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End of the "American Crisis" by Steve Payne

Author says: what if George Washington and his men were captured by Redcoats as they fled New Jersey in the bleak winter of 1776? Please note that the opinions expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of the author(s).

In 1776, on this day the "American Crisis" ended when Commander-in-Chief William Howe's rampant British troops caught up with the bedraggled rebel army just outside Hackensack, New Jersey.

After fierce fighting that left New York City in flames (pictured, left), George Washington's men had fled their position at Fort Lee, but delays caused by the bleak winter prevented the Americans from making it to the comparative safety of their headquarters.

In which peace prevails over liberty

Before the crisis, Washington had fought as a soldier for Great Britain during the French and Indian War. "I was a very happy British subject, living in the royal colony of Virginia," he said. "I fought for my king and my country". "We had all the rights of Englishmen," he said of life in the mid-18th century. "But then, in 1764, the king of England opened his treasury and he was shocked - it was almost empty. ... For the next 11 years, our lordly masters in Great Britain started reaching into our purses and stripping us of our rights as Englishmen".

"Government by kings was first introduced into the world by the heathens. It was the most prosperous invention the devil ever set on foot for the promotion of idolatry" ~ Thomas PaineAlso among those in retreat was Washington's trusted advisor, an English-born radical who was the author of the powerful, widely-read pamphlet "Common Sense". Because it was Thomas Paine who issued the galvanising cry “Let it be told to the future world, that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive, that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet (it)”.

His plan was to flee to Philadelphia where he would publish a more substantive treatise. Instead, he was summarily executed for high treason when the redcoats discovered the draft first edition of "The American Crisis" amongst his few possessions.

"If there must be trouble, let it be in our day, that your child may have peace" ~ Thomas PaineMost tragic of all, during his flight, Paine (pictured, right) might have begun to suffer intense doubts about the rebel cause. Historian would speculate that perhaps had he made it to Philadelphia, he might have published a quite different volume.

Because in his diary Paine recounted a meeting with a loyalist tavern owner "with as pretty a child in his hand ... as I ever saw". The taverner, complacent in the face of crisis, exclaimed "Well! give me peace in my day". Paine responded: "If there must be trouble, let it be in our day, that your child may have peace". Of course cynics have suggested on numerous occasions ever since that the text of Paine's diary was modified by William Howe and his officers..

Author says, original content has been repurposed from a note from Paul Lay, the Editor, Today in History Magazine, June 2009. To change the sentiment of Paine's diary entry, we have taken the liberty of modifying the text of the quotation from "my day" to "our day", and "my child" to "your child'".

Steve Payne

Editor of Today in Alternate History, a Daily Updating Blog of Important Events In History That Never Occurred Today. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Imagine what would be, if history had occurred a bit differently. Who says it didn't, somewhere? These fictional news items explore that possibility. Possibilities such as America becoming a Marxist superpower, aliens influencing human history in the 18th century and Teddy Roosevelt winning his 3rd term as president abound in this interesting fictional blog.


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