OTIS AND JEFFERSON ON COLONISTS' RIGHTS AND OBLIGATIONS TO
This research paper compares the positions and views of James Otis, Jr. (1725-1783) and Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) toward the British Monarch, King George III, and the rest of the British government, ministers and Parliament, during the period of strife between Great Britain and the American colonies which led up to the Declaration of Independence in 1776.
Both men played a leading role in advancing and articulating the colonists' cause, Otis from 1761 until his influence diminished due to his mental and physical deterioration in 1769 and Jefferson during the middle 1770s. In many respects, they shared a common vision as to the nature of the colonies' rights and obligations to the Crown and Parliament which stemmed from a similar but by no means identical intellectual and cultural background; however, Jefferson's attachment to the Monarchy was more symbolic and less deeply rooted than Otis's. It sharply diminished as the grievances of the colonies became more intense. Jefferson took a more radical position concerning the colonists' rights to political and economic autonomy than did Otis. This view led Jefferson eventually to favor complete separation and to support violent revolution, which Otis never could bring himself to accept.
Similarities of Background and Preparation
Otis and Jefferson had family backgrounds with strong roots in the established order. Otis was a fifth generation descendant of Protestant farmers in the English West Country, who migrated to Massachusetts largely to escape religious conformity during the time of Charles I and who built a sizeable fortune as landowners, shipowners and merchants in rural Barnstable southwest of Boston. Jefferson's family, which was of Welsh, English and Scottish origin, had by the time of his birth accumulated substantial wealth, particularly his mother's Randolph kin who were part of the Tidewater plantat...