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The American Crisis

The American Crisis

The American Crisis was a series of pamphlets published from 1776 to 1783 during the American Revolution by eighteenth century enlightenment Philosopher and author Thomas Paine. The first volume begins with the famous words "These are the times that try men's souls". There were sixteen pamphlets in total together often known as "The American Crisis" or simply "The Crisis". Thirteen numbered pamphlets were published between 1776-1777 with three additional pamphlets released between 1777-1783. The writings were contemporaneous with the early parts of the American Revolution, during the times that colonists needed inspiring.

They were written in a language the common man could manage and are indicative of Paine's liberal philosophies. Paine signed them with one of his many pseudonyms "Common Sense". The writings bolstered the morale of the American colonists, appealed to the English people's consideration of the war with America, clarified the issues at stake in the war and denounced the advocates of a negotiated peace.

Contents and Themes

The first of the pamphlets was released during a time when the Revolution still looked an unsteady prospect. Its opening sentence was adopted as the watchword of the movement to Trenton. The famous opening lines are:

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 his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.

The pamphlet, read aloud to the Continental army the night before the Battle of Trenton, attempted to bolster morale and resistance among patriots, as well as shame neutrals and loyalists toward the cause:

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

Along with the patriotic nature of The American Crisis, it displayed the strong religious beliefs that provided additional rationale for a religiously and socially conservative continent, inciting the laity with suggestions that the British are trying assume powers that only God (the Deist notion of God, not the Christian) should have. Paine sees the British political and military maneuvers in America as "impious; for so unlimited a power can belong only to God." Paine states that he believes God supports the American cause, "that God Almighty will not give up a people to military destruction, or leave them unsupportedly to perish, who have so earnestly and so repeatedly sought to avoid the calamities of war, by every decent method which wisdom could invent".

Paine takes great lengths to state that Americans do not want force, but "a proper application of that force" - implying throughout that an extended war can only lead to defeat unless a stable army was composed not of militia but of trained professionals. But Paine maintains a positive view overall, hoping that this American crisis can be quickly resolved; "For though the flame of liberty may sometimes cease to shine, the embers can never expire."

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References

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