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These are the times that try men’s souls

Thomas Paine: credit Philip Bird LRPS CPAGB / Shutterstock

"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. 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 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."
The American Crisis – Thomas Paine, autumn 1776


If ever Thomas Paine got it right it was when he wrote these words in the midst of the American Revolution or War of Independence as it is mostly called in the UK. 

How appropriate those words seem in these troubled, uncertain times we live in now with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Paine was writing about Liberty and how the American people could achieve it in throwing off the thrall of the British Crown. 

Currently our own freedom is very curtailed and limited. Freedom is a high-price, high-value commodity - so we must expect some pain and strife to obtain and retain it.

We can still plan, we can imagine, we can journey in our minds – we are so lucky to have this ability. 

We know that you think positively about the Past – the ‘good old days’ - and our tours give you a chance to hear gripping personal stories.

On The War of Three Kings in Ireland you can imagine the fear of the Dutch Blew guards crossing the cold, fast-flowing river Boyne to confront the menacing Jacobite Horse on the opposite bank.

Or, with Marlborough's Victories in Belgium, you can picture the Duke on his favourite horse on the great plain of Jandrenouille, looking from this high-point across to the spire of the church at Ramillies with the full and mighty French army of Louis the Sun-king in all its Versailles glory laid out before him. 

Suddenly a cannon-ball kills his equerry standing right beside him and the reality of life and death hits home. 

We can stand on that spot, see the horizon he saw, see through our imagination the huge multi-coloured armies of horse and foot with drums beating and flags waving, laid out around, behind and ahead of us.

George Washington was so impressed by the moving words penned by Thomas Paine, that he had them read out to his weak and frozen army at Valley Forge in December. 

The Continental army was in a dire state. Their souls were tried and were found to be courageous and positive and determined as we must be now. 

In today's crisis we seek inspiration, and we let these stories from our past give us that enthusiasm and courage to go again, to prepare, to plan and to act.

Picture credit: Thomas Paine, by Philip Bird LRPS CPAGB / Shutterstock
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