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 the Massachusetts General Court. There in February of 1761, Otis argued for five straight hours on the illegality of the “Writs of Assistance.”
The Writs of Assistance allowed government agents to enter anyone’s home without notice, for no reason or probable cause, to collect information to use against them – similar in nature to asset seizures by government agents or data collection by the NSA-Patriot Act-Homeland Security.
James Otis stated: “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. … Everyone with this writ may be a tyrant; if this commission be legal, a tyrant in a legal manner, also, may control, imprison, or murder any one within the realm.”
In the audience was the 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 wrote in “Rights of the British Colonies,” 1764: “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 had inspired America’s founders, stating: “Taxation without representation is tyranny” and “the people’s safety is the law of God.”
In 1769, James Otis was bludgeoned on the head with a cudgel by a British revenue officer, after which his thinking became increasing more 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.”
Mercy Otis Warren was called “The Conscience of the American Revolution.” She was married to Massachusetts House Speaker James Warren. Mercy corresponded with many American leaders, including: Franklin, Jefferson, Hamilton and John Adams.
In 1805, Mercy Otis Warren published a three-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 wrote:
- “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. …”
- “… Save us from anarchy on the one hand, and the jaws of tyranny on the other. …”
- “… 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. …”
- “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.”
America’s founder’s rejected “the divine right of the king.”
Instead of power flowing:
-> from the Creator
-> to the king
-> then to the people;
they set up a government where power flowed:
-> from the Creator
-> directly to the people
-> who choose their leaders from among themselves
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.”
Mercy Otis Warren concluded: “The origin of all power is in the people, and they have an incontestable right to check the creatures of their own creation.”
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.”
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 sixth president, wrote to Mercy Otis Warren, Nov. 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 Adams continued in her letter to Mercy Otis Warren: “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 honour? … Scriptures tell us ‘righteousness exalteth a Nation.'”
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