James Otis (1725-1783) was the King's advocate-general of the vice-admiralty court at Boston.
In 1761, he was elected as a representative of Boston to Massachusetts' colonial government, called the General Court.
Otis' main political opponent was acting Massachusetts Governor Thomas Hutchinson, a politically polarizing figure whose unbending Loyalist acts greatly increased tensions with colonists.
Choosing loyalty to Britain over America, Hutchinson created a storm of protests when he issued "writs of assistance."
Hatred for Hutchinson's policies resulted in his home being ransacked.
In February of 1761, Otis argued for five straight hours on the illegality of the "Writs of Assistance."
The Writs of Assistance gave huge, sweeping powers to the government, even allowing government agents to track citizens and read everyone's personal correspondence.
Agents could collect information to use against individuals, then break into their homes without notice or probable cause, and confiscate possessions or arrest them.
The desire for totalitarian governments to track and tax subjects dates back as far as the reign of Augustus Caesar, who ordered a census to track everyone in the Roman World.
This is similar to asset seizures by the government, or personal data collection aided by online tech giants.
Google's "Dragonfly" project is reportedly helping the Chinese government track and generate a "loyalty index" on every citizen.
James Otis stated:
"May it please your Honors ... concerning Writs of Assistance.
I have accordingly considered it, and now ... take this opportunity to declare ... I will to my dying day oppose, with all the powers and faculties God has given me, all such instruments of slavery on the one hand and villainy on the other as this Writ of Assistance is ..."
"It appears to me the worst instrument of arbitrary power, the most destructive of English liberty and the fundamental principles of law, that ever was found in an English law-book ...
... With this writ ... if this commission be legal, a tyrant in a legal manner, also, may control, imprison, or murder anyone within the realm."
Listening in the courtroom to Otis' speech was 26-year-old attorney, John Adams, who wrote
"The child independence was then and there born -- every man of an immense crowded audience appeared to me to go away as I did, ready to take arms against writs of assistance."
John Adams described James Otis:
"I have been young and now I am old, and I solemnly say I have never known a man whose love of country was more ardent or sincere, never one who suffered so much, never one whose service for any 10 years of his life were so important and essential to the cause of his country as those of Mr. Otis from 1760 to 1770."
James Otis wrote in "The Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved," 1764:
"The first principle and great end of government being to provide for the best good of all the people, this can be done only by a supreme legislative and executive ultimately in the people or whole community where God has placed it."
James Otis added:
"The colonists are by the law of nature free born, as indeed all men are, white or black."
Having led the effort against the Stamp Act of 1765, James Otis is remembered by a statue in front of the County Courthouse in Barnstable, Massachusetts.
Otis inspired America's founders, stating:
"Taxation without representation is tyranny"
"The people's safety is the law of God."
Tragically, in 1769, James Otis was bludgeoned by a British revenue officer on the head with a cudgel.
After this, his thinking became erratic.
In 1783, at the age of 58, James Otis was standing in the doorway of a friend's home when he was suddenly struck by lightning and died.
He had previously told his sister, Mercy Otis Warren:
"My dear sister, I hope, when God Almighty in his righteous providence shall take me out of time into eternity that it will be by a flash of lightning."
Similar to the 19th century brother and sister, Rev. Henry Ward Beecher and his sister, Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom's Cabin, James Otis' sister, Mercy, became a famous writer who had a national influence.
She was married to Massachusetts House Speaker James Warren.
Mercy's younger brother, Samuel Allyne Otis, held the Bible that President George Washington swore in upon, and he then served for 25 years as the first Secretary of the U.S. Senate.
Mercy published powerful articles under the pseudonym "A Columbian Patriot."
In a letter to Catharine Macaulay, she wrote:
"America stands armed with resolution and virtue; but she still recoils at the idea of drawing the sword against the nation from whom she derived her origin.
Yet Britain, like an unnatural parent, is ready to plunge her dagger into the bosom of her affectionate offspring."
Mercy Otis Warren corresponded with many American leaders, including:
- Benjamin Franklin,
- Thomas Jefferson,
- Alexander Hamilton,
- Samuel Adams,
- John Hancock,
- Patrick Henry,
- John Adams,
- Abigail Adams,
- George Washington,
- Martha Washington, and
- Hannah Winthrop, wife of John Winthrop, Harvard founder of the science of seismology.
In a letter to her husband James Warren, John Adams wrote of Mercy:
"Tell your wife that God Almighty has entrusted her with the Powers for the good of the World, which, in the cause of his Providence, he bestows on few of the human race.
That instead of being a fault to use them, it would be criminal to neglect them."
In 1805, Mercy Otis Warren was the first woman to publish a history of the American Revolution - a 3 volume History of the Rise, Progress and Termination of the American Revolution.
In her work, Observations on the new Constitution, and on the Federal and State Conventions, 1788, Mercy Warren warned of centralized government power:
"The immediate gift of the Creator obliges every one ... to resist the first approaches of tyranny, which at this day threaten to sweep away the rights for which the brave Sons of America have fought ..."
"Behold the insidious efforts of the partisans of arbitrary power ... to lock the strong chains of domestic despotism on a country ..."
"It has been observed ... that 'the virtues and vices of a people' when a revolution happens in their government, are the measure of the liberty or slavery they ought to expect ..."
Mercy Otis Warren continued:
"And when asked, what is become of the rich produce of their farms - they may answer in the hapless style of the Man of La Mancha, 'The steward of my lord has seized and sent it to Madrid.'
Or, in the more literal language ... Government requires that the collectors of the revenue should transmit it to the Federal City."
Mercy Otis Warren was a poet and America's first female playwright.
She wrote many dramas, including The Sack of Rome and The Ladies of Castille, in which she dealt with the need for moral values in order for the new republic to be successful.
Mercy Otis Warren and Abigail Adams were two of the most influential women of the Revolutionary War era.
Abigail Adams, wife of second President and mother of the 6th President, wrote to Mercy Otis Warren, November 5, 1775:
"A patriot without religion in my estimation is as great a paradox as an honest Man without the fear of God.
Is it possible that he whom no moral obligations bind, can have any real good will towards men?"
Abigail's comments reverberate through history as public schools are now beginning to teach transgenderism and sexual experimentation to young children.
"Can he be a patriot who, by an openly vicious conduct, is undermining the very bonds of society, corrupting the morals of youth,
and by his bad example injuring the very country he professes to patronize more than he can possibly compensate by intrepidity, generosity and honor? ...
Scriptures tell us 'righteousness exalteth a nation.'"
In Observations on the New Constitution, 1788, Mercy Otis Warren stated:
"Monarchy is a species of government fit only for a people too much corrupted by luxury, avarice, and a passion for pleasure, to have any love for their country ...
Monarchy is ... by no means calculated for a nation that is ... tenacious of their liberty - animated with a disgust to tyranny - and inspired with the generous feeling of patriotism."
Founders believed that instead of POWER flowing top-down through a king:
-> from the CREATOR
-> to the KING
-> then to THE PEOPLE,
they believed POWER flowed bottom-up through the people:
-> from the CREATOR
-> directly to THE PEOPLE
-> who choose REPRESENTATIVES from among themselves.
George Washington wrote in his Farewell Address:
"This government, the offspring of our own choice uninfluenced and unawed ... and containing within itself a provision for its own amendment, has a just claim to your confidence and support."
James Madison wrote:
"As the people are the only legitimate fountain of power ... it is from them that the constitutional charter under which the (authority of the) several branches of government ... is derived."
Alexander Hamilton wrote:
"The fabric of American empire ought to rest on the solid basis of the consent of the people. The streams of national power ought to flow immediately from that pure, original fountain of all legitimate authority."
John Adams wrote:
"Thirteen governments (of the original States) thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone."
President Dwight Eisenhower worded it this way at a Governors' Conference, June 24, 1957:
"The National Government was itself the creature of the States ... Yet today it is often made to appear that the creature, Frankenstein-like, is determined to destroy the creators."
Mercy Otis Warren wrote:
"The origin of all power is in the people,
and they have an incontestable right to check the creatures of their own creation."
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I really do enjoy your blog posts and learn so much but am a bit disappointed that there is no way to post them to social media and disseminate the information where it is so needed. I am actually reading the posts because I have subscribed to them which means I already agree with the ideals they represent. These need to be shared with those who do not have our ideals or do not know they even exist. Please think about adding a way to share these on social media. -Thank you