"THE GREATEST THREAT TO AMERICAN LIBERTIES": RARE FIRST EDITION OF CONTINUATION OF THE PROCEEDINGS, 1770, ISSUED IN BOSTON SAME YEAR AS THE BOSTON MASSACRE, DOCUMENTING THE "CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS" PROVOKED BY LT. GOVERNOR HUTCHINSON, WITH FOUNDING FATHERS SAMUEL ADAMS, JOHN ADAMS & JOHN HANCOCK PROTESTING "STREETS OF OUR METROPOLIS CRIMSON'D WITH THE BLOOD OF OUR FELLOW SUBJECTS"
(AMERICAN REVOLUTION) (HUTCHINSON, Thomas) (ADAMS, John) (ADAMS, Samuel) (HANCOCK, John). A Continuation of the Proceedings of the House of Representatives of the Province of the Massachusetts-Bay, Relative to the Convening, Holding, and Keeping The General Assembly at Harvard-College, in Cambridge. Published by Order of the House of Representatives. Boston: Edes and Gill, 1770. Slim octavo, modern half burgundy morocco; pp. (1-3), 4-66.
First edition of the momentous work that documents powerful legal and philosophical debates in a stand-off between Boston patriots and Hutchinson over his command to remove the Massachusetts Court from Boston amidst fury over the recent Boston Massacre, causing colonial leaders, chief among them Samuel and John Adams, to rage against "the most valuable of our Liberties from being wrested from us," this rare edition "almost certainly a major cause" of the Declaration of Independence "accusing the King of calling 'together legislative bodies at place… distance from the repository of their public records for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance."
On March 8, 1770, three days after the Boston Massacre, thousands of mourners attended the funerals of Crispus Attucks, James Caldwell, Samuel Gray and Samuel Maverick. That same day Lt. Governor Hutchinson, who succeeded Francis Bernard as Massachusetts' royal governor, ordered the General Court to be taken from Boston and compelled to meet in Cambridge. With that command, Hutchinson "provoked a constitutional crisis in Massachusetts and instigated a controversy which lasted for more than two years" (Calhoon & Lord, Removal of the Massachusetts General Court, in Tory Insurgents, 28). Hutchinson, whose Boston home had been nearly destroyed in the 1765 Stamp Act riots, was seen by many as "the most villainous, traitorous person in the land… he personified, they believed, all the corruption and the incipient tyranny that they were fighting against" (Bailyn, Ordeal of Thomas Hutchinson, 282). While Bailyn and other historians offer a more temperate view of his legacy, Founding Father Samuel Adams bluntly called Hutchinson "a 'pimp rather than a governor'" (Calhoon & Lord), and John Adams "considered Hutchinson to be the greatest threat to American liberties" (Webking, 80).
Hutchinson, who officially became Governor in 1771, is deemed "the most important figure on the loyalist side in pre-Revolutionary Massachusetts" (Wroth & Zobel, eds. Legal Papers of John Adams V1:cii). His removal of "the Court from Boston's turbulent influences" triggered a stand-off with Boston leaders who challenged "the power of the Crown to interfere in the provincial matter of calling, proroguing, and dissolving the assembly… Hutchinson knew that the removal was a risky step—one which would provide his enemies with a dramatic grievance. At the same time, he was so disturbed by the erosion of royal authority in the province that he was determined to preserve one of the Crown's prerogatives from further deterioration" (Calhoon & Lord, 28). "In Hutchinson's opinion, since Boston's political problems were generated by an unhappy handful of dissidents, if Britain demonstrated a consistently firm hand most of the challenges to authority would soon disappear. As he confided to a superior in London… 'if it was not for 2 or 3 Adamses we should do well eno'" (Welmsley, Thomas Hutchinson, 123).
This rare first edition of Continuation of the Proceedings begins with Hutchinson's July 25, 1770 speech at the opening of the Court's Second Session. As see here, the Massachusetts House swiftly answered by refusing to conduct business in Cambridge, and authorized a report of its Committee of Correspondence that "introduced the strongest use of natural law yet attempted by the Court" (Calhoon & Lord, 35). That report, primarily drafted by Samuel Adams, declares: "This House has the same inherent Rights in this Province, as the House of Commons has in Great-Britain… and we may constitutionally refuse to grant our Constituents Monies to the Crown or to do any other Act of Government… until the Grievances of the People are redressed." The report then proclaims: "We are obliged… to prevent the most valuable of our Liberties from being wrested from us, by the subtle Machinations and daring Encroachments of wicked Ministers… [including] A Revenue not granted by us, but torn from us, Armies stationed here without our Consent; and the Streets of our Metropolis crimson'd with the Blood of our Fellow Subjects" (emphasis in original).
Continuation documents the extensive legal and philosophical debates between Hutchinson and Boston leaders through October of 1770, and concludes with a House resolution in mid-November. That same month, after the Boston Massacre trial and acquittal of British officer Thomas Preston, in which John Adams served as his defense attorney, the House sent separate instructions to Benjamin Franklin, then in London. Franklin was explicitly notified of "the boiling cauldron of resentment in Massachusetts," and in a December 17 message from the Committee of Correspondence, was told to expect, "as soon as it is printed," a copy of this momentous edition of Continuation, "now in the Press" (Founders Online). Ultimately the Court was permitted to return to Boston and in 1774, following the Boston Tea Party, Hutchinson was called back to Britain. The extensive arguments of Hutchinson and Boston leaders this seminal work were "almost certainly the major cause of the grievance in the Declaration of Independence accusing the King of calling 'together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the repository of their public records for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.'" In effect, Hutchinson forced Boston and its Court "to articulate more fully the vague but sweeping doctrine that… only the people's representatives could determine when their happiness and security were served or endangered. The idea was dynamic and contagious" (Calhoon & Lord, 41; emphasis added). To Bailyn, Hutchinson's defeat ultimately reveals "the full measure of the Founders' creativity, for to overcome the authority of Hutchinson's convictions… took nothing less than the recasting of the basic structure of established constitutional and political thought" (Ordeal, 297). With wood-cut engraved initial, head- and tailpiece. ESTC W23272. Evans 11733. Sabin 45695. Very small institutional deaccession inkstamp to rear blank.
Text generally fresh, faint marginal dampstaining to a few leaves not affecting text. A near-fine copy handsomely bound.