The Crisis was a series of essays by Paine intended to, in short, rally the Continental troops who had suffered a series of defeats at the hands of the British. The army seemed likely to disintegrate through both expired enlistments and desertions, not to mention the ever-present possibility that they would be destroyed by the British Army. Philadelphia had been captured, and the future of George Washington as commander of the Continental Army seemed in doubt. Paine argued that the British army was nowhere near as strong as people believed, and that the privations and hardships suffered by the Continental Army were worth it when considering the ultimate prize of liberty:
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. 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.
The Crisis consisted of several essays, but the first, written in the winter of 1776, is the most famous. It was in this piece that he laid out the basic themes of the rest. He accused Tories of cowardice, argued that the British government, like all monarchies, was thoroughly corrupt, and continued to paint the conflict as a contest between good and evil in which the Americans would inevitably prevail, if only they would persist in the struggle.