James Otis Jr.

James Otis Jr. (1725 - 1783)

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Hon. James Otis Jr.
Born in West Barnstable, Barnstable County, Province of Massachusetts Baymap
Ancestors ancestors
Husband of — married in Boston, Suffolk County, Province of Massachusetts Baymap
Descendants descendants
Died in Andover, Essex County, Massachusetts, United Statesmap
Profile last modified | Created 17 Aug 2013
This page has been accessed 1,612 times.

Categories: American Founding Fathers | Sons of Liberty, American Revolution | Patriotic Service, Massachusetts, American Revolution.

Hon. James Otis Jr. performed Patriotic Service in Massachusetts in the American Revolution


James "The Patriot"

James Otis, Jr., was born on 5 Feb 1724/5, in Barnstable, in the Province of Massachusetts Bay. He was the son of James Otis and Mary Allyne.[1]

He was a prominent colonial lawyer and patriot.

By 1760, James Otis, Jr., had been appointed Advocate General for Massachusetts Bay. He resigned the position, however, rather than appear for the Crown in a petition for Writs of Assistance, presented to the superior court at Salem by the Deputy-Collector of Salem. Those writs would have allowed unrestricted search and seizure in the hunt for contraband goods, which, he believed, violated the colonists' rights as English citizens. Because of his stance, he attracted the attention of merchants in both Salem and Boston, who promptly employed him as their advocate as they fought those writs in the Boston courts. His argument, which lasted four to five hours and drew a substantial audience, included the later rallying cry of the rebellion: "Taxation without Representation is Tyranny."[2]

He became an early member of the revolutionary patriot group, the Sons of Liberty. On 5 Sep 1669, however, he suffered a serious head injury at the hands of customs officers, during a fight at the British Coffeehouse in Boston. Afterwards, he could no longer take an active role in the brewing rebellion.[3]

Perhaps the best known action carried out by the Sons of Liberty was the Boston Tea Party, in 1773, after James could no longer participate.

"The Boston Tea Party was organized and carried out by a group of Patriots led by Samuel Adams known as the Sons of Liberty. The Sons of Liberty were made up of males from all walks of colonial society, and among its membership were artisans, craftsmen, business owners, tradesmen, apprentices, and common laborers who organized to defend their rights, and to protest and undermine British rule. Famous Boston Patriots who were members of the Sons of Liberty included John Adams, John Hancock, James Otis, Josiah Quincy, Paul Revere, and Dr. Joseph Warren. Incited by the Sons of Liberty, over 5,000 people gathered at the Old South Meeting House, the largest public building in Boston at the time, at 10:00 AM on December 16, 1773, to decide what was to be done about the tea and to plan the Boston Tea Party."[4]

From 1780 to 1782, James Otis, Jr., retired from Boston to live with Isaac Osgood in Andover, in Essex County, Massachusetts. When his condition improved, he returned to Boston, but suffered a relapse and returned to Andover on 8 Apr 1783. Six weeks later, he was killed by a lightening strike while he was standing outside Osgood's house, telling a story.[5]

At his death, Thomas Dawes composed the following poem in his honor:[6]

When flushed with conquest and elate with pride,
Britannia's monarch Heaven's high will defied;
And bent on blood, by lust of rule inclined,
With odious chains to vex the freeborn mind;
On these young shores set up unjust command,
And spread the slaves of office round the land;
Then Otis rose, and great in patriot fame,
To listening crowds resistance dared proclaim.
From soul to soul the bright idea ran,
The fire of freedom flew from man to man:
His pen, like Sydney's, made the doctrine known,
His tongue, like Tully's, shook a tyrant's throne;
Then men grew bold--and in the public eye,
The right divine of monarchs dared to try;
Light shone on all, despotic darkness fled--
And for a sentiment a nation bled.

James Otis, Jr.'s body was returned to Boston for his funeral and his burial in the Granary Burying Ground.[7] [8]

Monument Inscription:
"Here lies buried
James Otis
Orator and Patriot of the Revolution
Famous for his argument
against Writs of Assistance
Born 1725 Died 1783"


  1. Massachusetts Vital Records Project, Barnstable, p. 154: http://ma-vitalrecords.org/MA/Barnstable/Barnstable/Images/Barnstable_32-154.gif (accessed 5 Apr 2017)
  2. "James Otis," The Essex Antiquarian (1899), vol. 3, no. 2, p. 27. https://archive.org/details/essexantiquaria04perlgoog (accessed 5 Apr 2017)
  3. "James Otis," The Essex Antiquarian (1899), vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 27-28. (see previous note for link)
  4. Boston Tea Party Facts Urschel-11 17:47, 19 February 2015 (EST)
  5. "James Otis," The Essex Antiquarian (1899), vol. 3, no. 2, p. 28. (see previous note for link)
  6. "James Otis," The Essex Antiquarian (1899), vol. 3, no. 2, p. 27. (see previous note for link)
  7. "James Otis," The Essex Antiquarian (1899), vol. 3, no. 2, p. 28. (see previous note for link)
  8. Find A Grave: Memorial # 1501

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It may be possible to confirm family relationships with James by comparing test results with other carriers of his Y-chromosome or his mother's mitochondrial DNA. However, there are no known yDNA or mtDNA test-takers in his direct paternal or maternal line. It is likely that these autosomal DNA test-takers will share DNA with James:

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Images: 5
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James Otis Image 1

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James Otis 1725-1783 Grave
James Otis 1725-1783 Grave

James Otis Image 5
James Otis Image 5


On 17 Jun 2018 at 20:22 GMT V (Eddy) Combs wrote:

A picture of the Osgood House where Otis was struck by lightening was posted on Facebook recently. The facebook group is called Descendants of Massachusetts Founding Families. Apparently the house in uninhabitable and facing demolition.

On 5 Apr 2017 at 20:45 GMT Susan Anderson wrote:

The Hon. Thomas Dawes who composed the poem in honor of James Otis, Jr. may have been [Dawes-285].

James is 30 degrees from Jelena Eckstädt, 11 degrees from Theodore Roosevelt and 12 degrees from Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.

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