J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Launch of the Hutchinson Letters in Boston, 15 Oct.

According to the Whigs of late colonial Massachusetts, the two great political villains of the age were the royal governors Sir Francis Bernard (1712-1779) and Thomas Hutchinson (1711-1780).

Bernard was a British aristocrat who served in a number of colonial posts, including governor of New Jersey, before governing Massachusetts from 1760 to 1769. His arrival coincided with the ascension of George III and successes against the French in Canada, so people felt fairly optimistic about his administration at the start. But when Bernard sailed away from Boston in 1769, there were literally public celebrations: flags waving, cannons firing.

Hutchinson, in contrast, was from an old Massachusetts family, had ties to all the top local institutions, and won election to his first public offices in Boston. He was also a diligent historian of the province, and everyone respected his intellect. He became lieutenant governor in 1758 and was also chief justice from 1761 to 1769. Hutchinson took over as acting governor when Bernard left, dealing with the Boston Massacre in that capacity, before finally attaining the top post himself.

Both Bernard and Hutchinson lost standing after letters they had written to colleagues in London were leaked back to Massachusetts and published. Local Whigs declared that those letters showed how each man had misrepresented events in New England, encouraged the London government to curtail the province’s self-government, and conspired against the interests of the people they were supposed to look after.

Now we can view those published letters in the context of the men’s larger correspondence. The Colonial Society of Massachusetts has been publishing the papers of both governors in large scholarly editions. With the release of The Correspondence of Thomas Hutchinson, 1740-1766, both series run through the Stamp Act riots of 1765, when a mob destroyed Hutchinson’s house in the North End.

The Colonial Society will launch that volume and salute its editors, John W. Tyler and Elizabeth Dubrulle, on Wednesday, 15 October, at 5:00 P.M. The program will begin with a brief talk on Governor Hutchinson by Tyler and continue with open discussion accompanied by refreshments, book sales, and signings. This event will take place at the society’s headquarters at 87 Mount Vernon Street on Beacon Hill. It is free and open to the interested public.

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