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Lot 6: Adams, Samuel. Autograph letter signed ("Sam Adams"), 2 pages (9 ¾ x 8 in.; 248 x 203 mm.)
December 18, 2012
Calabasas Hills, CA, USALive Auction
6. Adams, Samuel. Autograph letter signed (“Sam Adams”), 2 pages (9 ¾ x 8 in.; 248 x 203 mm.), “Boston,” 21 June 1773, to Arthur Lee, American diplomat, who, at the time of the present letter, was serving as Massachusetts colonial agent in London; marginal stains, skillful marginal repairs.
The Boston Committee of Correspondence, led by patriot Samuel Adams, publishes the “Hutchinson Letters” revealing the treachery of Massachusetts Royal Governor Thomas Hutchinson and his friends, agents of the Crown in America.
Adams writes in full: I wrote in very great haste a few days ago and then inclosd a printed Copy of Letters signd Tho Hutchinson, And Oliver &c., with certain Resolutions formed by a Committee by the House and with very little Variation adopted, as you will see by the inclosd. Upon the last Resolve there was a Division of 85 to 28; since which five of the Minority alterd their Minds, two other Members came into the House and desired to be counted, so that finally there were 93 in favor and 22 against it. Many, if not most of the latter voted for all the other Resolves. A Petition and Remembrance against Hutchinson and Oliver will be brought in, I suppose, this Week. I think enough appears by these Letters to show, that the Plan for the Ruin of of [sic] American Liberty, was laid by a few Men, ‘born and educated’ amongst us, & governd by Avarice and a Lust of Power. Could they be removd from his Majesty’s Service & Confidence here, effectual Measures might then be taken to restore ‘placidam sub Libetate Quietam’. Perhaps however you may think it necessary that some on your Side of the Water should be impeached 7 brought to condign Punishment. In this I shall not differ with you.
I send you our last Election Sermon delivered by Mr. Turner. The Bishop of Postaph--I have read with Singular Pleasure.
Thomas Hutchinson (1711-1780), a lawyer and merchant, served in the Massachusetts legislature (1737-49) and as a member of the Governor’s Council (1749-66), and also acted as the colony’s historian. He believed that in the constitutional relationship between England and America, each party should be free to pursue its own interests, though in a test of supremacy, England and specifically Parliament, should be able to decide for the whole or the colonies’ subordination within the empire would become meaningless. His political philosophy proved to be his undoing, In August 1765, Boston mobs burned down his house as they vented their fury at the passage of the Stamp Act (March 1765) on the wealthy merchant and multiple officeholder.
In January 1773, Hutchinson, the Royal Governor of Massachusetts (served 1771-74), made a speech to the General Court answering the Boston Committee of Correspondence (Formed in November 1772) and its “Boston Pamphlet”, which had asserted that British encroachments upon colonial rights pointed to a plot to enslave America. The pamphlet was first issued in late November 1772. By the spring of 1773, the committee had printed 600 copies of the pamphlet. Almost half of the towns and districts of the colony took action, forming their own committees of correspondence and passing resolutions echoing Boston’s dread of the sinister plot against their liberties. A major grievance voiced in the pamphlet was the issue of taxation without representation. The pamphlet also accused Governor Hutchinson of taking part in the conspiracy, labeling him as “merely a ministerial Engine.” It asserted that the colonials were British subjects and retained the rights of subjects--absolute rights--that could not be alienated. No power could lawfully remove them from the people’s control. Hutchinson’s speech deplored Committees of Correspondence and the claim to absolute rights. According to Hutchinson, a colonist derived his rights from the charter granted him by the Crown. From the founding on, the premise of the government was that a colonist was subordinate to Parliament. According to Hutchinson, the men who were challenging the Parliament were in the wrong.
Hutchinson’s speech actually strengthened the opposition to the British Crown. The powerful constitutional case against the supremacy of Parliament in the colonies, which had been stated repeatedly since 1765, was now restated by Samuel Adams, the Committee of Correspondence and the citizens of Massachusetts. In June 1773, the Boston Committee published the letters of Thomas Hutchinson, his brother-in-law Andrew Oliver and several others to Thomas Whately, the British subminister. The letters, dated 1767-79, revealed the extent of their writers’ disenchantment with the popular opposition to the actions and policies of the British government. The “treachery” of Hutchinson and his friends, agents of the Crown in America, was not exposed; Britain’s agents, Hutchinson and Oliver, seemed to confess that they were advocates of a conspiracy. Portrayed as a traitor to his native country for having joined in an alleged general scheme to enslave the American colonists, Hutchinson was forced to withdraw his family to England after the implementation of the Coercive Acts (March 1774). Benjamin Franklin, who, six months earlier, had sent them to Thomas Cushing with the injunction that they be kept secret, had obtained the letters.