The fall and early winter of 1776 was the low point of the war for the American cause. Beginning that summer, the British had struck with a vengeance in an attempt to end the American rebellion in one knock-out blow. In July, over 20,000 British and also German soldiers arrived on Staten Island in preparation to catch the an important port of new York. Once the assaults finally began the adhering to month, Washington and the Continental military were almost powerless to protect against them. Washington was propelled off lengthy Island on august 27th, and also his whole military only avoided record through a miraculous night evacuation come Manhattan. The brothers did no relent, however, and also on September 15th they landed almost unopposed ~ above Manhattan and also secured brand-new York City. The city would stay in brother possession till the finish of the war.

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"Portrait of thomas Paine" painted by Laurent Dabos circa 1792.

In the weeks and also months the followed, Washington’s military suffered loss after loss at the hand of general Howe’s British and also German forces. American defenses were outflanked by brother landings in what is currently the Bronx (October 18, 1776), forcing Washington to pull northward to prevent encirclement. Howe recorded up v Washington ten days later at the battle of White levels (October 28, 1776), control Washington more from new York and also the remaining Continental troops there. Howe turned earlier to deal with these reduced off garrisons, decisively defeating the americans at ft Washington (November 16, 1776) and also capturing nearly 3,000 men. Washington’s army, which had numbered nearly 20,000 Continentals and militia in the so late summer, was lessened to much less than 5,000 efficient soldiers as casualties and also desertions started to mount. To do matters worse, plenty of of those continuing to be had restricted enlistments that were set to expire in the winter. 

Recognizing the Washington’s case was dire, general Howe ongoing to push onward into new Jersey. The Continental army remained elusive, as Washington moved his exhausted and also demoralized men across new Jersey to deny Howe the opportunity for one final decisive battle. The American commander’s goal was to overcome the Delaware flow to the family member safety that Pennsylvania, and from there try to rekindle the American cause. Amongst the steadily waning tower of soldiers adhering to him to be the 39-year-old English immigrant, thomas Paine.

Born in Thetford, Paine initially adhered to in his father’s footsteps together a maker of lady’s stays (a corset-like undergarment). That was never successful in business, however, and by 1774 he had actually separated from his wife and prepared to relocate to the colonies to stop debtor’s prison. Getting here in Pennsylvania with the aid of Benjamin Franklin, Paine found work together the editor the the Pennsylvania Magazine. The magazine provided Paine a forum because that his progressively radical liberal politics, and he would advocate for the abolition of slavery, worker’s rights, and American independence. Although that personally abhorred war, Paine gradually started to watch tyranny together a worse evil. 

Thomas Paine came to be a family name in both the colonies and in great Britain in January 1776 v the publishing of Common Sense. Within a few months over 100,000 duplicates of the pamphlet had been printed and distributed. Its toughness lay in Paine’s capability to discuss complex and essential events in terms the the median person might readily understand. Today, Common Sense is well-known as an essential catalyst for the climb in renowned support for the revolution. He experienced the American change as just the start of a an international struggle versus oppression and for the legal rights of the average man. Later on that year, Paine joined the army as a staff officer for general Nathanael Greene. Together he relocated through the military camps, soldiers referred to him by the nickname “Common Sense” and adored him because that the totally free dispatches he composed for the Pennsylvania Magazine.

In late November 1776, during the continent Army’s darkest hour, Paine again picked up the pen with the expect of recreating the huge success of Common Sense. “It was necessary” he later on wrote, the “the nation should be strongly animated.” as the wrecked army crawled across new Jersey, Paine took benefit of every prevent to placed words come paper. He often wrote late into the night by the flickering light of a campfire, as tired soldiers slept huddled nearby. Together Washington’s army crossed the Delaware River into Pennsylvania, he put the finishing touch on his latest pamphlet – The American dilemm No. 1.

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picture of the first page the the first edition the "The American situation No. 1" writer by cutting board Paine.

First published in Philadelphia on December 19th, The American situation No. 1 was an appeal to the patriotism and resolution of the American people. It’s opening lines are few of the most well-remembered and oft-quoted in American history. 

“THESE are the times that try men"s souls. The summer soldier and also the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the company of their country; however he that stands by that now, deserves the love and also thanks that man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not conveniently conquered; however we have actually this consolation with us, that the more difficult the conflict, the an ext glorious the triumph. What we acquire too cheap, we esteem too lightly: that is dearness just that provides every point its value. Heaven knows just how to put a ideal price ~ above its goods; and it would be strange certainly if so celestial an post as liberty should not be highly rated.”

The indigenous electrified the demoralized army and also became the rallying cry the Paine had actually hoped for. Within a day, duplicates were printed and also distributed transparent the continent Army, and also officers review it to their assembled men. Militiamen who had actually returned residence in disgust just a month prior to took increase arms once again. Civilians up and also down the Delaware river Valley reaffirmed your commitment to the cause of independence. Desertions among the Continentals slowed, and soldiers quoted The Crisis in their watchwords while on picket duty. Top top the night the December 25th, as Washington prepared to do a win on Trenton, he ordered that Paine’s indigenous be review to the entire army as a reminder the the prestige of their task.

“I call not upon a few, yet upon all: not on this state or the state, yet on every state: increase and help us; lay your shoulders to the wheel; much better have too much pressure than also little, when so good an object is at stake. Allow it be told come the future world, the in the depth the winter, as soon as nothing however hope and virtue could survive, the the city and the country, alarmed at one usual danger, come forth to meet and to repulse it.”

Their settle renewed, the battered however not damaged Continental military went back on the offensive. The “Ten an important Days” that followed saw Washington and also his males victorious in ~ Trenton and Princeton, forcing the Howe come abandon lot of brand-new Jersey. Loyalists, emboldened by Howe’s earlier success, now found themselves exit to the wrath of your patriot neighbors. Together winter gave means to spring, brand-new enlistments from throughout the swarms poured into Washington’s army. The military victories in ~ Trenton and Princeton adjusted the food of the war in a strategic sense, but The American dilemm No. 1 provided the ideological motivation that made them possible.

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The American dilemm No. 1 was very first of thirteen pamphlets published in the series, which would continue until the end of the war in 1783. Countless of the future pamphlets reinforced the sentiments of the first, in their appeal come the patriotism the the American human being to view the war through to its end. Others to be ostensibly to “Lord Howe” or the “People that England” and also highlighted what Paine observed as the unjust of the brother government and the futility of do the efforts to conquer America. This future quantities of The American Crisis continued to market well and also were distributed across the nation, yet none would share the widespread recognition of the first. Native the darkest days of the change came a item of legend American writing that proceeds to administer inspiration almost two and also a fifty percent centuries later.