If Thomas Paine Were Alive Today…..

Yes, we have some current-day pampleteers here at Blue Jersey. – promoted by Rosi

If Thomas Paine were alive today, I like to think he’d be a blogger – posting stuff right here on Blue Jersey.  He was, after all, a writer of political events and ideas.  And if anyone was right in the thick of it all witnessing for posterity it was Mr. Paine.  He was in NJ when we had our darkest Revolutionary moment.  His words “These are the times that try men’s souls” were written about the fall of Fort Lee to the British, when he was “embedded” with George Washington’s army when we lost both Fort Washington across the river and then Fort Lee. His writings, which inspired Washington’s army, against all odds, to reverse the situation and come back with a surprise win in Trenton changed the course of history.

Centuries later, Fort Lee remembers Thomas Paine as it celebrates his Jan 29 birthday with events scheduled for tomorrow.  Part of the festivities are to raise awareness of the famous temporary Fort Lee resident, and to help raise funds for a new statue in his honor.  Even the Fort Lee schoolchildren are getting involved this week  by having a Birthday Celebration for Mr. Paine.

Here is a quote from The Crisis – which refers to the fall of Fort Lee and the crossing of the river at what is known as New Bridge Landing (in River Edge just North of today’s Route 4.)  

As I was with the troops at Fort Lee, and marched with them to the edge of Pennsylvania, I am well acquainted with many circumstances, which those who live at a distance know but little or nothing of. Our situation there was exceedingly cramped, the place being a narrow neck of land between the North River and the Hackensack. Our force was inconsiderable, being not one-fourth so great as Howe could bring against us. We had no army at hand to have relieved the garrison, had we shut ourselves up and stood on our defence. Our ammunition, light artillery, and the best part of our stores, had been removed, on the apprehension that Howe would endeavor to penetrate the Jerseys, in which case Fort Lee could be of no use to us; for it must occur to every thinking man, whether in the army or not, that these kind of field forts are only for temporary purposes, and last in use no longer than the enemy directs his force against the particular object which such forts are raised to defend. Such was our situation and condition at Fort Lee on the morning of the 20th of November, when an officer arrived with information that the enemy with 200 boats had landed about seven miles above; Major General [Nathaniel] Green, who commanded the garrison, immediately ordered them under arms, and sent express to General Washington at the town of Hackensack, distant by the way of the ferry = six miles. Our first object was to secure the bridge over the Hackensack, which laid up the river between the enemy and us, about six miles from us, and three from them. General Washington arrived in about three-quarters of an hour, and marched at the head of the troops towards the bridge, which place I expected we should have a brush for; however, they did not choose to dispute it with us, and the greatest part of our troops went over the bridge, the rest over the ferry, except some which passed at a mill on a small creek, between the bridge and the ferry, and made their way through some marshy grounds up to the town of Hackensack, and there passed the river. We brought off as much baggage as the wagons could contain, the rest was lost. The simple object was to bring off the garrison, and march them on till they could be strengthened by the Jersey or Pennsylvania militia, so as to be enabled to make a stand. We staid four days at Newark, collected our out-posts with some of the Jersey militia, and marched out twice to meet the enemy, on being informed that they were advancing, though our numbers were greatly inferior to theirs. Howe, in my little opinion, committed a great error in generalship in not throwing a body of forces off from Staten Island through Amboy, by which means he might have seized all our stores at Brunswick, and intercepted our march into Pennsylvania; but if we believe the power of hell to be limited, we must likewise believe that their agents are under some providential control.

Entire text is found here.

We need to recognize this great man and take inspiration that the pen (or keyboard these days) is really mightier than the sword.  

Only a few statues of Thomas Paine exist in the world.  Fortunately one is in the works for our very own Fort Lee.

At this writing, the Fort Lee Historical Society and the Fort Lee Common Sense Society are $40,000 shy of reaching the fundraising goal of $128,000 to finish the statue.  They have determined they only need another 2253 donors to contribute $17.76 each to finish the job.  If you want to contribute to the statue fund  – you can send contributions to the

Fort Lee Common Sense Society

Thomas Paine Statue /VFW Account

Fort Lee Municipal Building

309 Main Street, Fort Lee, 07024  

Attention: Tom Meyers  

If you can’t contribute monetarily, do your part by participating in democracy however you can – especially by raising your voice to change things for the better – to educate, to inform, to inspire, to share.  We need everyone.  Do it in the spirit of Thomas Paine, as we celebrate his birth 275 years ago.

Comments (2)

  1. Alex

    Thomas Paine gets far too little credit for the visionary, humanist, and great free-thinker that he was. Susan Jacoby (in “Freethinkers”) makes the perrsuasive argument that his relative obscurity in this country is precisely because he was an ardent secularist and free-thinker, qualities that so often are frowned upon, now more than ever it seems. Thank you, Carol, for highlighting the need to honor Thomas Paine. If anything, we should have more tributes to him. I’ll be glad to make a contribution.


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