An Enlightened American: The Political Ideology of Thomas Hutchinson on the Eve of the Revolutionary Crisis

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2008-08-03

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This dissertation examines the political, social and philosophical views of Massachusetts' last royal governor, Thomas Hutchinson, as expressed in his 1764-1773 work, the History of Massachusetts-Bay. It is my contention that this work provides unique insights into the ideology of this important eighteenth century figure, and the values that would motivate him during the Revolutionary crisis.

Years before the turmoil of the Revolutionary crisis began, Hutchinson had already given deep reflection to many of the same political and philosophical issues that would resurface in the imperial struggle. Hutchinson's historical work, written for both colonial and English audiences, provides significant insight into Hutchinson's political ideology and value system as that struggle opened. I will concentrate my analysis on Volume One, the part of Hutchinson's work written before 1765. This thesis will focus on three issues covered in the first volume: Massachusetts' struggle for religious orthodoxy in the seventeenth century, the colony's early Indian wars and relations with the Indians, and the colonists' century-long struggle with England over their original charter.

My dissertation will demonstrate that Hutchinson's worldview was, no less than many of his adversaries in the Revolution Crisis, that of a man of the Enlightenment, and an American with both deep roots and great pride in his native land. Throughout Volume One of the History, Hutchinson stressed the importance of balanced government, the necessity of a just and impartial rule of law, the need for moderation and republican virtue in government, and the dangers of prejudice and popular passion. His views on a wide variety of issues grew, at least in part, out of his understanding of Massachusetts' colonial past, and his immersion in the literature of the American Enlightenment. These views were clearly revealed in the History, a work which has until now been under-utilized as a key into the man's ideology.

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