Common Sense, British Edition

Of the Present Ability of America, with Some Miscellaneous Reflexions

Page 34

34                          COMMON SENSE
and shipwrights out of employ. Men of war of seventy and
eighty guns were built forty years ago in New-England,
and why not the same now? Ship-building is America’s
greatest pride, and in which she will in time excel the whole
world. The great empires of the east are mostly inland,
and consequently excluded from the possibility of rivelling
her. Africa is in a state of barbarism; and no power in
Europe hath either such an extent of coast, or such an
internal supply of materials. Where nature hath given the
one, she has withheld the other; to America only hath she been liberal to both. The vast empire of Russia is almost
shut out from the sea: Wherefore, her boundless fo-
rests, her tar, iron and cordage, are only articles of com-

In point of safety, ought we to be without a fleet? We
are not the little people now, which we were sixty years ago;
at that time we might have trusted our property in the streets,
or fields rather; and slept securely without locks or bolts to
our doors and windows. The case is now altered, and our
methods of defence ought to improve with our increase of
property. A common pirate, twelve months ago, might have come up the Delaware, and laid the city of Philadel-
phia under instant contribution, for what sum he pleased;
and the same might have happened to other places. Nay,
any daring fellow, in a brig of fourteen or sixteen guns,
might have robbed the whole continent, and carried off
half a million of money. These are circumstances which de-
mand our attention, and point out the necessity of naval pro-

Some, perhaps, will say, that after we have made it up with
Britain, she will protect us. Can we be so unwise as to mean
that she shall keep a navy in our harbours for that purpose?
Common sense will tell us, that the power which hath en-
deavoured to subdue us, is of all others the most improper
to defend us. Conquest may be effected under the pretence
of friendship; and ourselves, after a long and brave re-
sistance, be at last cheated into slavery. And if her
ships are not to be admitted into our harbours, I would
ask, how is she to protect us? A navy three or four
thousand miles off can be of little use, and on sudden emer-
gencies, none at all. Wherefore, if we must hereafter pro-


“Common Sense, British Edition,” Common Sense Digital Edition, accessed June 18, 2024,

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