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of our power. The private history of several of them rests entirely on tradition. We know them in general as public benefactors, but all that distinguished them from each other is irrecoverably lost, the monument raised to their memory in the hearts of their countrymen bears no other inscription, than their names. When Johnson was writing the life of Dryden, upon applying to the only two of the poet's acquaintance then living, he could recover no other information on the subject, than two unimportant anecdotes. Not forty years have elapsed since the death of James Otis, and our author's researches for materials for the work before us have been pursued for a long period, and with exemplary diligence. The following candid statement of his incomplete success tends to shew, in a striking light, the evanescent nature of oral truth.

'The reader will be disappointed, if he expect to find in this volume more than mere fragments of the life of James Otis. After a diligent and widely extended search, but little comparatively has been recovered of his private life, or of his public services; yet before the year 1770, no American, Dr Franklin only excepted, was so much known, and so often named in the other colonies, and in England. His papers have all perished, none of his speeches were recorded, and he himself having been cut off before the revolution actually commenced, his name is connected with none of the public documents, that are familiar to the nation. It is owing to this combination of circumstances, that the most learned, the most eloquent, the most ardent, the most influential man of his time, is now so little known, that to many persons the following language of president Adams seemed exaggerated. "I have been young and now am old, and I solemnly say, I have never known a man, whose love of his country was more ardent or sincere, never one, who suffered so much, never one, whose services for any ten years of his life were so important and essential to the cause of his country, as those of Mr Otis from 1760 to 1770." Language equally strong was used by the late chief justice Dana, when speaking of him, in one of his charges to a grand jury; and similar opinions were held by all those who acted with him, and were witnesses to his talents and influence.' pp. xviii. xix.

Of the private character, therefore, of James Otis, of his habits of business and recreation, of his conversation and conduct in the domestic and social circle, this book contains but little. That little, however, is highly interesting and extremely well told, and its scantiness is the less to be regretted, as the

life of Otis was so emphatically a public one, his time, his property, his talents, his heart, were so unreservedly given to his country, that the greater part of his history is inseparably blended with that of Massachusetts. This work is consequently valuable less as the biography of a distinguished individual, than as a sketch of the times in which he flourished, and of the band of patriots, of whom he was the chief, and exhibits him, not in a solitary portrait, but like Napoleon, on his brazen column, or Wellington in his silver shield, as the prominent figure in a variety of interesting scenes, the head of an illustrious group.


The choice of his subject is alike creditable to our author's feelings and judgment. To no portion of time can the citizens of this state revert, with a deeper interest or a higher pride, than to that which elapsed between the year 1760, and the evacuation of Boston. Those years may be called, without extravagance or partiality, the most trying and glorious recorded in our annals. We do not mean to say that the services or sufferings of Massachusetts closed with that period. To do justice to the zeal and patience, which she displayed throughout the whole of the revolution, is a task of no ordinary importance and difficulty, which little has yet been done to accomplish. My heart beats, I trust,' said Mr Webster in the late convention of this state, as responsive as any one's, to a soldier's claim for honor and renown. It has ever been my opinion, however, that while celebrating the military achievements of our countrymen in the revolutionary contest, we have not always done equal justice to the merits and the sufferings of those, who sustained on their property and on their means of subsistence, the great burden of the war. Any one, who has had occasion to be acquainted with the records of the New-England towns, knows well how to estimate those merits and those sufferings. Nobler records of patriotism exist no where. No where can there be found higher proofs of a spirit that was ready to hazard all, to pledge all, to sacrifice all, in the cause of their country. Instances were not

unfrequent, in which small freeholders parted with their last hoof, and the last measure of corn in their granaries, to supply provision for their troops, and hire service for the ranks. The voice of Otis and of Adams, in Fanueil Hall, found its full and true echo in the little councils of the interior towns; and

if, within the continental congress, patriotism shone more conspicuously, it did not there exist more truly, nor burn more fervently; it did not render the day more anxious, nor the night more sleepless; it sent up no more ardent prayer to God for succour; and it put forth, in no greater degree, the fulness of its effort, and the energy of its whole soul and spirit, in the common cause, than it did in the small assemblies of the towns.'

It is still, however, the chief glory of Massachusetts, that the idea of resisting even to blood against a weak, but exasperated and obstinate British ministry, was first avowed (as we hope presently to prove) by one of her sons; that he was supported by his fellow citizens in this noble purpose, with an ardor equalled only by their invincible firmness; that for fifteen years the people of this state, as one man, while suffering the severest injuries and insults, and with the most desperate prospects, asserted and maintained the unalienable rights of the colonies, with all the courage, and what is far more wonderful, with all the prudence, which swayed the counsels of their illustrious leaders. Events like those to which we refer, could scarcely be divested of their interest, in the hands of the most unskilful annalist. Before making any comments on the manner in which they are generally treated by our author, we shall speak of a point in American history, which he has been the first to illustrate, with the method and the copiousness due to its importance. This point is no other than the origin of our independence. Where the revolution began can be, we think, no longer a question, in any well informed and unbiassed mind. It was in February 1761, that the fundamental rights of the American colonies were first openly and boldly proclaimed. The circumstances which led to this momentous declaration will appear in the following brief statement, taken in substance, and often in terms, from the pages of this work.

In 1760 an order in council arrived from Great Britain, directing the officers of the customs to carry into effect the acts of the trade, and to apply to the supreme judicature of Massachusetts for writs of assistance. Application was made accordingly, in November of the same year, to the supreme court, then sitting at Salem. Chief justice Sewall expressed great doubt of the legality of the writ, and of the authority of

the court to grant it, and none of the other judges said a word in its favor; but as the application was on the part of the crown, it could not be dismissed without a hearing, which was fixed for the next term of the court, to be held in February 1761. In December, chief justice Sewall died, and the loss of this impartial, high-minded magistrate, at that critical period, adds our author, was justly esteemed a public misforHis place was filled by lieutenant governor Hutchinson, who thus united in his own person the offices of lieutenant governor, commander of the castle, judge of probate, and chief justice of the supreme court! The officers of the customs called upon Otis, as advocate general, to argue their cause.


'But as he believed these writs to be illegal and tyrannical, he refused. He would not prostitute his office to the support of an oppressive act; and with true delicacy and dignity, being unwilling to retain a station in which he might be expected or called upon to argue in support of such odious measures, he resigned it, though the situation was very lucrative, and if filled by an incumbent with a compliant spirit, led to the highest favors of government.

The merchants of Salem and Boston applied to Mr. Pratt to undertake their cause, who was also solicited to engage on the other side; but he declined taking any part, being about to leave Boston for New-York, of which province he had been appointed chief justice. They also applied to Otis and Thacher, who engaged to make their defence, and probably both of them without fees, though very great ones were offered. The language of Otis was, "In such a cause I despise all fees." pp. 56, 57.

The court met in Boston accordingly, in February 1761, (the day is not stated,) and the trial took place in the council chamber, at the east end of the old town house. It was at that time and place that James Otis made his speech, on the writs of assistance. Of that speech, celebrated as it was, nothing was published at the time but a few interpolated fragments, and all else which it contained was supposed to have been forgotten. A full and satisfactory sketch of it, however, was lately made by president Adams, from notes taken at its delivery, and is now given to the public in the sixth chapter of this work. It is certainly far more than a compensation for 'the absence of contemporary records, and the subsequent neglect of this great leading transaction, that one of the hearers, after the lapse of sixty years, with all the authority which New Series, No. 14.


venerable age and illustrious services can confer, should have called the attention of his countrymen to the subject; and by a rare and felicitous force of memory, carrying back their regards over the course of two generations, have exhibited with a magical effect, through the obscurity of time, an impressive and brilliant sketch of one of the first struggles that led to their national existence.'

The chapter which we have just mentioned contains, besides this extraordinary summary of Otis' remarks, several reflections of the illustrious reporter. We shall not venture to abridge, and our limits do not permit us to transcribe it. Suffice it to say, that Otis, in an argument of four or five hours, laid down the great principles of civil liberty, and especially the maxim that taxation without representation is tyranny, with a clearness and force, due to his subject and to the occasion. 6 American independence,' says president Adams, ' was then and there born. The seeds of patriots and heroes, to defend the " non sine diis animosus infans," were then and there sown. Every man of an immense crowded audience appeared to me to go away, as I did, ready to take arms against writs of assistance. Then and there was the first scene in the first act of opposition to the arbitrary claims of Great Britain.' 'I do say,' adds president Adams in another place, ' in the most solemn manner, that Mr. Otis' oration against writs of assistance, breathed into this nation the breath of life.' Having thus dwelt on this great and hitherto contested point, we proceed to a few remarks on our author's powers as a hisIn his accumulation and selection of incidents, he is no less judicious and happy, than in his choice of a subject. Many of them are drawn from manuscripts, and more particularly from the writings of president Adams, and are now, for the first time, given to the public. Where he has taken his materials, as every historian necessarily must, in some degree, from other works, he has seldom failed to place the facts which he has borrowed, in a more clear, lively, and entertaining point of view, than he found them. Nothing seems to be admitted, which does not rest upon the most unquestionable authority, and but little which is not highly valuable, either for its intrinsic moment, or for the light it incidentally throws on more important subjects.

The author's narrative of political events is interwoven with

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