Land of the Brave

James Otis

John Adams

Colonial America - John Adams

Short Biography about James Otis Jr.
James Otis was famous as lawyer in colonial Massachusetts who argued that Writs of Assistance (Search Warrants) were a form of tyranny.

John Adams said that the role of James Otis in contesting the law and power of the British was:

 ď...the spark in which originated the American Revolution .... breathed into the nation the breath of lifeĒ.

This article contains a short biography and fast facts and information about James Otis. Who was James Otis and why was he famous?

Fact 1: James Otis was the son of a highly successful lawyer and militia officer Colonel James Otis Sr.

Fact 2: James Otis was born on February 5, 1725 in Barnstable, Province of Massachusetts Bay in Colonial America

Fact 3: His family became prominent patriots including his sister Mercy Otis Warren, and his brothers Joseph and Samuel Allyne Otis and his nephew Harrison Gray Otis.

Fact 4: Prior to the events that led to the American Revolution the family supported the British monarchy and were Loyalists

Fact 5: James Otis had an excellent education and graduated from Harvard in 1743

Fact 6: He was admitted to the bar in 1748 and opened a law practice in Boston in 1750

Fact 7: In 1755 he married "the beautiful Ruth Cunningham" who was and heiress and the daughter of an extremely wealthy a merchant. They had 3 children

Fact 8: He was a talented lawyer and a brilliant speaker and writer

Fact 9: In 1756 he was appointed Advocate General. of the Boston vice-admiralty court. The role of Advocate General. was the highest official post for a lawyer in the colony of Massachusetts and it was part of his job to prosecute smugglers

Fact 10: His father, Colonel James Otis had been promised the position of Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, but in 1761 the position was given to Thomas Hutchinson

Fact 11: The family were offended by this action and James Otis Jr. resigned from his position of Advocate General..

Fact 12: His resignation enabled him to opposed the granting of the Writs of Assistance were issued to Custom Officers upon request and enabled British Custom Officers to enter any colonist's home at anytime without giving any warning, any cause and any reason

Fact 13: The search and seizure powers given by the Writs of Assistance were challenged by a group of 53 Boston merchants

Fact 14: A countersuit was filed by a British customs agent called James Paxton

Fact 15: James Otis represented the 53 merchants in the trial that became known as "Paxtonís case".

Fact 16: He lost the case, but made a brilliant speech which was heard by the young John Adams - read the James Otis Speech Against the Writs of Assistance

Fact 17: In the content of the speech James Otis argued that the Writs of Assistance were a form of tyranny and unconstitutional under British law.

Fact 18: A famous quote from his speech is still used on a daily basis in modern times - "...one of the most essential branches of English liberty is the freedom of oneís house. A manís house is his castle..."

Fact 19: In May 1761 he was elected to the General Court of Massachusetts.

Fact 20: James Otis became political activist, pamphleteer and legislator working with the patriots and contributing work to Massachusetts Committee of Correspondence

Fact 21: His political ideas became a part of the 1765 address that the Stamp Act Congress sent to the House of Commons protesting taxation of the colonies.

Fact 22: The health of James Otis declined due to alcoholism.

Fact 23: In 1769 he was struck in the head by a customs officer called John Robinson who opposed his views. The injury left him mentally incapacitated and he was unable to continue in public life.

Fact 24: James Otis died, at the age of 58 years old, on May 23, 1783, in Andover, Massachusetts, after being struck by lightning.

Fact 25: During his life he wrote many books including Rights of the British Colonies in 1764 which detailed his ideas on racial equality

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