America Resents British Dictation
( Originally Published 1927 )
BY HENRY B. CARRINGTON
(From The Patriotic Reader, J. B. Lippincott & Co., Phila.)
DURING the agitation of 1765, concerning the British Stamp Act, a convention of its opponents was assembled in New York City under the name of " The Stamp Act Congress." Among the most conspicuous of the delegates from the Massachusetts Colony was James Otis. As early as 1761 he protested so earnestly against permitting the British officers of the customs to have "writs of assistance " in their enforcement of the British revenue laws, that John Adams, who listened to his argument, thus described it:
Otis was a flame of fire ! With a promptitude of classical allusions, a depth of research, a rapid summary of historical events and dates, a profusion of legal authorities, a prophetic glance of his eye into futurity, and a rapid torrent of impetuous eloquence, he hurried away all before him. Every man of an immense audience appeared to me to go away, as I did, ready to take up arms against any ` writs of assistance.' "
The all-absorbing sentiment of his life, the wealth 0f his diction, and the fire 0f his oratory have been em-bodied in a form which stands among the best of American classics. In the romance of "The Rebels," Miss Lydia Maria Francis (afterwards Mrs. Child) introduces James Otis as a leading character. After the opening statement, that " there was hurrying to and fro through the streets of Boston on the night of the 14th of August, 1765," his patriotic American woman shows such a right conception of the power and oratory of Otis, as well as of the actual tone and spirit of his times, that the fragments of her hero's conversation during the story, gathered in the form of a speech, have often been mistaken for some actual appeal to the people of his period. The youth of America will do well to keep it fresh in mind, and thereby honor both its author and its subject.