Thomas Hutchinson responds to independence (1776)


After being recalled to England, former Massachusetts governor Thomas Hutchinson wrote a lengthy response to the Declaration of Independence, answering each of its arguments and grievances in turn. This extract is from the first part of Hutchinson’s missive:


“They begin, my Lord, with a false hypothesis: that the colonies are one distinct people, and the kingdom [of England is] another, connected by political bands. The Colonies, politically considered, never were a distinct people from the kingdom. There never has been but one political band, and that was just the same before the first colonists emigrated as it has been ever since…

The supreme legislative authority [the British parliament] hath essential right and is indispensably bound to keep all parts of the Empire entire, until there may be a separation consistent with the general good of the Empire, of which good, from the nature of government, this authority must be the sole judge.

I should therefore be impertinent if I attempted to show in what case a whole people may be justified in rising up in opposition to the powers of government, altering or abolishing them and substituting, in whole or in part, new powers in their stead; or in what sense all men are created equal; or how far life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness may be said to be unalienable. Only I could ask the delegates of Maryland, Virginia and the Carolinas how their constituents justify the depriving more than an hundred thousand Africans of their rights to liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and in some degree to their lives, if these rights are so absolutely unalienable.

Nor shall I attempt to refute the absurd notions of government, or to expose the equivocal or inconclusive expressions contained in this Declaration; but rather to show the false representation made of the facts… alleged to be the evidence of injuries and usurpations, and the special motives to rebellion. There are many of them… instead of justifying, they rather aggravate the criminality of this Revolt.

The first in order, ‘He has refused his assent to laws the most wholesome and necessary for the public good’, is of so general a nature that it is not possible to conjecture to what laws or to what colonies it refers. I remember no laws which any colony has been restrained from passing so as to cause any complaint of grievance, except those for issuing a fraudulent paper currency and making it a legal tender…

‘He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing Importance…’. Laws, my Lord, are in force in the Colonies, as soon as a Governor has given his assent, and remain in force until the King’s disallowance is signed. Some laws may have their full effect before the King’s pleasure can be known…

‘He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly for opposing with manly firmness his Invasions of the Rights of the People’. Contention between governors and their assemblies have caused dissolutions of such assemblies, I suppose, in all the colonies, in former as well as later times. I recollect but one instance of the dissolution of an Assembly by special order from the King, and that was in Massachusetts Bay [in 1774]…

The professed reason for publishing the Declaration was ‘a decent respect to the opinions of mankind’, yet the real design was to reconcile the people of America to that independence, which they had been made to believe was not intended. This design has too well succeeded. The people have not observed the fallacy in reasoning… nor the absurdity of making the governed to be governors.

From a disposition to receive willingly complaints against rulers, facts misrepresented have passed without examining. Discerning men have concealed their sentiments, because under the present government in America, no man may, by writing or speaking, contradict any part of this Declaration without being deemed an enemy to his country, and exposed to the rage and fury of the populace.”