“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; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.” (The Crisis by Thomas Paine)
These famous words were composed in a moment of inspiration by the famous Thomas Paine. These words were read to General Washington’s men on Christmas day as his troops prepared to cross the Delaware River to launch a surprise attack on Great Britain, the greatest military power on the face of the earth.
“Washington’s troops prepared to make the crossing to Trenton, New Jersey, in the dead of night. It was dark; it was freezing; and many of his troops were shoeless – leaving a track of blood that stained their journey. The Continental Army was also plagued with low morale. Though the war had been going on for only a few months, the patriots suffered defeat after defeat. The dream of American independence was dying, and the idea was quickly becoming a silly fantasy. However, when those encouraging words were proclaimed to the troops in the theatrical, booming voice of General Henry Knox on that cold Christmas night, the men were filled with a sense of hope and the “sacred fire of liberty” was rekindled once again.”(Being George Washington)
The words of Thomas Paine still ring true today. Every time I read them I too am filled with a sense of hope and the “sacred fire of liberty.” If this lesson from history can stir your heart and motivate you to action as much as it does me, I am confident that we can fight this battle together.
Thomas Paine warned against the troops becoming “summer soldiers and sunshine patriots.” In other words, he urged his fellow patriots not to become fair-weathered fans of liberty, soldiers that only fight for the cause when their side is winning. This resonated with those under Washington’s command. It would have been easy to leave the Revolution behind, to desert their fellow soldiers, and to return to their families. Yet, they did not quit; they did not give up.
We face similar challenges today. No, we are not fighting against the largest military power in the world. We are not shoeless, weaponless farmers. But we are on the verge of losing the very freedom for which our ancestors fought and died for.
Religious freedom and same-sex marriage is an ongoing battle all around the world today. The odds are stacked against us winning the battle. We can take courage from history. General Washington’s men were small in number, but they worked together and had several small victories that won them the war. In the words of Thomas Paine, “Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered.”
We the people are the only true stewards of freedom. By becoming educated ourselves and speaking/writing with educated voices, we can promote our cause and win others to our side. We can take a lesson from history and stand up for the cause. We can work to protect the freedoms our Founding Fathers worked so hard to preserve. Remember, “the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.
Beck, G. (2011). Being George Washington (pp. 21-25). New York, New York: Simon and Schuster.
December 23, 1776. (n.d.). Retrieved April 1, 2015, from http://www.ushistory.org/paine/crisis/c-01.htm