On July 4, 1776, in a moment of particular historical irony, Thomas Hutchinson, the exiled royal governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, received an honorary degree from Oxford University. The same day, of course, the American Declaration of Independence was issued, decrying the King’s “long train of abuses and usurpations” which many believed had been enacted at Hutchinson’s hand. For Hutchinson, who watched revolutionary fervor consume his birthplace and uproot his family, those alleged abuses were not the causes of the revolution. Instead, they merely provided justification for the men who had conspired to break free of English rule. Such men, he felt, had no clear plan of action, but instead used “every fresh incident which could be made to serve [their] purpose . . . by alienating the affection of the colonies from the kingdom.” In the course of time, “many thousands...

 

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