This Christmas the American mind is preoccupied with thoughts of war. We are reminded of a Christmas long ago, in the winter of 1776, when war was also very much on the minds of Americans. The American Revolutionary War for independence was in its beginning stages, but, unlike today, the prospects for victory in that war were slim.
George Washington was at the head of a ragtag band of citizen-soldiers who were hungry, cold, and ill supplied. His charge was to lead this motley crew against the British army, the mightiest fighting force on earth. As winter weather set in, members of the militia began deserting at an alarming rate. And by the end of the year the enlistment of the regulars would be up, leaving Washington with only a small number of disheartened and poorly trained soldiers to face the British.
In this desperate situation, Thomas Paine appealed to the honor and patriotic duty of his fellow soldiers with these famous words: "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 it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered." Paine also reminded us that "the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph" — that the highest things are often the most difficult to attain.
Shortly after Paine wrote "The American Crisis," Washington planned an ingenious assault against 1,400 Hessian troops camped in Trenton. As the evening twilight fell on Christmas Day, Washington's army crossed the icy Delaware River, and marched through the bitterly cold night, many without shoes. Washington took the Hessians completely by surprise in the early morning hours of December 26. It was a rout. This was the first real military victory for the patriot cause, and it changed the course of the Revolutionary War by signaling to Americans that the enemy could be beaten.
Unlike those in the Continental Army, our soldiers today are neither hungry nor cold. They are well trained and well armed. The best of them are the ablest fighting men in the world, and our enemies shrink from them in fear. They are achieving great success as they fight in Afghanistan and prepare to take the war elsewhere. And if given the permission to kill and destroy those who must be killed and destroyed, we have every confidence that our men of war will do just that, and America will enjoy true victory.
The challenge we face today is ignorance regarding the conditions of freedom, and all that is required to preserve freedom from threats both foreign and domestic. The elite opinion in America — from the most distinguished professors in our most distinguished universities, to political intellectuals and pundits, to those in the media and Hollywood — would counsel us to talk with our enemies rather than killing them. At home they would have us exchange our liberties for security. They would ignore the Constitution and expand the illegitimate scope and power of a government that already operates with little Constitutional conscience. And they would call this victory. These people, and these opinions, are wrong, and they are more of a threat to the enduring freedom and happiness of America than Osama bin Laden and his militant Islamic cronies.
Now more than ever, proper education in the meaning of America and of freedom, the rights and duties of citizenship, and the legitimate scope of government power, is vitally important. There is one organization uniquely prepared for and dedicated to providing such education: The Claremont Institute.
We thank all of you for your past and continuing support, and we ask you to keep vigilant in the defense of the last best hope of mankind, the United States of America.
From all of us at the Claremont Institute, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.