The Ordeal of Thomas Hutichison by Bernard Bailyn 1975- A must read for our times

Graham Hill's picture
Submitted by Graham Hill on Sun, 2020-06-21 21:13

In addition to George Orwell's 1984 one could add to the culture war's reading list the following book by Bernard Bailyn The Ordeal of Thomas Hutchison Allen Lane, 1975.

The Ordeal of Thomas Hutchison is about Thomas Hutchison, a native-born American who became Chief Justice and then later the last Governor of pre-Revolutionary Massachusetts. He ended up in exile in England never to return to his homeland.

Bailyn wrote it after the student riots at Berkeley in the late 1960s, which has informed its content. My dissertation supervisor at Canterbury, Dr D C Harlan, painted a picture of Bailyn huddled down in his office at Berkeley as the student mobs wandered outside and wondering how he had become the "enemy."

The chapter on 'Law and order and its break down' (think Seattle) and the one titled the Furies are salutary reading.
It captures everything you need to know for the present madness: lies/spin, fake news; twisting of words, false narratives, the demise of law and order, mobs attacking public figures, people afraid to speak out; shaming and attacking people who had a different opinion from the mob; Justices of eh peace afraid to act, and if the authorities took action they were blamed for being oppressive and if they did not take action they were blamed. The latter is not unlike the MSM Trump scenario.

There is even iconoclasm. Hutchison had to acquiesce in the removal of portraits of Charles II and James II from the City Hall.

The mob wanted to bring down the existing "structure" and looked for crises to exploit. Additionally, there was the admixture of the mob (who Hutchison said were mostly misinformed and deceived) and its radicals plus business interests. (The US stock market during the BLM protests has had a series of upward spikes as corporations virtual signal).

Hutchison was a prolific writer on law and politics and much of it unpublished in his lifetime and he sought to obtain a resolution. Hutchison expresses a parallel thought to that of David Hume (in the latter's History of England on the Puritan revolution of 1642 to 1645) on passionately held moral opinion, that once held and galvanised by the mob, the state is weakened, law and order is compromised (Czarist Russia was relatively indulgent to its anarchist and revolutionaries) and the state falls.

Bailyn specifically chose the losing side in the American Revolution to write about. History is first written by the winners then it is by those who see ‘Whig progress’ and ultimately, history, Bailyn theorised, is tragedy.

Hutchison’s experiences of the political crises of 1763 to 1770 are a good comparator to current events in the USA and elsewhere in addition to the 17thC Puritan Revolution in Britain and the exempla exemplorum, the French Revolution.
Graham Hill

22 June 2020.