The Chief Villain of 1773

Thomas Hutchinson (1711-1780) led the group of Massachusetts politicians that supported the royal government starting in the 1750s. He served as lieutenant governor, chief justice, probate judge, and, from 1771 to 1774, royal governor of the province. He also engaged in business as a merchant and wrote a well regarded history of the colony.

In 1773, Benjamin Franklin leaked some letters Hutchinson had written to officials in London suggesting how to change Massachusetts government to make the colony less democratic and easier to manage. That revelation made Hutchinson deeply unpopular, and a natural subject for the effigies on that year’s Pope-Night wagons.

Devils also tormented Hutchinson in this cartoon that Paul Revere carved for an almanac published at the end of 1773. Though Revere was not a good caricaturist, locals could recognize the governor because of his thin build and the royal grant of a £1,500 salary hanging off his desk.

Other cartoons and images from the period also show the influence of the parades from the 5th of November.

Image sources: Thumbnail portrait of Thomas Hutchinson from J. K. Hosmer, Life of Thomas Hutchinson (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1896); original painting at the Massachusetts Historical Society. Cartoon from Ezra Gleason, The Massachusetts Calendar, or an Almanack, for the Year of our Lord Christ 1774 (Boston: Isaiah Thomas, 1773).

Text copyright © 2007 by J. L. Bell and The Bostonian Society.