The Crisis was a weekly publication that first appeared in January 1775. Its declared purpose was to oppose what the then anonymous authors (identified today, most probably, as William Stewardson, Philip Thicknesse, and Thomas Shaw) saw as government corruption and tyranny being overseen by George IIIs court. The publication’s flashpoint was the growing conflict in America, which they deduced as not only an attack on the British-Americans, but also on the English at home. In this sense, the authors were making common cause with the Americans for what they saw as the rights of Englishmen everywhere.
The work's editor, Neil York, suggests it is important to note that the authors of The Crisis were reformers, not revolutionaries. York points out this essential difference:
For all of their complaints against crown and parliament, for all of their warnings that the wrongs committed against Americans might next be visited upon Britons, they did not advocate overthrowing George III. When rebellious Americans decided on an independent republic as the solution to their imperial problem, they and the authors of The Crisis parted ways. However hard The Crisis had worked to create a transatlantic community of protest, however much it drew on a philosophical tradition equally appealing to dissident colonists, their social circumstances and the political ideology that grew out of them were fundamentally different. Thus The Crisis provides a study of contrasts between what became revolution in America but remained protest in Britain.
With this in mind, what follows is a running series of the most interesting excerpts and timeless principles found in the work.
Excerpt 1 is particularly interesting as a call to action . . . a call to wake up a slumbering population that is in danger of losing its freedom.
Editorial Note: The following part of publication Number I is a good introduction to the purposes and raison d’être of the publication. Consequently, this will appear at the beginning of each separate excerpt in this running series. Consequently, if you have already read another excerpt from The Crisis, it is suggested that you skip to the unique excerpt associated with the ongoing introduction.
August Glen-James, editor
Number I: Friday, January 20, 1775
It is with the greatest Propriety I address this Paper to you: It is in your Defence, at this GREAT, this IMPORTANT CRISIS, I take the Pen in hand: A CRISIS big with the Fate of the most glorious Empire known in the Records of Time; and by your FIRMNESS and RESOLUTION ONLY, it can be saved from DESTRUCTION: By your FIRMNESS and RESOLUTION, you may preserve to yourselves, your immediate Offspring and latest Posterity, all the glorious Blessings of FREEDOM, given by HEAVEN to undeserving Mortals: By your SUPINENESS and PUSILLANIMITY, you will entail on yourselves, your Children, and Millions yet unborn, MISERY and SLAVERY.
It is in your Defence I now stand forth to oppose, the most sanguinary, and despotic Court that ever disgraced a free Country.
It is in your Defence I now unsheathe the Sword of Justice, to oppose the most profligate and abandoned Administration, that ever shewed the Weakness, or abused the Confidence of a Prince.
It is in your Defence I now stand forth, with a FIRMNESS and RESOLUTION becoming an Englishman determined to be free, to oppose every ARBITRARY and every UNCONSTITUTIONAL ACT, of a venal and corrupt Majority, smuggled into the present new fangled Court Parliament, through the Villainy of Lord North, and purchased with the PUBLIC MONEY, to betray their Trust, enslave the People, subvert the Protestant Religion, and destroy the Glory, Honor, Interest, and Commerce, both foreign and domestic, of England and America; and all this villainous Sacrifice of a great Empire, a brave People, and the glorious Truths of Heaven; to comply with the ambitious Views, and gratify the mean vindictive Spirit of ONE, assisted by a numerous Train of deputy TYRANTS, whose sole aim has been, to trample under Foot the Sacred Rights of Mankind, and the English CONSTITUTION.
It is in your Defence, and in Defence of the Liberties of my Country, that I now stand forth, with a fixed Resolution to oppose, and shew to the World, unawed by Fear the dangerous Tendency of every Act of lawless Power, whether in shall proceed from the King, Lords, or the Commons.
It shall be my Endeavour in this degenerate Age, to revive the dying Embers of Freedom, and rouse my Countrymen in England, from the lethargic State of Supineness and Inattention, in which they seem to sleep, at this Time of national Danger, when a mighty Kingdom, and all the dearest Rights of Men are hastening to their Ruin; that they may yet stand high on the Roll of Fame, equal with their brave and virtuous Brethren in America, who are now struggling in the glorious Cause of Liberty, against the cruel Oppressions, and destructive Designs of exalted Villains, whose Actions will be transmitted to Posterity in Characters of Blood and their Names forever branded with eternal Marks of Infamy; while America will remain the Glory and Admiration of the World, and be held in the highest Veneration to the end of Time. Let not the long envied Glory of Britain, O! my Countrymen, be eclipsed by the virtuous Actions of the Americans in the new World; our Danger is the same, their Cause is our Cause, with the constitutional Rights of America, must fall, the Liberties of England; let us then, shew ourselves equal to them in Virtue, Courage, Firmness, and Resolution, and as they have done, prove to the World, we are alike Enemies to Tyranny, and lawless Power, and that we never will be Slaves to One, nor to a Majority of FIVE HUNDRED AND FIFTY-EIGHT TYRANTS. (i.e., the 558 members of the House of Commons in 1775)
We will strain every Nerve, and brave every Danger, to stimulate our Countrymen this Side of the Atlantic, to a noble Exertion of their Rights as Freemen; to shew them the Danger; as well as the Infamy of remaining quiet Spectators of their OWN DESTRUCTION; and to remove that dark Cloud of Slavery, which now obscures the glorious Light of Freedom; and, but for the Virtue of our Forefathers, would Ages ago, have overwhelmed this Kingdom, like the States around us, in a long, a lasting Night of MISERY and RUIN.
Upon this Plan, and with these Principles we set out, and intend to proceed, that the present, (if not too far degenerated) and future Generations, may enjoy undiminished ALL the BLESSINGS of LIBERTY; To accomplish this End, we will risk every Thing that is dear to Man, and brave both Royal and Ministerial Vengeance, to preserve from RUIN (if possible) the NATURAL RIGHTS of MANKIND, THE Sacred Constitution of the British Empire, and the Freedom of our Country.
York, Neil L. The Crisis: A British Defense of American Rights, 1775-1776. Liberty Fund. Indianapolis, 2016.