Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 28.djvu/350

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
Hutchinson
Hutchinson
344

received his education at a grammar school and at Harvard University, where he graduated in 1727. Already he had made money by small ventures in his father's vessels, and he now entered his father's counting-house as a merchant apprentice. In 1734 he married Margaret Sanford, three years afterwards he was chosen a select man for the town of Boston, and a few months later one of its representatives in the colonial legislature. He became an active politician, and in 1740 was sent to England to present petitions to the king in favour of restoring to Massachusetts a tract of land which had been added to New Hampshire. He failed, owing to the defective evidence supplied to him, and on his return was re-elected a member for Boston. From 1746 to 1748 he was speaker of the House of Representatives. Hutchinson became unpopular through carrying a bill for the restoration of a specie currency. His opponents threatened to burn down his house, and excluded him from the House of Representatives (1749); but after a year they acknowledged that he was right.

Though he had received no legal training, he was appointed in 1752 judge of the court of probate and justice of the common pleas. In 1754 he was one of the commissioners at the general congress at Albany, and there drew up in concert with Franklin the plan of union and the representation of the state of the colonies. In 1758 he was appointed lieutenant-governor, and in 1760 chief justice of Massachusetts; but as the salary of the last appointment was only 160l., he can hardly be considered a pluralist. Though he was averse to the policy of the Stamp Act, and was actually selected by the majority of the assembly to oppose in England the commercial measures of George Grenville, a mission which he was induced by Governor Bernard to decline, yet he carried out the law as chief justice with such determination that the mob in revenge sacked his house, burnt his furniture, and destroyed a collection of historical manuscripts which he had been making for thirty years (26 Aug. 1765). Compensation was obtained for the damage, estimated at 2,500l., but no one was really punished. Fortunately he had already published the first volume of his valuable 'History of the Province of Massachusetts [sic] Bay,' 1764, and the second volume appeared in 1767, 'the manuscript having lain in the street scattered abroad several hours in the rain, yet having been saved intact with the exception of 8 or 10 sheets' (English edition 1765-8, third 1795). He also published in 1769 a portion of his historical documents which had escaped destruction under the title, 'A Collection of Original Papers relative to the History of the Colony of Massachusets Bay.' This is sometimes lettered on the back as vol. iii. of Hutchinson's 'History' and forms an appendix to vols. i. and ii. It was republished in 1865 by the Prince Society under the title of 'The Hutchinson Papers,' 2 vols. During the feverish period which followed, the assembly violated precedents by declining to elect Hutchinson and the other officers of the crown to the council; but he was finally declared by Governor Bernard competent to take his seat in the capacity of lieutenant-governor. In August 1769 Bernard sailed for England, and Hutchinson ex officio acted in his stead. Meantime Charles Townshend's act had thrown Boston into a state of fury, and on 5 March 1770 the Boston massacre took place. Hutchinson was forced by the popular leaders to order the withdrawal of the British troops to Fort William.

When Lord Hillsborough, the secretary of state, informed Hutchinson that he was chosen as Bernard's successor, it is hardly surprising that he should have at first declined the honour. He, however, reconsidered his determination, and his commission reached Boston in March 1771. He was soon involved in long disputes with the assembly about the right to convene the latter at Cambridge instead of at Boston, about the extent to which the salaries of crown officers should be exempted from taxation, and about his own salary, which, as he informed the assembly, was thenceforward to be paid him by the crown. He succeeded, however, in 1773 in getting the boundary between Massachusetts and New York settled by a commission to the satisfaction of his own colony. Soon afterwards his unpopularity reached a critical point. Franklin, the agent in England for Massachusetts and several other colonies, obtained by some means and some person that have never been exactly disclosed, though the person was in all probability a certain Mr. Temple, a series of confidential letters which Hutchinson and Andrew Oliver, now lieutenant-governor, had written for many years past to Whately, formerly George Grenville's private secretary. Hutchinson's letters were, with one exception, written before his appointment as governor, but their tone was strongly anti-democratic; he urged the necessity of strengthening the executive by an increased military force, and the 'abridgement of what are called English liberties.' These letters Franklin sent to Thomas Gushing, the speaker of the assembly of Massachusetts, to be shown to the leading agitators on condition that they should not