Thomas Paine's revolutionary rhetoric in Common Sense helped ignite a revolution in the hearts and minds of the people long before the first shots at Lexington and Concord.
Dated December 23, 1776, story has it that George Washington found Paine's next essay so inspiring he ordered The Crisis to be read aloud to his troops at Valley Forge the following year. You can almost picture the scene as the essay begins:
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 by 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 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.