John Adams Describes Escalating Tensions in Massachusetts

Author:   John Adams


In this letter, John Adams (1735-1826) describes the escalating tensions in Massachusetts during the winter and early spring of 1773, and the mounting opposition to Governor Thomas Hutchinson. Two months after this letter was written, Samuel Adams read a private letter of Hutchinson’s before a secret session of the Massachusetts legislature. This letter, which had been acquired by Benjamin Franklin, stressed the need to limit the colonists’ rights. The Massachusetts House subsequently petitioned the King for Hutchinson’s removal. On March 30 1774, Hutchinson dismissed the legislature before it could initiate impeachment proceedings against him.


My own absence from town, my ill State of Health and the melancholy Situation of our public affairs, a System of Tyranny gaining ground upon us every day and overbearing every Man, who will not bow his head to Baal, must be my excuse for the [lateness of this] post…..

The Intelligence that Salaries were granted by the Crown to our Judges, already dependent for their Continuance in office, on the mere Will of a Governor and Council spread a general Alarm here. To lull the people, the Courtiers had resorted to a very odd Stratagem. They gave out that the Judges were already in, during good Behavior, and that this Grant of Salaries from the Crown would render them completely independent…..

You will find however in these papers, a part of a controversy between the Governor and the House. This Controversy will amuse you. It ought never to have been begun by the Governor. For the consequence of it must be that the People of this Continent will be convinced, too clearly, and too soon that upon Principles of the British Constitution, the British Parliament have no Authority over us.

However, we must resign to Fate. This Man [Thomas Hutchinson] was born, to disturb this Continent and the British Empire, and if he is Suffered with his Family Connections to hold the places they now fill he will effectively answer the evils of his creation. A thorough Master in Theory and practice of the Political Principles of Machiavelli there is no Quantity of public Mischief, no Sacrifice of Truth, Honor Virtue or Country through which he will not cheerfully force his way to wealth and power….


Source: Gilder Lehrman Institute