These are the times that try men's souls

Thomas Paine
Thomas Paine

American Minute with Bill Federer

The Continental Army was driven out of New York and New Jersey.

Ranks dwindled from 20,000, after the Declaration of Independence was signed, down to 2,000, and these were planning on returning to their farms at year’s end when their 6-month enlistment was up.

Then the Pennsylvania Journal published an article, “The American Crisis,” on DECEMBER 23, 1776, written by Thomas Paine, an aide-de-camp of General Nathanael Greene.

General Washington ordered it read to his troops:

“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…

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… Heaven knows how to put a price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated…”

Thomas Paine continued in “The American Crisis”:

“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…that…is not slavery, then is there not such a thing as slavery…

So unlimited a power can belong only to God…

God Almighty will not give up a people to military destruction…who have so earnestly…sought to avoid the calamities of war…

Neither have I so much of the infidel in me, as to suppose that He has relinquished the government of the world…to the care of devils…

I cannot see on what grounds the king of Britain can look up to heaven for help against us: a common murderer, a highwayman, or a house-breaker…”

Thomas Paine wrote further:

“Britain…trembled…at the report of a French fleet of flat-bottomed boats;

and in the (fifteenth) century the whole English army, after ravaging the kingdom of France, was driven back like men petrified with fear…by a few broken forces…headed by a woman, Joan of Arc.

Would that heaven might inspire some Jersey maid to spirit up her countrymen, and save her fair fellow sufferers from ravage and ravishment!..

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…”

Paine added:

“Let it be told to the future world, that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive, that…the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to…to repulse it…

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…will reach you…

The blood of his children will curse his cowardice, who shrinks back at a time when a little might have saved the whole…

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…”

Paine’s “The American Crisis” went on:

“Not all the treasures of the world…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…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?…

Let them call me rebel…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 conceive likewise a horrid idea in receiving mercy from a being, who at the last day shall be shrieking to the rocks and mountains to cover him, and fleeing with terror from the orphan, the widow, and the slain of America…”

Paine continued:

“There are persons, too, who see not the full extent of the evil which threatens them; they solace themselves with hopes that the enemy, if he succeed, will be merciful.

It is the madness of folly, to expect mercy from those who have refused to do justice; and even mercy, where conquest is the object, is only a trick of war; the cunning of the fox is as murderous as the violence of the wolf, and we ought to guard equally against both.”

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“The American Crisis” warned:

“Howe’s first object is, partly by threats and partly by promises, to terrify or seduce the people to deliver up their arms and receive mercy…

This is what the Tories call making their peace…A peace which would be the immediate forerunner of a worse ruin than any we have yet thought of…

Were the back counties to give up their arms, they would fall an easy prey to the Indians, who are all armed: this perhaps is what some Tories would not be sorry for.

Were the home counties to deliver up their arms, they would be exposed to the resentment of the back counties who would then have it in their power to chastise their defection at pleasure.

And were any one state to give up its arms, that state must be garrisoned by all Howe’s army of Britons and Hessians…”

“Howe is mercifully inviting you to barbarous destruction, and men must be…fools that will not see it…

Paine ended:

I thank God, that I fear not.”

Two days later, General Washington led the Continental Army to attack the Hessian troops at the Battle of Trenton.

Bill FedererThe Moral Liberal contributing editor, William J. Federer, is the bestselling author of “Backfired: A Nation Born for Religious Tolerance no Longer Tolerates Religion,” and numerous other books. A frequent radio and television guest, his daily American Minute is broadcast nationally via radio, television, and Internet. Check out all of Bill’s books here.

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