Sunday, October 22, 2006


The Crisis by Thomas Paine

December 23, 1776

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 every thing 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 is there not such a thing as slavery upon earth. Even the expression is impious; for so unlimited a power can belong only to God.

There is more to this and is available @

Paine is best known for his 1776 pamphlet, Common Sense, advocating American independence from England.

The phrase "these are the times that try men's souls" was the opening line from the first of a series of pamphlets Paine began writing in December 1776. Titled The American Crisis, or The Crisis, the "time" the pamphlets referred to was the start of the American Revolutionary War. As researcher Richard C. DeStefano points out, Paine "used media as a weapon against British rule."

The movement towards independence was not universally supported in the American colonies at that time. While patriots like General George Washington led his troops into battle, other colonists were either loyal to Britain or neutral and didn't want war. Paine's eloquent yet straightforward writing emphasized the injustice of British actions towards the colonies. And Paine wasn't above slinging some mud, describing the British king as "a sottish, stupid, stubborn, worthless, brutish man."

Another familiar sentiment from The Crisis is this: "The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value." To the patriots, independence and freedom were worth the price of war. This idea was probably well-received by General Washington's troops when it was read aloud to them on Christmas Eve in 1776.

The whole series of The American Crisis was influential in the colonies, and support for the War of Independence grew. Many loyalists turned away from the British Crown, and neutral colonists saw the need to protect their human dignity by force of arms.

After the war, Paine continued to write about revolutionary topics, both in Europe and America. However his critiques of Christianity made him many enemies, and he died with few mourners in 1809. But the power of his prose was not entirely forgotten. As Andrew Jackson said: "Thomas Paine needs no monument made by hands. He has erected a monument in the hearts of all lovers of liberty."

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