Thomas Paine: The Crisis, No. 1

(1776)

Explanation and Analysis of the Document

The term crisis derives from the Hippocratic medical terminology of ancient Greece. In Paine's day, Greek medicine was still the dominant paradigm of medicine, though it was beginning to be overturned by the scientific approaches propagated at institutions such as the Pennsylvania Hospital co-founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1751. Such a crisis was considered to be the point in the progression of an illness at which the physician could accurately determine whether the patient would recover or die. Paine tells his readers in the first installment of The Crisis (December 23, 1776) that the Revolution had reached such a point. He gives an impressionistic description of military actions in the fall of 1776 but took for granted his reader's own knowledge of recent events.

The military phase of the Revolution had been sparked in the spring of 1775 when British troops in Boston tried to seize the arms of local militias, the so-called...

Image for: Thomas Paine: The Crisis, No. 1

Thomas Paine (Library of Congress)

View Full Size