Massachusetts’ former colonial Gov. Thomas Hutchinson lived in unhappy exile in England while the American Revolution raged in his native land.
He’d left Boston after suffering all kinds of abuse from the rebels. They ransacked his mansion, burned him in effigy and seized his country estate for use as an army barracks. HA widower, he left for England with some of his children and their families in the spring of 1774. Thomas Gage took over as governor.
A few weeks after the shot heard ’round the world, a distressed Thomas Hutchinson wrote a letter to the Earl of Dartmouth.
Thomas Hutchinson Writes
In the letter, written on May 3, 1775, he apologized for badgering the earl. He explained that his eldest children still lived in Massachusetts with their young children. They had left their estates because friends advised them to move to Boston due to “the danger from the rage of the people.” In Boston the British troops then under siege could protect them. But his estate in Boston, “which otherwise would have contributed to their support, is rendered of little or no value by the Boston Port Act.”
He then explained his other three children lived with him in London, but wished to return. His youngest son, however, wanted to settle in England. “He has flattered himself, and has been encouraged, that on his father’s account, he should obtain an appointment here, which would contribute to his support, and to his settlement in the world.”
Hutchinson then did a bit of groveling. “I know there were so many expectations of places in England whose pretences were superior to mine, that I despaired of any appointment for him here,” he wrote. But then he found out that Sir Thomas Milles had decided to quit as receiver general for the British Army.
So Hutchinson begged Lord North for that job for his son, he wrote. “His Lordship encouraged me that he would comply with my request as soon as sir T.M. could be provided for in England,” he wrote. But then he hadn’t learned that “Sir T” would get a new commission. That left little hope that his son would succeed him until next spring, because ships would not leave for Quebec (presumably to fight the war in North America) until then.
Plea for Relief
“If one of my children could be provided for, it would be a great relief,” he wrote. Hutchinson acknowledged to the earl that the government had assured him of support and provided it. But, he wrote, “the charge of living is so much greater in England than in America.” He avoided every unnecessary expense, he wrote. But the cost of moving his family and the cost of housekeeping exceeded his allowance by several hundred pounds.
“I should be ashamed to mention this to your Lordship,” he wrote. However, he wanted to show he wasn’t asking with “an avaricious or accumulating view.”
“I remember, my Lord, that I applied for a discretionary leave to come to England,” he wrote. But he wouldn’t have done it if he’d known “it would be a prejudice to the public service.” ”
And then he referred to the death of his lieutenant governor, Andrew Oliver. (Oliver died on March 3, 1774.) saying he laid aside all thoughts of leaving. He had “anticipated every difficulty and hazard” he’d experience if the government didn’t send armed forces to protect him. If he’d known additional forces would arrive, he would have thought himself more secure. He would also have been able to have vigorously “opposed attempts up on the Constitution.”
“I pray your Lordship’s consideration of any case in all its circumstances, and am very respectfully, Thomas Hutchinson,” he concluded.
Did the earl help his son get a job? We don’t know. We do know Thomas Hutchinson died in England a bitter and lonely exile. He grieved for the loss of his daughter, Peggy, in 1777.
During his last years he wrote a history of the colony of Massachusetts, publishing two volumes in his lifetime. The third was published posthumously.
Today, the Trustees of the Reservation own a piece of Hutchinson’s estate in Milton, known as Governor Hutchinson’s Field. The National Park Service lists it on the National Register of Historic Places, and the public may visit.
This story was updated in 2021.