"These are the times that try men's souls": Thomas Paine's The American Crisis, by the Author of Common Sense
The American Crisis, by the Author of Common Sense.
Item Number: 93776
Fishkill, NY: 1776.
Exceptionally rare printing of Paine’s famous call to arms was first published in the Philadelphia Journal on 19 December 1776, and then appeared in pamphlet form four days later, soon circulating through the major cities. It begins with the immortal words “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 his country; but he that stands 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. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly.” This edition is dated “December 23, 1776” in type at the foot of the final page. It was advertised in printer Samuel Loudon’s newspaper, the New-York Packet, on 6 February 1777 as “just published,” and a thousand copies were ordered by the New York Constitutional Convention then in progress. Loudon had been a ship’s chandler before launching his newspaper in January 1775. He fled the British army to Fishkill (in what is now Beacon) in mid-1776 and served as official state printer in addition to other projects. The printer had fled NYC from the British and was also serving as the official printer of the NY government in exile up in Dutchess County. This copy was owned by Jonathan Thompson (1773-1846) of Islip, NY, who inscribed it in 1819. He later went on to be the customs collector for the Port of New York. “A Pair of Peripatetic Printers: The Up-State Imprints of John Holt and Samuel Loudon,” in Essays Honoring Lawrence C. Wroth, page 397; Bristol B4323. 3 copies in ESTC. Octavo, original wrappers with the front panel with light dampstaining. Housed in a custom half clamshell calf and chemise box.
The first Crisis is a vitally important rallying cry to the dispirited American soldiers, opening with the stirring words: "These are the times that try men's souls." The first Crisis was read in fact, at General Washington's orders, to the American troops on Christmas Day 1776, before the crossing of the Delaware and the Battle of Trenton. In January Paine wrote the second Crisis as an open letter to Lord Richard Viscount Howe, the head of the British fleet Paine watched sail up New York Bay, endeavoring "to show the impossibility of the enemy making any conquest of America."