Hutchinson, Thomas (1711-1780) (DNB00)

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HUTCHINSON, THOMAS (1711–1780), governor of Massachusetts Bay, born at Boston, Massachusetts, 9 Sept. 1711, was a descendant of Anne Hutchinson [q.v.], and the son of Thomas Hutchinson, merchant. He 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 be printed or copied. They were, however, brought before the assembly in a secret sitting, and finally, after an ambiguous permission had been obtained from Hutchinson, were printed and disseminated over North America. The assembly, with the concurrence of the council, petitioned the king for the removal of Hutchinson and Oliver. When their petition arrived in England, the government referred it to a committee of the privy council, and it was before the committee that Wedderburne, the solicitor-general, made the celebrated attack on Franklin, in which he denounced him as 'a man of letters -homo trium literarum (fur, a thief).' The petition was voted false, groundless, and scandalous (29 Jan. 1774). Meanwhile the tea riot at Boston (16 Dec. 1773) had injured Hutchinson's sons, as they were consignees for a third part of the tea destroyed. Hutchinson's health had suffered from the excitement occasioned by the publication of his letters, and by the attacks of his enemies (his History of Massachusetts Bay, iii. 449 n.), and he applied for leave of absence (26 June 1773) on the ground of family affairs (his Diary and Letters, i. 106). His departure was delayed by the death of the lieutenant-governor, Andrew Oliver, and the impeachment of Chief-justice Peter Oliver for receiving his salary from the crown. On 30 March 1774 he prorogued the assembly, and on 1 June sailed for England, accompanied by a son and a daughter, General Gage being appointed to fill his place during the king's pleasure. So far from being dismissed he was still regarded as governor of Massachusetts, and continued to draw his salary.

On his arrival in London Hutchinson had a long conversation with the king, whom he found well posted in American affairs. Subsequently he had numerous consultations with Lord North and other ministers. He declined a baronetcy on acount of want of means, and in 1775 was asked to stand for parliament. Though his opinions were received with respect, they do not seem to have had much effect. Thus his diary shows that he opposed in vain the bill for the closing of Boston Port and that for the suspension of the constitution of Massachusetts. In America, however, he was regarded as the âme damnée of the ministry; in November 1775 he learnt that his house at Milton had been converted into barracks, while 'Washington, it was said, rode in my coach at Cambridge;' in December 1778 that he had been proscribed; in August 1779 that his estate in Boston was advertised to be sold.

Hutchinson's good breeding and high character made him popular in society, where he made the acquaintance of Gibbon and General Paoli, and he paid frequent visits to court; but as a consistent Calvinist, he regarded Garrick and playgoing with only qualified approval. He was also engaged in writing the third volume of his 'History,' covering the period `from 1749 to 1774, and comprising a detailed narrative of the origin and early stages of the American revolution;' but it was not published until 1828,when his grandson, the Rev. John Hutchinson, edited it. He was created D.C.L. at Oxford, in 1776. During the last years of his life he bore with fortitude the loss of his property and the ingratitude of his countrymen; but the death of his daughter Peggy, followed by that of his son Billy, broke him down, and he died on 3 June 1780. He was buried at Croydon.

A further collection of Hutchinson's historical documents was deposited, apparently in 1823, with the Massachusetts Historical Society by the secretary of state. They were probably taken in the first instance from his town house after the evacuation of Boston, and from his house at Milton. The society promptly published a selection ranging from 1625 to 1770, under the title of 'The Hutchinson Papers' (not to be confused with the Prince Society's publication), in their collections (1823-5, 2nd ser. vol. x., 3rd ser. vol. i.) The custody of the collection was subsequently disputed by the Historical Society and the House of Representatives (see especially the Journal of the House of Representatives for 1870).

'The Diary and Letters of his Excellency Thomas Hutchinson, Esq.,' were published in 2 vols. (1883-6) under the editorship of his great-grandson, P. O. Hutchinson. The American part of the diary appears to be a rough draft of vol. iii. of the 'History;' the remainder gives a very minute account of his last years in England. An account of Hutchinson's miscellaneous publications, of which there are no copies in the British Museum, is to be found in 'A Bibliographical Essay on Governor Hutchinson's Historical Publications' by Charles Deane (Boston, privately printed, 1857). They are few in number, and are chiefly concerned with currency and boundary questions.

[The Diary and Letters, vol. iii. of the History, and Deane's Bibliography mentioned above; Sparks's Continuation of Franklin's Life. Of the general history of the times a view may be found in Lecky's History of England in the Eighteenth Century, vol. iii. chap. xii. The account of Hutchinson given in vol. iii. of Bancroft's History of the United States of America is extremely prejudiced.]

L. C. S.