James Otis: The Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved

(1764)

James Otis’s pamphlet The Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved, published in 1764, was perhaps the author's most spirited defense of the American colonies against oppressive rule by Great Britain. Otis (1725–1783) began his career as a loyal British subject, but in the 1760s he grew troubled by what he regarded as the unconstitutional practices of British authorities. One of these practices was called the writ of assistance, which gave the authorities the right to enter a home or business and search for unspecified contraband and smuggled goods. In 1761 he resigned in protest from his position as an attorney in the vice admiralty court and turned his efforts to the defense of merchants against renewal of writs of assistance. Otis lost the case, but he brought the matter to public attention, became something of an instant celebrity, and just a month later was elected to the Massachusetts General Court (that is, the legislature), where he became an outspoken...

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James Otis (Library of Congress)

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