Thomas Hutchinson

Hutchinson, Thomas, 1711–80, colonial governor of Massachusetts (1771–74) and historian, b. Boston. A descendant of Anne Hutchinson, he was a man of wealth and prominence, of learning, and of notable integrity. He entered public life when he became (1737) a member of the General Court, the Massachusetts legislature. When the cost of the Louisburg campaign was repaid to Massachusetts, he proposed (1748) that the money be used to redeem the colony's depreciated currency. The plan, which was ultimately successful in stimulating trade, caused Hutchinson to lose the election in 1749 and aligned him with the conservatives. He was a member of the governor's council (1749–66), a delegate to the Albany Congress (1754), chief justice (1760–61), and lieutenant governor (1758–71). When he was appointed royal governor in 1771, Hutchinson was perhaps the most powerful man in the colony, but he had bitter political enemies among the radicals, notably Samuel Adams. Though he considered the Stamp Act and other government measures unwise, he had favored strict enforcement, and his unpopularity caused a mob to sack and burn his mansion in 1765. His unpopularity increased after he became governor, and he favored strenuous measures against the growing discontent. These views were exposed when letters he had written to English friends were made public. In 1773 he refused to let the tea-laden ships clear Boston Harbor and thus brought on the Boston Tea Party. As tension grew worse he was replaced as governor by Gen. Thomas Gage and moved to England. He was the author of an accurate, scholarly, and useful book, The History of the Colony and Province of Massachusetts Bay (3 vol., 1764–1828; modern ed. by L. S. Mayo, 1936).

See his diary and letters (ed. by P. O. Hutchinson, 1883–86, repr. 1971); study by B. Bailyn (1974).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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