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.To say that these are the words that lit a fire that became a revolution is not in the least overstated. Thomas Paine, a sometimes patriot himself, penned them in a pamphlet that jumped off the shelves in 1776, a year of some significance, you may remember. Every school kid ought to at least recognize those words, even if they don't know who set them down on paper.
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: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value.We call him an American, but he was, for the most part, an undocumented immigrant, arriving here in 1774, just two years before his best seller. He was here when the fire was hot, played a significant role in lighting it; once it was behind him, he left for more combustible environs. He loved revolution.
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 is there not such a thing as slavery upon earth. Even the expression is impious; for so unlimited a power can belong only to God.I'm not sure Thomas Paine has a right to talk about God. After all, Teddy Roosevelt called him "that filthy little atheist." One of his greatest works rips organized religion and establishes a universalist god most theologians of his time thought to be downright heresy. The Age of Reason sold thousands of copies. He wrote it in France, in jail.
I have as little superstition in me as any man living, but my secret opinion has ever been, and still is, that God Almighty will not give up a people to military destruction, or leave them unsupportedly to perish, who have so earnestly and so repeatedly sought to avoid the calamities of war, by every decent method which wisdom could invent. Neither have I so much of the infidel in me, as to suppose that He has relinquished the government of the world, and given us up to the care of devils; and as I do not, I cannot see on what grounds the king of Britain can look up to heaven for help against us: a common murderer, a highwayman, or a house-breaker, has as good a pretense as he.Basically, he got along with no one, once dropped by at the home of an acquaintance, then ended up staying for five years. He ego left little room for anyone else in the room, and friendships too often ended in wreckage. People found him a tramp and a rogue. He wasn't nice, and he drank way, way too much too often.
But, his words were more than a spark to the creation of the Republic--they were the fuel.
He's something of an embarrassment in the grand story of the American Revolution, a story which can't be told without his famous words.