Assertion: The American colonists were justified in waging war against Britain. Document 1



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These excerpts are from Thomas Paine's Common Sense, published in January 1776. This popular pamphlet helped to convince many Americans that the conflict with England was beyond peaceful settlement and that independence was America's only course.


I have heard it asserted by some, that as America has flourished under her former connection with Great Britain, the same connection is necessary towards her future happiness, and will always have the same effect. Nothing can be more fallacious than this kind of argument… Men of passive tempers look somewhat lightly over the offences of Great Britain, and, still hoping for the best, are apt to call out, "Come, come, we shall be friends again for all this." But … then tell me whether you can hereafter love, honour, and faithfully serve the power that hath carried fire and sword into your land?... No man was a warmer wisher for a [peaceful settlement] than myself, before the fatal nineteenth of April, 1775 [the battles at Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, occurred on this day], but the moment the event of that day was made known, I rejected the hardened, sullen-tempered [King of England] forever and disdain the wretch, that with the pretended title of FATHER OF HIS PEOPLE, can unfeelingly hear of their slaughter, and composedly sleep with their blood upon his soul.

But admitting that matters were now made up, what would be the event? I answer, the ruin of the continent…

First. The powers of governing still remaining in the hands of the king, he will have a negative over the whole legislation of this continent. And as he hath shewn himself such an [hardened] enemy to liberty, and discovered such a thirst for power…
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Where the money is to come from which will defray this enormous annual expense of three millions sterling, and all those other debts, I know not; unless the author of Common Sense, or some other ingenious projector, can discover the Philosopher’s Stone, by which iron and other base metals may be transmuted into gold. Certain I am that our commerce and agriculture, the two principal sources of our wealth, will not support such an expense. The whole of our exports from the Thirteen United Colonies, in the year 1769, amounted only to £2,887,898 sterling; which is not so much, by near half a million, as our annual expense would be were we independent of Great Britain. Those exports; with no inconsiderable part of the profits arising from them, it is well known, centered finally in Britain to pay the merchants and manufacturers there for goods we had imported thence—and yet left us still in debt! What then must our situation be, or what the state of our trade, when oppressed with such a burden of annual expense! When every article of commerce, every necessary of life, together with our lands, must be heavily taxed to defray that expense!





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