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Common Sense Thomas Paine

Of The Present Ability Of America, With Some Miscellaneous Reflections

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The first and second editions of this pamphlet were published without the following calculations, which are now given as a proof that the above estimation of the navy is just. [See Entic's naval history, intro. page 56.]

The charge of building a ship of each rate, and furnishing her with masts, yards, sails and rigging, together with a proportion of eight months boatswain's and carpenter's seastores, as calculated by Mr. Burchett, Secretary to the navy.

                                [pounds Sterling]
  For a ship of a 100 guns    -   35,553
            90   -            -   29,886
            80   -            -   23,638
            70   -            -   17,795
            60   -            -   14,197
            50   -            -   10,606
            40   -            -    7,558
            30   -            -    5,846
            20   -            -    3,710

And from hence it is easy to sum up the value, or cost rather, of the whole British navy, which in the year 1757, when it was at its greatest glory consisted of the following ships and guns:

   Ships.      Guns.     Cost of one.        Cost of all
    6     -   100   -    35,553    -         213,318
   12     -    90   -    29,886    -         358,632
   12     -    80   -    23,638    -         283,656
   43     -    70   -    17,785    -         764,755
   35     -    60   -    14,197    -         496,895
   40     -    50   -    10,606    -         424,240
   45     -    40   -     7,558    -         340,110
   58     -    20   -     3,710    -         215,180

   85 Sloops, bombs,
     and fireships, one     2,000            170,000
     with another,                         _________
                                     Cost  3,266,786
     Remains for guns,   _________           233,214

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No country on the globe is so happily situated, or so internally capable of raising a fleet as America. Tar, timber, iron, and cordage are her natural produce. We need go abroad for nothing. Whereas the Dutch, who make large profits by hiring out their ships of war to the Spaniards and Portuguese, are obliged to import most of their materials they use. We ought to view the building a fleet as an article of commerce, it being the natural manufactory of this country. It is the best money we can lay out. A navy when finished is worth more than it cost. And is that nice point in national policy, in which commerce and protection are united. Let us build; if we want them not, we can sell; and by that means replace our paper currency with ready gold and silver.

In point of manning a fleet, people in general run into great errors; it is not necessary that one fourth part should he sailors. The Terrible privateer, Captain Death, stood the hottest engagement of any ship last war, yet had not twenty sailors on board, though her complement of men was upwards of two hundred. A few able and social sailors will soon instruct a sufficient number of active landmen in the common work of a ship. Wherefore, we never can be more capable to begin on maritime matters than now, while our timber is standing, our fisheries blocked up, and our sailors 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 rivalling 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 of both. The vast empire of Russia is almost shut out from the sea: wherefore, her boundless forests, her tar, iron, and cordage are only articles of commerce.

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Common Sense
Thomas Paine

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