Thomas Hutchinson

(1711—1780) colonial politician and historian

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(1711–80), member of a prominent Boston family, enjoyed a brilliant political career. At one time he was simultaneously member of the council, judge of probate, chief justice, and lieutenant governor. He was the last royal governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony (1771–74). Although he was the most influential man in the colony, his “hard money” policy and decided Tory leanings made him unpopular with the Adams family and others. His strict enforcement of the Stamp Act and the fact that a family member was a stamp distributor led to the burning of his mansion in 1765. He was also hated because the Hutchinson Letters, said to have been sent to a former secretary of British Foreign Secretary Grenville, urged drastic measures to curb “what are called English Liberties” in the colonies. Franklin came upon the letters and sent them to a friend with instructions to keep them private, but they were published (1772) and the resulting scandal led to Franklin's removal from the post of deputy postmaster-general. Hutchinson's hatred of the liberal colonists increased, and it was his strenuous Tory policy that led to the Boston Tea Party, after which he left for England. His History of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay, from its First Settlement in 1628 to the year 1750 (2 vols., 1764, 1767) was based on a wide study of manuscript sources, but he was better equipped for minute than for general analysis, and lacked creative imagination with which to reconstruct the past. A third volume, bringing the history down to 1774, was published (1828), and he was the author of several pamphlets dealing with colonial history. A continuation of the History was made by George Minot. Hutchinson is satirized in Mercy Otis Warren's The Adulateur.

From The Oxford Companion to American Literature in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Literature.

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