Thomas Paine is rightly referred to as the "forgotten" Founder. We remember Washington, Jefferson, and Adams, but too often overlook the first person to write the momentous words: "the United States of America." With his first two books, Common Sense and The American Crisis, Paine helped a majority of American colonists to think of themselves, for the first time, as citizens of new nation-the United States of America. And it was Paine who, through the power of the pen, encouraged the colonists to declare their independence; to fight for their freedom and ultimately win the Revolutionary War.
The title of this new and timely work, These Are the Times that Try Men's Souls, edited by John Armor, is arguably the most powerful single sentence Paine ever wrote. Without the first victory won by General Washington's troops at Trenton, the day after Christmas in 1776, the cause of America would have been lost. To inspire his troops, General Washington had Chapter I of Paine's latest work read to his troops just before they set out in a snow storm to cross the Delaware at night to launch their attack on Trenton-an historic victory that changed the entire outcome of America's struggle for Independence.
Thomas Paine's words have not lost their power with the passage of over two centuries. Paine's writing about dictators who were called kings is just as applicable today, although his "kings" are now replaced by Presidents, Generals, and Prime Ministers. These Are the Times that Try Men's Souls eloquently connects the life and times of Thomas Paine with the modern crises facing America. We, the American people, once again face threats to our freedom and liberty; political and economic events that threaten the very existence of the United States. These are the times that try men's souls.