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Thomas Paine Encourages Americans in the Wake of Brandywine Defeat in Newspaper of One of the First Women Publishers
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Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it.” (p2/c2)

We fight not to enslave, but to set a country free, and to make room upon the earth for honest men to live in.” (p3/c1)

This first issue of The Connecticut Courant and Hartford Weekly Intelligencer publishedafter the death of editor and publisher Ebenezer Watson at age 33 features No. 4 of Thomas Paine’s The American Crisis, a series of sixteen pamphlets, published over the pseudonym “Common Sense.” Paine was serving as a volunteer aide-de-camp to General Nathanael Greene and sent dispatches to Philadelphia newspapers about events in the field. Paine wrote sixteen pamphlets in the series, which he entitled The American Crisis, issued in thirteen numbered pamphlets and three additional unnumbered ones between December 1776 and 1783. His first number began with the famous sentence, “These are the times that try men’s souls.”

[THOMAS PAINE; REVOLUTIONARY WAR]. The Connecticut Courant and Hartford Weekly Intelligencer, September 22, 1777. Hartford: Hannah Watson. 4 pp., 10 x 16½ in.

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This issue includes No. 4, which Paine wrote on September 12, the day after the disastrous Battle of Brandywine. Convinced that “unless something was done, the City would be lost,” Paine urged citizens to a sense of their duty and encouraged Washington’s weary army. The essay was first published on September 13 in Philadelphia.[1] That it appeared in print in Hartford nine days later illustrates how rapidly these pamphlets circulated among the colonies.

Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it. The event of yesterday was one of those kind of alarms which is just sufficient to rouse us to duty, without being of consequence enough to depress our fortitude. It is not a field of a few acres of ground, but a cause, that we are defending, and whether we defeat the enemy in one battle, or by degrees, the consequences will be the same.” (p2/c2)

Shall a band of ten or twelve thousand robbers, who are this day fifteen hundred or two thousand men less in strength than they were yesterday, conquer America, or subdue even a single state? The thing cannot be, unless we sit down and suffer them to do it.” (p2/c2)

Thank God! our army, though fatigued, is yet intire. The attack made by us yesterday, was under many disadvantages, naturally arising from the uncertainty of knowing which rout the enemy would take; and from that circumstance, the whole of our force could not be brought up together time enough to engage all at once.” (p2/c3)

We know the cause which we are engaged in, and though a passionate fondness for it may make us grieve at every injury which threatens it, yet, when the moment of concern is over, the determination to duty returns.... We fight not to enslave, but to set a country free, and to make room upon the earth for honest men to live in. In such a case we are sure that we are right....” (p2/c3-p3/c1)

On Tuesday last departed this life, after a distressing sickness, Mr. Ebenezer Watson, Printer, in the 34th year of his age. A gentleman of a most humane heart, and susceptable of the tenderest feelings for distress, in whatever manner discovered—Jealous of the rights of human nature and anxious for the safety of his country, his press hath been devoted to the vindication of rational liberty. The Governor’s company of Cadets, of which he was an Ensign, in token of respect for the deceased, attended the funeral in their uniforms. He has left a melancholy widow, with five young children, and a numerous circle of friends to lament his death.” (p3/c3)

Historical Background
British General William Howe landed his 17,000 troops at the northern end of Chesapeake Bay in late August 1777 and advanced northward toward Philadelphia. General George Washington positioned his army of 11,000 to stop Howe at Brandywine Creek. On September 11, the two armies met in the second-longest battle of the entire war. For more than eleven hours, the two armies battled. While demonstrating against the American left at Chadds Ford, Howe marched most of his forces across Brandywine Creek beyond Washington’s right flank, forcing the Americans to retreat after severe fighting. American casualties totaled approximately 1,250, including the Marquis de Lafayette, who was wounded in the leg, while the British lost approximately 600. Washington reported to the Continental Congress, in a letter included in this issue, “Notwithstanding the misfortune of the day, I am happy to find the troops in good spirits; and I hope another time we shall compensate for the losses now sustained” (p2/c2)[2]

Over the next several days, British and American forces maneuvered and engaged in several smaller encounters, including the Battle of the Clouds on September 16 and the Battle of Paoli on September 20-21. Both were British victories, and the Second Continental Congress and the Pennsylvania government fled the city. On September 26, 1777, the British Army marched into Philadelphia, beginning an occupation that lasted until mid-June 1778. The Continental Army withdrew for the winter at Valley Forge, where it suffered from extreme temperatures and poor supplies.

Additional Content
This issue also includes General Orders from Wilmington regarding the British plan to take Philadelphia, dated September 5, which is optimistic about how a victory in the upcoming campaign might end the war: “the eyes of all America and Europe are turned upon us, as on those by whom the event of the war is to be determined” (p1/c3); a letter from General George Washington’s military secretary Robert H. Harrison to John Hancock, president of the Continental Congress, reporting on the Battle of Brandywine before it ended (p2/c1); Washington’s later letter to Hancock announcing the loss of the Battle of Brandywine (p2/c1-2); a letter from British General John Burgoyne to American General Horatio Gates, regarding the ill-treatment of British prisoners of war captured at the Battle of Bennington in mid-August, and Gates’s response, in which he accuses Burgoyne of hiring Indians to kill and scalp Americans (p3/c1-2); the proceedings of Congress on August 27 and 28, regarding the abandonment of Fort Ticonderoga by General Arthur St. Clair (p4/c1); and a variety of notices and advertisements, including a notice of the appointment of Dr. Ezra Stiles as the President of Yale College (p3/c3)

Connecticut Courant (1764-1914) was established as a weekly paper in Hartford by Thomas Green. He later sold the newspaper to Ebenezer Watson, who ran it until he died of smallpox in 1777. His widow Hannah Bunce Watson (1749-1807) took over and became one of the first women editors and publishers in America. She also quickly made George Goodwin her business partner. Watson soon married her widowed neighbor Barzillai Hudson, who took over her ownership in partnership with Goodwin. The Courant was an influential proponent of the Patriot cause in the Revolutionary War. In 1783 the printing firm of Hudson and Goodwin published Noah Webster’s speller. By the 1790s, it was Federalist in politics and later supported the Whig and then the Republican Party. From 1887 to 1914, it was published semiweekly, and the weekly edition was the Hartford Courant, which succeeded it as a daily newspaper.

Condition: Toning and light dampstains; separating in spots; good overall.

[1] The American Crisis. Number IV. By the Author of Common Sense. Philadelphia: Styner and Cist, [1777]; The Pennsylvania Evening Post (Philadelphia), September 13, 1777, 2:1-2.

[2] George Washington to John Hancock, September 11, 1777, Papers of the Continental Congress, National Archives, Washington, DC.