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XLI: A CASE OF CASUISTRY - Benjamin Franklin, The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. II Letters and Misc. Writings 1735-1753 
The Works of Benjamin Franklin, including the Private as well as the Official and Scientific Correspondence, together with the Unmutilated and Correct Version of the Autobiography, compiled and edited by John Bigelow (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904). The Federal Edition in 12 volumes. Vol. II (Letters and Misc. Writings 1735-1753).
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A CASE OF CASUISTRY
to the printer of the “gazette”
According to the request of your correspondent, T. P., I send you my thoughts on the following case by him proposed, viz.:
A man bargains for the keeping of his horse six months, whilst he is making a voyage to Barbadoes. The horse strays or is stolen soon after the keeper has him in possession. When the owner demands the value of his horse in money, may not the other as justly demand so much deducted as the keeping of the horse six months amounts to?
It does not appear that they had any dispute about the value of the horse, whence we may conclude there was no reason for such dispute, but it was well known how much he cost, and that he could not honestly have been sold again for more. But the value of the horse is not expressed in the case, nor the sum agreed for keeping him six months; wherefore, in order to our more clear apprehension of the thing, let ten pounds represent the horse’s value, and three pounds the sum agreed upon for his keeping.
Now the sole foundation on which the keeper can found his demand of a deduction for keeping a horse he did not keep, is this: “Your horse,” he may say, “which I was to restore to you at the end of six months, was worth ten pounds; if I now give you ten pounds, it is an equivalent for your horse, and equal to returning the horse itself. Had I returned your horse (value ten pounds), you would have paid me three pounds for his keeping, and therefore would have received in fact, but seven pounds clear. You then suffer no injury, if I now pay you seven pounds, and consequently you ought in reason to allow me the remaining three pounds, according to our agreement.”
But the owner of the horse may possibly insist upon being paid the whole sum of ten pounds, without allowing any deduction for his keeping after he was lost, and that for these reasons:
1. It is always supposed, unless an express agreement be made to the contrary, when horses are put out to keep, that the keeper is at the risk of them, unavoidable accidents only excepted, wherein no care of the keeper can be supposed sufficient to preserve them, such as their being slain by lightning or the like. This you yourself tacitly allow when you offer to restore me the value of my horse. Were it otherwise, people, having no security against a keeper’s neglect or mismanagement, would never put horses out to keep.
2. Keepers, considering the risk they run, always demand such a price for keeping horses that, if they were to follow the business twenty years, they may have a living profit, though they now and then pay for a horse they have lost; and if they were to be at no risk they might afford to keep horses for less than they usually have. So that what a man pays for his horse’s keeping, more than the keeper could afford to take if he ran no risk, is in the nature of a premium for the insurance of his horse. If I then pay you for the few days you kept my horse, you should restore me his full value.
3. You acknowledge that my horse eat of your hay and oats but a few days. It is unjust, then, to charge me for all the hay and oats that he only might have eat in the remainder of the six months, and which you have now still good in your stable. If, as the proverb says, it is unreasonable to expect a horse should void oats, which never eat any, it is certainly as unreasonable to expect payment for those oats.
4. If men in such cases as this are to be paid for keeping horses when they were not kept, then they have a great opportunity of wronging the owners of horses. For by privately selling my horse for his value (ten pounds) soon after you had him in possession, and returning me, at the expiration of the time, only seven pounds, demanding three pounds as a deduction agreed for his keeping, you get that three pounds clear into your pocket, besides the use of my money six months for nothing.
5. But, you say, the value of my horse being ten pounds, if you deduct three for his keeping and return me seven, it is all I would in fact have received had you returned my horse; therefore, as I am no loser, I ought to be satisfied. This argument, were there any weight in it, might serve to justify a man in selling, as above, as many of the horses he takes to keep as he conveniently can, putting clear into his own pocket that charge their owners must have been at for their keeping; for, this being no loss to the owners, he may say: “Where no man is a loser, why should not I be a gainer?” I need only answer to this, that I allow the horse cost me but ten pounds, nor could I have sold him for more had I been disposed to part with him; but this can be no reason why you should buy him of me at that price, whether I will sell him or not. For it is plain I valued him at thirteen pounds, otherwise I should not have paid ten pounds for him, and agreed to give you three pounds more for his keeping till I had occasion to use him. Thus, though you pay me the whole ten pounds which he cost me (deducting only for his keeping those few days), I am still a loser: I lose the charge of those days’ keeping; I lose the three pounds at which I valued him above what he cost me; and I lose the advantage I might have made of my money in six months, either by the interest, or by joining it to my stock in trade in my voyage to Barbadoes.
6. Lastly, whenever a horse is put to keep, the agreement naturally runs thus: The keeper says: “I will feed your horse six months on good hay and oats, if, at the end of that time, you pay me three pounds.” The owner says: “If you will feed my horse six months on good hay and oats, I will pay you three pounds at the end of that time.” Now we may plainly see the keeper’s performance of his part of the agreement must be antecedent to that of the owner; and, the agreement being wholly conditional, the owner’s part is not in force till the keeper has performed his. You, then, not having fed my horse six months, as you agreed to do, there lies no obligation on me to pay for so much feeding.
Thus we have heard what can be said on both sides. Upon the whole, I am of opinion that no deduction should be allowed for the keeping of the horse after the time of his straying.
I am yours, &c.,
PLAIN TRUTH OR SERIOUS CONSIDERATIONS ON THE PRESENT STATE OF THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA AND PROVINCE OF PENNSYLVANIA
Captâ urbe, nihil fit reliqui victis. Sed, per deos immortales, vos ego appello, qui semper domos, villas, signa, tabulas vestras, [tantæ æstimationis] fecistis; si ista, cujuscumque modi sint, quæ amplexamini, retinere, si voluptatibus vestris otium præbere vultis; expergiscimini aliquando, et capessite rempublicam. Non agitur [nunc] . . . . de sociorum injuriis; libertas et anima nostra in dubio est. . . . . . Duc hostium cum exercitu supra caput est. Vos cunctamini etiam nunc, et dubitatis quid . . . . . faciatis? . . . . . Scilicet res ipsa aspera est, sed vos non timetis eam. Imo vero maxime; sed inertiâ et mollitiâ animi, alius alium exspectantes, cunctamini; videlicet diis immortalibus confisi, qui hanc rempublicam in maximis sæpe periculis servavere. Non votis neque suppliciis muliebribus, auxilia deorum parantur; vigilando, agendo, bene consulendo, prospere omnia cedunt. Ubi socordiæ te atque ignaviæ tradideris, nequicquam deos implores; irati infestique sunt.—M. por. Cato, in Sallust.
Should the city be taken, all will be lost to the conquered. Therefore, if you desire to preserve your buildings, houses, and country-seats, your statues, paintings, and all your other possessions, which you so highly esteem; if you wish to continue in the enjoyment of them, or to have leisure for any future pleasures, I beseech you by the immortal Gods, rouse at last, awake from your lethargy, and save the commonwealth. It is not the trifling concern of injuries from your allies that demands your attention; your liberties, lives, and fortunes, with every thing that is interesting and dear to you, are in the most imminent danger. Can you doubt of or delay what you ought to do, now, when the enemy’s swords are unsheathed, and descending on your heads? The affair is shocking and horrid! Yet, perhaps, you are not afraid. Yes, you are terrified to the highest degree. But through indolence and supineness of soul, gazing at each other, to see who shall first rise to your succor; and a presumptuous dependence on the immortal Gods, who indeed have preserved this republic in many dangerous seasons; you delay and neglect every thing necessary for your preservation. Be not deceived; Divine assistance and protection are not to be obtained by timorous prayers and womanish supplications. To succeed, you must join salutary counsels, vigilance, and courageous actions. If you sink into effeminacy and cowardice; if you desert the tender and helpless, by Providence committed to your charge, never presume to implore the Gods; it will provoke them, and raise their indignation against you.1
It is said the wise Italians make this proverbial remark on our nation, viz.: “The English feel but they do not see.” That is, they are sensible of inconveniences when they are present, but do not take sufficient care to prevent them; their natural courage makes them too little apprehensive of danger, so that they are often surprised by it, unprovided of the proper means of security. When it is too late they are sensible of their imprudence; after great fires they provide buckets and engines; after a pestilence they think of keeping clean their streets and common sewers; and when a town has been sacked by their enemies, they provide for its defence, &c. This kind of after-wisdom is indeed so common with us as to occasion the vulgar though very significant saying, When the steed is stolen you shut the stable door.
But the more insensible we generally are of public danger and indifferent when warned of it, so much the more freely, openly, and earnestly ought such as apprehend it, to speak their sentiments, that, if possible, those who seem to sleep, may be awakened to think of some means of avoiding or preventing the mischief before it be too late.
Believing, therefore, that it is my duty, I shall honestly speak my mind in the following paper.
War at this time rages over a great part of the known world; our newspapers are weekly filled with fresh accounts of the destruction it everywhere occasions. Pennsylvania, indeed, situate in the centre of the colonies, has hitherto enjoyed profound repose; and though our nation is engaged in a bloody war with two great and powerful kingdoms, yet, defended in a great degree from the French on the one hand, by the northern provinces, and from the Spaniards on the other, by the southern, at no small expense to each, our people have till lately slept securely in their habitations.
There is no British colony, excepting this, but has made some kind of provision for its defence; many of them have therefore never been attempted by an enemy; and others that were attacked have generally defended themselves with success. The length and difficulty of our bay and river have been thought so effectual a security to us, that hitherto no means have been entered into that might discourage an attempt upon us or prevent its succeeding.
But whatever security this might have been while both country and city were poor, and the advantage to be expected scarce worth the hazard of an attempt, it is now doubted whether we can any longer safely depend upon it. Our wealth, of late years much increased, is one strong temptation, our defenceless state another, to induce an enemy to attack us; while the acquaintance they have lately gained with our bay and river, by means of the prisoners and flags of truce they have had among us, by spies which they almost everywhere maintain, and perhaps from traitors among ourselves; with the facility of getting pilots to conduct them; and the known absence of ships of war during the greatest part of the year from both Virginia and New York ever since the war began, render the appearance of success to the enemy far more promising, and therefore highly increase our danger.
That our enemies may have spies abroad, and some even in these colonies, will not be made much doubt of, when it is considered that such has been the practice of all nations in all ages, whenever they were engaged, or intended to engage, in war. Of this we have an early example in the Book of Judges (too pertinent to our case, and therefore I must beg leave a little to enlarge upon it), where we are told (Chap. xviii. v. 2,) that the children of Dan sent of their family five men from their coasts to spy out the land, and search it, saying, Go, search the land. These Danites, it seems, were at this time not very orthodox in their religion, and their spies met with a certain idolatrous priest of their own persuasion (v. 3), and they said to him, Who brought thee hither? What makest thou in this place? And what hast thou here? [Would to God no such priests were to be found among us.] And they said unto him (v. 5), Ask counsel of God, that we may know whether our way which we go shall be prosperous; and the priest said unto them, Go in peace; before the Lord is your way wherein you go. [Are there no priests among us, think you, that might, in the like case, give an enemy as good encouragement? It is well known that we have numbers of the same religion with those who of late encouraged the French to invade our mother country.] And they came (v. 7), to Laish, and saw the people that were therein, how they dweltcareless,after the manner of the Zidonians,quiet,andsecure. They thought themselves secure, no doubt; and as they never had been disturbed, vainly imagined they never should be. It is not unlikely that some might see the danger they were exposed to by living in that careless manner; but that, if these publicly expressed their apprehensions, the rest reproached them as timorous persons, wanting courage or confidence in their gods, who (they might say) had hitherto protected them. But the spies (v. 8) returned, and said to their countrymen (v. 9): Arise, that we may go up against them; for we have seen the land, and behold it is very good. And are ye still? Be not slothful to go. (Verse 10): When ye go, ye shall come to a peoplesecure [that is, a people that apprehend no danger, and therefore have made no provision against it; great encouragement this!], and to a large land, and a place where there is no want of any thing. What could they desire more? Accordingly, we find in the following verses that six hundred men only, appointed with weapons of war, undertook the conquest of this large land; knowing that six hundred men, armed and disciplined, would be an overmatch perhaps for sixty thousand unarmed, undisciplined, and off their guard. And when they went against it, the idolatrous priest (v. 17), with his graven image, and his ephod, and his teraphim, and his molten image (plenty of superstitious trinkets), joined with them, and, no doubt, gave them all the intelligence and assistance in his power; his heart, as the text assures us, being glad, perhaps for reasons more than one. And, now, what was the fate of poor Laish? The six hundred men being arrived, found, as the spies had reported, a people quiet and secure (vv. 27, 28). And they smote them with the edge of the sword, and burnt the city withfire;and there was nodeliverer,because it was far from Zidon.—Not so far from Zidon, however, as Pennsylvania is from Britain; and yet we are, if possible, more careless than the people of Laish! As the Scriptures are given for our reproof, instruction, and warning, may we make a due use of this example before it be too late!
And is our country, any more than our city, altogether free from danger? Perhaps not. We have, it is true, had a long peace with the Indians; but it is a long peace indeed, as well as a long lane, that has no ending. The French know the power and importance of the Six Nations, and spare no artifice, pains, or expense to gain them to their interest. By their priests they have converted many to their religion, and these1 have openly espoused their cause. The rest appear irresolute what part to take; no persuasions, though enforced with costly presents, having yet been able to engage them generally on our side, though we had numerous forces on their borders ready to second and support them. What then may be expected, now those forces are, by orders from the crown, to be disbanded; when our boasted expedition is laid aside through want (as it may appear to them) either of strength or courage; when they see that the French and their Indians boldly and with impunity ravage the frontiers of New York, and scalp the inhabitants; when those few Indians that engaged with us against the French are left exposed to their resentment? When they consider these things, is there no danger, through disgust at our usage, joined with fear of the French power, and greater confidence in their promises and protection than in ours, they may be wholly gained over by our enemies, and join in the war against us? If such should be the case, which God forbid, how soon may the mischief spread to our frontier counties? And what may we expect to be the consequence, but desertion of plantations, ruin, bloodshed, and confusion?
Perhaps some in the city, towns, and plantations near the river may say to themselves: “An Indian war on the frontiers will not affect us; the enemy will never come near our habitations; let those concerned take care of themselves.” And others who live in the country, when they are told of the danger the city is in from attempts by sea, may say: “What is that to us? The enemy will be satisfied with the plunder of the town, and never think it worth his while to visit our plantations; let the town take care of itself.” These are not mere suppositions, for I have heard some talk in this strange manner. But are these the sentiments of true Pennsylvanians, of fellow-countrymen, or even of men that have common-sense or goodness? Is not the whole province one body, united by living under the same laws and enjoying the same privileges? Are not the people of city and country connected as relations, both by blood and marriage, and in friendships equally dear? Are they not likewise united in interest, and mutually useful and necessary to each other? When the feet are wounded, shall the head say: “It is not I; I will not trouble myself to contrive relief!” Or if the head is in danger, shall the hands say: “We are not affected, and therefore will lend no assistance!” No. For so would the body be easily destroyed; but when all parts join their endeavours for its security, it is often preserved. And such should be the union between the country and the town; and such their mutual endeavours for the safety of the whole. When New England, a distant colony, involved itself in a grievous debt to reduce Cape Breton, we freely gave four thousand pounds for her relief. And at another time, remembering that Great Britain, still more distant, groaned under heavy taxes in supporting the war, we threw in our mite to her assistance, by a free gift of three thousand pounds; and shall country and town join in helping strangers (as those comparatively are), and yet refuse to assist each other?
But whatever different opinions we have of our security in other respects, our trade, all seem to agree, is in danger of being ruined in another year. The great success of our enemies, in two different cruises this last summer in our bay, must give them the greatest encouragement to repeat more frequently their visits, the profit being almost certain, and the risk next to nothing. Will not the first effect of this be an enhancing of the price of all foreign goods to the tradesman and farmer who use or consume them? For the rate of insurance will increase in proportion to the hazard of importing them; and in the same proportion will the price of those goods increase. If the price of the tradesman’s work and the farmer’s produce would increase equally with the price of foreign commodities, the damage would not be so great; but the direct contrary must happen. For the same hazard or rate of insurance that raises the price of what is imported, must be deducted out of and lower the price of what is exported. Without this addition and deduction, as long as the enemy cruise at our capes, and take those vessels that attempt to go out, as well as those that endeavour to come in, none can afford to trade, and business must be soon at a stand. And will not the consequences be a discouragement of many of the vessels that used to come from other places to purchase our produce, and thereby a turning of the trade to ports that can be entered with less danger, and capable of furnishing them with the same commodities as New York, &c.; a lessening of business to every shopkeeper, together with multitudes of bad debts, the high rate of goods discouraging the buyers, and the low rates of their labor and produce rendering them unable to pay for what they had bought; loss of employment to the tradesman, and bad pay for what little he does; and, lastly, loss of many inhabitants, who will retire to other provinces not subject to the like inconveniences; whence a lowering of the value of lands, lots, and houses?
The enemy, no doubt, have been told that the people of Pennsylvania are Quakers, and against all defence, from a principle of conscience. This, though true of a part, and that a small part only, of the inhabitants, is commonly said of the whole; and what may make it look probable to strangers is that, in fact, nothing is done by any part of the people towards their defence. But to refuse defending one’s self, or one’s country, is so unusual a thing among mankind, that possibly they may not believe it till, by experience, they find they can come higher and higher up our river, seize our vessels, land and plunder our plantations and villages, and retire with their booty unmolested. Will not this confirm the report, and give them the greatest encouragement to strike one bold stroke for the city and for the whole plunder of the river?
It is said by some that the expense of a vessel to guard our trade would be very heavy, greater than perhaps all the enemy can be supposed to take from us at sea would amount to, and that it would be cheaper for the government to open an insurance office and pay all losses. But is this right reasoning? I think not; for what the enemy takes is clear loss to us and gain to him, increasing his riches and strength as much as it diminishes ours, so making the difference double; whereas the money paid our own tradesmen for building and fitting out a vessel of defence remains in the country and circulates among us; what is paid to the officers and seamen that navigate her is also spent ashore, and soon gets into other hands; the farmer receives the money for her provisions, and, on the whole, nothing is clearly lost to the country but her wear and tear, or so much as she sells for at the end of the war less than her first cost. This loss, and a trifling one it is, is all the inconvenience; but how many and how great are the conveniences and advantages! And should the enemy, through our supineness and neglect to provide for the defence both of our trade and country, be encouraged to attempt this city, and, after plundering us of our goods, either burn it or put it to ransom, how great would that loss be, besides the confusion, terror, and distress so many hundreds of families would be involved in!
The thought of this latter circumstance so much affects me that I cannot forbear expatiating somewhat more upon it. You have, my dear countrymen and fellow-citizens, riches to tempt a considerable force to unite and attack you, but are under no ties or engagements to unite for your defence. Hence, on the first alarm, terror will spread over all; and as no man can with certainty depend that another will stand by him, beyond doubt very many will seek safety by a speedy flight. Those that are reputed rich will flee through fear of torture to make them produce more than they are able. The man that has a wife and children will find them hanging on his neck, beseeching him with tears to quit the city and save his life, to guide and protect them in that time of general desolation and ruin. All will run into confusion, amidst cries and lamentations, and the hurry and disorder of departers carrying away their effects. The few that remain will be unable to resist. Sacking the city will be the first, and burning it, in all probability, the last act of the enemy. This, I believe, will be the case if you have timely notice. But what must be your condition, if suddenly surprised, without previous alarm, perhaps in the night! Confined to your houses, you will have nothing to trust to but the enemy’s mercy. Your best fortune will be to fall under the power of commanders of king’s ships able to control the mariners, and not into the hands of licentious privateers. Who can, without the utmost horror, conceive the miseries from the latter, when your persons, fortunes, wives, and daughters shall be subject to the wanton and unbridled rage, rapine, and lust of negroes, mulattoes, and others, the vilest and most abandoned of mankind.1 A dreadful scene! which some may represent as exaggerated. I think it my duty to warn you; judge for yourselves.
It is true, with very little notice the rich may shift for themselves. The means of speedy flight are ready in their hands; and with some previous care to lodge money and effects in distant and secure places, though they should lose much, yet enough may be left them, and to spare. But most unhappily circumstanced indeed are we, the middling people, the tradesmen, shopkeepers, and farmers of the province and city! We cannot all fly with our families; and if we could, how shall we subsist? No; we and they, and what little we have gained by hard labor and industry, must bear the brunt; the weight of contributions extorted by the enemy (as it is of taxes among ourselves) must be surely borne by us. Nor can it be avoided, as we stand at present; for though we are numerous we are quite defenceless, having neither forts, arms, union, nor discipline. And though it were true that our trade might be protected at no great expense, and our country and our city easily defended, if proper measures were but taken, yet who shall take these measures? Who shall pay that expense? On whom may we fix our eyes with the least expectation that they will do any thing for our security? Should we address that wealthy and powerful body of people who have ever since the war governed our elections and filled almost every seat in our Assembly;—should we entreat them to consider, if not as friends, at least as legislators, that protection is as truly due from the government to the people, as obedience from the people to the government; and that if, on account of their religious scruples, they themselves could do no act for our defence, yet they might retire, relinquish their power for a season, quit the helm to freer hands during the present tempest—to hands, chosen by their own interest too, whose prudence and moderation, with regard to them, they might safely confide in, secure, from their own native strength, of resuming again their present station whenever it shall please them;—should we remind them, that the public money, raised from all, belongs to all; that since they have, for their own ease, and to secure themselves in the quiet enjoyment of their religious principles (and may they long enjoy them), expended such large sums to oppose petitions, and engage favorable representations of their conduct, if they themselves could by no means be free to appropriate any part of the public money for our defence, yet it would be no more than justice to spare us a reasonable sum for that purpose, which they might easily give to the King’s use as heretofore, leaving all the appropriation to others, who would faithfully apply it as we desired;—should we tell them, that, though the treasury be at present empty, it may soon be filled by the outstanding public debts collected, or at least credit might be had for such a sum, on a single vote of the Assembly; that though they themselves may be resigned and easy under this naked, defenceless state of the country, it is far otherwise with a very great part of the people,—with us, who can have no confidence that God will protect those that neglect the use of rational means for their security, nor have any reason to hope that our losses, if we should suffer any, may be made up by collections in our favor at home;—should we conjure them by all the ties of neighbourhood, friendship, justice, and humanity to consider these things; and what distraction, misery, and confusion, what desolation and distress, may possibly be the effect of their unseasonable predominancy and perseverance:—yet all would be in vain; for they have already been, by great numbers of the people, petitioned in vain. Our late Governor did for years solicit, request, and even threaten them in vain. The Council have since twice remonstrated to them in vain. Their religious prepossessions are unchangeable, their obstinacy invincible. Is there, then, the least hope remaining, that from that quarter any thing should arise for our security?
And is our prospect better, if we turn our eyes to the strength of the opposite party, those great and rich men, merchants and others, who are ever railing at Quakers for doing what their principles seem to require, and what in charity we ought to believe they think their duty, but take no one step themselves for the public safety? They have so much wealth and influence, if they would use it, that they might easily, by their endeavours and example, raise a military spirit among us, make us fond, studious of, and expert in, martial discipline, and effect every thing that is necessary, under God, for our protection. But envy seems to have taken possession of their hearts, and to have eaten out and destroyed every generous, noble, public-spirited sentiment. Rage, at the disappointment of their little schemes for power, gnaws their souls, and fills them with such cordial hatred to their opponents, that every proposal, by the execution of which those may receive benefit as well as themselves, is rejected with indignation. “What,” they say, “shall we lay out our money to protect the trade of Quakers? Shall we fight to defend Quakers? No; let the trade perish, and the city burn; let what will happen, we shall never lift a finger to prevent it.” Yet the Quakers have conscience to plead for their resolution not to fight, which these gentlemen have not. Conscience with you, gentlemen, is on the other side of the question; conscience enjoins it as a duty on you (and, indeed, I think it such on every man) to defend your country, your friends, your aged parents, your wives, and helpless children; and yet you resolve not to perform this duty, but act contrary to your own consciences, because the Quakers act according to theirs. Till of late, I could scarce believe the story of him who refused to pump in a sinking ship, because one on board, whom he hated, would be saved by it as well as himself. But such, it seems, is the unhappiness of human nature, that our passions, when violent, often are too hard for the united force of reason, duty, and religion.
Thus unfortunately are we circumstanced at this time, my dear countrymen and fellow-citizens; we, I mean, the middling people, the farmers, shopkeepers, and tradesmen of this city and country. Through the dissensions of our leaders, through mistaken principles of religion, joined with a love of worldly power, on the one hand; through pride, envy, and implacable resentment on the other; our lives, our families, and little fortunes, dear to us as any great man’s can be to him, are to remain continually exposed to destruction from an enterprising, cruel, now well-informed, and by success, encouraged enemy. It seems as if Heaven, justly displeased at our growing wickedness, and determined to punish1 this once-favored land, had suffered our chiefs to engage in these foolish and mischievous contentions for little posts and paltry distinctions, that our hands might be bound up, our understandings darkened and misled, and every means of our security neglected. It seems as if our greatest men, our cives nobilissimi2 of both parties, had sworn the ruin of the country, and invited the French, our most inveterate enemy, to destroy it. Where then shall we seek for succour and protection? The government we are immediately under denies it to us; and if the enemy comes, we are far from Zidon, and there is no deliverer near. Our case is dangerously bad; but perhaps there is yet a remedy, if we have but the prudence and the spirit to apply it.
If this new, flourishing city and greatly improving colony is destroyed and ruined, it will not be for want of numbers of inhabitants able to bear arms in its defence. It is computed that we have at least (exclusive of the Quakers) sixty thousand fighting men, acquainted with firearms, many of them hunters and marksmen, hardy and bold. All we want is order, discipline, and a few cannon. At present we are like the separate filaments of flax before the thread is formed, without strength, because without connexion; but union would make us strong and even formidable, though the great should neither help nor join us; though they should even oppose our uniting, from some mean views of their own, yet, if we resolve upon it, and it pleases God to inspire us with the necessary prudence and vigor, it may be effected. Great numbers of our people are of British race; and, though the fierce fighting animals of those happy Islands are said to abate their native fire and intrepidity when removed to a foreign clime, yet with the people it is not so; our neighbours of New England afford the world a convincing proof that Britons, though a hundred years transplanted, and to the remotest part of the earth, may yet retain, even to the third and fourth descent, that zeal for the public good, that military prowess, and that undaunted spirit which has in every age distinguished their nation. What numbers have we likewise of thosebrave people, whose fathers in the last age made so glorious a stand for our religion and liberties, when invaded by a powerful French army, joined by Irish Catholics, under a bigoted Popish king! Let the memorable siege of Londonderry, and the signal actions of the Iniskillingers, by which the heart of that Prince’s schemes were broken, be perpetual testimonies of the courage and conduct of those noble warriors! Nor are there wanting amongst us thousands of that warlike nation, whose sons have ever since the time of Cæsar maintained the character he gave their fathers, of joining the most obstinate courage to all the other military virtues,—I mean the brave and steady Germans, numbers of whom have actually borne arms in the service of their respective Princes; and if they fought well for their tyrants and oppressors, would they refuse to unite with us in defence of their newly acquired and most precious liberty and property? Were this union formed, were we once united, thoroughly armed and disciplined, was every thing in our power done for our security, as far as human means and foresight could provide, we might then, with more propriety, humbly ask the assistance of Heaven, and a blessing on our lawful endeavours. The very fame of our strength and readiness would be a means of discouraging our enemies; for it is a wise and true saying, that one sword often keeps another in the scabbard. The way to secure peace is to be prepared for war. They that are on their guard, and appear ready to receive their adversaries, are in much less danger of being attacked than the supine, secure, and negligent. We have yet a winter before us which may afford a good and almost sufficient opportunity for this, if we seize and improve it with a becoming vigor. And if the hints contained in this paper are so happy as to meet with a suitable disposition of mind in his countrymen and fellow-citizens, the writer of it will, in a few days, lay before them a form of association for the purposes herein mentioned, together with a practicable scheme for raising the money necessary for the defence of our trade, city, and country, without laying a burthen on any man.
May the God of wisdom, strength, and power, the Lord of the armies of Israel, inspire us with prudence in this time of danger, take away from us all the seeds of contention and division, and unite the hearts and counsels of all of us, of whatever sect or nation, in one bond of peace, brotherly love, and generous public spirit; may he give us strength and resolution to amend our lives and remove from among us every thing that is displeasing to him, afford us his most gracious protection, confound the designs of our enemies, and give peace in all our borders, is the sincere prayer of
A Tradesman of Philadelphia.
[1 ]The first edition of this pamphlet seems to be out of print. The second, at the close of which first appeared the foregoing translation, was printed in 1747. The publication was provoked by the defenceless condition of the colony at that time, exposed as it was to Spain on the south and to France on the west, with both of which nations Great Britain was then at war; to say nothing of the Indians, who, like the poor, they had always with them. The efforts to induce the Quaker Assembly of Pennsylvania to pass a militia law, and make other provisions for the security of the province, having proved abortive, Franklin proposed to try what might be done by voluntary subscription of the people. “To promote this,” he says in his Autobiography, “I first wrote and published a pamphlet entitled Plain Truth.” Its success was extraordinary (see Autobiography, vol. i., p. 213). An answer to it, entitled Necessary Truth, and enforcing the Quaker doctrine of non-resistance, was published in 1748. It came too late to impair, if it ever could have impaired, the impression left upon the colony by Plain Truth.
[1 ]The Praying Indians.
[1 ]By accounts, the ragged crew of the Spanish privateer that plundered Mr. Liston’s and another plantation, a little below Newcastle, was composed of such as these. The honor and humanity of their officers may be judged of by the treatment they gave poor Captain Brown, whom they took with Martin’s ship in returning from their cruise. Because he bravely defended himself and vessel longer than they expected, for which every generous enemy would have esteemed him, did they, after he had struck and submitted, barbarously stab and murder him, though on his knees, begging quarter!
[1 ]When God determined to punish his chosen people, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who, though breakers of his other laws, were scrupulous observers of that one, which required keeping holy the Sabbath-day, he suffered even the strict observation of that command to be their ruin, for Pompey, observing that they then obstinately refused to fight, made a general assault on that day, took the town, and butchered them with as little mercy as he found resistance.—Josephus.
[2 ]Conjuravere cives nobilissimi patriam incendere, gallorum gentem, infestissimam nomini Romano, ad bellum arcessunt.—Cato, in Sallust.