Front Page Titles (by Subject) To the People. - The Writings of Thomas Paine, Vol. I (1774-1779)
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To the People. - Thomas Paine, The Writings of Thomas Paine, Vol. I (1774-1779) 
The Writings of Thomas Paine, Collected and Edited by Moncure Daniel Conway (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1894). Vol. 1.
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To the People.
It is not a time to trifle. Men, who know they deserve nothing from their country, and whose hope is on the arm that hath fought to enslave ye, may hold out to you, as Cato hath done, the false light of reconciliation. There is no such thing. ‘Tis gone! ‘Tis past! The grave hath parted us—and death, in the persons of the slain, hath cut the thread of life between Britain and America.
Conquest, and not reconciliation is the plan of Britain. But admitting even the last hope of the Tories to happen, which is, that our enemies after a long succession of losses, wearied and disabled, should despairingly throw down their arms and propose a re-union; in that case, what is to be done? Are defeated and disappointed tyrants to be considered like mistaken and converted friends? Or would it be right, to receive those for Governors, who, had they been conquerors, would have hung us up for traitors? Certainly not. Reject the offer then, and propose another; which is, we will make peace with you as with enemies, but we will never re-unite with you as friends. This effected, and ye secure to yourselves the pleasing prospect of an eternal peace. America, remote from all the wrangling world, may live at ease. Bounded by the ocean, and backed by the wilderness, who hath she to fear, but her GOD?
Be not deceived. It is not a little that is at stake. Reconciliation will not now go down, even if it were offered. ‘Tis a dangerous question; for the eyes of all men begin to open. There is now no secret in the matter; there ought to be none. It is a case that concerns every man, and every man ought to lay it to heart. He that is here and he that was born here are alike concerned. It is needless, too, to split the business into a thousand parts, and perplex it with endless and fruitless investigations, in the manner that a writer signed a Common Man hath done. This unparalleled contention of nations is not to be settled like a schoolboy’s task of pounds, shillings, pence, and fractions. That writer, though he may mean well, is strangely below the mark: for the first and great question, and that which involves every other in it, and from which every other will flow, is happiness. Can this continent be happy under the government of Great Britain or not? Secondly, Can she be happy under a government of our own? To live beneath the authority of those whom we cannot love, is misery, slavery, or what name you please. In that case, there will never be peace. Security will be a thing unknown, because a treacherous friend in power is the most dangerous of enemies. The answer to the second question, Can America be happy under a government of her own, is short and simple, viz. As happy as she please; she hath a blank sheet to write upon. Put it not off too long.∗
Painful as the task of speaking truth must sometimes be, yet I cannot avoid giving the following hint, because much, nay almost every thing depends upon it; and that is, a thorough knowledge of the persons whom we trust. It is the duty of the public, at this time, to scrutinize closely into the conduct of their Committee Members, Members of Assembly, and Delegates in Congress; to know what they do, and their motives for so doing. Without doing this, we shall never know who to confide in; but shall constantly mistake friends for enemies, and enemies for friends, till in the confusion of persons we sacrifice the cause. I am led to this reflexion by the following circumstance. That the Gentleman to whom the unwise and arbitrary instructions to the Delegates of this province owe their being, and who hath bestowed all his power to support them, is said to be the same person who, when the ships now on the stocks were wanting timber, refused to sell it, and thus by preventing our strength to cry out of our insufficiency.—But his hour of fame is past—he is hastening to his political exit.
[∗]Forget not the hapless African.—Author.