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The Constitutional Sanity of James Otis: Resistance Leader and Loyal Subject

Richard A. Samuelson
The Review of Politics
Vol. 61, No. 3 (Summer, 1999), pp. 493-523
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1408465
Page Count: 31
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The Constitutional Sanity of James Otis: Resistance Leader and Loyal Subject
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Abstract

This article argues that we can best understand the Massachusetts patriot James Otis as a practical political thinker whose writings reacted to changing circumstances and to other writers. He began his career arguing that the British Constitution and natural law both mandated that Parliament not tax unrepresented colonists, but when Blackstone published his opinion that Parliament had a natural and constitutional right to compel the submission of the colonists, Otis became convinced that, however valid his argument had been in theory, it would never convince Parliamentarians. Ultimately he engaged the problem of imperial structure, trying to collapse the political distance between the imperial periphery and the imperial center to overcome the constitutional distance that threatened to separate them for good.

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