A Ruler Independent of the People is a Monster in Government

in by Warren

Author: Mucius Scaevola, a pseudonym

Date: November 14, 1771

“If it be true, that the exceptionable clause in the late proclamation, was not proposed by Mr. Hutchinson, but by one of the council; yet there it stands, and is nevertheless exceptionable, and must reflect dishonor somewhere, even though it were inadvertently inserted.

It is not denied, even by Mr. Hutchinson’s friends, that the other part of the proclamation was drafted by him: We may consider him then as triumphing over us as SLAVES, or persons who have no priveled; and though we well knew it would be a piece of mockery, to lead us to the throne of grace, with thanksgivings, for the preservation of priveleges, which, by his means, in part, we have been deprived of; yet he thought fit, with the advice of six, out of twenty-eight of his council. (if by his craft, could make it their act) to insert it.

We have need of the wisdom of serpents, who are concerned with such rulers; to be considered by them as fools, is irritating; for fools they must think us, if they can imagine that we can complain of loss of liberty in one breath, and with the next solemnly thank God for the preservation of it. What account can be given for such conduct, consistent with common honesty, mankind must judge.

It would give me pain to harbor one thought, that the six members, who it is said voted for the insertion of that impious paragraph, intended thereby to curry favour with the ministry; I cannot indulge such a thought, besides there is no danger that this people will ever receive a council appointed by the King himself: And certainly it is unlikely, that if the representatives of this people should once adopt such a sentiment of them, that these men should ever again be re-chosen into the council. Mr. Hutchinson may think we are easy, because we have for so long waited for a redress of grievances; but our patience is nearly exhausted. It cannot be that we shall hear much longer, to have our money forced from us. – An Englishman should never part with a penny but by his consent, or the consent of his agent, or representative, especially as the money thus forced from us, is to hire a man to TYRANNIZE over us, whom his Master calls our Governor. This seems to be Mr. Hutchinson’s situation; therefore I cannot but view him as a usurper, and absolutely deny his jurisdiction over this people; and am of opinion, that any act of assembly consented to by him, in his pretended capacity as Governor, is ipso facto, null and void, and consequently, not binding upon us. A ruler, independent of the people, is a monster in government; and such a one is Mr. Hutchinson; and such would George the third be, if he should be rendered independent on the people of Great-Britain. A Massachusetts Governor, the King by pact, with this people may nominate and appoint, but not pay. For this support, he must stipulate with the people, and until he does, he is no legal Governor; without this, if he undertakes to rule, he is a USURPER.

It is high time, my countrymen, that this matter was enquired into, if we have no constitutional Governor, it is time we had one, if the pretended Governor, or Liet. Governor, by being independent on us for their support, are rendered incapable of compleating acts of government, it is time, I say, that we had a lawful one to preside, or that the pretended Governors, were dismissed and PUNISHED as USURPERS, and that the council, according to the charter, should take upon themselves the government of this province.


Source: Massachusetts Spy

Commentary: Readers would have strained their knowledge of Roman history to recall that Mucius Scaevola was a legendary, audacious would-be assassin of a Tarquin king besieging Rome prior to the founding of the Republic. The Etruscan king seized Mucius prior to carrying out the assassination attempt.  So impressed was he with the young Roman’s patriotism and daring, that he spared Mucius and set him free. The implications of such a pseudonym would not be missed by Acting Governor Thomas Hutchinson, himself an accomplished historian, who would also have apprehend its threatening overtones.

In contrast to this dark tone, Warren, writing as Paskalos in June 1766, reflected a high opinion of then Lieutenant Governor Hutchinson: “And I take this Opportunity of declaring publickly, that I have no Intention to connect with you [i.e. Francis Bernanrd] those Gentlemen whose Cause you pretend to espouse. I esteem and honor them, particularly His Honor the Lieutenant Governor. – I am extremely sorry for the great Loss which he has sustained [in the Stamp Act riots of August 1765], and heartily wish for my own Part that the Province would take a suitable Notice of his grievous Sufferings. But I must confess, I was very well pleased with his being omitted in the List of Counsellors; yet (as I am convinced that he is a Gentleman of great Abilities, of undoubted loyalty to the best of Kings, and a true Friend to his Country) I should be glad to see him in a higher Station.”

Joseph Warren treated Thomas Hutchinson as a patient and may have flirted with the Friends of Government in the Spring of 1767, a situation conferring psychological complexity to this provocative editorial.

In weeks subsequent to its publication, the Massachusetts Spy was threatened by Governor Thomas Hutchinson’s Council with a lawsuit for libel. The suit was not pursued, but Joseph Greenleaf, a publishing associate of Isaiah Thomas, was called before the Council, refused to appear, and was stripped of his Crown office as Constable.

Bernard Bailyn and others have identified Mucius Scaevola as John Greenleaf. Professor Richard D. Brown [Revolutionary Politics in Massachusetts – the Boston Committee of Correspondence and the Towns, 1772-1774. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1970], thought that Mucius was instead Joseph Warren. Brown theorized that Greenleaf was targeted by the offended Acting Governor Hutchinson because of his publishing association with Isaiah Thomas, and that Greenleaf’s constabulary appointment made him vulnerable to Loyalist ire. A reading of Greenleaf’s explanation of the episode, which will appear here in an upcoming installment of Dr. Joseph Warren on the Web, if taken at face value, indicates that he was not the pseudonymous author. Brown’s attribution of Mucius Scaevola to Joseph Warren was lost as an important island of biographic Warrenalia in the larger sea of a landmark thematic work.

Richard Frothingham (1865) and John Cary (1961) did not include Mucius Scaevola among Warren’s pseudonymous writings.

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