Tag Archives: Colonial America

Essay: The Mad Patriot

Historians have tried to trace the origin of the American Revolution, but few, if any, have dared indicate an exact moment in time. Yet sufficient evidence points to the chilly afternoon of February 24, 1761, inside the Old Town House (now the Old State House) in Boston as the precise time and place.  Future president John Adams, who, as a 25-year-old Boston attorney in attendance at that occasion, later declared, “Then and there was the first scene of the first Act of opposition to the arbitrary claims of Great Britain. Then and there, the Child Independence was born” (Adams to Tudor, 29 March 1817). It was “then and there” that one of the American colonies’ most notable attorneys, James Otis, Jr., gave a speech that caused tremors throughout the British Empire. Textbooks have often downplayed this moment because the man who first sparked the American Revolution—James Otis, Jr.—was considered mad. However, we know today that James Otis Jr. was probably suffering from bipolar disorder and his condition was exacerbated by alcoholism.

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