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. 163


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Sketch of his Life,

1 Sketch of his Life,

. 125

Speech on the Writs of Assistance,

4 Speech on the Federal Constitution,


On the study of the Law,

7 Speech on the British Treaty, .




Sketch of his Life,
8 Sketch of his Life,


Speech on the Federal Constitution,

13 Address to the People of Great Britain : 1774, 159

Another speech on the same subject,



Reply to Edmund Randolph, .


Sketch of his Life,


Speech on the Federal Constitution,


Sketch of his Life,

40 Argument in the Trial of Aaron Burr, 174

Address of the American Colonies to the in-

habitants of Great Britain: 1775, .


Sketch of his Life,



Speech on the Federal Constitution,


Sketch of his Life,

48 Remarks in the Federal Convention of New
Charge to the Grand Jury of Charleston Dig-

York, on Mr. Gilbert Livingston's pro-

trict, South Carolina : 1776,


posed amendment to the Constitution, 195

Further remarks on the Federal Constitution, 200


Argument in the case of Harry Croswell, .204

Sketch of his Life, .

57 Speech on the Revenue System,


Oration on the Boston Massacre,




Sketch of his Life,

Sketch of his Life,.


Oration on the Boston Massacre,


Vindication of the Colonies; a speech deliver-

ed in the Convention for the Province of JOHN ADAMS:
Pennsylvania : 1775,
68 Sketch of his Life,


Speech on the Federal Constitation,


Speech in defence of the British Soldiers : 1770, 235


Inaugural Address : 1797, ,


Sketch of his Life,


Speech to the New Jersey Legislature : 1777,


Sketch of his Life,



Inaugural Address : 1789,


Sketch of his Life, .

91 Farewell Address,


Speech on Madison's Resolutions,


Speech on the British Treaty,



Sketch of his Life,



Oration before the New Jersey Society of Cin-

Sketch of his Life,

. 118



Address to the South Carolina Assembly: 1776, 120 Speech on Non-Intercourse with Great Brit-

Speech to the General Assembly: 1782, 122

ain : 1794,





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Sketch of his Life,

. 278 Sketch of his Life,


Speech in the Pennsylvania Assembly : 1764, 277 Remarks on the Federal Constitution, 404

"The Declaration on Taking up Arms : 1775,

Speech on the Power of Congress to levy




Sketch of his Life,


Speech on the Conference with Lord Howe, . 298 Sketch of his Life,

. 410

Remarks on the Confederation,

296 Speech on the Prohibition of certain Imports:

Speech on the Convention with Burgoyne, 298



Speech on the Appointment of Plenipoten Speech on Direct Taxation,





Speech on the Loan Office Certificates, 803
A Portion of a speech on the Finances,

Sketch of his Life, .



Reply to Samuel Dexter,



Defence of stiff-armed-George,


Sketch of his Life,

808 Reply to Mr. Cram,


Oration on the Advantages of American In-




Sketch of his Life,

Extract from an Oration on the Cession of


Speech on a proposed amendment of the Con-

Louisiana to the United States, . 318

stitution : 1802,



Remarks on the Judiciary System,


Sketch of his Life,



Oration on American Independence,

Sketch of his Life,

. 447


Eulogy on Washington,


Sketch of his Life,


An Appeal, under the signature of “Hy-


perion :" 1768,

Sketch of his Life,

Speech in Defence of the British Soldiers : Speech on the Judiciary,




Discourse before the New York Historical

Society : 1812,

. 466


Speech on the Navigation of the Mississippi, 475
Sketch of his Life,

346 Oration over the dead body of Hamilton, . 487
Address to the People of the United States,

1787, previous to the meeting of the ROBERT GOODLOE HARPER: ,
Federal Convention,
847 Sketch of his Life,


Speech on the Aggressions of France, 491


Speech on the Appointment of Foreign Minis-

Sketch of his Life,




Oration before the New York Society of Cin-

cinnati : 1787,


The Purse and Sword; an extract,

355 Sketch of his Life, .


Speech in the trial of William S. Smith, . 528


Argument in the trial of Robert M. Goodwin, 587
Sketch of his Life, .

An Eulogium on “the brave men who have GEORGE RICHARDS MINOT:
fallen in the contest with Great Britain:"

Sketch of his Life,



Eulogy on Washington,

. 552



Sketch of his Life,
861 Sketch of his Life,

. 537

Observations on the Federal Constitution, . 862 Eulogy on Hamilton,




Sketch of his Life,
371. Sketch of his Life,


Speech on the Federal Convention, . 373 Speech on the Navigation of the Mississippi, 567

• 358



The subject of this memoir, descended in the fifth generation from John Otis, who came over from England at a very early period of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay, and settled at • Hingham, was born on the 5th of February, 1725, in the family mansion, at Great Marshes, now

West Barnstable, Massachusetts. Nothing is known of his early youth. Pursuing his classical studies under the guidance of the Reverend Jongthan Russel, minister of the parish in which he lived, he entered Harvard College in June, 1739, and. took his first degree in 1743. “During the first two years of his collègó Kife," says his biograplot; "his natural ardor and vivacity made his society much courted by the elder students, and engaged him more in amusement than in study; but he changed his course in the junior year, and began thenceforward to give indications of great talent and power of application." The only.record of his having taken any part in the usnal collegiate courses, is that of a syllogistic disputation, on receiving his first degree. At college, excepting his two first years, he was serious

in his disposition and steady in the prosecution of his studies. When he came home during the vacations, being so devoted to his books, he was seldom seen; and the near neighbors to his father's dwelling would sometimes only remark his return after be had been at home a fortnight. Though enveloped and marked with some of the gravity and abstraction natyral to severe application, he would occasionally discover the wit and humor which forined, afterwards, striking ingredients in his character. A small party of young people being assembled one day at his father's house, when he was at home during a college vacation, he had taken a slight part in their sports, when, after much persuasion, they induced him to play a country dance for them with his violin, on which instrument he then practised a little. The set was made up, and after they were fairly engaged, he suddenly stopped, and holding up his fiddle and bow, exclaimed, “So Orpheus fiddled, and so danced the brutes!” and then tossing the instrument aside, rushed into the garden, followed by the disappointed revellers, who were obliged to convert their intended dance into a frolicsome chase after the fugitive musician.

It was the intention of Mr. Otis to qualify himself for the practice of law, but he did not engage in the appropriate studies for that purpose immediately on leaving college. He wisely devoted nearly two years to the pursuits of general literature and science, intending thereby to establish broad and deep the foundations of his professional studies. In 1745 he commenced the study of the law, in the office of Jeremiah Gridley, at that time the most eminent lawyer in the province; and on completing those studies, he removed to Plymouth, and practised there during the years 1748 and 1749. Finding the "narrow range of country business” unsuited to his powers, he returned to Boston, where he soon rose to the highest position in his profession, being often called upon from other colonies and distant provinces

for legal assistance and advice.

Through all his professional engagements, he still retained his taste for literature. In 1760, he published “The Rudiments of Latin Prosody, with a Dissertation on Letters, and the Principles of Harmony, in Poetic and Prosaic Composition, collected from the best Writers.” He also composed a similar work on Greek Prosody, which was never published, but perished with all the rest of his papers.

The important events preceding and connected with the American Revolution, attracted the attention of Mr. Otis. On the death of George the Second, in 1760, his grandson reached the throne. The conquest of Canada was completed, and rumors were widely spread that the colonies were to be deprived of their charters and formed into royal governments. The new king issued orders that enabled his officers of the revenue to compel the sheriffs and constables of the provinces to search for goods which it was supposed had not paid the taxes imposed by Parliament. The good will of the colonists was wanted no longer to advance the prosecution of the war, and Writs of Assistance were undertaken through the influence of royal governors and some other interested friends of the Crown. The first application for those writs was made at Salem, Massachusetts. Stephen Sewall,* who was the Chief Justice of the Superior Court, expressed great doubt of the legality of such writs, and of the authority of the court to grant them. The other judges would not favor it; and as it was an application of the Crown, that could not be dismissed without a hearing, it was postponed to the next term of the court, to be holden at Boston, in February, 1761. The probable result of this question caused great anxiety among the mercantile portion of the community. The merchants applied to Benjamin Pratt,t to undertake their cause, but he declined, being about to leave Boston for New York, of which province he had been appointed Chief Justice. They then solicited Otis, and Oxenbridge Thacher, f both of whom engaged to make their defence.

The arguments in this important case, were heard in; the Council Chamber of the old Town House in Boston. Chief Justice Sewall having died, Lieux. Gov. Hutchinson had been appointed as his successor, and before him the case.jaš opened, by Mr. Grdens Otis's veteran law teacher, then Attorney General. He was followed by Mr. Thacher, with greåt ingenuity and ability, on the side of the merchants. “But," in the language of President Adams, “Otis was a flame

* Stophen Bewall was the son of Major Samael Sewall, of Salem, Mass. He was born in December, 1702, and graduated at Harvard College, in 1721. In 1728 he was chosen tutor in the College, and occapied that position until 1739, when he was called to take a seat on the Bench of the superior Court. On the death of Chief Justice Dudley, in 1752, he was appointed to succeed him, though not the senior judgo. Be was distinguished for his tronor, integrity, moderation, and great benevolence. He died in December, 1760, and thë, foss.of this impartial, high-minded "magistrate, at that critical period, was rightly esteemed a great public misfortune..

+ Mr. Pratt affords & striking example how strong tgdënt såd energy of mind bay raise one from a humble lot, and make even calamity the foundation of prosperity. He was bied a mechanic, and wet with a serious injury that prevented him from pursuing his occupation. He turned his mind to study;"entered Harvata College, and took his first degree in 1787. He studied law, and rose to great distinction at the bar. Through the friendship of Governor Pownall, he was made Chief Justice of New York, in 1761. A cause of great difficulty, which had been many years depending, being brought up soon after he had taken his seat, gave him an opportunity of displaying the depth and acuteness of his intellect, and the soundness of his judgment, and secured for him at once the public respect and confidence. He wrote some political essays on the topics of the day; and a few remaining fragments in verse of his composition, a specimen of which is preserved in Knapp's Biography, prove that he possessed both taste and talent for poetry. He presided over the Courts of New York but two years, dying in 1763, at the age of fifty-five.-Tudor.

Mr. Thacher was at that time one of the heads of the bar in Boston; was a fine scholar, and possessed of much general learning. He received his degree at Harvard College, in 1798. Unassuming and affable in his deportment of strict morality, punctual in his religious duties, and with sectarian attachments, that made him, like a large majority of the people around him, look with jealousy and enmity on the meditated encroachments of the English hierarchy; he was in all these respects fitted to be popular. To these qualities he joined the purest and most ardent patriotism, and a quick perception of those in power. His opposition gave the government great uneasiness; his disposition and habits secured public confdence; his moderation, learning, and ability, gave weight to his opinions, and prevented him from being considered as ander the influence of others. John Adams says, the advocates of the Crown "hated him worse than they did James Otis or Samuel Adams." Thacher published some essays on the subject of an alteration proposed by Lieutenant Governor Hutchinson relative to the value of gold and silver; also, a pamphlet against the policy of the Navigation Act, and the Acts of Trade, entitled, " The Sentiments of a British American." He died, of a pulmonary complaint, in 1765.

$ Mr. Gridley was one of the principal lawyers and civilians of this time. He took his degree at Harvard College, in 1725. He came to Boston as an assistant in the Grammar School, for some time preached occasionally; but turning his attention to the law, he soon rose to distinction in the profession. He set on foot a weekly journal, in 1732, called the Re nearsal, in which he wrote on various literary as well as political subjects; but it lasted only one year. He was a Whig la politics, and as a representative from Brookline, in the General Court, opposed the measures of the ministry. He was

of fire; with a promptitude of classical allusions; a depth of research, & rapid summary of historical events and dates, a profusion of legal authorities, a prophetic glance of his eyes into futurity, and a rapid torrent of impetuous eloquence, he hurried away all before him. American independence was then and there born. The seeds of patriots and heroes, to defend the Non sine Diis animosus infans,* to defend the vigorous youth, were then and there sown. Every man of an immense crowded audience appeared to me to go away as I did, ready to take arms against Writs of Assistance. Then and there was the first scene of the first act of opposition to the arbitrary claims of Great Britain. Then and there the child Independence was born. In fifteen years, i. e. in 1776, he grew up to manhood and declared himself free.” The principles Otis educed and elaborated with such profound learning, humor and pathos, could not be subverted, and the court at the close of his speech adjourned for consideration : Chief Justice Hutchinson, at the end of the term, giving the opinion, "The Court has considered the subject of Writs of Assistance, and can see no foundation for such a writ; but as the practice in England is not known, it has been thought best to continue the question to the next term, that in the mean time opportunity may be given to know the result." +

It was on the occasion of this masterly performance, when Otis stood forth as the bold and brilliant advocate of colonial rights, that he became famous. Although he had never before interfered in public affairs, his exertions on this single occasion secured him a commanding popularity with the friends of their country, and the terror and vengeance of her enemies; neither of which ever deserted him. In May, 1761, he was chosen to the Legislature, in which assembly he wielded immense power. His superiority as a legislator was everywhere acknowledged, and in all important measures he was foremost. In 1762 he published the “Vindication of the Conduct of the House of Representatives of the Province of Massachusetts Bay," &c., a work in which many volumes are concentrated. “Look over the Declarations of Rights and Wrongs issued by Congress in 1774,” says John Adams. “Look into the Declaration of Independence, in 1776. Look into the Writings of Dr. Price and Dr. Priestly. Look into all the French Constitutions of government; and to cap the climax, look into Mr. Thomas Paine's Common Sense, Crisis, and Rights of Man; and what can you find that is not to be found in solid substance in this Vindication of the House of Representatives?” Mr. Otis was a member of the Congress which met at New York in the month of October in the year 1765. During the same year he published "A Vindication of the British Colonies," &c. Also, “Considerations on behalf of the Colonists, in a Letter to a Noble Lord.” It was written with spirit and ability, and was the last work that appeared from his pen. On the return of Otis to the colonial legislature of 1766, he was appointed chairman of a committee to reply to a message of Governor Bernard, in which that officer had shown some resentment. In the answer to the message they say, “It appears to us an undue exercise of the prerogative to lay us under the necessity either of silence, or of being thought out of season in making a reply. Your Excellency says, that these times have been more difficult than they need have been; which is also the opinion of this House. Those who have made them so, have reason to regret the injury they have done to a sincere and honest people.” It need not be said that Otis had neither respect nor fear of the royal governor. The same year Mr. Otis brought before the legislature a proposition “for opening a gallery of the House for such as wished to hear the debates ; " thus aiding in the establishment of one of the most important principles of representative government, the publicity of legislative proceedings. Until this time it had been customary for the legislative assemblies to sit with closed doors, and it was with great reluctance that the change was made.

During the summer of the year 1767, Parliament passed an act "to raise a revenue in however, appointed Attorney-General, when Mr. Trowbridge was promoted to the Bench, and in that capacity was obliged to defend the famous “ Writs of Assistance," in which he was opposed-and wholly confuted by his pupil, Otis. He was a Colonel of the Militie, and Grand Master of the Free Masons, and belonged to some other charitable associations. He died in Boston, September 7th, 1767.-Eliot,

* This motto was furnished by Sir William Jones for the Alliance Medal, struck in Paris to commemorate the alliance between France and America.

+ "When the next term came," says Mr. Adams, “no judgment was pronounced, -nothing was said about Writs of Assistance."

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