Massachusetts Circular Letter
Massachusetts Circular Letter
MASSACHUSETTS CIRCULAR LETTER. 11 February 1768. To inform the other twelve colonies of the steps taken by the Massachusetts General Court to oppose the Townshend Revenue Act, this letter, drafted by James Otis and Samuel Adams, was approved on 11 February 1768 and sent to the speakers of the assemblies in the other British colonies in North America. It denounced the act as "taxation without representation," reasserted that Americans could never be represented in Parliament, attacked British moves to make colonial governors and judges independent of colonial assemblies, and invited proposals for concerted resistance.
Governor Francis Bernard dissolved the Massachusetts General Court on 4 March 1768 on the grounds that the circular letter was seditious. Before other colonial governors received a message from the earl of Hillsborough, (the new secretary of state for the American colonies), dated 21 April, asking them to prevent their assemblies from endorsing the letter, Virginia (14 April), New Jersey (6 May), and Connecticut (10 June) had already voted to support the Massachusetts position. After Hillsborough's letter arrived, eight more colonies joined in questioning the right of Parliament to levy taxes of any kind in the colonies. The New York assembly, the last to act, adopted in December a resolution urging the repeal of the Townshend Act.
Meanwhile, Adams, Otis, and Joseph Hawley led the majority in the Massachusetts House of Representatives that on 30 June 1768 voted ninety-two to seventeen against rescinding the letter. "The Massachusetts 92" became, like issue No. 45 of John Wilkes's North Briton, an emblem of resistance to tyrannical government. Governor Bernard dissolved the new General Court on 1 July. The seventeen "Rescinders" were publicly vilified and physically intimidated by the Sons of Liberty, and five lost their seats in the election of May 1769.
Knollenberg, Bernhard. Growth of the American Revolution, 1766–1775. Edited by Bernard W. Sheehan. Indianapolis, Ind.: Liberty Fund, 2003.
Nicolson, Colin. The "Infamas Govener" Francis Bernard and the Origins of the American Revolution. Boston, Mass.: Northeastern University Press, 2001.
revised by Harold E. Selesky
"Massachusetts Circular Letter." Encyclopedia of the American Revolution: Library of Military History. . Encyclopedia.com. (March 26, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/massachusetts-circular-letter
"Massachusetts Circular Letter." Encyclopedia of the American Revolution: Library of Military History. . Retrieved March 26, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/massachusetts-circular-letter
Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).
Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.
Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:
Modern Language Association
The Chicago Manual of Style
American Psychological Association
- Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
- In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.