All Scholars

OTIS, James, Jr.

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  • Date of Birth: February 05, 1725
  • Born City: West Barnstable
  • Born State/Country: MA
  • Parents: James Otis, a lawyer, & Mary Allyne 0.
  • Date of Death: May 23, 1783
  • Death City: Andover
  • Death State/Country: MA
  • Death Notes: stuck by lightning
  • Married: Ruth Cunningham, spring 1755.
  • Education:

    A.B. Harvard, 1743.

  • Professional Experience:

    Admitted to Plymouth (MA) bar, 1748; practiced law, Boston, 1750; King's attorney, 1754; King's adv. gen. of vice admiralty ct., Boston; active member, Sons of Liberty, member Mass. Gen. Ct., 1761-9, 1771; speaker, 1766.

  • Publications:

    The Rudiments of Latin Prosody . . . and the Principles of Harmony in Poetic and Prosaic Composition (Boston, 1760); A Vindication of the Conduct of the House of Representatives (Boston, 1762); The Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved (Boston, 1764); Considerations on Behalf of the Colonists, in a Letter to a Noble Lord (London, 1765); A Vindication of the British Colonies: Brief Remarks on the Defense of the Halifax Libel on the British-American Colonies (Boston, 1765); Boston: An Appeal to the World (Boston, 1769); The Collected Political Writings of James Otis, ed. Richard Samuelson (Indianapolis: Library Fund, 2015)..

  • Notes:

    A fiery patriot orator of the Revolutionary generation, pamphleteer,and legal scholar, James Otis developed the classical theory of national law in modern clothes. His contributions to classical scholarship were limited to his interest in prosody. Besides his treatise on Latin meter, he wrote another on Greek prosody, but it was never published because no American press owned a Greek typeface. He was the great-granduncle of Brooks Otis.

  • Sources:

    Samuel Eliot Morison, DAB 14:101-5; NatCAB 1:17-18; WhAmHS 460; T.H. Breen, "Subjecthood and Citizenship: The Context of James Otis's Radical Critique of John Locke," New England Quarterly 71 (1998) 378–403; Ellen E. Brennan, "James Otis: Recreant and Patriot," New England Quarterly 12 (1939) 691–725; James M. Farrell, "The Writs of Assistance and Public Memory: John Adams and the Legacy of James Otis," New England Quarterly 79 (2006) 533–56; James R. Ferguson, "Reason in Madness: The Political Thought of James Otis," William and Mary Quarterly, 36 (1979)194–214; Joseph R. Frese, "James Otis and the Writs of Assistance," New England Quarterly 30 (1957) 496–508; William Pencak, "Otis, James," ANB Online (Feb. 2000); Richard A. Samuelson, "The Constitutional Sanity of James Otis: Resistance Leader and Loyal Subject," Review of Politics 61 (1999) 493–523; Clifford K. Shipton, Sibley's Harvard Graduates, vol. 11 (1960) 247–87; William Tudor,  The Life of James Otis, of Massachusetts: Containing Also, Notices of Some Contemporary Characters and Events, from the Year 1760 to 1775 (Boston: Wells and Lilly, 1823); John J. Waters, Jr., The Otis Family in Provincial and Revolutionary Massachusetts (1968)

  • Author: Meyer Reinhold