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The Correspondence of Thomas Hutchinson
1767-1769
Thomas Hutchinson. Edited by John W. Tyler and Elizabeth Dubrulle
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The second volume of Thomas Hutchinson’s correspondence covers the years 1767 through 1769. In 1767, Charles Townshend's new taxes, in addition to his ambitious plans to improve customs enforcement and render crown officials in the colonies more independent of local assemblies, caused increasing resentment in Boston. To force Parliament to repeal the new legislation, Boston merchants adopted a comprehensive nonimportation agreement, which Hutchinson, in his position as lieutenant governor, regarded as an illegal confederacy devoid of any constitutional authority. Nevertheless, he and other royal officials proved powerless to stop its spread. To make matters worse, in October 1768, British troops arrived in Boston, at the instigation of Hutchinson’s superior, Governor Francis Bernard. Hutchinson correctly foresaw that soldiers could be only an irritant and would be ineffective at preventing civil disorder. In August 1769, Bernard sailed for England, leaving Hutchinson as acting governor, with the unenviable challenge of dealing with mounting anger against the occupying troops and growing street violence designed to coerce unwilling importers into compliance with the merchants’ agreement.

Hutchinson’s papers have always been among the most basic sources for historians writing about Boston in the 1760s and 1770s, and the publication of this volume is a valuable step toward making this content widely accessible.

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