If you think the title of this post relates to the condition of the United States these days, you’re only partly correct. It seems to me that America has often weathered severe tests of will. Somehow the U.S. has come out stronger as a result.
Actually, if you remember this famous snippet from your school days, you know about “The American Crisis”: “These are the times that try men’s souls; the summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”
This was the beginning paragraph of Thomas Paine’s “The American Crisis” that was first published on this date in 1776. It appeared as the first in a series of pamphlets. The essay was also published in the “Pennsylvania Journal” in order to speed its dissemination.
Thomas Paine’s liberal philosophy was sorely needed during the Revolutionary War with Great Britain. The militia and the civilian colonists’ morale was greatly boosted and inflamed by Paine’s inspirational and very patriotic writings. In fact, the entire first pamphlet was recited aloud to the troops of the Continental Army, later that month, a few days before the Battle of Trenton.
Paine’s rhetoric is credited with building morale among the patriots. It also served to shame the loylists to Britain and swayed more than a few people who had been neutral towards the independence movement.
Thomas Paine’s role in the American Revolution is sometimes overlooked and his philosophy has been downplayed by later, more conservative American political figures. But the fact remains that Paine’s essay “Common Sense” provided the spark to finally begin the war of liberation.
Paine observed with alarm, the retreat of the Minutemen from New York into New Jersey and sought to reignite and to save the revolution. It was from this desire that he authored “The American Crisis”.
This is exactly what happened. One of American history’s most famous stories relates that the long suffering soldiers and Hessians crossed the Delaware River on Christmas evening. They then engaged the King’s greatest general, Earl Cornwallis on January 2nd at the Battles of Princeton and Trenton. The tide of the war turned in favor of the colonists.
Today’s Americans continue to reap the benefits of the sacrifices of the revolution and the fire of Thomas Paine.
The Blue Jay of Happiness has this link to the text of thefirst pamphlet: http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/index.asp?document=2444