“ALL WE WANT TO KNOW IN AMERICA IS SIMPLY THIS, WHO IS FOR INDEPENDENCE, AND WHO IS NOT?”: RARE SEPARATE PAMPHLET FIRST EDITION OF PAINE’S AMERICAN CRISIS, NUMBER III, PUBLISHED DURING THE DARKEST HOURS OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION
(PAINE, Thomas). The American Crisis. Number III. By the Author of Common Sense. Philadelphia: Styner and Cist, (1777). Octavo, unbound, stitched as issued, uncut; pp. (25)-56. Housed in a custom chemise and clamshell box. $27,500.
Rare first edition, second issue, of the third number of Paine’s vital American Crisis series. Paine wrote 13 American Crisis essays between 1776 and 1783, but only Numbers I through V (published between 1776 and 1778) were first printed as separate pamphlets (and later reprinted in newspapers); the rest were given directly to newspapers for publication. These earliest American Crisis pamphlets are all of the utmost rarity. An excellent unbound, uncut copy.
Written to boost the morale of American troops, Paine's American Crisis series eventually stretched to thirteen numbers. (The title page does not identify Thomas Paine as the author but instead cites, "the Author of Common Sense.") Only the first five numbers were separately printed as pamphlets, the rest were given directly to newspapers. In this third number of American Crisis, issued in mid-April 1777, Paine offers a detailed summary of the colonial grievances that sparked calls for Revolution, and pointedly raises the question: "To know whether it be the interest of the continent to be independent, we need only ask this easy, simple question: Is it in the interest of a man to be a boy all his life?" (33). This third number is also distinguished by its printing of an April 1777 proclamation by Washington, printed on the verso of the title page, that offers pardons to all returning Continental deserters. The pamphlet is dated on page 56, "Philadelphia, April 19, 1777."
The first Crisis, published December 19, 1776, is a vitally important rallying cry to the dispirited American soldiers, opening with the stirring words: "These are the times that try men's souls." The first Crisis was read in fact, at General Washington's orders, to the American troops on Christmas Day 1776, before the crossing of the Delaware and the Battle of Trenton. In January Paine wrote the second Crisis as an open letter to Lord Richard Viscount Howe, the head of the British fleet Paine watched sail up New York Bay, endeavoring "to show the impossibility of the enemy making any conquest of America." In the present Crisis, Paine further responds to British Loyalists and the offer, addressed in number two, of General William Howe to pardon any American who would lay down his arms and declare loyalty to the king of England. In this pamphlet Paine writes angrily of Tories and traitors, and suggests that all Americans take a loyalty oath to the cause of liberty. He goes on to revisit the principal arguments for Independence, and to correctly predict that Philadelphia will be a target of the British armies, as indeed it was that summer. The separate pamphlet editions, all of which are quite rare, were printed in various cities and towns. Evans and Howes cite the Philadelphia editions (for all but number V). The present copy is Gimbel's first edition, second issue, with errata on page 49. Gimbel, Paine Collection, 43. Howes P-16. Shipton & Mooney 15494. Sabin 58207. Evans 15494. Early owner ink signature on first leaf of text.
Uncut edges with some expected minor wear. Extremely rare, important and desirable.