The following was written in December, 1776 after the United States had declared its Independence from Great Britain. They declared, and now they must actually get, their freedom.
Thomas Paine was actually an Englishman who saw the American cause as his own. He wrote many great words of encouragement to the Patriots during this trying time.
I’ve been reading Our Sacred Honor: The Stories, Letters, Songs, Poems, Speeches, and Hymns that Gave Birth to Our Nation, which is filled with great documents and speeches from our founding fathers. In it, the author writes this about The Crisis:
“Paine write The American Crisis – reportedly using a battle drum for a desk – by the light of the campfire to boost morale. He left the camp for Philadelphia to have copies printed, which George Washington ordered to be read aloud to his men on Christmas Eve 1776. After it was read, the American Troops crossed the Delaware and launched a surprise attack on the Hessian soldiers at Trenton. The American victory at Trenton infused new life into the patriots’ cause and showed the British that the American army was not ready to bow out yet.”
I’d like to share a portion of it here. You may recognize some of these words. What I’d like for you to do is to see how relevant his words are today.
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. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: ’tis dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed, if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated. Britain, with an army to enforce her tyranny, has declared that she has a right (not only to TAX) but “to BIND us in ALL CASES WHATSOEVER,” and if being bound in that manner, is not slavery, then there is not such a thing as slavery upon earth. Even the expression is impious, for so unlimited a power can belong only to God. . .
Quitting this class of men, I turn with warm ardor of a friend to those who have nobly stood, and are yet determined to stand the matter out: I call not on a few, but upon all: not on this state or that state, but upon every state; up and help us; lay your shoulders to the wheel; better have too much force than too little, when so great an object is at stake. Let it be told to the future world, than in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive, the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet and to repulse it. Say not that the thousands are gone, turn out your tens of thousands; throw not the burden of the day upon Providence, but “show your faith by your works,” that God may bless you.
It matters not where you live, or what rank of life you hold, the evil or the blessing will reach you all. The far and the near, the home counties and the back, the rich and the poor, will suffer or rejoice alike. The heart that feels not now, is dead: the blood of his children will curse his cowardice, who shrinks back at a time when a little might have saved the whole, and made them happy. I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection.
‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink; but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death. My own line of reasoning is to myself as straight and clear as a ray of light. Not all treasures of the world, so far as I believe, could have induced me to support an offensive war, for I think it murder; but if a thief breaks into my house, burns and destroys my property, and kills or threatens to kill me, or those that are in it, and to “bind me in all cases whatsoever,” to his absolute will, am I to suffer it? what signifies it to me, whether he who does it is a king or a common man; my countryman or not my countryman: whether it be done by an individual villain, or an army of them? If we reason to the root of things we shall find no difference; neither can any just cause be assigned why we should punish the one case and pardon the other. Let them call me rebel, and welcome, I feel no concern from it; but I should suffer the misery of devils, were I to make a whore of my soul by swearing allegiance to one whose character is that of a sottish, stupid, stubborn, worthless, brutish man.
I thank God that I fear not. I see no real cause for fear. I know our situation well, and can see the way out of it.
By perseverance and fortitude we have the prospect of a glorious issue; by cowardice and submission, the sad choice of a variety of evils – a ravaged country – a depopulated city – habitations without safety, and slavery without hope – our homes turned barracks and bawdyhouses for Hessians, and a future race to provide for, whose fathers we shall doubt of. Look on this picture and weep over it! and if there yet remains one thoughtless wretch who believes it not, let him suffer it unlamented.
Can you see how this gave the patriots the will to go on marching in the snow, with little food, clothing, blankets, and hope?
William Bennet states in Our Sacred Honor that the Revolution was fought with the sword and the pen. And I’ve also heard somewhere that the pen is mightier than the sword. Maybe; but the results of the pen still speak to us many generations later, and encourage us to KEEP what it is they fought for.