Rights of Man, Common Sense, and Other Political Writings

By Thomas Paine; Mark Philp | Go to book overview

AMERICAN CRISIS I

THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sun-shine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country: but he that stands it now, deserves the 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: 'tis dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to set 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, there is not such a thing as slavery upon earth. Even the expression is impious: for so unlimited a power can belong only to God.

Whether the independence of the continent was declared too soon, or delayed too long, I will not now enter into as an argument: my own simple opinion is, that had it been eight months earlier, it would have been much better. We did not make a proper use of last winter; neither could we, while we were in a dependent situation. However, the fault, if it were one, was all our own: we have none to blame but ourselves.1 But no great deal is lost yet: all that Howe has been doing for this month past, is rather a ravage than a conquest, which the spirit of the Jerseys a year ago, would have quickly repulsed, and which time and a little resolution will soon recover.*

I have as little superstition in me as any man living: but

____________________
1
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.

-63-

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