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The American CrisisbyThomas Paine
The Crisis No. I

The American Yawp is a fully open resource: you are encouraged to use it, download it, distribute it, and modify it as you see fit. The project is formally operated under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International (CC-BY-SA) License and is designed to meet the stan-dards of a “Free Cultural Work.”. FDR and the American Crisis Alfred A. Marrin’s non-fiction book is a great reference for any student wanting to know more about FDR’s life, presidency, and controversial choices such as his continuation of Jim Crow laws and discrimination against Jews. Identify 5 words that FDR uses to describe the attack. What reasons does FDR give that suggest this was a “sneak attack”? Why does FDR repeat the phrase “last night Japan attacked”? Identify 5 words that Bush uses to describe the attack. For what reasons does Bush say we were attacked? In what way does he suggest the. Roosevelt was inaugurated as the 32nd U.S. President during the worst crisis America had faced since the Civil War. By early 1933, the U.S. Economy had sunk to its lowest point in the period known as the Great Depression. 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. Often known as The American Crisis or simply The Crisis, there are sixteen pamphlets in total. Thirteen numbered pamphlets were published between 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 oftheir country; but he that stands 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, hasdeclared that she has a right (not only to tax) but 'to bind us inall cases whatsoever,' and if being bound in that manner, is notslavery, then is there not such a thing as slavery upon earth. Eventhe expression is impious; for so unlimited a power can belong onlyto God.

Whether the independence of the continent was declared too soon, ordelayed too long, I will not now enter into as an argument; my ownsimple opinion is, that had it been eight months earlier, it wouldhave been much better.

We did not make a proper use of last winter, neither could we, while we were in a dependent state.

However, the fault, if it were one, was all our own*; we have none to blame butourselves.

But no great deal is lost yet.

All that Howe has been doing for this month past, is rather a ravage than a conquest, whichthe spirit of the Jerseys, a year ago, would have quickly repulsed, and which time and a little resolution will soon recover.

* The present winter is worth an age, if rightly employed; but, if lost or neglected, the whole continent will partake of the evil; and there is no punishment that man does not deserve, be he who, or what, or where he will, that may be the means of sacrificing a season so precious and useful.

I have as little superstition in me as any man living, but my secretopinion has ever been, and still is, that God Almighty will not giveup a people to military destruction, or leave them unsupportedly toperish, who have so earnestly and so repeatedly sought to avoid thecalamities of war, by every decent method which wisdom could invent.

Neither have I so much of the infidel in me, as to suppose that Hehas relinquished the government of the world, and given us up to thecare of devils; and as I do not, I cannot see on what grounds theking of Britain can look up to heaven for help against us: a commonmurderer, a highwayman, or a house-breaker, has as good a pretence ashe.

'Tis surprising to see how rapidly a panic will sometimes run througha country.

All nations and ages have been subject to them. Britainhas trembled like an ague at the report of a French fleet offlat-bottomed boats; and in the fourteenth [fifteenth] century thewhole English army, after ravaging the kingdom of France, was drivenback like men petrified with fear; and this brave exploit wasperformed by a few broken forces collected and headed by a woman,Joan of Arc.

Would that heaven might inspire some Jersey maid tospirit up her countrymen, and save her fair fellow sufferers fromravage and ravishment!

Yet panics, in some cases, have their uses;they produce as much good as hurt.


Their duration is always short;the mind soon grows through them, and acquires a firmer habit thanbefore.

But their peculiar advantage is, that they are thetouchstones of sincerity and hypocrisy, and bring things and men tolight, which might otherwise have lain forever undiscovered. In fact,they have the same effect on secret traitors, which an imaginaryapparition would have upon a private murderer. They sift out the hidden thoughts of man, and hold them up in public to the world.

Many a disguised Tory has lately shown his head, that shall penitentiallysolemnize with curses the day on which Howe arrived upon the Delaware.

As I was with the troops at Fort Lee, and marched with them to theedge of Pennsylvania, I am well acquainted with many circumstances,which those who live at a distance know but little or nothing of.

Our situation there was exceedingly cramped, the place being a narrowneck of land between the North River and the Hackensack. Our forcewas inconsiderable, being not one-fourth so great as Howe could bringagainst us.

We had no army at hand to have relieved the garrison, had we shut ourselves up and stood on our defence. Our ammunition, light artillery, and the best part of our stores, had been removed, on the apprehension that Howe would endeavor to penetrate the Jerseys, inwhich case Fort Lee could be of no use to us; for it must occur toevery thinking man, whether in the army or not, that these kind offield forts are only for temporary purposes, and last in use nolonger than the enemy directs his force against the particular objectwhich such forts are raised to defend.

Such was our situation and condition at Fort Lee on the morning of the 20th of November, when anofficer arrived with information that the enemy with 200 boats hadlanded about seven miles above; Major General [Nathaniel] Green, whocommanded the garrison, immediately ordered them under arms, and sentexpress to General Washington at the town of Hackensack, distant bythe way of the ferry = six miles.

Our first object was to secure the bridge over the Hackensack, which laid up the river between the enemy and us, about six miles from us, and three from them.

General Washington arrived in about three-quarters of an hour, and marched atthe head of the troops towards the bridge, which place I expected weshould have a brush for; however, they did not choose to dispute itwith us, and the greatest part of our troops went over the bridge,the rest over the ferry, except some which passed at a mill on asmall creek, between the bridge and the ferry, and made their waythrough some marshy grounds up to the town of Hackensack, and therepassed the river.

We brought off as much baggage as the wagons couldcontain, the rest was lost.

The simple object was to bring off the garrison, and march them on till they could be strengthened by the Jersey or Pennsylvania militia, so as to be enabled to make a stand.

We staid four days at Newark, collected our out-posts with some ofthe Jersey militia, and marched out twice to meet the enemy, on beinginformed that they were advancing, though our numbers were greatlyinferior to theirs.

Howe, in my little opinion, committed a great error in generalship in not throwing a body of forces off from Staten Island through Amboy, by which means he might have seized all ourstores at Brunswick, and intercepted our march into Pennsylvania; butif we believe the power of hell to be limited, we must likewisebelieve that their agents are under some providential control.

I shall not now attempt to give all the particulars of our retreat tothe Delaware; suffice it for the present to say, that both officersand men, though greatly harassed and fatigued, frequently withoutrest, covering, or provision, the inevitable consequences of a longretreat, bore it with a manly and martial spirit.

All their wishes centred in one, which was, that the country would turn out and helpthem to drive the enemy back. Voltaire has remarked that King Williamnever appeared to full advantage but in difficulties and in action;the same remark may be made on General Washington, for the characterfits him.

There is a natural firmness in some minds which cannot be unlocked by trifles, but which, when unlocked, discovers a cabinet of fortitude; and I reckon it among those kind of public blessings, which we do not immediately see, that God hath blessed him withuninterrupted health, and given him a mind that can even flourish upon care.

I shall conclude this paper with some miscellaneous remarks on thestate of our affairs; and shall begin with asking the followingquestion, Why is it that the enemy have left the New Englandprovinces, and made these middle ones the seat of war?

The answer is easy: New England is not infested with Tories, and we are. I havebeen tender in raising the cry against these men, and used numberlessarguments to show them their danger, but it will not do to sacrificea world either to their folly or their baseness. The period is nowarrived, in which either they or we must change our sentiments, orone or both must fall.

And what is a Tory?

Good God! what is he?

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I should not be afraid to go with a hundred Whigs against a thousandTories, were they to attempt to get into arms. Every Tory is acoward; for servile, slavish, self-interested fear is the foundationof Toryism; and a man under such influence, though he may be cruel,never can be brave.

But, before the line of irrecoverable separation be drawn between us,let us reason the matter together: Your conduct is an invitation tothe enemy, yet not one in a thousand of you has heart enough to joinhim. Howe is as much deceived by you as the American cause is injuredby you.

He expects you will all take up arms, and flock to his standard, with muskets on your shoulders. Your opinions are of no use to him, unless you support him personally, for 'tis soldiers, and not Tories, that he wants.

I once felt all that kind of anger, which a man ought to feel,against the mean principles that are held by the Tories: a noted one,who kept a tavern at Amboy, was standing at his door, with as prettya 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 myday.'

Not a man lives on the continent but fully believes that aseparation must some time or other finally take place, and a generousparent should have said, 'If there must be trouble, let it be in myday, that my child may have peace;' and this single reflection, wellapplied, is sufficient to awaken every man to duty.

Not a place upon earth might be so happy as America. Her situation is remote from allthe wrangling world, and she has nothing to do but to trade withthem.

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

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

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

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

From an excess of tenderness, we were unwilling to raise an army, and trustedour cause to the temporary defence of a well-meaning militia. Asummer's experience has now taught us better; yet with those troops,while they were collected, we were able to set bounds to the progressof the enemy, and, thank God! they are again assembling.

I always considered militia as the best troops in the world for a suddenexertion, but they will not do for a long campaign. Howe, it isprobable, will make an attempt on this city [Philadelphia]; should hefail on this side the Delaware, he is ruined.

If he succeeds, our cause is not ruined.

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

I consider Howe as the greatest enemy the Tories have; he is bringing a war into their country, which, had it not been for him and partly for themselves, they had been clear of.

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

A single successful battle next year will settle the whole.

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America could carry on a two years' war by the confiscation of the property of disaffected persons, and be made happy by their expulsion. Say not that this is revenge, call it rather the soft resentment of a suffering people, who, having no object in view but the good of all, have staked their own all upon a seemingly doubtful event.

Yet it is folly to argue against determined hardness; 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.

Quitting this class of men, I turn with the warm ardor of a friend tothose who have nobly stood, and are yet determined to stand thematter out: I call not upon a few, but upon all: not on this state orthat state, but on every state: up and help us; lay your shoulders tothe wheel; better have too much force than too little, when so greatan 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, cameforth to meet and to repulse it.

Say not that thousands are gone, 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 of life 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 them happy. I love theman 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.

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My own line of reasoning is to myself as straight and clear as a ray oflight. Not all the treasures of the world, so far as I believe, couldhave 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 tosuffer it? What signifies it to me, whether he who does it is a kingor a common man; my countryman or not my countryman; whether it bedone by an individual villain, or an army of them? If we reason tothe root of things we shall find no difference; neither can any justcause be assigned why we should punish in the one case and pardon inthe other. Let them call me rebel and welcome, I feel no concern fromit; but I should suffer the misery of devils, were I to make a whoreof my soul by swearing allegiance to one whose character is that of asottish, stupid, stubborn, worthless, brutish man. I conceivelikewise a horrid idea in receiving mercy from a being, who at thelast day shall be shrieking to the rocks and mountains to cover him,and fleeing with terror from the orphan, the widow, and the slain ofAmerica.

There are cases which cannot be overdone by language, and this isone. There are persons, too, who see not the full extent of the evilwhich threatens them; they solace themselves with hopes that theenemy, if he succeed, will be merciful. It is the madness of folly,to expect mercy from those who have refused to do justice; and evenmercy, where conquest is the object, is only a trick of war; thecunning of the fox is as murderous as the violence of the wolf, andwe ought to guard equally against both. Howe's first object is,partly by threats and partly by promises, to terrify or seduce thepeople to deliver up their arms and receive mercy. The ministryrecommended the same plan to Gage, and this is what the tories callmaking their peace, 'a peace which passeth all understanding' indeed!A peace which would be the immediate forerunner of a worse ruin thanany we have yet thought of. Ye men of Pennsylvania, do reason uponthese things! Were the back counties to give up their arms, theywould fall an easy prey to the Indians, who are all armed: thisperhaps is what some Tories would not be sorry for. Were the homecounties to deliver up their arms, they would be exposed to theresentment of the back counties who would then have it in their powerto chastise their defection at pleasure. And were any one state togive up its arms, that state must be garrisoned by all Howe's army ofBritons and Hessians to preserve it from the anger of the rest.Mutual fear is the principal link in the chain of mutual love, andwoe be to that state that breaks the compact. Howe is mercifullyinviting you to barbarous destruction, and men must be either roguesor fools that will not see it. I dwell not upon the vapors ofimagination; I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plainas A, B, C, hold up truth to your eyes.

I thank God, that I fear not. I see no real cause for fear. I knowour situation well, and can see the way out of it. While our army wascollected, Howe dared not risk a battle; and it is no credit to himthat he decamped from the White Plains, and waited a mean opportunityto ravage the defenceless Jerseys; but it is great credit to us,that, with a handful of men, we sustained an orderly retreat for nearan hundred miles, brought off our ammunition, all our field pieces,the greatest part of our stores, and had four rivers to pass. Nonecan say that our retreat was precipitate, for we were near threeweeks in performing 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 thecowardly and disaffected inhabitants spread false alarms through thecountry, the Jerseys had never been ravaged. Once more we are againcollected and collecting; our new army at both ends of the continentis recruiting fast, and we shall be able to open the next campaignwith sixty thousand men, well armed and clothed. This is oursituation, and who will may know it. By perseverance and fortitude wehave the prospect of a glorious issue; by cowardice and submission,the sad choice of a variety of evils- a ravaged country- adepopulated city- habitations without safety, and slavery withouthope- our homes turned into barracks and bawdy-houses for Hessians,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 onethoughtless wretch who believes it not, let him suffer it unlamented. Macos combo update.

Common Sense.

December 23, 1776.

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