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Thomas Hutchinson and the Origins of the American Revolution

Thomas Hutchinson and the Origins of the American Revolution

Andrew Stephen Walmsley
Copyright Date: 1999
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Thomas Hutchinson and the Origins of the American Revolution
    Book Description:

    Rarely in American history has a political figure been so pilloried and despised as Thomas Hutchinson, Governor of Massachusetts and an ardent loyalist of the Crown in the days leading up to the American revolution. In this narrative and analytic life of Hutchinson, the first since Bernard Bailyn's Pulitzer-Prize-winning biography a quarter century ago, Andrew Stephen Walmsley traces Hutchinson's decline from well- respected member of Boston's governing class to America's leading object of revolutionary animus. Walmsley argues that Hutchinson, rather than simply a victim of his inability to understand the passions associated with a revolutionary movement, was in fact defeated in a classic political and personal struggle for power. No mere sycophant for the British, Hutchinson was keenly aware of how much he had to lose if revolutionary forces prevailed, which partially explains his evolution from near- Whig to intransigent loyalist. His consequent vilification became a vehicle through which the growing patriot movement sought to achieve legitimacy. An entertaining and thought-provoking view of revolutionary events from the perspective of the losing side, Thomas Hutchinson and the Origins of the American Revolution tells the story of the American Revolution through the prism of one of its most famous detractors.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-3817-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-x)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-xii)
  3. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xx)
  4. Prologue: Departure
    (pp. 1-3)

    Early on Wednesday morning, June 1, 1774, Governor Thomas Hutchinson of Massachusetts embarked on the first leg of his long journey into permanent political exile. On that warm day in early summer he shook hands and exchanged leisurely farewell pleasantries with his friends and neighbors. He accepted their best wishes for the future and, with his usual restrained and gracious gentility, reassured them that he would soon return. From his comfortable country home at Milton he strolled slowly in the direction of Dorchester Neck, gradually leaving behind “the shady walks, the pleasant groves that adorn this villa.”¹ While his carriage...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Boston’s Fortunate Son
    (pp. 4-35)

    Thomas Hutchinson, merchant, magistrate, politician, and historian, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on September 9, 1711. He was the son of a wealthy trader and well-respected member of the Provincial Council and represented the fifth generation of his family in British North America. No public figure of the revolutionary generation could claim a more genuine American pedigree.

    After many years of conventional trading and material accumulation, the family had, by the eighteenth century, recovered from the celebrated dissidence of their troublesome progenitor Anne Hutchinson. By the second decade of the century, they had evolved to become a pillar of the...

  6. CHAPTER TWO “The Butt of a Faction”
    (pp. 36-56)

    Thomas Pownall departed from Massachusetts on June 3, 1760. During the brief interlude before the arrival of his replacement, Francis Bernard, chief executive responsibilities fell temporarily to Lieutenant Governor Thomas Hutchinson. At forty-nine years of age the aristocratic Bostonian had at last climbed to the apex of political authority. Although he relished this achievement, the next few years were not good ones for his reputation. Between Pownall’s exit and the end of the Seven Years’ War, Boston’s radicals made critical inroads into his seemingly solid position of authority.

    A corrosive family quarrel with the Otises began in 1760 that eventually...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Enter the Crowd
    (pp. 57-74)

    When the Seven Years’ War ended in February 1763, Thomas Barnard, a Boston minister, optimistically predicted that “now commences the Aera of our quiet Enjoyment of those liberties, which our Fathers purchased with the toil of their Lives, their Treasure, their Blood.”¹ Unfortunately, this was not to be an era of tranquility. Shortly following the conclusion of the War, the Massachusetts political scene was soon convulsed and divided. The acrimony generated by the British intention to collect revenues in the American colonies provided the backdrop for this new round of conflict. During the turbulent disputes of 1764 and 1765 Thomas...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR “An Ill Temper and a Factious Spirit”
    (pp. 75-99)

    Following the August rioting against the Stamp Act, Boston’s political factions anxiously awaited November 1, 1765, when the measure was officially due to take effect. Hutchinson knew sometime in October 1765, by virtue of his correspondence with province agent William Bollan, that a repeal of the odious legislation was imminent in Parliament. Bollan wrote explaining how he had met with the Marquis of Rockingham. “I said a few things to satisfy him [Rockingham] that the colonies were not in a taxable condition.” He further recorded that Rockingham was unhappy with the legislation.¹ His advice to Hutchinson during this tense waiting...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE John Mein and Christopher Sneider: Two Martyrs
    (pp. 100-114)

    “Upon governor Bernard’s leaving the Province, the administration devolved upon Mr. Hutchinson, the lieutenant-governor.”¹ With these noncommittal words written in the third person, Hutchinson recalled the beginning of his tenure as Massachusetts’ chief executive. In the new acting governor’s opinion, pervasive and malicious partisanship and competition for office represented the primary stumbling block to a successful administration. He observed: “At all times there have been parties,Ins and Outsin the colonies, as well as in the parent state.” He continued that, first in the House of Representatives, then in the Council, “exception to the constitutional authority of parliament was...

  10. CHAPTER SIX The Deepening Crisis
    (pp. 115-131)

    Nonimportation was not the only issue to animate the Boston scene following the passage of the Townshend Duties. The continued presence of four regiments of British troops in Boston also caused resentment. This ill-fated and eventually tragic policy had been undertaken at the insistence of Lord Hillsborough in the wake of the rioting in March and June, 1768.¹ Since October 1768, the citizens of Boston had been compelled to tolerate this uninvited contingent of British redcoats. The dissatisfactions generated by the martial presence in Boston served to exacerbate all other political difficulties afflicting Massachusetts throughout 1769 and 1770. Crowd action...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN Hutchinson’s Final Humiliation
    (pp. 132-152)

    Thomas Hutchinson began 1772 in high spirits. “Our affairs are not yet in a right state,” he observed, “but they are in a better state than they were 2 years ago.”¹ As he awaited instructions from England, he appeared particularly delighted at the difficulties of Boston’s popular party. “Mr. Hancock, I have reason to think, is upon such terms with his colleagues the Town Representatives that they will not easily be reconciled. When divided we may hope they will be less capable of mischief.”² He wrote to Lord Hillsborough, again in reference to Hancock: “A gentleman who has assisted them...

    (pp. 153-160)

    “Old trees do not thrive when transplanted,” wrote Thomas Hutchinson to an old friend on December 31, 1765. Those words were written during the months of the Stamp Act crisis when his political position seemed in dire jeopardy. Hutchinson weathered that particular storm without needing to leave Massachusetts, and he managed to retain his authority until the disastrous events of 1773 forced him into exile. Now, from June 1774 onward, he was able to test this belief as he began his period of residence in Great Britain. His observation from the year of the Stamp Act crisis proved correct. He...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 161-188)
  14. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 189-200)
  15. Index
    (pp. 201-206)
  16. About the Author
    (pp. 207-208)