Candidus (James Chalmers): Plain Truth (1776)


I have now before me the pamphlet intitled Common Sense; on which I shall remark with freedom and candour. . . . In the beginning of his pamphlet the author asserts, that society in every state is a blessing. This in the sincerity of my heart I deny; for it is supreme misery to be associated with those who, to promote their ambitious purposes, flagitiously pervert the ends of political society. . . . The judicious reader will therefore perceive, that malevolence only is requisite to declaim against, and arraign the most perfect governments. Our political quack avails himself of this trite expedient, to cajole the people into the most abject slavery, under the delusive name of independence. His first indecent attack is against the English constitution, which, with all its imperfections, is, and ever will be, the pride and envy of mankind. To this panegyric involuntarily our author subscribes, by granting individuals to be safer in England, than in any other part of Europe. He indeed insidiously attributes this pre-eminent excellency to the constitution: to such contemptible subterfuge is our author reduced. I would ask him why did not the constitution of the people afford them superior safety, in the reign of Richard the third, Henry the eighth, and other tyrannic princes? Many pages might indeed be filled with encomiums bestowed on our excellent constitution by illustrious authors of different nations.

This beautiful system (according to Montesquieu) our constitution is a compound of monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy. . . . Were I asked marks of the best government, and the purpose of political society, I would reply, the increase, preservation, and prosperity of its members; in no quarter of the globe are those marks so certainly to be found, as in Great Britain and her dependencies. After our author has employed several pages to break the bounds of society by debasing monarchs, he says, "the plain truth is, that the antiquity of English monarchy will not bear looking into."

Hume, treating of the original contract, has the following melancholy, but sensible observation; "yet reason tells us, that there is no property in durable objects, such as lands and houses, when carefully examined, in passing from hand to hand, but must in some period have been founded on fraud and injustice. The necessities of human society, neither in private or public life, will allow of such an accurate inquiry; and there is no virtue or moral duty, but what may, with facility, be refined away, if we indulge a false philosophy, in sifting and scrutinizing, by every captious rule of logic, in every light or position in which it may be placed."

Say, ye votaries of honour and truth, can we adduce a stronger proof of our author’s turpitude, than his quoting the anti-philosophical story of the Jews, to debase monarchy and the best of monarchs? . . . . We might indeed remind our author, who so readily drags in the Old Testament to support his sinister measures, that we could draw from that source many texts favourable to monarchy, were we not conscious that the Mosaic law gives way to the gospel dispensation. . . .

Having defined the best government, I will humbly attempt to describe good kings by the following unerring rule. The best princes are constantly calumniated by the envenomed tongues and pens of the most worthless of their subjects. For this melancholy truth, do I appeal to the testimony of impartial historians, and long experience . . . . The many unmerited insults offered to our own gracious sovereign by the unprincipled Wilkes, and others down to this late author, will for ever disgrace humanity. . . .

After his terrible anathema against our venerable constitution and monarchy, let us briefly examine a democratical state; and see whether or not it is a government less sanguinary. This government is extremely plausible and indeed flattering to the pride of mankind. The demagogues therefore, to seduce the people into their criminal designs, ever hold up democracy to them; although conscious it never did, nor ever will answer in practice. If we believe a great author, "there never existed, nor ever will exist a real democracy in the world." If we examine the republics of Greece and Rome, we ever find them in a state of war domestic or foreign. Our author therefore makes no mention of these ancient states. . . .

Our author asserts, "that our present numbers are sufficient to repel the force of all the world . . . . that independence is necessary, because France and Spain cannot assist us until such an event." He also affirms, "that Great Britain cannot govern us; and that no good can arise from a reconciliation with her."

. . . In the English provinces, exclusive of Negroe and other slaves, we have one hundred and sixty thousand or one hundred and seventy thousand men capable of bearing arms. If we deduct the people called Quakers, Anabaptists, and other religionists averse to arms, a considerable part of the emigrants, and those having a greatful predilection for the ancient constitution and parent state, we shall certainly reduce the first number to sixty or seventy thousand men. Now, admitting those equal to the Roman legions, can we suppose them capable of defending against the power of Britain, a country nearly twelve hundred miles extending on the ocean? . . . . We still have an army before Boston, and I should be extremely happy to hear substantial proofs of their glory . . . . Notwithstanding the predilection I have for my countrymen, I remark with grief, that hitherto our troops have displayed but few marks of Spartan or Roman enthusiasm.