Why Did Thomas Paine Write “The Crisis”?

Arts and Literature

Thomas Paine, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, played a significant role in shaping the American Revolution. His influential pamphlet series, “The Crisis,” served as a catalyst for inspiring and motivating American colonists during times of hardship and uncertainty. In this article, we will explore the reasons behind Thomas Paine’s decision to write “The Crisis” and its impact on the revolutionary movement.

The Background of the American Revolution

The American Revolution, fought from 1775 to 1783, was a struggle for independence from British rule. The thirteen American colonies sought to break free from oppressive British policies and establish a new nation based on principles of liberty, equality, and self-governance. The revolution was marked by various challenges and setbacks, including military defeats and internal divisions among the colonists.

The Role of Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine, an English-American political activist and philosopher, became a prominent figure in the American Revolution through his influential writings. His most famous work, “Common Sense,” published in 1776, argued for the necessity of American independence and rallied support for the revolution. Paine’s ability to articulate revolutionary ideas in a clear and persuasive manner made him a trusted voice among the colonists.

The Motivation Behind “The Crisis”

During the winter of 1776, the American Revolution was in a precarious state. The Continental Army, led by General George Washington, faced numerous challenges, including low morale, desertions, and a series of military defeats. In this context, Thomas Paine felt the need to write “The Crisis” to reinvigorate the spirit of the revolution and boost the morale of the struggling troops.

1. The Purpose of “The Crisis”

The primary purpose of “The Crisis” was to inspire and motivate the American colonists to continue their fight for independence. Paine aimed to remind them of the noble cause they were fighting for and to encourage them not to lose hope in the face of adversity. He sought to reignite the revolutionary fervor that had initially driven the colonists to take up arms against British tyranny.

The Impact of “The Crisis”

“The Crisis” had a profound impact on the American Revolution. Its publication helped rally support for the revolution and strengthen the resolve of the Continental Army. Paine’s powerful words resonated with the colonists, reminding them of the importance of their struggle and the potential rewards of victory. The pamphlet provided a much-needed boost of morale, revitalizing the revolutionary cause.

2. Appealing to the Common Man

Paine’s writing style in “The Crisis” was intentionally accessible to the common man. He used simple language and vivid metaphors to convey his message effectively. By making his arguments relatable and understandable, Paine aimed to reach a broader audience and inspire ordinary citizens to support the revolution.

The Power of Rhetoric

Paine’s masterful use of rhetoric in “The Crisis” played a crucial role in persuading readers to join the revolutionary cause. His passionate language and emotionally charged appeals stirred strong sentiments of patriotism and encouraged individuals to take action. Paine’s ability to connect with readers on an emotional level helped solidify his position as a leading advocate for American independence.

The Structure and Content of “The Crisis”

“The Crisis” was a series of pamphlets, with the first one famously beginning with the iconic words, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” The pamphlets were designed to be easily distributed and read by a wide audience. Each pamphlet contained a mix of political arguments, moral appeals, and military updates, all aimed at inspiring and rallying support for the revolution.

1. The Opening Lines

The opening lines of “The Crisis” set the tone for the entire pamphlet series. Paine immediately captured the attention of readers by acknowledging the difficult and challenging times they were facing. He highlighted the importance of perseverance and resilience in the face of adversity, emphasizing that it was precisely during such times that true heroes emerged.

2. Political Arguments

Paine used “The Crisis” to present compelling political arguments in favor of American independence. He emphasized the natural rights of individuals and the illegitimacy of British rule over the colonies. Paine argued that it was the duty of every American to fight for their freedom and that independence was not only desirable but also necessary for the well-being and prosperity of future generations.

3. Moral Appeals

In addition to political arguments, Paine appealed to the moral conscience of the colonists. He stressed the importance of virtue, honor, and sacrifice in the pursuit of liberty. Paine reminded readers of the atrocities committed by the British and urged them to stand firm in their commitment to the revolutionary cause. His moral appeals aimed to instill a sense of righteousness and duty among the colonists.

4. Military Updates and Encouragement

Paine also provided updates on the progress of the war and shared stories of bravery and heroism from the battlefield. By highlighting the sacrifices of the Continental Army and the potential for victory, he aimed to boost morale and inspire readers to support the troops. Paine’s messages of hope and determination resonated with the colonists, reinforcing their belief in the justness of their cause.


Thomas Paine’s decision to write “The Crisis” was motivated by the desire to reinvigorate the spirit of the American Revolution during a time of hardship. Through his powerful rhetoric and persuasive arguments, Paine successfully inspired and motivated the colonists, strengthening their resolve to fight for independence. “The Crisis” played a pivotal role in shaping the course of the American Revolution and remains a testament to the power of words in times of crisis.

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