"He was a fair-minded man. He was passionately loyal to his community, and
he ended up the worst villain in the whole American revolutionary history. I've
puzzled over what happened . . . he could never comprehend the moral
sensibilities that lay behind the revolutionary movement. He never was able to
empathize with people who were not as he was: a part of the establishment. He
didn't understand people who were sensitive to what power was because they had
never been able share in it. [Hutchinson] was born to it."
After Benedict Arnold, Thomas Hutchinson was probably the most vilified figure
of the Revolutionary era. He served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and
then Governor of Massachusetts and figured, in one way or another, in each of
the dramas that beset Boston in the 1760s and early `70s.
During the Stamp Act riots, Hutchinson's house was destroyed by a mob, which
mistakingly assumed that he had supported the measure. He was acting governor
of Massachusetts when the Boston Massacre took place. He was governor during
the Tea Party and prompted the dumping by obstinately insisting that the tea
remain in the harbor for unloading.
In his famous stolen letters, which fell, by way of Benjamin Franklin, into the
hands of patriots in Boston, Hutchinson wrote little that he hadn't already
expressed publicly. But the most well-known passage— "It is better to submit
to some abridgement of our rights [as Americans], than to break off our
connection with our protector, England"—damned him forever in patriot eyes.
Hutchinson's was only the most notable version of a familiar story during the
American Revolution. Those who remained loyal to England and the King
found themselves on the losing side of history. And for this, many of them
paid a terrible price.
See also: Loyalists