Thomas Hutchinson, the loyalist governor of Massachusetts, tried his best to prevent the Revolution from occurring by strangling the Patriot cause in its cradle. His reputation has been rehabilitated by one of our greatest historians of the colonial era, Bernard Bailyn. Benedict Arnold's reputation, alas, is beyond any hope of rehabilitation: he was a turncoat rather than a loyalist, i.e., a traitor. He had been a hero of the battle of Saratoga, so why did he betray the glorious cause? Money, love, insufficient recognition of his achievements? We'll try to understand the man behind a name that has become synonymous with treason in American history. And finally, one more type, the opposite of Arnold: the spy, Abraham Woodhull, of Setauket, Long Island. He took enormous risks anonymously, without any thought of gain beyond getting his expenses paid. And he did so because he hated the British and had been converted to the Patriot cause, from which he never wavered. He and his comrades in the Culper spy ring did what Arnold failed to do: they helped to determine the outcome of the war.
Thomas Hutchinson (9 September 1711 – 3 June 1780) was a businessman, historian, and a prominent Loyalist politician of the Province of Massachusetts Bay in the years before the American Revolution. He has been referred to as "the most important figure on the loyalist side in pre-Revolutionary Massachusetts". He was a successful merchant and politician, and was active at high levels of the Massachusetts government for many years, serving as lieutenant governor and then governor from 1758 to 1774. He was a politically polarizing figure who came to be identified by John Adams and Samuel Adams as a proponent of hated British taxes, despite his initial opposition to Parliamentary tax laws directed at the colonies. He was blamed by Lord North (the British Prime Minister at the time) for being a significant contributor to the tensions that led to the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War. Hutchinson's Boston mansion was ransacked in 1765 during protests against the Stamp Act, damaging his collection of materials on early Massachusetts history. As acting governor in 1770, he exposed himself to mob attack in the aftermath of the Boston massacre, after which he ordered the removal of troops from Boston to Castle William. Letters of his calling for abridgement of colonial rights were published in 1773, further intensifying dislike of him in the colony. He was replaced as governor in May 1774 by General Thomas Gage, and went into exile in England, where he advised the government on how to deal with the colonists. Hutchinson had a deep interest in colonial history, collecting many historical documents. He wrote a three-volume History of the Province of Massachusetts Bay whose last volume, published posthumously, covered his own period in office. Historian Bernard Bailyn wrote of Hutchinson, "If there was one person in America whose actions might have altered the outcome [of the protests and disputes preceding the American Revolutionary War], it was he." Scholars use Hutchinson's career to represent the tragic fate of the many Loyalists marginalized by their attachment to an outmoded imperial structure at a time when the modern nation-state was emerging. Hutchinson exemplifies the difficulties experienced by Loyalists, paralyzed by his ideology and his dual loyalties to America and Britain. He sacrificed his love for Massachusetts to his loyalty to Great Britain, where he spent his last years in unhappy exile.
Gordon S. Wood,
The American Revolution: A History,
FURTHER READING FOR THE TEN WEEKS
Here is a PDF document you can download and print with Prof. Thompson's reading for the whole quarter.