Common Sense, British Edition

Of the Present Ability of America, with Some Miscellaneous Reflexions

Page 35

COMMON SENSE.                             35 
-tect ourselves, why not do it for ourselves? Why do it
for another ?

The English list of ships of war, is long and formidable,
but not a tenth part of them are at any one time fit for service,
numbers of them not in being ; yet their names are prom-
pously continued in the list, if only a plank be left of the
ship: And not a fifth part of such as are fit for service, can
be spared on any one nation at one time. The East and
West Indies, Mediterranean, Africa, and other parts over
which Britain extends her claim, make large demands upon
her navy. From a mixture of prejudice and inattention, we
have contracted a false notion respecting the navy of England,
and have talked as if we should have the whole of it to encoun-
ter at once, and for that reason, supposed, that we must
have one as large; which not being instantly practicable,
have been made use of by a set of disguised Tories to dis-
courage our beginning thereon. Nothing can be farther
from truth than this; for if America had only a twentieth
part of the naval force of Britain, she would be by far an
overmatch for her; because, as we neither have, nor claim
any foreign dominion, our whole force will be employed on
our own coast, where we should, in the long run, have two
to one the advantage of those who had three or four thousand
miles to fail over, before they could attack us, and the same
distance to return in order to refit and recruit. And
although Britain, by her fleet, hath a check over our trade to
Europe, we have as large a one over her trade to the West
Indies, which, by laying in the neighbourhood of the con-
tinent, is entirely at its mercy.

Some method might be fallen on to keep up a naval force
in time of peace, if we should not judge it necessary to sup-
port a constant navy. If premiums were to be given to mer-
chants, to build and employ in their service, ships mounted
with twenty, thirty, forty, or fifty guns (the premiums to be
in proportion to the loss of bulk to the merchants) fifty or
sixty of those ships, with a few guardships on constant duty,
would keep up a sufficient navy, and that without burdening
ourselves with the evil so loudly complained of in England,
of suffering their fleet, in time of peace to lie rotting in
the docks. To unite the sinews of commerce and de-
fence is sound policy ; for when our strength and our


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

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