Smithsonian

The Costs of Revolution

Where the money is to come from which will defray this enormous annual expense of three millions sterling, and all those other debts, I know not; unless the author of Common Sense, or some other ingenious projector, can discover the Philosopher’s Stone, by which iron and other base metals may be transmuted into gold. Certain I am that our commerce and agriculture, the two principal sources of our wealth, will not support such an expense. The whole of our exports from the Thirteen United Colonies, in the year 1769, amounted only to £2,887,898 sterling; which is not so much, by near half a million, as our annual expense would be were we independent of Great Britain. Those exports; with no inconsiderable part of the profits arising from them, it is well known, centered finally in Britain to pay the merchants and manufacturers there for goods we had imported thence—and yet left us still in debt! What then must our situation be, or what the state of our trade, when oppressed with such a burden of annual expense! When every article of commerce, every necessary of life, together with our lands, must be heavily taxed to defray that expense!

—Charles Inglis, 1776, Pennsylvania

Source: Teresa O’Neill, ser. ed., Opposing Viewpoints: The American Revolution, American History Series (San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1992).