When we look back on the grievances that compelled our founding fathers to revolt against the King, they seem unsettlingly similar to the encroachments and impositions placed upon us by our state and national governments today.
The Sons of Liberty were moved to holding their “Boston Tea Party” over a mere three percent tariff on imported East India tea. Their resistance resulted in additional taxation by Parliament, collectively referred to as the Coercive Acts, which in turn compelled the Colonies to grander actions. Events in our infant nation moved swiftly, the First Continental Congress convened to petition the king to repeal the taxation acts and other onerous impositions upon the Colonials. When all hope for reconciliation failed, the Constitutional Congress coordinated the resistance that rapidly evolved into revolution and the drafting of the Declaration of Independence to elucidate their dissolution with Britain.
In December of 1776, Thomas Paine took pen in hand to write his American Crisis – a series of pamphlets outlining the condition in the Colonies and the grievances of the Colonialist. Written shortly after his widely distributed Common Sense, the Crisis pamphlets were written to support the efforts of the Colonials in their search for freedom and independence, expounding the importance of patriotism in the face of what seemed to be an overwhelming despotic foe.
An examination of our Declaration of Independence reveals great similarities between the transgressions of the absolute monarchy of King George, III and the unconstitutional actions of the all powerful federal government, under the direction and control of the executive, legislative and judicial branches that we are subject to today.
If Thomas Paine were with us today, he would surely be shocked by the degree of servitude and enslavement that we have allowed the government to impose upon us. The Government of the United States has become a mirror of the tyrannical ruler ousted by the patriots over 200 years ago.
Over the next several weeks, I hope to examine various ways in which our national government has come to impose upon us laws and regulations which have degraded and devalued our lives and liberties, making us little more than serfs or slaves to a league of politicians and unelected bureaucrats. While my effort will certainly fall far short of the inspired writings of Paine in his original American Crisis; I hope that you will find my thoughts informative and of interest.
In this introductory writing I wanted to present you with some of Paine’s original American Crisis, giving you a sense of the spirit that led the American patriots to fight for freedom – freedom which we have too eagerly handed over to the federal leviathan and its handmaidens.
“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 the consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated. Britain, with an army to enforce her tyranny, has declared that she has a right, not only to tax, but to “BIND us in ALL CASES WHATSOEVER” and if being bound in that manner, is not slavery, then there is no such thing as slavery upon the earth. Even the expression is impious; for so unlimited a power can belong only to God.”
With this introduction, Thomas Paine, with inspired skill, proceeded to detail the transgressions of the British Crown and Parliament – comparing their actions to those of the “common murderer, highwayman or house-breaker (burglar).” With exacting specificity Paine delineated the ever escalating encroachment and infringements on the life, liberties and property of the Colonials and their ever-increasing anger and aggression in opposition.
Calling his fellow countrymen to action, Paine continued:
“Let it be told to the future world that, in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive, that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet and to repulse it. … Throw not the burden of the day on Providence, but “show your faith by your works,” that God may bless you. It matters not where you live, or what rank of life you hold, the evil or the blessing will reach us all. The far and the near, the home counties and the back, the rich and the poor, will suffer or rejoice alike. The heart that feels not now is dead; the blood of his children will curse his cowardice, who shrinks back at a time when a little might have saved the whole and made them happy. I love the man who can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but he whose heart is firm and whose conscience approves of his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death. My own line of reasoning is to myself as straight and clear as a ray of light, Not all the treasures of the world, so far as I believe, could have induced me to support an offensive war, for I think it murder; but if a thief breaks into my house, burns and destroys my property, and kills or threatens to kill me or those that are in it, and to “bind me in all cases whatsoever” to his absolute will, am I to suffer it? What signifies it to me, whether he who does these things is a king or a common man; my countryman or not; whether it be done by an individual villain, or by an army of them? If we reason to the root of things we shall find no difference; neither can any just cause be assigned why we should punish in one case and pardon in the other. Let them call me rebel, I feel no concern for it, but I should suffer the misery of devils, were I to make a whore of my soul by swearing allegiance to one whose character is that of a sottish (drunkard), stupid, stubborn, worthless, brutish man. I conceive likewise a horrid idea in receiving mercy from a being, who at the last day shall be shrieking to the rocks and mountains to cover him, fleeing with terror from the orphan, the widow and the slain of America.”
Paine concluded his first dialogue:
“I thank God that I fear not. I see no real cause for fear. I know our situation well, and can see the way out of it. By perseverance and fortitude we have the prospect of a glorious issue; by cowardice and submission, the sad choice of a variety of evils – ravaged country – a depopulated city – habitations without safety, and slavery without hope. … Look on this picture and weep over it! And if there yet remains one thoughtless wretch who believes it not, let him suffer it unlamented.”
Paine’s confidence in the face of overwhelming difficulties is truly inspiring. We can only hope to be as bold and self-assured in the threatening times we face today.
I encourage you read Thomas Paine’s American Crisis in its entirety, overlooked by most historians today, it provides a unique insight into the spirit of freedom that inspired our forefathers to secure their liberty and independence.
I hope you will follow my American Crisis series in The World in the weeks to come.
H. Brooke Paige is a regular contributor to The World. Interested readers are encouraged to contact Brooke at: firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box #41, Washington, VT 05675