“These are the times that try men’s souls”—One of two known copies
It is easy for us to forget how difficult it was for George Washington to hold his ragtag army together in December 1776. The British had chased the American patriots across three states, and the Continental Army’s only refuge was now across the Delaware River in Pennsylvania. Demoralized, poorly supplied, and with enlistments expiring, Washington knew that only bold action would reinvigorate his soldiers. On December 19, 1776, Thomas Paine, author of the celebrated Revolutionary pamphlet Common Sense, published the American Crisis #1, opening with Paine’s most memorable lines:
“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 that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered... the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”
Washington was so inspired by Paine’s words that he ordered them read to his troops on Christmas Day, right before the Continental Army crossed the Delaware River back into New Jersey for a surprise attack on the British. Victories at the Battle of Trenton, and a week later, Princeton, lifted America’s morale and sustained the struggle for independence.
Paine’s inspiring words were printed in pamphlets and newspapers, and the earliest ones are now very rare. We offer an even greater rarity—One of only two known copies of the only known broadside printing of The American Crisis #1. See it here.