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James Otis

James Otis, American lawyer, colonial legislator. member Massachusetts General Court, 1761-1769, 71, speaker, 1766.

Background

  • Otis, James was born on February 5, 1725 in West Barnstable, Massachusetts, United States. Son of James and Mary (Allyne) Otis.

  • Education

    • Graduated from Harvard, 1743.

    Career

    • Admitted to Plymouth County (Massachusetts) bar, 1748. Practiced law, Boston, 1750. Published The Rudiments of Latin Prosody … and the Principles of Harmony in Poetic and Prosaic Composition, 1760.

      King’s attorney, 1754. Served as king’s advisory general of vice admiralty court, Boston. Opposed issuance of British writs of assistance.

      Argued (in collaboration with Oxenbridge Thacker) illegality of writs before Massachusetts Superior Court, 1761, based argument on natural law, lost case. Active member Sons of Liberty. Member Massachusetts General Court, 1761-1769, 71, speaker, 1766.

      Directed majority in General Court (with Samuel Adams and Joseph Hawley). Prepared rough draft of state papers that issued from General Court. Helped draw up Massachusetts circular letter adopted by House, 1768.

      Lapses of sanity lessened his influence after 1769. Author: (pamphlets which laid broad basis for American political theory on natural law) A Vindication of the Conduct of the House of Representatives, 1762. The Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved, 1764.

      Considerations on Behalf of the Colonists, In a Letter to a Noble Lord. A Vindication of the British Colonies. Brief Remarks on the Defence of the Halifax Libel on the British-American Colonies.

    Works

    • Author: (pamphlets which laid broad basis for American political theory on natural law) A Vindication of the Conduct of the House of Representatives, 1762. The Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved, 1764. Considerations on Behalf of the Colonists, In a Letter to a Noble Lord.

      A Vindication of the British Colonies. Brief Remarks on the Defence of the Halifax Libel on the British-American Colonies.

    Membership

    Member Massachusetts General Court, 1761-1769, 71, speaker, 1766.

    Connections

    • Married Ruth Cunningham, 1755, 3 children.
    • father: James Otis
    • mother: Mary (Allyne) Otis
    • spouse: Ruth Cunningham
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    Died March 23, 1783
    (aged 58)
    Nationality