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Physician revolutionaries of 1776--patriots, opportunists, or both?

By W. J. McDonald


Table 2 summarizes the apparent motivations of the five physician signers. While religion played a role and each individual had his own other motivations, patriotic feelings for the evolving nation were probably a major factor which has been down-played in the past. It was an exciting and heady time for the citizens of the colonies. It was not difficult to get caught up in the excitement. The last word belongs to James Thacher from Massachusetts. Thacher is an example of the best of the apprentice-physicians of the late eighteenth century. Self-taught in matters of culture, he completed his apprenticeship in his twenty-first year on the eve of the Revolution. Deciding to join the army as a military surgeon, he wrote "...I am too young to possess a maturity of judgment, but yet unable to resist the impulse of enthusiasm which characterizes the time". His remarkable experiences as a military physician were chronicled during the entirety of the war and upon the publication of this work early in the following century, he penned the following, which perhaps says it best and for the most: "Should posterity inquire why their ancestors, destitute of military education or experience, abandoned their peaceful abodes to encounter the perils of uncertain warefare, let them be told it was not to execute the mandates of a tyrant in subjugating their fellow men, but it was in defence of our most precious rights and privileges; it was a display of that genuine patriotism and true glory which it is evermost honourable to venerate and cherish"

Topics: Research Article
Publisher: American Clinical and Climatological Association
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Provided by: PubMed Central
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