On December 24, 1776, George Washington knelt in prayer at McKonkey’s Ferry, asking the Lord for the right words to inspire his troops to keep going, before he crossed the Delaware River for a surprise attack on the British.
“The greatest Christmas gift the world received was the night of our savior’s birth. And its greatest gift to world freedom came on Christmas Eve, 1776, on the banks of the Delaware River – America,” William Haupt III wrote for Just the News.
Historian James Cheetham wrote: “As Washington mounted his horse that night he pulled a draft of Thomas Paine’s ‘American Crisis’ from his saddle bag. As he began reading it, he knew that it was the answer to his prayers. When he returned to camp he ordered it read to his troops immediately.”
Thomas Paine: “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 a 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.”
On Christmas Day 1776, Washington’s army crossed the icy Delaware and won two crucial battles. He defeated the British at Trenton and a week later he executed a daring night raid to capture Princeton on Jan. 3. This gave control of New Jersey to America and turned around the morale and unified the colonial army.
Shortly after the war, John Adams remarked: “Without the pen of Paine, the sword of Washington would have been wielded in vain.”
“Washington’s men basked in its victory at Trenton since they had defeated a much mightier foe,” Haupt noted. “Moreover, they realized Washington was a true leader and he could unite the colonies into a strong nation. Washington’s faith in the Lord and his respect for the scholarly works of our Enlightenment thinkers like Thomas Paine, John Locke and others would help him articulate the Philadelphia Convention and write the world’s longest lasting constitution.”