1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Hutchinson, Thomas

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21865261911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 14 — Hutchinson, Thomas

HUTCHINSON, THOMAS (1711–1780), the last royal governor of the province of Massachusetts, son of a wealthy merchant of Boston, Mass., was born there on the 9th of September 1711. He graduated at Harvard in 1727, then became an apprentice in his father’s counting-room, and for several years devoted himself to business. In 1737 he began his public career as a member of the Boston Board of Selectmen, and a few weeks later he was elected to the General Court of Massachusetts Bay, of which he was a member until 1740 and again from 1742 to 1749, serving as speaker in 1747, 1748 and 1749. He consistently contended for a sound financial system, and vigorously opposed the operations of the “Land Bank” and the issue of pernicious bills of credit. In 1748 he carried through the General Court a bill providing for the cancellation and redemption of the outstanding paper currency. Hutchinson went to England in 1740 as the representative of Massachusetts in a boundary dispute with New Hampshire. He was a member of the Massachusetts Council from 1749 to 1756, was appointed judge of probate in 1752 and was chief justice of the superior court of the province from 1761 to 1769, was lieutenant-governor from 1758 to 1771, acting as governor in the latter two years, and from 1771 to 1774 was governor. In 1754 he was a delegate from Massachusetts to the Albany Convention, and, with Franklin, was a member of the committee appointed to draw up a plan of union. Though he recognized the legality of the Stamp Act of 1765, he considered the measure inexpedient and impolitic and urged its repeal, but his attitude was misunderstood; he was considered by many to have instigated the passage of the Act, and in August 1765 a mob sacked his Boston residence and destroyed many valuable manuscripts and documents. He was acting governor at the time of the “Boston Massacre” in 1770, and was virtually forced by the citizens of Boston, under the leadership of Samuel Adams, to order the removal of the British troops from the town. Throughout the pre-Revolutionary disturbances in Massachusetts he was the representative of the British ministry, and though he disapproved of some of the ministerial measures he felt impelled to enforce them and necessarily incurred the hostility of the Whig or Patriot element. In 1774, upon the appointment of General Thomas Gage as military governor he went to England, and acted as an adviser to George III. and the British ministry on American affairs, uniformly counselling moderation. He died at Brompton, now part of London, on the 3rd of June 1780.

He wrote A Brief Statement of the Claim of the Colonies (1764); a Collection of Original Papers relative to the History of Massachusetts Bay (1769), reprinted as The Hutchinson Papers by the Prince Society in 1865; and a judicious, accurate and very valuable History of the Province of Massachusetts Bay (vol. i., 1764, vol. ii., 1767, and vol. iii., 1828). His Diary and Letters, with an Account of his Administration, was published at Boston in 1884–1886.

See James K. Hosmer’s Life of Thomas Hutchinson (Boston, 1896), and a biographical chapter in John Fiske’s Essays Historical and Literary (New York, 1902). For an estimate of Hutchinson as an historian, see M. C. Tyler’s Literary History of the American Revolution (New York, 1897).