Thomas Hutchinson and the Origins of the American Revolution

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Rarely in American History has a political figure been so pilloried and despised as Thomas Hutchinson, Governor of Massachusetts and an ardent loyalist of the Crown in the days leading up to the American revolution. In this narrative and analytic life of Hutchinson, the first since Bernard Bailyn's Pulitzer Prize-winning biography a quarter century ago, Andrew Stephen Walmsley traces Hutchinson's decline from well-respected member of Boston's governing class to America's leading object of revolutionary animus. Walmsley argues that Hutchinson, rather than simply a victim of his inability to understand the passions associated with a revolutionary movement, was in fact defeated in a classic political and personal struggle for power. No mere sycophant for the British, Hutchinson was keenly aware of how much he had to lose if revolutionary forces prevailed, which partially explains his evolution from near-Whig to intransigent loyalist. His consequent vilification became a vehicle through which the growing patriot movement sought to achieve legitimacy.
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Editorial Reviews

This first biography of Massachusetts Governor Thomas Hutchinson (1711-1780) in a quarter century portrays a loyal to England official made "the butt of a faction" in the revolutionaries' quest for legitimacy. Walmsley (US history, Houston Community College) thus views the Revolution from the losers' perspective. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
From the Publisher
"Usefully emphasizes the economic and personal influences on the politics of Massachusetts."

-Religious Studies Review

"A readable and tightly argued political and social biography that provides numerous insights into Massachusetts' history on the eve of the revolution."

-Historical Journal of Massachusetts

"Given the enduring fascination of the American Revolution, this fine biography of Thomas Hutchinson should find a wide and appreciative audience. Historian Stephen Walmsely's persuasive study of the loyalist governor of Massachusetts Bay portrays an honorable but unimaginative official who remains true to his aristocratic conception of duty but helpless to arrest the forces wrenching his native land away from Crown rule. Putting a human face on an epic conflict, Walmsley finds hutchinson's radical opponents motivated less by ideas and principles than by ambition, greed, and personal animus. Indeed, Walmsley's graphic description of the mob violence, deployed by the patriots to intimidate Hutchinson and subvert the rule of law, will leave readers pondering who were the villains and who the heroes in this superb reconsideration of the nation's origins."

-Allen Matusow,Rice University

"A candid and readable biography . . . [Walmsley] gives a vivid account of the descent of a controversial and sometimes misunderstood figure of the period."


"A significant addition. Hutchinson definitely needed a more complete treatment than he heretofore had received and Walmsley has neatly provided it. A genuine pleasure to read."

-Charles P. Neimeyer,author of America Goes to War: A Social History of the Continental Army

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814793411
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 12/1/1998
  • Series: American Social Experience Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Meet the Author

Andrew Stephen Walmsley is Instructor of U.S. History at Houston Community College.

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Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments
Prologue: Departure 1
1 Boston's Fortunate Son 4
2 "The Butt of a Faction" 36
3 Enter the Crowd 57
4 "An Ill Temper and a Factious Spirit" 75
5 John Mein and Christopher Sneider: Two Martyrs 100
6 The Deepening Crisis 115
7 Hutchinson's Final Humiliation 132
8 Exile 153
Notes 161
Selected Bibliography 189
Index 201
About the Author 207
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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 13, 2000

    Saving face of a lead tyrant of loyalism in colonial era!

    I had the pleasure of having Dr. Walmsley as a professor in college. This book truly takes the short, tyranous version portraid about Thomas Hutchinson in college history and shows the more realistic side of a man that was truly loyal when loyal wasn't popular! I recommend this book and the teacher that wrote it! Thanks for an inspirational semester, Dr. Walmsley!!

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