If ever there was proof that the pen is mightier than the sword; it is in the words than flowed from the pen of Thomas Paine.
COMMON SENSE, the first unqualified argument for political independence, was published in Philadelphia in January of 1776. Six months later the same city witnessed the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
Less well known, but perhaps even more impressive, was Paine’s call to arms after a series of devastating defeats by the Continental Army. In the autumn of 1776, the Continentals were defeated at Long Island, forced to retreat from New York, lost the battle of White Plains and surrendered the redoubts at Fort Washington and Fort Lee. Paine, a participant in these dark defeats, once again turned to his pen producing a modest pamphlet called THE AMERICAN CRISIS which began; “These are the times that try men’s souls… Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.
Two days after publication, Washington had the text read before his regiments drawn up in ranks. Another two days later Washington led his troops back across the Delaware and on to victories at Trenton and Princeton.
Note of interest: It is estimated that in the year 1776 over 500,000 copies of Thomas Paine’s COMMON SENSE were printed. The population of the Colonies was slightly in excess of 2 million making one copy of COMMON SENSE for every four inhabitants