Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Don't Forget James Otis


When we think about great writers of the American Revolution, the obvious name that surfaces to the top is usually Thomas Paine. Rarely is the name James Otis on that list. Unfortunately, this important and influential man is often forgotten. While there can be no doubt that Thomas Paine is the Revolution's premiere writer, and that "Common Sense" was THE blockbuster piece of the time, we should not neglect to give James Otis the credit he deserves.

During the early years of the revolution (roughly from 1763-1774), James Otis was at the vanguard of colonial rebellion. It is Otis that is given credit for the infamous phrase, "taxation without representation is tyrrany," an important piece of political propoganda during the Stamp Act. Otis became the major distributior of patriotic colonial literature during these years. His intense passion for the "glorious cause" was often seen as mental instability. John Adams even suggested that Otis be locked up for his obvious insanity.

Otis, however, was not insane. His extreme devotion was based on a strong distrust of the British imperial agenda in the colonies. Otis always maintained that the colonies should be left alone, or war would be the result. It should be remembered, however, that Otis was not a strong advocate for independence. He simply believed that the colonies should be loosely governed and that they should keep their allegiance to the crown.

The legacy of James Otis, though overshadowed by others, should be remembered as one of the most important factors during the early years of the revolution. It is thanks to Otis that many of the early fires of revolution recieved the kindling they needed.

5 comments:

Brian Tubbs said...

I agree w/ what you say about James Otis. He's been unfortunately forgotten by many.

However, I do want to offer a respectful counter-point to your naming Thomas Paine as the 'premiere writer' of the period. Certainly, Common Sense remains (proportionately speaking) the greatest bestseller in American history (other than the Bible and Poor Richard's Almanack), but....

Thomas Jefferson's writings are much more substantive and enduring than those of Mr. Paine.

Corazon said...

Only one exception with Thomas Jefferson. The Declaration of Independence is not a "Jeffersonian" writing. Instead, he used stuff from all kinds of sources. I agree that Jeferson should be up there with Paine though.

Corazon said...

I wonder where Harry Potter ranks in sales compared to Common Sense! I bet Thomas Paine would never call any of the characters from his writing gay lime Rowling did! HAHAHAHAHA!

Mabry said...

Comments on comments....Paine was the blockbuster of the time. Jefferson was known for his "A Summary View of the Rights of British America was known but not by a popular audience like Paine's "Common Sense". Paine was the superstar while Jefferson was the statesmen.

Anonymous said...

I think u r very right and this article helped learn a little about Kames Otis because i chose him to do a report on for social studies instead of benjamin franklin and george washington the main reason i chose him was beacause he is not credited enough thanks again��������