“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.”
Boy, have times changed since those infamous words were first penned by Thomas Paine. Our Country was going through the last days of agony in a battle to free us from the clutches of tyranny. The hapless American soldiers of the American Revolution were not equipped with the best weaponry, in fact, many didn't have warm clothes or shoes to wear in the brutal winter battle at Trenton. The number who deserted far outnumbered the brave souls who stood with General George Washington. The British soldiers were far better equipped and were confident they would crush the rebellion. The patriots who fought then probably assumed they would never come out of the battle alive, but they pressed on regardless. The misery these men endured will likely never be fully appreciated.
I am in the middle of reading a book by Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen entitled To Try Men's Souls. This is a work of historical fiction that is based upon real events surrounding the battle at Trenton. The characters developed in this novel give new meaning to what life was like for those who fought to establish this nation. I find myself tearing up often as I imagine what they must have been thinking as they pressed on in a battle that everyone said was hopeless. The phrase give me liberty or give me death was more than just hyperbole .. it was their anthem. Many men died, but the ones that pressed on in spite of the most ridiculous odds achieved one of the most glorious victories in human history. They established the first nation on earth that was governed by ordinary men, that valued liberty, acknowledged that rights come from God Almighty alone and that it is the duty of government to preserve, protect and defend those rights.
We've come a long way since that battle in Trenton. As a nation we have grown disengaged, lethargic and somewhat selfish. None of those characteristics were common among the American survivors at the battle of Trenton. In fact, any one of those characteristics would have resulted in certain defeat.
The people during the time of the Revolution were very engaged in the public debate. Conversations in the home centered around this new government they were forming. Arguments about exactly how this new form of government should be organized were taking place between working class people from every profession. There was no cable-television or radio, so people were limited to the news received by word of mouth, pamphlets and newspapers. In spite of this, people in this country were very knowledgeable and engaged in the affairs of government. Perhaps more so than at any other time in this nation's history. Seems strange since news is so readily available in this 'information' age.
A sad reality is .. that a very small percentage of our citizenry today is knowledgeable or interested in government. They take for granted that everything they've come to expect from government will always be there. If they look at history, they would know that few governments survive over the long term. We are heading into dangerous territory.. and many of us are unaware of the fragility of this system.
The system of government we have in America today barely resembles the one set up by the founders. The size of the country alone means that the number of those working at the federal level to represent us are each 'representing' a huge number of people compared to the numbered they would have represented at our founding. We've capped the number of representatives for logistical purposes, but what we haven't done is put in safeguards to assure that the government is held accountable by we the people. One person being sent to Washington, D.C. can represent millions of voters back home. That was unfathomable by our founders.
We have little discourse about governmental affairs in homes anymore, and decisions about what laws are crafted and passed are left to professional politicians. Most of us assume that politicians will 'do the right thing' and ignore all those crazy extremists who suggest that the legislation being crafted and passed is undermining the Republic Maybe we don't believe politicians always 'do the right thing' .. but believe that the system will survive in spite of bad laws.
But, they are both wrong. We are a nation of laws. Our entire system of government rests upon one founding document along with various amendments to that document .. that is our United State Constitution. If you read our Constitution and then examine the sorts of legal decisions handed down and laws routinely passed today (and unconstitutional executive orders), you'd see little of what goes on in government is remotely similar to what is described in our Constitution. We keep creating new 'roles' for the federal government that were never even imagined by our founders under the pretext of 'helping' people. But what we are not understanding, is that the Rome Republic followed a very similar path. The Roman Republic collapsed when it ignored its laws and traditions and began to do more things and promise things to curry favor with voters. The cycle ended with tyranny under Julius Caesar. Are we headed for a similar fate?
We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the brave men who fought at the battle of Trenton. They gave up everything to secure this nation for us. Many even gave their lives in defense of an idea of freedom. We wake up every day in the greatest and most free nation on earth, yet most of us take it for granted. We can't afford to take it for granted anymore. Our liberties are slowly being dissolved. The Constitution is being ignored and those who favor a continued weakening of our Constitutional government in favor of a European-style socialism are growing in numbers and influence inside our government.
Complacency is no longer an option. We may not have to sacrifice our lives to restore this nation like the brave souls at Trenton, but we are not going to be able to sit idly by if we expect a change in course. The time is NOW to speak out and begin the hard work of restoring what is left of this Republic. These are the time that try men's souls. Are you up for the battle?