• Revolutionary War Instigators Otis And Goldthwait Sign Lawsuit Regarding Sloop Phenix Profits

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    Offering a 6 1/2 x 8 1/4, January 19, 1763, ADS by JAMES OTIS (twice) and EZEKIEL GOLDTHWIAT, two very important figures whose actions helped trigger the Revolutionary War.  In consequence to a suit filed by Joseph Barnaby against William Rider for non-payment of Barnaby’s share of profits from “many voyages” made on the sloop Phenix, Otis has written two statements: “and the defendant comes & saith he was not the Plaintiffs Baliff in manner & form as is within declared & thereof puts himself on ye Country,” followed by, “And the pl referring to him the Liberty of Joyning the issue on y[e] above plea at the Superior Court on y[e] appeal says the plea aforesd. By the De[f] made is insufficient & he is not bound to reply thereto &...he is ready to verify wherefore he prays Judgmt. For his Dam[ages] & costs...and the Deft. consenting as above is denied his plea is good & because the plt. refuses to reply thereto he prays Judmt’ for his costs.” Otis has signed twice.


    OTIS (February 5, 1725 – May 23, 1783) was an American Revolutionary War statesman and orator who argued eloquently on behalf of the colonies that the principles of natural law supersede the acts of Parliament.  He joined with Samuel Adams to direct the Massachusetts legislature in opposing various revenue acts and overall helped to formulate the colonists’ grievances against the British government in the 1760s. He reportedly coined the phrase “Taxation without representation is tyranny.” He was elected in May 1761 to the General Court (provincial legislature) of Massachusetts and reelected nearly every year thereafter during his active life. In 1765, he was a delegate to the Stamp Act Congress in New York City.  Otis was prone to fits of insanity and after having been struck on the head during an altercation with a crown officer in 1769 was rendered insane with occasional lucid intervals. He died in 1783 after being struck by lightning.


    GOLDTHWAIT (1710 – 1782) was born in Boston’s North End to a merchant family originally from Salem, MA. He spent most of his life in public office. From 1740 to 1776, he served as Suffolk County registrar of deeds and for two decades beginning in 1741, he was also the town clerk for Boston.  He also served at various times as selectman, town auditor and meeting moderator. Goldthwait’s views were generally loyalist, but his views and actions helped to start the Revolutionary War. After the battles of Lexington and Concord, the Massachusetts militia laid siege to Boston, trapping the British Army and citizens inside. When the Royal Navy evacuated the British Army, it took thousands of loyalists to Nova Scotia.  Goldthwait stayed in Boston.  In 1761, he and Otis challenged the Crown’s issuance of writs of assistance [search warrants] in court.  Otis gave the speech of his life, referencing the Magna Carta, natural law and the colonists’ rights as Englishman. Although the court ruled against Goldthwait and the other merchants, the case lit a fire that became the American Revolution.  John Adams was in the packed courtroom and was moved by Otis’s legal arguments. He later said, “Then and there the child independence was born.”


    Wafer seal intact.


    Toning, light soiling. Vertical folds reinforced with archival tape. 


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