Tuesday, June 22, 2010

June 21, 1768: Future Massachusetts Revolutionary Trash-Talks the (British) Government

From back in the time when people could take politics and political discourse seriously.

In today's "Mass Moment," the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities tells us: 1768, James Otis, Jr. gave a characteristically fiery speech to his fellow legislators in Boston. He referred to the British House of Commons as a gathering of "button-makers, horse jockey gamesters, pensioners, pimps, and whore-masters." The colony's royal governor denounced Otis's tirade as the most "insolent. . . treasonable declamation that perhaps was ever delivered." Otis's speech in June 1768 was one of many that attacked Parliament for its efforts to squeeze more revenue from the American colonies. His insistence that "a man's house is his castle" and later that there be "no taxation without representation" remain etched in our collective memory long after his name, and his role in the events leading up to the Revolution, have been forgotten. (read the rest)

Those who worry so much about the level of "civility" in politics today could put their minds at ease if they gained a bit of historical perspective—or just watched today's sessions of the same British Parliament that Otis attacked.  In any case, it's the intellectual quality of the discourse that we should worry about.


Joe Thompson said...

Thank you for reminding me about James Otis, Jr. I first read about him while taking a college history class and was fascinated by his arguments for civil liberties. I was also fascinated by his challenging the PM of the British Empire to single combat, and that he apparently died after being struck by lightning. A remarkable man.

Citizen Wald said...

You're very welcome, and thanks for visiting. I, too, always found the story of Otis very moving: I think it was in particular his struggle with mental illness.

And I appreciate your blog, too: good to keep track of "obsolete technology" and related aspects of history.

Joe Thompson said...

Thank you for the kind words about my blog. Through it I have met some interesting people. Obsolete technologies can be fun. I just have to make sure not to get my necktie caught in the gears ;0)