How did James Otis die?







Boston was the focus of rebellious thought and action in America at the beginning of 1770. Samuel Adams and his compatriots were longing for independence, and boldly prophesying the birth of a new nation in America; but his brave and fiery coadjutor, James Otis, had lately been disabled by the violence of a crown-officer. Mr. Robinson, one of the commissioners of customs, had misrepresented Otis in England. The latter made a severe attack upon Robinson in a Boston newspaper. For this the commissioner attempted to pull Otis's nose in a coffee-house. A fracas ensued, when Otis was so severely beaten that he never fairly recovered. His brain was disturbed by a blow on the head from a heavy cane. His great usefulness at that crisis was hopelessly impaired. John Adams in his diary for January, 1770, gives a melancholy account of the patriot's mental condition: "Otis," he wrote, "is in confusion yet; he loses himself; he rambles and wanders like a ship without a helm; attempted to tell a story which took up almost all the evening; the story may, at any time, be told in three minutes with all the graces it is capable of, but he took an hour. I fear he is not in his perfect mind. The nervous, the concise and pithy were his character till lately; now the verbose, the round-about, and rambling and long-winded. In one word, Otis will spoil the club. He talks so much and takes up so much of our time, and fills it with trash, obsceneness, profaneness, nonsense and distraction, that we have none left for rational amusements and inquiries. He mentioned his wife; said she was a good wife, too good for him; but she was a tory (she had married her daughter to a British officer), a high tory; she gave him such curtain-lectures, etc. In short, I never saw such an object of admiration, reverence, contempt, and compassion, all at once, as this. I fear, I tremble, I mourn, for the man and his country; many others mourn over him, with tears in their eyes." Poor Otis! He lived, disabled, until the great Revolution (in the earlier stages of which he had borne the most conspicuous part) was almost ended in the independence of his country. Late in May, 1782, while he was standing in the door of a friend at Andover during a thunder-shower, he was instantly killed by a stroke of lightning--a method of dying for which he had often expressed an earnest desire.





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