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The Ordeal of Thomas Hutchinson Paperback

ISBN-13: 978-0674641617 ISBN-10: 0674641612

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press (January 31, 1976)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674641612
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674641617
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,057,016 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Professor Bailyn has written a biography that is a work of art: exquisitely written, delicate in insight, and imbued with a wisdom about men and affairs that is the true hallmark of a great historian. (J. H. Plumb Times Literary Supplement)

As political biography, The Ordeal of Thomas Hutchinson is without equal in the voluminous literature on the Revolution. No other public figure of the Revolution has found such skillful and sensitive attention. (Jack P. Greene History)

Writing this kind of history requires discipline, imagination, and sensitivity, and it presupposes that there is an inner world of intellect and of moral and emotional sensibility which is intimately responsive to external events... His probing, taut yet luminous prose weaves together into a single fabric finished explanations, analyses of evidence, flashes of insight, and intuitive understandings. A triumph of historical and literary artistry...The Ordeal of Thomas Hutchinson is that rare achievement which is at once original and nearly definitive, masterful and provocative. (Robert M. Calhoon Reviews in American History)

About the Author

Bernard Bailyn is Adams University Professor, Emeritus, and Director of the International Seminar on the History of the Atlantic World at Harvard University.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 38 people found the following review helpful By John A. Cusey on August 31, 2001
Format: Paperback
I'll cheerfully agree with the reviewer below who claims that Bailyn's biography of Thomas Hutchinson, who was a fixture in Massachusetts politics for the last two decades of the colonial period and who was the loyalist governor of the province at the time of the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party, presupposes a general knowledge of American Revolutionary History and the acts of Parliament which figured so prominently in it. In fact, I'll go a step further and say that one's enjoyment of this book would be greatly enhanced by reading two of Bailyn's other works which provide the scholarly framework for Bailyn's argument in this book: THE IDEOLOGICAL ORIGINS OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION and THE ORIGINS OF AMERICAN POLITICS. Bailyn's central argument in this book is that Hutchinson, the prototypical Loyalist, failed because he could never conceptually understand the ideological underpinnings of his opponents' thought. He was convinced that a small group of demogogues motivated by base self-interest had managed to convince the populace at large that the British government was plotting against them and their God-given rights when it was clear to Hutchinson that all notions of a perfidious British plot were absolutely ridiculous. Unfortunately, Hutchinson's analysis of the situation was severely flawed, and Hutchinson's failure to understand his opponents made him incapable of convincing them that they were in error.
Bailyn is the foremost living historian of the American Revolution, and this book is what one would expect from someone of Bailyn's stature. It's wonderfully researched and wonderfully written, and it truly is a joy to read. It's not the first book that one should read about the American Revolution, but it's certainly on the list.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By R. Albin TOP 500 REVIEWER on September 3, 2011
Format: Paperback
This really interesting book is a sympathetic biography of the American loyalist politician Thomas Hutchinson. Bailyn uses Hutchinson's extensive correspondence and diaries to reconstruct the life and thought of a intelligent opponent of the American Revolution. In part, this is an interesting and extremely well written effort to cast light on the Revolutionary generation with a detailed examination of the major alternative to the Revolution. Highly intelligent, thoughtful, politically experienced, and deeply rooted in colonial Massachusetts, Hutchinson made his career in trade and also by serving as an official in the colonial-imperial government. He, and his considerable extended family, were deeply enmeshed in the web of governmental patronage centered on London and he was quite successful in using the patronage system to further his career and that of his relatives. Bailyn also makes clear that Hutchinson was patriotic (both towards Massachusetts and the British Empire), civic minded, and that his career was marked by many actions that benefited his native colony. In many ways, he was a model imperial official whose actions aimed at, and often succeeded in, benefiting Massachusetts and Britain.

Hutchinson was caught in the middle when the existing imperial structure began to unravel after the Seven Years War. Responding to the arguments of individuals like Sam Adams and James Otis, Hutchinson was arguably more perceptive than many among the incipient Revolutionaries. He foresaw that the logical conclusion of these arguments would be independence. Beyond his intrinsic conservatism and success in the existing imperial system, Hutchinson reasonably believed that independence for the colonies would result in a weak state that would fall prey to other European powers.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ronald Wheatley Atty on November 3, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Bernard Bailyn's "The Ordeal of Thomas Hutchinson" is a compelling read for anyone interested in American history and particularly that period from 1760, the end of the French and Indian War, to 1773 the eve of the Revolution.

Governor Thomas Pownall had appointed Hutchinson Lt. Governor in 1757 when Lt. Governor Phips fell ill and died. As the last civilian Governor of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, Thomas Hutchinson, was at the epicenter of the schism in Boston trying to fulfill his duties as Governor and to the King, as he saw them, amidst the growing frenzy resulting from misguided policies, such as the Stamp Act, that emanated from the British Parliament in the sixties.

An irony is that Governor Hutchinson was condemned by James Otis, Jr. and Sam Adams for holding two powerful offices at the same time - Governor and Chief Justice of the Province of Massachusetts Bay Colony. However he did not seek the post of Chief Justice. When his name was put forward he told Governor Bernard that he felt he was unqualified and he supported Barnstable attorney James Otis Sr. But Bernard had been advised that the problem with that appointment was the political activities of James Otis' son James Otis Jr. Further Hutchinson knew he would be following the respected Justice Stephan Sewall whose recent death opened the position.

When Bernard informed Hutchinson he was to be selected, Hutchinson still wasn't sure, Bernard told him that even if he (Hutchinson declined) Bernard would not select James Otis, Jr.

According to the author holding these two important posts at the same time was seen as a violation of Montesquieu's edict: "when the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person or body, there can be no liberty.
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