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I am sure that the author of Common Sense, who labours to prove that the necessity is already come, offers nothing on this head that can give much satisfaction to the publick in general. Trusting, however, that, in the preceding part of his work, he has levelled the English Constitution to the dust, together with all our American Constitutions, which are formed on similar models, and that he has thereby led us past the Rubicon, he may flatter himself that we will the more readily follow his future direction, and adopt what plans he may offer. But I choose to examine for myself; and having despatched his main argument for Independence, which he founds on the necessity of foreign assistance, I proceed to consider some other parts of his work.
His first sections, on the origin of Government and Monarchy, appear to be the strangest medley of inconsistencies and contradictions which were, perhaps, ever offered to the common sense of any people, and calculated only to mislead those superficial readers, who are content to believe as they go, without comparing one part of a writers doctrine with another.
Society, says he, is produced by our wants, and Government by our wickedness: the former promotes our happiness positively, by uniting our affections; the latter negatively, by restraining our vices. Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of Kings are built on the ruins of the bowers of Paradise.
If the author meant only by this to tell us that if all men were perfectly virtuous, and followed the pure dictates of right reason, human Governments would have been unnecessary, then I could subscribe to his doctrine, and might have paid him a compliment for clothing an old truth in a spruce metaphor. But if he meant to prove that Monarchies were any more founded on the ruins of Paradise than Republicks, he ought, in consistency with himself, to have shown us that, after Adam was expelled from Paradise, he and his descendants, as soon as they were four or five strong, and able to raise a tolerable dwelling in the wilderness, were found erecting some sort of palace for him as their King; and that, after this example, all future Governments were kingly in the first ages. But our author shows us no such thing. On the contrary, when he speaks of the manner of peopling the world, and frames a Government out of the state of nature, the first idea he presents us with is, that of a pure Republick.
Some convenient tree, says he, affords a State-House, under the branches of which the whole Colony may assemble to deliberate on publick matters. They proceed, as their numbers increase, to improve this Constitution, and devise checks that the elected may not form to themselves an interest separate from the electors. On these checks (not on the unmeaning name of King) depend the strength of Government and happiness of the governed.
How can this be reconciled to what follows? The author has told us that all Government being at best but a necessary evil, promotes happiness only negatively, by restraining (viz: checking) our vices; and, in erecting his early Republick, he contrives his checks accordingly; but (risum teneatis!) directly forgets himself, and says that no power which needs checking can be from God. Thus, by his own argument, God has as little to do with the powers of Government in the Republican, as mixed forms. But further, lest his readers should also forget themselves, and be carried away by his first assertion, that the palaces of Kings were built on the ruins of Paradise, he takes care to tell us, and backs it with the authority of Scripture chronology, that, in the early ages of the world, there were no Kings; that the Devil himself, in those ancient times, was but a dull fellow; and that, although Government by Kings was his most prosperous invention for the promotion of idolatry, he was a long while in hammering it out; which is but a poor compliment to Satans cunning. For being a King himself from the beginning, he might have hit upon it sooner. But I leave our author to make his own apology to his infernal majesty, if he be of his councils, for I have no business to interfere between them.
It is sufficient to show what use he makes of his common sense, at the very outset, in refuting his own first doctrine, and proving to demonstration that, instead of palaces for Kings, State-Houses for whole Colonies were built on the ruins of Paradise; nay more, that these ruins, in the case of the Jews, were near three thousand years tossed up and down into various forms, before they were converted into Royal edifices! That I have not misrepresented our author in this argument, his own words will show: Near three thousand years passed away, from the Mosaick account of the creation, till the Jews, under a national delusion, requested a King. Till then, their form of Government (except in extraordinary cases, where the Almighty interposed) was a kind of Republick, &c.
He proceeds, in the next place, to persuade us that he is as well acquainted with the secrets of Heaven as the devices of Hell, concerning the origin of kingly Government; and that the Almighty consented at last to this most prosperous invention of Satan, in mere wrath and vengeance against, the Jews, as a greater punishment for their ingratitude than could have been inflicted upon them by any other human form of Government. There never was a greater perversion of Scripture than our author has been guilty of in his endeavours to establish this part of his argument, as every man of common understanding, who has his Bible in his hand, may easily perceive.
The bounds prescribed for this letter will not suffer me, at present, to point out his misrepresentations, and to show how he sets himself up, not only against the plain letter of Scripture, but the universal sense of wise and holy men of every age. It is not consistent with my principles to say one word in favour of the divine right of Kings, nor do I believe a word of what others have said in its favour. As little do I believe what has been said concerning the divine right of Republicks, or any other human forms of Government. But the question is, whether God hath particularly reprobated any of them. For my part, as the author has set me the example of examining Scripture on this head, I cannot find any modern Kings particularly rejected by Heaven but Mounsier, the King of France. It is in the thirty-fifth chapter of Ezekiel; and I am sure our author, who is so deeply versed in Scripture, could not have overlooked it, if it had not been for the treaty which he proposes with this King. The reader will readily allow that the application is much more natural than that which the author has made of the 8th chapter of the First Book of Samuel.
Son of man, set thy face against Mountseir, (Heb. Mounseir, or Monseur,) and prophesy against it, (Heb. him,) and say unto him, thus saith the Lord God: Behold, O mountseir (or Mounsier) I am against thee, because thou hast had a perpetual hatred, and hast shed the blood of the children of Israel [that is, the French Protestants] by the force of the sword: therefore, as I live, saith the Lord God, I will prepare thee unto blood, and blood shall pursue thee: sith thou hast not hated blood, even blood shall pursue thee. Thus will I make Mountseir (or Monsieur) most desolate, because thou hast said these two nations, and these two countries [here Britain and America are clearly pointed out] shall be mine, and we will possess it; whereas the Lord was there:as much as to say, You shall not have these two countries, Monsieur; the Lord intends them for his own use; they shall be free, Protestant countries.
The reader may peruse and apply the remainder of the chapter, which he may do as well as the author of Common Sense; and some may say, perhaps, as well as
YORK COUNTY (PENNSYLVANIA) COMMITTEE.
Whereas information has been given unto us, the subscribers, Members of the General Committee for York County, that a certain Robert Owings, of Heidlebergh Township aforesaid, had, on the 15th day of this instant, in an open and publick manner, taken the liberty to speak in an unbecoming manner against the measures now pursuing for the maintaining our invaluable rights and privileges; and, being called before us, was duly convicted thereof by sufficient testimony. Whereupon he, the said Robert Owings, expressing his hearty and unfeigned sorrow for his said conduct, agreed further to signify his entire disapprobation thereof, by signing the underwritten declaration, which was voted satisfactory.