Thomas Hutchinson
Painting: by Walter Gilman Page, 1900

Acting Royal Governor of Massachusetts (June - August 1760); Acting Royal Governor of Massachusetts (August 1769 - November 1770); Royal Governor of Massachusetts (1770-1774)

Thomas Hutchinson was Governor during the difficult years leading to the American Revolution. He was very much "of Boston," but of an English Boston, to which he was earnestly loyal throughout his life.

Hutchinson had deep American roots. He was a descendent of Anne Hutchinson, who was expelled from Boston for her religious beliefs in the 1630s. He was born in Boston, attended Harvard earning a Master of Arts before entering business. He was a member of Boston's Board of Selectmen (1737) and was popularly elected to the Legislature where he served almost continuously until 1749. He served as a member of the state council, was Chief Justice of the Superior Court, and eventually Lieutenant Governor.

He resisted Boston's gradual drift away from England and perceived the revolution was stoked by hotheads, seizing on miniscule issues, which they used to inflame sentiments. Hutchinson was unflinchingly rational and held an enmity for the revolutionary radicals. They returned this feeling, when in 1765, as a mob they attacked and looted his personal residence.

After this attack, Hutchinson began to secretly advise England to move to forcefully restrain the Colony. As the town filled with English troops, he entreated them to take the greatest care, as the slightest tragedy would spread like flames through the province and perhaps beyond. Exactly that happened on March 5, 1770, when a group of unarmed men threatened English soldiers. The soldiers shot and killed five of them. Acting Governor Hutchinson, already hated by revolutionaries faced as serious a crisis as any Massachusetts Governor has ever seen.

The morning after what would later be called the Boston Massacre, Boston's selectmen demanded that Hutchinson order the English troops from Boston or see more "blood and carnage." He claimed as acting Governor he held no authority over the King's troops. Further, he matched their threat, ordering that anyone caught advising or provoking an attack on the troops would face charges of high treason, which he would enforce personally. Hutchinson's aggressive response, along with a quiet withdrawal of the involved regiment kept the peace, but it drew a final line between himself and his revolutionary countrymen. Having shown where his loyalty lay, Hutchinson was finally made Royal Governor in his own right in November 1770.

As Governor, he went on to support a popularly hated, though seemingly harmless Tea Tax in 1773. However, protest turned to assault when protestors dressed as "savages" threw crates of tea into the Boston harbor, rather than pay the tax. After the "Boston Tea Party," thousands of English soldiers flooded the city to enforce the rule of law. Hutchinson was now widely hated in his homeland, which ceased being the British Boston of his birth. Within six months he boarded a ship to England, where he would finish his life in exile and write the seminal History of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay.