; so that, what might have raised
an alarm, and brought the Americans into an ambuscade, served to take
off the force of an information, and promote the success of the
enterprise. Soon after day-light General Washington entered the town,
and after a little opposition made himself master of it, with upwards
of nine hundred prisoners.

This combination of equivocal circumstances, falling within what the
Abbe styles, "_the wide empire of chance_," would have afforded a fine
field for thought; and I wish, for the sake of that elegance of
reflection he is so capable of using, that he had known it.

But the action of Princeton was accompanied by a still greater
embarrassment of matters, and followed by more extraordinary
consequences. The Americans, by a happy stroke of generalship, in this
instance, not only deranged and defeated all the plans of the British,
in the intended moment of execution, but drew from their posts the
enemy they were not able to drive, and obliged them to close the
campaign. As the circumstance is a curiosity in war, and not well
understood in Europe, I shall, as concisely as I can, relate the
principal parts; they may serve to prevent future historians from
error, and recover from forgetfulness a scene of magnificent

Immediately after the surprise of the Hessians at Trenton, General
Washington re-crossed the Delaware, which at this place is about three
quarters of a mile over, and re-assumed his former post on the
Pennsylvania side. Trenton remained unoccupied, and the enemy were
posted at Princeton, twelve miles distant, on the road toward
New-York. The weather was now growing very severe, and as there were
very few houses near the shore where General Washington had taken his
station, the greatest part of his army remained out in the woods and
fields. These, with some other circumstances, induced the re-crossing
the Delaware and taking possession of Trenton. It was undoubtedly a
bold adventure, and carried with it the appearance of defiance,
especially when we consider the panic-struck condition of the enemy on
the loss of the Hessian post. But in order to give a just idea of the
affair, it is necessary that I should describe the place.

Trenton is situated on a rising ground, about three quarters of a mile
distant from the Delaware, on the eastern or Jersey side; and is cut
into two divisions by a small creek or rivulet, sufficient to turn a
mill which is on it, after which it empties itself at nearly right
angles into the Delaware. The upper division, which is that to the
north-east, contains about seventy or eighty houses, and the lower
about forty of fifty. The ground on each side this creek, and on which
the houses are, is likewise rising, and the two divisions present an
agreeable prospect to each other, with the creek between, on which
there is a small stone bridge of one arch.

Scarcely had General Washington taken post here, and before the
several parties of militia, out on detachments, or on their way, could
be collected, than the British, leaving behind them a strong garrison
at Princeton, marched suddenly and entered Trenton at the upper or
north-east quarter. A party of the Americans skirmished with the
advanced party of the British, to afford time for removing the stores
and baggage, and withdrawing over the bridge.

In a little time the British had possession of one half of the town,
General Washington of the other; and the creek only separated the two
armies. Nothing could be a more critical situation than this, and if
ever the fate of America depended upon the event of a day, it was now.
The Delaware was filling fast with large sheets of driving ice, and
was impassable, so that no retreat into Pennsylvania could be
effected, neither is it possible, in the face of an enemy, to pass a
river of such extent. The roads were broken and rugged with the frost,
and the main road was occupied by the enemy.

About four o'clock a party of the British approached the bridge, with
a design to gain it, but were repulsed. They made no more attempts,
though the creek itself is passable anywhere between the bridge and
the Delaware. It runs in a rugged, natural-made ditch, over which a
person may pass with little difficulty, the stream being rapid and
shallow. Evening was now coming on, and the British, believing they
had all the advantages they could wish for, and that they could use
them when they pleased, discontinued all further operations, and held
themselves prepared to make the attack next morning.

But the next morning produced a scene as elegant as it was unexpected.
The British were under arms and ready to march to action, when one of
their light-horse from Princeton came furiously down the street, with
an account that General Washington had that morning attacked and
carried the British post at that place, and was proceeding on to seize
the magazine at Brunswick; on which the British, who were then on the
point of making an assault on the evacuated camp of the Americans,
wheeled about, and in a fit of consternation marched for Princeton.

This retreat is one of those extraordinary circumstances, that in
future ages may probably pass for fable. For it will with difficulty
be believed that two armies, on which such important consequences
depended, should be crouded into so small a space as Trenton; and that
the one, on the eve of an engagement, when every ear is supposed to be
open, and every watchfulness employed, should move completely from the
ground, with all its stores, baggage and artillery, unknown and even
unsuspected by the other. And so entirely were the British deceived,
that when they heard the report of the cannon and small arms at
Princeton, they supposed it to be thunder, though in the depth of

General Washington, the better to cover and disguise his retreat from
Trenton, had ordered a line of fires to be lighted up in front of his
camp. These not only served to give an appearance of going to rest,
and continuing that deception, but they effectually concealed from the
British whatever was acting behind them, for flame can no more be seen
through than a wall, and in his situation, it may with some propriety
be said, they came a pillar of fire to the one army, and a pillar of a
cloud to the other: after this, by a circuitous march of about
eighteen miles, the Americans reached Princeton early in the morning.

The number of prisoners taken were between two and three hundred, with
which General Washington immediately set off. The van of the British
army from Trenton, entered Princeton about an hour after the Americans
had left it, who, continuing their march for the remainder of the day,
arrived in the evening at a convenient situation, wide of the main
road to Brunswick, and about sixteen miles distant from Princeton. But
so wearied and exhausted were they, with the continual and unabated
service and fatigue of two days and a night, from action to action,
without shelter and almost without refreshment, that the bare and
frozen ground, with no other covering than the sky, became to them a
place of comfortable rest. By these two events, and with but little
comparitive force to accomplish them, the Americans closed with
advantages a campaign, which but a few days before threatened the
country with destruction. The British army, apprehensive for the
safety of their magazines at Brunswick, eighteen miles distant,
marched immediately for that place, where they arrived late in the
evening, and from which they made no attempts to move for nearly five

Having thus stated the principal outlines of these two most
interesting actions, I shall now quit them, to put the Abbe right in
his misstated account of the debt and paper money of America, wherein,
speaking of these matters, he says,

"These ideal riches were rejected. The more the multiplication of them
was urged by want, the greater did their appreciation grow. The
Congress was indignant at the affronts given to its money, and
declared all those to be traitors to their country, who should not
receive it as they would have received gold itself.

"Did not this body know, that possessions are no more to be controuled
than feelings are? Did it not perceive, that in the present crisis,
every rational man would be afraid of exposing his fortune? Did it not
see, that in the beginning of a Republic it permitted to itself the
exercise of such acts of despotism as are unknown even in the
countries which are moulded to, and become familiar with servitude and
oppression? Could it pretend that it did not punish a want of
confidence with the pains which would have been scarcely merited by
revolt and treason? Of all this was the Congress well aware. But it
had no choice of means. Its despised and despicable scraps of paper
were actually thirty times below their original value, when more of
them were ordered to be made. On the 13th of September 1779, there was
of this paper money, amongst the public, to the amount of
£.35,544,155. The State owed moreover £.8,305,356, without reckoning
the particular debts of single Provinces."

In the above-recited passages, the Abbe speaks as if the United States
had contracted a debt of upwards of forty million pounds sterling,
besides the debts of individual States. After which, speaking of
foreign trade with America, he says, that "those countries in Europe,
which are truly commercial ones, knowing that North America had been
reduced to contract debts at the epoch even of her greatest
prosperity, wisely thought, that in her present distress, she would be
able to pay but very little, for what might be carried to her."

I know it must be extremely difficult to make foreigners understand
the nature and circumstances of our paper money, because there are
natives who do not understand it themselves. But with us its fate is
now determined. Common consent has consigned it to rest with that kind
of regard which the long service of inanimate things insensibly
obtains from mankind. Every stone in the bridge, that has carried us
over, seems to have a claim upon our esteem. But this was a
corner-stone, and its usefulness cannot be forgotten. There is
something in a grateful mind, which extends itself even to things that
can neither be benefited by regard, nor suffer by neglect: But so it
is; and almost every man is sensible of the effect.

But to return. The paper money, though issued from Congress under the
name of dollars, did not come from that body always at that value.
Those which were issued the first year, were equal to gold and silver.
The second year less; the third still less; and so on, for nearly the
space of five years; at the end of which, I imagine, that the whole
value at which Congress might pay away the several emissions, taking
them together, was about ten or twelve millions pounds sterling.

Now, as it would have taken ten or twelve millions sterling of taxes,
to carry on the war for five years, and, as while this money was
issuing and likewise depreciating down to nothing, there were none, or
very few valuable taxes paid; consequently the event to the public was
the same, whether they sunk ten or twelve millions of expended money,
by depreciation, or paid ten or twelve millions by taxation; for as
they did not do both, and chose to do one, the matter, in a general
view, was indifferent. And therefore, what the Abbe supposes to be a
debt, has now no existence; it having been paid, by every body
consenting to reduce it, at his own expence, from the value of the
bills continually passing among themselves, a sum, equal to nearly
what the expence of the war was for five years.

Again.--The paper money having now ceased, and the depreciation with
it, and gold and silver supplied its place, the war will now be
carried on by taxation, which will draw from the public a considerable
less sum than what the depreciation drew; but as, while they pay the
former, they do not suffer the latter, and as, when they suffered the
latter, they did not pay the former, the thing will be nearly equal,
with this moral advantage, that taxation occasions frugality and
thought, and depreciation produced dissipation and carelessness.

And again.--If a man's portion of taxes comes to less than what he
lost by the depreciation, it proves the alteration is in his favour.
If it comes to more, and he is justly assessed, it shews that he did
not sustain his proper share of depreciation, because the one was as
operatively his tax as the other.

It is true, that it never was intended, neither was it foreseen, that
the debt contained in the paper currency should sink itself in this
manner; but as by the voluntary conduct of all and of everyone it has
arrived at this fate, the debt is paid by those who owed it. Perhaps
nothing was ever so much the act of a country as this. Government had
no hand in it. Every man depreciated his own money by his own consent,
for such was the effect which the raising of the nominal value of
goods produced. But as by such reduction he sustained a loss equal to
what he must have paid to sink it by taxation; therefore the line of
justice is to consider his loss by the depreciation as his tax for
that time, and not to tax him when the war is over, to make that money
good in any other person's hands, which became nothing in his own.

Again.--The paper currency was issued for the express purpose of
carrying on the war. It has performed that service, without any other
material change to the public, while it lasted. But to suppose, as
some did, that at the end of the war, it was to grow into gold and
silver, or become equal thereto, was to suppose that we were to _get_
two hundred millions of dollars by _going to war_, instead of _paying_
the cost of carrying it on.

But if any thing in the situation of America, as to her currency or
her circumstances, yet remains not understood, then let it be
remembered, that this war is the public's war; the people's war; the
country's war. It is _their_ independence that is to be supported;
_their_ property that is to be secured; _their_ country that is to be
saved. Here, government, the army, and the people, are mutually and
reciprocally one. In other wars, kings may lose their thrones and
their dominions; but here, the loss must fall on the _majesty of the
multitude_, and the property they are contending to save. Every man
being sensible of this, he goes to the field, or pays his portion of
the charge as the sovereign of his own possessions; and when he is
conquered, a monarch falls.

The remark which the Abbe, in the conclusion of the passage, has made
respecting America contracting debts in the time of her prosperity (by
which he means, before the breaking out of hostilities), serves to
shew, though he has not yet made the application, the very great
commercial difference between a dependant and an independent country.
In a state of dependence, and with a fettered commerce, though with
all the advantages of peace, her trade could not balance herself, and
she annually run into debt. But now, in a state of independence,
though involved in war, she requires no credit; her stores are full of
merchandise, and gold and silver are become the currency of the
country. How these things have established themselves, it is difficult
to account for: but they are facts, and facts are more powerful than

As it is probable this letter will undergo a republication in Europe,
the remarks here thrown together will serve to show the extreme folly
of Britain, in resting her hopes of success on the extinction of our
paper currency. The expectation is at once so childish and forlorn,
that it places her in the laughable condition of a famished lion
watching for prey at a spider's web.

From this account of the currency, the Abbe proceeds to state the
condition of America in the winter of 1777, and the spring following;
and closes his observations with mentioning the treaty of alliance,
which was signed in France, and the propositions of the British
ministry, which were rejected in America. But in the manner in which
the Abbe has arranged his facts, there is a very material error, that
not only he, but other European historians, have fallen into: none of
them having assigned the true cause why the British proposals were
rejected, and all of them have assigned a wrong one.

In the winter of 1777, and spring following, Congress were assembled
at York-Town, in Pennsylvania, the British were in possession of
Philadelphia, and General Washington with the army were encamped in
huts at the Valley-Forge, twenty-five miles distant therefrom. To all
who can remember, it was a season of hardship, but not of despair; and
the Abbe, speaking of this period and its inconveniences, says,

"A multitude of privations, added to so many other misfortunes, might
make the Americans regret their former tranquillity, and incline them
to an accommodation with England. In vain had the people been bound to
the new Government by the sacredness of oaths, and the influence of
religion. In vain had endeavors been used to convince them, that it
was impossible to treat safely with a country in which one parliament
might overturn what should have been established by another. In vain
had they been threatened with the eternal resentment of an exasperated
and vindictive enemy. It was possible that these distant troubles
might not be balanced by the weight of present evils.

"So thought the British ministry when they sent to the New World
public agents authorized to offer every thing except independence to
these very Americans, from whom they had two years before exacted an
unconditional submission. It is not improbable, but that by this plan
of conciliation, a few months sooner, some effect might have been
produced. But at the period at which it was proposed by the Court of
London, it was rejected with disdain, because this measure appeared
but as an argument of fear and weakness. The people were already
re-assured. The Congress, the Generals, the troops, the bold and
skilful men in each colony, had possessed themselves of the authority;
every thing had recovered its first spirit. _This was the effect of a
treaty of friendship and commerce between the United States and the
Court of Versailles, signed the 8th of February, 1778._"

On this passage of the Abbe's I cannot help remarking, that, to unite
time with circumstance, is a material nicety in history; the want of
which frequently throws it into endless confusion and mistake,
occasions a total separation between causes and consequences, and
connects them with others they are not immediately, and sometimes not
at all, related to.

The Abbe, in saying that the offers of the British ministry "were
rejected with disdain," is _right_ as to the _fact_, but _wrong_ as to
the _time_; and this error in the time, has occasioned him to be
mistaken in the cause.

The signing the treaty of Paris the 6th of February, 1778, could have
no effect on the mind or politics of America, until it was _known in
America_; and therefore, when the Abbe says, that the rejection of the
British offers was in consequence of the alliance, he must mean, that
it was in consequence of the alliance _being known_ in America; which
was not the case: and by this mistake he not only takes from her the
reputation, which her unshaken fortitude in that trying situation
deserves, but is likewise led very injuriously to suppose that had she
_not known_ of the treaty, the offers would probably have been
accepted; whereas she knew nothing of the treaty at the time of the
rejection, and consequently did not reject them on that ground.

The propositions or offers above-mentioned, were contained in two
bills brought into the British Parliament by Lord North, on the 17th
of February, 1778. Those bills were hurried through both houses with
unusual haste; and before they had gone through all the customary
forms of Parliament, copies of them were sent over to Lord Howe and
General Howe, then in Philadelphia, who were likewise Commissioners.
General Howe ordered them to be printed in Philadelphia, and sent
copies of them by a flag to General Washington, to be forwarded to
Congress at York-Town, where they arrived the 21st of April, 1778.
Thus much for the arrival of the bills in America.

Congress, as is their usual mode, appointed a committee from their own
body, to examine them, and report thereon. The report was brought in
the next day (the twenty-second,) was read, and unanimously agreed to,
entered on their journals, and published for the information of the
country. Now this report must be the rejection to which the Abbe
alludes, because Congress gave no other formal opinion on those bills
and propositions: and on a subsequent application from the British
Commissioners, dated the 27th of May, and received at York-Town the
6th of June, Congress immediately referred them for an answer, to
their printed resolves of the 22d of April.--Thus much for the
rejection of the offers.

On the 2d of May, that is, eleven days after the above rejection was
made, the treaty between the United States and France arrived at
York-Town; and until this moment Congress had not the least notice or
idea, that such a measure was in any train of execution. But lest this
declaration of mine should pass only for assertion, I shall support it
by proof, for it is material to the character and principle of the
revolution to shew, that no condition of America, since the
declaration of independence, however trying and severe, ever operated
to produce the most distant idea of yielding it up either by force,
distress, artifice, or persuasion. And this proof is the more
necessary, because it was the system of the British ministry at this
time, as well as before and since, to hold out to the European powers
that America was unfixt in her resolutions and policy; hoping by this
artifice to lessen her reputation in Europe, and weaken the confidence
which those powers, or any of them, might be inclined to place in her.

At the time these matters were transacting, I was Secretary to the
Foreign Department of Congress. All the political letters from the
American Commissioners rested in my hands, and all that were
officially written went from my office; and so far from Congress
knowing anything of the signing the treaty, at the time they rejected
the British offers, they had not received a line of information from
their Commissioners at Paris on any subject whatever for upwards of a
twelvemonth. Probably the loss of the port of Philadelphia, and the
navigation of the Delaware, together with the danger of the seas,
covered at this time with British cruizers, contributed to the

One packet, it is true, arrived at York-Town in January preceding,
which was about three months before the arrival of the treaty; but,
strange as it may appear, every letter had been taken out, before it
was put on board the vessel which brought it from France, and blank
white paper put in their stead.

Having thus stated the time when the proposals from the British
Commissioners were first received, and likewise the time when the
treaty of alliance arrived, and shewn that the rejection of the former
was eleven days prior to the arrival of the latter, and without the
least knowledge of such circumstance having taken place, or being
about to take place; the rejection, therefore, must, and ought to be
attributed to the fixt, unvaried sentiments of America respecting the
enemy she is at war with, and her determination to support her
independence to the last possible effort, and not to any new
circumstance in her favour, which at that time she did not, and could
not, know of.

Besides, there is a vigor of determination and spirit of defiance in
the language of the rejection (which I here subjoin), which derive
their greatest glory by appearing before the treaty was known; for
that, which is bravery in distress, becomes insult in prosperity: And
the treaty placed America on such a strong foundation, that had she
then known it, the answer which she gave would have appeared rather as
an air of triumph, than as the glowing serenity of fortitude.

Upon the whole, the Abbe appears to have entirely mistaken the matter;
for instead of attributing the rejection of the propositions to our
knowledge of the treaty of alliance; he should have attributed the
origin of them in the British cabinet, to their knowledge of that
event. And then the reason why they were hurried over to America in
the state of bills, that is, before they were passed into acts, is
easily accounted for, which is that they might have the chance of
reaching America before any knowledge of the treaty should arrive,
which they were lucky enough to do, and there met the fate they so
richly merited. That these bills were brought into the British
Parliament after the treaty with France was signed, is proved from the
dates: the treaty being on the 6th and the bills the 17th of February.
And that the signing the treaty was known in Parliament, when the
bills were brought in, is likewise proved by a speech of Mr. Charles
Fox, on the said 17th of February, who, in reply to Lord North,
informed the House of the treaty being signed, and challenged the
Minister's knowledge of the same fact.

In CONGRESS, April 22d, 1778.

"The Committee to whom was referred the General's Letter of the 18th,
containing a certain printed paper sent from Philadelphia, purporting
to be the draught of a Bill for declaring the _intentions_ of the
Parliament of Great Britain, as to the _exercise_ of what they are
pleased to term their _right_ of imposing taxes within these United
States; and also the draft of a Bill to enable the King of
Great-Britain to appoint Commissioners, with powers to treat, consult,
and agree upon the means of quieting certain disorders within the said
States, beg leave to observe,

"That the said paper being industriously circulated by emissaries of
the enemy, in a partial and secret manner, the same ought to be
forthwith printed for the public information.

"The Committee cannot ascertain whether the contents of the said paper
have been framed in Philadelphia or in Great Britain, much less
whether the same are really and truly intended to be brought into the
Parliament of that kingdom, or whether the said Parliament will confer
thereon the usual solemnities of their laws. But are inclined to
believe this will happen, for the following reasons:

"1st. Because their General hath made divers feeble efforts to set on
foot some kind of treaty during the last winter, though either from a
mistaken idea of his own dignity and importance, the want of
information, or some other cause, he hath not made application to
those who are invested with a proper authority.

"2dly. Because they suppose that the fallacious idea of a cessation of
hostilities will render these States remiss in their preparations for

"3dly. Because believing the Americans wearied with war, they suppose
we will accede to the terms for the sake of peace.

"4thly. Because they suppose that our negotiations may be subject to a
like corrupt influence with their debates.

"5thly. Because they expect from this step the same effects they did
from what one of their ministers thought proper to call his
_conciliatory motion_, viz. that it will prevent foreign powers from
giving aid to these States; that it will lead their own subjects to
continue a little longer the present war; and that it will detach some
weak men in America from the cause of freedom and virtue.

"6thly. Because their King, from his own shewing hath reason to
apprehend that his fleets and armies, instead of being employed
against the territories of these States, will be necessary for the
defence of his own dominions. And,

"7thly. Because the impracticability of subjugating this country,
being every day more and more manifest, it is their interest to
extricate themselves from the war upon any terms.

"The Committee beg leave further to observe, That, upon a supposition,
the matters contained in the said paper will really go into the
British Statute Book, they serve to shew, in a clear point of view,
the weakness and wickedness of the enemy.


"1st. Because they formerly declared, not only that they had a right
to bind the inhabitants of these States in all cases whatsoever, but
also that the said inhabitants should _absolutely_ and
_unconditionally_ submit to the exercise of that right. And this
submission they have endeavored to exact by the sword. Receding from
this claim, therefore, under the present circumstances, shews their
inability to enforce it.

"2dly. Because their Prince had heretofore rejected the humblest
petitions of the Representatives of America, praying to be considered
as subjects, and protected in the enjoyment of peace, liberty, and
safety; and hath waged a most cruel war against them, and employed the
savages to butcher innocent women and children. But now the same
Prince pretends to treat with those very Representatives, and grant
to the _arms_ of America what he refused to her _prayers_.

"3dly. Because they have uniformly laboured to conquer this Continent,
rejecting every idea of accommodation proposed to them, from a
confidence in their own strength. Wherefore it is evident, from the
change in their mode of attack, that they have lost this confidence.

"4thly. Because the constant language, spoken not only by their
Ministers, but by the most public and authentic acts of the nation,
hath been, that it is incompatible with their dignity to treat with
the Americans while they have arms in their hands. Notwithstanding
which, an offer is now about to be made for treaty.

"The wickedness and insincerity of the enemy appear from the following

"1st. Either the _Bills_ now to be passed contain a direct or indirect
cession of a part of their former claims, or they do not. If they do,
then it is acknowledged that they have sacrificed many brave men in an
unjust quarrel. If they do not, then they are calculated to deceive
America into terms, to which neither argument before the war, nor
force since, could procure her assent.

"2dly. The first of these _Bills_ appears, from the title, to be a
declaration of the _intentions_ of the British Parliament concerning
the exercise of the _right of imposing taxes_ within these States.
Wherefore, should these States treat under the said Bill, they would
indirectly acknowledge that right, to obtain which acknowledgment the
present war has been avowedly undertaken and prosecuted, on the part
of Great Britain.

"3dly. Should such pretended right be so acquiesced in, then of
consequence the same might be exercised whenever the British
Parliament should find themselves in a different _temper_ and
_disposition_; since it must depend upon those, and such like
contingencies, how far men will act according to their former

"4thly. The said first Bill, in the body thereof, containeth no new
matter, but is precisely the same with the motion before mentioned,
and liable to all the objections which lay against the said motion,
excepting the following particular, viz. that _by the motion_, actual
taxation was to be suspended, so long as America should give as much
as the said Parliament might think proper: whereas, _by the proposed
Bill_, it is to be suspended as long as future Parliaments continue of
the same mind with the present.

"5thly. From the second Bill it appears, that the British King may, if
he pleases, appoint Commissioners to _treat_ and _agree_ with those,
whom they please, about a variety of things therein mentioned. But
such treaties and agreements are to be of no validity without the
concurrence of the said Parliament, except so far as they relate to
the suspension of hostilities, and of certain of their acts, the
granting of pardons, and the appointment of Governors to these
sovereign, free, and independent States. Wherefore, the said
Parliament have reserved to themselves, in _express words_, the power
of setting aside any such treaty, and taking the advantages of any
circumstances which may arise to subject this Continent to their

"6thly, The said Bill, by holding forth a tender of pardon, implies a
criminality in our justifiable resistance, and consequently, to treat
under it, would be an implied acknowledgment, that the inhabitants of
these States were, what Britain had declared them to be, _Rebels_.

"7thly. The inhabitants of these States being claimed by them as
subjects, they may infer, from the nature of the negotiation now
pretended to be set on foot, that the said inhabitants would of right
be afterwards bound by such laws as they should make. Wherefore, any
agreement entered into on such negociation might at any future time be
repealed. And,

"8thly. Because the said Bill purports, that the Commissioners therein
mentioned may treat with private individuals; a measure highly
derogatory to the dignity of the national character.

"From all which it appears evident to your Committee, that the said
Bills are intended to operate upon the hopes and fears of the good
people of these States, so as to create divisions among them, and a
defection from the common cause, now by the blessing of Divine
Providence drawing near to a favourable issue. That they are the
sequel of that insidious plan, which from the days of the Stamp-act
down to the present time, hath involved this country in contention and
bloodshed. And that, as in other cases so in this, although
circumstances may force them at times to recede from the unjustifiable
claims, there can be no doubt but they will as heretofore, upon the
first favourable occasion, again display that lust of domination,
which hath rent in twain the mighty empire of Britain.

"Upon the whole matter, the Committee beg leave to report it as their
opinion, that as the Americans united in this arduous contest upon
principles of common interest, for the defence of common rights and
privileges, which union hath been cemented by common calamities, and
by mutual good offices and and [_sic_] affection, so the great cause
for which they contend, and in which all mankind are interested, must
derive its success from the continuance of that union. Wherefore any
man or body of men, who should presume to make any seperate or partial
convention or agreement with Commissioners under the Crown of Great
Britain, or any of them, ought to be considered and treated as open
and avowed enemies of these United States.

"And further your Committee beg leave to report it as their opinion,
That these united States cannot, with propriety, hold any conference
or treaty with _any_ Commissioners on the part of Great Britain,
unless they shall, as a preliminary thereto, either withdraw their
fleets and admirals, or else, in positive and express terms,
acknowledge the Independence of the said States.

"And inasmuch as it appears to be the design of the enemies of these
States to lull them into a fatal security--to the end that they may
act with a, becoming weight and importance, it is the opinion of your
Committee That the several States be called upon to use the most
strenuous exertions to have their respective quotas of continental
troops in the field as soon as possible, and that all the militia of
the said States be held in readiness, to act as occasion may require."

_The following is the answer of Congress to the second application of
the Commissioners._


    _York-Town, June 6, 1778._

    "I HAVE had the honour of laying your letter of the 3d instant,
    with the acts of the British Parliament which came inclosed,
    before Congress; and I am instructed to acquaint you, Sir, that
    they have already expressed their sentiments upon bills, not
    essentially different from those acts, in a publication of the
    22d of April last.

    "Be assured, Sir, when the King of Great Britain shall be
    seriously disposed to put an end to the unprovoked and cruel war
    waged against these United States, Congress will readily attend
    to such terms of peace, as may consist with the honour of
    independent nations, the interest of their constituents, and the
    sacred regard they mean to pay to treaties. I have the honour to
    be, Sir,

    _Your most obedient, and
    most humble servant_,
    _President of Congress_."

    _His Excellency,
    Sir Henry Clinton, K.B., Philad_.

Though I am not surprised to see the Abbe mistaken in matters of
history, acted at so great a distance from his sphere of immediate
observation, yet I am more than surprised to find him wrong, (or at
least what appears so to me) in the well-enlightened field of
philosophical reflection. Here the materials are his own; created by
himself; and the error, therefore, is an act of the mind. Hitherto my
remarks have been confined to circumstances: the order in which they
arose, and the events they produced. In these, my information being
better than the Abbe's, my task was easy. How I may succeed in
controverting matters of sentiment and opinion, with one whom years,
experience, and long established reputation have placed in a superior
line, I am less confident in; but as they fall within the scope of my
observations, it would be improper to pass them over.

From this part of the Abbe's work to the latter end, I find several
expressions which appear to me to start, with a cynical complexion,
from the path of liberal thinking, or at least they are so involved as
to lose many of the beauties which distinguish other parts of the

The Abbe having brought his work to the period when the treaty of
alliance between France and the United States commenced, proceeds to
make some remarks thereon.

"In short," says he, "philosophy, whose first sentiment is the desire
to see all governments just, and all people happy, in casting her eyes
upon this alliance of a monarchy, with a people who are defending
their liberty, _is curious to know its motive. She sees at once too
clearly, that the happiness of mankind has no part in it_."

Whatever train of thinking or of temper the Abbe might be in, when he
penned this expression, matters not. They will neither qualify the
sentiment, nor add to its defect. If right, it needs no apology; if
wrong, it merits no excuse. It is sent to the world as an opinion of
philosophy, and may be examined without regard to the author.

It seems to be a defect, connected with ingenuity, that it often
employs itself more in matters of curiosity than usefulness. Man must
be the privy councillor of fate, or something is not right. He must
know the springs, the whys, and wherefores of every thing, or he sits
down unsatisfied. Whether this be a crime, or only a caprice of
humanity, I am not enquiring into. I shall take the passage as I find
it, and place my objections against it.

It is not so properly the _motives_ which _produced_ the alliance, as
the _consequences_ which are to be _produced from it_, that mark out
the field of philosophical reflection. In the one we only penetrate
into the barren cave of secrecy, where little can be known, and every
thing may be misconceived; in the other, the mind is presented with a
wide extended prospect, of vegetative good, and sees a thousand
blessings budding into existence.

But the expression, even within the compass of the Abbe's meaning,
sets out with an error, because it is made to declare that, which no
man has authority to declare. Who can say that the happiness of
mankind made _no part of the motives_ which produced the alliance? To
be able to declare this, a man must be possessed of the mind of all
the parties concerned, and know that their motives were something

In proportion as the independence of America became contemplated and
understood, the local advantages of it to the immediate actors, and
the numerous benefits it promised to mankind, appear to be every day
encreasing, and we saw not a temporary good for the present race only,
but a continued good to all posterity; these motives, therefore, added
to those which preceded them, became the motives, on the part of
America, which led her to propose and agree to the treaty of alliance,
as the best effectual method of extending and securing happiness; and
therefore, with respect to us, the Abbe is wrong.

France, on the other hand, was situated very differently to America.
She was not acted upon by necessity to seek a friend, and therefore
her motive in becoming one, has the strongest evidence of being good,
and that which is so, must have some happiness for its object. With
regard to herself she saw a train of conveniencies worthy her
attention. By lessening the power of an enemy, whom, at the same
time, she sought neither to destroy nor distress, she gained an
advantage without doing an evil, and created to herself a new friend
by associating with a country in misfortune. The springs of thought
that lead to actions of this kind, however political they may be, are
nevertheless naturally beneficent; for in all causes, good or bad, it
is necessary there should be a fitness in the mind, to enable it to
act in character with the object: Therefore, as a bad cause cannot be
prosecuted with a good motive, so neither can a good cause be long
supported by a bad one, as no man acts without a motive; therefore, in
the present instance, as they cannot be bad, they must be admitted to
be good. But the Abbe sets out upon such an extended scale, that he
overlooks the degrees by which it is measured, and rejects the
beginning of good, because the end comes not at once.

It is true that bad motives may in some degree be brought to support a
good cause or prosecute a good object; but it never continues long,
which is not the case with France; for either the object will reform
the mind, or the mind corrupt the object, or else not being able,
either way, to get into unison, they will separate in disgust: And
this natural, though unperceived progress of association or contention
between the mind and the object, is the secret cause of fidelity or
defection. Every object a man pursues is, for the time, a kind of
mistress to his mind: if both are good or bad, the union is natural;
but if they are in reverse, and neither can seduce nor yet reform the
other, the opposition grows into dislike, and a separation follows.

When the cause of America first made her appearance on the stage of
the universe, there were many who, in the style of adventurers and
fortune-hunters, were dangling in her train, and making their court to
her with every profession of honour and attachment. They were loud in
her praise, and ostentatious in her service. Every place echoed with
their ardour or their anger, and they seemed like men in love.--But,
alas, they were fortune-hunters. Their expectations were excited, but
their minds were unimpressed; and finding her not to the purpose, nor
themselves reformed by her influence, they ceased their suit, and in
some instances deserted and betrayed her.

There were others, who at first beheld her with indifference, and
unacquainted with her character, were cautious of her company. They
treated her as one, who, under the fair name of liberty, might conceal
the hideous figure of anarchy, or the gloomy monster of tyranny. They
knew not what she was. If fair, she was fair indeed. But still she was
suspected, and though born among us, appeared to be a stranger.

Accident, with some, and curiosity with others, brought on a distant
acquaintance. They ventured to look at her. They felt an inclination
to speak to her. One intimacy led to another, till the suspicion wore
away, and a change of sentiment stole gradually upon the mind; and
having no self-interest to serve, no passion of dishonour to gratify,
they became enamoured of her innocence, and unaltered by misfortune or
uninflamed by success, shared with fidelity in the varieties of her

This declaration of the Abbe's, respecting motives, has led me
unintendedly into a train of metaphysical reasoning; but there was no
other avenue by which it could so properly be approached. To place
presumption against presumption, assertion against assertion, is a
mode of opposition that has no effect; and therefore the more eligible
method was, to shew that the declaration does not correspond with the
natural progress of the mind, and the influence it has upon our
conduct.--I shall now quit this part, and proceed to what I have
before stated, namely, that it is not so properly the motives which
produced the alliance, as the consequences to be produced from it,
that mark out the field of philosophical reflections.

It is an observation I have already made in some former publication,
that the circle of civilization is yet incomplete. A mutuality of
wants have formed the individuals of each country into a kind of
national society, and here the progress of civilization has stopt.
For it is easy to see, that nations with regard to each other
(notwithstanding the ideal civil law, which every one explains as it
suits him) are like individuals in a state of nature. They are
regulated by no fixt principle, governed by no compulsive law, and
each does independently what it pleases, or what it can.

Were it possible we could have known the world when in a state of
barbarism, we might have concluded, that it never could be brought
into the order we now see it. The untamed mind was then as hard, if
not harder to work upon in its individual state, than the national
mind is in its present one. Yet we have seen the accomplishment of the
one, why then should we doubt that of the other?

There is a greater fitness in mankind to extend and complete the
civilization of nations with each other at this day, than there was to
begin it with the unconnected individuals at first; in the same manner
that it is somewhat easier to put together the materials of a machine
after they are formed, than it was to form them from original matter.
The present condition of the world, differing so exceedingly from what
it formerly was, has given a new cast to the mind of man, more than
what he appears to be sensible of. The wants of the individual, which
first produced the idea of society, are now augmented into the wants
of the nation, and he is obliged to seek from another country what
before he sought from the next person.

Letters, the tongue of the world, have in some measure brought all
mankind acquainted, and, by an extension of their uses, are every day
promoting some new friendship. Through them distant nations became
capable of conversation, and losing by degrees the awkwardness of
strangers, and the moroseness of suspicion, they learn to know and
understand each other. Science, the partizan of no country, but the
beneficent patroness of all, has liberally opened a temple where all
may meet. Her influence on the mind, like the sun on the chilled
earth, has long been preparing it for higher cultivation and further
improvement. The philosopher of one country sees not an enemy in the
philosopher of another: he takes his seat in the temple of science,
and asks not who sits beside him.

This was not the condition of the barbarian world. Then the wants of
man were few, and the objects within his reach. While he could acquire
these, he lived in a state of individual independence; the consequence
of which was, there were as many nations as persons, each contending
with the other, to secure something which he had, or to obtain
something which he had not. The world had then no business to follow,
no studies to exercise the mind. Their time was divided between sloth
and fatigue. Hunting and war were their chief occupations; sleep and
food their principal enjoyments.

Now it is otherwise. A change in the mode of life has made it
necessary to be busy; and man finds a thousand things to do now which
before he did not. Instead of placing his ideas of greatness in the
rude achievements of the savage, he studies arts, science,
agriculture, and commerce, the refinements of the gentleman, the
principles of society, and the knowledge of the philosopher.

There are many things which in themselves are morally neither good nor
bad, but they are productive of consequences, which are strongly
marked with one or other of these characters. Thus commerce, though in
itself a moral nullity, has had a considerable influence in tempering
the human mind. It was the want of objects in the ancient world, which
occasioned in them such a rude and perpetual turn for war. Their time
hung upon their hands without the means of employment. The indolence
they lived in afforded leisure for mischief, and being all idle at
once, and equal in their circumstances, they were easily provoked or
induced to action.

But the introduction of commerce furnished the world with objects,
which in their extent, reach every man, and give him something to
think about and something to do; by these his attention his [_sic_]
mechanically drawn from the pursuits which a state of indolence and an
unemployed mind occasioned, and he trades with the same countries,
which former ages, tempted by their productions, and too indolent to
purchase them, would have gone to war with.

Thus, as I have already observed, the condition of the world being
materially changed by the influence of science and commerce, it is put
into a fitness not only to admit of, but to desire an extension of
civilization. The principal and almost only remaining enemy it now has
to encounter, is _prejudice_; for it is evidently the interest of
mankind to agree and make the best of life. The world has undergone
its divisions of empire, the several boundaries of which are known and
settled. The idea of conquering countries, like the Greeks and Romans,
does not now exist; and experience has exploded the notion of going to
war for the sake of profit. In short, the objects for war are
exceedingly diminished, and there is now left scarcely any thing to
quarrel about, but what arises from that demon of society, prejudice,
and the consequent sullenness and untractableness of the temper.

There is something exceedingly curious in the constitution and
operation of prejudice. It has the singular ability of accommodating
itself to all the possible varieties of the human mind. Some passions
and vices are but thinly scattered among mankind, and find only here
and there a fitness of reception. But prejudice, like the spider,
makes every where its home. It has neither taste nor choice of place,
and all that it requires is room. There is scarcely a situation,
except fire or water, in which a spider will not live. So, let the
mind be as naked as the walls of an empty and forsaken tenement,
gloomy as a dungeon, or ornamented with the richest abilities of
thinking; let it be hot, cold, dark, or light, lonely or inhabited,
still prejudice, if undisturbed, will fill it with cobwebs, and live,
like the spider, where there seems nothing to live on. If the one
prepares her food by poisoning it to her palate and her use, the other
does the same; and as several of our passions are strongly charactered
by the animal world, prejudice may be denominated the spider of the

Perhaps no two events ever united so intimately and forceably to
combat and expel prejudice, as the Revolution of America, and the
Alliance with France. Their effects are felt, and their influence
already extends as well to the old world as the new. Our style and
manner of thinking have undergone a revolution, more extraordinary
than the political revolution of the country. We see with other eyes;
we hear with other ears; and think with other thoughts, than those we
formerly used. We can look back on our own prejudices, as if they had
been the prejudices of other people. We now see and know they were
prejudices, and nothing else; and relieved from their shackles, enjoy
a freedom of mind we felt not before. It was not all the argument,
however powerful, nor all the reasoning, however elegant, that could
have produced this change, so necessary to the extension of the mind
and the cordiality of the world, without the two circumstances of the
Revolution and the Alliance.

Had America dropt quietly from Britain, no material change in
sentiment had taken place. The same notions, prejudices, and conceits,
would have governed in both countries, as governed them before; and,
still the slaves of error and education, they would have travelled on
in the beaten tract of vulgar and habitual thinking. But brought about
by the means it has been, both with regard to ourselves, to France,
and to England, every corner of the mind is swept of its cobwebs,
poison, and dust, and made fit for the reception of general happiness.

Perhaps there never was an alliance on a broader basis, than that
between America and France, and the progress of it is worth attending
to. The countries had been enemies, not properly of themselves, but
through the medium of England. They, originally, had no quarrel with
each other, nor any cause for one, but what arose from the interest of
England, and her arming America against France. At the same time, the
Americans, at a distance from and unacquainted with the world, and
tutored in all the prejudices which governed those who governed them,
conceived it their duty to act as they were taught. In doing this
they expended their substance to make conquests, not for themselves,
but for their masters, who in return, treated them as slaves.

A long succession of insolent severity, and the separation finally
occasioned by the commencement of hostilities at Lexington, on the
19th of April, 1775, naturally produced a new disposition of thinking.
As the mind closed itself towards England, it opened itself toward the
world; and our prejudices, like our oppressions, underwent, though
less observed, a mental examination; until we found the former as
inconsistent with reason and benevolence, as the latter were repugnant
to our civil and political rights.

While we were thus advancing by degrees into the wide field of
extended humanity, the alliance with France was concluded; an alliance
not formed for the mere purpose of a day, but on just and generous
grounds, and with equal and mutual advantages; and the easy
affectionate manner in which the parties have since communicated, has
made it an alliance, not of courts only, but of countries. There is
now an union of mind as well as of interest; and our hearts as well as
our prosperity, call on us to support it.

The people of England not having experienced this change, had likewise
no ideas of it, they were hugging to their bosoms the same prejudices
we were trampling beneath our feet; and they expected to keep a hold
upon America, by that narrowness of thinking which America disdained.
What they were proud of, we despised: and this is a principal cause
why all their negotiations, constructed on this ground, have failed.
We are now really another people, and cannot again go back to
ignorance and prejudice. The mind once enlightened cannot again become
dark. There is no possibility, neither is there any term to express
the supposition by, of the mind unknowing any thing it already knows;
and therefore all attempts on the part of England, fitted to the
former habit of America, and on the expectation of their applying now,
will be like persuading a seeing man to become blind, and a sensible
one to turn an idiot. The first of which is unnatural and the other

As to the remark which the Abbe makes on the one country being a
monarchy and the other a republic, it can have no essential meaning.
Forms of government have nothing to do with treaties. The former are
the internal police of the countries severally; the latter their
external police jointly: and so long as each performs its part, we
have no more right or business to know how the one or the other
conducts its domestic affairs, than we have to inquire into the
private concerns of a family.

But had the Abbe reflected for a moment, he would have seen that
courts, or the governing powers of all countries, be their forms what
they may, are relatively republics with each other. It is the first
and true principle of alliancing. Antiquity may have given precedence,
and power will naturally create importance, but their equal right is
never disputed. It may likewise be worthy of remarking, that a
monarchical country can suffer nothing in its popular happiness by an
alliance with a republican one; and republican governments have never
been destroyed by their external connections, but by some internal
convulsion or contrivance. France has been in alliance with the
republic of Switzerland for more than two hundred years, and still
Switzerland retains her original form as entire as if she had allied
with a republic like herself; therefore this remark of the Abbe should
go for nothing.--Besides, it is best mankind should mix. There is ever
something to learn, either of manners or principle; and it is by a
free communication, without regard to domestic matters, that
friendship is to be extended, and prejudice destroyed all over the

But notwithstanding the Abbe's high professions in favour of liberty,
he appears sometimes to forget himself, or that his theory is rather
the child of his fancy than of his judgment: for in almost the same
instant that he censures the alliance, as not originally or
sufficiently calculated for the happiness of mankind, he, by a figure
of implication, accuses France for having acted so generously and
unreservedly in concluding it. "Why did they (says he, meaning the
Court of France) tie themselves down by an inconsiderate treaty to
conditions with the Congress, which they might themselves have held in
dependence by ample and regular supplies."

When an author undertakes to treat of public happiness, he ought to be
certain that he does not mistake passion for right, nor imagination
for principle. Principle, like truth, needs no contrivance. It will
ever tell its own tale, and tell it the same way. But where this is
not the case, every page must be watched, recollected, and compared
like an invented story.

I am surprised at this passage of the Abbe. It means nothing or it
means ill; and in any case it shows the great difference between
speculative and practical knowledge. A treaty according to the Abbe's
language would have neither duration nor affection; it might have
lasted to the end of the war, and then expired with it.--But France,
by acting in a style superior to the little politics of narrow
thinking, has established a generous fame, and won the love of a
country she was before a stranger to. She had to treat with a people
who thought as nature taught them; and, on her own part, she wisely
saw there was no present advantage to be obtained by unequal terms,
which could balance the more lasting ones that might flow from a kind
and generous beginning.

From this part the Abbe advances into the secret transactions of the
two Cabinets of Versailles and Madrid, respecting the independence of
America, through which I mean not to follow him. It is a circumstance
sufficiently striking, without being commented on, that the former
union of America with Britain, produced a power, which, in her hands,
had was becoming dangerous to the world: and there is no improbability
in supposing, that had the latter known as much of the strength of
former, before she began the quarrel, as she has known since, that
instead of attempting to reduce her to unconditional submission, would
have proposed to her the conquest of Mexico. But from the countries
separately, Spain has nothing to apprehend, though from their union,
she had more to fear than any other power in Europe.

The part which I shall more particularly confine myself to, is that,
wherein the Abbe takes an opportunity of complimenting the British
Ministry with high encomiums of admiration, on their rejecting the
offered mediation of the Court of Madrid, in 1779.

It must be remembered, that before Spain joined France in the War, she
undertook the office of a mediator, and made proposals to the British
King and Ministry so exceedingly favourable to their interest, that
had they been accepted, would have become inconvenient, if not
inadmissible to America. These proposals were nevertheless rejected by
the British Cabinet: on which the Abbe says,--

"It is in such a circumstance as this, it is in the time when noble
pride elevates the soul superior to all terror; when nothing is seen
more dreadful than the shame of receiving the law, and when there is
no doubt or hesitation which to chuse, between ruin and dishonour; it
is then, that the greatness of a nation is displayed. I acknowledge,
however, that men accustomed to judge of things by the event, call
great and perilous resolutions, heroism or madness, according to the
good or bad success with which they have been attended. If then I
should be asked, what is the name which shall in years to come be
given to the firmness, which was in this moment exhibited by the
English, I shall answer, that I do not know. But that which it
deserves I know. I know that the annals of the world hold out to us
but rarely the august and majestic spectacle of a nation, which chuses
rather to renounce its duration than its glory."

In this paragraph the conception is lofty, and the expression elegant;
but the colouring is too high for the original, and the likeness fails
through an excess of graces. To fit the powers of thinking and the
turn of language to the subject, so as to bring out a clear conclusion
that shall hit the point in question, and nothing else, is the true
criterion of writing. But the greater part of the Abbe's writings (if
he will pardon me the remark) appear to me uncentral and burthened
with variety. They represent a beautiful wilderness without paths; in
which the eye is diverted by every thing, without being particularly
directed to any thing: and in which it is agreeable to be lost, and
difficult to find the way out.

Before I offer any other remark oh the spirit and composition of the
above passage, I shall compare it with the circumstance it alludes to.

The circumstance, then, does not deserve the encomium. The rejection
was not prompted by her fortitude but her vanity. She did not view it
as a case of despair or even of extreme danger, and consequently the
determination to renounce her duration rather than her glory, cannot
apply to the condition of her mind. She had then high expectations of
subjugating America, and had no other naval force against her than
France; neither was she certain that rejecting the mediation of Spain
would combine that power with France. New mediations might arise more
favourable than those she had refused. But if they should not, and
Spain should join, she still saw that it would only bring out her
naval force against France and Spain, which was wanted and could not
be employed against America, and habits of thinking had taught her to
believe herself superior to both.

But in any case to which the consequence might point, there was
nothing to impress her with the idea of renouncing her duration. It is
not the policy of Europe to suffer the extinction of any power, but
only to lop off, or prevent its dangerous encrease. She was likewise
freed by situation from the internal and immediate horrors of
invasion; was rolling in dissipation, and looking for conquests; and
though she suffered nothing but the expense of war, she still had a
greedy eye to magnificent reimbursement.

But if the Abbe is delighted with high and striking singularities of
character he might, in America, have found ample field for encomium.
Here was a people, who could not know what part the world would take
for, or against them; and who were venturing on an untried scheme, in
opposition to a power, against which more formidable nations had
failed. They had every thing to learn but the principles which
supported them, and every thing to procure that was necessary for
their defense. They have at times seen themselves as low as distress
could make them, without showing the least stagger in their fortitude;
and been raised again by the most unexpected events, without
discovering an unmanly discomposure of joy. To hesitate or to despair
are conditions equally unknown in America. Her mind was prepared for
every thing; because her original and final resolution of succeeding
or perishing included all possible circumstances.

The rejection of the British propositions in the year 1778,
circumstanced as America was at that time, is a far greater instance
of unshaken fortitude than the refusal of the Spanish mediation by the
Court of London: and other historians, besides the Abbe, struck with
the vastness of her conduct therein, have, like himself, attributed it
to a circumstance which was then unknown, the alliance with France.
Their error shows their idea of its greatness; because, in order to
account for it, they have sought a cause suited to its magnitude,
without knowing that the cause existed in the principles of the


[2] Extract from, "_A short Review of the present Reign_," in England.
_Page 45, in the New Annual Register for the year 1780_.

    "_THE Commissioners, who, in consequence of Lord North's
    conciliatory bills, went over to America, to propose terms of
    peace to the colonies, were wholly unsuccessful. The concessions
    which formerly would have been received with the utmost
    gratitude, were rejected with disdain. Now was the time of
    American pride and haughtiness. It is probable, however, that it
    was not pride and haughtiness alone that dictated the
    Resolutions of Congress, but a distrust of the sincerity of the
    offers of Britain, a determination not to give up their
    independence, and_ ABOVE ALL, THE ENGAGEMENTS INTO WHICH _I_

But this passionate encomium of the Abbe is deservedly subject to
moral and philosophical objections. It is the effusion of wild
thinking, and has a tendency to prevent that humanity of reflection
which the criminal conduct of Britain enjoins on her as a duty.--It is
a laudanum to courtly iniquity.--It keeps in intoxicated sleep the
conscience of a nation; and more mischief is effected by wrapping up
guilt in splendid excuse, than by directly patronizing it.

Britain is now the only country which holds the world in disturbance
and war; and instead of paying compliments to the excess of her
crimes, the Abbe would have appeared much more in character, had he
put to her, or to her monarch, this serious question--

Are there not miseries enough in the world, too difficult to be
encountered and too pointed to be borne, without studying to enlarge
the list and arming it with new destruction? Is life so very long,
that it is necessary, nay even a duty, to shake the sand, and hasten
out the period of duration? Is the path so elegantly smooth, so decked
on every side, and carpeted with joys, that wretchedness is wanting to
enrich it as a soil? Go ask thine aching heart, when sorrow from a
thousand causes wounds it, go, ask thy sickened self when every
medicine fails, whether this be the case or not?

Quitting my remarks on this head, I proceed to another, in which the
Abbe has let loose a vein of ill-nature, and, what is still worse, of

After caviling at the treaty, he goes on to characterize the several
parties combined in the war.--"Is it possible," says the Abbe, "that a
strict union should long subsist amongst confederates of characters so
opposite as the hasty, light, disdainful Frenchman, the jealous,
haughty, sly, slow, circumspect Spaniard, and the American, who is
secretly snatching looks at the mother country, and would rejoice,
were they compatible with his independence, at the disasters of his

To draw foolish portraits of each other, is a mode of attack and
reprisal, which the greater part of mankind are fond of indulging. The
serious philosopher should be above it, more especially in cases from
which no possible good can arise, and mischief may, and where no
received provocation can palliate the offense.--The Abbe might have
invented a difference of character for every country in the world, and
they in return might find others for him, till in the war of wit all
real character is lost. The pleasantry of one nation or the gravity of
another may, by a little penciling, be distorted into whimsical
features, and the painter becomes so much laughed at as the painting.

But why did not the Abbe look a little deeper, and bring forth the
excellencies of the several parties? Why did he not dwell with
pleasure on that greatness of character, that superiority of heart,
which has marked the conduct of France in her conquests, and which has
forced an acknowledgment even from Britain.

There is one line, at least (and many others might be discovered), in
which the confederates unite; which is, that of a rival eminence in
their treatment of their enemies. Spain, in her conquest of Minorca
and the Bahama Islands, confirms this remark. America has been
invariable in her lenity from the beginning of the war,
notwithstanding the high provocations she has experienced? It is
England only who has been insolent and cruel.

But why must America be charged with a crime undeserved by her
conduct, more so by her principles, and which, if a fact, would be
fatal to her honour? I mean the want of attachment to her allies, or
rejoicing in their disasters. She, it is true, has been assiduous in
showing to the world that she was not the aggressor toward England;
and that the quarrel was not of her seeking, or, at that time, even of
her wishing. But to draw inferences from her justification, to stab
her character by, and I see nothing else from which they can be
supposed to be drawn, is unkind and unjust.

Does her rejection of the British propositions in 1778, before she
knew of any alliance with France, correspond with the Abbe's
description of her mind? Does a single instance of her conduct since
that time justify it?--But there is a still better evidence to apply
to, which is, that of all the mails which at different times have been
way-laid on the road, in divers parts of America, and taken and
carried into New-York, and from which the most secret and confidential
private letters, as well as those from authority, have been published,
not one of them, I repeat it, not a single one of them, gives
countenance to such a charge.

This is not a country where men are under government restraint in
speaking; and if there is any kind of restraint, it arises from a fear
of popular resentment. Now, if nothing in her private or public
correspondence favours such a suggestion, and if the general
disposition of the country is such as to make it unsafe for a man to
shew an appearance of joy at any disaster to her ally; on what
grounds, I ask, can the accusation stand? What company the Abbe may
have kept in France, we cannot know; but this we know, that the
account he gives does not apply to America.

Had the Abbe been in America at the time the news arrived of the
disaster of the fleet under Count de Grasse, in the West-Indies, he
would have seen his vast mistake. Neither do I remember any instance,
except the loss of Charlestown, in which the public mind suffered more
severe and pungent concern, or underwent more agitations of hope and
apprehension, as to the truth or falsehood of the report. Had the loss
been all our own, it could not have had a deeper effect; yet it was
not one of those cases which reached to the independence of America.

In the geographical account which the Abbe gives of the Thirteen
States, he is so exceedingly erroneous, that to attempt a particular
refutation, would exceed the limits I have prescribed to myself. And
as it is a matter neither political, historical, nor sentimental, and
which can always be contradicted by the extent and natural
circumstances of the country, I shall pass it over; with this
additional remark, that I never yet saw an European description of
America that was true, neither can any person gain a just idea of it,
but by coming to it.

Though I have already extended this letter beyond what I at first
proposed, I am, nevertheless, obliged to omit many observations I
originally designed to have made. I wish there had been no occasion
for making any. But the wrong ideas which the Abbe's work had a
tendency to excite, and the prejudicial impressions they might make,
must be an apology for my remarks, and the freedom with which they are

I observe the Abbe has made a sort of epitome of a considerable part
of the pamphlet Common Sense, and introduced it in that form into his
publication. But there are other places where the Abbe has borrowed
freely from the said pamphlet without acknowledging it. The difference
between society and government, with which the pamphlet opens, is
taken from it, and in some expressions almost literally, into the
Abbe's work, as if originally his own; and through the whole of the
Abbe's remarks on this head, the idea in Common Sense is so closely
copied and pursued, that the difference is only in words, and in the
arrangement of the thoughts, and not in the thoughts themselves.[3]



       COMMON SENSE.                                      ABBE RAYNAL.
"Some writers have so confounded           "Care must be taken not to confound
society With government, as to leave       together society with government.
little or no distinction between them;     That they may be known distinctly,
whereas they are not only different,       their origin should be considered.
but have different origins.

"Society is produced by our wants,         "Society originates in the wants of
and governments by our wickedness;         men, government in their vices.
the former promotes our happiness          Society tends always to good; government
_positively_, by uniting our affections;   ought always to tend to the
the latter _negatively_, by restraining    repressing of evil."
our vices."

_In the following paragraphs there is less likeness in the language, but
the ideas in the one are evidently copied from the other_.

"In order to gain a clear and just         "Man, thrown, as it were by
idea of the design and end of government,  chance upon the globe, surrounded
let us suppose a small number              by all the evils of nature, obliged
of persons, meeting in some frequented     continually to defend and protect his
part of the earth, unconnected             life against the storms and tempests
with the rest; they will then represent    of the air, against the inundations of
the peopling of any country or             water, against the fire of volcanoes,
of the world. In this state of natural     against the intemperance of frigid
liberty, society will be our first         and torrid zones, against the sterility
thought. A thousand motives will           of the earth which, refuses him aliment,
excite them thereto. The strength of       or its baneful fecundity, which
one man is so unequal to his wants,        makes poison spring up beneath his
and his mind so unfitted for perpetual     feet; in short against the claws and
solitude, that he is soon obliged to       teeth of savage beasts, who dispute
seek assistance of another, who, in        with him his habitation and his prey,
his turn, requires the same. Four or       and attacking his person, seem resolved
five united would be able to raise         to render themselves rulers of
a tolerable dwelling in the midst of a     this globe, of which he thinks himself
wilderness; but _one_ man might            to be the master. Man, in this
labour out the common period of life,      state, alone and abandoned to himself,
without accomplishing any thing;           could do nothing for his preservation.
when he has felled his timber, he          It was necessary, therefore,
could not remove it, nor erect it after    that he should unite himself, and associate
it was removed; hunger, in the             with his like, in order to
mean time would, urge him from his         bring together their strength and intelligence
work, and every different want call        in common stock. It is
him a different way. Disease, nay          by this union that he has triumphed
even misfortune would be death;            over so many evils, that he has
for though neither might be immediately    fashioned this globe to his use, restrained
mortal, yet either of them                 the rivers, subjugated the
would disable him from living, and         seas, insured his subsistence, conquered
reduce him to a state in which he          apart of the animals in obliging
might rather be said to perish than to     them to serve him, and driven others
die.--Thus necessity, like a gravitating   far from his empire, to the depths of
power, would form our newly                deserts or of woods, where their
arrived emigrants into society, the        number diminishes from age to age.
reciprocal benefits of which would         What a man alone would not have
supersede and render the obligations       been able to effect, men have executed
of law and government unnecessary,         in concert; and altogether they
while they remained perfectly just         preserve their work.--Such is the
to each other. But as nothing but          origin, such the advantages, and the
heaven is impregnable to vice, it will     end of society.--Government owes
unavoidably happen, that in proportion     its birth to the necessity of preventing
as they surmount the first                 and repressing the injuries which
difficulties of emigration which bound     the associated individuals had to fear
them together in a common cause,           from one another. It is the sentinel
they will begin to relax in their duty     who watches, in order that the common
and attachment to each other, and this     labourers be not disturbed."
remissness will point out the necessity
of establishing some form of
moral virtue."

But as it is time that I should come to the end of my letter, I shall
forbear all further observations on the Abbe's work, and take a
concise view of the state of public affairs, since the time in which
that performance was published.

A mind habituated to actions of meanness and injustice, commits them
without reflection, or with a very partial one; for on what other
ground than this, can we account for the declaration of war against
the Dutch? To gain an idea of the politics which actuated the British
Ministry to this measure, we must enter into the opinion which they,
and the English in general, had formed of the temper of the Dutch
nation; and from thence infer what their expectation of the
consequences would be.

Could they have imagined that Holland would have seriously made a
common cause with France, Spain and America, the British Ministry
would never have dared to provoke them. It would have been a madness
in politics to have done so; unless their views were to hasten on a
period of such emphatic distress, as should justify the concessions
which they saw they must one day or other make to the world, and for
which they wanted an apology to themselves.--There is a temper in some
men which seeks a pretense for submission. Like a ship disabled in
action, and unfitted to continue it, it waits the approach of a still
larger one to strike to, and feels relief at the opportunity. Whether
this is greatness or littleness of mind, I am not enquiring into. I
should suppose it to be the latter, because it proceeds from the want
of knowing how to bear misfortune in its original state.

But the subsequent conduct of the British cabinet has shown that this
was not their plan of politics, and consequently their motives must be
sought for in another line.

The truth is, that the British had formed a very humble opinion of the
Dutch nation. They looked on them as a people who would submit to any
thing; that they might insult them as they liked, plunder them as they
pleased, and still the Dutch dared not to be provoked.

If this be taken as the opinion of the British cabinet, the measure
is easily accounted for, because it goes on the supposition, that
when, by a declaration of hostilities, they had robbed the Dutch of
some millions sterling (and to rob them was popular), they could make
peace with them again whenever they pleased, and on almost any terms
the British ministry should propose. And no sooner was the plundering
committed, than the accommodation was set on foot, and failed.

When once the mind loses the sense of its own dignity, it loses,
likewise, the ability of judging of it in another. And the American
war has thrown Britain into such a variety of absurd situations, that,
arguing from herself, she sees not in what conduct national dignity
consists in other countries. From Holland she expected duplicity and
submission, and this mistake from her having acted, in a number of
instances during the present war, the same character herself.

To be allied to, or connected with Britain, seems to be an unsafe and
impolitic situation. Holland and America are instances of the reality
of this remark. Make those countries the allies of France or Spain,
and Britain will court them with civility and treat them with respect;
make them her own allies, and she will insult and plunder them. In the
first case, she feels some apprehensions at offending them, because
they have support at hand; in the latter, those apprehensions do not
exist. Such, however, has hitherto been her conduct.

Another measure which has taken place since the publication of the
Abbe's work, and likewise since the time of my beginning this letter,
is the change in the British Ministry. What line the new cabinet will
pursue respecting America, is at this time unknown; neither is it very
material, unless they are seriously disposed to a general and
honourable peace.

Repeated experience has shown, not only the impracticability of
conquering America, but the still higher impossibility of conquering
her mind, or recalling her back to her former condition of thinking.
Since the commencement of the war, which is now approaching to eight
years, thousands and tens of thousands have advanced, and are daily
advancing into the first state of manhood, who know nothing of Britain
but as a barbarous enemy, and to whom the independence of America
appears as much the natural and established government of the country,
as that of England does to an Englishman. And on the other hand,
thousands of the aged, who had British ideas, have dropped and are
daily dropping, from the stage of business and life.--The natural
progress of generation and decay operates every hour to the
disadvantage of Britain. Time and death, hard enemies to contend with,
fight constantly against her interest; and the bills of mortality, in
every part of America, are the thermometers of her decline. The
children in the streets are from their cradle bred to consider her as
their only foe. They hear of her cruelties; of their fathers, uncles,
and kindred killed; they see the remains of burned and destroyed
houses, and the common tradition of the school they go to, tells them,
_those things were done by the British._

These are circumstances which the mere English state politician, who
considers man only in a state of manhood, does not attend to. He gets
entangled with parties coeval or equal with himself at home, and
thinks not how fast the rising generation in America is growing beyond
his knowledge of them, or they of him. In a few years all personal
remembrance will be lost, and who is king or minister in England, will
be but little known and scarcely inquired after.

The new British administration is composed of persons who have ever
been against the war, and who have constantly reprobated all the
violent measures of the former one. They considered the American war
as destructive to themselves, and opposed it on that ground. But what
are these things to America? She has nothing to do with English
parties. The ins and the outs are nothing to her. It is the whole
country she is at war with, or must be at peace with.

Were every minister in England a _Chatham_, it would now weigh little
or nothing in the scale of American politics. Death has preserved to
the memory of this statesman _that fame_, which he by living, would
have lost. His plans and opinions, towards the latter part of his
life, would have been attended with as many evil consequences, and as
much reprobated here, as those of Lord North; and considering him a
wise man, they abound with inconsistencies amounting to absurdities.

It has apparently been the fault of many in the late minority, to
suppose that America would agree to certain terms with them, were they
in place, which she would not ever listen to, from the then
administration. This idea can answer no other purpose than to prolong
the war; and Britain may, at the expense of many more millions, learn
the fatality of such mistakes. If the new ministry wisely avoid this
hopeless policy, they will prove themselves better pilots and wiser
men than they are conceived to be; for it is every day expected to see
their bark strike upon some hidden rock, and go to pieces.

But there is a line in which they may be great. A more brilliant
opening needs not to present itself; and it is such an one as true
magnanimity would improve, and humanity rejoice in.

A total reformation is wanted in England. She wants an expanded
mind,--an heart which embraces the universe. Instead of shutting
herself up in an island, and quarreling with the world, she would
derive more lasting happiness, and acquire more real riches by
generously mixing with it, and bravely saying, I am the enemy of none.
It is not now the time for little contrivances, or artful politics.
The European world is too experienced to be imposed upon, and America
too wise to be duped. It must be something new and masterly that must
succeed. The idea of seducing America from her independence, or of
corrupting her from her alliance is a thought too little for a great
mind, and impossible for any honest one, to attempt. When ever
politics are applied to debauch mankind from their integrity, and
dissolve the virtues of human nature, they become detestables and to
be a statesman on this plan, is to be a commissioned villain. He who
aims at it, leaves a vacancy in his character, which may be filled up
with the worst of epithets.

If the disposition of England should be such, as not to agree to a
general and honourable peace, and the war must at all events, continue
longer, I cannot help wishing that the alliances which America has or
may enter into, may become the only objects of the war. She wants an
opportunity of shewing to the world that she holds her honour as dear
and sacred as her independence, and that she will in no situation
forsake those, whom no negotiations could induce to forsake her.
Peace, to every reflective mind is a desirable object; but that peace
which is accompanied with a ruined character, becomes a crime to the
seducer, and a curse upon the seduced.

But where is the impossibility or even the great difficulty of England
forming a friendship with France and Spain, and making it a national
virtue to renounce for ever those prejudiced inveteracies it has been
her custom to cherish; and which, while they serve to sink her with an
increasing enormity of debt, by involving her in fruitless wars,
become likewise the bane of her repose, and the destruction of her
manners. We had once the fetters that she has now, but experience has
shewn us the mistake, and thinking justly, has set us right.

The true idea of a great nation is that, which extends and promotes
the principles of universal society. Whose mind rises above the
Atmospheres of local thoughts, and considers mankind, of whatever
nation or profession they may be, as the work of one Creator. The rage
for conquest has had its fashion, and its day. Why may not the amiable
virtues have the same? The Alexanders and Cæsars of antiquity have
left behind them their monuments of destruction, and are remembered
with hatred; while those more exalted characters, who first taught
society and science, are blessed with the gratitude of every age and
country. Of more use was one philosopher, though a heathen, to the
world, than all the heathen conquerors that ever existed.

Should the present revolution be distinguished by opening a new system
of extended civilization, it will receive from heaven the highest
evidence of approbation; and as this is a subject to which the Abbe's
powers are so eminently suited, I recommend it to his attention, with
the affection of a friend, and the ardour of a universal citizen.

       *       *       *       *       *


Since closing the foregoing letter some intimations respecting a
general peace, have made their way to America. On what authority or
foundation they stand, or how near or remote such an event may be, are
circumstances I am not enquiring into. But as the subject must sooner
or later, become a matter of serious attention, it may not be
improper, even at this early period, candidly to investigate some
points that are connected with it, or lead towards it.

The independence of America is at this moment as firmly established as
that of any other country in a state of war. It is not length of time,
but power that gives stability. Nations at war know nothing of each
other on the score of antiquity. It is their present and immediate
strength, together with their connections, that must support them. To
which we may add, that a right which originated to-day, is as much a
right, as if it had the sanction of a thousand years; and therefore
the independence and present government of America are in no more
danger of being subverted, because they are modern, than that of
England is secure, because it is ancient.

The politics of Britain, so far as respected America, were originally
conceived in idiotism, and acted in madness. There is not a step which
bears the smallest trace of rationality. In her management of the war,
she has laboured to be wretched, and studied to be hated; and in all
her former propositions for accommodation, she has discovered a total
ignorance of mankind, and of those natural and unalterable sensations
by which they are so generally governed. How she may conduct herself
in the present or future business of negotiating a peace is yet to be

He is a weak politician who does not understand human nature, and
penetrate into the effect which measures of government will have upon
the mind. All the miscarriages of Britain have arisen from this
defect. The former Ministry acted as if they supposed mankind to be
_without a mind_; and the present Ministry, as if America was _without
a memory_. The one must have supposed we were incapable of feeling;
and the other that we could not remember injuries.

There is likewise another line in which politicians mistake, which is
that of not rightly calculating, or rather of misjudging, the
consequence which any given circumstance will produce. Nothing is more
frequent, as well in common as in political life, than to hear people
complain, that such or such means produced an event directly contrary
to their intentions. But the fault lies in their not judging rightly
what the event would be; for the means produced only its proper and
natural consequence.

It is very probable, that in a treaty of peace, Britain will contend
for some post or other in North America, perhaps Canada or Halifax, or
both; and I infer this from the known deficiency of her politics,
which have ever yet made use of means, whose natural event was against
both her interest and her expectation. But the question with her ought
to be, Whether it is worth her while to hold them, and what will be
the consequence?

Respecting Canada, one or other of the two following will take place,
viz. If Canada should people, it will revolt, and if it do not people,
it will not be worth the expense of holding. And the same may be said
of Halifax; and the country round it. But Canada _never will_ people;
neither is there any occasion for contrivances on one side or the
other, for nature alone will do the whole.

Britain may put herself to great expenses in sending settlers to
Canada; but the descendants of those settlers will be Americans, as
other descendants have been before them. They will look round and see
the neighbouring States sovereign and free, respected abroad, and
trading at large with the world; and the natural love of liberty, the
advantages of commerce, the blessings of independence and of a happier
climate, and a richer soil, will draw them southward; and the effect
will be, that Britain will sustain the expense, and America reap the

One would think that the experience which Britain has had of America,
would entirely sicken her of all thoughts of continental colonization,
and any part she might retain will only become to her a field of
jealousy and thorns, of debate and contention, forever struggling for
privileges, and meditating revolt. She may form new settlements, but
they will be for us; they will become part of the United States of
America; and that against all her contrivances to prevent it, or
without any endeavors of ours to promote it. In the first place she
cannot draw from them a revenue, until they are able to pay one, and
when they are so, they will be above subjection. Men soon become
attached to the soil they live upon, and incorporated with the
prosperity of the place; and it signifies but little what opinions
they come over with, for time, interest, and new connections, will
render them obsolete, and the next generations know nothing of them.

Were Britain truly wise, she would lay hold of the present opportunity
to disentangle herself from all continental embarrassments in North
America, and that not only to avoid future broils and troubles, but to
save expenses. For to speak explicitly on the matter, I would not,
were I an European power, have Canada, under the conditions that
Britain must retain it, could it be given to me. It is one of those
kind of dominions that is, and ever will be, a constant charge upon
any foreign holder.

As to Halifax, it will become useless to England after the present
war, and the loss of the United States. A harbour, when the dominion
is gone, for the purpose of which only it was wanted, can be attended
only with expense. There are, I doubt not, thousands of people in
England, who suppose, that these places are a profit to the nation,
whereas they are directly the contrary, and instead of producing any
revenue, a considerable part of the revenue of England is annually
drawn off, to support the expense of holding them.

Gibraltar is another instance of national ill-policy. A post which in
time of peace is not wanted, and in time of war is of no use, must at
all times be useless. Instead of affording protection to a navy, it
requires the aid of one to maintain it. To suppose that Gibraltar
commands the Mediterranean, or the pass into it, or the trade of it,
is to suppose a detected falsehood; because though Britain holds the
post, she has lost the other three, and every benefit she expected
from it. And to say that all this happens because it is besieged by
land and water, is to say nothing, for this will always be the case in
time of war, while France and Spain keep up superior fleets, and
Britain holds the place.--So that, though, as an impenetrable
inaccessible rock, it may be held by the one, it is always in the
power of the other to render it useless and excessively chargeable.

I should suppose that one of the principal objects of Spain in
besieging it, is to show to Britain, that though she may not take it,
she can command it, that is, she can shut it up, and prevent its being
used as a harbour, though not as a garrison.--But the short way to
reduce Gibraltar is to attack the British fleet; for Gibraltar is as
dependent on a fleet for support, as a bird is on its wing for food,
and when wounded there it starves.

There is another circumstance which the people of England have not
only not attended to, but seem to be utterly ignorant of, and that is,
the difference between permanent power and accidental power,
considered in a national sense.

By permanent power, I mean, a natural inherent, and perpetual ability
in a nation, which though always in being, may not be always in
action, or not always advantageously directed; and by accidental
power, I mean, a fortunate or accidental disposition or exercise of
national strength, in whole or in part.

There undoubtedly was a time when any one European nation, with only
eight or ten ships of war, equal to the present ships of the line,
could have carried terror to all others, who had not begun to build a
navy, however great their natural ability might be for that purpose:
but this can be considered only as accidental, and not as a standard
to compare permanent power by, and could last no longer than until
those powers built as many or more ships than the former. After this a
larger fleet was necessary, in order to be superior; and a still
larger would again supersede it. And thus mankind have gone on
building fleet upon fleet, as occasion or situation dictated. And this
reduces it to an original question, which is: Which power can build
and man the largest number of ships? The natural answer to which is,
That power which has the largest revenue and the greatest number of
inhabitants, provided its situation of coast affords sufficient

France being a nation on the continent of Europe, and Britain an
island in its neighbourhood, each of them derived different ideas from
their different situations. The inhabitants of Britain could carry on
no foreign trade, nor stir from the spot they dwelt upon, without the
assistance of shipping; but this was not the case with France. The
idea therefore of a navy did not arise to France from the same
original and immediate necessity which produced to England. But the
question is, that when both of them turn their attention, and employ
their revenues the same way, which can be superior?

The annual revenue of France is nearly double that of England, and her
number of inhabitants nearly twice as many. Each of them has the same
length of ground on the Channel; besides which, France has several
hundred miles extent on the Bay of Biscay, and an opening on the
Mediterranean: and every day proves that practice and exercise make
sailors, as well as soldiers, in one country as well as another.

If then Britain can maintain a hundred ships of the line, France can
as well support a hundred and fifty, because her revenue and her
population are as equal to the one as those of England are to the
other. And the only reason why she has not done it is because she has
not till very lately attended to it. But when she sees, as she now
sees, that a navy is the first engine of power, she can easily
accomplish it.

England very falsely, and ruinously for herself, infers, that because
she had the advantage of France, while France had the smaller navy,
that for that reason it is always to be so. Whereas it may be clearly
seen that the strength of France has never yet been tried on a navy,
and that she is able to be as superior to England in the extent of a
navy, as she is in the extent of her revenues and her population. And
England may lament the day, when, by her insolence and injustice, she
provoked in France a maritime disposition.

It is in the power of the combined fleets to conquer every island in
the West Indies, and reduce all the British Navy in those places. For
were France and Spain to send their whole naval force in Europe to
those islands, it would not be in the power of Britain to follow them
with an equal force. She would still be twenty or thirty ships
inferior, were she to send every vessel she had; and in the meantime
all the foreign trade of England would lay exposed to the Dutch.

It is a maxim which, I am persuaded, will ever hold good, and more
especially in naval operations, that a great power ought never to move
in detachments, if it can possibly be avoided; but to go with its
whole force to some important object, the reduction of which shall
have a decisive effect upon the war. Had the whole of the French and
Spanish fleets in Europe come last spring to the West Indies, every
island had been their own, Rodney their prisoner, and his fleet their
prize. From the United States the combined fleets can be supplied with
provisions, without the necessity of drawing them from Europe, which
is not the case with England.

Accident has thrown some advantages in the way of England, which, from
the inferiority of her navy, she had not a right to expect. For though
she had been obliged to fly before the combined fleets, yet Rodney has
twice had the fortune to fall in with detached squadrons, to which he
was superior in numbers: The first off Cape St. Vincent, where he had
nearly two to one, and the other in the West Indies, where he had a
majority of six ships. Victories of this kind almost produce
themselves. They are won without honour, and suffered without
disgrace; and are ascribable to the chance of meeting, not to the
superiority of fighting: For the same Admiral, under whom they were
obtained, was unable, in three former engagements, to make the least
impression on a fleet consisting of an equal number of ships with his
own, and compounded for the events by declining the actions.[4]

To conclude: if it may be said that Britain has numerous enemies, it
likewise proves that she has given numerous offenses. Insolence is
sure to provoke hatred, whether in a nation or an individual. That
want of manners in the British Court may be seen even in its
birth-days and new-years odes, which are calculated to infatuate the
vulgar, and disgust the man of refinement; and her former overbearing
rudeness, and insufferable injustice on the seas, have made every
commercial nation her foe. Her fleets were employed as engines of
prey; and acted on the surface of the deep the character which the
shark does beneath it.--On the other hand, the Combined Powers are
taking a popular part, and will render their reputation immortal, by
establishing the perfect freedom of the ocean, to which all countries
have a right, and are interested in accomplishing. The sea is the
world's highway; and he who arrogates a prerogative over it
transgresses the right, and justly brings on himself the chastisement
of nations.

Perhaps it might be of some service to the future tranquillity of
mankind, were an article were introduced into the next general peace,
that no one nation should, in time of peace, exceed a certain number
of ships of war. Something of this kind seems necessary; for,
according to the present fashion, half of the world will get upon the
water, and there appears to be no end to the extent to which navies
may be carried. Another reason is that navies add nothing to the
manners or morals of a people. The sequestered life which attends the
service, prevents the opportunities of society, and is too apt to
occasion a coarseness of ideas and of language, and that more in ships
of war than in the commercial employ; because in the latter they mix
more with the world, and are nearer related to it. I mention this
remark as a general one, and not applied to anyone country more than
to another.

Britain has now had the trial of above seven years, with an expense of
nearly a hundred million pounds sterling; and every month in which she
delays to conclude a peace, costs her another million sterling, over
and above her ordinary expenses of government, which are a million
more; so that her total _monthly_ expense is two million pounds
sterling, which is equal to the whole _yearly_ expenses of America,
all charges included. Judge then who is best able to continue it.

She has likewise many atonements to make to an injured world, as well
in one quarter as in another. And instead of pursuing that temper of
arrogance, which serves only to sink her in the esteem, and entail on
her the dislike, of all nations, she would do well to reform her
manners, and retrench her expenses, live peaceably with he neighbours,
and think of war no more.

_Philadelphia, August 21, 1782._


[4] _See the accounts, either English or French, of the actions in the
West-Indies between Count de Guichen and Admiral Rodney, in 1780._


*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Letter Addressed to the Abbe Raynal, on the Affairs of North America, in Which the Mistakes in the Abbe's Account of the Revolution of America Are Corrected and Cleared Up" ***

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