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 who 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. 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.
I once felt that kind of anger, which a man ought to feel against the mean principles that are held by our foes. A noted one, who kept a tavern, was standing at his door, with this beautiful child in his hand, about eight or nine years old. More beautiful than I had ever seen, and after speaking his mind as freely as he thought was prudent, he finished with this unfatherly expression, "Well, give me peace in my day." Not a man who lives on the continent, but fully believes that separation has to come at some time or another. It's going to finally take place, and a generous parent should have said, "If there must be trouble, then let it come in my day so my child may have peace." Not a place on earth might be so happy as America. Her situation is remote from all the wrangling world, and she has nothing to do with any of them, but to trade with them. A man can distinguish himself between temper and principle, and I am as confident as I am that God governs the world, that America will never be happy until she gets clear of foreign dominion, she gets clear of all these wars, without ceasing, will break out till that period arrives, and the continent must in the end be conqueror. Though the flame of liberty may sometimes cease to shine, the coal will never expire.
Don't tell me this is revenge. Call it rather the soft resentment of a suffering people who, having no object in view but the good for all, have staked their own upon a seemingly doubtful event. Yet it's folly to argue against determined hardness. Eloquence may strike the ear and the language of sorry draw forth a tear of compassion, but nothing can reach the heart that is steeled with prejudice. I've quit this class of men. I turned with a warm love of a friend to those who have nobly stood and are still determined to stand, no matter what.
I don't call upon a few. I call upon all. Not on this state or that state, but on every state. Get up. Lay your shoulder to the wheel. It's better to have too much force than too little, when so great an object is at stake. Let it be told to the future world that in the depth of winter, when 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. Don't tell me that thousands are gone. Turn out your tens of thousands. Don't throw the burden of the day upon Providence, but "show your faith by works," that God may bless you. It doesn't matter where you live. It doesn't matter what rank of life you hold. The evil or the blessing will reach us all. The far and the near, the home counties and the back, the rich and the poor, we're all going to suffer or all rejoice. The heart that doesn't feel it now is dead. The blood of his children will curse his cowardice, who shrinks back at a time when just 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, that can 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 to death. My own line of reasoning is to myself as straight and clear as a ray of light.
Go ahead. Let them call me a rebel. Let them call me a traitor. I welcome it. I have no concern from it. I will not 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 at receiving mercy from a being who at the last day will be shrieking for the rocks and the mountains to cover him and fleeing with terror from the orphan and the widow and from the slain of America. There are persons who don't see the full extent of the evil which threatens them. They take solace with hopes that the enemy, if he succeeds, will be merciful. It's the madness of folly to expect mercy from those who have refused to do justice, and even mercy, where conquest was the object. That's a trick of the fog of war. The coming of the fox is as murderous as the violence of the wolf, and you ought to guard equally against both.
I thank God that I fear not. I don't see any real cause for fear. I know our situation well, and I 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, slavery without hope --- our homes turned into barracks, bawdy houses, 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.
Thomas Paine. December 23rd, 1776. Without comment needed.
The American Crisis is a pamphlet series by 18th century Enlightenment philosopher and author Thomas Paine, originally published from 1776 to 1783 during the American Revolution.