The American Crisis (1776)

In the fall of 1776, the American army lost to British forces at Long Island (NY), White Plains (NY), Ft. Washington and Ft. Lee.  Historians estimate over 500 Americans were killed and over 4000 American soldiers were taken prisoner.  The British captured over 100 cannon and 1000’s of muskets.  Present at Ft. Lee, and serving as aide to General Nathanael Green, was Thomas Paine.  In December 1776, Thomas Paine later recalled, “I sat down, and in what I may call a passion of patriotism, wrote the first number of 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 their country; but he that stands by 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: it is dearness only that gives everything its value…  Not a man lives on the continent but fully believes that a separation [from Great Britain] must some time or other finally take place…  I am as confident, as I am that God governs the world, that America will never be happy ‘till she gets clear of foreign dominion… 

I call not upon a few, but upon all: not on this state or that state, but on every state: up and help us…  better [to] have too much force than too little, when so great an object is at stake… The heart that feels not now is dead; [and] 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.”  Thomas PaineThe [American] Crisis No. 1, December 23, 1776

 


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