What is Thomas Paine saying in "The American Crisis?"

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Thomas Paine's major goal in writing the pamphlets that make up "The American Crisis" was to increase the colonies' chances of winning the war and becoming an independent country.  In pursuit of this goal, Paine appealed to the patriotism of the colonists, to their belief in God and to the British people as well.

To the Americans, Paine was encouraging people to stand up for what he saw as their country.  He starts in on this theme from the very start of the first pamphlet where he says

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 it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.

Here, he tries to shame people into supporting the revolution by denouncing " the summer soldier" and "the sunshine patriot."

At other points, Paine tries to paint the actions of the British as evil and offensive to God.  He says, for example, that

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 pretence as he.

Here, he tries to make the British look bad by saying that they are like common criminals who cannot hope for God's support.

Overall, then, Paine is trying to rally support for the colonists' cause in the Revolution.  He is trying to get Americans to hate what the British government is doing and to participate in the war effort.

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