The American Crisis No. I, by Thomas Paine, edited for 21st Century

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  1. Ryz05
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    Ryz05 Junior Member

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    These are the times that try men's souls.

    The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will shrink from the service of their country in a time of crisis, but those that stand deserve the love and gratitude of man and woman.

    Tyranny is hell and not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.

    We esteem too lightly what is cheap, and dearness is what gives every thing its value.

    Heaven gives proper price upon its goods, so it is fitting that such celestial an article as freedom should be highly rated.

    Britain has bound America within its imperialist ambitions. If this is not slavery, then there is no such thing as slavery.

    If people wonder if the declaration for independence is too soon or too long delayed, then it is my opinion that it should have begun eight months earlier. We did not and could not make haste during the winter, as a dependent state. This is a fault we have none to blame but ourselves.

    But nothing great of value is lost.

    All that Howe has been doing for this month is ravage rather than conquest, which the spirit of the Jerseys would have quickly repulsed, and recovered just as swiftly.

    I am as superstitious as any man living, but my opinion is that God Almighty will not give up a people to military destruction, or allow them to perish, when they so earnestly and repeatedly sought to avoid the calamities of war, by every decent method wisdom could invent.

    Neither do I dare to suppose that He has relinquished the government of the world, and given us up to the care of devils, because I cannot see on what grounds the king of Britain can look up to heaven for help against us, in the same sense that a common murderer or house-breaker could against their victims.

    It is surprising to note how rapidly panic will grip a country.

    All nations and ages have been subject to panics. Britain has trembled at reports of French fleet with flat-bottomed boats; and in the 1400s, the whole, ravaging English army was driven back by Joan of Arc with her collection of broken forces.

    Would that same heaven inspire some American maid to spirit up her countrymen, and save her fellow sufferers from ravage and ravishment!

    Yet panics have their uses, for they produce as much good as hurt. Their duration is always short, because the mind soon grows out of them. But their peculiar advantage is of being the touchstones of sincerity and hypocrisy, and brings the matters of men to light, that might otherwise have lain forever undiscovered. Panics sift out the hidden thoughts of man, and hold them publically to the world.

    Many a disguised Tory will curse the day on which Howe arrived upon the Delaware.
    As I was with the troops at Fort Lee, and marched with them to the edge of Pennsylvania, I have personal experiences with what happened. For our situation there was exceedingly cramped, with the place being a narrow neck of land between the North River and the Hackensack. Our force was scarce, being less than one-fourth the size of Howe’s.

    We had no backup army, and our ammunition, light artillery, and the best provisions had been removed, to prevent their capture by Howe; for it must occur to every thinking man, whether in the army or not, that these kind of field forts are only for temporary purposes, and only serve as long as the enemy is willing to attack them.

    Such was our situation and condition at Fort Lee on the morning of November 20th, when an officer reported 200 enemy boats had landed seven miles north; Major General Green, who commanded the garrison, immediately mobilized, and sent words to General Washington at the town of Hackensack, six miles away by ferry.

    Our first objective was to secure Hackensack Bridge, which lays six miles from us, and three from the enemy. General Washington arrived in about forty-five minutes, and marched at the head of the troops towards the bridge. However, the enemy did not fight with us, and the greatest part of our troops went over the bridge, the rest over the ferry (some passed a mill on a small creek, between the bridge and the ferry, and made their way through some marshy grounds up to the town of Hackensack, and passed the river there).

    We carried as much baggage as the wagons could contain, while the rest was lost. The simple objective was to escape, and march until we can be reinforced by the Jersey or Pennsylvania militia. We stayed four days at Newark, collected together some of the Jersey militia from the outposts, and marched out twice to meet the enemy (after being informed that they were advancing), even though our numbers were greatly inferior.

    Howe might have committed a great error by not invading from Staten Island through Amboy, by which he could have seized all our stores at Brunswick, and intercepted our march into Pennsylvania. If we were to believe the power of hell to be limited, we must likewise believe that their agents are under some providential control.

    I shall now detail our retreat to Delaware; suffice it to say, that both officers and men, though greatly harassed and fatigued, and frequently without rest, covering, or food (being the inevitable consequences of a long retreat), bore the hardships with a manly and martial spirit.

    All their wishes centered on the assumption that the country would turn out and help them drive the enemy back. Voltaire has remarked that King William never appeared fully till times of difficulty and in action, and the same remark could be said of General Washington, for the character fits him.

    There is a natural firmness in certain minds which cannot be unlocked by trifles, but when unlocked, discovers a cabinet of fortitude. I reckon it among the public blessings that God hath blessed him with uninterrupted health, and given him a mind that can even flourish upon care.

    I shall conclude this paper with some miscellaneous remarks on the state of our affairs; and begin by asking: Why did the enemy leave the New England provinces, and made war on these middle ones?

    The answer is easy: We are infested with Tories, and New England is not. I have cried against these men, and used numerous arguments to show them the danger, but we will not sacrifice a world either by their folly or their baseness. The time has come when either they or we must change sentiments, or one or both must fall.

    And what is a Tory?

    Good God! What is he?

    I would go with a hundred Whigs against a thousand Tories, were they to attempt to get into arms. Every Tory is a coward; for servile, slavish, self-interested fear is the foundation of Toryism; and a man under such influence, though he may be cruel, never can be brave.

    But, before we draw the line of irrecoverable separation between us, let us reason together: Your conduct is an invitation to the enemy, yet not one in a thousand has heart enough to join him. Howe is as much deceived by you as the American cause is injured.

    He expects you will all take up arms, and flock to his standard, with muskets on your shoulders. Your opinions do not matter to him, unless you personally support him, for 'tis soldiers that he wants.

    I once felt that anger, which a man ought to feel, against the mean principles that are held by Tories, and one incident comes to mind: a man who has a tavern at Amboy, was standing by his door, with as pretty a child in his hand, about eight or nine years old, as I ever saw, and after speaking his mind as freely as he thought was prudent, finished with this unfatherly expression, "Well! Give me peace in my day."

    Every man who lives on the continent fully believes that a separation must come sometime or another, and a generous parent should have said, "If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace;" and this single reflection, well applied, is sufficient to awaken every man to duty.

    Not a place upon earth is as happy as America. Her situation is remote from the wrangling world, and she has nothing to do but trade with them.

    A man can distinguish himself between temper and principle, and I am as confident in declaring that God governs the world, that America will never be happy till she gets clear of foreign dominion.

    Wars, without ceasing, will break out till that period arrives, and the continent must in the end be the conqueror; for though the flame of liberty may sometimes cease to shine, the coal can never expire.

    America did not, nor does it want force; but she wanted a proper application of that force.

    Wisdom is not the purchase of a day, and it is no wonder that we should err at the first start.

    From an excess of tenderness, we were unwilling to raise an army, and trusted our cause to the temporary defense by a well-meaning militia. A summer's experience has now taught us better; yet with those troops, while they were collected, we were able to stop the progress of the enemy, and, thank God! They are again assembling.

    I always considered militia as the best troops in the world for a sudden exertion, but they will not do for a long campaign. Howe, it is probable, will make an attempt on Philadelphia. Should he fail here on this side of the Delaware, he will be ruined.

    If he succeeds, our cause still continues.

    He stakes all on his side against a part of ours; admitting he succeeds, the consequence will be that armies from both ends of the continent will march to assist their suffering friends in the middle states. Howe cannot go everywhere; it is impossible.

    I consider Howe as the greatest enemy the Tories have, because he is bringing a war into their country. Had it not been partly because of Tories, this could have never happened.

    (continues on second post)

    The American Crisis - The Crisis No. I
    Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776.

    Original text: https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Crisis_No._I

     
    #1 Ryz05, Sep 8, 2017
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  2. Ryz05
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    Ryz05 Junior Member

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    Should he now be expelled, I wish with all the devotion of a Christian, that the names of Whig and Tory may never more be mentioned; but should the Tories give him encouragement to come, or assistance if he come, I as sincerely wish that our next year's arms may expel them from the continent, and the Congress appropriate their possessions to the relief of those who have suffered in well-doing.

    A single successful battle next year will settle the whole.

    America could carry on a two years' war by the confiscation of the property of disaffected people, and be made happy by their expulsion. This is not revenge, but rather the soft resentment of a suffering people, who has the good of all in mind, and staked everything upon a seemingly doubtful event.

    Yet it is folly to argue against determination; eloquence may strike the ear, and the language of sorrow draw forth the tear of compassion, but nothing can reach the heart that is steeled with prejudice.

    I now turn with the warm ardor of a friend to those who have nobly stood, and are yet determined to stand the matter out. I call upon all, not just here or there, but on every state: get 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, when during the depth of winter, where nothing but hope and virtue could survive, that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet and repulse it.

    Say not that thousands are gone, but 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 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 everyone happy. I love the man that can smile in trouble, who 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 reasoning is as straight and clear as a ray of light. 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 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 for it? What does it matter, whether the attacker is a king or a common man; my countryman or not my countryman; whether it is done by an individual villain, or an army of them? There is no difference at the root of things; neither can it be justified why we should punish in the one case and pardon in the other. Let them call me a rebel, and 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 sluggish, stupid, stubborn, worthless, brutish man. I likewise abhor the idea of receiving mercy from a man, who shall be shrieking to the rocks and mountains for protection on the last day, and fleeing with terror from the orphan, the widow, and the slain of America.

    There are cases which cannot be overstated, and this is one. There are people, too, who see not the full extent of the evil which threatens them; they solace themselves with hopes that a victorious enemy will be merciful. It is the madness of folly, to expect mercy from those who have refused to do justice; and even mercy, where when conquest is the objective, 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. Howe's first objective is, by threats and promises, to terrify or seduce the people to give up arms and receive mercy. The ministry recommended the same plan to Gage, and this is what the Tories call making their peace: "a peace which passeth all understanding" indeed! A peace that would be the immediate forerunner of a worse ruin than any we have yet thought of. Ye men of Pennsylvania, do reason upon these things! Were the back counties to give up their arms, they would fall an easy prey to the Indians, who are all armed, and 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 chastise their defection at pleasure. And were any one state to give up its arms, that state would be garrisoned by all Howe's army of Britons and Hessians to protect it from the anger of the rest. Mutual fear is the principal link in the chain of mutual love, and woe be to that state that breaks the compact. Howe is mercifully inviting you to barbarous destruction, and men must be either rogues or fools that will not see it. I dwell not upon the vapors of imagination; I bring reason to your ears and, in language as plain as A, B, C, hold up truth to your eyes.

    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. While our army was collected, Howe dared not risk a battle, so it is no credit to him that he decamped from the White Plains, and waited a mean opportunity to ravage the defenseless Jerseys. But it is great credit to us, that with a handful of men, we sustained an orderly retreat for near an hundred miles, brought off our ammunition, all our field pieces, the greatest part of our stores, and passed four rivers.

    None can say that our retreat was precipitate, for we had three weeks to perform it, that the country might have time to come in. Twice we marched back to meet the enemy, and remained out till dark. The sign of fear was not seen in our camp, and had not some of the cowardly and disaffected inhabitants spread false alarms through the country, the Jerseys would have never been ravaged. Once more we are again collecting. Our new army at both ends of the continent is swiftly recruiting, and we shall be able to open the next campaign with sixty thousand men, well-armed and clothed. This is our situation, and who may know it. By perseverance and fortitude we have the prospect of a glorious issue; by cowardice and submission will be the sad choice of a variety of evils: a ravaged country, a depopulated city, habitations without safety, and slavery without hope; our homes turned into barracks and bawdy-houses for Hessians, and a future occupier to provide for; whose fathers we shall doubt of. Look on this picture and weep over it! If there yet remains one thoughtless wretch who believes it not, let him suffer it unlamented.

    The American Crisis - The Crisis No. I
    Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776.

     
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  3. PiSigma
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    PiSigma "the engineer"

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    What is with the spam? This is so weird I don't even think it belongs in here.
     
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